Ideas for Freedom: What is capitalism? Can it last?

Submitted by Matthew on 23 May, 2012 - 8:54

Ideas for Freedom is Workers’ Liberty’s annual weekend of socialist education, discussion and debate.

It is an opportunity for members and sympathisers of our organisation, and others interested in class-struggle, revolutionary ideas, to learn from each other in an environment which is simultaneously politically sharp, thoughtful, welcoming and accessible.

It opens on Friday evening at the Exmouth Arms (London NW1 1HR), and continues on Saturday and Sunday at Highgate Newtown Community Centre, 25 Bertram St, London N19 5DQ, near Archway.

The future of socialism

Capitalism is increasingly unpopular, but socialist ideas are weak and marginal. How can we change that? And what does socialism mean after the experience of social democracy and Stalinism?

The Saturday of Ideas for Freedom will open with a panel on “How do we make socialism a force again?”, with speakers including author and journalist Owen Jones, French New Anticapitalist Party activist Antonin, Green Party councilor Alex Phillips and Rosie Woods from Workers' Liberty.

And on Sunday, Elaine Jones will debate ex-Workers Power member Luke Cooper from the new “Anti-Capitalist Initiative” (ACI) on “What kind of anticapitalist organisation do we need?” The ACI is led by people who split from the Trotskyist group Workers Power.

Class struggle is the key

Our understanding of capitalism and anti-capitalism has working-class struggle at its centre.

How can we develop workers’ organisation and confidence to meet the huge challenges posed by the crisis and the massive assault on our living stands and rights being pushed through by the ruling class?

Ideas for Freedom will open on Friday night with a discussion celebrating the stormy workers’ struggles of 1972, which prepared the way for the fall of Edward Heath’s Tory government, and seeking to learn the lessons for today. Pete Radcliff, who took part in the successful mass picket at Saltley Gate, where miners, engineering workers and other trade unionists confronted the police to picket the West Midlands Gas Board coking works in Saltley, will explain what that struggle and the labour movement of the early 70s were like.

Other speakers will include Jean Lane, the Unison rep who led the recent victorious anti-cuts dispute at Central Foundation Girls School in East London and an activist from recent successful anti-victimisation struggles on London Underground.

Over the weekend Pat Murphy, a member of the National Union of Teachers national executive, and tube worker and RMT activist Becky Crocker will look at the National Minority Movement of the 1920s and discuss the lessons for building rank-and-file movements in the unions today.

As part of our Introduction to Marxism series, Janine Booth, who represents London Transport workers on the RMT national executive, and Unison member Hannah Thompson will discuss Marxists’ understanding of and involvement in trade unions.

The Saturday night social will feature a film showing and speaker from the victorious mechanical and electrical construction workers’ dispute against pay cuts, British workers’ most important victory since the capitalist crisis began.

Crisis across Europe

Europe is now at the centre of the world capitalist crisis. Ideas for Freedom will feature socialists from a number of European countries on what our understanding of and response to the crisis should be.

Antonin, an activist in the L’Etincelle (Spark) tendency of France’s New Anticapitalist Party, will join our panel on a discussion about the European left with others including Irish Labour Youth’s Neil Warner. Greek socialist Theodora Polenta and Workers’ Liberty’s Ed Maltby will just have returned from Greece and will lead the discussion on the issues facing revolutionaries there.

Economists John Grahl (Euro-memo) and Jo Michell (Research on Money and Finance) will discuss the eurozone crisis with Martin Thomas from Workers’ Liberty.

Roma activist Toma Nikolaev and Dan Barron from Traveller Solidarity will report on the alarming threats facing Roma and traveller communities across Europe.

Marxist theory

As in recent years, this year’s IFF will feature a series of “Introduction to Marxism” workshops for new and young comrades.

Alice Marshall and Liam Conway will be asking “What is capitalism?”, looking at how socialists understand capitalism and how we think it can be replaced. Janine Booth and Hannah Thompson will discuss “Marxism and trade unions”. Liam McNulty and Sarah Weston will be asking “Why is the left so divided?” And Alison Brown and Daniel Lemberger Cooper will lead a discussion on the neglected question of what a socialist society would actually be like.

The event will also include discussions on “Is Marxism Eurocentric?”, led by Paul Hampton and Camila Bassi from Workers’ Liberty, and on the lessons of the Falklands War for Marxists dealing with conflicts today, looking at what the socialist left said about the issue at the time.

Other sessions

Other sessions will include:

• Music journalist and author Dorian Lynskey, writer of the successful book 33 Revolutions Per Minute, and hip-hop artist The Ruby Kid on protest songs past and present.

• Women Against Pit Closures, the working-class women’s organisation that was crucial to building solidarity in the 1984/5 miners’ strike, as well as fighting for women’s rights within working-class communities and the labour movement, on women in struggle against capitalism.

• Amin Kazemi from the Iranian Revolutionary Marxist Tendency and Cathy Nugent from Workers' Liberty on workers’ struggles in Iran and the possibility of war.

• Workers’ Liberty’s Sacha Ismail debates NUS executive member and National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts leader Michael Chessum on whether the left should “Boycott Israel”.

• Professor Colin Schindler, journalist Dave Osler and Tom Unterrainer of Workers’ Liberty on the left and anti-semitism.

• Jill Mountford of Workers' Liberty and Health Alarm and Dr Jacky Davis of the NHS Consultants’ Association will discuss the NHS.

• In the Royal Jubilee year, John Moloney of Workers’ Liberty discusses the English civil war and revolution, which led to Britain becoming a republic in 1649.

There will be free accommodation, a free crèche and cheap food available. If you want to book accommodation or a crèche place in advance, get in touch. awl@workersliberty.org or 07796 690 874

Weekend tickets bought before the end of May are £24 waged, £16 low-waged/HE students, £6 unwaged/FE/school students. Tickets bought in advance at £26/£17/£6, and tickets bought on the door are £28/£18/£6. Day tickets and single-session tickets will also be available.

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