Even the bourgeois press has admitted that the sudden shift in world economic fortunes has brought Marxism ‘back from the dead’ – the Sunday Times ran an article last week under the title ‘The credit crunch is bringing Marxism back into fashion’. From our perspective, Marxism is not a fashion or a strange breed of animal, as the bourgeoisie like to kid themselves, but the only answer to today’s problems. And as the deep crisis of world capitalism comes more and more to the surface, more and more people will seek our ideas. This was shown by the turnout of more than 30 at ULU Marxist Society and Socialist Appeal’s Marxist Day School on Saturday 12th July.
The day began at 12.00 with Fred Weston leading off on the topic ‘Marxism and the Black Struggle’. Fred started off with the fact that there is no scientific basis for racism whatsoever, and that such an ideology is a product of social relations, and specifically capitalist social relations. For example, under different social conditions, such as the Roman Empire, the slaves were largely of similar ethnicity to the slave owners, and at the same time there were African Roman Emperors, such as Septimius Severus. Racism is therefore not some natural or an innate human trait.
However, all class societies have inequality and oppression at their centre, and need an ideology to justify this. Capitalism has always gone hand in hand with the ideology of racism. Fred explained that the cause of this lies in capitalism’s historical genesis through the revival of slavery, its continued inability to give decent jobs and conditions to all, and its need to divide the working class in order to remain dominant. For this reason Fred argued that Marxists must strive for maximum unity of the working class and fight all tendencies towards working class division.
Then Jon Avis led off on ‘Stalinism and Bolshevism’. He focused on the ideas of Stalinism as the degeneration of the worker’s state and Bolshevik Party due the chronically low levels of production in the Russian economy – he pointed out that after the civil war the Soviet state’s production was one fifth of what it had been in 1913. This led to generalised want, the struggle for resources, and the weakening of the proletariat, which enabled the old Tsarist bureaucracy to re-enter the state free from working class control. Jon then added that this represented a counter-revolutionary usurpation of power, the contrast between Bolshevism and Stalinism being represented by the fact that at the end of the purges, only Stalin remained alive out of those who led the October Revolution. Members of the audience then debated these ideas and how we should understand Stalinism, with one arguing that the 1918 abolition of the Constituent Assembly represented the first move away from democracy. Another comrade criticised this argument, since the real centre of revolutionary democracy was the Soviets.
Finally Rob Sewell spoke on 'Marxism Vs Ultra-leftism’. This was in relation to the sectarian idea of leaving mass trade unions or workers’ parties when the leadership is conservative, to set up small ‘revolutionary’ unions and parties on the sidelines. He characterised this as essentially giving up on the struggle for the leadership of the working class. He criticised the tendency to denounce right wing labour leaders when there is no significant organised alternative, rather than placing demands on them. He also argued that it was utopian to think that the mass of the working class is going to vote for tiny parties on the fringes, however good their politics, and would instead simply abstain. Such sectarian policies lead to frustration, and as a result these revolutionaries can quickly turn to opportunism as a quick solution. The audience discussed these ideas in relation to the British labour movement, with one trade union militant asking how non-sectarians who operate in the Labour Party could avoid being expelled from the party, as Militant supporters were. Rob answered that there is no guarantee with this, just as there is no guarantee that revolution will win over counterrevolution in any one situation. Ultimately it depends on the class balance of forces.
The day school was a success, with a good attendance, debate and considerable money raised in the international appeal.