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Resolutions passed at Counterfire Conference 2022

Resolution 1: The crisis of the British regime – Steering Committee

Conference notes:

1That Counterfire’s founding analysis, Adrian Cousins, The Crisis of the British Regime (2011), highlighted the ideological gap between the majority of workers, who held traditional social democratic or left social democratic views, and the neoliberal, Thatcherite, ruling class and the relationship between this and a series of mass movements, such as the anti-capitalist movement, the anti-war movement, the anti-austerity movement, Corbynism.

2That the ideological rejection of neoliberalism by wide swathes of workers was not accompanied by an increase in industrial struggle which remained at historically low levels.

3That in the absence of a breakthrough in the class struggle, and as a result of the defeat of Corbynism, right-wing populist forces are able to grow by appealing to discontent among some sections of working-class opinion (Brexit, Johnson, Covid-deniers).

4That this development disrupts ruling class politics by creating a populist break with traditional conservatism and traditional social democracy, as well as disrupting working class politics.

5That the prolonged nature of the crisis and the absence of industrial struggle, plus the defeat of Corbynism has led to a weakening of the organised far left and to the growth of various forms of identity politics.

6That the Covid crisis and the crisis in global supply chains is creating a tight labour market and a revival in trade union struggle on a greater scale than we’ve seen since the defeat of the miners’ strike in the mid-1980s. It has also recast anti-austerity politics in a sharpened form, through the re-emergence of inflation, price gouging, tax increases, pay restraint.

Conference believes:

1That it is vital to focus on and to actively build the industrial resistance among workers.

2That this industrial revival is highly political in nature and that syndicalist responses to it will be inadequate, leaving both social democracy and right-wing populism effectively unchallenged.

3That fusing the industrial struggle and the social movements is vital to develop the most effective working class fight back.

4That identity politics is at best an inadequate and at worst a destructive response to the current crisis.

Conference resolves:

1To sustain and, where possible, initiate united front work in response to the current phase of the crisis, in particular, but not limited to, Stop the War, PSC, and the People’s Assembly.

2To build a variety of initiatives aimed at supporting, extending and politicising the industrial struggle on the model of Tunnel Vision, the rank-and-file tube workers publication, and News from the Frontline.

3To make especial efforts to unite the industrial struggle with social movements.

4To pay special attention to propagating as widely as possible specifically Marxist analysis of the political and economic crisis.

5To recruit to Counterfire with renewed determination and to educate those we recruit in the Marxist tradition

Resolution 2: Climate crisis after COP26 – Steering Committee

Conference notes:

1That COP26 was a failure, as governments indicated support for measures that will limit warming only to 2.7oC, even while admitting the importance of keeping a 1.5oC limit attainable.

2That the lead-up to COP27 in Egypt in November 2022 is a crucial period for international climate action, as countries submit their detailed proposals for greenhouse-gas reductions.

3That Tory government proposals, concentrating on business-as-usual measures like electric cars and carbon capture and storage, will do little to achieve real reductions in UK emissions.

4That the protests and other activity around COP26 in Glasgow and elsewhere were a significant step forward for the climate movement, in particular as a result of the solidarity built between climate activists and striking workers.

Conference believes:

1That building a mass movement of working people is essential to push government into the necessary steps for greenhouse-gas reductions.

2That it is necessary to move quickly to capitalise on the gains of the COP26 mobilisations.

3That attempts from government figures to divide the climate movement from working people, by positioning themselves as defenders of working people’s lifestyles against puritanical greens, make firming up solidarity between climate activists and workers in struggle all the more urgent.

4That it is now time for climate campaigning to move from demanding generalised action to making specific demands of government.

Conference resolves:

1To work with others to build a campaign around a list of specific demands for climate action, including nationalisation and meaningful just transition for all workers in polluting industries.

2To continue to work to integrate climate campaigning with wider struggles, such as through the People’s Assembly and Stop the War.

3To continue to seek opportunities to work with trade unions, trades councils and others to build solidarity, and work for a just transition coming from workers, not measures imposed on them.

