A Day in Manchester

convention.JPG

Just back from Manchester, I could only go for the first day of the Convention, due to child care commitments.

The Stop the War demonstration had about 2500 people on it, maybe a few hundred more. It was lively enough, and should be regarded as a successful regional mobilisation, largely from the North West. However there is a law of diminishing returns operating, of the same usual suspects marching through empty streets around the Labour Conference venue.

Then on to the convention of the left, there were a several hundred people there, I wasn‘t able to count. Also, as the organiser of the second session, I was unable to get to the opening rally because I was meeting and greeting the speakers.

My comrade Pete, who came up with me from Swindon tells me that there was a good and fraternal atmosphere, in the opening session, with a willingness to explore differences in a fraternal way.

The session on the break up of the UK sadly started late due to the earlier session overrunning, so we only had an hour, which was a shame as some people had travelled a long way for it. There were about seventy people at this session

A special thanks to all the panel speakers, Chris Harvie MSP from the Scottish National Party, sociologist Rupa Huq, Gregor Gall from Scottish Left review, and Leanne Wood AM from Plaid Cymru. The important thing for me was that the Scottish and Welsh speakers were able to explain what was happening in their nations, for an audience largely of the English left. It was also useful that Rupa was able to express the reservations that some people feel that demands for an English parliament feels to her to smell of the exclusionary politics of Enoch Powell.

It was clear from the meeting that there are some big culture gaps to overcome. Firstly, that people in England have little feeling for how advanced the process of disengagement with the union is in Scotland and Wales; and many people in Britain are only just starting to think about the issue of what woul happen if scotland voted for independence. What sort of country would England be?

There was interesting input from the floor with worries about English national identity being identified with the far right, and also the confusion we all have about the relationship between Britishness and Englishness.

But as second culture gap, is the inability for some on the left to basically engage in real world political debate, we had a few contributions along the lines of “Speaking as a Leninist….” Or “speaking as a revolutionary Socialist I believe… “, followed by a three minute extract sounding like a bad English translation of a ninety year old speech from a debate about the national question in an obscure part of the Czar’s empire.

Some of the contributions seemed barely coded, in the sense that they stressed the support for the right for the Scots to secede, but spent most emphasis on stressing the downside of such a separation.

But the English left need to wake up and smell the coffee. The independence referendum is probably in November 2010, and the options will be Yes or No – and no messing with mr in-between

Thanks again to all the speakers, and it was so nice to meet you. Sorry that i had to rush off so soon, and I hope we have an opportunity to catch up for longer at a future event.

106 comments on “A Day in Manchester

  1. by the way, this picture was taken quite early, and people were still drifting in from the demo that finished late. about half an hour later it was full.

  2. I’m glad you mentioned that! A pic of a full hall would be much more encouraging.

    It looks like a very interesting programme. I’m amazed anybody in Manchester this week even vaguely left wing and with an interest in the pressing issues would prefer to attend the debates at New Labour’s conference instead.

  3. Well speaking as a Leninist, Marxist, Trotskyist, Luxembourgist, Gramascite revolutionary as well as a member of STW, UAF, NUM, Globalise Resistance, CNWP, CTAR, RESPECT, Left-Alternative, PBF, UB40 , I’d like to hope that the Convention goes well.

  4. I’m amazed anybody in Manchester this week even vaguely left wing and with an interest in the pressing issues would prefer to attend the debates at New Labour’s conference instead.

    It’s only the conference for the governing party that runs the country. A bit more important than a talking shop for dead enders methinks.

  5. Karl Stewart on said:

    Thanks Andy, Couldn’t get there, so it’s good to hear about it. Wasn’t there a session on trade unionism too? Anyone know?

  6. Tricksy mix on said:

    Can you expand on what Rupa Huq said as how you report it sounds very strange. Even though I have no particular desire for a separate parliament for England, there is a case to be made that if the other constituent elements of the UK have an element of independence, why shouldn’t England. Is she arguing that people in England are inherently racist in a way that the Welsh, Scottish and Irish aren’t? How can arguments for a parliament for England be ‘exclusionary’, unless those for the other member countries are equally so?

  7. Yes they look very old and down hearted.

    It must very depressing for them to know they are totally irrelevent and without any power, whilst just down the world’s media gather to listen to the latest prouncements of the party that is running Britain.

  8. #10
    Interesting that the old RESPECT (German) and new RESPECT (Wrack) speakers in the report from Red Pepper were much better in calls for unity than the sectarian snipes from other organisations.

  9. #4 “a talking shop for dead enders methinks”
    That’s a good one. What sort of end does our troll think 2010 will represent for New Labour, mewonders?

  10. There are pix of the anti-war demo here:

    http://harpymarx.wordpress.com/2008/09/21/gordon-brown-en-merde-anti-war-demo-in-manchester/

    Unfortunately, I couldn’t hang around Manchester for much of the Convention but am hoping to go up again in the wk.

    Regards to yesterday’s demo I think Andy’s right with the numbers. I was towards the back of the demo and the cops were using aggressive policing tactics honing in on the anarchists. One of the speakers at the rally said someone was nicked for wearing a Gordon Brown mask!!!! That was all I heard as they were looking for witnesses and anyone who may have taken pix of the arrest.

  11. The police now have a specific power to require people to remove masks – if you refuse, you’re nicked. I guess that goes for comedy Gordon Brown masks just as much as scary Black Bloc scarves.

