Going beyond the binary: Marxism, gender and trans politics
Around 2,500 people took part in Marxism Festival 2017 in central London from Thursday to Sunday last week.
It was a chance for socialists to make sense of the seismic political shifts of the past year.
Jeremy Corbyn’s stunning general election result, the Grenfell Tower fire, the Tories’ crisis, and the danger of Donald Trump and the right all shaped the festival.
But meetings also ranged from climate change to science fiction, philosophy, African politics and mental health.
The arguments about where next for the left after the election took place in a series of packed meetings.
One speaker said, “If we’re part of the working class movement and the struggle for socialism we have the right to be involved in the debate about the way forward.”
Labour Party members at the conference also took part in the debates. Others had left Labour. Aiden, a student, told Socialist Worker, “I joined Labour and thought that it was the way forward.
“But I left Labour because the coup against Corbyn showed the limits of the party.”
Mark L Thomas from the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) central committee spoke at a meeting on Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party and the fight for socialism.
He said the general election had “struck a blow at the whole neoliberal settlement”, but warned that the Labour right were already manoeuvring.
A series of meetings focused on how to translate the political mood around Corbyn’s manifesto into the trade unions.
Discussions ranged from building national fights against the public sector pay cap to the struggle for a £10 an hour minimum wage.
The Grenfell Tower fire has dramatically transformed the political terrain. Survivor Joe Delaney spoke at the opening rally.
In meeting after meeting people debated how to get justice. Barrister Michael Mansfield QC, who’s been part of numerous justice campaigns, said, “The way forward is to stand as a collective.”
People from justice campaigns came to Marxism and talked about their struggles.
Author and one of the Bradford 12 Tariq Mehmood argued that “you can’t do anything without a whole set of principled people organising”.
The family of Edson Da Costa, who died after being arrested in east London, spoke at both the opening and closing rallies.
Sheila Coleman from the Hillsborough Justice Campaign also spoke at the festival.
At a meeting on Islamophobia and sexism one student from London said that racist attacks had made her family afraid of attending night-time prayers.
But the student vowed, “They are not going to stop us going about our lives and they are not going to stop us practising our religion.”
Meetings about the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution and its legacy were prominent throughout the festival.
Naima Omar, a student in the SWP, said the revolutionary socialist tradition showed how to uproot Islamophobia.
“The Russian Revolution involved Muslims and Muslim women,” she said.
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