A snapshot of Marxism 2016 a newbie’s perspective
On Friday July 1, 2016, arrived at UCL, Bedford Way with sleeping bag and a mixture of excitement and apprehension. Themes at Marxism this year included discussion on challenging austerity and the Tories, the Middle East, struggles for freedom from oppression, and battling racism.
It became immediately apparent that lively discussion could be had absolutely anywhere and the welcome and fellowship I received was both heart-warming and overwhelming. Though I wasn’t able to attend as many meetings as I would have liked, here’s a snapshot of my experience.
I felt compelled to stand up and air my grievances at my very first meeting, “Should we be in favour of free speech” by Esme Choonara, as her words resonated deeply with me.
My grievance was that, at my former Constituency Labour Party (CLP) meeting, I was shouted down and not allowed to discuss, never mind vote on a motion to support Jeremy Corbyn as leader and condemning the actions of the 172 Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) members.
A bureaucratic measure was introduced as a road block by the Chair and he decided we could not discuss this matter until September and that the current turmoil with respect to Labour leadership was not a cause to raise an extraordinary meeting!
It was ironic that they would not listen to me as, during the previous debate on post Brexit, the most vociferous objectors to the motion, had spoken of our need, in the Labour Party, to listen to the views of the people that had voted to leave the European Union and engage in rational discussion rather than foist our opinions on them.
Esme reminded me that the right-wing pay lip service to free speech but this is a fallacy when we consider the multi-millionaires who own the “free press”.
Indeed, as I’ve previously mentioned the “good old” BBC does not appear to represent the facts but presents news stories biased in favour of the Tory government.
The internet gives us access to information and allows us to communicate but is not available to all; also, some nations censor the information offered.
We discussed how we need to engage with those whose opinions are abhorrent to us on matters that we do agree with and challenge their more unpleasant views once some form of commonality is achieved,
The next meeting that I attended was by Jane Hardy,” Corbynomics, Keynesiansism and Marxism”. This gave me a valuable insight into the state of the global economy though I cannot pretend that I understand it fully.
I will be reading her article in issue 149 of International Socialism to gain a better grounding.
One thing that I did take from the meeting is that, much as I’m inspired by John McDonnell’s economic proposals, it appears as though they may be over ambitious and do not actually go far enough in the redistribution of wealth. This has made me question whether I’m being schmoozed by Corbynomics and that it isn’t quite what it seems. It has disquieted me and was instrumental in my decision to join the Socialist Workers Party.
The “Trade Unions in the era of Corbynism” meeting was excellent despite Matt Wrack’s absence to attend the BBC’s Any Answers. Dave Ward from Communications Workers Union (CWU) opened the discussion stating that the Trade union movement is playing a leading role in addressing the growth in racism and hate.
He acknowledged that the people are entitled to get angry due to inequalities and conditions in the world of work, standard of livingand the housing crisis. These very real problems are not being tackled by the government and this gave rise to the Brexit protest vote. The CWU is soundly supporting Corbyn because he is the key to realignment of politics, a new deal for our workers, an end to the housing crisis and a better economy.
I loved his phrase that “There’s a virus in the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn is the antidote”!
Ian Hodgson from the Baker’s Union made such an inspiring and impassioned speech that I was too wrapped up in it to take notes but my summing up is that Jeremy Corbyn has shown us all that we don’t NEED austerity and he is the key to oppose it.
Julie Sherry was equally inspiring encouraging us to get out on to the streets and take advantage of the incredibly weak Tory government. The Teacher’s strike (05/07/16) took our focus back to how the Tories have devastated our education system and we all need to support our teachers and fight back.
I found this meeting so inspirational and reflecting back on my involvement in the RemaIN campaign, I recognise that I was duped and used by the LP machinery to promote their agenda rather than truly represent the views of the ordinary person.
Youseff El-Gingihy gave an outstanding talk to promote his book “How to dismantle the NHS in 10 Easy Steps”.
He reminded me that the NHS was created in an era when we had even bigger debts than we currently have and that this soundly squashes the myth that the NHS is not sustainable or affordable. He explained the Private Funded initiative (PFI) in terms of a grossly expensive mortgage illustrating that “The bill for hospitals alone is projected to rise £79 billion. This exceeds the original capital cost (i.e. actual capital value) of £11.4 billion seven-fold”.
As an NHS employee suffering from lack of resources, both in terms of equipment, consumables and staff, I was shocked to discover this and that the money gets siphoned off to private consortia rather than being re-invested into the NHS; In his book he states that PFI ensure facilities maintenance is subcontracted out resulting in over-inflated costs.
I added my opinion that a PFI hospital in which I’d previously worked was not designed effectively and whispers abound that the fire proofing of the building does not meet current safety standards.
He also demonstrated that privatisation of the NHS is being carried out by stealth and, most importantly we can and must fight back against this.
My next meeting was given by Charlie Kimber “After the Leave vote: what is the way forward for the British Left?”.
Though I was actively supporting the Labour RemaIN campaign prior to the referendum, having attended this I regret my decisions and I also wish that Corbyn had led a Lexit vote from his position as leader of the opposition. Charlie detailed the Left’s rationale for Lexit:-
• Opposition to the dreadful Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
• European Union – a non-democratic force across a continent e.g. The EU imposed an enormous loan on Greece thereby diminishing their prospects of emerging from their Great Depression anytime soon.
