Saturday 15th February 2014 will go down as a historical day for the student movement in the UK, as it saw around 70 student represenatives from 20 Marxist societies across the country, along with international visitors, meeting in London for the founding conference of the Marxist Student Federation.

The founding of the Federation itself marks a big step forward for the work that has been taking place over the last few years on various university campuses around the country. From London, to Glasgow, Leeds, Newcastle, Cambridge, and in many other universities, groups of students have been meeting regularly to discuss the ideas of Marxism and to look at events around the world in an attempt to make sense of the chaos we see all around.

In spite of all of the hopes and dreams that were fostered in us when we were growing up, our generation is destined to be the first in a long time whose living standards are set to be far lower than that of our parents. At the same time, if we look around the world we see war, ecological disaster, pain, suffering and despair on every inch of the globe.

In these conditions is it any wonder that students are getting radicalised? It is becoming more and more self-evident to wider groups of young people that the fault within society is not one purely of this or that individual or government, but rather the problems which we are all facing are an inherent part of the system itself. Capitalism, whilst showing no way out of the current crisis, is itself to blame for the suffering that people face on a daily basis.

Students, over the last few years, have been getting together on a number of university campuses in order to discuss the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, to get to grips with the fundamentals of these theories, and on that basis to begin to fight back in a principled way to transform society for the better.

The founding of the Marxist Student Federation is the coming together of this work - of these societies - in order to share the experience that we have all gained and to start to lay down a road map for how we plan on developing our work over the coming years, to fight for Marxist ideas within the student movement and the wider labour movement.

The relevance of Marxism today

msf2014-4Fred Weston, editor of www.marxist.comThe opening session of the conference was a political discussion on the "Relevance of Marxism Today", which was introduced by Fred Weston, editor of the In Defence of Marxism website (www.marxist.com). Fred himself talked about how, in spite of the fact that Karl Marx has been dead for 131 years, it is strange to note how the bourgeois politicians and academics are continuously at pains to refute his ideas, stating that they’re dead and buried.

Since the crisis hit in 2008, when the crisis hit, after Francis Fukuyama’s much vaunted “end of history”, all of a sudden this consensus was broken and people started to look around for an explanation of what had happened.

More and more people are turning to Marxist ideas, and revolutionary movements are on the rise. So much so that even the leading analysists of the bourgeois are having to admit that Marx was right, albeit with the caveat that his revolutionary conclusions were incorrect.

The discussion which followed included a number of excellent points from student delegates, with discussion ranging from the nature of the working class today to the way in which the movements against austerity and attacks on the living standards of working people have expressed themselves. Questions also rose as to how we as a national federation on as Marxist Societies on our campuses in local areas should orientate towards these movements, with it being generally agreed that we need to take a very flexible approach to any movement of the class that does develop. As Marxists we do not split ourselves apart from the movement of the class but rather intervene in it with our ideas and perspectives and try to prove in action that our ideas are the ones which are correct and are needed to change society. Only in this way will we win over more and more people - both students and workers - to our ideas to try to make Marxism itself a concrete force within society.

The discussion demonstrated the high political level that comrades have developed in their work and study of these ideas and bodes well for the future health of the Marxist Student Federation, with many people contributing and asking questions.

International greetings

msf2014-5The next session which was held, after a lunch break, was one in which the Marxist Student Federation heard international greetings and reports from a number of different countries. Comrades from Italy, Kosovo, Chile and France made reports on the state of the student movements in their own countries and the difficulties faced by young people.

It was extremely interesting to hear all of these reports, as in many ways it further emphasised the fact that the battles being fought in the UK - against the privatisation of education and other services, the selling off the NHS and the destruction of the welfare state, as well as the attacks to the wages, terms and conditions of working people - are not isolated. Far from it, the global crisis of capitalism, whilst expressing itself in specific ways in one country to another, at root is creating similar difficulties for young people and workers everywhere.

