Last weekend was the Socialist Party's Congress in London, and I finally managed to be able to get to it. And what an exciting weekend it was! There is now an official report on the Socialist Party website at well as highlights of the first day - see http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/7050 and http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/7069 (please note these keep expanding as I was linking to this i've seen that Peter Taaffe's introduction to the discussion is being uploaded).
On the blog I want to add my own thoughts.
I didn't exactly have the best start to the day. The other delegate from Bangor branch had stayed at mine and we had to get up around 4.30pm to catch the train down to London. Which wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't for the fact that we had a power cut and had to get dressed and pack stuff up etc. in the dark.
Anyway, needless to say we got to the Congress in one piece. The first session was on the economy/british perspectives - seeing as there's quite a bit of stuff on this session already on the website I won't go into detail and get on to the bits of the day that most people reading this will probably be interested in.
That is the official delegation from the RMT which came to the congress and addressed us in the middle of the economy session to invite us to take part in the No2EU Yes to Democracy initiative. Like most people that day they mentioned the Lindsey Oil Refinery dispute quite a bit (which seemed to be their guide as to who to approach about the initiative - they seem to be wanting to exclude the SWP for instance). They also said quite a bit of stuff which made the Yes to Democracy bit of the name make quite a bit more sense - the whole point in their draft programme about repatriation of powers - partially stems from that the new EU constitution will stop governments from re-nationalising privatised companies (ie. the railways).
Later on we had a discussion about whether to take part in the initiative or not. The jist of the reason why we decided to take part revolved around this being the first time a national trade union has decided to present an electoral challenge to the Labour Party - an important prescident. However, the initiative could get a momentum of its own too and develop much further. There was also some interesting discussion on the EU itself, Peter Taaffe introduction to this session pointed out that Militant had been opposed to the EU at its inception and had, through the Labour Party Young Socialists, organised a demo under the slogan 'Not to EU, but yes to a Socialist Europe'.
Obviously we think the name and programme and way its been announced are quite a way from ideal, but one of the other negative's people have been mentioned is also this business about not taking office if elected. In a further evolution on this, the RMT have said that successful candidates could officially become an MEP and use that platform but won't physically go to Brussels.
The second day was a discussion on party building where Bangor branch received a lot of praise in the introduction - the only problem being we weren't there to hear it as we got lost on the way to congress (I blame the directions!), although I was one of the first people to contribute to the discussion, explaining how we'd started out in Bangor at the university and then spread out and about how hectic the last six months or so have been with the branch tripling in size (incidently another person has joined the Socialist Party since the congress), beating NUS in a referendum, organising a succesful protest against the slaughter in Gaza etc. I also highlighted the work we were doing in regards to translating some material into Welsh. There were reports from elsewhere too, which were generally quite positive. The day also saw a session on the youth and student stuff where the other delegate from Bangor (Brother R to use AVPS speak) spoke about how we've attempted to build Socialist Students at his college with some results (although we keep getting thrown off campus by the management). One thing that came across was the large amount of media publicity the youth fight for jobs campaign has been getting in local areas.
The Trade Unions discussion span over two days (it wasn't two days in length though! just in case you misunderstood that) and was really interesting with debates about the party's work in UNISON and PCS especially - the former obviously referring to the witch-hunt. Next was the session on publications were I again spoke discussing the importance of members contributing to the Socialist and also raised a few other points in regards to developing publications further which were taken up by other speakers, such as having a full-timer for the party website. Finally conference concluded with a report from the CWI which focussed mainly on the convulsions taking place in Europe and the development of the CWI sections there, although one interesting anecdote was that we got a complaint from the BBC when the CWI website went down earlier in the year!
As for general stuff - the congress saw us sell out of Bangor Socialist Party branches new bilingual pamphlet on the North Wales Quarry Strikes (a second printing coming in the next week or so, copies are available for a £1). My overall impression was of a very youthful congress attended by 275 people. What I thought was really good was that we managed to get in pretty much everyone who wanted to speak into discussions too. Having missed three in a row before this, i defintely want to be back there next year.