The economy in crisis: Socialist cheer awaits Scargill

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The Independent Online
ARTHUR SCARGILL'S talk of pit militancy may send a chill through many of his union members, but the NUM president can be assured of a cheer today in Chesterfield if he keeps his appointment to address the remnants of the Socialist Movement.

The Chesterfield conferences, presided over by Tony Benn, the Derbyshire town's MP, began in 1987 as a long- weekend gathering of the British Left. But the event has been cut to a single day as the Left itself has been marginalised in the Labour Party and beyond.

As one submission to today's gathering puts it: 'Many good comrades have become disillusioned and retreated into their jobs and their social lives. Who needs to go to meetings to listen to people who have neither answers nor access to power?'

The speakers are to include Dave Nellist, the former MP for Coventry South East, who was expelled by Labour for supporting Militant, and MPs Jeremy Corbyn and John McAllion.

The conference includes a session on campaigning against the pit closures, and there will also be a demonstration.

In an invitation to the conference, Mr Benn criticised Labour's expulsion of 'many good socialists' and accused the 'official instruments' of the labour and socialist movement of 'giving up the struggle' at a crucial time.

'The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Communist regimes in Europe, the end of the Cold War and the emergence of a 'New World Order' run from Washington have been used to justify the burial of all forms of socialism and of a politically active trade union movement.

'But at the moment when capitalism has apparently achieved its greatest victory, the prospects for working people are far worse than they have been since the slump in the Thirties,' Mr Benn said.

Distrust, not to say hatred, of the Labour leadership has been a continuing theme of the conferences. 'It is respectability rather than rebellion which pre- occupies the timid minds of Her Majesty's Opposition,' states a paper from the secretary and co-chair of the Socialist Movement, the umbrella body spawned by the conferences.

In 1987, more than 2,000 came to Chesterfield for the first Socialist Conference. But, Mr Scargill apart, today's gathering, now called the Conference of the Left, is likely to be a more subdued affair - all the Left that is left, perhaps.