In obvious sensitivity to internal bleeding in the face of informationalised capitalism, dogged activists of the Marxist.com have been utilizing the opportunities offered by ICT to strengthen Marxism through an international Summer School. In the report below, they give an account of how it all went.
This report is in two parts. The first part was issued July 27th, 2020 while the second part was issued at the end of the experience. It is exactly as the organisers wrote it except that the title for part 2 has been elevated because the title for part 1 has been overtaken.
It is an interesting account. For, even as categorical as the authors that “Our organisation stands alone in its unapologetic defence of the original, unadulterated principles of Marxism, Leninism and Trotskyism”, the critical reader can still see something beyond a cut and paste attitude to Marxism, what with the observable elements of critical theory, postmodern Marxism, poststructuralist/post-Marxism, postcolonial theory, etc – to what is unfolding in the world. Otherwise, how might BLM, for example, might be here? Previously, BLM would have been treated as a secondary contradiction.
Marxist University off to a phenomenal start!
The International Marxist University 2020 is at the halfway point. 6,000 people registered to attend from over 115 countries, and hundreds of thousands of euros have been raised in donations so far for the cause of international socialism. There’s still time to join in: click here to register!
We have had two days of excellent online discussions on the theory and method of Marxism, covering the state of world politics, postmodernism, the crisis of capitalism, modern science and more. By every measure, the school has been an incredible success!
This school has been a material testament to the spirit of revolutionary internationalism and Bolshevik sacrifice! Live translation has been provided in 13 different languages, including all the main European languages, but also Urdu/Hindi, Chinese, Macedonian, Arabic and Serbo-Croatian. The school has required an organisational team of 150 comrades to put together and manage. The sheer volume of work and dedication behind this event is evident.
Even to attend, participants have devoted a considerable amount of time, in many cases having to temporarily alter their sleeping schedules. Where it has been possible and safe to do so, attendees have met up locally to watch the sessions together, sharing images of themselves watching the discussions all around the world. Such was the response on social media that #MarxistUniveristy, #IMU and #IMU2020 started trending in a number of countries.
It is impossible to not be struck by the scale of the school and the enthusiasm that surrounds it. The revolutionary energy is palpable, even people are not meeting face-to-face. As Pixie Flodhammar, a participant from Sweden, put it:
“This online event is very different from meeting in real life, but being online means that more can participate, and this is a hugely positive thing for the building of a revolutionary international. The huge interest shows that workers and youth want theory that can guide real change!”
From a world on fire to a world of revolutionary ideas
On the first day, we discussed the global situation, introduced by Alan Woods: editor of marxist.com. As Alan explained, it is clear we are living in unparalleled times. Capitalism is in a catastrophic crisis, triggered by the global pandemic. The coronavirus is ravaging the earth, and the system has exposed itself as completely incapable of protecting lives. The ruling class has never been so transparently monstrous and parasitic, and at the same time so divided and lacking control over the situation. The revolutionary implications of the global scenario are clear. As Alan put it: “in order for people to live, capitalism must die.”
A record financial collection was also held on the first day, which raised over €220,000 (so far) – a clear illustration of the sacrifices comrades and sympathisers are willing to make in order to build the forces of revolutionary Marxism. As John Peterson, editor of the US Marxist website, socialistrevolution.org said: “we put our money where our mouth is!”
Six sessions were held on the second day, covering the topics of Marxist economics, the crisis of reformism; dialectical materialism and modern science; the environment; sectarianism and postmodernism. All provoked fruitful and lively discussions, with valuable contributions from a number of experienced activists.
The theme uniting every session has been the need to defend the ideas of Marxism from all forms of slander and revisionism, and to use them as the foundation to fight for a socialist alternative to the rotten capitalist system.
Ben Curry from the Marxist organisation Socialist Appeal in Britain, speaking on science and philosophy, showed how bad ideas lead to reactionary practice: like the bourgeois application of genetics to justify racism and oppression. Similarly, Daniel Morley (also from Socialist Appeal) showed how postmodernism strives to drown the radical energy of workers and youth – particularly on university campuses – in a quagmire of obscure, pessimistic nonsense.
By contrast, the revolutionary philosophy of Marxism is the only set of ideas with the capacity to transform society and liberate billions of people from poverty and misery. And time is short! Jack Halinski-Fitzpatrick, from Wellred Books, who led the discussion on climate change, explained that capitalism has become an existential threat to human civilisation.
