In the last weekend of April 2021, members from all branches of Socialist Alternative in England, Wales and Scotland came together for a three-day National Assembly. At this online event, members exchanged experiences and ideas, participating in many detailed discussions. Initiatives like National Assemblies can help to further establish and develop our organisational integrity and political education, both as individuals and as a national organisation.
There were 116 attendees in total; more than 30 were comrades who have recently joined ISA, which shows how much our section is growing! 11 were visitors from our sister parties in International Socialist Alternative around the world, demonstrating the vital international interconnectivity of ISA. We fight for a socialist world, achievable only through organisation and solidarity on a global scale.
Initially the Assembly was set to be a physical event, but lockdown restrictions meant we had to use Zoom once again. Online meetings benefit from the removal of geographic/travel constraints on attendees. Moreover, some members with less experience can find it easier to express themselves via Zoom. Nonetheless, it will be a big step forward to be able to meet face-to-face for our congress in September where we can continue the discussions which were initiated at the Assembly.
35 commissions with 75 different speakers throughout the weekend
Kicking off on the Friday evening with well-attended theory sessions, events were varied across a broad spectrum of socialist theory and struggle. Across the weekend, there was plenty for comrades to get their teeth into, with 35 commissions in total, including discussion on theoretical subjects like historical materialism, dialectics, the Marxist view of the state, and Marxist economics; historical commissions on the German Revolution and the relevance today of Trotsky’s ‘Marxism in our Time’; with practical sessions on organising against the far right, and building support for socialism today to name just a few.
Commissions were organised as small meetings such as “How big a threat is the far right in Britain today?” and “What does 2021 hold for the Tory party?” to allow detailed discussion. Breaking up into smaller groups allows for more participative and focused discussions, and can make it easier for comrades to feel comfortable speaking.
This depth of conversation was highly valuable for the development of attendees’ political education and confidence sharing ideas. Such discussions enable us to develop our understanding of socialist ideas and deepen conviction. Many earned experience hosting sessions for the first time. 75 different people introduced or summed up discussions, including 14 who have joined Socialist Alternative in the last 12 months. It is vital that all members are self-assured in their political actions and beliefs.
Here we can share experience, knowledge and passion to take out into our campaigns and everyday struggles we take part in.
Three plenary sessions, with all attendees, provided context for the discussions that followed. The first plenary of the weekend addressed current capitalist crises, polarisation amongst society and resistance of workers throughout the world. The second plenary of the weekend focused on Britain and the coming struggles of the decade. A strong ‘anti-system’ and anti-capitalist consciousness is climbing amongst many in this country, specifically young people, while British capitalism and its political representatives have faced constant crises. We as an organisation must tap into these social frustrations to offer our socialist solution.
The third and final plenary session, “Strengthening Socialist Alternative” had a strong emphasis on party building and building our finances. This awareness of our current and future growth coursed through the whole weekend. It was excellent to hear of individual branch successes and different ideas for how we can improve our section such as improving diversity amongst comrades.
We heard updates on The Black Caucus in the USA that launched a month ago, and the beginnings of a Black members’ discussion group in Socialist Alternative here. ISA recognises the struggle for black liberation is fundamentally entwined into the struggle against capitalism. Another session at the Assembly titled “The role of caucuses for specially oppressed groups” enabled discussion about these spaces in our organisation, how they function and why they are vital to unifying the working class. We fight against all forms of oppression under capitalism.We also discussed how we can best organise Socialist Alternative at every level to enable us to bring our uniting, socialist, internationalist programme into the struggles of workers and young people in the most effective way.
Thanks to a highly successful appeal given at this plenary we significantly boosted our finances!
More than 42 comrades pledged to increase their monthly subs (membership fees), an inspiring sacrifice. The total additional subs currently stand at £479.40 with more to come! . This target figure will allow SA to invest in valuable resources for the struggles to come.
Alongside this, we set a donations target of £3000. This number will enable every SA branch to produce full colour professional materials. Comrades expressed that such media made a real difference at recent Kill the Bill protests. Such a figure also allows us to organise visits by members to other branches, to assist, share experience and further unify our section. Donations received hit a total of £3141!
This year’s National Assembly focussed a lot on our growth in terms of membership and financial support, a vital foundation for the future of Socialist Alternative. The Assembly was a space where all who took part could develop comradely confidence and knowledge. The inner strength of every member becomes the strength of ISA.