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Marxism 2007: a festival of ideas and class struggle

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Over 4,000 people attended last weekend’s Marxism festival of resistance in central London, showing the thirst for ideas that question society
Issue 2059
Celebrating and discussing resistance to capitalism at last weekend’s Marxism festival (Pic:
Celebrating and discussing resistance to capitalism at last weekend’s Marxism festival (Pic: » Guy Smallman)

It was a festival with so many highlights and different features.

A Cambridge postal worker addressed over 100 Scots on the need to build solidarity for the forthcoming strike while they munched on their lunchtime picnic.

Over 200 people, overwhelmingly young, crammed into a room for a series of three meetings on the meaning of Marxism.

Several hundred people packed into meetings discussing the working class and globalisation, the ongoing “war against terror” and the prospects for Respect.

Marxism drew over 4,000 people last weekend to confirm itself as the biggest gathering of the radical left in Britain.

At this year’s event there was an even greater thirst for ideas which can change the world, with many meetings having to turn people away.

There was the added edge of class struggle with postal workers, civil service workers, local government and health workers all talking about the growing resistance over pay.

A large number of people, particularly young people and students, attended Marxism for the first time. A number of them spoke to Socialist Worker about their experiences of the event.

Joe Shepherd, a Sheffield Hallam University student, said, “This is the first time that I’ve been to Marxism. I’m studying architecture and it was my interest in that and the environment that got me interested in socialist ideas.

“I wanted to learn about different ideas about socialism. I really liked the meeting with Michael Lowy on ecosocialism because it raised some very important issues. I went to a really good meeting about Africa. It raised some new ideas for me about human history.”

Christine Sullivan, a college student in Belfast, said, “I came to Marxism with friends. I didn’t really know what to expect. It’s brilliant to be able to go to such a range of meetings in one day.

“I’m interested in feminism and the debates about women. I really loved the meeting on the composer Beethoven – it was a very interesting discussion with lots of ideas about music more generally.

“I will definitely go home more aware of a lot of issues.”

Catriona Boyd, a Strathclyde University student, said, “I came with a group of students from Glasgow. I like the structure of the meetings with speakers and discussion.

“I like it that people will get up and ask questions and other people will get up and say what they think.

“The meeting I went to on alienation was really well explained. I wasn’t sure if there would be much of a debate, but there were loads of questions.

“The Love Music Hate Racism forum and gig was amazing.

“The meetings have been inspiring. I think the event will have a big impact on building the movement and taking ideas back to that movement.”

A number of activists from groups around the world attended. Hiro and Soichoro came from Japan. Hiro said, “At Marxism the discussion is fantastic, especially the session on the 90th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

“It was so fresh to see the revolution not just as a historical question, but as related to contemporary problems. It made a big impression on me.”

Soichoro said, “In Japan there are a lot of theories going about that are unconnected to reality.

“In Britain there are lots of young people starting off from resisting war and neoliberalism and asking questions about Antonio Negri, Foucault, the state, war and other things.

“We’d like to have that sort of culture in Japan.”

A large number of workers came to Marxism. John Knowles, a retired Longbridge car worker, said, “I’ve been involved in working class struggle for many years, and I get a sense that there’s a revival going on now – that is the feeling here at Marxism.

“I particularly enjoyed the meeting on the politics of disability, as it is an issue that affects me directly. When I get back to the West Midlands, I want to start to organise among other disabled people so that we can fight for our rights.”

James Grant, the assistant branch secretary of the London Fire Brigade Unison union, said, “This is the first time that I have been to Marxism and I’m very impressed by it.

“I’ve just been to a brilliant meeting on the author Primo Levi. The speaker really knew his stuff and clearly understood all the recent debates about his work – which impressed me.

“I also enjoyed the meeting about Karl Marx’s theory of accumulation of capital, which was very clearly explained and made relevant to the modern world. I want to read more about it.”

Interesting and informed discussion on fight for vote

Jill Liddington, the author of the book Rebel Girls on the fight of working class women in the north of England for the vote, spoke at Marxism 2007.

Jill spoke to Socialist Worker about the discussion in her meeting and the subject.

She said, “I was particularly impressed by the questions and comments. I’ve done a number of meetings around the country on my book and this was the most interesting and informed discussion.

“In the time I am writing about, women had won the right to education, some were getting to train as lawyers and doctors, they were working in the mills and factories – but not a single woman had the vote.

“The Liberal government that imprisoned, and then force fed suffragettes on hunger strike, was the very same government that had condemned Tsarist Russia for similar practices.

“It was only propertied women over 30 who got the vote in 1918.

“The women whose stories are in the book did not get the vote until 1928.

“I don’t believe that any of these women were fighting so that an elite could get the vote. Instead they were fighting for a principle, for their right to vote and to be heard.”

For more see » Marxism 2007 festival opens with international rally and » Photos of Marxism 2007 opening rally

Poetic Pilgrimage at Saturday’s Love Music Hate Racism gig (Pic:
Poetic Pilgrimage at Saturday’s Love Music Hate Racism gig (Pic: » Guy Smallman)


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