Their class war and ours

Submitted by AWL on 10 June, 2014 - 5:56

Ideas for Freedom is the annual weekend of socialist discussion and debate hosted by Workers' Liberty.

The theme of this year's Ideas for Freedom is “Their class war and ours”. We will be looking not just at how the working class can defend and reorganise itself in the face of a determined capitalist assault, but how the left can put the very concepts of class, class struggle and a socialist alternative to capitalism back on the political agenda. That will be the theme of the opening plenary at 12 noon on Saturday 5 July.

What other ideas will be discussed at the event?

Renewing the labour movement and left

The past four years of class struggle have shown that our trade union movement is not up to the job. Yet there have been and continue to be many inspiring workers' struggles. How can we generalise the inspiration and lessons of these battles to prepare for the possibility of more widespread workers' action as the economy revives? Will the 10 July public sector strikes, by far the biggest working-class action since 2011, be the beginning of a revival? At 4.30pm on Saturday, activists from two very different union branches both currently involved in pitched struggle will speak on 'How can the unions regrow?' - Ruth Cashman, branch secretary of Lambeth Unison, and Jason Moyer-Lee of University of London IWGB, alongside professor Gregor Gall, a noted writer on the labour movement.

To revive, the labour movment also needs political perspectives. IFF will feature a panel on 'Will there be a Labour government? What should the left demand of Labour?', with speakers including John McDonnell MP and James Elliot of Labour Students for Free Education (2.50pm, Saturday). And later in the day Cathy Nugent will debate Simon Hardy, national secretary of the ex-SWP International Socialist Network on the way forward for the revolutionary left (6.20pm).

Renewing Marxist ideas

Part of the fight to renew the left is the fight to renew Marxist ideas. Ideas for Freedom will feature workshops on a variety of issues which much of the left has neglected or simply got wrong. We will be debating the blogger James Bloodworth on attitudes to Western military intervention (10am, Sunday); looking at the rich lessons of the socialist environmentalism which grew up during the wave of climate change activism in 2006-10 (1pm, Sunday); and discussing socialists' attitude to religion, with Nigerian activist Yemisi Ilesanmi and NUT executive member Pat Murphy (2.35, Sunday).

We will also be holding a stream of 'Introduction to Marxism' workshops: 'How could a revolution happen in Britain (2.50pm, Saturday); 'How can socialism end women's oppression?' (4.30pm, Saturday); and 'Could socialism end all wars?' (10am, Sunday).

Working-class history

In a period of retreat, it is all too easy for the working class, the labour movement and even individuals to forget the struggles of the past. Spreading the memory of past battles, so that we can learn and take inspiration from them, is an essential part of the work of socialists.

The first event of Ideas for Freedom is a Radical Walking Tour of East London (meet 6pm, Bow Church DLR station), looking at how socialists, feminists and working-class activists organised in the area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One aspect of that will be socialist opposition to and resistance during the First World War. IFF will include other sessions on WW1, including 'How world war became world revolution' (with Stephen Wood – 2.50pm on Saturday 6 July) 'The shop stewards movement and workers' struggles during the war' (with Edd Mustill – 6.20pm on Saturday).

In the 30th anniversary year, we will also be discussing the lessons of the great Miners' Strike of 1984-5. Pete Radcliff will lead a discussion on 'How could the miners have won?' (4.30pm, Saturday). Jean Lane will speak about the role of women's struggles in the strike, alongside a film and speaker from Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (10am, Sunday). Daisy Forest will lead a workshop on what the miners' strike tells us about the state (2.35pm, Sunday).

Oppression, liberation and internationalism

Fighting specific oppressions such as those based on gender, ethnicity and sexuality is an essential part of the fight to change the world – and an area that has generated much discussion on the left recently. It will be a major theme of IFF 2014. On the night of Friday 4 July we will be holding a special meeting on 'A century of radical women's struggles', with speakers including Jill Mountford on Sylvia Pankhurst and WW1, RMT women's committee chair Becky Crocker on transforming the labour movement so it fights for women's liberation and SUArts President Shelly Asquith on recent struggles by women workers and students at London universities.

We will be discussing the surge of the nationalist right in Europe and 'Is the far right winning over Europe's workers?', with Matt Cooper, Yves Coleman from the French journal Ni Patrie Ni Frontieres and Greek socialist Theodora Polenta (4.30, Saturday). We will also be discussing migrants' struggles in Britain, in history and today, with Vicki Morris and the new NUS International Students' Officer Shreya Paudel (1pm, Sunday).

IFF will also include a forum on 'The international fight for LGBT rights', with RMT London Transport LGBT Officer Paul Penny and activists from the African Out and Proud Diamond Group (1pm, Sunday). Internationalism will more generally be a strong theme of the event, with Indian Marxist Jairus Banaji speaking on the struggle after Narendra Modi's election (10am, Saturday) and a speaker from Turkish rank-and-file workers' movement UID-DER on class struggle after the Soma mining disaster.

Ideas for Freedom

awl@workersliberty.org

07796 690874

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