Socialist Voice November 2001

2001 Socialist Party Conference report.

THIS conference began with a report from Tony Saunois on behalf of the International Secretariat of the Committee for a Workers' International which centered on the enormous changes in world relations which have occurred since 11 September.

That report and the discussion which followed quite correctly focused on the very dangerous situation which has opened up and the difficulty of predicting how the war will unfold. But it was also important to emphasise that this war is also going to act to expose even further the utterly reactionary nature of the social system which dominates the globe. In the medium term, it will therefore massively reinforce the anti-capitalist mood which had been rapidly developing before 11 September and was most dramatically witnessed on the streets on Genoa.

Crucially, the deepening slump in the world economy, very likely the most serious crisis since the Second World War, will have catastrophic consequences for hundreds of millions of people around the world and even if there is a stunning effect on workers in the short term the way has been paved for massive social struggles this is true not just in the neo-colonial world but in the imperialist heartlands as well, not least the US itself.

These points related directly to the discussion on southern perspectives where the key point that needed to be registered was the end of the Celtic Tiger and the massive effects that this will have including the effects on consciousness; the coming radicalisation of workers; and a radicalisation of youth, the first signs of which have been dramatically reflected in the emergence and development of Socialist Youth.

Not just in this discussion, but in the building, public representatives and trade union sessions, I think the conference has registered the enormous amount of work our party in the South is involved in including work of a mass character, the range of campaigns, the positions achieved in the trade union movement and the influence in many working class communities. The clearest expression of this at the moment is our role in organising the fightback in Aer Lingus.

What is now clearly indicated is the potential for the Socialist Party to win a second seat in Dail Eireann. I say potential because it was correctly emphasised yesterday that winning the seat in Dublin North will require an almighty battle let us remind ourselves of the struggle in two elections required to secure the seat in Dublin West.

The establishment while somewhat focused on Sinn Fein at the moment will not miss the significance of a second seat for us and we ourselves have to take on board the full importance of such a victory it would represent a qualitative step forward for the party.

Comrades, the discussion on the North was necessarily very sober. We have to register that unfortunately our perspective on the peace process has been all too clearly confirmed. Precisely what we have seen is that while sectarian politicians have come together at the top, division and polarisation in society and especially within the working class has massively increased.

But while we have to firmly point out the extremely dangerous direction that events can take I think there was also a very positive aspect to this discussion and the discussion on the northern building document. In some ways it was perhaps the most positive discussion in a number of years - for this reason - because our party has definitely turned a corner and is moving forward.

After a very difficult period, now we have the breakthrough in NIPSA and the reactivating of a number of comrades in Belfast and the brilliant development of Socialist Youth in the North.

The whole party needs to understand the historic importance of these developments because we are playing a key role in putting together the beginning of the united workers' movement which alone can stop the drift towards full scale conflict as well as the nucleus of the revolutionary party which is necessary to lead it.

Comrades, I think even the oldest amongst us will agree that the most positive aspect of this conference was the intervention of Socialist Youth not just in the youth discussion but in the conference as a whole. As has been already said, the thirst for ideas and the determination to build, which has been demonstrated, has heartened the whole party. It is no exaggeration to say that the party's future is secure.

Our conference is the highest body of the party. What I think has happened here this weekend is the recommitment of comrades to our goals and to a strategy to achieve them; this commitment has been dramatically demonstrated by the brilliant collection which raised 13,197.

But each and every individual here needs to reassess their own work for the party and how they can make that work more effective in the coming year, whether that is in the trade unions, the communities or in the day to day building of the party. All of us need to review our level of activity. It is primarily a question of confidence. If each individual takes a step forward, then collectively the party will make a very big step forward in its work, work which it is no exaggeration to say is of potentially enormous historical importance.

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