MARXISM WILL be a key part of the debate about what kind of left alternative we need to challenge capitalism. Socialist Worker spoke to some of the trade unionists, students, anti-war campaigners and many others who are coming to Marxism.
'We have an active Stop the War group in north Manchester, and most of us who are most active are coming along as a group,' says Louise Allen. Louise teaches asylum seekers in north Manchester and has recently joined the North Manchester Against the War group.
'We want to share with people our experience of organising – successful demos, big meetings, lively stalls which have drawn in a wide range of people. So we want to talk to other activists. We also want to take part in the political discussions. In our group there are people from all sorts of different political backgrounds. We want more political understanding and perspective, and to feed this back into our activity. I'm being politically active for the first time ever. I only got involved after the war had finished. I thought that we just can't let this happen again. I'm particularly interested in the big questions – what a future society will look like, human nature, and what happened in other revolutions, why they went wrong. The other issue close to my heart is asylum, because I work with asylum seekers. I think today most people are on our side. But we need to know what next and how we get there, and to arm ourselves with ideas.'
Julia Clifford is a health worker at Northern General Hospital, Sheffield 'I want to be part of the discussions about the re-evaluation of the traditions of the left. In the years of Thatcher and the Tories I thought the Labour Party seemed like a viable alternative. But now there are a lot of traditional Labour supporters who feel totally disillusioned with the Labour Party because of the war and because of its treatment of asylum seekers. I'm not a member of any group or party, but being involved locally in the Stop the War Coalition has brought me to thinking a lot about these issues and what kind of alternative we need. I work in the health service, and every day I see more and more of the effects of Labour's policies, which means bringing more and more private companies into the NHS. I am angered at foundation hospitals. Some call it privatisation by the back door, but it is really privatisation by the front door. When this is going on it is difficult to remain on the fence, and I want to be part of the debate about the way forward.'
Mike Williams is a bus driver in Bristol 'I'm going to Marxism again this year to get some basic knowledge on Marxist ideas and because it's great to chat with other people about where the movement goes now. I went on the two million strong march against the war in London with people who had never been on a demonstration before. They still want to be doing something now. They are just not sure where to focus their energies. I went to last weekend's protest at the G8 summit in Evian. I'm looking forward to going to meetings at Marxism on where next for the movement. It's exciting poring over the lecture titles.'
Pat Morrin is a leading activist in the successful campaign in Birmingham to stop the sell-off of council housing 'There are plenty of fronts to fight on, and a lot of my time has been taken up with Defend Council Housing. They spent nearly £40 million fighting against us, and we beat them. It shows what a small number of people can do. At Marxism you see thousands of people listening to speakers like Tariq Ali and George Galloway. It's a feast of politics. This year there are quite a few speakers I want to hear, and I'm trying to fit them all in! I have been active in politics for 50 years. Marxism is a real rush of adrenalin. When you come back from the event you are full of bounce.'
'This is a workers' university'
Paul Embury is a firefighter in Islington, north London
'Marxism is like a university for the working class. We're continually told there is no alternative to the disruptive and corrupt capitalist system under which we live. I would recommend events like Marxism to all of those who are seeking an alternative. So many firefighters have been politicised in the recent dispute, and have seen how the government and the system has worked against them. Firefighters are workers crying out for an alternative, and hopefully quite a few will come along.'
Siv Helen Hesjedal is a student at the University of East Anglia
'I just have to be there. I want to be reminded of the different debates, of who I am, and of how to put the arguments to convince others and continue the struggle. We need to demonstrate, but we also need to know where next for the movement. We face big questions about the future – about the kind of world we live in, about George Bush and the US's plans for more war. I've never been to Marxism before. What I am most looking forward to is getting inspiration, energy and hope by meeting other people who feel the same way about the world as I do.'
Bea Belgrave is president of Plymouth and District Trades Council and a housing benefits worker
'Our trades council has supported Marxism for the past six years, and we voted again to send two delegates to this year's event. It isn't contentious to send delegates to Marxism because we don't just talk about issues like conditions of service but also quality of life for working people. I'm one of the delegates. I've been to Marxism twice before. I'm really looking forward to it.'
Naima Bouteldja, a French Algerian, is a freelance journalist in Britain
'I came to the Marxism event for the first time two years ago. It was just, wow, at last something is happening in this country! I have been to the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre and the European Social Forum. Although it is not as broad, Marxism is pretty much like a social forum. There are lots of people from different places. It isn't just an event for British activists. There were good political debates. This year I want to go to anything connected with the movement. It isn't just about the seminars. It is a great chance to meet people and network.'
Debbie Davies is a journalist in Cambridge
'It will be the first time I have been to Marxism, and I'm looking forward to taking on new ideas and concepts. I joined the Socialist Workers Party two months ago. Like many I had been a lifelong Labour voter and had become very disillusioned. The war on Iraq magnified that feeling. I went on demonstrations and got active in the Stop the War Coalition, and that started me thinking about things.
'In Cambridge we have been involved in other issues like Globalise Resistance and sent a coach to the London rally for the Palestinians. Through all these things people are becoming really open to new ideas. It has given me an opportunity to feel involved and to make a difference.'
Hawwa Almaghrabi is at Leyton Sixth Form College, east London
'I Led a walkout at my sixth form against the war. We started with two of us, and in the end we had 500 people marching through Walthamstow, Leyton and Leytonstone. It was fantastic. I want to bring this feeling to Marxism. I'm hoping that I can begin to find answers about the world. I am half Palestinian, and the issue of Palestine is a burning one for me. I want not only to hear different points of view but also to hear about the solutions in the Middle East. I'm also really looking forward to meeting like-minded people who care about the world.'
Matthew Langley is an activist in North Manchester Against the War
'We have built a strong local anti-war group which has involved a lot of young men and women, including many from Muslim backgrounds, who all have a broad range of ideas. We have continued organising after the fall of Baghdad. We feel we must make a turn from anti-war activity to also fighting on more general issues. As well as fighting the war, we have been fighting racism and the BNP.
'Marxism 2003 is going to be a great opportunity for us. It is one of the things we feel we will really learn from.'
For more information, a full timetable and how to book tickets for Marxism go to www.swp.org.uk/marxism
Marxism 2003 runs from 4 – 11 July in central London. A full timetable is available online here or telephone 020 7538 2707 for a free copy.