Between 15th-17th February, supporters of the International Marxist Tendency from Britain, Denmark, Sweden, and Austria met for the annual Marxist Winter School, this year hosted by the UCLU Marxist Society in London.
This year’s school was dedicated to the 130th anniversary of Karl Marx’s death, with sessions covering the important contributions that Marx made towards the worlds of politics, economics, history, and philosophy. Over 80 comrades attended to hear a range of talks and to participate in the discussions.
The weekend began on the Friday afternoon with an excellent tour of central London to visit the places where Marx studied, lived, and helped to organise the international socialist movement (not to forget the places where he drank!). Our guide for the tour was Rob Sewell, editor of Socialist Appeal, who lead the crowd to the British Museum - where Marx prepared the material for his magnum opus, Capital - and along to Dean Street, where the Marx family lived for much of their time in London.
On the Friday evening, the school officially opened with a talk by Alan Woods - author of “Bolshevism: the road to revolution” and “Reformism or Revolution” - on the relevance of Marxism today. Alan described how the current crisis had lead to a general questioning within society, whereby even the most serious representatives of capitalism were being forced to ask “was Marx right?”
Parallel sessions ran throughout the Saturday, with talks on Marxist philosophy, historical materialism, and the Marxist theory of economic crisis. In addition, there were sessions on other aspects of Marxist theory and practice, including a history of the First International by Fred Weston - editor of the IMT website “In Defence of Marxism” - which provided valuable lessons on how revolutionaries can and should intervene in the movement today.
In the evening on Saturday, attendees were treated to a film showing of “From Tsar to Lenin”, an amazing documentary from 1937, which contains incredible footage from the era of the Russian Revolution. The film is narrated by the American Leftist, Max Eastman, who describes the important role played by Lenin and Trostky during the revolution and in the years of civil war, when Bolshevik Russia was invaded by the forces of 14 imperialist armies, seeking to overturn the gains of the revolution. In addition, the film shows the founding congress of the Communist International and the inspirational impact that this had on the world working class movement.
After the film, comrades headed to the Jeremy Bentham Room in UCL for a revolutionary social, before later retiring in preparation for the final day of the school.
The final session of the weekend was given by Jorge Martin, international secretary of the Hands Off Venezuela campaign and editor of America Socialista, who spoke about the history of revolutionary internationalism and the need for an international Marxist organisation today. Jorge discussed the mass struggles taking place today, and emphasised the vital missing factor in all of these - the presence of a revolutionary leadership to provide a socialist alternative to the crisis, austerity, and anarchy of capitalism.
Alan Woods ended the school with a rousing speech about the need to study Marx’s ideas and to help build the forces of Marxism in Britain, in Europe, and internationally. Without doubt, the young audience left the weekend with confidence in the ideas of Marxism and with a sense of enthusiasm and optimism about the prospects for revolution in the period ahead, as these ideas find an echo in an ever increasingly radicalised society.
Overall, the Marxist Winter School 2013 was a big success: an excellent time was had by all; a new generation of revolutionaries got the chance to meet and discuss; and thanks to the eating, drinking, raffle, and collection, over £1300 was raised for the building of the forces of Marxism in Britain and internationally.
As one older attendee commented, having last participated in an Marxist weekend school many years ago:
I am moved to see that Marxism has rebuilt itself, and we have here a new group of pioneering young Marxists, who are genuine Marxists but not doctrinaire. This is the future.