THOUSANDS OF anti-capitalists, socialists and trade unionists from Britain and across the world gathered in central London last week for Marxism 2002. Marxism is an annual event hosted by the Socialist Workers Party. It includes a wide variety of meetings and speakers discussing the alternative to capitalism and the kind of movement we need.
Marxism 2002 reflected the growth of an international anti-capitalist movement. 'Marxism 2002 is really democratic,' says Bassem Chit, an anti-capitalist activist from Lebanon.
Bassem helped organise an anti-capitalist conference in Beirut last November. 'Everything is discussed. Everyone is on the same level. No one is above you. 'I want to take all these ideas about a new left back to Lebanon and the Middle East. We want to operate in the universities and on the streets.' There were many serious discussions on the re-emergence of the revolutionary left across Europe.
Diane Adams is a socialist from Paris. She said, 'In France we are having a big debate about how the left should organise and how to involve people. 'Just because the Socialist Party in France was defeated heavily at the last election, it doesn't mean that reformist ideas are dead. So it is important to clarify what you think.' Torun Berg Marong, a young woman from Norway, had been involved in anti-capitalist mobilisations and came to Marxism for the first time.
She said, 'Marxism is a very good event. The meetings have been really interesting, and it is great fun meeting so many different people. I met a member of ATTAC from Barcelona who had come over just to come to Marxism. Marxism gives a sense of what people can do, and no other party offers that.' Many meetings combine explanations and people's direct experiences.
'I went to the meeting on 'How can Palestine be free?' and there were survivors of the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps speaking,' said Callum, a school student from Glasgow. 'It was really good to hear their first hand experiences as well as the theories. I would say to anyone who thinks there is something wrong with society, you should come to Marxism.'
An asylum seeker from Nottingham said, 'It is my first time at Marxism. 'I found it very interesting and informative, even though my English isn't 100 percent. I liked the meeting on 'The bloody history of British imperialism'. We must get rid of the imperialism which is just as bad now as then. I enjoyed the discussions about Islam because I was born a Muslim, although I am not practising any more.'
Stuart Clarke is a factory worker from Fife in Scotland. He also came to Marxism for the first time. 'Marxism has been great,' Stuart told Socialist Worker. 'The talks have been very good and interesting, especially when they connect local issues and international issues. I wanted to educate myself, and I have been meeting people I just wouldn't meet in my ordinary life. Obviously the war and imperialism are really important, but I would have liked a few more meetings on British working class history. I am definitely coming back next year.'
'This is my eleventh time at Marxism,' said Bartley Willcocks, treasurer of the Manchester TUC pensioners' group. 'What always strikes me is not just the depth but the breadth of the meetings and the range of subjects. On Monday, for example, I went to meetings on Le Pen and fascism, Africa, and Byron, which was funny as well as informative. There is a lot of laughter at Marxism. I also went to a meeting on Frank Sinatra. Where else could you get this range?'
'I have been coming for ten or 15 years,' said Colin, an electrician from Swansea. 'I met a young man from the US yesterday who told me being at Marxism was literally a life-changing experience. It's not so much what I get out of Marxism-it's seeing all the people who have come for the first time, what they get out of it and how I can help them. That's what rekindles me.'
There was a spirit of activism as well as ideas at Marxism. Maggie is a student at York University. She said, 'I went to the meeting on what really happened in Genoa because I didn't make it there myself. The meeting was so inspiring. I am definitely going on the next big demonstration. When I went back last year I kind of pissed my friends off by arguing with them about everything! I felt I knew so much more from being at Marxism.'
The week ended with an activists' convention where hundreds of people gathered to discuss building the European Social Forum, the fight against racism, building the Socialist Alliance, and other campaigns.
If you have any suggestions for next year's Marxism event please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org