Elizabeth Cox, Cardiff
I first became aware of Socialist Alternative back in 2019. My interest in politics had by that point grown into a quiet passion, fuelled during the years leading up to the General Election by my time spent as a student nurse in the centre of London. Those three years found me regularly struggling to get by, often resorting to working five-day weeks of twelve-hour shifts (not including the commute) just to feed myself.
Yet I still consider myself lucky compared to some of the individuals I got to meet as a nursing student, and still meet now that I am qualified. The experience opened my eyes to many of the inequalities around me – how as a community nurse I could go from checking in on a retired businessman in his penthouse, to comforting an elderly woman suffering from a chronic condition fighting to stay on benefits, within a five-minute car ride – or how poor mental health has become rampant in our society but still continues to be underfunded and discriminated against – or the regular abuse myself and my colleagues would be expected to endure on the frontlines of the NHS, whether it was racial or sexual or otherwise – or how consistent cuts and privatisation of the NHS has led to dangerous staffing levels, overcrowded A&E’s, and inexcusably poor impacts on patient safety and care.
The movement around Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in 2019 filled me with hope that the world didn’t have to be this way and, after the disappointing conclusion of the election, I was keen to channel that hope into something productive. Searching online led me to the Socialist Alternative, which in turn led to discussions with my local members. Now I am proud to be a part of a welcoming movement of individuals from a wide range of backgrounds, all sharing a common compassion for the people around them, and who actively seek to discuss and debate ways to encourage and implement positive reform into the communities we live in. I look forward to supporting the organisation and its goals through these difficult times, and hope I can one day look back and be satisfied that I actively helped contribute to the growth of a more equal and ultimately peaceful society.
Tim Cowley, Huddersfield
For years I had been an ‘armchair activist’. I'd profess my support for socialism and left-wing policies, but that was as far as I would go. The run-up to, and eventual defeat of Labour in the 2019 general election was a huge factor in why I joined Socialist Alternative, as it radically changed my view of our political system. It was the first election that I had been able to vote in, and I was full of hope, honestly believing that we had a chance to vote for someone who would implement radical change. Instead it showed me that socialism can never be accepted by our ruling class. It also demonstrated the shocking behavior of the Labour right, who worked tirelessly to ensure that they lost the election, and eventually replaced Jeremy Corbyn with Keir Starmer, thus returning to their tried and tested policy of standing by while the Conservatives drift further and further right, no longer even attempting to hide the racism and Islamophobia that guides their policies.
While I joined the organisation after lockdown had begun I have seen and heard about the actual work that is undertaken to build class consciousness and stand up for those who are denied a voice in our current system. Be this through organising protests or climate marches, or even just setting up a stall outside the university to introduce socialist ideas to students who may never have considered left-wing politics seriously before. Socialist Alternative is an organisation that actually fights to make the world a better place, beyond just voting for Labour every 5 years.
Admittedly my grasp of socialist theory remains relatively unsophisticated, but I can still recognise that the bigotry and inequality that are so pervasive in our society are strengthened and maintained by the capitalist system we live in, and only through the work of Socialist Alternative and revolutionary organisations like it can our society begin to genuinely move past these evils and begin to work for the many, not the few.
Daniel Coulston, Brighton
I joined Socialist Alternative after a year or two of my political views shifting leftwards. Before, I’d been quite the centrist and believed that whilst it was flawed, the capitalist system could be reformed. Events like Brexit and Donald Trump’s election galvanised me because the liberal opposition that was supposed to ‘#resist’ was so blatantly hypocritical and ineffectual. However, it was the media attacks on Jeremy Corbyn that made me understand the structural rot of the capitalist system. Years of austerity, of endless war and the one politician speaking out against it was being demonised as Stalin’s ghost. It was blatant hypocrisy, which led me to better understand that the system cannot be reformed.
But being online all day complaining about it was not going to fundamentally change anything. As soon as I was able, I joined up with a local student group and it was there that two comrades from Socialist Alternative invited me to come along to speak to some members. I went along to my first paper sale and it was immediately a cathartic experience. Rather than being an ‘armchair revolutionary’ I was out in the streets having conversations with working class people about the power they hold to fight to change society.
From there I was involved in university strikes and climate protests, helping to foster solidarity and experiencing first-hand the power of united movements. Weekly branch meetings have helped shape and further my understanding of leftist theory, and the conversations make it much easier to transport these abstract ideas into contemporary events. A year ago, it felt like I was alone - that no matter how angry I got about the world, I was just one person against the entire system. Now I am part of a worldwide movement and everyday I become more aware of the potential we have in making the world a fairer place for all.