Over 800 people joined the opening rally of Marxism Festival at Queen Mary University, east London, on Thursday night. It marked the beginning of a four-day political festival hosted by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP).
This year’s Marxism comes against a rising tide of revolt against climate catastrophe across the world. In Britain there have been five walkouts by school students and a ten-day long rebellion by Extinction Rebellion (XR) brought central London to a standstill earlier this year.
Cyrus Jarvis from the UK Schools Climate Network, called on workers and students to join a global strike for the climate on 20 September. "We want everyone here to think to themselves what does the future looks like—is it bright or is it bleak? What does the future look like, realistically, taking into account what kind of future is being built now?," he said.
"What would you be willing to do to secure the future?
"I want you to go back to that question of what you’d be willing to do. On 20 September we’re calling for a general strike."
Another major theme of Marxism 2019 will be fighting the rise of racism and the far right.
Huge applause greeted Spanish firefighter Miguel Roldan, who faces up to 20 years in jail for saving refugees from the Mediterranean. He said, “When they talk about migration being a problem of society they have no idea what these people have to go through for a chance at life.”
"These people are looking for survival. Not only do we not help them, on top of it we’re bringing up wars.”
“This is what I ask here—to have open-arm politics and not turn our backs on them.”
"I believe a better world can exist and if we all put our grain of sand in it, it can exist.
Melanie Strickland, one of the Stansted 15 protesters, also faced prison time for standing in solidarity with migrants. She spoke about how the group blocking of a deportation flight had highlighted the brutality of Britain’s racist immigration system.
And she explained that it meant 11 people on the flight were granted permission to remain in Britain. “So many people have the opportunity to rebuild their lives here as a result of that action” she said.
The treatment of refugees is part of a broader racist agenda by our rulers to divide working class people by blaming migrants and Muslims.
Dave Muritu, UCU branch secretary at Sandwell College, was sacked after he wrote "racist" on a poster promoting Prevent.
"The Prevent duty is a terrible ill-conceived strategy that the government uses to victimise Muslim communities in our schools, universities and communities," he said to loud applause.
"We’re not going to take this victimisation—we’re not going to have our victories at the college rolled back."
Nahella Ashraf, a supporter of Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) in the North West of England, spoke about the successful campaign to stop Nazi Tommy Robinson winning a seat in the European Parliament. "I’m really proud to say the we did completely kick him back into the gutter," she said.
But she warned, "We’ve seen the rise of the far right across the world and it shows how much work we have to do."
Nahella added, "This is also a celebration of what working class people can achieve. Where else can you go where you hear about what people have achieved?"
Lyn Marie O’Hara, Glasgow striker and Unison union steward, spoke about their battle to secure equal pay for women council workers. “8,000 workers, predominately women shut the city down," she said.
“The message is, if you want to have a strike, send them 8,000 Glaswegian women and that will do it.”
The opening rally heard from Venus, who spoke about the revolution that is taking place in Sudan. A mass movement toppled dictator Omar al-Bashir in April—and is now pushing for get rid of the whole military regime and win fundamental change in the face of brutal repression.
Venus said their revolution was “fuelled by hope, anger and determination". “I think the revolution is great—the great women of Sudan are in the forefront of the revolution," she said. "The brave women of have always been in the forefront of resistance.”
She added, "We demand peace and justice and I believe justice will win. I salute the revolutionaries in Hong Kong and Algeria—I salute all people fighting day and night for a free world."
Michael Bradley of the SWP spoke about the need for workers to join the climate strike 20 September.
"The school students have been an absolute inspiration," he said. "But if you’re waiting for someone to repeal the trade union laws before you can take action, that’s a joke.
“I’m embarrassed that the biggest issue on the planet has been taken up by 12, 13 14 year olds and the rest sit down and give them a clap and then give them their tea.”