With this in mind, the fight for a socialist transformation of the UK needs to be linked firmly with a movement to change the world, and the Marxist Student Federation is proud to find itself in the ranks of this move towards the re-emergence of revolutionary Marxist ideas on a world scale.

Student Perspectives

msf2014-3Scott Shaw of the Sheffield Marxist SocietyNext up was a discussion on perspectives for the student movement within the UK. Scott Shaw, President of Sheffield University Marxist Society, introduced the discussion, beginning by positioning his analysis within the wider context of the global crisis of capitalism, which is ultimately responsible for the attacks on students and youth in Britain and elsewhere.

Scott highlighted the attacks that students have faced since the crisis and the coming to power of the Tory-led Coalition, with increased tuition fees, education cuts, and the abolition of EMA for college students. In turn, Scott reminded that audience of the magnificant movement of students in 2010 against these attacks, which was the largest student mobilisation in decades. Ultimately, it was a lack of leadership that allowed such attacks to go through, with the NUS offering little in terms of a fight and nothing in terms of an alternative. It is the task of the Marxists to provide such an alternative, which must be a socialist programme.

Fast forwarding to today, Scott discussed how the student movement is now part of a wider movement against the Coalition and their austerity policies, which has been expressed in the universities by strikes of higher educations unions, such as the UCU, Unison, and Unite. It was emphasised what a fantastic role the Marxist societies have played in supporting and showing solidarity with these strikes, and with strikes in other sectors, such as the firefighters, postal workers, and Tube drivers.

The discussion focussed in on the need for the Marxist societies to actively campaign for socialist policies on every campus, and in the student movement nationally, by arguing for our ideas in the student unions and the National Union of Students (NUS). With NUS conference coming up in April, and with delegates from the Marxist societies already elected to the NUS conference, a number of amendments and motions that argue for socialist policies have been suggested by the MSF. Fighting for these amendments is the first small step in the battle to win the NUS over to a socialist programme that can actually pose an alternative to rising fees and greater cuts.

Reports from the Marxist societies

msf2014-2Beatrice Papaz of the Southampton MarxistsThe final session of the day involved represenatives from the various Marxist societies giving reports on the developments in their local areas. All the contributions highlighted the excellent progress that the Marxist societies are making nationally, with more established societies providing invaluable advice for those who are only just beginning to make their mark on campus.

Every contribution was extremely positive, explaining the activities of the society and emphasising the role of each society in the wider student and labour movement on campus. From the reports, it was clear to all that the Marxist Student Federation is playing an important role in educating a whole new generation in the ideas of Marxism and applying these concretely to the struggles to today, for example, by supporting the strikes of university staff.

At the end of this session, representatives from UCLU Marxist Society tabled an organisational resolution, explaining the way they’d been working over the last few years, condensing the experienc of attempts to set up and built Marxist societies around the country. This resolution set out a stategy for the work of the MSF over the coming year, with an emphasis on educating students and youth in the fundamental ideas of Marxism, building up a knowledge of the workers movement around the world, and using this as a means of taking part proactively in the students and labour movements in our areas to build the Marxist Student Federation and to win these movements to a revolutionary Marxist leadership. This motion was passed by a firm majority.

For International Socialist Revolution

The student conference was not immune from events in the wider world, as just days before the conference took place the reactionary opposition in Venezuela had risen once again to attack the Bolivarian Revolution.

As many will be aware, since the election of Hugo Chavez and the attempted coup in Venezuela in 2002, a revolutionary movement has swept the country and Latin America, as working people have risen up in attempts to fight against the deprivation which was being inflicted on them by the oligarchy which historically controlled the region and sucked the continent dry.

During this movement, with nationalisations and the taking over of sections of the economy in Venezuela to tap into the wealth of the country a great many gains have been achieve by working people of the backs of their own struggle. These gains include education for all, ending illiteracy, free healthcare and cheap affordable housing. Whilst the revolution itself has not completed the fundamental tasks of the socialist transformation of society, the benefits which have been created for the lives of working people in Venezuela and the hopes this has sparked for working people across Latin America and the world is not to be thrown away, and with resurgent attacks by the Venezuelan ruling class and the imperialists, this process is an important one for the revolutionary movement around the world to take note of and learn lessons.

