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Socialist Party Wales conference
2006: Year of opportunity
Welsh Blairite MP Alun Michael claimed in a recent newspaper article that "as the 21st century starts to mature, Wales faces a quite remarkable period of good fortune and opportunity".
Such an assessment beggars belief as the NHS in Wales enters "intensive care" according to the Welsh consultants committee and the last remaining manufacturing jobs come under threat in Wales. Even Michael was forced to concede in his article that Wales has the biggest coverage of population needing Objective One European funding (for the poorest areas) in Western Europe - 66%.
But the mood at the Socialist Party Wales annual conference was one of great confidence and opportunity that the forces of socialism are on the march after the difficult period of the 1990s.
Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the Socialist Party of England and Wales, opened the conference with a devastating criticism of the crisis facing British capitalism and society. Already there are signs of a slowdown in the British economy and crises in all three main capitalist parties. He pointed to the emerging movement of workers to defend their wages and conditions against further attacks and the huge potential support for a new mass workers' party.
Contributions from Socialist Party members on union national executives, Bernard Roome (CWU) and Andrew Price (NATFHE), demonstrated how the presence of just one or two socialist fighters on union leading bodies could take the struggle forward. Rob Williams, shop stewards convenor at the Visteon factory in Swansea explained how workers are fighting to defend jobs in the car industry.
Katrine Williams, PCS Wales secretary for the Department of Works and Pensions, reported that the civil servants' strike against government cutbacks in jobs and services had been hugely successful across Wales.
Mark Evans from Carmarthen UNISON showed how Labour supporters leading union branches now remain silent in supporting the Labour Party, such is the opposition from rank and file members. Geoff Jones, from Powys explained how the Blairite cuts in incapacity benefit were reminiscent of the attacks on the unemployed in South Wales in the 1930s with the hated means test and possibly could lead to similar mass protests.
And there were equally inspiring contributions from newer members of the party, young workers organising unions amongst low-paid retail workers. Lyndon Carroll explained how two Socialist Party members were trying to organise the shop workers' union, USDAW, in the Cardiff store of a leading retail chain. Already socialist ideas were gaining an echo amongst workers in what was a union bastion of pro-Blair right wingers.
A magnificent £560 was raised in the finance appeal. The conference ended with determination to turn the support for our ideas into a 40% growth in Socialist Party Wales membership this year.
In The Socialist 2 February 2006: