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Socialism 2011: Crucial preparation for the fightback
Video of Socialism 2011
This year young Socialist Party members, alongside other youth, trade unionists and campaigners, organised a 330-mile march for jobs. This played the important role of providing a clear programme of what we are fighting for, as well as opposing all cuts.
The Jarrow march culminated on the weekend of Socialism 2011. This huge achievement gave confidence to everyone who attended that the next generation will not be found wanting in the fightback.
Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary, addresses the Saturday rally at Socialism 2011. More videos and audio below.
The weekend was a showcase for socialist ideas. With a huge choice of workshops during the weekend, there was a real thirst for an understanding of Marxism and for debate.
Reflecting the mood many participants have now joined the party. And a fantastic £25,365 was raised in the finance appeal.
Below Bob Severn reports on the opening rally.
"If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine." Opening the 'World in Crisis - Fight for Socialism' rally on Saturday 5 November, editor of the Socialist paper, Sarah Sachs-Eldridge, quoted Che Guevara, a line she had been reminded of by a young person she had marched alongside on the Jarrow March for Jobs.
Across the world millions are 'trembling' - with movements of protest developing throughout 2011. Many of those attending the rally have been intensely involved in a huge number of campaigns.
And yet, rather than tiredness, the rally was electric with support, confidence and enthusiasm for the socialist alternative to the system based on injustice, capitalism, in which we live.
MP3 recordings of the speeches to the Saturday rally of Socialism 2011
(Videos further down article)
Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary www.socialistparty.org.uk/vids/2011/socialism2011/PeterTaaffe.mp3
Lizi Gray, Jarrow march for jobs www.socialistparty.org.uk/vids/2011/socialism2011/Lizi.mp3
Matt Whale,Jarrow march for jobs www.socialistparty.org.uk/vids/2011/socialism2011/MattWhale.mp3
Janice Godrich, President, civil servants' union PCS www.socialistparty.org.uk/vids/2011/socialism2011/JaniceGodrich.mp3
Clare Daly, Irish Socialist Party MP www.socialistparty.org.uk/vids/2011/socialism2011/ClareDaly.mp3
Sharon MacLean, Occupy movement London www.socialistparty.org.uk/vids/2011/socialism2011/SharonMacLean.mp3
Emily McArthur, Occupy Wall Street, USA www.socialistparty.org.uk/vids/2011/socialism2011/EmilyMcArthur.mp3
Alex Gordon, President, Rail, Maritime and Transport union, RMT www.socialistparty.org.uk/vids/2011/socialism2011/AlexGordon.mp3
Chris Baugh, assistant general secretary, civil servants' union PCS www.socialistparty.org.uk/vids/2011/socialism2011/ChrisBaugh.mp3
Dave Nellist, Socialist Party councillor in Coventry and Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition www.socialistparty.org.uk/vids/2011/socialism2011/DaveNellist.mp3
Hannah Sell, deputy general secretary, Socialist Party, www.socialistparty.org.uk/vids/2011/socialism2011/HannahSell.mp3
Joe Simpson, Assistant general secretary of the POA prison officers' union, www.socialistparty.org.uk/vids/2011/socialism2011/JoeSimpson.mp3
Rob Williams, chair of the National Shop Stewards Network, www.socialistparty.org.uk/vids/2011/socialism2011/RobWilliams.mp3
Key to creating this mood was the presence of the Jarrow marchers who, to a loud and lengthy standing ovation, stormed the stage and belted out the chants they had penned during their 330-long march against unemployment.
Socialism, hosted by the Socialist Party, is an annual event, but most people said this was the best they had ever attended. All the excellent speakers contributed to the clear understanding that we are now in the fight of our lives. There was also a confidence that the working class, equipped with the best methods and ideas, can win.
Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary, summed up the situation (see video above for full speech). He too had been on the Jarrow march - but the march from Jarrow to Sunderland in 1972. What was then the threat of one million unemployed has now been transformed into the reality of a million youth and a million women unemployed - proof if ever there was that capitalism is rotten to the core and cannot meet even the basic needs of humanity.
The movement now developing towards the mass strike action on 30 November (N30) was a main theme. It could see up to four million workers out. Public sector workers are being balloted over their pensions but this will be seen as an opportunity to challenge all the cuts, a crucial step in the fight of all our lives. But if the government does not grant concessions as a result of a one-day strike, then there must be an escalation of the action with another one-day general strike involving the private sector. Then, if the government does not relent, a 48-hour general strike should be mounted.
But we must learn the lessons of Greece, Peter warned, where working class people are seeing their living standards obliterated as the 'Troika' of the EU, the ECB and the IMF demand they pay for the economic crisis they had nothing to do with causing.
Greek workers and youth have fought, and fought heroically, with strikes, workplace occupations and the biggest demonstrations in post-war history. Such has been the ferocity of the struggle on their part that there could have been three revolutions to overthrow the rotten emiserating system by now - had their determination been matched by that of their trade union and political leadership. Tragically no mass socialist revolutionary party exists. This must be built. And the same is true in Britain.
Peter described how there is a shortage of yoghurt in Greece - not because it has been consumed but because workers use it to throw at the MPs who have betrayed them. Also there is colossal opposition to the trade union leaders who are failing to put forward a serious strategy for the fightback that could bring down the government and allow working class people to take control of society and plan it in the interests of the overwhelming majority.
Confidence and support
Reflecting the huge support for the analysis and programme for action put forward at the rally was the finance appeal. A key Socialist Party organiser in Wales, Alec Thraves, explained that N30 will provide a massive opportunity to raise socialist ideas among workers fighting back, but funds are needed to print the leaflets and placards that will be part of this task.
The appeal raised a fantastic £25,365, made up of hundreds of contributions from people all suffering rising costs, pay freezes and even redundancy but feeling confident that this would be money well spent for ensuring a better future.
All the speakers contributed to the picture of a world in crisis and the potential and need to build a socialist alternative to capitalism.
Jarrow marcher Lizi Gray (above) described how working class communities had shown huge support for the young people fighting for their future, including with food and accommodation.
Fellow marcher Matt Whale (above) described what the march was about: "We don't want much. We want decent jobs; we want decent homes; we want the right to health care if we're sick; we want the right to retire in dignity at a reasonable age with a reasonable pension. If capitalism can't afford this, we can't afford capitalism."
PCS civil service union president Janice Godrich (personal capacity, see video above for full speech) gave a marvellous and inspiring contribution about N30. N30 must be the start of a massive campaign. Janice made a powerful case, including for membership of the Socialist Party, as this was the best way to fight against all cuts.
Clare Daly (above), elected in February as a Socialist Party TD (MP) in Dublin, Ireland, almost made people feel sorry for her pro-capitalist opposition in the Irish parliament, so formidable was her contribution. She painted a picture of the pain being inflicted on the Irish working class and youth that was shocking. 8% of the population - 280,000 people - cannot afford the basic costs of living, even before another €3.8 billion of cuts lined up in the next budget. But, despite a treacherous trade union leadership resistance is growing.
Sharon MacLean (above) spoke of her experience as an Occupy St Paul's participant. She explained that she had joined the protest because her daughter, who wants to be a midwife, faces annual university fees of up to £9,000. Her appeal for support for the Occupy protest was warmly met by the rally.
After a film clip that recapped on the revolutionary struggles in North Africa and the Middle East this year, the rally heard from Serge, who has participated in struggles in Tunisia (no cameras were allowed, so there is no film of Serge speaking - ed).
Serge explained that the new assembly, formed after the recent elections, does not represent the revolution, with none of the parties who stood having a socialist or anti-capitalist programme. The revolution is a process that does not end with the overthrow of dictator Ben Ali, but the overthrow of the capitalist system.
The final speaker, Emily McArthur, brought solidarity from Occupy Boston and Socialist Alternative, Committee for a Workers' International (CWI) supporters in the US. Slogans such as "Fight like an Egyptian" indicate where the inspiration for the Occupy movement comes from, but people have also joined occupations in US cities due to the global recession and the failure of the two corporate parties, the Republicans and Democrats, to provide anything but cuts and misery. Emily argued that the movement needs to build its own political organisation.
Struggle, solidarity, socialism; these were the themes that were packed into the rally. In closing, it was pointed out that the event had gone a little over time - because of the large amount of claps of support for all the contributions. Even the footsore Jarrow marchers were not shy to stand in support of socialist ideas that chimed with their struggle for a future.
What we thought about Socialism 2011
Just got home after the best weekend for a hell of a long time aka Socialism 2011. What a fantastic thing to be a socialist, fighting the greed and corruption in the crappy world we live in, so we ALL live as dignified fulfilled human beings, free from the panic and stress and threat of homelessness, worrying if we can afford food, etc.
What a brilliant weekend among comrades fighting the fight, from working class heroes from Kazakhstan, and trade unionists Vik Chechi and Dave Nellist, Les the Remploy convener, the list goes on...
I've just got back from Socialism 2011. My first time but hopefully not my last! I learned so much from the workshops and hearing what others had to say.
The whole weekend, from supporting the Jarrow March on its final leg, to the inspiring and excellent rallies, has filled me with a stronger sense of solidarity.
There were some funny parts, like when I was asked to hand out recruitment cards before a rally and happened to ask someone if he wanted to join... then he looked up and I saw it was the general secretary of the Socialist Party! Well, I am a new member!
Being with so many people singing from the same hymn sheet has definitely given me more confidence in what I see as the only alternative - the socialist alternative.
James Bibey, Reading and Bracknell Socialist Party
At socialism atm and it's going really well! Jackie Grunsell was brilliant on the NHS as was Peter Taaffe on outlining what a socialist democracy would look like.
I've been every year for the last five years and can't imagine not being here every November, you learn so much. Rallies outstanding, especially Clare Daly TD, an inspiring workers' MP on a workers' wage from across the water. Getting a few like her in Britain, like we used to have in the 1980s, can't come soon enough. All in all the shot in the arm we all need before N30.
Paul Gerrard, Salford Socialist Party
An inspiring event bringing together the different layers of the working class - youth, students and trade unionists. It was an honour to speak from the platform. Here's to another 12 months of struggle and Socialism 2012.
I have had a fantastic weekend at Socialism 2011. The workshops I attended, such as the 'Hardest Hit', were really interesting, hearing the contributions made from people whether it was about ideas and/or experiences. The rally was really inspiring, listening to speakers such as Clare Daly and Vik Chechi, I'll definitely be going to next year's event.
Lucy Stokes, Leeds
Socialism 2011 has inspired me to go out and fight even harder to rid us of the Tory-led government and to build a socialist alternative.
Tom Maestri, Dorset Socialist Party
Again a magnificent weekend which contained the main elements needed for developing the fight against the Con-Dems and explaining the socialist alternative.
Clarity of ideas, visionary strategy, combined with an astute tactical appreciation of the critical need to raise the mass consciousness of the working class.
The presence of the Jarrow marches was an inspiration to everybody. All of this was made possible by the prodigious organisational effort which went into making the weekend a success.
Tony Mulhearn, Liverpool Socialist Party
Amazing weekend. Such a relief to be among people who talk sense. And the rally on Saturday was spine tinglingly inspirational.
It was my first Socialism, and what a weekend it was! Everything I experienced, from the march we joined, to the rallies and the debates, were such an inspiration.
It brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye when we welcomed back the Jarrow marchers, what a fabulous group of young people they are and that they are involved in doing something they wholeheartedly believe in, I was completely awestruck.
I give thanks for everybody who is involved in the logistics of Socialism and look forward to being there again in 2012.
Dawn Wheelhouse, Huddersfield Socialist Party
It was great to find my views very much in line with what the Socialist Party is saying.
I do think we stand at the gateway of a great opportunity to begin having a mainstream debate about whether free-market capitalism is the only way to run the planet - a debate that the Socialist Party can and will lead on, I'm sure.
I believe that, since the Berlin Wall fell, the Labour Party gave up any opposition to the idea of free-market capitalism.
I believe it was misguided. I believe the process has now come full circle.
Without pressure from the grass roots, the political establishment will not change though. So I was very inspired to be able to attend Socialism 2011 and to feel renewed confidence in our struggle.
Labour Party member, Exeter
Brilliant weekend of political discussion & debate at Socialism! Jarrow March rally excellent too. Blimey I'm tired!!
This was my first experience at Socialism. I found it to be an engaging, productive and very friendly atmosphere with several excellent discussions.
I'm sure that in the current climate many people are looking for an alternative to capitalism. At Socialism 2011 what really stood out were the number of honest and caring working people, having the courage to try and make a meaningful difference to their situation.
Michael Gilbert, Tower Hamlets Socialist Party
Socialism 2011 was a huge success. Following the inspiring Trafalgar Square welcome to the Jarrow marchers, the discussions and debates that followed were the icing on the cake.
The standard of debate and the enthusiasm of the participants represents a massive step forward for the Socialist Party. For old and new comrades alike the solidarity at Socialism was inspiring and will give us all confidence to go forward to the 30 November action with confidence in the ideas of socialism.