The Marxist Student Federation does not stand by idly when the gains of our international comrades are threatened, so an emergency motion, moved by SOAS Marxist Society and QMUL Marxist Society, was tabled for the consideration of the conference in solidarity with the Venezuelan Revolution. This motion itself passed unanimously. The MSF recommends reading and discussing this motion in your local Marxist society.

"The next big thing"

Nina Christou of Southampton Marxist Society gave a closing speech, summing up the ideas and experience of the conference and really motivating all those present to go back and fight for Marxist ideas on our campuses. Nina, pointed out that a bit step forward had been made and that it is only through our getting to grips with these ideas - and with the energy and passion of young people - that these can be made a material force within society. As Marx said: we’ve got nothing to lose but our chains; at the same time we’ve got a world to win.

After the last session, a steering group was elected for the Marxist Student Federation, made up of delegates from the affiliated Marxist societies, which will oversee the work of the Federation on a national scale between conferences, and it was agreed our next conference would take place in a year’s time. At this conference we will evaluate the work of the Federation over the year and take stock of the situation within Britain and on a world scale.

And so, with a rendition of the Internationale sung in English, French, German, Spanish, Greek, Czech and other languages, the inaugural conference of the Marxist Student Federation ended in high spirits.

With the passing of these resolutions, the agreement on perspectives and with the representatives from different Marxist societies getting the opportunity to meet and share experiences for the first time, an important foundation has been created for the future work of the Marxist students in Britain. As James, the representative from the Bristol Marxist society, enthusiastically stated: "Being present at this founding conference really felt like being at the beginning of the next big thing in the student movement."

We can now go back, with enthusiasm, to our campuses confident in the ideas that we represent - the ideas of genuine Marxism - and on this solid bedrock of theory we will continue to build, to fight for Marxist ideas within our local student unions, and to fight to win the NUS to a revolutionary Marxist leadership; and in so doing we will link up with the wider labour movement to create the forces necessary for the socialist transformation of society and for a world socialist revolution.

  • Educate Yourself +

    Socialist Appeal are proud to publish this basic guide to help focus your studies of Marxist theory and practice. Visit the various tabs to find links to introductory articles, classic texts, and audio talks for different topics. Read More
  • The Fundamentals of Marxism +

    Marxist theory is the basis upon which our analysis, perspectives, program, and participation in the movement are based. It is our "guide to action." This why Socialist Appeal and IMT place so much emphasis on political education. To this end, we have created an extensive Education Plan to assist comrades in their political development. This is an important resource.

    However, it's length and scope may seem daunting to new comrades. With this in mind, Socialist Appeal has compiled a shorter list of classic works and other important writings we think will serve to lay a strong foundation in the ideas and… Read More

  • Dialectical Materialism and Science +

    Dialectical Materialism is the philosophy or methodology of Marxism. Every political movement, party, or even statement of any kind bases itself, consciously or unconsciously, on some sort of philosophy or world outlook. Marxism is concerned with effecting a radical change in society, and therefore requires an exceptionally clear, thoroughgoing, and systemic set of philosophical principles.

    The ideas of Dialectical Materialism, based on the best traditions of philosophical thought, are not a fixed dogma but a system of tools and general principles for analysing the world materialistically and scientifically.

    If we are to understand society in order to change it, this cannot be… Read More

  • Historical Materialism +

    Historical Materialism is the result of Dialectical Materialism applied to human society and history. It encompasses the general theory of how and why society develops in the way it does. A deeper, more concrete understanding of these principles in combination with a study of real, living history of class struggles enables us to come to a general understanding of where capitalist society is headed and what political strategy is required to successfully influence the course of events.

