Britain: Socialism 2022 weekend event – a vital preparation for the new era of class struggle

The Socialism 2022 rally, photo Paul Mattsson

The Socialism 2022 event, held in London, was a huge success. That isn’t just down to the great turnout of over 700 people present and more online, with a big proportion attending their first Socialism weekend, and even their first ever Socialist Party (CWI) event. It isn’t just because in every one of the 35 workshops – from discussion on the 1926 general strike, to how to fight sexism and sexual harassment, to the Marxist concept of dialectical materialism – there was a mix of experienced fighters and new youth hungry for socialist ideas. It isn’t just because of the tremendous response to the fighting fund appeal, with the £36,689 donated, smashing the £25,000 target.

All of these are very important. But the most important thing about Socialism 2022 is that it fulfilled its role – providing a forum for discussion on the ideas that can prepare the working class for a new period of class struggle.

The red thread running through it was confidence in the working class as the force that can win against the bosses and the Tories and change society.

In opening the rally, Lenny Shail, Socialism 2022 organiser, set this out: “This rally, and this whole weekend, is about saying what needs to be said, doing what needs to be done, steering a course, standing firm, daring to fight against all obstacles” – for a socialist alternative.

The first speaker Lenny introduced was nurse, health activist and Socialist Party member Holly Johnston. The very fact that close to one million health workers are balloting to join the strike wave is an indication of the new period of intensified class struggle we have entered.

Many health workers, Holly said, have taken confidence from the strike wave this year. And health workers recognise they need to organise and join the action in order to save the NHS.

Holly’s speech, like all the rally speeches, was interrupted by clapping. In between, in the quietness of the hall, you could feel socialist ideas being absorbed.

After Holly came Gary Clark, postal worker and secretary of CWU Scotland No. 2 branch. Gary was proud to speak as a striking postie taking part in the biggest and most important dispute in the 400 years of Royal Mail’s existence.

Gary reported the CWU’s plans to escalate the fight against Royal Mail’s attacks, including on sick pay and redundancy pay, and cutting 10,000 jobs. The strikes have brought these brutal bosses to the negotiating table.

But Gary also gave a devastating picture of how and why the bosses are fighting this class war. Since privatisation, over £5 billion in profits have been taken out of the service – leaving it threadbare. Gary showed it isn’t a lack of money that’s the issue, but whether it goes to the capitalist class or the rest of us.

Jared Wood, London regional organiser of the transport union RMT, speaking in a personal capacity, smashed the Tory lie that austerity is necessary.

The combined figure for share dividends, profits and wages over £100,000, is £393 billion. In other words, a 5% cut of the income of the rich over three years could fill the government’s claimed £55 billion ‘funding gap’.

The class anger this type of inequality produces is a factor in the massive strikes. But, Jared said, Labour leader Starmer goes along with the Tory lies. So workers also have to build a political voice.

Jared pointed to the forerunner of the RMT which, faced in 1900 with a choice of two parties telling the same lie – ‘workers have to pay’ – took the view that it had to build the Labour Party.

He called on everyone in the rally and watching the live broadcast to put the call out for political change, for the building of a new socialist, trade union-based political party throughout the trade union movement.

Lenny introduced Peter Taaffe, by explaining about how Peter and the rest of the leadership of the Militant, and now of the Socialist Party, have stood firm and dedicated their lives over decades to building a party that defends Marxism.

Peter spoke about how Militant had offered a lead against Margaret Thatcher – leading Liverpool city council in the 1980s, and with it a mass movement in the city that won millions from the government. And also the 18 million-strong organised movement that defeated the poll tax and brought Thatcher down. Peter explained how our party, confident in socialist ideas and the potential power of the working class, was key to this.

Peter was one of those who, in 1974, founded the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) in order to collaborate across borders and continents to build parties in the same tradition.

The next speaker, Prasad Welikumbura, is a more recent member of the CWI, in our sister party in Sri Lanka, the United Socialist Party (USP). But, like every member can – whether new, newish or experienced – he is fighting to get our ideas across to workers and young people in struggle to change their conditions.

Prasad described the incredible events of the uprising in Sri Lanka, such as the mass occupation of the presidential palace, which resulted in the brutal president Gotabaya Rajapaksa being forced to flee, and the incredible courage and determination of the workers and young people involved.

Gotabaya’s resignation left a power vacuum. But, as yet, the leadership of the movement have not understood the need to fill it, and power is currently back in the hands of the regime. In these events, Prasad and the USP raise the need to build the movement with the working class in the lead.

Sheila Caffrey, a member of the National Education Union national executive, had two jobs at the rally. Speaking in a personal capacity, she reported on the fightback in education, and also asked for donations to fund our party.

