Just under 200 people attended Ideas for Freedom 2018, a weekend socialist summer school organised by Workers’ Liberty on 23-24 June in London. The title of the school this year was “Socialism Makes Sense”, and sessions aimed to make the basic case for a revolutionary socialist transformation of capitalist society.
Another main theme was “challenges of a Labour government”, looking at the difficulties likely to be faced by a left-Labour government, for example in confronting the state, and the challenges for class-struggle socialists in relating to such a government and attempting to radicalise and extend its programme.
Other session streams included “revolutionary history”, “global solidarity”, and “revolutionary socialism 101”.
Speakers included Amrit Wilson of the South Asia Solidarity Group, who spoke about women’s struggles against the Modi government in India; Iranian film-maker and activist Kaveh Abbassian, who spoke about students’ and workers’ struggles in Iran; UCU rank-and-file activist Rhian Keyse; Labour left activists including Dave Osland and Simon Hannah; and Workers’ Liberty supporters including Janine Booth, Ruth Cashman, Jill Mountford, and others.
The event also featured a walking tour of radical East London, focusing particularly on sites connected to the working-class suffrage movement led by Sylvia Pankhurst, and a set-piece debate on “socialism versus capitalism” with Kristian Niemitz from the free-market think tank Institute of Economic Affairs.
Rebuilding a culture of socialism
Jill Mountford gave the closing speech of Ideas for Freedom. We print an excerpt.
We stand out from the rest of the left on our consistent internationalism; we don’t fall in line with the left that mourns the death of Castro and hails Cuba as some kind of socialist society.
We critically examine the nature of that society, the rights of the working class and oppressed groups to organise within it; we ask is this self-emancipation of the working class? And conclude it is not.
To praise the remnants of the catastrophe that was Stalinism claiming it be some sort of socialism is political idiocy.
This principle guides us in all international assessments; we don’t collapse into the crude positions of supporting the smaller imperialist nations against the larger imperialist nations. We don’t choose to side with one reactionary regime against another. We ask what’s in the best interests of the working class to build an independent movement that can fight for their own emancipation.
Our approach to Brexit it is not determined by groups of disillusioned members of our class who can see no better solution than to scapegoat and blame other working class people just because they’re migrant workers.
Our attitude to Brexit is to stand absolutely firm on migrant rights and the free movement of people, arguing for an end to austerity, arguing that we make the bosses pay for the crisis they created and not the working class, arguing for a positive program of building council houses, rebuilding the NHS and the welfare state, creating jobs and services; for decent living wages for all workers.
And we say boldly and clearly how that will be paid for: by taxing the rich and big business!
We argue for a Workers’ Government acting with same determination to fight for working-class interests as the Tory government fights for the interests of the boss class.
So bad, so lost, is the culture of socialism in Britain today that we have a Shadow Chancellor who describes himself as Marxist but who cannot say we’ll tax the rich and big business to pay for the kind of society we want to create, who cannot say we’ll bring the banks into public ownership as the bosses did in their own way to bail them out of the crisis in 2008.
Forty years ago we had a right wing Labour Chancellor who had no problem in saying “we’ll squeeze the rich till the pips squeak”. Then, the labour movement and class struggle was a strong counter pressure even on the right in the Labour party.
Comrades, the job of the revolutionary socialists is to seize the opportunities around us, to be clear and resolute in the ideas and demands we take into the broader movement. Not to temper them, dilute them or remould them under pressure from the right-wing culture around us.
Looking around the room we give the impression of pretty ordinary bunch of individuals. But collectively, driven by our ambition for our class, the highest ambition for humanity — to create a world based on human need not on private profit, armed with our culture, our tradition and our ideas — we have the potential to do extraordinary things.
We each became socialists through our own experience, through the objective circumstances around us, because we wanted a better world than the one we find ourselves in. We became revolutionary socialists because we engaged with some big ideas and theories.
The AWL has a unique approach, fuelled by unique ideas. If we don’t fill that space with our ideas or other ideas will, and they won’t be better ideas.
Now we must do the best by our tradition, every one of us, reminding ourselves and each other what we stand for, what our ideas represent.
That means seizing every opportunity that comes our way to make the case for socialism. Socialism makes sense.