    The basic principles of Historical Materialism are that human society has inherent laws guiding it - its developments are by no means arbitrary or… Read More

  • Marxist Economics +

    Marxist economics is the study of the laws of motion of capitalist society. Why does capitalism perpetually go into crisis? Why does mass unemployment exist? Are commodity production, the domination of the market, and rich and poor natural, immutable states of being for humanity? Or are they merely the products of this specific mode of production - capitalism? If so, is there any way capitalism can exist without these problems, or by minimising them?

    Marxist economics is a “holistic” way of analysing capitalist economy. It starts out by placing it in its real historical context (rather than dreaming up abstract idealisations… Read More

  • The State +

    Like money, the state is something we are all very familiar with and take for granted, but its real essence tends to elude us. The ideologists of capitalism have tried, in various ways, to justify the capitalist state as supremely rational; a neutral arbiter for society, and the embodiment of justice. For Marxists, the state is not at all neutral, nor just. It is certainly anything but rational. We must strip the vale of mysticism away and reveal the state’s real basis. To do that, we have to treat the state historically - taking in its origins, rise, and eventual… Read More

  • Russia, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalinism +

    The Russian Revolution is the greatest event in world history for Marxists. For the first time, the working class successfully took and held power. The slaves fought back and won. For these reasons, the name of Lenin and Trotsky, and the entire 1917 episode, has been deliberately dragged through the mud by the bourgeoisie ever since.

    Naturally they are aided in this task by the degeneration of the revolution and by the existence of Stalin’s monstrous dictatorship. However, Stalinism represents the opposite of Bolshevism’s real traditions, which readers can read about in this section, as well as the Marxist explanation for… Read More

  • Anarchism +

    Radicalised youth, seeking to understand how to change modern society, naturally tend to look to both Marxism and Anarchism in equal measure. The question as to which philosophy, or which combination of the two, has the best answers, has long been at the forefront of the minds of revolutionaries.

    Anarchism is naturally attractive to all those correctly alienated by bureaucracy in the revolutionary movement. Anarchists are certainly correct to reject Stalinism and careerism. However, it is not sufficient simply to reject these phenomena. We need to understand why bureaucracy and oppression exist and what role they play, in order to understand… Read More

  • Feminism +

    The discrimination and oppression of women is integral to class society, such that Engels even referred to it as the “first class oppression”. Along with the class system itself, the oppression of women often takes on the appearance of being natural, immutable and eternal, since it has been with us for so long.

    But Marxism is a historical science, concerned with understanding the fundamental changes that society goes through. It cannot be satisfied with comfortable prejudices. A study of the origins of human society, as Engels famously conducted in his book The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State,… Read More

  • Fascism +

    Fascism is something of a bogeyman in modern British society, and has an almost mythical character in bourgeois public opinion. But despite constant talk of it, very little is said about why it happened and how it may or may not happen again.

    Fascism is really the death agony of capitalism and the “distilled essence of imperialism”. The fascists in Germany, Italy, Spain and other countries were only able to come to power on the back of defeats of the working class. Ultimately, the madness of fascism expresses the historic crisis and dead-end of capitalism that had arrived by the early… Read More

  • The National Question +

    The question of nationalities - that is, the oppression of nations and national minorities, which has characterised capitalism from its birth till the present time - has always occupied a central position in Marxist theory. Once again, the historical materialist approach of Marxism dissolves the apparent “natural” role of the nation as a necessary expression of human society. Nations have by no means always existed, nor will they always exist in the future.

    The nation as we know it today is a product of the development of capitalism and its need to unify peoples into units of a certain size (depending… Read More

  • Imperialism and War +

    War is a constant feature of life under capitalism, especially in the epoch of imperialism. There has not been a single day of peace since the end of WWII, despite the appearance of WWII (and all previous wars) of being the “war to end all wars”. Capitalism is inherently unstable, competitive and violent. Moreover, there can be no final peace between the classes, since this system is based on the exploitation of the working class by the rich. 

