MARXISM 2004 starts in two weeks time. It is the biggest festival of socialist ideas in Europe. Over 200 different meetings, forums and debates will take place on everything from "Iraq: war and resistance" to "Life after capitalism", from "What sort of democracy do we want?" to "Islam, secularism and socialism".
There will also be courses on subjects like "What do we mean by revolution?", "Trotsky" and "An introduction to Marxist philosophy". Activists from Europe, India and the US will be discussing how we continue to build the global movement of resistance to capitalism and war. Ally Ritchie, the president of the student union at Glasgow University, is one of the people heading to Marxism.
She says, "You cannot try to change the world unless you try to understand it. Marxism helps to you do that, both ideologically and practically. The more you learn from the past, the more you are equipped to shape the future. Marxism events are all about interacting with other people. There is no pressure to conform to what the speakers say in meetings. In fact, you are encouraged to disagree and have your say. Marxism is the only place where you can go to meetings on Lenin, on the dialectic and on Marvin Gaye."
Marxism 2004 really connects with radical students, says Colin Smith, a student at Imperial College, London. "About 14 people are coming to Marxism from my college so far. They are mostly people we have been working with in the anti-war movement and Respect. But new people are signing up too. One woman we had never seen before came to a meeting on Che Guevara and she signed up for Marxism there and then. I have also been building Marxism around different colleges in London. We did a stall at Kingsway College last week. Lots of people talked to us and they were very political. Thirty students gave us their e-mail addresses or phone numbers so we could tell them more about registering for Marxism. It was just as good when we went to Croydon College. If you show people the timetable they get really excited."
Narz is a student at the LSE in London. She says, "The important thing is to tap into the networks of people you have been working with, whether it's the Stop the War Coalition, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, or whatever. The women's officer is planning to come to Marxism, and so is the chair of the Islamic Society. It is also important to have Marxism stalls so you can reach out to new people. If they like the timetable, take their number and give them a call the next day."
Dan Bury is an FE student from Blackburn. He says, "I have read books by some of the people speaking at Marxism, like Alex Callinicos, Tariq Ali and Tony Benn, so I am really looking forward to hearing them speak. Marxism gives me the chance to meet the people who fuelled my passion for politics. And I am in a jazz band, so I know jazz musician Gilad Atzmon and I really want to meet up with him. I set up a Socialist Society in my college, and as Marxism is the biggest socialist festival there is, I am hoping to get lots of students down to it. Six have signed up so far. At college we are in the minority. We are always arguing with our modern history teacher about Russia and the Bolshevik Party. Marxism is where you can be in the majority and really learn."
'Last year people came back saying they felt ten feet tall'
ADAM YUSEF is a leading Respect supporter in Birmingham. He told Socialist Worker, "Last year people came back from the event saying they felt ten feet tall. They told me that Marxism would be an important place to discuss launching a new force on the left. And it proved to be true. Within a year we put together the amazing Respect coalition."
Andy from Brighton has also found that lots of people who have been active in Respect are keen to come to Marxism 2004: "We went to see lots of Respect supporters after the results to let them know what really happened. We told them about Marxism and quite a lot signed up in the last week."
Susie from Yorkshire says, "A student at Grimsby College signed up for Marxism. He had a good sociology teacher and really enjoyed learning about Marxism. There are now five students coming to Marxism from his college."
Alan from Sheffield explained how easy it is to build Marxism 2004 in new areas: "We decided to set up a stall in a trendy area of Sheffield where lots of young people go and hang out when it's sunny. We had a list for people to sign if they wanted more information about Marxism. Ten people left their details. We booked up a school student, and she found that four or five of her mates wanted to come as well."
Paul, from central London, says it is important to target big workplaces. "We have had Marxism stalls outside Euston Tower, the Inland Revenue building and the civil servants' offices at Tavistock Square, where they walked out when war started. We have also done a couple of stalls outside the big Mount Pleasant post office."
BOOKING UP for Marxism 2004 or getting hold of a copy of the timetable couldn't be easier. You can book online via the secure booking form. To do this go to the website, www.marxism2004.net, and follow the links.
On the website you can also download posters and brochures for the event. And you can download and listen to MP3 recordings from previous events. You can e-mail the Marxism office, firstname.lastname@example.org You can phone for more information on 020 7538 2707. You can write to the Marxism office: Marxism 2004, PO Box 82, London E3 3LH.