The session on “Building the Socialist Workers Party” was introduced by Martin Smith, the party’s national secretary.
He noted that the prospect of the general election was heightening the political atmosphere. Martin pointed out that, “The crisis is spurring attacks and creating resistance. The attacks are set to escalate whoever wins the election.
“Importantly, every spark of resistance matters because it lifts the confidence to resist.”
Noting that the economic crisis was intensifying imperialism and the growth of fascism, Martin argued that the party needed to able to move sharply on a number of fronts.
He argued that united front work was central, as did a number of delegates in the discussion.
Martin said, “Party branches need to be centres of ideological debate and resistance. We need branches rooted in their area and in all areas of resistance.”
Thirty people spoke in the discussion. Many said how relating to the resistance had been key to recruiting people to the party and building vibrant local branches.
Some noted the role that district rallies and public meetings had played in bringing new people into the party.
Others spoke about the importance of Socialist Worker as a link between the party and those around us.
Nick from Norwich talked about being involved in developing a branch: “We have had a really positive year. It was intervening in big events that gave us the spur for building the branch. But it was also about attention to detail.”
Jenny from Birmingham said “Strong branches come from being political and relevant.”
Charlie Kimber led off a discussion on how the party will relate to the general election. There is massive disillusionment with mainstream parties, but there is unfortunately no united electoral group on the left.
The SWP is in negotiations with others on the left over the prospect of standing candidates in the election.
In many places, the SWP will call for a vote for candidates to the left of Labour, including Solidarity in Scotland, Respect and individuals such as Dai Davies in Blaenau Gwent and the left Green Caroline Lucas.
A debate developed over whether to call for a Labour vote where no other left candidate is standing. Conference agreed to arrange a longer discussion on the election at the next party council.