The Marxism 2018 festival, hosted by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), took place last week in a context of deepening political polarisation across the world.
Meetings grappled with how the collapse of mainstream politics has fuelled the rise of the far right—but has also created opportunities for the radical left.
At a meeting on the Windrush scandal and “Britishness”, anti-racist activist Weyman Bennett argued that “a crisis of the extreme centre” has led mainstream politicians to turn on migrants, refugees and Muslims.
Latifa Abouchakra an NEU teachers’ union member, told the opening rally, “With the white working class, they’re told the reason they’re short of money is because the Muslims and the immigrants are here.”
In a meeting on Donald Trump’s trade wars, Alex Callinicos said Trump represented a response that is not wedded to neoliberalism. He warned that the far right have taken the opportunity to grow from Trump’s policies.
A lively debate over the racist US president’s politics sprang up at a panel meeting on the resistance to Trump.
US Marxist John Bellamy Foster argued that Trump was a “neo-fascist”—which he contended was different to “traditional” fascism.
He pointed out that Trump’s support comes from the same social base as does fascists’—the middle classes.
However, people pointed out that neither Trump nor the Republican Party is aligned to a street movement, as is the case with fascist parties. All attending agreed that the need to confront the fascists on the streets was of paramount importance.
Other discussions focused on how the left can use the political crisis to build an alternative.