4To play an active part in mobilisations for the global day of action around COP27 in November.

5To continue to give the climate crisis and climate campaigning a high profile on the website and in our publications, and to encourage local groups to put on climate-related meetings.

Resolution 3: Imperialism and the anti-war movement – Steering Committee

Conference notes:

1The humiliating defeat for US imperialism in Afghanistan, with US forces withdrawing and the Taliban securing control of the country. 

2The words of US President Joe Biden following the withdrawal: “This decision about Afghanistan is not just about Afghanistan - it's about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries.”

3The continuing links between war and racism: from the Afghan refugee crisis fuelled by two decades of invasion, war and occupation, and the UK government's reluctance to accept Afghan refugees, to Fortress Europe and Fortress Britain policies, to state-led Islamophobia.

4The establishment of the Aukus military pact between the US, UK and Australia. 

5The upsurge of pro-Palestine protest in response to Israel's belligerence and barbarism, especially in May 2021.

6The connections between war and climate chaos.

7The increasing tension on the border of Ukraine.

Conference believes:

1That the US withdrawal from Afghanistan illustrates why the invasions, occupation and bombing campaigns under the ‘War on Terror’ banner were a terrible mistake: US-led military intervention is the root cause of Afghanistan's tragedy.

2That the humiliation of the US in Afghanistan is a major milestone in the phenomenon of the US failing to control the wider region, following two decades of military interventions that have been costly in money and human life.

3That war is the main driver of refugees and that we must highlight the connections between war and racism, insisting that refugees are welcome in this country as well as demanding an end to wars and occupations in north Africa, the Middle East and western Asia.

4That the Aukus pact reflects a strategic re-orientation against China by a weakened US and its allies, and there is likely to be increased tension with China in the years ahead.

5That the politics of Palestine solidarity are, now more than ever, integral to anti-imperialism and the anti-war movement in the UK.

6That challenging war and militarism must be an important part of confronting climate chaos.

7The world is facing a new cold war with one overwhelmingly dominant instigator: US imperialism. US imperialism, with its Western allies, is the main aggressor with the expansion of Nato, its threats and sanctions.

Conference resolves:

1To recommit to supporting and building the Stop the War Coalition at every level, with a particular focus on strengthening and expanding local groups. Where there is no local group, Counterfire members should be encouraged and supported to work with a wide range of people in the spirit of a united front to build new groups.

2To promote anti-war arguments and support for the Stop the War Coalition within the trade unions.

3To encourage Counterfire members to join the Palestine Solidarity Campaign as individuals and to work actively within PSC’s seventy local branches, strengthening links with the antiwar movement.

4To develop anti-imperialist and anti-war analysis through our website and publications.

Resolution 4: Workplace struggles and the unions – Steering Committee

Conference notes:

1That the ruling class faces overlapping crises - the continuing Covid crisis, the resultant supply chain crisis, and a surging cost of living crisis - on the back of a decade of austerity.

2That employers are trying to shift the cost of the crises onto workers to get labour costs down and boost profitability.

3That a revival of trade union struggles is indicated in an uptick in workers’ struggle over health and safety, fire and re-hire and attacks on jobs, pay (including sick pay), pensions and outsourcing.

4That workers in a number of sectors have struck and won significant gains.

5That News from the Frontline organised a successful meeting, with a platform of strikers, in November 2021.

Conference believes:

1That Boris Johnson’s crisis-stricken government faces no challenge from a right-ward moving Labour party under Starmer’s leadership, while trade union leaders have failed to generalise growing discontent among workers into sustained collective action.

2That our political approach to trade union work should aim to fuse our workplace activity with wider sections of the working class and the social movements.

3That while it is welcome when union leaders mobilise greater layers of workers, our strategic orientation remains at the base, with the rank and file.

4That it is in the course of struggle that workers begin to discover their own capacity to fight, control things and push beyond the boundaries of trade union limitations.

5That rebuilding traditions of solidarity is an urgent political task. It involves collecting messages of support, organising collections, visiting picket lines and linking those struggles to the social movements.

