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SWP Party Notes - 15 May 2000

15 May, 2000

New Tasks Facing Us All

Party Council set a number of changes for the Party. These flow from the demands of the class struggle:

1. While the discontent with New Labour is predominantly being channelled to the left, around the issue of asylum seekers we see how it could move rightwards. On this issue there is real polarisation. But Hague's attempts to play the race card has increased & hardened the minority who will defend refugees. The SWP has to throw itself into building a united response to the assault on asylum seekers across the country.

2. The mounting scale of job losses - particularly in manufacturing - is causing widespread anger & increasing discontent with Blair, Byers & Brown. We have to argue both for a fight back & for a clear alternative to New Labour's free market agenda. Accordingly we have re-launched the Action Programme & in a number of areas are going for united front public meetings.

Both initiatives can bring together discontented Labour supporters, trade unionists who are looking to a fight back and people who identify themselves as anti-capitalist. For us these groups are not self-compartmentalised. They cross-fertilise. In the longer term we want to build Seattle style protests round the IMF/World Bank summit in Prague, 25-28 September. Following on from the success of the LSA, we want to build a strong socialist challenge to Blair at next year's general election.

Working With & Alongside People

The growing crisis of reformism means there is a growing number of traditional Labour supporters who are prepared to work alongside us & to have a dialogue with us. That was demonstrated by the success of the LSA - but these people exist across the country. The growing anti-capitalist mood is creating a radicalisation which, like that in the 1960s, will initially express itself in all sorts of different ways.

What is going on here is both a re-alignment of the left - something we first glimpsed in the campaign against last year's Balkan war - as Labour supporters begin to break with reformism, & the emergence of what can become a new left.

The SWP has to shape both processes & win the people involved to revolutionary Marxism. That centres on working with these people week in week, week out in united front initiatives. Every Branch can do this, carving out a milieu of people they regularly work with & debate with. In Southwark this week one comrade has set up 9 meetings on council estates over the sell off of council homes. In East London we are having meetings round Fords & the Action Programme across the District & then moving to set up Dagenham Support Groups.

Across the country we are holding town, city or borough wide united front meetings in defence of refugees. Within a week of these we should be moving to have similar type meetings on a much more localised basis.

At Llanwern steel works last week we sold 58 Socialist Workers leafleting over the threatened closure. We have now moved to having a Socialist Worker readers meeting & have set up a united front meeting over the job losses & the Action Programme.

Shift Required

Such shifts in the outside world require shifts in the way the SWP operates. For instance, in South Wales we are attempting a Llanwern style operation round the Port Talbot steel plant. That requires a branch in the town so we have set one up. On Clydeside we have been involved in a big campaign over hospital closures in Dunbartonshire. That requires an SWP branch in Dumbarton. In Scotstoun in Glasgow refugees are being moved into the area as part of Jack Straw's dispersal programme but the area is also home to Yarrows shipyard. We need a Branch in Scotstoun accordingly.

Campaigning Branches

At Party Council we decided on a shift to campaigning Branches of a new type. The starting point should be what are the tasks demanded of us locally & how do we respond. We can then map out the united front initiatives we need to undertake locally - whether over asylum seekers, job losses & the Action Programme, Defend Council Housing or whatever.

What we then discovered in London with the LSA when we broke our membership down was that we could cover far more of the city than our existing Branches did. So the success in London North East was because in an area like Hackney we could build a ward organisation which drove the campaign deep into the local class. But we also discovered we had members in outlying areas, some of which saw strong Nazi votes. Similarly in the West Midlands we could move quickly to set up a Branch in Bromsgrove round Rover while the successful Anti-Nazi mobilisations in Worcester & Kidderminster demand we set up Branches there.

How Do We Proceed?

The starting point is setting up - quickly - local united front initiatives as outlined above. From them we can then move to creating more localised campaigning Branches. So in Sheffield which had a successful city-wide meeting on asylum seekers we need localised meetings in defence of refugees within the next fortnight. From these can flow the new Branches. This is not an internal operation. The new structures need to flow from the activity we are engaged in. Time is of the essence. The new Branches need to be in operation by the start of June. Otherwise we will stagger into Marxism & summer & things can collapse into confusion. The heightened political atmosphere means we can build local public meetings in a much shorter time than we are used to. So a Leeds comrade on Sunday pointed out that they had built a successful local public meeting in just a week and a half.

What Would The New Branches Look Like?

They will be smaller & made up of comrades who live or operate in the local area. The introductions do not need a lengthy lecture. Rather, this week, a comrade in the Branch could do a 10 or 15 minute introduction on Sierra Leone & why it's a war caused by the multinationals (especially a British one, De Beers - who brought us the Boer War!) & the diamond trade. We then need a proper business section where we go through what the Branch is doing - warts & all. The aim must be that if someone comes to the Branch meeting they go away thinking these people are vital to what's going on locally & that they are offered more than an invite to another meeting next week or simply a Saturday sale. So at the end of the meeting everyone should leave with petitions, leaflets, posters, resolutions etc. for whatever activity is underway that week. Each Branch should set itself a target of 1000 signatures on the asylum seekers statement.