  12. Joseph Kisolo on said:

    I’d say the numbers on the demo where a bit bigger then Andy’s estimate but not that much bigger(around 3,500 – 4,000).

    The demo did have a very lively feel and there were a lot of young people (mainly students from Manchester’s Uni’s I would imagine). The mass of the demo was it must be admitted made up of established lefties, every single group seemed to there selling there publications or leafleting.

    I missed most of the convention opening rally ‘cus I was at the demo but it did seem to have a lively and enthusiastic feel, it wasn’t particularly old but so far there doesn’t seem to have been a big mobilisation of young people to it. A load of students turning up could really lift the thing.

  13. Stuart G on said:

    No harm in gatherings of any sort, but I can’t see from your report or anything said so far that it has any direction.
    The left turning up to a hall to have a debate ….. now that’s new.
    What is the expected outcome of this event?

  14. non partisan on said:

    Is there really a ‘debating forum here’ or is it just people saying ‘this is our line’, the desire for unity is all very well, but are there concrete proposals? a new publication on whose editorial body different reps speak? a joint committee to co-ordinate action? a strategy group to look at elections?

    I’m not being cynical just asking, what is expected to come out of this?

    On a slighlty seperate point. the attendance doesn’t seem earth shattering, but no real figures yet, am i right in guessing 5-600 in and around it?

  15. Talking about numbers at the demo yesterday, I said an optimistic person would go around 5,000 and a pessimist about half that. Seems, from reading Andy and SW online, that I was pretty much spot on.

    Shame that I couldn’t stay for any of the convention. Good to read the reports so far and I hope to see a lot more from it.

  16. I think given the situation thats opening up on the economic front and the various challenges we’re facing as a consequence, its good for the left to meet up and see where we can pull togeather simply as a matter of practical politics. Nobody whether individuals or organisations are in a position to face these challenges on their own. Reading here I very much welcome the tone of the opening session and find the existence of this initiative very cheering. Wish I could be there…

  17. mark anthony france on said:

    The people the photo look younger than the crowd at the Lib Dem conference!
    On the question of the ‘English Parliament’…. This issue is going to become huge over the next few years if the left doesn’t champion the establishment of a new constitutional settlement with a version of an open inclusive english republican democracy then rightist elements will take this territory and rapidly introduce a far less culturally, racially and democractically inclusive vision for this emerging nations identity.
    Last night I was talking to a guy from a long standing career military family which still has members in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he himself served in Ireland as part of 2 para during the 70′s. We were discussing everything and were joined by an English born ‘Irish’ chap who as a youth was decidedly pro republican. The whole conversation centred on how bad the US foreign policy is and how ‘we’ need to ditch any alliance with the US. The conversation went on to the Break up of Britain and what it means to be ‘English’. Conversations like this are occuring in different forms up and down the country and they will grow.
    It is seems simple to me that promoting an “English Republic” could be a hugely popular demand that also automatically raises the question of what type of Republic.

  18. Shall we split the difference and say 3700?

    There or there abouts. Anyway, my view is that it was a successful demo, becasue the majority of the mobiklisation came from the North West, and as Jo points out there was definately a number of younger people – probably students – from manchester.

  19. most town marches get 1,000 so 3,500 isnt very good
    lets be realistic
    it shows that the war is not a “core” issue even amongst the ultra Left

    crisis in capitalism Labour in crisis and we turn out 3,000 ish ???

    we need to be much more realistic
    calling demo after demo just devalues the whole impact

  20. Kriss: “Indeed, Andy – our outlook even affects our counting”.

    Well, I estimated the same as Andy and gawd only knows what kind of outlook I have…. fair, drizzly, some sunshine in parts, thundery showers…. Who knows.

    There was a group discussion of us London-bound demonstraters about nos. on demo as we were hanging about waiting for our coaches to take us back to the Big Smoke…. and the conclusion…between 2,000 to 2,500. I would say the latter.

  21. My guesss on the demo was about 5000 – a number of people agreed with me. I’m usually thought of as conservative on numbers.

  22. “…Rupa was able to express the reservations that some people feel that demands for an English parliament feels to her to smell of the exclusionary politics of Enoch Powell.”

    Is it true that there are still “some people” who believe this nonsense?

  23. The book of numbers on said:

    As far as understand it it this was only ever conceived of as a regional demonstration with national support. The attempted point-scoring against Andy over numbers is really depressing. It seems most of those on the demonstration thought it was worthwhile. That’s good.

    As for the size, say it was nearly 4,000, so what? That doesn’t change much at all. As for Socialist Worker’s figures on demonstrations it backs, I’m sorry to say they just aren’t credible. Attempting to label people optimistic or pessimistic on the grounds of their assessment of this demonstration is really unhelpful. All it leads to is rigid charicaturing of others that undermines any claim to be embracing a plural approach.

  24. christian h. on said:

    ‘The book of numbers’, I don’t think there’s any “point scoring”, just a little harmless fun.

  25. terryfitz on said:

    It looks as if you are back to the totally pointless counting of numbers as at the waste of time UAF/SWP march to get Richard Barnbrook thrown off the London Assembly a few months ago.

  26. What ever the strengths and weakness of the demo (I have no way of knowing: I wasn’t there) its surely true that the war is a huge issue for both our ruling class and the one across the Atlantic. The fact that the recession hasn’t yet sparked big demos doesn’t mean its not an issue. The war is not a seperate issue from the coming recession,and its the job of socialists to make those links. I strongly suspect that some of the problems of the size of the demo have to do with the fact that all of us who contribute on this site, who probably collectively represent the best sections of the left, have been hopelessly divided over the last year and really unable to have a sensible discussion about anything. Hopefully that period is coming to an end. Certainly we all find ourselves on a changed terrain and need to find some way to get to grips with it.