6That the pandemic has underlined the fact that workers are essential to the running of society. We are against mandatory vaccinations: we are for maximum persuasion for vaccination, not compulsion.

Conference resolves:

1To ensure that members in unions caucus to discuss union matters and, where possible, support initiatives at the base of the unions like the rank-and-file bulletins Tunnel Vision and Solidarity Shouts.

2To ensure that branches make it a priority to join picket lines and submit reports and pictures for News from the Frontline and the Counterfire site.

3To ensure that branches aim to be at the heart of organising solidarity and getting workers to speak at meetings.

4To ensure that News from the Frontline provides a platform for further meetings involving striking workers to help build solidarity and generalise struggles.

5To encourage the most active and class-conscious workers to join Counterfire.

6To organise educationals on British labour history and the relationship between the state, employers, trade union bureaucracy and rank and file.

Resolution 5: Strikes and socialist intervention – John Westmoreland and Sean Ledwith

Conference notes:

1That there is a remarkable upturn in the number of workers taking industrial action, and that strikes are driven by a combination of inflation, years of austerity and insulting pay offers from bosses that boast of record profits.

2That many strikes are taking place in constituencies won by Tories in the 2019 election, where Tory promises to create a high wage economy through ‘levelling-up’ are causing a sense of political outrage.

3That many of the workers taking strike action are new to industrial struggle and are often highly confident and extremely determined to secure economic justice.

4That some picket lines have a carnival atmosphere, with huge levels of local support bringing food, drinks and cheer. These picket lines are often highly diverse and welcome socialists and trade unionists who want to offer solidarity.

Conference believes:

1That this new wave of workers’ struggle is set to be a permanent and radicalising feature of the tenure of this Tory government, whose inability to resolve the long-term problems of British capitalism and visible levels of corruption will prompt many workers on strike to draw radical political conclusions for themselves.

2That the new wave of strikes have the potential to change the context and content of political discourse, by dethroning the myth of social conservatism and offering a real opposition to the Tories based on practical working class demands for social and economic justice.

3That it is essential, wherever possible, for striking workers to make common cause with other workers on strike, in order to share experience, identify common problems and best practise, and thereby develop class consciousness and a new layer of leaders in the movement.

4That although the resolve of some trade union leaders to see the strikes achieve success is welcome and even essential, the goal of socialist intervention is to fashion a rank and file leadership that understands their own role in the battles to come and to arm them with the ideas and confidence the movement needs.

Conference resolves:

1To focus our efforts on relating to workers on strike, and using a range of intervention techniques such as writing reports, interviews, and arranging meetings with other strikers online and face-to-face.

2To use actual working-class activity in all our media to counter the pessimism of those on the left who are unable to break with electioneering and/or identity politics.

3To make Counterfire an indispensable tool in workplace struggles and the battle of ideas to come.

Resolution 6: Marxism, class and oppression – Steering Committee

Conference notes:

1That despite the very real gains made in countering oppression in recent decades, inequalities of sex, race, nationality, gender, sexuality and other forms of oppression continue to exist.

2That the origin of these oppressions varies, but they are deeply structured into capitalist society and are constantly reproduced by the capitalist system, which needs them to exist

3That legislative and constitutional changes and reforms have played an important part in highlighting and creating awareness of various forms of oppression but have been unable to fundamentally change them.

4That divisions of, for example, sex, race or gender are a major feature of working-class life and often play a part in weakening opposition to the system.

5That these divisions mean that there is no natural unity of the oppressed, which has to be fought for ideologically and in practice. This is the case in the debate over women’s rights and trans rights and differences can only be resolved by recognising them and trying to resolve them in a way which does not discriminate against either group.

Conference believes:

1That oppression is a product of class society, is used by successive ruling classes to maintain their rule, and can only be finally overcome with the ending of class society.

2That socialists should welcome and campaign for reforms that further the fight against oppression, while at the same time recognising that class relations of exploitation prevent full liberation from sexism, racism and other oppressions.

