Around 2,700 people gathered at the Marxism 2016 festival last weekend. Hundreds heard former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg address the opening rally on Thursday of last week.
Newly elected People Before Profit MP Brid Smith from Ireland also spoke alongside French train driver Axel Persson and others. Sheila Coleman from the Hillsborough Justice Campaign spoke about the struggle to expose state injustice.
She said, “The police got away with their behaviour because it was sanctioned by the state.”
The event, hosted by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), took place at a time of intense political crisis.
Discussions about the meaning and implications of the Leave vote in the European Union referendum ran through it (see right).
Activists debated how socialists should relate to the Labour Party, the state of fascist groups in Britain, the level of class struggle and much more.
Karen Reissmann introduced a session on From Benn to Blair—Labour from the 1970s to the 1990s.
She described how Labour’s strategy of electing left wing candidates to councils only saw them coming under pressure to make more cuts.
Speakers in a number of meetings stressed the need to build activity outside parliament to fend off attacks and defend Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Writer Tariq Ali introduced a meeting on The American Empire and its Discontents. He argued that the US was an “ultra imperialist” power that had united other advanced capitalist powers under its leadership.
He said, “The dominance of the US remains unchallenged.” In the discussion others argued that Ali underplayed the weaknesses of US imperialism.
Alex Callinicos introduced a meeting on Imperialism Today. He said the failure of the US in Iraq was a “bigger defeat” than the one it suffered in Vietnam.
Weyman Bennett introduced a discussion on the state of the Nazis in Britain. He stressed the need to properly define fascism as a specific threat to the working class and democracy.
Weyman said anti-fascists had held back the Nazis in Britain, but their frustration meant they could be “incredibly violent”.
He and others stressed that the main focus for anti-racists in Britain is not fascist groups but fighting racism in the mainstream.
Alex Kenny from the NUT union joined a panel meeting on resisting Prevent and Islamophobia. A speaker from the Muslim Public
Affairs Committee said this racism “has not emerged since the Brexit vote. It was years of drip, drip.”......