This years Marxism festival, hosted by the Socialist Workers Party, was hailed as a great success.
The conference, held in London over a long weekend in July, brought together thousands of socialists to discuss a range of issues from the Arab Revolutions to the fight against austerity.
This year’s Marxism festival in central London was one of the most important for years and the biggest festival on the left in Britain. Thousands of people came to hear speakers and take part in the debates and discussions on a huge variety of political topics.
From Cairo to Rio
The tone was set by a packed opening rally at Friends Meeting House that heard Sameh Naguib of Egypt’s revolutionary Socialists give a gripping account of struggles against the military and Morsi’s regime. Henrique Sanchez inspired everyone with his first hand account of the mass movement in Brazil. “Britain isn’t so special—the revolution can happen here as well,” he said. They were joined by ex-SWP member Jerry Hicks who recently gained a fantastic 80,000 votes (36% of the vote) in the Unite union general secretary election, and Jo Cauldwell from the SWP Central Committee, who both linked the struggles happening around the world to the resistance to austerity in Britain.
Socialists came from all over the world, including sizeable groups from Denmark and Spain, and from across Africa.
Leading the fight against women’s oppression
Sessions on women’s liberation were popular. This key question was be taken up by Judith Orr, editor of Socialist Worker and author of “Sexism and the System” as she kicked off our special course at Marxism 2013 on the fight against oppression.
Ideas such as “Privilege theory” were also debated, with Jan Nielson leading off a lively discussion on whether men benefit from women’s oppression and how to organise to end it.
Engels and the origins of women’s oppression, and Marxism and Feminism were also discussed at packed lively meetings. The debates were wide ranging, lively but fraternal and included the role of men in the movement and attitudes to rape and sexual violence.
Despite differences, it was agreed that women’s liberation could only be realised in a socialist society, and that women and men needed to unite around what unites us rather than issues that divide the movement.
How Socialists Should Organise
The lessons of the past were essential for socialists today. That was a key message from a range of meetings around organisation. Debate was heated at times, but fraternal, though sadly some wished to get bogged down in minor organisational issues.
However there was widespread agreement that capitalism could not be reformed. Left reformist organisations such as Syriza in Greece were discussed, as was the Labour Party, though sadly no one from the Labour Party accepted invites to be on the platform to defend their record.
It was also agreed that revolutionary organisations needed to be united, with all its members responsible for opposing oppression. Unlike some on the left, the Socialist Workers Party does not need a separate organisation for women or black members. And this years Marxism has dispensed with the separate programme for school students since the SWP must be accessible to all, and all its members integrated into the life of the party.
Wide range of speakers and topics
The weekend saw a wide variety of topics, and speakers from other parts of the socialist movement. These included Tommy Sheridan leading a panel share the stories of resistance to the ConDem’s assault on the welfare state. Peter Hain MP describing the change in South Africa as a consequence of the Marikana massacre. And Gareth Pierce and others led a discussion on police cover ups from Orgreave to Hillsborough. Discussion from the floor included the cover up of child sex abuse highlighted since the revelations about Jimmy Savill and others.
Other meetings of great interest included Paul Holborrow talking about the rise of UKIP, recently plagued by allegations of rape and the party merely holding an internal inquiry and not believing the victim. Ian Bradley spoke about pop up unions and community branches, with many trade unionists present agreeing that we did not need different unions breaking away, but rather rank and file members to build unions that would fight. It was stressed that Unite the Resistance essential to this task.
Hassan Mahamadallie talk about the Stephen Lawrence campaign, including the latest revelations that those opposed to the way the official investigation had been carried out had had their email’s hacked by the police in order to discredit them.
Simon Assaf explained that the social media had its uses but also how it was open to abuse by those who tried to undermine democracy in the socialist movement. And Preston councillor Michael Lavalette led a panel discussion on the future of social work, while speakers in the audience reminded comrades of how social services had in the past covered up child sex abuse within its own institutions . Pat Stack also did a meeting. On Lincoln and the American Civil War….
In the evenings, there was a great variety of entertainment including films and music, as well as space for comrades who liked a drink. Rumours that Somaye and Kryi wouldn’t be able to make it failed to dampen spirits. And Yuri Prasad stepped in for He Who Must Not Be Named (AKA”You Know Who”, “Comrade Delta”,and “Comrade X”) who was busy studying for an Masters degree, with a fantastic talk aided by the latest technology on soul music and the Civil Rights Movement and Malcolm X (no relation)
A Guide to Action
Marxism ended with a closing rally at Friends Meeting House featuring Charlie Kimber, SWP National Secretary and socialists from across the globe, inspiring everybody there to go back to their branches and prepare to build an even bigger and even better Socialist Workers party.
Participants at Marxism spoke to Socialist Worker about their experience of the event. Martin is a lecherer and an member of the UCU union.
“I met Socialist Workers Party members at my union conference who told me about Marxism,” he said. “I definitely want to come more often now.
“The most interesting talk I went to was on Thursday on a the power of the media. It gave a fresh perspective on the topic that you don’t hear anywhere else.”
Joe is a student who was at Marxism for the first time. “It was the best festival I’ve ever been to,” he said.
An mature MA student who did not want to be named ( and not enjoying the sunshine judging by the fact that his face was covered) said that he had lost his voice and was unable to speak, but it was interesting being able to attend so many meetings and just listen.
“I heard about it through the SWP student group at the University of South London. The Egyptian meetings were incredible—hearing from the revolutionaries everything they’d been through.”
- Occupy Marxism 2013 (bloggingjbloggs1917.wordpress.com)
- Marxism 2013 (bloggingjbloggs1917.wordpress.com)
- Voices of resistance open Marxism festival in central London (socialistworker.co.uk)