Over 1,100 people crammed into Friends House in central London for a packed opening rally of the Marxism 2010 festival tonight, Thursday.
With all the chairs filled and people sat on the floor filling the aisles, a rapt audience heard powerful speakers from around the world.
The first speaker was Sarah Colborne from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. She had been on the Freedom Flotilla that was attacked by Israel.
Sarah said, 'It became a historic moment after Israel killed nine aid activists. On the flotilla we saw the best and the worst of humanity. The best from the aid activists. The worst when Israeli commandos used live ammunition.'
She emphasised the importance of protest and the boycott disinvestment and sanctions campaign against Israel.
Riaz Ahmed from the International Socialists of Pakistan spoke about the effects of the 'war on terror' on Pakistan. He explained that the ''war on terror' has linked up to a war on the poor.'
He pointed to how mass movements were causing splits in the ruling class. Riaz said, 'The imperialists have combined their forces – we need a combined international revolutionary response.'
Marxism 2010 takes place in the international context of determined efforts by the bosses to make workers pay for the crisis.
From France Christine Poupin from the anti capitalist party the NPA spoke of the fight against attacks on pensions there. She said, 'They want to destroy pensions, but there is money avaiable. The challenge is to redistribute wealth. We need to have a united opposition that mobilises together for a real general strike.'
A member of the British Airways cabin crew received a standing ovation. They said, 'Cabin crew were proud to have stood on a picket line with their colleagues. We have a strong and powerful union and we don't apologise for that.
'There is only a race to the bottom for workers. The company imposed its plans – it wants to smash the union. What happens to us will happen to you. The workers united will never be defeated.'
John Kelly, whose brother was murdered by British soldiers on Bloody Sunday in 1972, received a standing ovation. 'I witnessed Bloody Sunday,' he said.
'I remember the whole thing. But the soldiers couldn't remember a thing. My brother was shot and I was with him when he was declared dead.
'Thirty-eight years of campaigning meant that we brought the Paras to book for murder.'
Judith Orr, editor of Socialist Review, closed the rally. She talked about the scale of the attack from the Tory government. 'The lie is that we are all in it together,' she said.
'The government spends all its time trying to divide us. We need a politics of hope – and that's what working class resistance can provide.'
Over the next four days the festival will host more than 200 political discussions alongside a range of cultural events. Thousands of people from around the world will attend.
If you would like to attend go to www.marxismfestival.org.uk