The 4th Occupy UK and Ireland National Conference hosted by Occupy Southend at their camp took place on the 14th and 15th April writes Norman Traub. The conference was attended by 40-50 people. They came from all parts of the country and were noticeably of a younger age group and the gender balance more even than is usually to be found in meetings of left wing movements. It appeared that most participants did not belong to political parties apart from the odd Green Party member, many more had been involved in local struggles before joining the Occupy movement
The conference involved a General Assembly, workshops, skills shares and training sessions dealing with subjects as diverse as media and legal skills, women’s networking and non violent direct action training. Among the issues discussed at one of the sessions I attended were individual and collective action, what the term ‘occupy’ signified and whether it was always necessary to occupy a physical space. There was some demoralisation arising from the eviction of the camp at St Paul’s Cathedral in London and measures to raise the morale of those affected were discussed. The discussions were lively but at times tortuous when trying to come to grip with concepts, which those with a more political background would find easier to tackle. The need for better communication between the different occupy groups and in particular the function of newspapers and networking via Facebook, was discussed. There was also discussion on the role of the Occupy Movement in ongoing and future struggles and the most effective way it could influence the course of these struggles .
The only invited speaker to the conference was Chris Nineham from the Stop The War Coalition(STWC) and he dealt with the danger of an attack on Iran and the demonstration against NATO outside the US Embassy on the 19th May. Members of Southend STWC were among those who took part in the discussion. Their participation in the conference underlines the importance of the forging of close ties between the Occupy Movement and left wing organisations and coalitions throughout the country.