Having debated and discussed the issues raised during the conference, the key task now remains the promotion of the John McDonnell campaign.Up to 100 delegates made their way to the University of London Union on the 13th of January to debate the character of the new Socialist Youth Network (SYN).
The SYN was set up in the summer of 2006 by youth members of the Labour Representation Committee, an organisation formed to kick the Blairites out of the Labour Party and reclaim its original ideals of socialism. This task was more urgent given the crisis of global capitalism and the need to re-sharpen the socialist weapons at the disposal of the labour movement.
The conference had a positive atmosphere and a comradely manner of debate. The first motion to be discussed and passed was in support of John McDonnell's campaign for Labour Party leader, which got unanimous support. The conference was run and chaired efficiently, but given the lack of time, the political debate was squeezed and the debate hampered on issues like the nationalisation of industry. Unfortunately, the debate regarding Venezuela was pushed to the end of the agenda. Nevertheless, the motion to affiliate to the Hands off Venezuela campaign was passed, yet without the opportunity to discuss the significance of the recent decisive developments taking place in Venezuela.
Of course, there was disagreement over the policies in some of the amendments put forward. The Employment Rights composite for instance resolved to "campaign for a universal wage of at least £8 per hour" (2/3 average UK earnings). Whereas the amendment read that conference resolves "to campaign for a universal living wage that is not based on what capital can afford, but which is determined by what the working people and oppressed sections of the population actually need to reproduce themselves physically and culturally. The level of this living wage should be determined by a democratically elected and accountable working class commission".
The amendment was rejected due to its confusion. One delegate added that they couldn't imagine workers being won over to a programme that called for their right to "reproduce themselves", whatever that meant!
Other peculiarities emerged such as fear that abortion, considering the advance of genetic engineering, might result in a "designer baby racket". This was dismissed out of hand by Daniel Morley from Norwich who pointed out that arguing against a woman's right to choose is the same capitalist clap-trap about the workers inability to know what's right for them. Arguments in favour of positive discrimination surfaced in some of the decision-making, and there was opposition to work with the International Union of Sex Workers.
Resolutions were also passed demanding the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, the right to vote at 16, a nationalised education system and health service, opposition to the privatisation of the East London Line tube, defence of the trade union link with Labour and the nationalisation of all key industries under workers' control.
On the basis of events the youth will see the need to get organised in the labour movement. A success for John McDonnell will serve to shake the movement from top to bottom and encourage the participation of young people in the struggle for socialism