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Sean Figg addresses the meeting

On Monday 20th February, Socialist Party members from across Leeds and Bradford came together for a succeful annual general meeting.

A Leeds Socialist Party member

Our guest speaker for the evening was Sean Figg, who had recently attended a meeting in Belgium of the worldwide socialist organisation that the Socialist Party is part of, the Committee for a Workers’ International. Sean reported that the discussions there had been very frutiful with comrades in a whole range of countries playing an important role on the struggles of workers and young people.

Not least ourselves with important position we hold in the civil service union, PCS, that was crucial in mobilising other unions to come out in defence of public sector pensions on November 30th, but also in blocking the attempt to sell out the dispute by those on the right wing of the trade union movement.

The ongoing crisis in the eurozone was a dominant feature of the discussion, with the huge resistance to the austerity measures being shown in Greece, with another 48-hour general strike last weekend shaking the government. Both of the two main parties have now lost 30 MPs from their ranks, and the right wing LAOS have left the government unable to defend the demands the troika (European Union, European Central Bank & International Monetary Fund) are making on the country (although two of their ex-ministers voted with the government at the crucial vote).

In the discussion comrades concluded it was inevitable that Greece, and possibly other countries could be forced out of the eurozone. But the question comrades raised in the discussion was what could happen after that. In the opinion polls in Greece, the parties of the left (KE – Communist Party and  Syriza – Coalition of the Radical Left) are now polling over 30% together, which shows a huge potential for an alternative. However, both parties are quite sectarian towards one another, refusing to collaborate in the coming elections (where the largest party in the parliament gets an additional 40 seats), but also don’t raise a socialist programme necessary to transform Greek society and make a bold appeal to the working class throughout the rest of Europe and the world.

The ongoing movements in the Middle East were another key feature of the discussion. Sean explained how the key difference between the movements in Tunisia and Egypt on the one hand, and Libya and Syria on the other, was the role played the organised working class in the former that had moved into struggle, not just in the build up to the fall of Ben Ali and Mubarak, but also afterwards.

Although Islamist parties had triumphed in the recent elections, this does not mean a liquidation of the gains of the revolution and a drift toward right wing islam. Both Enhada and the Muslim Brotherhood look towards the ‘moderate Islamic’ regime in Turkey (with the latter even changing their name to that of the ruling Turkish party, the Justice and Development Party), and have a layer of support from their underground activities against the previous regimes, in particular their social welfare activities which made up for the absence of developed welfare states in both countries. Sean also pointed out that revolutions are not one event, but are processes stretching over a period of time and that we are unlikely to have seen the end of movements in both countries.

Sean finished by discussing the tremedous work of the CWI section in Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic in central asia. CWI members in the country have played a tremendous role in the past few years building social movements as well as helping organise the new layers brought in from the countryside into trade unions. This laid the basis for the tremendous oil workers strike last year, which faced huge repression from the state including the massacre in Zhanozen just before Christmas. Sean mentioned that two of our comrades who are in the leadership, alongside other militants, of a new independent trade union, have received threats from the regime and urged comrades to support the Campaign Kazakhstan solidarity campaign.

After a break, Iain Dalton introduced a short discussion on building the Socialist Party in Leeds, presenting a short document on the priorities for the party in 2011 including strengthening our local party branches and our campaigning work amongst young people which allowed for our activities around the Jarrow March and Occupy Leeds towards the end of last year. The document was unanimously passed, as was a new Leeds Committee for the coming year.