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