3That while there is an ideology of equality accepted widely within the institutions of neoliberal society, the drive for profit and the nature of exploitation means that real equality for the majority cannot be achieved. So, women’s pay remains unequal, institutional racism is rife, despite advances for a small minority of those from oppressed groups as politicians, CEOs, media figures and so on.

4That the fight against oppression cannot therefore be separated from that against exploitation.

Conference resolves:

1To campaign against inequality in all its forms, and to take up issues of racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination in our workplaces, colleges and communities. We reaffirm our position of combatting the oppression of both women and trans people, from a Marxist perspective, rejecting the ideological frameworks of both postmodern gender theory and radical feminism.

2To recognise in particular that the pandemic has highlighted existing inequalities – in particular the role of women in social reproduction - and to prioritise this aspect in our work and publications.

3To stress the importance of a class analysis of oppression in our political interventions.

Resolution 7: The Labour Party – Steering Committee

Conference notes:

1That the Labour Party was formed to express the working class’s desire for change within the limits of the existing political and economic system. As such it expresses a deeper contradiction inherent in the wage labour relationship, one of coexistence and conflict with capitalism.

2That Starmer’s leadership of the Labour Party has been characterised by its assault on the left in an attempt to prevent any repeat of Corbynism.

3That Jeremy Corbyn has been suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party for over a year, with no suggestion of his readmittance.

4That there is a concerted effort by sections of the establishment to rehabilitate Blairism, with Blair being awarded a knighthood.

5That there are currently no serious moves to found a new workers party.

6That the Covid crisis has seen workers in various industries realising their potential power and organising more combatively, especially around (but not limited to) issues of health and safety, than has been the case for decades.

7That some sections of the left and trade union movement have responded to the above developments by stressing the importance of workplace organising, but also by dismissing as irrelevant developments in the Labour Party.

Conference believes:

1That advances for the left are likely going to come from the social movements and the workplaces, not inside the Labour Party.

2That it is a mistake to downplay developments in the Labour Party because, as the Labour right and Starmer realise, they have an effect both inside and outside the party.

3That Blairism and recycled Blairism are not gaining popular traction.

Conference resolves:

1To relentlessly expose the failure of the Starmer leadership to provide effective opposition to the Tory government.

2To patiently explain that the road to left advance in the Labour Party is closed for the foreseeable future.

3To continue to work with socialists in the Labour Party both in formal united fronts and informally in the expectation that we can provide alternative practical and ideological leadership to that available in the Labour Party.

4To increase our orientation on rank-and-file activity in the unions as a crucial part of this perspective.

Resolution 8: Building and supporting The People’s Assembly – Karen Buckley and Ramona McCartney

Conference notes:

1That twelve years of austerity and Tory rule has led to a huge transfer of wealth from ordinary people to the wealthy. This has been disastrous for ordinary people.

2That this has led to huge funding cuts to public services, including health, education and housing, as well as increased privatisation and outsourcing. This has put essential public services under enormous pressure and strain.

3That affordable housing is now a major problem for many, our NHS is in crisis, and jobs are increasing precarious with poor pay, terms and conditions.

4That this year sees a looming cost of living crisis with soaring energy costs. This will cause severe and devastating hardship for many.

5There has been a significant uptick in strikes and trade-union disputes in several sectors of the economy, highlighting workers’ anger about attacks on pay, conditions and living standards, plus a willingness to resist among some groups of workers.

Conference believes:

1That a coordinated fightback from The People’s Assembly is essential. This will involve united front work with progressive left campaigns, trade unions and prominent left figures and activists.

2That this year will foreground the cost-of-living crisis and build upon the successful work the People’s Assembly achieved last year. The ‘United Against The Tories’ campaign brought together a large numbers of campaigns, unions and prominent left-wing figures to resist the Tory agenda. This included groups that were not previously involved, such as BLM, XR and Palestine campaigns, therefore linking campaigns against social, ecological and international injustices.

3Connecting The People’s Assembly with the workplaces, and reflecting the increase in trade union resistance in its campaigning and events, must be a central priority for The People’s Assembly.

