"This has been a truly remarkable conference", stated Jim Brookshaw, a veteran comrade of the tendency, "with first class political discussions and the involvement of a new generation of young activists." This was a general sentiment of all those who attended this year's Socialist Appeal national conference and especially of the new supporters who were attending for the first time. It represented a new advance for the Marxist tendency in Britain.
The conference was taking place amid growing alarm by the serious strategists of Capital at the unfolding world financial crisis. The first day was taken up with a detailed discussion of World Perspectives followed by an important discussion on the perspectives facing Britain. The session on World Perspectives was led off by Alan Woods. Alan dealt with the growing financial and economic crisis that was developing internationally. "All the factors that had assisted the boom were turning into their opposite", he said. "Capitalism is facing possibly its worse crisis since the war, which will have far-reaching consequences. We are in an extremely volatile situation, where small shocks to the system have an impact on a far larger scale." Alan went on to deal with the crisis affecting Europe, America, the Middle East and Asia.
"However", Alan explained, "the developing revolution in Latin America, where the masses have been on the move for a long period, is the future for the rest of the world. Whereas in the past we could point to one revolutionary centre of the world revolution, today we are witnessing the unfolding of the worldwide revolution."
The excellent discussion on world perspectives was followed by a session on Britain which was led off by Mick Brooks, the editor of Socialist Appeal. Mick outlined the economic crisis that was beginning to affect Britain and the attacks that were being carried out against the working class. While bourgeois commentators wrote off the working class, Mick explained the changing nature of the working class and its militant traditions. After a prolonged ebb in the struggles of British workers, a new stage of struggle was opening up epitomised by the impending strikes of civil servants and teachers.
"While New Labour had given a few reforms, it had continued with the same old capitalist policies", stated Mick. "They had been largely saved by the world boom over the last ten years, but now the situation is going to dramatically change." The capitalists are now preparing to dump New Labour and return to their traditional representatives, the Tories. The scene is being set for a defeat for Brown and the coming to power of Cameron. That scenario would provoke convulsions in the trade unions and upheaval in the Labour Party. "The opportunities for Marxism would increase enormously", stated Mick.
After a lively discussion a financial collection was held which raised the magnificent sum of £3,418. This showed the enthusiasm of those present and is an example of the sacrifice that is needed to develop the Socialist Appeal in the coming period.
The next day was taken up with the organisational questions involved in developing the work of the Marxist tendency, including our finances. The main organisational report was given by Rob Sewell, who outlined the progress that had been made over the last year. The comrades had continued to develop the sales of the Socialist Appeal not only in the unions and workplaces, but also amongst the youth. The number of supporters and sellers had steadily grown. This was especially the case amongst young people in schools and universities. Our school students, for instance, have a growing influence within School Students Against the War, especially in Scotland. Our consistent work in solidarity with the Venezuelan Revolution has also opened the doors into trade unions, universities and colleges. This work has been a tremendous advance on which we needed to build. "We have to make everyone conscious of building our support", said Rob. "As a minimum, every active supporter should seek to win over another supporter over the next twelve months." The discussion which followed showed a real enthusiasm to build the tendency and to penetrate new layers of the movement in the coming period.
The conference was rounded off with a report on the work of the International Marxist Tendency around the world by Fred Weston. He gave a graphic account of the growth of the International which had supporters in around 40 countries. Whereas 15 years ago, for instance, the international in the whole of the Americas only had a group in Mexico, today we have comrades in Canada, USA, Mexico, El Salvador, Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia. He also highlighted this year's intervention at the Havana Book fair, which was a big success, and shows that our ideas are finding an echo in Cuba. We now also have potential in Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and Honduras. We have become an important tendency throughout the Americas, and this growth is being repeated in other areas of the world.
This was a brilliant end to the conference, which was summed up by Alan Woods. "The ideas of Marxism are true", explained Alan. "We must have confidence in our ideas and ourselves. Unlike the sects, we understand that history does not begin with ourselves. We stand on the shoulders of giants: Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, and not to forget that great Marxist and teacher, Ted Grant. They are the foundations of our movement. With these ideas we will win."
After a hearty rendering of the ‘Red Flag' and the ‘Internationale', the comrades set off to return to their areas, firmly committed to the task of building the tendency.