Sheila showed how the two go together: our ideas help workers fight, but we need money to produce leaflets and bulletins through which those can be shared at workplaces, picket lines and demos.

In the National Education Union, Socialist Party members have found support for our programme of national action on pay, workload and funding – fighting for a lead from the front and building from below.

Getting these ideas into the hands of all workers requires resources – strike bulletins, leaflets, posters, placards, a national office, and more.

Sheila explained that, while for the Tories and the bosses there is a magic money tree – squeezing workers’ pay and living conditions, we can only rely on the generosity and self-sacrifice of our members and supporters to fund this. The result of the collection speaks to the determination in the hall and across the party to not allow the cost-of-living crisis to leave our party without the resources it needs.

Onay Kasab, speaking on behalf of Unite the Union, also addressed the theme of how workers can win – from the union’s experience. He brought solidarity greetings from Unite general secretary Sharon Graham, as well as the 450 industrial disputes that the union has been involved in over the past year, over 80% of them resulting in victory.

Those victories include the Liverpool dockers, who stood strong, refused to step back, and won. He also mentioned bus workers who have achieved double-digit pay wins, port workers who have won a 38% pay rise, and the victorious bin workers in Coventry council.

In Coventry, Kaz explained, Unite members took eight months of strike action against a Labour council that spent over £4 million on a strike-breaking operation – and lost; attacked the Unite rep – and lost.

Kaz took the opportunity to reiterate the Unite position, a position in common with the Socialist Party, that Labour councils have a choice. They can choose to adopt no-cuts needs budgets, use reserves and borrowing to plug short-term gaps, while joining with trade unions and communities to demand and win necessary funding from central government. It can be done, he explained, the magnificent Liverpool councillors in the 1980s prove that.

Hannah Sell, Socialist Party general secretary, summed up and developed the themes of the rally, setting out the tasks of the Socialist Party in this new era of intensified class struggle.

Our task is both to explain that capitalism isn’t working, that a socialist alternative is necessary and, crucially, to offer concrete steps for workers and young people moving into struggle, emphasising building working-class organisation through which workers can discuss, debate, negotiate and work out the tactics and strategy for this new powerful movement emerging.

With Socialism 2022 taking place as Cop27 ends, Hannah started with the climate change crisis. A third of Pakistan has been under water this year bringing enormous suffering for the working class and poor, including our comrades in the CWI there.

Hannah explained how the capitalist system is incapable of taking the steps that are really needed. It isn’t even that all capitalists are oblivious – they can see it and the problems it poses – but their system is blind.

Capitalism is ultimately an unplanned system, based on the private ownership of industry, science, technique, and driven by the lust for profit – not meeting society’s needs and solving society’s problems. And it’s based on competing nation states, so the international cooperation necessary to deal with this global problem is impossible under capitalism.

Hannah addressed the logical, and crucial, next question: if capitalism cannot solve these problems, how can socialism be achieved? What force is capable of achieving it?

Hannah described how the BBC’s Newsnight had a ‘spot the difference’ feature searching for how Keir Starmer’s New Labour opposed any of the main aspects of the anti-working class Tory autumn budget statement. They couldn’t find one. It is crystal clear that Starmer’s New Labour will defend the interests of the capitalist class in office.

But, Hannah said, in 2022, for the first time in decades, a new generation has had a glimpse of a force that could,  and will win socialist change. The working class is rising off its knees and is potentially the most powerful force worldwide, and here in Britain.

We’re not merely watching these events, but trying to help them win and see what’s needed to change the world. Hannah set out the ideas the Socialist Party has been offering on picket lines, in meetings, everywhere we get to discuss with workers and young people: all striking together, coordinating the strikes – building towards a one-day general strike.

Plus the need to build mass strike funds to make sure those in the front line can escalate without being starved back to work. Should the Tories try to implement more attacks on the right to strike, generalised strike action can defeat it – giving even more confidence to the working class.

Hannah explained that working-class organisation is the key, building democratic left organisations that can campaign for a fighting trade union movement, socialist societies on the campuses and a new mass workers’ party.

A workers’ voice in parliament could represent the struggles – supporting pickets but also moving motions for nationalisation of Royal Mail, the railways, telecoms, energy companies and so on. That would also raise workers’ confidence to fight and to look for what’s needed to change our conditions. And a party like the Socialist Party, that fights for all of this come what may, is essential.

As Hannah concluded: “Capitalism offers only a miserable future, but we are optimists. The working class – the billions of people who keep society running, who make the capitalists’ profits – are beginning to rise off their knees and will be capable of ending capitalism and building a new democratic socialist world.

“The Socialist Party and the Committee for a Workers’ International are determined to begin the task of building a mass party equal to that task. If you agree join us.”