Organisation Smaller campaigning Branches make certain things far easier. Socialist Worker distribution, for instance, ceases to be a mountain which we cannot climb. Rather it becomes something than can be done quickly on a Wednesday evening. The Branch Secretary does not have to worry about chasing up outside speakers & is freed up to ensure the Branch meeting is built via a ring round.

The Treasurer can ensure everyone is paying subs & that they are not allowed to drift away. What we found round the LSA is that by moving to more localised campaigning units we pulled in members who had been written off because they were unregistered.

District Structures

All of this depends on broader, District structures, which can increase involvement in our operations. * Each month we need a District wide public meeting. Many people work shifts, have child care problems, etc, cannot attend weekly meetings. They will come to a public meeting. Such meetings also allow us to pull in a wider layer of non-members. * District educationals - we need to organise a regular educational series aimed not just at new members. One person in the District should take responsibility for organising education. Again we can pull in people who do not normally come to Branch meetings.

* Once a month there should be meetings of both the Branch Socialist Worker Organisers & the Branch Treasurers with the District SW Organiser & the District Treasurer. These two meetings should ensure sales are all being done & are increasing & that national & local subs are being paid & are increasing (in other words we are involving members). * Each week there should be a meeting of Branch Marxism 2000 Organisers with the District M2000 Organiser to monitor & plan the building of Marxism 2000.

Marxism 2000

Among the speakers at Marxism 2000 will be Naomi Klein, author of No Logo, who will join Susan George on a forum panel. Angel Branch signed up 2 people on their Saturday sale. NDO CWU voted to send a delegation of 6 to M2000, donated ?100 & agreed to send its banner. The motion did not even need a seconder. At UCL you will remember they visited 5 students, 4 of whom registered. The 5th one has now sent in their registration. Marxism 2000 is the place where we can bring together people who want to rip the head off corporate capitalism, people who are breaking with reformism & workers who want a fightback. But that requires us building M2000. Each Branch must have a M2000 Organiser who needs to start doing and organising systematic visiting - in London, everyone who signed up to the LSA must be seen. Get the new poster up in your area - go out after the Branch meeting. Ensure we give every paper buyer - on the street or on a workplace sale - material about M2000. SWSS groups need to be setting up regular lunchtime stalls - get home addresses.

At asylum seeker or Action Programme public meetings, have a team of people asking people to register.

LSA Conference

The LSA is organising a conference on Sunday 11 June to assess the election campaign & to discuss the way ahead. We want to get as many of those who were active in the campaign to it: 1pm, Sunday 11 June, University of London Union, Malet Street.

Anti-Capitalist Events

Les Amis Du Monde Diplomatique Forum on The Global Marketplace: In Whose Interest ?: Speakers include Susan George, Bernard Cassen (president of ATTAC) & Fleming Larsen (director IMF Europe), Saturday 17 June, 2-5pm, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London, WC1. World Development Movement Conference: The WDM is holding a conference on Saturday 24 June, 1-5pm, Old Theatre, London School of Economics with Susan George, Peter Tulloch (director of development, WTO), Barry Coates & others. Ring 0207 738 3311 or email to book. Millau: The trial of the farmers who demolished a MacDonalds opens in the French town of Millau. They are calling all sorts of people as witnesses (Susan George again), & aim to put MacDonalds on trial. The CGT are backing the planned protest & 50,000 people are expected. SWSS are organising 2 mini buses - protests are on Friday 30 June/Saturday 1 July.

Prague 25-28 September: Before term ends SWSS groups should be getting transport & funding organised for Prague.

Industrial Notebook

Action Programme: To get the new, re-launched Action Programme ring Viv on 0958 478 643 & return any resolutions passed to Nick Grant, Branch Secretary Ealing NUT, Villiers High School, Boyd Avenue, Southall, UB1 3BT. Car Worker Meetings: There will be a Car Worker meeting this Tuesday 16 May in Liverpool and on Thursday 18 May in Dagenham, (6pm, Dagenham Parish Church Hall, Church Road, Dagenham) . Paul Foot will be speaking at the Dagenham meeting and the deputy convenor of the PTA plant has also asked to speak.

Post: 35 post offices have walked out on strike across the country over changes in working practices. Comrades need to make sure that they are doing sales outside post offices and keeping an eye out for any action in their area. Ring any reports in to the industrial office.

NUT: The NUT Group at Central Foundation Girls' School has voted to come out on strike. Teachers need to use the enclosed petition and get messages of support to the strikers. We also need to make sure that we send delegations to their picket line. Union conferences: We urgently need helpers for conferences coming up. Please ring in and let us know when you are free.