Everything you wanted to know about revolutionary socialism (but were afraid to ask) - University of East London, 19 April

Submitted by stuartjordan on 14 February, 2008 - 10:48

Due to engineering works, the Docklands Light Railway will not be running on 19 April. A rail replacement service is operating, but the best way to get to Cyprus DLR station seems to be to get the Jubilee Line to Canning Town and then the (very regular) 474 bus.

An introduction to Marxist ideas, organised by the Alliance for Workers' Liberty
12-7pm, Saturday 19 April 2008, University of East London Docklands campus (next to Cyprus DLR)
Sweatshop labour, soaring inequality, privatisation, war, racism, destruction of the environment, women's oppression... why is the world like it is? And how can we change it?

Workers' Liberty is a Marxist, revolutionary socialist organisation. We believe that the problem is capitalism, and all societies based on class exploitation; and that workers' struggle and working-class revolution can create a new society, one without exploitation or oppression, in which human beings are able to develop their individuality freely.

This year is the 40th anniversary of 1968, when French workers and students rose up against the rule of capital, in the vanguard of a worldwide upsurge against capitalism and Stalinism. We will be discussing both the lessons of 1968 and the significance of the struggles by workers and young people that are shaking France today.

Plenty of time for debate, discussion and questions

11.45am Registration

Welcome and introduction to the event. Speakers: Becky Crocker, Stephen Wood

i) Why the working class? Young workers, class struggle and rebuilding the labour movement. Facilitator: Daniel Randall
ii) Marx’s ecology: rediscovering a forgotten tradition. Stuart Jordan

2pm Lunch

i) “Radical chains”: how does class struggle relate to the fight against women’s, black, LGBT and other forms of oppression? Sofie Buckland and Kate Pallas
ii) Socialism, democracy, revolution and violence. Ed Maltby

i) What do “imperialism” and “anti-imperialism” mean? A debate with Permanent Revolution. AWL speaker: Sacha Ismail
ii) How (and how not) to fight the BNP. Facilitator: Tom Unterrainer

i) Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba: models of 21st century socialism? David Broder
ii) Why is the left so divided? How do we get socialist unity? A debate with the Socialist Party

Assessment of the day and closing plenary, with discussion on the lessons of 1968 and the class struggle in France today. Speaker: Heather Shaw

7pm Close

Reading available soon. For some ideas of what kind of questions we will be discussing, see here.

Tickets for the event ÂŁ5 waged, ÂŁ3 unwaged - with a ÂŁ1 discount if you pay in advance. You can just turn up on the day, but please preregister if you can by emailing skillz_999@hotmail.com or ringing 020 7207 0706.

Cheap vegetarian and vegan food provided.
We can find you somewhere to stay if needed.

Followed from 8pm by a fundraising social with Marxist hip-hop artist the Ruby Kid @ the Ivy House, 8-10 Southampton Row, Holborn (a couple of minutes from Holborn tube).


Submitted by sacha on Mon, 21/04/2008 - 10:34

Hi Dan,

Thanks for coming, and thanks for the comments. I'd encourage others who attended the event - whether you're in the AWL, another group, or no group - to post their thoughts here (or email them to me at sacha@workersliberty.org) so we can improve things for future events. Please bear in mind that this is the first time we've done anything like this for a little while, so we are very much in need of constructive criticism. A few thoughts of my own:

I agree that not all the sessions were "introductory" enough. This partly arose out of amalgamating lots of sessions (we began with a list of about twenty!) and ending up with topics that weren't simple or focused enough. Eg the "Young workers, class struggle and rebuilding the labour movement" session should have been entirely a basic discussion on "Why the working class?"/"What is the working class?", which is what a lot of people needed to set a framework for the school.

In addition, we should have had fewer sessions, I think, as there wasn't enough time; a problem which was exacerbated by the absence of the DLR, which meant we started about forty minutes late.

In terms of the debates with PR and the Socialist Party, we substituted them for sessions relatively late in the day, because we thought it would be more interesting. I agree this didn't entirely work. However, I don't agree with your more general critique of inter-left debates. In the case of the Socialist Party debate, yes, we just went round and round: very frustrating. But, tub-thumping aside, I think the imperialism debate was genuinely useful for beginning to clarify some of the issues. This was good for people who are not completely new in/around the AWL, but who haven't necessarily been through these debates before (I take the point it may have been different for beginners). I also think constructive debate IS possible between established left activists; we should make efforts to pursue it an a way that is politically sharp and clear, but not personally aggressive. (It's good you've invited Sofie Buckland to speak about socialist feminism at the PR summer event.)

A strange problem arose in the Latin America session, which was supposed to be a workshop but turned into a formal debate because comrades from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! turned up. Of course they were perfectly within their rights to do this, but it did skew the whole thing and make it difficult to operate.

There were also some even more directly organisational issues, eg the workers session was not broken into groups until the second half, which meant very few people speaking in the first half and the whole thing getting off to an awkward start. We also need to be more creative with different meeting forms, and more prepared with reading, materials, "stimuli" etc.

On the plus side, the discussion in the liberation/radical chains session was very good, and I had positive reports from the ecology session too.

I hope we'll do something like this again relatively soon, taking into account comments on this event, so please let us know what you think!

PS Thanks to everyone who came to the "Ruby Kid" gig in Holborn, which was great and raised a bit of much needed cash for the AWL...

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