Sunday, March 30, 2008

Socialist Youth Network Conference report

John McDonnell is so on the ball that he even managed to blog a report of the conference before I did!On SYN Conference John says"The young people that turned out for the SYN conference demonstrated an astute appreciation of the total disconnect between New Labour and the real world facing the current generation. They displayed a practical idealism which is lost on the remnants of New Labour. The politics they want to pursue aren't the boring and nauseatingly obvious public relations exercises rolled out by the Brown machine or the self serving academicised sophistry of Compass. It came across very clearly that the politics of today and tomorrow for these young people are based upon mobilising for direct action, linking up with a wide variety of social movements, maximising creativity in protest but also engendering understanding by discussion, study and theory. The word praxis, the combination of theory and practice, was revisited and revitalised in our discussion at the SYN conference."
We had less than half of the attendance than we had last year (45 compared to 100) and all of those weren't in the room at the same time 5 or 6 of them left early/arrived late because of also attending the immigration conference.
I wasn't expecting to meet last years reach tbh we are in a different place, last year was the launch of SYN and also was at the start of the John4Leader campaign which was the most exciting thing to happen to the Labour left in recent history.
Clearly we face an uphill struggle and for me the most enjoyable part of SYN conference was the honest and frank debate we had about where we are post J4L and what an uphill struggle we face as people, (especially young people for whom joining labour has never been an option) find the notion of joining the LP in its current state repulsive.
I made the point at Thursdays LRC meeting that for most young people the belief that we can fight for socialist politics within the labour party is about as believable as the tooth fairy!The debate was constructive and had a variety of contributors including a few new people who joined syn on the day.A lot was made of the fact that most left leaning young people are leaning towards the Green Party and the Anarchist movement around direct action on climate change.Dave has also written a good post on the discussion around praxis so I wont repeat what he says but direct you there instead! :)The morning session started late (surprise there then) and mainly dealt with the formalities of the elections of the new exec and rather than just having a motion on the direction of our COFUP campaign we had a discussion about the way forward , which actually produced some surprisingly good and practical ideas, + we now have a campaign committee who will be taking the campaign forward,I'll leave my co-chair Rory to go into the details of that.The equality caucus was also inspiring and as you'll see a common theme emerging rather than have boring motions and political grandstanding we had on conference floor a broad discussion on equalities before separating into caucus groups - this enables solidarity work between the groups but also ensures that the whole of conference are involved in pushing for equality issues.The LGBT and Womens caucus after having discussions themselves decided to merge and out an emergency motion on the agenda about some direct action on climate change which was fantastic.Although the turnout was small it turned into a really vibrant and interesting afternoon session.After the discussion I mentioned earlier we debated the motions and defeated a motion on the agenda that called for us to support independant candidates - as the majority of the people in the room who contributed to the debate mentioned this is a question of tactics and at this moment in time we are not there yet - but we will return to the question I'm sure.Another motion on the agenda about the labour party and where we are mandated the exec to organise some further discussion meetings which I am actually looking forward to!in total we debated 16 motions and by far the most controversial as well was the motion on Venezuala/Defending Orlando Chino (not controversial to support him btw just the wording of the motion/amendment)I will publish full list of the motions passed and exec elected on the SYN website of the debates were actually very comradely and i have mentioned before how the youth of the various sects in the LP seems to be able to debate the differences without resorting to the willy waving way that sometimes our older comrades behave We decided that this wasn't because all young people are on drugs - but perhaps because we have found a new way of having the discussions in an open and honest way, and also possibly because we are not cursed with having the same debates for the last 20 years and building up personal hatreds?Although disappointing entirely understandable that Bob Crow wasn't able to make it at the last minute because of negotiations and arrangements that were needed re the latest strike actions, but we still had good debate on the current situation within the RMT.Another note was that contrary to opinion and my expectations the room was mainly trade unionists, When we decided to launch SYN my concern was that it would be mainly students.Anyway enough for now - I'm sure there will b others that will also post reports and as I say I will be posting the formal reports :)