    In terms of worries about English nationalism, whether as Andy does, you think this ‘tradition’ can be reclaimed for the left or as I do, you think this is a dangerous mistake, its surely not beyond the wit of either position to understand that many black people in Britain embraced British rather then English as an identity. I’ve raised it before but if you want to discuss this seriously this is something which should be argued about sensitively.

  27. One of the second sessions (running concurrently with the pone Andy reports on) was on Campaigning Against Immigration Controls- about 40 people there, probably would have been more but no further space in the small room.

    It was quite good – proposals for united demonstrations, proposals for direct action against the IOM and others assisting the government’s deportation policy, for union solidarity and strike action in support of the RMT cleaners being victimised in London.

    I think there were quite a number of young people there- probably at least a quarter under thirty not that far off the demographic of the population as a whole.

    Of course it was only a meeting and unfortunatley no definite conrete actions were agreed but it is a start and the idea is to have local left forums- drawing in new activists, sharing information, planning joint action, discussing ideas.

    Not on the verge of seizing power admittedly but a modest step in the right direction.

  28. johng: It’s a situation that is probably best described as ‘dialectical’.
    In the campaigning work I do with Islamophobia Watch I come into contact with English Muslims who are fighting to be seen as legitimate ‘British’ citizens whereas in Scotland Muslims overwhelmingly see themselves as ‘Scottish’ and this is shown in the big support the Scottish National Party has amongst Scottish Muslims.
    As you say, it is a situation that has to be approached with sensitivity and no small degree of political skill.
    All the best

  29. Karl Stewart on said:

    I agree with JonG’s (37) reservations over Mark’s (24) suggestion that the lft should riase the issue of an English republic. Surely the key priority for us is to try to cohere politically on the crucial issue of the need for a serious working-class political force which will expropriate the capitalist class of whatever nation on behalf of the working class of whatever nation. Far from establishing more nation states, we should be raising the vision, wherever possible, of an end to nation states.
    On the counting of demonstrations, there are some on the left – and it’s not only the SWP – whose method is based on “estimate, then double it.” It’s simply lying and it serves no useful purpose.

  30. redbedhead on said:

    book of numbers wrote: “The attempted point-scoring against Andy over numbers is really depressing.” And then two sentences later: “As for Socialist Worker’s figures on demonstrations it backs, I’m sorry to say they just aren’t credible.”

    Your first point was good but as they say: pots and kettles.

  31. Joseph Kisolo on said:

    In terms of people hating the war, opposition is as high as ever (or thereabouts) the problem is that people don’t see it as something we can now stop, it is seen as nearly over and many (rightly or wrongly) believe that the government wants to pull out as much as they do as is working towards it.

    In the future I think explicitly anti-capitalist demo’s will start to draw large numbers again (if we put the work in of course).

  32. Joseph Kisolo on said:

    I’m actually impressed with Socialist Workers realtivly sober figger of 5000, I thought that they would go for the old “up to 1000″ estimate.

  33. The idea expressed in the post that people in England have no idea “how advanced the process of disengagement with the union is in Scotland and Wales” is a very telling comment. From my experience of living in Wales for most of my life it is a process that is largely unknown to most working people in Wales too. Small wonder given the contempt that both the the denizens of both Westminster and the Assembly have for the self activity of working people. Nationalism was and is an ideological enemy of communism.

  34. #30 Gratuitous insults are not helpful. I counted what I counted. The demo was quite wide. 10-12 across in most places, and I thought about 400-500 rows. I, of course, may be wrong, but my count was an honest count done at the time.

  35. Karl Stewart on said:

    Excellent point Mike (44) and totally agree. Like “greenism,” the new “nationalism” is, in my opinion, a reflection of the failure of the left to build the serious working-class political force that we need. There is a saying that nature abhors a vacuum and these two diversions from the class struggle are, in my view, an example of that.

  36. karlshayne on said:

    …people in England have no idea “how advanced the process of disengagement with the union is in Scotland and Wales”

    yet there has been no mass demonstrations, strikes, riots or public rallies for independence in scotland or wales? so how strongly does this nationalism really seep into the working class?

    an opinion poll or a vote for the snp tells us something it’s true, and opinions are shifting, but is independence really felt so strongly???

    i’d suggest it’s the absense of a powerful workers’ movement and a powerful labour party on socialist policies that has allowed nationalism to grow, but this is just on the surface, and not a deeply held view or ideology of the working class in scotland or wales. certainly there is no evidence that they are fighting for independence as there is not really any active support or mass movement for it.

    if the labour movement can be revived in time them the nationalists can be wiped out and united class struggle and socialism can replace it on the agenda.

    ks

  37. johng, but according to opinion polls the war is not a big issue either in the UK or US. It’s way down from a few years ago. These protesters were just the usual anti capitalist hot heads that would protest against anything outside the governing party’s conference. They would be there no matter what. No government would ever pay attention to them.

  38. Karl Stewart on said:

    Regardless of whether or not the StWC organisers exaggerated the numbers at the march, I’d like to say well done to each and every one of them for turning up and showing their continued disgust at this government’s continued involvement in the imperialist intervention in Iraq and its continued slavish obedience to the US neo-cons. I couldn’t make it myself, so well done to all of you.
    The sooner the left sheds its remaining illusions in Joe’s (49) pro-capitalist and visciosly anti-working class party the better.

