The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) conference last weekend was an exciting two days of debates and discussion about how socialists can best understand the world and act to change it.
There were more delegates that the previous year, emphasising the growth and the increased dynamism of the party. And there were more young people.
Central to all the debates was an analysis of the main factors underlying politics today.
The first key element is the dominant form of imperialism – the “war on terror”. It is the reason for the disastrous and bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the rise in state-sponsored Islamophobia and the curbing of civil liberties.
It also forms a background to the anger over the government’s warped priorities. Millions respond angrily to the sight of cuts in the NHS while there is limitless cash for nuclear weapons and war.
The war on terror is not a short-term project. It is a long term strategy which is central to the politics of both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. So opposition to it also has to be sustained and developed.
The second central feature of the present situation – the crisis of Labourism – is connected to the first. They are two faces of neoliberalism.
The party which many working people believed stood for the defence of the NHS, the provision of good pensions and other welfare benefits, comprehensive education and council housing is driving the market into every area of life.
It is assaulting pensions, cutting the NHS, setting up academies and trying to privatise housing.
The revulsion against the war and against the Labour Party is the basis for Respect and the growth of the SWP.
Respect faces new challenges to build on its past successes and pass the test of further electoral challenges this May and in 2008.
The level of strikes remains low. But the figures do not tell the whole picture. When battles do occur – such as the Merseyside firefighters, the local government pensions strike, the continuing unrest in the post office, the cleaners’ revolt, the JJB and Iceland strikes, and the series of bus strikes – they show militancy and class anger.
In many such struggles there is a very high level of participation with big picket lines and also an openness to socialist ideas and radical methods of struggle.
There are signs of a similar mood among students, as well as a thirst for ideas which can explain the world.
The central tasks for socialists today are to be at the centre of the movements against imperialism and neoliberalism, to carry politics into the unions and workplaces, and to organise and develop a growing socialist current that can makes all these movements as effective as possible and fight to change the world.
Three dates sum up the immediate tasks of the party – the ballot among 280,000 civil service workers and their first strike planned for 31 January, the 24 February demonstration against Trident and the war in Iraq, and the day of action on 3 March against health cuts and in defence of the NHS.
The anti-war demonstration is the most important of these, but the three form a united whole of opposition to the Blair-Brown vision of society.
All three were repeatedly mentioned at the conference, with delegates agreeing to throw themselves into activity around each.
And as well as these big events, there is an urgent need for consistent activity around, for example, workplace sales of Socialist Worker.
The SWP has made significant strides forward in the past year. It must take this further in 2007.
In the following articles we reflect the debates and decisions of the conference.