    However, there are wars of different kinds under capitalism. The question of war is the hardest equation of all to judge, so careful… Read More

  • Revolutionary Strategy +

    Socialist Appeal is the British section of the International Marxist Tendency, which is active in around 40 countries. Our aim is to spread the ideas of Marxism, in an organised fashion, in the labour and youth movement. Only the British working class has the ability to change British society, because of the central role they play in production and their shared interest in establishing socialism.

    However, we must carefully study the history and traditions of the British working class in order for Marxist ideas to connect with them. There are all too many groups who simply declare themselves the vanguard of… Read More

  • Revolutionary History +

    The ideas of Marxism and the need for a revolutionary party are not the result simply of a single individual, but arise from the study of history - the history of class struggle. In this respect, the revolutionary party is often referred to as being the memory of the working class, and our task is to learn the lessons from history in order to prepare for the revolutionary events taking place today and in the future.

    In this section we present a series of articles and audios covering the key revolutionary struggles in history - from the early class struggles in… Read More

  • 1

NEWSLETTER

wellredbooksGet the Marxist classics from the Wellred online bookshop
Including: 
The Classics of Marxism
What is Marxism?

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  • Educate Yourself +

    Socialist Appeal are proud to publish this basic guide to help focus your studies of Marxist theory and practice. Visit the various tabs to find links to introductory articles, classic texts, and audio talks for different topics. Read More
  • The Fundamentals of Marxism +

    Marxist theory is the basis upon which our analysis, perspectives, program, and participation in the movement are based. It is our "guide to action." This why Socialist Appeal and IMT place so much emphasis on political education. To this end, we have created an extensive Education Plan to assist comrades in their political development. This is an important resource.

    However, it's length and scope may seem daunting to new comrades. With this in mind, Socialist Appeal has compiled a shorter list of classic works and other important writings we think will serve to lay a strong foundation in the ideas and… Read More

  • Dialectical Materialism and Science +

    Dialectical Materialism is the philosophy or methodology of Marxism. Every political movement, party, or even statement of any kind bases itself, consciously or unconsciously, on some sort of philosophy or world outlook. Marxism is concerned with effecting a radical change in society, and therefore requires an exceptionally clear, thoroughgoing, and systemic set of philosophical principles.

    The ideas of Dialectical Materialism, based on the best traditions of philosophical thought, are not a fixed dogma but a system of tools and general principles for analysing the world materialistically and scientifically.

    If we are to understand society in order to change it, this cannot be… Read More

  • Historical Materialism +

    Historical Materialism is the result of Dialectical Materialism applied to human society and history. It encompasses the general theory of how and why society develops in the way it does. A deeper, more concrete understanding of these principles in combination with a study of real, living history of class struggles enables us to come to a general understanding of where capitalist society is headed and what political strategy is required to successfully influence the course of events.

    The basic principles of Historical Materialism are that human society has inherent laws guiding it - its developments are by no means arbitrary or… Read More

  • Marxist Economics +

    Marxist economics is the study of the laws of motion of capitalist society. Why does capitalism perpetually go into crisis? Why does mass unemployment exist? Are commodity production, the domination of the market, and rich and poor natural, immutable states of being for humanity? Or are they merely the products of this specific mode of production - capitalism? If so, is there any way capitalism can exist without these problems, or by minimising them?

    Marxist economics is a “holistic” way of analysing capitalist economy. It starts out by placing it in its real historical context (rather than dreaming up abstract idealisations… Read More

  • The State +

    Like money, the state is something we are all very familiar with and take for granted, but its real essence tends to elude us. The ideologists of capitalism have tried, in various ways, to justify the capitalist state as supremely rational; a neutral arbiter for society, and the embodiment of justice. For Marxists, the state is not at all neutral, nor just. It is certainly anything but rational. We must strip the vale of mysticism away and reveal the state’s real basis. To do that, we have to treat the state historically - taking in its origins, rise, and eventual… Read More

  • Russia, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalinism +

    The Russian Revolution is the greatest event in world history for Marxists. For the first time, the working class successfully took and held power. The slaves fought back and won. For these reasons, the name of Lenin and Trotsky, and the entire 1917 episode, has been deliberately dragged through the mud by the bourgeoisie ever since.