  39. Sounds like a very interesting conference. Pity I couldn’t make it. It’s sad that more people on the English left don’t realise that the politics of the vast majority of those who support Welsh independence are progressive.

    The best way of destroying the Tory-New Labour axis is the reconstituion of Britain on the basis of equality between the nations of Britain. An independent England with its Parliament in York, Manchester or Birmingham would have a better chance of breaking the stranglehold of the neo-liberals in London.

  40. Dem O'Cracy on said:

    An interesting day. Two years ago the demo was at least 40,000 strong. The conclusion must be drawn that the issue is simply not uppermost or central in people’s outlook. Good to see the energy of lots of young people though – couldn’t simply be dismissed as a ‘usual suspects’ event.

    The Convention of the Left is providing opportunities for people to discuss things in a mature and comradely manner. Found discussions with comrades from Scotland hugely informative. The implications of the referendum cannot be underestimated and it is time the English Left engaged seriously with this issue.

    All the best to everyone involved over the coming days.

  41. non partisan on said:

    just trying to find out. of course you don’t have to answer

    and the number is for attendance at the convention?

  42. non partisan on said:

    Is there really a ‘debating forum here’ or is it just people saying ‘this is our line’, the desire for unity is all very well, but are there concrete proposals? a new publication on whose editorial body different reps speak? a joint committee to co-ordinate action? a strategy group to look at elections?

    I’m not being cynical just asking, what is expected to come out of this?

    On a slighlty seperate point. the attendance doesn’t seem earth shattering, but no real figures yet, am i right in guessing 5-600 in and around it?

  43. Karl Shane and others;
    There are recently elected nationalist administrations in Wales and Scotland.
    To imagine that these may be rolled back with an upsurge in working class militancy is to completely miss the point.
    They are there precisely because of a backlash against the pro big business policies of New Labour and the disastrous consequences of the military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq.
    The unravelling of Britain is a fact and a progressive development.
    Counter posing “united class struggle and socialism ” to the break up of Britain is a completely false dichotomy and the “labour movement” that will apparently ride to the rescue is in fact made up of the different national entities that make up UK as it is currently constituted.
    There is absolutely no reason why trade unions currently operating on a British wide basis cannot continue to represent their members when the British state is broken up, in much the same way that the NUJ has members in Ulster and in the Irish Republic.
    I can’t help but notice that the second united all union public sector workers strike that will be held on Wednesday 24th September in Scotland, following on from the first strike on the 20th of August, has been largely ignored by those on the English left who virulently oppose Scottish self determination.
    I wonder why that is.

  44. paddy garcia on said:

    If you read my comment on flickr, I didn’t say that Britain is a fascist state at the moment.

  45. Jeezo, how to manufacture a row about one individuals placard.
    I remember back in 2003 during the demos against the Iraq war in Edinburgh one guy was charged by the police after he had a placard that basically said Bush = Nazi.
    Mark Thomas found out about the charge and paid for postcards that reproduced the placard and we all sent them to Lothian and Borders police HQ.
    Nobody was suggesting that Bush had started to exterminate all the Jews in Europe but most people got the underlying message.
    So stop being a fuckwit, fuckwit.

  46. Paddy, you damage the antiwar movement with that ridiculous stuff about fascism. The US has saved the world from fascism, communism and imperialism. They have saved more lives than one can think of – just think of the civil war they stopped in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the bloodshed averted in th balkans. They are not a fascist country, and neither are we.

  47. It exposes you to the charge of hypocrisy. We can’t call Islamists who suicide bomb people as fascist, nor fascist dictators like Saddam Hussein, but it’s okay to call Bush and Blair fascist?

  48. Stephen Gash on said:

    What a worthless “conference”.

    It’s nice to know Scots and Welsh socialists enjoy their own elected chambers, but consider the English unworthy of their own parliament because such a democratically elected house would be “exclusive”.

    So the UK may continue along the same Anglophobic lines it has for the past 301 miserable years.

    We expect sanctimonious claptrap from Scots who, incidentally, invented the Ku Klux Klan (why else is it called a clan?) which has the Scottish Flag as its emblem to reflect its Scottish roots.

    England will have its own parliament whether foreign socialists want it or not.

  49. Karl Stewart on said:

    Joe (62), Bush and Blair aren’t fascists, but the US ruling class established fascism throughout south America during the 1960s and 1970s, drowning democracy in blood in the process. The US ruling class launched – and, eventually lost due to the heroism of the Vietnamese people – the bloody Vietnam war which cost millions of Vietnamese lives and many thousands of lives of US working-class young men. The US ruling class handpicked the fascist dictator Saddam Hussein to rule Iraq in the interests of the US ruling class, funded, financed and trained the fundamentalist-clerical-fascist Islamic movements in Afghanistan, and led the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan when its own hand-picked rulers had outlived their usefulness. Joe, your party shames us all with its slavish, sycophantic subservience to the US ruling class and contributions such as yours simply lose your party yet more credibility and support.

  50. Karl, that’s simplstic ignorance. The US actions in Vietnam stopped the region turning communist, likewise aiding Afghanistan against the soviet occupation was extremely important for the security of the world. They haven’t gotten everything absolutely right but without America there would be many more wars and tyranny in the world today. You know that.

