The first Northern weekend school was held on the 12th-14th September,
organised by Yorkshire supporters of Socialist Appeal. The school took
place in Saddleworth, on the edge of the Peak District National Park,
and 17 comrades attended, including 1 from Denmark.
The theme of the school was "The Class, the Party and the Leadership"
and Ed Doveton began the weekend with a talk on the Chartist movement,
the first mass working class political movement in history. A walk was
organised during the weekend on Saddleworth Moor and comrades were able
to gather at a site known to have been used by Chartists for their meetings.
Over half those attending the school were young activists and Ben Curry
spoke on the history of socialist youth organisations, looking at the
role of youth organisations in the Labour Party and stressing the
importance of youth in the building of a revolutionary party. A
discussion followed with contributions both from young people who have
recently become politically active and older comrades who shared their
experience of the Labour Party Young Socialists.
Along with the traditional lead offs and discussion, there was also a
series of workshops covering topics such as "Centrism, Opportunism and
Ultra-Leftism" and "The Revolutionary Paper." The workshops proved
hugely popular, enabling comrades to develop ideas in small groups and
participate more fully in discussions.
Alan Woods spoke on the role of the revolutionary party and leadership,
analysing the history of the Bolsheviks and the Russian Revolution. Alan
outlined how the Bolsheviks had begun as a small underground
organisation in the 1880’s, isolated from the working-class and yet
within three decades had taken power. "The building of a revolutionary
party contains two parts" stated Alan, "ideas and the ability to relate
its programme to the masses. The party must be able to have a dialogue
with the masses and be relevant to them."
From a successful revolution in Russia, both Alan Woods and Luke Wilson
examined the failure of the revolution in Spain. Alan gave a general
overview of the Spanish revolution and its failure due to the absence of
a revolutionary party and leadership. Luke spoke specifically on the
failures of the POUM, highlighting the sectarian mentality of its
leadership. There was also a screening of the Land and Freedom film,
directed by Ken Loach, which encapsulated the betrayal of the revolution
in Spain and the nature of the Stalinist counter-revolution.
Land and Freedom ended on a note of tragedy and defeat but Alan Woods,
in his closing address urged comrades to have confidence in the ideas of
Marxism and work to build the revolutionary party. The school closed
with a rousing rendition of the "Red flag" and the "Internationale." The
weekend proved tremendously successful, both in terms of political
education and bringing together socialists in the movement and young
activists. Plans are already been formulated for next year’s event.