On the first Saturday of the New Year Socialist Alternative kicked off the decade with an excellent northern region conference. Over 30 members, representing seven branches, convened in Huddersfield for a what was a fantastic day of political discussion and organisational planning for the tasks ahead in 2020.
The conference began with an in-depth examination of the political situation in Britain. Members from across the region made valuable contributions on, amongst other things, the current mood after December’s general election, the opportunities which still exist to defeat the Tories, and prospects for the Brexit negotiations. We also discussed the coming Labour leadership race, what approach socialists should take to that, as well as wider possibilities for struggle within our communities and workplaces.
The afternoon began with a report of the re-election campaign of Seattle City Council Member, Kshama Sawant, who represents our co-thinkers in Socialist Alternative in the US. Kshama recently won a tremendous victory and was re-elected despite more than $1 million being poured into the race by Amazon to try and unseat her. A Socialist Alternative member from the midlands, who last year had spent a number of weeks in the US lending support to this campaign, gave a valuable report. It highlighted how being part of an international organisation of socialists – the Committee for a Workers’ International – provides us with great opportunities to learn from the work of CWI members around the world.
Time was also spent in the afternoon on three political workshops centred on the trade unions, youth and women. The workshop on youth naturally focused on the youth climate strikes. The trade union workshop focussed on developing a fighting strategy for the unions, including the potential for struggle against the new Tory government. We also discussed the growing possibilities for workplace organising we’ve seen demonstrated by some of the smaller unions like the IWGB and UVW. These unions have taken militant action with workers in the gig economy – such as Uber and Deliveroo drivers.
The workshop on campaigning among women reported the importance of avoiding falling into the trap of only discussing ‘women’s issues’ on and around certain occasions, such as International Women’s Day.
A party building session then looked at what we had achieved as an organisation since our inaugural, national congress back in September. It was reported how the hard work of the members across the region had aided the production and distribution of three issues, plus a special general election supplement, of our paper. Alongside this, we have also helped to create a large online presence through our social media work, as well as growing the organisation numerically. We agreed that it was vital to maintain and build on this momentum, focussing on building the fightback against the Tories.
The conference elected a regional committee, which would have a representative of each branch in the north. The committee will have the task of helping to coordinate and organise our work across the region.
In all, this was a successful conference, showing huge determination to build Socialist Alternative. Our positive prospects for the coming year were clear to see!