By Finn McKenna
Early February saw the gathering of Socialist Party members for our annual National Conference. In the spirit of democratic discussion and political commitment, over 160 people spent their bank holiday weekend focused on the preparations for building a socialist alternative to the ever-worsening crisis of world capitalism. The vibrancy of the Conference was reflected in the 46 new participants, and visitors from various sister sections of International Socialist Alternative (ISA).
Socialists from every corner of the island – Belfast, Omagh, Cork, Dublin, Limerick, Wexford, Galway, Kerry – travelled to participate. The energy was determined and enthusiastic, the contributions rich and considered, and the collective analysis and outlook deepened through broad participation.
The Conference agenda featured the following commissions and discussions:
- International perspectives: global capitalist crisis with special focus on the Gaza genocide and global solidarity movement
- Perspectives North and South
- Analysis of and mounting a challenge to the far-right
- Marking Lenin’s 100th anniversary
- The national question in Ireland and Scotland
- Trade union organising
- Youth work
- ISA and revolutionary internationalism
- Party building
The discussions were fulsome, the days long, but the event was an inspiring one. To illustrate the positive outcome of the conference in terms of the general morale, it’s worth registering what new members had to say about their experience:
Daniel (Cork): “As a new member of the ISA, attending my first National Conference was an intriguing and eye-opening experience. Walking into a hall, filled with comrades from across Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, Taiwan and more arose in me a sense of unity.
Being surrounded by other people striving for the same goals, fighting on the same front invoked a sense of pride. Learning about the international perspectives of comrades, dissecting the far right: how and why such polarisation occurs felt like a rallying cry.
I learned that the rise of the far right will continue to spark young people to get organised in response to their initiatives, as we’ve seen recently in Germany with the mass anti-fascist protests of 1.5 million.
And how the leadership of a revolutionary party is earned.
Learning of the struggles of building a revolutionary, international socialist alternative, serves as an unyielding force of motivation to myself and I imagine many other young members of the party. I took away such inspiration, the desire to fight and commitment to the future.”
Caoimhe (Cork): “Having gone through a period of political inaction due to disillusionment with another left organisation, I am so glad that I have gotten involved with the ISA.
Attending the national conference for the first time was such a wonderful and hopeful experience. One thing that I thought was funny was the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever been in a room with that many socialists!
It was really heartening to have discussion of a high political calibre with a calm and comradely atmosphere. It also struck me that there was a true grasp of different levels of understanding and knowledge of topics between individuals’ political development. Everyone just wanted to help each other out as best as they could. I found the discussions on the national question and building particularly interesting.”
Karen (Dublin):“Having just joined last month, this was my first conference. I was incredibly impressed by the contributions from comrades during the weekend.
A depth of analysis, consideration and more importantly empathy was evident from everyone. I’m keen to see us continue to reach a broader audience and eventually build the movement to one that can tackle global economic and social inequalities.
I would sum it up by saying that I am left with the overwhelming impression that the revolution is in good hands! ✊”
Conor (Dublin): “The Socialist Party conference was an extremely powerful weekend. It has been clear for the past number of months that the party is growing both numerically and politically and this conference is the exemplification of this political development, especially among our young members.
The rise of the far-right was an examined trend over the weekend, and comrades came out of the weekend inspired, with a renewed understanding that the role of Marxists is to continue the fight against the far-right and their racist, misogynistic and transphobic bile, and also to continue the fight for a socialist society that can provide for all.”
Keighley (Belfast): “The National Conference provided an excellent opportunity to engage politically with members of branches from across Ireland as well as international comrades.
The discussions, both formal and informal, covered a diverse range of topics with an even more diverse range of viewpoints that helped better inform my own perspective on how our programme can be applied in many key areas.
The conference was also a space where I could interact socially with like-minded people, many of whom I look forward to organising with in future.
I found the political discussions around building support for the party and the commission on youth work particularly interesting as a young person who is relatively new to the Party and I have been reinvigorated with a passion to continue to engage in action. When contributing to discussions, I felt that my perspective was valued and taken on board which was reflected in the informal conversations I had with comrades after.”
Jac (Limerick): “Ordinarily for me, the bones of 3 hours of the long haul from Limerick to Cavan cooped up in the car sounds like the stuff of nightmares. However, through the insightful discussions and outright antics, comrades can make you almost disappointed 3 hours wasn’t 4. That was always the sense I got from comrades from weekly branch meetings and stalls to national demos; that I was here with truly genuine good-natured people with a vision of a better world. That’s why when I stepped through the conference doors for my first time, it felt like stepping into a warm comradely embrace.
To hear comrades take to the podium to speak and contribute on the various issues pressing the working class and marginalised communities, and the comprehensiveness, the depth, and not least the passion! Each unique in their own respect but united of the collective across a common theme of struggle and combating oppression. Whether it be trade unions, climate action, socialist feminist movement, LGBTQ+, migrants, to name a few, the admirable core of the Party is the unwavering principled perspective of uniting these movements and the refusal to water down the approach necessary to progress them.
It takes a fine blend of the historical factors that brought us to where we are, and the revolutionary perspective to guide us to where we are going. And as the curtains begin to draw and `The Internationale` rings proudly across the collective, I can’t help but feel the confidence, the motivation, and the inspiration to continue to fight in the struggle and break the chains of oppression, side by side with the people we have the pleasure to call our comrades.”
There is much important work ahead of the Socialist Party membership this year. From contesting local elections, deepening our ecological understanding and campaigning, developing the industrial strategy North and South, to challenging all forms of oppression, injustice and violence that this system produces through our crucial socialist-feminist work, we will be striving to build our organisation and the forces of socialism in our hundreds and in our thousands.
If you are not a member of the Socialist Party, but are also trying to understand the profound problems in this capitalist world and doing something about them, you should consider the urgent need to be politically active and get in touch. Time is of the essence and the clock is ticking. There’s no more vital struggle than the fight for socialist change!