• “Fortress Europe” – preventing refugees from enteringhttps://www.hrw.org/report/2015/11/16/europes-refugee-crisis/agenda-action
Charlie suggested that the Brexit vote demonstrated a revolt from forgotten, ordinary people who feel shut out from the political system and let down by it.
We have not yet recovered from the damage that Thatcher wrought on the very fabric of society. He conceded that the racist vote consists of a small minority however, it is very unlikely that 17 million voters are all racist. This observation chimes in with my own, very unscientific findings. I work in a part of the country where 75% of the population voted to leave and not one of those I’ve spoken to thus far is xenophobic.
To combat the racist dogma we need to unite our nation post Brexit.
To this end The People’s Assembly and Stand Up to Racism have organised a joint, emergency demo for Saturday July 16.
Charlie also reminded us to join in solidarity with all the class struggles whether or not we belong to that profession. Every single strike strengthens Corbyn’s position. Our trade unions have failed to provide focus – one only has to look across the channel to see the superbly coordinated actions of our French comrades. We need to support all strikes, coordinate them and have more and our trade unions need to support us in this.
Our action list:
1. Teachers’ strike 05/07/2016
2. Peoples’ Assembly & Stand Up to Racism demo 16/07/2016
3. Birmingham Unwelcome Tory Conference demo 02/10/2016
4. Stand up to Racism 08/10/2016
He reminded me that the fight is outside parliament and that Corbyn has already been under pressure to compromise his position – the RemaIN vote being an example; also MPs are voting on Trident on 18/07/16.
The British ruling classes are in disarray and we don’t actually have a government at present so the time to present a united front against austerity and against racism is now!
Naima Omar, Maz Saleem and Nahella Ashraf spoke passionately on “Not traditionally submissive: fighting Islamophobia and sexism”.
Maz’s father was brutally murdered by a racist as he walked home from a Mosque in 2013. I cannot begin to imagine the pain she and her family must be enduring and I applaud her for her tireless campaigning against Islamophobia and racism.
Cameron has reaffirmed sexism and islamophobia by stating that Muslim women are “traditionally submissive” and “fail to integrate” etc and Farage talked about “liberating Muslim women”!
Prevent legislation http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2015/9780111133309/pdfs/ukdsiod_9780111133309_en.pdf was discussed and it is apparent that it encourages us to treat all Muslim students with suspicion. This is unacceptable.
The point was also made that the mainstream media are not challenged for their negative descriptions of Muslim women’s attire. We also recognised that many women are oppressed in the wider community and that the government, such that it is at present, is attempting to divide us.
This has hardened my resolve to attend the Peoples’ Assembly/ Stand up to Racism demo on the 16th July despite the need for me to reorganise work/family commitments and travel arrangements.
John Molineux’s talk on “Reform or Revolution” was an inspiration to me. The message that I took from it is that reformism doesn’t work.
For example, Syriza in Greece were unable to implement their anti-austerity program; the British establishment were horrified by Corbyn’s leadership election victory and have relentlessly attempted to derail him. Rosa Luxemburg and Lenin “necessary not only to conquer political power but also involves smashing the capitalist state” have been proved right! We need to shift the balance of class forces and we have whole institutions to contend with such as M15 and the Army to name but a few.
Revolutionaries have to prove themselves in practice.
We can achieve this by relating to the people, mobilising them to stand firm against oppression. This sounds grandiose but seemingly minor gripes of ordinary people can be addressed initially; then, as their confidence in their ability to change the balance of power increases, more complex and controversial demands can be campaigned for. This is another reason for encouraging all to attend the large demos held across our nation.
The last, and by no means least, meeting I attended was “Palestine: Boycott, divestment and sanctions” (BDS) presented by Salma Karmi-Ayyoub, Jonathan Rosenhead and Tom Hickey.
BDS was created in 2005, represents all sections of Palestinian society, and imposes broad boycotts on Israel.
It stands for equality for Palestinians and ending the occupation. The Palestinian leadership have been ineffective in their negotiations and BDS arose due to this inertia. BDS is a national movement to combat all aspects of Israeli control. We are encouraged to support BDS because it levels the playing field, offers an alternative to the Palestinian government, who remain beholden to Israel and Western governments, and it imposes costs and consequences on Israeli society.
It's thought that Israel opposes this movement because, ultimately, it questions the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state.
The antisemitism row was discussed and it appears to have been manufactured by friends of Israel and enemies of Corbyn. There is definitely a conflation between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism and all evidence of antisemitism appears to have been falsified. Many high profile names have bravely and quite rightly, refused to attend events hosted in or by Israel, including Stephen Hawking. We are all encouraged to get our trade unions involved and to get active ourselves so that the Palestinian voice is finally heard above the propaganda of the Zionist.
My first Marxism festival was an amazing experience in which I learned so much and revised my opinion of post Brexit Britain.
I have also decided to join the Socialist Workers Party and become active in an organisation that I believe can truly change our nation for the better.
This has been a source of contention with some former Labour Party Comrades who have pronounced me a “deserter”, “idiot”, “mentally unstable” and don’t recognise that I’m still supporting Corbyn and fighting against austerity and racism.
We need a united front to do this especially as, in my opinion, the Labour Party is soon to split.
Other reasons for me leaving my beloved party are the fact that I’ve been subject to sexism and bullying from men in positions of relative power in local Labour Party groups and I have found the increasing hate from all sides of the Labour Party damaging to my own mental wellbeing.
Joining the SWP has been a form of release for me where I can be true to myself and still help others.
Thanks to Georgie Harrison
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