    We have seen what a world without the US would be like from Russia’s recent activists. Put it this way’ it’s unlikely that you’d be mucking about on your capitalist internet service provider if a country like Russia was the only super power. We are very lucky to have the American deterent to these states.

  51. The US provide 50% of the world’s emergy food aid when disasters strike. They’re even feeding those poor bastards in north korea.

  52. Stephen Gash being an anti Muslim racist.
    http://www.sioeengland.blogspot.com/

    German left smash anti Mosque demonstration
    by Eddie Truman, Islamophobia Watch, 20/09/08

    German leftists have left a planned anti Mosque demonstration in ruins by taking direct action against the Pro-Koeln (Pro-Cologne) group over two days.
    Pro-Koeln had said1,500 people would attend a rally to oppose the mosque and an “immigrant invasion” of Europe.
    Those attending the congress, included right wing elements from Belgium, Austria and Italy, were protesting against “Islamification,” and voicing support for Europe’s “shared, thousand-year history” and “Western values and Christian traditions”.
    Opening events on Friday were severely hampered when hundreds of largely peaceful protesters managed to prevent the Pro-Koeln from holding a news conference in a municipal building, forcing supporters of the groups to seek refuge on a rental boat cruising the Rhine River.
    Eight people were arrested for throwing stones and paint balls at the boat.
    The BBC reported that on Saturday 20th September;
    “Thousands of left-wing demonstrators gathered to protest against an extreme right-wing rally have clashed with police in the Germany city of Cologne.
    “Police said about 3,000 protesters threw stones at officers, while some tried to steal their weapons.
    Violence erupted after the protesters tried to halt an “anti-Islamification” rally, which police eventually banned.”

  53. Howard T on said:

    Joe #67 ‘without America there would be many more wars and tyranny in the world today’. As USA has been engaged in a war or has invaded a country every year since 1945, it’s hard to imagine there being more wars.
    To claim that USA provides huge food aid when their economic and foreign policies have created more food shortages is to fail to understand the real role of US Imperialism post 1945.
    By the way, US action in Indo-China was instrumental in crewating the VietCong and drove the Cambodians towards Pol Pot, rather than any other alternative. Thankfully, US defeat in 1975 by the NLF set back US imperialism for over a decade.
    In a nutshell, the failure of the uS economy is the impetus for war drive more than anything else on this planet. It needs war to regain its global economic domination that it is steadfastly losing, primarily to China, but also to capitalist competitors.

  54. 2-3,000 on mayor national anti war demo
    simply not good enough

    how and why would the capitalist cover a joke turn out
    apologies to comrades who turned out

    but poor

    i guess the swps response to poor turnout at national demo is another national demo
    lets say over pay

    these national demos of 3-5,000 really are productive….not

  55. Sarah Hart on said:

    I think you’re right Steve. Especially as most people didn’t know it was on. Neither Respect nor the SWP even mentioned it locally.
    But what initiatives need to be taken instead?
    CND and StW are calling impromptu pickets as appropriate, but that’s not a strategy.
    My feeling is that something focused on Afghanistan would be good, but I’m not sure what.

  56. Howard T, what you cite is crude anti American propaganda.

    The US has been involved in a lot of wars in the same way the police have killed more people than an individual murderer. Think about it.

  57. I can only apologise for musing on the subject of numbers. I stand revealed as “really unhelpful”. By some troll named after a book of the bible. Ah well.

    #38 – talk of some proposed joint actions, that sounds like a positive development. The general atmosphere sounds positive too.

    #48 good pics, thanks for sharing. Of course it didn’t rain – it never rains when I’m in Manchester. I am starting to think the old “rainy Manchester” thing is a big lie.

  58. Stephen Gash on said:

    Eddie Truman being either blind, illiterate, or, more likely stupid, ignored SIOE’s motto – “Racism is the lowest form of stupidity! Islamophobia is the height of common sense!”

    Also, he ignored the fact we ban Nazis, communists, fascists and above all Islamists.

    It also bans political parties from promoting themselves on the backs of SIOE’s events.

    Therefore, naturally, SIOE was not at the pro-Cologne rally, although we support that movement in its quest to stop triumphalist mosque building in Cologne.

    Try to keep on topic about what actually this thread is about Eddie, namely the cofernece in Manchester.

    By the way, stoning women to death is obviously a left wing activity, which is why the left supports Islam. The left has killed more people than all other regimes put together.

    I actually don’t subscribe to the “left” and “right” tags favoured by the media and socialists. People are more sophisticated than that.

    The operative word in “National Socialism” is not “National” it is “Socialism”. True nationalists care about their own country and do not seek an marshall expansionist plan favoured by totalitarianists such as, Islamists, Nazis (socialists), Communists and fascists.

  59. Let’s get this straight Stephen: Left and right are just media terms.

    People are more sophisticated than that, you say.

    But then “The left has killed more people than all other regimes put together.”

    D’oh!

  60. Clive Searle on said:

    “I think you’re right Steve. Especially as most people didn’t know it was on. Neither Respect nor the SWP even mentioned it locally.”

    Sarah – not sure I know what you mean here. Do you live in Manchester or are you in another city.

  61. Interesting report, Thanks… very little in MSM!

    With Scotland sure to secede, and the Welsh almost certain to follow suit, the left-wing is going to fall back to the celtic fringe, leaving England alone to face up to its native and natural right-wing majority, not just in political representation, but also in the field of war.
    It will no longer be a British war in Iraq or Afghanistan, but a purely English one.

