Yesterday I participated in two conferences, the "No One is Illegal/No Borders" conference on asylum and the Socialist Youth Network's annual conference. What struck me was the atmosphere of both conferences. The people who turned up to both were obviously committed activists but neither conference was the usual rally-type event. Instead of rhetoric both conferences were really open and hard nosed in their honest assessments of the current political situation and both concentrated on serious discussions of the potential strategies available to the Labour, trade union and progressive movement.
These conferences demonstrated the virtual irrelevance of the current debates being waged in the pages of the Guardian between the likes of Charles Clarke, Hazell Blears, Polly Toynbee and what's left of the Compass initiative in the form of Neal Lawson and Jon Trickett.
The young people that turned out for the SYN conference demonstrated an astute appreciation of the total disconnect between New Labour and the real world facing the current generation. They displayed a practical idealism which is lost on the remnants of New Labour. The politics they want to pursue aren't the boring and nauseatingly obvious public relations exercises rolled out by the Brown machine or the self serving academicised sophistry of Compass. It came across very clearly that the politics of today and tomorrow for these young people are based upon mobilising for direct action, linking up with a wide variety of social movements, maximising creativity in protest but also engendering undstanding by discussion, study and theory. The word praxis, the combination of theory and practice, was revisited and revitalised in our discussion at the SYN conference.
Literally a hundred yards away at the "No Borders/No One is Illegal" conference the representatives of one of those social movements were coming to the same conclusions. Discussions were focussing on the best methods for linking trade unions with asylum campaigns and bringing trade unions together in support of a high profile nationwide campaign to expose the brutality of the Government's asylum policies.
No matter how depressing traditional politics may be at present there is clear evidence of new stirrings of a new, committed, idealistic, action based but also thought based mobilisation taking shape.