Marxism the annual event of the SWP has just finished and its back to normality for the thousands of lefties that attended. The event featured meetings, music, film showings and here’s my unbiased account.
The first meeting I attended was Left Hopes in Latin America with Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn as the speaker. Within a short space of time he summarised the past and what he thought was the potential future development of Latin America mainly focussing on Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba. He outlined the positive example of ALBA the trade pact between left leaning Latin American countries in which resources are distributed around the continent for example oil from Venezuela in exchange for Doctors from Cuba. The contributions from the floor were impressive with accounts from Argentina, Columbia, Chile and Venezuela. Corbyn’s over rosy view of Cuba did not detract too much from a good kick off meeting.
Following the Latin American theme was Disaster politics in Haiti – pacifying the people by author Peter Hallward. The meeting was even an eye opener for committed lefties when they heard that only 15% of the aid collected by charities has been distributed in Haiti. What’s more Bill Clinton sits on a committee over half of which is American that has been put in charge of reconstruction. The violence of capitalism is laid bare in a similar tone to Noami Klein’s Shock Doctrine as America and Capitalists seek to exploit the death and suffering of the people of Haiti to create more sweatshops.
The opening rally of the event was a real highlight with activists from Pakistan, France, and the anti war movement in the UK. Two speeches above all were genuinely moving. A BA worker, who has to remain anonymous due to the bullying management, gave a rousing speech which demolished the lies of the press and showed the commitment of the workers in this dispute. While John Kelly whose brother was murdered in bloody Sunday spoke about the successful 38 year struggle to establish the innocence of those who were murdered by the British state. Both received standing ovations.
The debate between Alex Callinicos, Slavoj Zizek and John Holloway on the idea of Communism was one of the most popular meetings taking place in a hall that holds over a thousand people, queuing started 45 minutes before its start. Sadly some Middlesbrough folk didn’t get in. Zizek was his usual self, flicking his hair talking at pace with philosophical jokes and the like. Holloway outlined the most hippy-ish thing you might hear at Marxism with his description of an autonomous garden in Greece being living communism today. Holloway can look at Greece not mention the working class struggle and the six plus general strikes and focus on a garden instead. His idea is that if you create enough autonomous zones away from capital and the state eventually they could combine to form a new world. His speech was the best outlined and the worse politically, as one contributor from Lebanon stated its sounds nice but if you create a autonomous zone in Lebanon a tank will just demolish it and maybe you along with it. Certainly history from the Paris Commune onwards testifies to what Callinicos comments elsewhere on Holloway politics, you can try to avoid the state but the trouble is the state won’t avoid you. In these types of debates Callinicos tends to suffer from having to restate the obvious before moving on to other issues. Russia, Eastern Europe etc were not Communist and the working class does exist and can change society. Callinicos talked about being in South Africa and crying in an Apartheid museum. The system of Apartheid had been around most of his life and now he was in a museum about it. He then states he wants to be able one day to be in a Museum for Capitalism. Zizek rejoins by saying he thought Callinicos was crying about the England Vs Germany result and then saying the problem now is that there is already museums for Communism. Underneath the jokes and anecdotes Zizek restates his analysis of the central contradictions of capitalism, namely: Biobanks, the ecological crisis, intellectual property rights and slums (outsiders). Basically a mixture of what’s fashionable in academia right now.
One of the best meetings was Eamonn McCann’s on the Bloody Sunday inquiry. Eamonn witnessed the killing of innocent civil rights protesters that day and has campaigned ever since for a real investigation into it. He outlined the joy the families felt after hearing the results of the inquiry. However he pointed to the reluctance of the report to implicate the British state in the events of the day. Furthermore a middle ranking officer at the time has been absolved of responsibility even while there is evidence he wrote outright lies for the world press directly after the killings saying all the people killed had weapons. This outcome is no surprise when you consider this middle ranking officer is now in one of the highest positions in the British army.
In the closing rally Martin Smith gave a passionate and funny speech in which he read out the letter from Cameron and Clegg which has been sent to every public sector worker in the country that says the Con Dem coalition values them. The letter asks workers to outline what they want cutting from public services. The answer is probably not going to be their own jobs. Smith suggests some alternatives like scrapping Trident, Troops out of Afghanistan and taxing the rich. The rally ends with the floor chanting “Tory scum, here we come” alluding to the demo called by Right to Work at the Tory party conference on the 3rd of October.
The whole event ends with the cultures of resistance gig with Ska, Reggae and music from Iraqi rapper Lowkey who was the main highlight in my opinion. Socialists dance and chant, never forgetting the battles ahead.