Saturday, 22 January 2011

NSSN - two cheers not three

I went to the NSSN conference today and witnessed the overwhelming (3to1?) victory of the majority position to launch an all Britain anti-cuts campaign. I'm a member of the Socialist Party - who makes up most of that majority -  but still I can only feel that the decision was a necessary one to get past an obstacle - and not a cause for jubilation. 

So why my hesitation ?

Not because I had any reservations that the conference was a sectarian stitch-up. Doubtless some will be getting ready to claim this. But from what I saw the conference was scrupulously fair - almost painfully so; bending over-double to facilitate an even-handed two and three quarter hour debate from the floor. Having watched their antics over the years  in the ANL, the Socialist Alliance, Stop The War and Respect, I find any complaints from the SWP - frankly a bit fucking rich.

And not because I think there 'isn't room' for another organisation. We need a proper mass organisation that is campaigning and democratic. Not an unaccountable think-tank of the Left's great and good that claims to be 'one big tent' but has no democratic structure (CoR). Nor one that really is a blatant front organisation from a long lineage of  many previous front organisations (RTW).

The arguments from the syndicalist opposition lack the hypocrisy of the SWP,  and  so carry more weight - Essentially they argued that being a campaign is effectively beyond the remit of the original intent of an activist network, and  that the campaign will become dominated by one current at the expense of all others. The trouble with this is that it is in the nature of any discussion at a conference  that someone has got to win the argument. I  think the way the argument was conducted is proof enough that the SP is not the same as the SWP - and that there is still room for other currents. I genuinely hope they stick around and don't now take their ball home as some of them threatened to - but this threat cannot be used to hold the majority to ransom.

Actually my hesitation is based on something one of the minority delegates said about the wider pereption of the campaign's launch:

One advantage of being a parent is that you are forced to reconsider politics through the eyes of a new generation.  And I have to ask myself what relevance does the NSSN's decision have to my daughter and her friends from the student-kettles ? Or the under 30 year olds  in my own workplace where the union is a distant memory ? I suspect their reaction - however angry they are about the ConDems or worried about their futures - will probably be - 'wot?' And that's why I think that the conference was necessary - but really only a start. This isn't the 1980's and however proud we may be about the poll tax movement and Liverpool City Council, there's a whole new landscape to navigate and a new generation to be won. 

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