Welcome to the first of what will be a series of posts about Marxism 2016, a five-day political festival that happened in London between June 30th and July 4th.
I made my usual allowances for things to go wrong, catching the 10:54 train out of King’s Lynn. This then ran very smoothly, meaning that I had time once at the event to deposit one bag, pick up a final timetable and plan my meetings without hurry.
MEETING 1: CORBYN, THE LABOUR PARTY AND THE STRUGGLE FOR SOCIALISM
This meeting, with Mark L Thomas as speaker was scheduled for the Drama Studio on level one of the Institute of Education building. However, the numbers of people wishing to attend led to a last minute change of venue to the Elvin Hall.
The talk started, as it had to, with some stuff about the attempted coup against a leader voted for by 59.5% of the membership. The 172 PLP members who voted for the motion of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn are vastly out of step with their membership – most are pro-austerity while their membership is anti-austerity.
One of the points made about the progress of this attempted coup was that if it succeeded Labour would have lost all claim to be regarded as democratic party – 172 highly placed individuals would have demonstrated that their opinions counted for more than those of over 250,000 who voted for Corbyn.
Mark L Thomas reckoned that the right-wingers in the PLP had two fears:
- As people who depend on election results they feared that Corbyn could not win an election and…
- As right wingers they feared that Corbyn could win an election (Blair himself had said opnely that he would rather lose an election than win one with Corbyn as leader).
This meeting was an excellent and inspiring start to the event. Of course since then tens of thousands of people have joine the Labour party, many stating that their reason doing so is to support Corbyn.
I will finish this section with a suggestion/ challenge: if the 172 are so confident that they are in the right why don’t they resign their seats, triggering 172 by-elections, in which they stand without the benefit of the Labour rosette against whoever the CLPs choose as the Labour party candidate? Of course the answer to this is the same as the answer to why hasn’t one of these individuals garnered 51 signatures and challenged Corbyn to a leadership battle: they know that in a fair, open fight like that they would get thrashed.
A late addition – it appears from breaking news that the Chilcot report (it is fairly obvious from the timing of the attempted coup against Corbyn that they wanted him out before Chilcot was released) is very damining – here is a snippet from a much longer piece that can be viewed here:
In its damning report the inquiry panel found:
- Judgments about the severity of the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction – WMD – were ‘presented with a certainty that was not justified’;
- There was ‘little time’ to properly prepare three military brigades for deployment in Iraq, the risks were not ‘properly identified or fully exposed’ to ministers, resulting in ‘equipment shortfalls’;
- Despite explicit warnings, the consequences of the invasion were under-estimated;
- Planning and preparations for Iraq after Saddam’s fall were ‘wholly inadequate’;
- Mr Blair’s government failed to achieve its stated objectives.
MEETING 2: WOMEN, SOCIAL REPRODUCTION AND THE FAMILY
This meeting, with main speaker Sally Campbell (editor of Socialist Review magazine, and author of Rosa Luxemburg: A Rebels Guide) and chaired by Ruby Kirsch was also very interesting and lively.
THE OPENING RALLY
Finally in terms of first day meetings came the Opening Rally, at 7PM in the Logan Hall. We heard from a variety of workers who have been involved in struggles in various places (as well as speakers from the UK this panel included an Irish TD and a French railway worker. Perhaps most impressive were Victor and Juan, two cleaners who spoke by way of a translator, and who have been part of an all out strike in the heart of the City. After all these amazing contributions Amy Leather (organiser of the Marxism festival) made the last speech. The whole thing was superbly chaired by Emma Davis, a teacher.
The person who had put me up last year had offered to do so again this year. Unfortunately he could not attend the opening day of the festival, so we had arranged a meeting point at the Rose and Crown on Hoe Street, which I located without undue difficulty.