  62. #64

    It is worth coming back to Stpehen gash, just becasue he precisely illustrates one of the obstacles that impede a better understanding of the issue among English socialists.

    The person on the panel who had reservations about an English parliament was an English woman, of Bengali background. No Welsh or Scottish people expressed that opinion. It simply is a very important factor to take into account that BME communities and individuals in England may be very nervous about the debate; and anticipate that it will lead to a racialising of politics.

    Incidentlaly all through the meeting on Saturday we were unhelpfully heckled by a man from the campign for an English parliament (CEP). So for exmaple when I spoke to say that most English people have not yet considered the distintion between britishness and Englishness, the CEP chap started shouting that i was wrong, becasue CEP was already doing that, etc etc; and he continually tried to interrupt Welsh and Scottish speakers

  63. But then again if someone thinks they’re British thats a real identity isn’t it. You can’t redescribe them as ‘English’ without asking them first. There is such a thing as an identity which is ‘Black British’. This cuts across the argument you want to have (although I’m sure your sensitive about it) but its not for that reason possible to just legislate that identity out of existence. Legislation isn’t everything (sorry mixing my metaphores)…

  64. If people identify as Black Scottish or Black Welsh, there can be no ‘Black British’, unless British = English. Think about it!

    However, I can understand their confusion given the Government’s trend to use England/Britain interchangeably.

    As for English identity being the reserve of the far right. Such an identity has only emerged since devolution and has been expressed mainly through sports. Given the representation of black and asian sportswo/men in the English national sides,it’s absolute nonsense to claim you have to be white to be ‘English’.

    Having said all that, the left seems hell bent on leaving this vacuum to others which is leaving the goal wide open (to mix my metaphors) and we’ll all end up being sorry for that!

  65. Tom Long on said:

    The irony here is that the Stop the War coalition should be supporting an English Parliament as the surest way of achieving their goal of Stopping the War. An English Parliament / Scottish independence would stop British warmongering dead in its tracks. No British government = no British Army = No British foreign policy. The end of the British state is surely a step in the right direction for world peace. It would also make England/ Scotland/ Wales a safer place as terrorists would have no reason to target us anymore.

  66. Peter Jacobs on said:

    I was hoping – nay praying – that Labour would be the Party to wake up and realise that an English Parliament is the answer to the WLQ.
    If the Tories win the next election, the Scots will vote for independence (and it is becoming more than likely that they will anyway, even if we get back in).
    In the meantime, the English are beginning to get furious at the lack of equality and the breaking up of their/ our nation, just to please the Scots – “England is too big, etc, etc.” England has always been this size and in Europe, it is just the right size alonside it’s partners. If the Scots are not happy about the size of their own nation, they cannot demand that every other country is broken up to please them.
    It is surely time now that the Labour Party tackled this problem head on and treated each nation equally? If left to fester, the Labour Party will never be forgiven and the Tories will steal our devolution clothes. Labour will be finished in England – Incidentally, why is there a Scottish and Welsh Labour Party, but no English one? Is that what some might consider “inclusive?”
    As for Enoch Powell – put another record on. You’re even beginning to grate on my nerves. It’s people like you who are the racists in the 21st century and you are turning people off very quickly. You’re damaging the Labour Party with that kind of extremism.

  67. just looking at Leanne Wood AM blog, they seem to think you (English)lefties are not worth a cracker
    http://leannewoodamac.blogspot.com/2008/09/convention-of-left.html

    She is right. Where were the left when student top up fees were brought in in England on the back of Welsh and Scottish votes? I suppose it would have been to much to ask to have backed the tories who tried to prevent it. Why is the left in England allowing poor people in England subsidise rich people in Scotland wales and northern ireland? An English student wanting to go to a scottish university has to pay up, but an eu student going to scottish inion does not? where have you all been?

  68. I have no idea what Peter jacobs is on about here: “As for Enoch Powell – put another record on. You’re even beginning to grate on my nerves. It’s people like you who are the racists in the 21st century and you are turning people off very quickly. You’re damaging the Labour Party with that kind of extremism.”

    Personally i am fully in favour of an independence English republic.

    However, you think that I shouldn’t even report that someone else worries that talk of English parliament reminds them of Powellism?

    There is a serious political issue that BME communities have been encouraged to define themsleves as black british, and therefore some will be not unreasonably suspeicious of what might seem like attempts to ethnicise politics. the fact that the English Demoicrat party – for example – continually bang on about immigration is a problem.

    It is up to progressive English people to prove the inclusivity of English identity, not for us to demand that other people accept it.

  69. Why are English people always being told that we have to define our identity, define our culture, define this, define that? Why? When did you last hear anyone say “well, it’s up the Scots to define their identity” or “just how do you define the Scottish identity”? You never do because it is accepted that a Scottish identity exists. It’s only because far too many people, let’s not mince our words here, are too damn stupid to tell the difference between English and British. I’m English, I have an English identity and I’m damned if I’m going to sit here and write an essay on what it means to be English before some hang wringing liberal will deign to allow me to have my identity.

  70. Hans Moleman on said:

    #89 – I’m English, I have an English identity and I’m damned if I’m going to sit here and write an essay on what it means to be English before some hang wringing liberal will deign to allow me to have my identity.

    This blog is really going down the tubes fast. Any chance of deleting right-wing tossers, Andy, or are you just too pleased to have some other lunatic English nationalists hanging around the site?

  71. wonkotsane #89

    At the meeting on Saturday, one of the Scots pointed out that there are plenty of people living in Scotland who consider themselves british, and support the worst aspects of the British state.