Conference resolves:

1To support, as much as possible, the work and campaigns of The People’s Assembly.

2To support and build local People’s Assembly groups. Strong local People’s Assembly groups can link up and build local networks of support and solidarity with progressive left unions, trades councils, disputes, and campaigns. Besides building collective local resistance, local groups feed into and build national People’s Assembly campaigns and actions.

3To focus sharply on linking The People’s Assembly, nationally and locally, with organised resistance in the workplaces, arguing for striking workers to be featured on platforms, and a serious orientation on getting unions involved in People’s Assembly initiatives.

Resolution 9: Counterfire, the People’s Assembly in Scotland and breaking up Britain - Jonathon Shafi and Vladimir Unkovski-Korica

Conference notes:

1That the national question remains dominant in Scotland.

2That the SNP won in the May 2021 Holyrood election a historic fourth consecutive term in office.

3That an SNP-Green ‘co-operation deal’ was established in August-September 2021.

4That an independence referendum has been promised in 2023 but that no campaign is under way.

5That this is increasingly seen as an electoral tactic, rather than a real commitment to holding a referendum.

6That the SNP lack a worked-out prospectus for independence, with no answers to structural questions around currency, borders, re-joining the European Union and so on.

7That the SNP domestic record is very poor from health to education.

8That there are record waiting times in the NHS, cuts to rail services, an expected 50% hike in energy prices and a hike in NICs.

9That Scots face a very difficult economic situation, and there is no industrial strategy of any note.

Conference believes:

1That there is no immediate prospect of an independence referendum as the SNP have no real plan for independence or means to get one through a Section 30 order.

2That there is a vacuum on the left in Scotland and Scottish politics is paralysed.

3That the vacuum on the left and the general political stasis will not be filled solely by a ‘left independence’ push.

4That there is a need for significant campaigning on issues such as the cost-of-living crisis which can raise class combativeness and open the way for new left initiatives.

5That mobilisation around class struggle demands are required to rebuild the forces necessary for a radical rupture with the British state and to challenge the SNP.

Conference resolves:

1To orientate Counterfire in Scotland to helping build the People’s Assembly in Scotland.

2To argue for a focus in the People’s Assembly on emerging industrial disputes.

3To also help build a left case for independence and support initiatives that build pressure on the SNP-Green coalition to hold a referendum.

4To write political analyses, industrial reports and local news from Scotland for the Counterfire website.

Resolution 10: Civil liberties and the right to protest – Steering Committee

Conference notes:

1That the ‘Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill’ is now at report stage with the House of Lords and is approaching its final stages before becoming law. The bill contains new restrictions on demonstrations, criminalises protesters, allows for increased surveillance and stop-and-search powers, and contains provisions that will criminalise the way of life of Gypsy and Traveller communities.

2That the bill has inspired wide opposition, with protests, including demonstrations of Travellers at the People’s Assembly protests in Manchester and others, mass petitions, and legal experts warning the bill “clearly violate(s) international human rights standards, and constitute a savage attack on the right to peaceful assembly”.

3That the High Court’s verdict to accept the US’s appeal against the decision not to extradite Assange is a major attack on free-speech and our ability to hold power to account through the media and elsewhere.

4That the Home Office’s recently published consultation paper (May 2021) proposes to revise the Official Secrets Act, curtailing investigative journalism and threatening whistleblowers.

5That the ongoing ‘Spycops’ inquiry has not only revealed long term misconduct by police, including undercover officers engaging in sexual relationships with members of their target groups, but also proves the commitment to infiltration and disruption of left-wing groups is common practice by British law enforcement.

6That in the prominent trial of the ‘Colston 4’, whilst the defendants have been acquitted of all charges there remains political pressure at this time to send the case to the appeals court. In prosecuting this case, the state seeks to intimidate protestors and discredit the Black Lives Matter movement.

7That the dismissal of Professor David Miller, in part due to government pressure, erodes the key principles of academic freedom of speech and independence of universities.