    Naturally they are aided in this task by the degeneration of the revolution and by the existence of Stalin’s monstrous dictatorship. However, Stalinism represents the opposite of Bolshevism’s real traditions, which readers can read about in this section, as well as the Marxist explanation for… Read More

  • Anarchism +

    Radicalised youth, seeking to understand how to change modern society, naturally tend to look to both Marxism and Anarchism in equal measure. The question as to which philosophy, or which combination of the two, has the best answers, has long been at the forefront of the minds of revolutionaries.

    Anarchism is naturally attractive to all those correctly alienated by bureaucracy in the revolutionary movement. Anarchists are certainly correct to reject Stalinism and careerism. However, it is not sufficient simply to reject these phenomena. We need to understand why bureaucracy and oppression exist and what role they play, in order to understand… Read More

  • Feminism +

    The discrimination and oppression of women is integral to class society, such that Engels even referred to it as the “first class oppression”. Along with the class system itself, the oppression of women often takes on the appearance of being natural, immutable and eternal, since it has been with us for so long.

    But Marxism is a historical science, concerned with understanding the fundamental changes that society goes through. It cannot be satisfied with comfortable prejudices. A study of the origins of human society, as Engels famously conducted in his book The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State,… Read More

  • Fascism +

    Fascism is something of a bogeyman in modern British society, and has an almost mythical character in bourgeois public opinion. But despite constant talk of it, very little is said about why it happened and how it may or may not happen again.

    Fascism is really the death agony of capitalism and the “distilled essence of imperialism”. The fascists in Germany, Italy, Spain and other countries were only able to come to power on the back of defeats of the working class. Ultimately, the madness of fascism expresses the historic crisis and dead-end of capitalism that had arrived by the early… Read More

  • The National Question +

    The question of nationalities - that is, the oppression of nations and national minorities, which has characterised capitalism from its birth till the present time - has always occupied a central position in Marxist theory. Once again, the historical materialist approach of Marxism dissolves the apparent “natural” role of the nation as a necessary expression of human society. Nations have by no means always existed, nor will they always exist in the future.

    The nation as we know it today is a product of the development of capitalism and its need to unify peoples into units of a certain size (depending… Read More

  • Imperialism and War +

    War is a constant feature of life under capitalism, especially in the epoch of imperialism. There has not been a single day of peace since the end of WWII, despite the appearance of WWII (and all previous wars) of being the “war to end all wars”. Capitalism is inherently unstable, competitive and violent. Moreover, there can be no final peace between the classes, since this system is based on the exploitation of the working class by the rich. 

    However, there are wars of different kinds under capitalism. The question of war is the hardest equation of all to judge, so careful… Read More

  • Revolutionary Strategy +

    Socialist Appeal is the British section of the International Marxist Tendency, which is active in around 40 countries. Our aim is to spread the ideas of Marxism, in an organised fashion, in the labour and youth movement. Only the British working class has the ability to change British society, because of the central role they play in production and their shared interest in establishing socialism.

    However, we must carefully study the history and traditions of the British working class in order for Marxist ideas to connect with them. There are all too many groups who simply declare themselves the vanguard of… Read More

  • Revolutionary History +

    The ideas of Marxism and the need for a revolutionary party are not the result simply of a single individual, but arise from the study of history - the history of class struggle. In this respect, the revolutionary party is often referred to as being the memory of the working class, and our task is to learn the lessons from history in order to prepare for the revolutionary events taking place today and in the future.

    In this section we present a series of articles and audios covering the key revolutionary struggles in history - from the early class struggles in… Read More

  • 1

NEWSLETTER

wellredbooksGet the Marxist classics from the Wellred online bookshop
Including: 
The Classics of Marxism
What is Marxism?