    We should not be suprised that given the continual deliberate and non-deliberate confusion between Englishness and Britishness that many people consider themselves British, often becasue they haven’t thought about it; and also because many people from immigrant communities have been encouraged to beleive that identifying themselves as Black British is and was the best approach to getting on with their friends and neighbours.

    In Scotland and Wales there is a more developed process of people thinking of themselves as Scottish or Weslsh, and subsequently a parallel process of black and Asian people defining themselves as Scottish and Welsh. it is interesting that the only Asian members of the Welsh assembly and Scottish parlismant are members of Plaid Cymru and the SNP.

    So of course, you as an individual can define yourself as English, but if we want to develop an England that is equally welcoming to all its citizens then we need to make sure that such an English identity is an inclusive one that celebrates our cultural diversity, as well as the distinctive aspects of English culture.

  72. England has been subsumed by Britain for a very long time – and new arrivals are force fed “Britishness” whilst Englishness is marginalised and demonised by the UK Government for its own ends.

    We need an inclusive, English civic national identity – so much that the British establishment has claimed as “British” was originally English anyway.

    And we need an end to health apartheid, the Barnett Formula and the West Lothian Question.

    I understand Rupa being a little nervous by an emerging sense of Englishness, it’s a nationality which has been scapegoated and demonised for all the “sins” of Britain for a very long time, but what the UK Government is doing to the people of England via asymmetric devolution is a real and actual form of racism and it’s happening now.

    I feel hopeful that we will have an English Parliament and I’m sure that an inclusive English civic nationalism is not only possible – but will be good for all.

  73. As a socialist who actually lives in Wales, can I make a few comments?

    Just over a quarter of the Welsh electorate voted to have an assembly. The Welsh capital, Cardiff, voted against. The popularity of the assembly has not increased since then, and there is absolutely no prospect of Wales voting for independence as some seem to be suggesting. Wales is not Scotland.

    As for Plaid, a party originally founded by the fascist sympathiser Saunders Lewis: not one MP or AM spoke against the largest PFI in history, the St Athan military academy. And yes, they do have an Asian AM. He recently invited the Israeli ambassador to the Senedd for a chat, as a result of which his own colleagues protested outside! This neatly sums up the contradictions of a party which plays left to win the urban workers but is rooted in the academic, legal and cultural professional elites, small businesses and farmers. I live in a working class inner city area of Cardiff, and I assure you that Plaid has no roots here whatsoever.

    Plaid, in short, is an obstacle to those fighting for socialism in Wales; the idea of a Welsh interest cuts directly against the idea of workers’ interests, and even the best of Plaid’s politicians, such as Leanne, with whom I have worked on many campaigns, cannot define their objective beyond creating a more ‘progressive’ government than in Westminster.

    If Scotland becomes independent the SNP’s left clothes will quickly disappear also; Scotland will still have a capitalost economy and be handing out the begging bowl to the multinationals, offering nice grants and an exploitable workforce to get their business.

    Plaid may bemoan the lack of interest by English socialists in Welsh affairs, and with some justification. However, did they stay for the rest of the convention and contribute to the other discussions? The flipside of English disinterest is the stultifying parochialism of the Welsh nationalist scene.

    The COTL was, however, an important occasion and its lack of decisions is merely because it is the start of a process; the November recall conference will be more practical. There’s a brief report at http://radicalsocialist.org.

  74. Solidarity on said:

    ‘important thing for me was that the Scottish and Welsh speakers were able to explain what was happening in their nations’

    The Scots – we’re no a’ Jock Thamson’s Bearns, we’re no a’ collective. Remember the fact someone happens to be Scottish or Welsh not enough in itself to give weight to their opinion.

  75. #95

    We did think of asking al Scottish and Welsh people to be on the panel, but couldn’t get 8 million chairs in the room, so we opted for having a few knowledgable individuals of differeing political persuasions. Sorry this doesn’t meet your exacting standards of inclusiveness.

  76. “also because many people from immigrant communities have been encouraged to beleive that identifying themselves as Black British is and was the best approach to getting on with their friends and neighbours”

    Its much more then this Andy. There is an entire history linked to Empire, the conception of the mothercountry, the history of anti-racist movements etc, etc. If you want to reshape peoples identity argue it. But don’t ignore the complexity of actually existing ones.

  77. Oh incidently. I have a British identity. In other words thats how identify myself. I also have an English identity. Thats also how I identify myself. I’m not convinced that this is down to me having been ‘encouraged’ to think like this.

  78. But it is though isn’t it, John. I mean “encouraged”

    Collective identities are socially developed, and individuals have a complex interaction with those identities that are available to them. (for example, the identity of being a Greek or a navaho is not available to me, though it is available to others who have a social interaction with others who identify with Greekness or navaho-ness)

    Britishness is a political project, closely bound up with Empire. Within the English core of the imperial metropole the distinction between britishnes and Englishness was always blurred, and indeed Britshness is encouraged, and Englishness discouraged in the official whig narrative of British state politics. Becasue Britshness is the pomp and glory of the Unionist state; and the lgacy of Empire.

    Now the reasons for unpacking those identities are related to the cohesive force of the imperial metropole coming a little less strong. The Welsh and Scots, and Unionist Irish have always known there was a difference to their Britishness and England and the English; and now the external moulding force of the Empire has gone, then Scottish and Welsh identities in particular are asserting themselves.

