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Building for socialism by building the grassroots

CHARLIE MAY reports from the Kevin Halpin School which took place at Wortley Hall last weekend

ORGANISERS from the Communist Party (CPB), Young Communist League (YCL) and Labour Party gathered at the wonderful Wortley Hall near Sheffield at the weekend to attend a “Building for Socialism” residential school.

Students participated in five sessions over two jam-packed days involving skills training, discussion circles, RedTalks and presentations.

The weekend began with a session entitled “Making the arguments for socialism.” An emphasis was placed upon the real-life experiences and difficulties faced by communists who may often feel like they are in a lonely place within the struggle. 

The crucial element here was to send the message that with determination, consistency, knowledge and a certain amount of courage communists can be capable of winning support in the wider movement and working class, as well as scoring crucial victories.

YCL women’s organiser Holly Morcos steered a discussion on organising precariously employed workers, a key issue in the battles ahead as the capitalist class attempts to steer society further down the line into a low-wage, deregulated neoliberal nightmare.

The disproportionate effect that zero-hours contracts in the so-called gig economy have on women was made clear. 

Women are hit by deregulation in the health and social care sector, as well as the resulting impact this has on childcare.

One of the main points to emerge from this discussion was that the concept of “precarity” in work is not some new phenomenon, but rather the result of historic labour movement defeats in the arena of workers’ rights.

A vibrant discussion was held on different models of dealing with the problem, whether it be by legislation, trade union organising or by a more political approach that deals with employers in order to force direct employment.

Perhaps the most burning questions for Marxists is how the efforts of a Jeremy Corbyn government might be undermined by the opposing forces of the state and big business.

The workshop on this subject revolved around all the weapons that may be produced by the ruling class from its extensive armoury in order to undermine, frustrate and demotivate socialists and progressives supporting a left-led government. 

The possibility of co-ordinated media campaigns, attacks made by MPs, economic sabotage, capital flight, High Court injunctions, the state capture of Labour councils, collusion by trade unions and pressure put on Labour to join in with imperialist wars were all considered as a seriously daunting set of challenges. 

There was further discussion as to whether there was enough awareness in the labour movement of the extent of these threats and if it was prepared for the challenge of facing up to capitalist resistance.

Attention turned to local organising and how communists can make a profound difference by their discipline, hard work and optimism to local campaigning organisations.

Tam Kirby of Fife People’s Assembly (PA) argued the case for “sustained local campaigning rather than set piece demonstrations in London or Glasgow, that just send people away feeling better, but achieving nothing.”

Workshops of a more practical nature allowed organisers to discuss the finer details of local campaigning. This gave an opportunity to share knowledge, experience and a chance to ask questions about anything from leaflet design, how to arrange speakers and rallies, to advice on how to become a social media warrior for the working class.

CPB general secretary Robert Griffiths closed the weekend by pointing out that the way to ensure a Labour government would be by the same kind of upsurge in grassroots activity against austerity that led to Corbyn becoming leader in the first place.

He added that Britain already had a nascent version of the yellow vests, perhaps in a more distinctly British form, in the guise of the People’s Assembly. He emphasised the need to develop mass struggle involving revitalised local chapters.

Attendees said that they took from the weekend understanding, knowledge and confidence to return to their campaigns with a renewed sense of energy.

Jame Robinson, 19, from West Yorkshire said that he felt he now had “a clearer picture of community organising.”

Morgan Horn, 22, from Scotland, said the weekend made her feel “invigorated and more determined than ever to organise in my union.”

You can view some of the speeches and sessions later this week on facebook.com/CPBritain — participants continue to network in a discussion group which includes an archive of documents and presentation slides at the same page.

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