1917-2017: Ideas for Freedom
1-2 July 2017
Birkbeck, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX
A festival of socialist ideas and leftwing discussion, hosted by Workers' Liberty, Ideas for Freedom is an opportunity to explore, through talks, film showings, workshops and debates, ideas about how our world works, and how we can fight for a better one.
The general election was a fantastic victory for socialist ideas. People have been mobilised around those ideas and have got the Tories on the ropes. At Ideas for Freedom we will be discussing how and why Labour made such gains, how to organise the thousands of Labour Party members who have been mobilised in the campaign, and what should happen next to convert this result into real gains for our class.
This year the event will be themed around the lessons of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and what the blow struck for freedom by Russian workers a hundred years ago can teach us today.
We will be holding a whole four days activities for you to get involved in. We kick of the event with our now famous walking tour on the evening of Thursday 29 June. Friday night will be our big evening opening debate. Saturday and Sunday will be days of debate, discussion, film showings, workshops and exhibitions.
London's revolutionaries walking tour: London has been the host of many revolutionary movements, but also been temporary home to many revolutionaries from abroad. On the centenary of the Russian Revolution we will be walking the streets of Clerkenwell, where Lenin and other Russian Revolutionaries made their home for periods of exile. Meet at Kings Cross Baptist Church which can be found here
Friday evening debate
1917: Freedom or tyranny? - Nunn Hall, IOE, Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL
This year marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution, an event which had a profound on human history and which continues to cast a shadow over global politics.
What did that revolution represent? Was it a social uprising for freedom and democracy, or a coup always intended to install a tyrannical regime? Was the Bolshevik party of Trotsky and Lenin a conspiracy of elitist "professional revolutionaries", or a mass movement organically rooted in the Russian working class? Did the Bolsheviks make the right choices? Was the revolution's eventual degeneration into totalitarianism an inevitable, perhaps even intended, consequence of 1917, or could history have turned out differently? What were the alternatives? And is the model of the Russian Revolution something for contemporary socialists to aspire towards, or a historical relic?
Paul Vernadsky and Eric Lee will debate "1917: Freedom or Tyranny?"
Paul is a labour-movement writer and researcher, and the author of The Russian Revolution: When Workers Took Power (Workers' Liberty, 1917).
Eric is the author of The Experiment: Georgia's Forgotten Revolution 1918-1921 (Zed Books, 2017), a book on the Menshevik republic of Georgia.
Saturday and Sunday At Birkbeck, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX
Saturday 1 July
Registration: from 11am
1917-2017: Ideas for Freedom opening rally
1917: February to October We take a look at the timeline of events that join the two Russian Revolutions and ask how one grew into the other with Gemma Short.
Changed, changed utterly? The legacy of Irish Republicanism a debate with Irish journalist and historian Ruth Dudley-Edwards, Liam McNulty, and socialist republican Donnchadh Mac Giolla Chirche.
Breaking the chains: from Taff Vale to the Trade Union Act Gregor Gall, author of Bob Crow: socialist, leader, fighter, a political biography, and Unison activist Ruth Cashman will discuss the fight for trade union rights.
The Chartists, revolution and the vote It is 150 years since the Second Reform Act saw a huge expansion in voting rights for workers. This milestone victory in the fight for democracy came in the wake of years of working-class organising and struggle. Socialist historian Keith Flett tells the story.
Could Corbyn make a revolution? A left wing government elected on a radical programme would face enormous challenges. What kind of politics, and what kind of movement, would be needed to win the battle of democracy? How could we move beyond 'just another Labour government' and build a real workers' government? With Maurice Duncan
1967-2017: Fighting for abortion rights worldwide From Poland to Ireland, the fight for reproductive rights in Europe is far from over. On the 50th anniversary of decriminalisation in the UK, we'll hear from organisers of Poland's Black Monday women's movement, and the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign
150 Years of Capital 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Capital, Marx's masterpiece. We will take a look at the key ideas of Marx's dissection of capitalism, and chart the history of the book that shook the world
The Fate of the Russian Revolution: the shadow of Stalinism How did the world's greatest revolution for freedom turn, within just ten years, to Stalinist tyranny? With Michael Elms
4.25-4.55: Break and announcements
Narratives of resistance: the politics of grime with Dr Joy White, author of Urban Music and Entrepreneurship: Beats, Rhymes and Young People's Enterprise
Europe's far right on the march Yves Coleman, Editor of French anti-racist journal Ni Patrie Ni Frontieres joins a panel of socialists from around Europe to discuss the new right.