What you thought of Socialism 2022

Socialism 2022 was the best I’ve been to. The working class is on the rise, and we are getting into shape for the battles ahead. This weekend filled me with confidence that the Socialist Party is up to the challenge.

Duncan Moore, Plymouth

Of the sessions, it’s only a shame we couldn’t attend more. But the pinnacle had to be Saturday’s rally, with so many passionate, active and eloquent speakers in the movement for socialism.

Harrison Cairns, Northampton

You could feel the electric mood of the strike movement at the rally. Will take the vibe back to Austria, which has also strikes – shop, retail hospital and rail workers – looming.

Laura, Austria

I’m disabled, so I was unable to attend in person, but I was on Zoom. In the ‘British capitalism and disintegration of Tory Party’ session loads of participants answered my question. Everyone made the weekend the most important event I have ever been part of. I intend to get myself to Socialism 2023 in person. I’m feeling exhilarated, and so proud to be part of the antidote to capitalism’s poisonous venom.

Andi Soshal, Northampton

Realising we’re part of an international group, makes our work feel part of something much larger. Loved the discussions with comrades from Sheffield, Scotland, London, Germany, US, and Sri Lanka, as well as older members who’d fought the BNP, EDL and Margaret Thatcher

Chris Cooke, Plymouth

The best part about the discussions was how they didn’t just report on events and talk about theory in an abstract way. They also elaborated on how the class struggle can be taken forward, and the need for concrete organisation from below by the working class. I will be taking what I have learned back home, to discuss with other activists, and encourage others to join the struggle for socialism

Callum Joyce, Oxford

I really got a sense of the passion and intelligence of our brilliant Socialist Party members. Everyone is so friendly. I left each session feeling more informed. And I loved the Saturday night, hearing reports from the heart of the strike wave. My first Socialism event since joining the Socialist Party in July. After a decade of seeking a group with a class-centred analysis, I feel everything ‘clicking into place’. The more I learn about the Socialist Party, the more enthusiastic I am about the ideas which drive it.

Alex Gillham, Leicester

Great to see so many young people who were knowledgeable, interested and engaged

Eddie Blindell, Hackney

Socialism 2022 did not disappoint. There was no shortage of insight. In one meeting, people from Wales, US, Germany and Norway shared their experience in the struggle for socialism. The Internationale never sounded so good.

Dan Snipe, Swansea

The Sunday after Socialism 2022 weekend, I feel more capable of participating in the struggles to come, than I was the previous Friday before.

Lee Hawksbee, Waltham Forest

The best discussion I went to was Sarah Sachs-Eldridge on ‘state capitalism’. And then to hear Clare Doyle relate her experiences of talking to workers in Donbas brought it all to life. So relevant to today’s events.

Mike Cleverley, Waltham Forest

The magic of an event like this is how much the ‘audience’ can illuminate the discussion. The young audience was encouraged to take the discussion further, and to disseminate the ideas raised.

Ellen Kenyon-Peers, Waltham Forest

Very motivating to be able to see that you are part of a bigger movement, something you can lose sight of. Safe to say that the next generation of Socialist Party members is in good hands to carry the torch forward.

Josh Curtis, Northampton

Understanding the events happening internationally, and even in other parts of the UK, is a breath of fresh air. This event feeds you the tools to carry the fight on as a young revolutionary.

Mila Matharu, Coventry

My first Socialism, seeing how many different branches there are, and the wealth of information at hand, was important for me to feel part of a larger movement.

Kasiah Watson-Blair, Newcastle

It was an honour to be part of a weekend of organising and learning where and how we can take on the capitalist class, empowered by workers’ struggles here and abroad.

Neil Dunne, Liverpool

So many new faces.

Ali Cooke, Dorset

Everyone had a story to tell and ideas to share. Loved every minute.

Laurie Moore, Plymouth

Unfortunately my hearing aids decided to malfunction, but the stewards were excellent, making sure I could be in the front row for all the sessions.

It can be easy to think that you’re alone, until you realise that you’re part of something huge and international. It was the first time I have sung the Internationale, and I enjoyed that a lot.

Melanie Dent, Reading

What a brilliant rally, so pleased there was a livestream.

Jill Waterfield, Hillingdon

I felt a lot of pride raising more than £100 for the fighting fund with the badge sales that I organised.

Cassidy Metcalf, Swansea

I greatly enjoyed hearing clear analysis of where Britain and its trade union movement are going.

Lluis Bertolin, Birmingham

Lots of fascinating debate and discussions in each session, ‘Capitalism and the Crown’ was especially interesting. Can’t wait for Socialism 2023.

Nandi, Tower Hamlets

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