Socialism 2003: Only the Socialist Party

The Socialism 2003 rally consisted entirely of SP speakers, writes Peter Manson

The opening rally was a strangely muted affair, the only ‘big name’ speaker being general secretary Peter Taaffe himself.

What was completely lacking was any sense of strategy. Unlike at the closing rally the following day and at various ‘courses’ on both days, there was no mention of the SP’s ‘mass workers’ party’. Comrade Taaffe compared the miserable conditions of the workers to the wealth of the bosses, and pointed out that the system itself was to blame. Nevertheless, there were signs of the working class starting to stir: “Our time is coming” and the bosses should tremble. Perhaps we are in the ‘red 2000s’.

Comrade Taaffe, like other SP speakers throughout the school, dismissed the possibility of any recovery of the Labour left - still less of the likes of Jeremy Corbyn ‘reclaiming’ the party for old Labour values. However, the SP would be prepared to admit it was wrong if, within a year, privatisation had been abandoned, student fees had been abolished and clause four reinstated. Then Taaffe and co would be prepared to “reconsider”.

Such ridiculous ultimatums are used to excuse the SP’s refusal to actually take any concrete steps itself to further the aim of a new workers’ party - through working alongside others either within formations such as the Socialist Alliance or in making a principled, active approach towards Labour’s mass base.

The first speaker was Dennis Keane, president of the CPSU civil service union in Ireland and a member of the SP’s fraternal organisation. He chose to tell us about a number of low-level union disputes - hardly an inspiring way to begin a rally. He was followed by another civil service union official - this time from Britain - John McCready of the PCSU. He at least did say that we need to make “socialist and political advance” as well as trade union gains - “That’s why [PCSU president] Janice Godrich and I joined Militant and why we’re members of the Socialist Party today.” In this vein Rob Williams, who made the financial appeal, informed us that the SP was “different to any other force on the left - we’re a working class socialist party”.

At this rally every platform speaker was a member of the SP or one of its franchises - adding to the impression that the organisation believes that the only strategic way ahead is through the working class flooding the Socialist Party with membership applications.