The first cleaners’ strikes? The Domestic Workers’ Union of Great Britain and Ireland 1908–14 A socialist historian tells the story of how class struggle broke into the great manor houses of Britain.
The party of victory Paul Vernadsky, author of The Russian Revolution: When the Workers Took Power looks at the history of the Bolsheviks
The Russian Revolution and art The Russian Revolution saw an explosion of creativity in the arts, with new styles in almost every form of art, from sculpture to drama. Discuss with Carrie Evans and art historian Hugh Daniels.
50 years since decriminalisation: reform and revolution in LGBT struggles with Ian Townson, and Brenda Allen.
500 years of the reformation Luther's 1517 break with the Catholic Church opened a period of wars and revolutions in Europe that challenged spiritual and worldly authorities. What is the legacy of the Reformation?
Trump and the painful death of American Liberalism With Catherine Liu, Democratic Socialists of America activist from California and Jason Schulman of the New Politics editorial board
From 8.30: Evening social in The Lamb, Lambs Conduit Street
Sunday 2 July
What is imperialism? With the end of the Cold War and the passing of the European colonial empires, what is imperialism today? How does it work? A discussion with author and screenwriter Clive Bradley
Vote Macron to stop Le Pen? What attitude should socialists take to the contest between neoliberalism and rightwing populism now taking place? Workers' Liberty activists debate the implications of the Macron-Le Pen showdown in the French Presidential election
Nationalise the Big Six! To stop catastrophic climate change, we need to end the rule of profit in the energy sector. A discussion on the campaign to Nationalise the Big Six, with a socialist energy worker.
Taksim 1977: A history of Turkish workers' struggle The Turkish revolutionary group Marksist Tutum will present the history of the Turkish workers' movement, from the revolutionary struggles of the 1970s, to the massacre of 1977 and the military coup, to the fight for democracy and socialism today
Is neoliberalism dying? Do Trump and Brexit signal the decline of neoliberalism and globalisation? Martin Thomas, author of Crisis and Sequels, looks at the evidence.
Radical Poetry and revolutionary struggles A panel of three performing poets will talk about issues including: 1980s 'ranting poetry'; the misrepresentation of working-class poets; and rhyming solidarity from Poets on the Picket Line. There will be plenty of time for discussion, and our panellists may drop some rhymes as well featuring Bridget Minamore, Tim Wells and Janine Booth
Clearing the way: Corbyn′s Labour and the fight for a Workers′ Government A panel discussion with activists across the Labour left to talk about the way ahead for Labour after the election including Rosie Woods, Harrow Momentum, Rida Vaquas, Young Labour National Committee, and others to be confirmed.
1917: the festival of the oppressed The Russian Revolution was a blow struck for freedom - not just the right to vote, but for the all-sided emancipation of people and peoples: from women's liberation to the emancipation of sexual minorities and national minorities; from mass literacy to reproductive freedoms. Activist and writer Jill Mountford will lead a panel discussion on this "Festival of the Oppressed".
The left in disarray Sean Matgamna introduces his book on the roots of the present troubles of the revolutionary left
Is automation making us free? With Cathy Nugent, Editor of Solidarity, IT worker Ali Crabtree, and rail worker Tim van Tintern involved in the fight to save jobs
Bottom rail on top: Radical Reconstruction and the US Civil War The end of the US Civil War saw radical governments in the South replace slavery with bold experiments in freedom and the self-rule of the oppressed. Sacha Ismail tells their story.
Picturehouse Strikes and the new New unionism How can young workers' struggles renew the labour movement? Hear from the young activists leading the inspiring Picturehouse Cinemas strike and from Gareth Lane, fast food workers′ organiser.
Closing plenary: Workers fighting for freedom
Venue, accommodation, creche
Free accommodation is provided with comrades who live in London. Please help us organise this by sending an email to email@example.com with the title "IFF accommodation" and telling us what nights you will need, how many people, and whether you have any specific requirements (i.e. no stairs, need a bed, fine with floor/sofa, no late nights etc.).
A free creche is provided during the weekend, and additional childcare can be arranged on Thursday and Friday nights if needed. Please book a place by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Workers' Liberty is committed to holding accessible events. The venue for Saturday and Sunday daytime is step-free and has accessible toilets. We will be using a number of rooms on the basement level of Birkbeck College central London, a floor plan can be found here, and a plan for the ground (entrance) floor with details for lifts can be found here. If you wish to discuss other access needs please feel free to email us at email@example.com or phone us on 020 7394 8923.