A debate on Sunday focused on the importance of building the SWP to help resist the effects of the economic crisis and imperialist wars.
The session was introduced by Martin Smith, the SWP’s national secretary. He noted that the current situation could lead to “either anger or fear” among ordinary people.
In some cases the bitterness in society can explode into action – as we saw last Saturday on the streets of London and Edinburgh over Israel’s assault on Gaza.
The SWP has to be at the heart of these movements, said Martin. “The party needs to continue to build united front campaigns and the SWP.”
He added that there is a deepening political radicalisation taking place among students, including those at further education colleges. “SWP branches should make sure that they are engaging with these people.”
The party has seen a good rise in the number of people joining in recent months.
“We recruited a significant number of people last year, but the key thing is to retain them,” said Martin.
“That means having strong local branches that are political and organising centres – involved in campaigns and industrial struggles.”
There are a number of key events that party members have to mobilise for in the coming months, such as the protests this April against the G20 world leaders in London and Nato protests in Strasbourg, France.
“We also need to be involved in the campaign against the BNP Nazis, who are targeting three areas in the upcoming European elections,” said Martin.
“The SWP needs to push outwards from this conference and seize the time.”
A number of delegates spoke about the work the party had done in their local areas.
Rose, a student from Birmingham, said, “There have been huge protests and meetings in Birmingham against the war on Gaza.
“We have put ourselves at the heart of these, which has meant that 15 people have joined the SWP in the last week – many of them young.
“We are working hard to make sure they come to our branch meetings and sales of Socialist Worker.”
Tom from Cambridge said, “We need to develop a strategy in each local area. This is essential to ensure that party democracy works.
“We also need to link our political work and our trade union work. We took the NUT teachers’ union banner on last Saturday’s Palestinian demonstration.
“A teacher on the demo saw this and said they would have to join the union.
“The local trades council discussed the People Before Profit Charter recently.
“It used it to debate the recession and the hole in the city council’s bank account caused by the collapse of Iceland’s banks.”
Despina from Hackney, east London, said, “We have built a broad Stop the War Coalition committee in the local area that has involved a lot of people in the movement.
“But we couldn’t do this if we didn’t have an SWP branch where people could come to discuss and debate how we go forward.”