Conference believes:

1That the bill allows for unacceptable restrictions on protesting and increasingly heavy-handed policing of protests, such as we have begun to see where police use new covid laws as justification such as at the Sarah Everard vigil.

2That these trends are a serious threat to our ability to change the world for the better. If these laws were already in place, many of the successes won by our class, such as the fight for women’s suffrage and the eight-hour-day would have been much more difficult to achieve.

3That revolutionary socialists believe that change is won through exerting pressure on the institutions that govern us from outside, by building mass protest movements and speaking truth to power. If these draconian measures are not reversed, our ability to do so is attacked and criminalised.

Conference resolves:

1To increase our efforts to defend basic democratic rights such as free speech, a free press, the right to protest and the right to free assembly.

2To support campaigns highlighting miscarriages of justice both at a national and local level where these basic freedoms are under attack.

3To play a leading role in the essential struggle against the new undemocratic legislation in its work in the People’s Assembly and the Free Assange campaign and continue to support the work of others, by organising and promoting demonstrations and using our wide reach to continue to agitate around these issues.

Resolution 11: Building Counterfire – Steering Committee

Conference notes:

1That Counterfire has grown over the last two years into an organisation with a presence in wider parts of the country. We have a significant readership and influence in the wider movement through our meetings on and offline, our website, our freesheet and our publications.

2That our growth is a result of the fact first that we have played a central role in key united fronts, emphasising the importance of uniting different issues. Secondly, that we have played a role in the growing number of workers’ struggles including producing News from the Frontline. Thirdly, because we have provided clear Marxist analysis, commentary and strategic direction.

Conference believes:

1That in 2022 there will continue to be both a big opening and a clear need for revolutionary socialist organisation. This is for three main reasons: the multiple systemic crises facing the ruling class including centrally the cost-of-living crisis, the continued fallout from the collapse of the Corbyn project and the continued rise in the level of industrial struggle.

2That there is also a significant radicalisation amongst young people.

3That the first precondition for growth is political clarity: the defence and the development of the revolutionary Marxist tradition at the theoretical level and at its application in concrete analysis of the unfolding crisis. The launch of the new website will be an opportunity to develop our analysis and expand our influence.

4That growth will also require continuing to build the wider movement including expanding our solidarity work with the growing numbers of strikes. We need to be in regular contact with the most advanced sections of the working class who are beginning to move into action.

Conference resolves:

1To build and strengthen Counterfire branch organisation in as many localities as possible. Our branches need to meet regularly and to be centres of activity and solidarity and political analysis and discussion.

2To help in the work of trying to make sure there are local groups of the People’s Assembly and the Stop the War Coalition in every area.

3That every local branch should also be systematically relating to all strikes and industrial action taking place and feeding reports and information back to the website.

4To organise nationally and locally a programme of political meetings that develops our members and supporters theoretically and provides ongoing analysis and strategic leadership.

5To have an orientation on building amongst students in the universities.

6To launch a recruitment drive.

Resolution 12: Funding the organisation – Steering Committee

Conference notes:

1That the organisation runs a highly successful website and is at the centre of the most important united front mass movements in the country.

2That in the wake of the return of face-to-face political activity and the attendant production of the paper, costs have significantly increased for the organisation.

3That while the organisation has grown significantly in the last two years, income has not grown at the same rate.

4That the national office requires staffing at a level commensurate with the organisation’s size.

5That the organisation has a selection of subscription rates to suit all members.

Conference believes:

1That being a member of a revolutionary organisation requires a high level of commitment.

2That an important part of that commitment is a level of financial contribution commensurate with a member’s ability to pay.

3That the continued growth and effectiveness of the organisation are, among other things, dependent on the level of funds it can attract.

Conference resolves:

1To encourage all members to pay more.

2To continue to explore all fundraising avenues, such as crowdfunding and regular campaigns to get members to increase their financial commitment to the organisation.

3To launch a recruitment drive both to boost the organisation’s capacity and to raise income.

4To get branches to contact all members to ensure they are paying subs at an appropriate level, and if possible, increase them.