Socialist Worker

SWP conference 2012: Building a revolutionary party in an era of crisis

Issue No. 2285

Voting at the SWP conference last weekend (Pic: Geoff Dexter)

Voting at the SWP conference last weekend (Pic: Geoff Dexter)

At the Socialist Workers Party conference national secretary Charlie Kimber introduced a session on building the party.

He said, “Look at the role we’ve played in the rising arc of struggle.

“This has been a year in which we, quicker than anyone else, grasped the idea that there was a shift towards the centrality of the organised working class in the resistance against the austerity drive of the coalition.

“Building the party is also about shaping the movement. Whether we recruit someone to the SWP makes a difference to how the struggle builds.

“We recruited a number of people in the construction dispute. The fact that they joined the party helps to shape that entire national dispute.


“If you recruit some of the key militants in your area it will change the shape of the resistance in Britain.”

Charlie added, “Now the ideological test for us is very high indeed. We have to be able to answer the question of the relevance of socialism in the 21st century.

“We have to be able to answer, what is your alternative to the chaos, the waste and the violence of capitalism?”

A number of new party branches have grown up over the past year, although recruitment has not reached the target set at last year’s conference.

Sam from Hastings told conference, “Our branch has been going for 11 months and gone from three members to eight. We started by selling Socialist Worker at all the major public sector workplaces.”

Chris from Middlesborough explained how his branch had grown by taking the town’s young people seriously—and how this had put them in a position to better influence the electricians’ dispute.

One initiative has been the introduction of socialist education courses to help new recruits develop into leading revolutionaries within the party.

“Our educationals have been a great success,” said Ruairi from central London. “We regularly had 14 or 15 members along, and it’s a great way of building up their confidence.”

Sam from the party’s circulation department argued that branches need a strategy for distributing the paper to our members much more quickly.

One member explained how selling Socialist Worker at work had helped her to organise in her workplace.

She told comrades, “After our strike one woman came to thank me. I was able to tell her, it’s not about me, it’s about me being in this organisation.”


3 May will see elections in Scotland, England and Wales.

In London the party will stand for the London assembly as part of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (Tusc). We will be backing Labour’s Ken Livingstone for London mayor.

In Scotland the party will work with other left forces to put forward a socialist alternative. Conference agreed to hold discussion on the issues raised by a referendum on independence. The party’s policy is to vote for independence in any such vote.

The party will also stand a number of candidates under the Tusc banner in the England and Wales council elections. In particular, it will back former councillor Michael Lavalette’s bid to regain his Preston seat.


Charlie Kimber opened the session by calling for a “sharp new focus” on the internet to build a more effective online presence.

But he warned that the internet could not be an alternative to the printed Socialist Worker.

Conference agreed to proceed immediately with appointing a web coordinator to redesign party websites.

A motion calling for a structured and wide-ranging “period of discussion” of the party’s internet work was passed.

An amendment to the motion calling for a party commission on internet work was defeated.


A number of motions were discussed at the conference.

A motion was passed calling for Socialist Worker newspaper to carry more debates.

A motion amending What the Socialist Workers Party stands for (see page 12) was passed. Delegates felt that it was important to add a clause on socialists’ attitude to religion.

The opening sentence has also been reworded to improve clarity.

A motion calling for more industrial leaflets to be produced locally by branches and districts was passed.

A motion calling for internal bulletins in the run-up to party council meetings was defeated.


Conference elected its central committee of leading members for the coming year. The committee comprises: Weyman Bennett, Mark Bergfeld, Michael Bradley, Alex Callinicos, Esme Choonara, Joseph Choonara, Hannah Dee, Charlie Kimber, Amy Leather, Dan Meyer, Judith Orr, Martin Smith and Mark L Thomas, plus a trade union activist whose name has been withheld to protect them from their employer.

Conference also elected a national committee of 50 members.

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