    Britishness then endures as either: i) an extention of Englishness, whereby we simply ignore the cultural and historical differnces with Wales and Scotland – becasue they are implicitly less important than the English; and ii) those parts of shared culture, history and tradition that all the peoples of this island have connected to the imperial project.

    This is of course the interesting paradox, that the connection with the Empire is British, and therefore the wave of post-imperial and colonial immigration was immigration to a Britain that from the outside looked culturally united and homogenous. In that sense, history, the shared identity of the English, Welsh and Scots as joint British imperialists encouraged the creation of a Black British identity; and similarly there as a conscious advocacy of such Britishness by the state.

    But insofar as confusing Englishness with Britishness has been an historical option, that option is receding in plauability due to events in Wales and Scotland

  79. Anonymous on said:

    I noticed the comments about everybody being old at the Convention of the Left. I’m not, and I went. For one session. What put me off was not the age bracket, but that the session was on unity, and I’ve never encountered anything so farcical in my life. People either *said* we needed unity but didn’t put anything practical forward, or disagreed over ridiculously small points, thus making a mockery of the session. Plus there were loads of genuine crackpots. Plus everyone was really rude to each other. It was just awful. Awful. And embarrassing, depressing, frustrating…how do you hope to inspire a new generation of left activists through this behaviour?

  80. Dem O'Cracy on said:

    Re no.100.

    Interesting to hear your observations, but sorry that you are so depressed and frustrated. I would just say that the Convention is a quite different event in which risks are being taken by the contributory approach etc. In my experience it is providing a refreshing journey in which intelligible contributions and intelligent points are being made.

    Nevertheless I understand your concerns -perhaps more understandable in view of the session that you attended.

    Today I attended a wide ranging [and quite long] session about globalisation and economics. The contributions were diverse but, in the main relevant and constructive. It was actually quite inspiring to listen to such informed and measured ‘lead’ speakers, who then patiently addressed the questions raised. This would seem to contrast with your complaint about rudeness etc.

    Any activist will know the risk that comes with inclusive and open debate. Contrast with the sychophantic approach that generally seems to prevail at the Labour Conference behind the ring of steel [real debate and internal democracy having been effectively closed down over the last 10 years or so].

    Perhaps the Convention is drawing upon experience elsewhere within Green and Anarchist ways of discussion, argument and agreement/disagreement. This is healthy and complements the trade union movement at its best. It is to be readily and importantly contrasted with dogmatic platform-down approaches that parrot party lines but discourage maturity/clarity of thinking and the oxygen required to be able to disagree in a comradely and constructive manner.

    I have enjoyed campaigns in the past in which broad unity amongst different groups has been achieved through open argument with tangible tasks to undertake. The McLibel campaign in the 1990s taught me a great deal about such matters.

    If the Convention has failings, it is because it is run by comrades committed enough to take the risk in the first place. As the old adage goes: “S/he who never made a mistake never made anything”.

    I’d encourage you to stick with the objectives of the Convention. We can all learn from each other and your observations and criticisms will not marginalise you if the Convention is mature as it would seem to imply.

  81. More important than talk of Britishness or Englishness is that there is not a devolved administration in England to decide upon things like hospital parking fees, prescription charges, corporate take-over of the NHS and GP services, and so on – these decisions are made by the british government.

    Ministers dealing with England’s health and education systems are appointed by – and can be sacked by – a Prime Minister who does not represent an English constituency.

    The tabloid press has made much of the PM’s Scottishness when reporting the West Lothain question, the Barnett formula, and politics in the devolved institutions. In so doing, England’s constitutional status has been portrayed in terms of nationality rather than democratic accountability, self-government, etc.

  82. Truman has his racisms and secterianisms mixed up. To be anti islamic is not racism. I know a devout black Christian person (and top bloke)from the pacific islands. He told me that a saudi company was developing resorts on his island. when his government found out they were going to build a mosque on the island they gave them seven days to get out. That is not racism it is sectarianism.If people are not worried about Buddhist or Sikh temples in England why is there concern with mosques? I suggest Truman acknowledges legitamate public concerns instead of using the one cosh
    racism smear.

  83. Anonymous on said:

    Re 101 – I’m willing to accept that the other sessions were more productive and polite, and I am very glad that people have gone to the trouble of organising the convention. Maybe I should’ve gone to some other sessions, but what happened at the first one just put me off.

    Of course the Labour Party conference is a PR excuse which also reflects that party’s ever growing authoritarianism and determination to spread and fuel fear and division in the name of ‘security’.(I live in Manc and the police presence is obscene). But they are the political mainstream and Blair’s legacy means they aren’t tainted with the bogeyman version of socialism so prevalent in the media. They might be getting a kicking from some sections of the press but they’re not seen as fringe loons. The convention doesn’t have that luxury, and sessions like the one I went to only work to compound this problem.

    Glad to hear the rest was better. I will investigate the forums.

  84. Its fair to say that there was some uneveness in the quality of the sessions and the level of debate and discussion.
    I was on the organising committee and I think we generally felt that there were really good examples of where it worked, and some where it was not so good.
    But we want to go further towards encouraging discussion and away from the top down, top table, lengthy lectures approach. The Sunday session generally worked really well I thought. But again we can go further.
    There is also a point that its going to take people a while to get used to the idea that they will actually be able to say what they think, that they do have as much right as anyone else to speak and that we can get away from name calling/denunciation and encourage constructive criticsm and debate.
    Still much good to build on I think.