G8 protests, anti-war protests, terror attacks, union elections, ‘Socialism 2005’ success…
Socialism 2005 weekend
The Socialist Party, England and Wales, has made progress over the last year, which was clear at our successful ‘Socialism 2005’ weekend, on 12/13 November. We had over 800 people at our main rally and around 900 people attending during the weekend, which was more than double the turnout of the previous year. As well as the main rally, which included two trade union general secretaries on the platform, we had a second rally of 350 people, plus a successful youth rally, and we held 35 separate seminars during the weekend. The composition of the turnout reflected progress in both youth and trade union work. We intend to have a similar event next year, with an even larger turnout if possible.
We have continued to campaign against the occupation of Iraq and to participate in the national council of the Stop the War Coalition (STWC). We participated in a 500-strong, lively, International Socialist Resistance (ISR) contingent on the last national anti-war demonstration on 24th September.
At the start of 2005, we campaigned on pensions and played a leading role in getting a number of public sector unions to call a one-day strike in March. The strike didn’t take place, because the government backed down from the confrontation (as it would have been too close to the general election for their liking).
Then we turned to the general election, and stood 16 candidates (and also four local election candidates). Our leaflets reached more than 700,000 households. In the last four weeks of the election campaign we raised over £11,000 for our fighting fund and we sold record numbers of The Socialist in many parts of the country. Our best result was in Coventry North East, where Dave Nellist received 1874 (5%). Others included Coventry South, where Rob Windsor received 1097 (2.7%); standing for the first time in Newcastle East, Bill Hopwood gained 582 votes (1.8%); and in Walthamstow, Nancy Taaffe received 727 (2.4%).
Following the election, there were the London terrorist attacks in July and we were immediately out on the streets putting forward a clear position against war and terror. We participated in the justice campaign following the shooting of an innocent Brazilian man by the police in Stockwell tube.
SP branches campaigned on many issues in 2005, including against privatisation of the health service and education.
We also launched a national campaign for a new mass workers’ party. We have been raising the need for a new party for ten years, and have decided to step up our work on it. We have initiated a ‘Declaration’ for a new party which we are asking leading trade unionists and other workers to sign, and will also take it to community organisations, young people etc. We will participate in a conference on ‘workers’ representation’ called by the left rail trade union leader Bob Crow in January 2006. We are initiating a further conference in March.
We face local elections in May 2006, which our SP councillors in Lewisham, London, will defend their seats.
We have been involved in many workplace and trade union campaigns and struggles during the past year. In the UNISON general secretary election at the start of the year, our member Roger Bannister increased his vote and we also won two extra comrades on the UNISON NEC – to make five, in total. Our members fought and regained NEC seats in NUT (teachers), Usdaw (shop workers), PCS (civil service), NUJ (journalists) and Natfhe (higher education) and now have 23 party members on union national executive committees. We have re-established our party caucuses in Usdaw (shop workers), TGWU (General Workers’ Union) and Amicus and held two national trade union meetings (for our members in all unions) in March and September – attended by 60 and 80 respectively. We have been involved in campaigns to defend Saudi workers in Swansea, against Jaguar and Longbridge car plant closures, and to organise non-union shop workers in south London. We have participated in over 40 strikes and disputes (including the recent Gate Gourmet dispute) and at 15 national trade union conferences during the year. Our members in the PCS recently played a key role in forcing the government to retreat on pensions – keeping the retirement age at 60 for all existing workers in the civil service, health service and for teachers. Unfortunately, although the deal protects existing staff’s pension rights, it does not do the same for new starters. This battle will have to be fought again in the future.
Our participation during the anti-G8 protests in Scotland, in July, marked a turning point for our youth work. ISR held a week-long camp and 200 to the Edinburgh demonstration on the Saturday. The CWI contingent was noticed by the media and many other participants – including all the other organisations on the left.
This success at the G8, together with International Socialist Resistance’s (ISR) anti-war work, has placed ISR well on the map in England & Wales as an active and growing socialist youth organisation.
At the university freshers’ fayres we had another good year, participating in 80 universities and colleges, with over 800 students signed up to Socialist Students. We have party members in 70 universities and colleges and participate in 37 Socialist Student societies. Although the numbers who joined Socialist Students are similar to last year, the consciousness on socialist ideas is greater and more are attending meetings and becoming active.
Finance & paper sales
We have met our fighting fund target or come close to it in all the first three quarters of this year, and will do so this quarter, not least as we had a phenomenal collection of £28,000 at our Socialism 2005 rally. Our aim for the rally collection was to raise £15-20,000, so we went over our expectations.
To fund our general election candidates, we had a ‘week’s income’ appeal in late 2004 and early 2005 that raised £51,600 (£8,000 more than we raised in 2001). We also raised £14,000 for the CWI tsunami appeal, and later in the year, £9,000 for the Trade Union Rights Campaign Pakistan earthquake appeal.