By Sophie Squire
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Marxism Festival 2022—‘We need to fight back’

2,500 people joined Marxism Festival to debate what next for the left in a time of crisis
Issue 2812
Marxism festival opening rally crowd

Hundreds attended the opening rally of the festival. (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Around 2,500 people gathered in east London last weekend for three days of socialist ­meetings, debates and events at the Marxism 2022 festivalMany were enthused by the signs of revival in workers’ action in Britain, particularly the rail strikes. But they also came to analyse and organise a response to racism, sexism, attacks on LGBT+ people, climate crisis and many other issues. And throughout people discussed the need for revolutionary socialist transformation.

Edgar is a rail striker based at London Bridge station in south London. He told Socialist Worker, “With the cost of living people have had enough. It’s right for them to flex their rights and go out on strike.” He called on people at the ­festival to “join a union”. “Attacks are coming strong and we need to fight back,” he added.

Chris, who attended the festival, told Socialist Worker, “The rail strike has put a spring in people’s step at Marxism. We’ve had our wages frozen and dropped in real terms, but the money is still there.” They said events like this are essential as class war is underway with, “Boris removing the bankers’ bonuses cap.”

Musrat works for a local ­government and is a member of the Unite Union. She joined the Socialist Workers Party at Marxism.  She told Socialist Worker that Marxism was the place to discuss what to do about rising racism and fascism. 

“As a Muslim woman, I’m ­finding it very concerning about what is happening in places like France,” she said. “Of course this same hate is being repeated here. Boris Johnson spreads the same vile hate about Muslims. I remember the 1970s. We can’t go back there. When you call out Islamophobia, you still can often feel uncomfortable. Festivals like this are important. They make us feel like our voices are heard and make us believe that people are powerful.” 

Krystal said, “The meeting on Islamophobia was great. There was a debate with one particular person in the room who was playing into right wing ideas. But the way that people could come back to him was really impressive. 

“They were able to make really important links between Islamophobia and sexism and break apart some of the racist myths about Muslims. Many people from around the world also shared how Islamophobia is on the rise in their countries. It was a great meeting to be in,” she added.  

Isaac, a tourist, saw posters about Marxism and decided to attend the festival. He told Socialist Worker that he would like to see similar events in the US, where he lives. “I’ve been to things similar to Marxism in the US, but not entirely on the scale as this. 

“What’s clear to me is that the US left is very fragmented. When something happens, like Roe v Wade being dismantled, there’s not always a unified response. “I’ve got from Marxism that we need to build socialist organisation in the US.” 

Those who attended the festival said they found it helpful to talk with others from across the globe. First time attendee, Archie from Essex said the festival “has been great”. He enjoyed opening debates and hearing talks from international speakers. It’s given a real sense of ­international community with people here from across the world. We all are living in such shit times but events like this lift morale.”

Archie added, “It’s interesting to hear different views on Black ­liberation, trans rights and women’s liberation. It’s important to debate ideas on the left, Marxism Festival has been very open to this.” The battle against racism in all its forms was a major theme at the conference. Many of those who attended said they considered the festival an important place to go to discuss the future of the anti-racist struggle. 

‘Workers have the power’—festival debates the way forward for the left

Marxism Festival 2022 was joined by those from many different campaigns, with lots of climate activists attending.  Annie and Giovanna are members of Just Stop Oil and Insulate Britain who attended Marxism. 

They told Socialist Worker they’d come to the festival to hear discussions about socialism and create stronger links between socialists and the climate movement.  “We knew there would be like-minded people here at Marxism,” they said. “We’re here to say that if the climate crisis continues, there won’t be any more Marxism Festivals.”

Giovanna added, “There are two reasons why I’m here. The first is that I’ve been seriously impressed by the Socialist Workers Party and the second is that I think it is the best place to deepen your commitment to ordinary people.” 

Lina is originally from Peru. She told Socialist Worker that the kind of discussion she heard at Marxism needed to happen across Latin America. “I attended the ‘Why Cuba isn’t socialist’ meeting, and it really was great to hear a debate about what socialism is and isn’t. This is a debate you hear a lot in Peru and across Latin America. What came through for me in the meeting was that workers and workers alone have the power to make socialism.” 

Those who attended the festival were clear that more action by workers was needed to hit back against the rising cost of living. Charlie is a Unite member who attended the Marxism Festival for the first time. He told Socialist Worker, “I think workers play a key role in the big events. The festival has allowed me to share that opinion with others who agree and give me advice.” Charlie said being among other young workers and activists has been an “uplifting experience”.

SWP joint national secretary Amy Leather told the event’s closing rally, “We need to fight for strike votes in our own unions and fight to build worker solidarity, so no group of workers is left behind.” She added, “Workers have the power to stop work, stop profits being made and bring society to a standstill.  But they also have the power to build a different sort of society, where everyone is valued and can play a role.”

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