In an hour-long session delegates debated and then voted on the composition of the party’s leading body, the central committee.
There were two proposals. The first, from the outgoing leadership, consisted of Chris Bambery, Weyman Bennett, Michael Bradley, Alex Callinicos, Lindsey German, Chris Harman, Chris Nineham, Moira Nolan, John Rees, Martin Smith and Candy Udwin.
The second, proposed by John Molyneux from Portsmouth, was to add his own name to that list.
In addition to proposing speeches there were five speakers in support of each proposal.
The debate centred on how to assess the current political period and the prospects for the party.
Alex Callinicos, moving the leadership’s proposal, welcomed a contested election as a useful way of clarifying those questions.
As some of the difference between the two positions was an assessment of the party’s performance during the 1990s, he said, “After the fall of the Berlin Wall much of the left globally and in Britain were paralysed by what they saw as an historic defeat.
“The SWP resisted that conclusion… We came out of the 1990s larger and stronger than when we went in.”
He went on to emphasise the instability in the world political and economic system and the growth of resistance and movements against capitalism and war over the last six years.
He analysed the gap between the deep political radicalisation and the fact that workers “in the advanced industrialised countries have yet to return to the offensive”.
He pointed to how a key strategic aim of the party is to address this gap through bringing the radicalisation into the organised working class movement.
John Molyneux, moving his proposal, said he was “extremely pleased by the successes we have heard about in the colleges and by other reports”.
But he felt the party had been damaged “by a lack of realism and not facing up to the difficulties of the period we are in”, both in the past and in the present.
He argued that two objective reasons for the problems he believed existed were “the impact of the fall of Stalinism” and “the low level of the class struggle”.
He also took a different view of the world economy, highlighting growth over the last 14 years.
John said, “I think the developments in China and Asia are in excess of what we expected.”
These arguments were further discussed in other parts of the conference.
This divergence over assessing the political situation, and, consequently, the prospects for the party to grow in strength and influence, was at the heart of the debate that followed.
After that debate, which the whole conference agreed was conducted in the best democratic traditions of the party, delegates voted by 208 to 57 with 11 abstentions for the leadership’s proposal.
The policy documents based on the positive appraisal of the prospects for the movement, the radical left and the SWP were passed throughout the weekend either unanimously or overwhelmingly.