The Marxism 2013 festival opened with a rally of more than 900 people today, Thursday. The Logan Hall in central London was full to capacity. The festival will continue with hundreds of meetings and debates until Monday.
Marion Nisbet from the All-Scotland Anti Bedroom Tax Federation spoke first. She said campaigners have forced South Lanarkshire council to withdraw eviction notices.
She said it is vital to reach isolated people on the estates and that becoming an activist has changed her life. "I have been that woman sitting alone," she said. "But I am not that woman any more."
Mireia Gargallo from the CGT in Barcelona told of the terrible impact of the Spanish government's austerity cuts, leaving six million unemployed. She told the audience, "The only solution is not to pay the debt that is not ours."
Jerry Hicks, who recently got 36 percent of the vote standing against the leader of the Unite union, Len McCluskey, also spoke. He said he couldn't believe that the union had fallen out with Labour over candidate selection and declared to applause, "Not the bedroom tax! Not benefits cuts!"
Jo Cardwell a leading member of the Socialist Workers Party said it was outrageous that the Tories attack Labour over union funding when just 15 wealthy families supply a third of their funding.
The chair apologised that Sameh Naguib from the Egyptian Revolutionary Socialists was ill and could not speak. He will be doing a number of meetings at the rest of the event.
Henrique Sanchez who had just flown in from Brazil ended the rally. He said that if you'd told him two months ago that Brazil would erupt in protests he would not have believed it.
He celebrated how the unions and the left have revived, and said they have learned from and adapted to the new movement.
People stood and cheered.
Eight meetings took place before the opening rally.
Peter Hain, Labour MP and former anti-apartheid activist, spoke on South Africa and the Marikana massacre. People debated whether there was any alternative for the ANC other than embracing capitalism.
It was standing room only in a talk on if gender is hardwired into the brain. A meeting on fascism included a lively discussion on whether fighting it requires working with the Labour Party.