Val and Terry Pearce, Reading and Bracknell Socialist Party
Closing rally: Getting ready for 30 November strikes
Michael Wrack, Hackney Socialist Party
The closing rally of an excellent Socialism 2011 weekend, chaired by executive committee member Judy Beishon, was superb preparation for 30 November. This should see three million public sector workers strike together against the government's pension reform and follows the strike of 750,000 in June.
One of the trade unions that took part in the action in June, and will be striking again this time, is the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union. PCS assistant general secretary Chris Baugh (personal capacity) opened the rally by explaining how capitalist commentators have been responding to the new period of class struggle.
Understanding the threat to their system, many are desperate for that system to appear to be a "fairer capitalism". As Chris explained, the alternative to capitalist crisis cannot be provided from within the existing system, but will come from the working class fighting in solidarity to create a new society based on our own interests, the ideas of socialism.
It is at times like this when the conflict of class interests at the heart of capitalism becomes most obvious, and working people will increasingly look to organisations that will represent them. Following the 30 June strikes, the PCS recruited 8,000 new members in two months and the other unions can expect similar growth if they offer a fighting lead.
Alex Gordon, president of the Rail, Maritime, and Transport (RMT) union, spoke next. The majority of RMT members are not covered by the public sector pension scheme, but those who are (including workers at the royal fleet, the Orkney ferries, and Tyneside metro) will all be balloting for strike action. Alex agreed with other speakers that, whatever happens on 30 November must only be the start, and further coordinated national action will be necessary to defeat this government.
Assistant general secretary of the POA prison officers' union, Joe Simpson told the rally how, when he was younger, his father told him he must join the Labour Party as it was the only political party that represents working class people. Unfortunately Labour has long since moved away from doing that, as was shown by Miliband's condemnation of workers involved in the June strikes. Nonetheless looking for a party that fights in the interests of the working class, Joe said that he had decided to join the Socialist Party.
Joe called on all trade union members at the rally to campaign for disaffiliation from the Labour Party. He also called on the trade union movement to make 30 November a success by organising demonstration and rallies which everyone who wanted to support the strikes could attend.
As well as using their industrial strength through the trade unions, working people also need a political voice. Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist gave memories of his time serving as a Labour MP, when there were active socialists, and others willing to stand up for the working class, working inside that party.
As an example Dave recalled a time during the miners' strike when 28 Labour MPs invaded the pit at the commons to stop a Tory motion cutting benefits for the strikers' families. A graphic comparison with now, where all three capitalist parties are in agreement on the pension attacks and council cuts.
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) stood its biggest slate of anti-cuts candidates yet at the last elections, and the electoral challenge to the tri-partisan neo-liberal agreement will be even bigger next time, including probably in the Greater London Assembly elections.
Opposition activist Ainur Kurmanov, one of the leaders of the Socialist Movement Kazakhstan, addressed the Socialist Party rally via a filmed message. Ainur underlined the extent to which the Nazarbayev regime is prepared to go to try and crush all opposition to his dictatorship and conveyed the determination of those fighting against it, as well as expressing the appreciation of opposition activists for the support expressed world-wide for their struggle.
The effect a fighting leadership can have on union members was shown by Vik Chechi, Unison branch secretary at Queen Mary's University. Vik was elected into his position six months ago, prior to which the branch had not had a single meeting in five years.
Since then the branch has been rejuvenated into one with an active membership, and a good anti-cuts campaign on campus. Management's response to this has been to attack Vik, placing him on immediate suspension, with dismissal threatened even before any investigation had taken place. The branch is determined to fight this attack.
Rob Williams, chair of the National Shop Stewards Network, gave a barnstorming speech setting out the tasks and inspiring the audience with confidence.
Closing the rally, Socialist Party deputy general secretary Hannah Sell spoke of how internationally we have moved into a period of mass struggle, and as the rally showed, there is an increasing potential for the ideas of socialism to be raised as the alternative that is needed.
With the ideas of socialism we can take the opportunities of this period to bring about real change, from a system for the millionaires to one for the millions. Hannah concluded by explaining that it has not always been easy to be a socialist - when the promises of capitalism seemed possible. But for millions today it is becoming more and more clear that 'capitalism is crisis'.
While all working class people suffer as a result of the cuts, Hannah quoted from William Wordsworth, writing at the time of the French Revolution, to describe being a socialist in this period, as the class struggle intensifies: "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!"
26 Feb Austerity kills
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