Guide to Marxism 2010

I’ve never attended one of the Socialist Workers’ Party’s annual “Marxism [insert year]” extravaganzas, and I’m pretty sure I never will, but I’m fascinated by them.

For one thing, it’s always interesting to note which stars of the previous year’s Marxism past have become unpersons at the next year’s Marxism. Recent examples include George Galloway, Gilad Atzmon, Lindsey German and John Rees, but I’m sure close observers will have noticed others.

I also enjoy reviewing the topics of the many sessions, noting how many of them end with a question mark and predicting how the question will be answered.

Anyway, here are some of the Marxism 2010 session topics that are in the form of questions and the names of the presenters. I’ve attempted a brief guess at how the presenters will answer the questions, based on my years observing the SWP from afar. I invite readers to check the schedule for other topics-as-questions and supply their own answers.

If you’re planning on going to Marxism 2010, and trying to decide which meetings to attend, perhaps this will help you narrow the choices.

• Who was Karl Marx?
(Estelle Cooch)

A great man who, if he were brought back to life, would surely support the agenda of the Socialist Workers Party.

• What are the police for?
(Mark Bergfeld)

Protecting capitalist property relations.

• What is Zionism?
(Simon Englert)

A European colonialist enterprise that inevitably oppresses native peoples. (There will be no confusing discussion of Ber Borochov or the fact that there are streets and neighborhoods in Israel named after him.)

• What makes you working class?
(Judith Orr)

Don’t worry, even if you come from a rich family, attended top schools and get a relatively high-paying job in academia or media, you can still consider yourself working class.

• Is the Labour Party reviving?
(Charlie Kimber)


• The crisis – over or just beginning?
(Graham Turner)

Just beginning, as it has been for the past 100 years or so.

• Lenin – hero or villain?
(Amy Leather)


• Are we seeing a rebirth of student power?
(Sarah Young, Judith Litschauer & Nicos Loudos)


• Who was Leon Trotsky?
(Sarah Ensor)

A great revolutionary, a true Bolshevik (unlike that nasty Stalin), but let’s not look too hard at his role in suppressing the Kronstadt revolt.

• Where does reformism come from?
(Shaun Doherty)

From those trying to placate the masses while protecting capitalist property relations.

• What has happened to the BBC?
(Dave Crouch)

Nothing good, as evidenced by its recent failure to blame Israel for everything bad in the Middle East.

• If it’s popular, can it be art?
(Simon Byrne)

Yes, as long as I approve of it.

• Will the British working class ever be revolutionary?
(Sadie Robinson)

Yes, although perhaps not in our lifetimes.

• Is fascism possible in the 21st century?
(Weyman Bennett)

Yes, but only in Western or pro-Western countries.

• What is fascism?
(Anindya Bhattacharyya)

Something that mostly threatens Western countries and does not exist in the Middle East, except in Israel.

• Keynesianism – capitalism’s cure?
(Esme Choonara)


• Why do revolutionaries stand in elections?
(Maxine Bowler)

To rally mass support, usually amounting to 5 percent or less of the vote, but hey, that’s a start.

• What kind of party do we need?
(Michael Bradley)

A militant mass party with democratic centralism.

• Why is school so boring?
(Jordan Protano-Byrne)

Because its primary purpose is to prepare you to be a cog in the capitalist machine.

• Is Iraq free?
(Haifa Zangana & Phil Marfleet)

No, and it only will be if anti-Americans are again in charge.

• Do we need a revolutionary newspaper in the age of the internet?
(Charlie Kimber)

Yes, one very much like The Socialist Worker.

Afghanistan – is the West winning the war?
(Christine Buchholz, Riaz Ahmed & Judith Orr)


• Does the media control our minds?
(Dan Mayer)

Not our minds, of course, but everyone else’s minds.

• Do we need a revolution to save the planet?
(Penny Howard)


• Is the state becoming more authoritarian?
(Siân Ruddick)


• The working class – capitalism’s gravedigger?
(Laura Miles)

Yes, someday.

It is unsurprising and emblematic that several of the sessions will focus on Israel-Palestine (from which perspective you can guess) while the truly revolutionary events and brutal repression of the past year in Iran– which ought to engage the conscience and solidarity of every genuine leftist– go unacknowledged.

Sometime Harry’s Place commenter Michael Rosen will host an evening of “Poetry for Palestine.” I suggested to Michael that he invite Vanessa Hidary to perform “The Hebrew Mamita” for a bit of balance, but he didn’t reply.

Update: Commenter JN notes that there will be a session on “Iran today – crisis, protest and sanctions” with Peyman Jafari. I missed that.