Fortunately, the mood of radical optimism on display at Marxist University is a testament to workers and youth worldwide reaching out for a real solution. More and more people are recognising that the vital task of overthrowing capitalism and building a socialist society is the only thing worth striving for in 2020 and beyond.
Today’s sessions will begin at 13:00 BST, with three parallel sessions, including defences of Marxist economics and historical materialism, and a discussion about anarchism. Later, at 17:30 BST, we will have talks on identity politics, the history of our organisation (the International Marxist Tendency) and postcolonialism.
Marxist University ended as it started: with tremendous revolutionary optimism! Over the course of the event, almost 6,500 people registered from more than 115 countries; the opening session was viewed 10,000 times; and almost 280,000 Euros was collected in donations. This was a truly historic event, with the highest level of political discussion anywhere. The school was a tremendous testament to the strength of genuine Marxist ideas and traditions, and to the revolutionary dedication of the comrades and supporters who made it possible.
In addition to the impressive turnout, we continued our phenomenal reception on social media. Over the last four days, hundreds of comrades, supporters and participants posted images of themselves watching the discussions all over the world, and our main hashtags were shared thousands of times. There was also an excellent response to our campaign for justice for the abducted Pakistani comrade, Muhammad Amin, with dozens of posts calling for his release. This goes to show the bonds of solidarity that link workers and youth across national borders.
Ideas to change the world
The event was a great success right out of the starting block, as we explained in our report of the first two days. But Marxist University went from strength to strength! On Monday, we had six very interesting sessions on economics, anarchism, historical materialism, identity politics, the history of the International Marxist Tendency, and postcolonialism.
A running thread throughout the day was the total crisis faced by reformist and postmodernist ideas in every sphere. As Josh Holroyd (leading activist with the British Marxists of Socialist Appeal) explained in his defence of the method of historical materialism, the professors on university campuses have given up on trying to explain history scientifically. Rather, they say things “just happen”.
But as Laurie from Britain explained in his inspiring intervention on the historical basis for the oppression of women, the Marxist approach to history allows us to understand where oppression, exploitation and the capitalist system have come from. They haven’t always existed. And if they haven’t always existed, they can be abolished.
Similarly, Hamid Alizadeh (editor at marxist.com), in his talk on postcolonialism, explained that the former colonised world has been rising up in revolt in the recent period. If we approached radical workers and youth in Sudan, Lebanon, Algeria etc. – who have been striving for their freedom and human dignity – while making any concessions to petty-bourgeois fetishisation of backwardness and religious fundamentalism, we would never win them over.
Indeed, as Fiona Lali, lead organiser of the Marxist Student Federation in Britain, said in the discussion, “once you detach oppression from its material basis, you take away our ability to fight it.” Rather than dividing workers and youth along the lines of race, nationality etc., which only favours the status quo, we must seek the maximum possible solidarity of workers and youth on a class basis, for a collective struggle to overthrow capitalism and establish socialism, thus tearing out oppression at its root.
Our organisation stands alone in its unapologetic defence of the original, unadulterated principles of Marxism, Leninism and Trotskyism – as Alan Woods (editor of marxist.com) explained in the discussion of the History of the IMT. We give no ground to petty-bourgeois ideas like identity politics or postmodernism. And it is this commitment to the true ideas of Marxism that explains our growth worldwide, which was reflected in our fantastic world school.
The final day opened with three sessions on religion, Queer Theory and pacifism. Alex Grant from Canada gave an excellent introduction to the discussion of Marxists’ attitude to religion. He explained that our philosophy, dialectical materialism, is an atheist philosophy; and that religion combined with the state is inevitably reactionary. However, we must accept that religious belief has a material basis in the suffering and misery created by class society, and to overcome it we must do away with the system itself. Only the working class, united regardless of their religious views, can achieve this.
This sentiment was continued in the discussion of Queer Theory, led by Yola Kipcak from Austria, when she explained that, while the petty-bourgeois identity theorists argue unity is always oppressive, we must focus on what unites us. Namely, the common struggle to tear up the source of homophobia, transphobia, sexism and every other form of bigotry: capitalism. Rather than separating our struggles into a rainbow of different camps, we need to marshal all the forces of the working class for the revolutionary transformation of society.
Communists disdain to hide our objectives, and we must reject the slanders of our class enemies. As Ben Glinecki pointed out in his talk on pacifism, the same characters who condemn Marxists as violent and bloodthirsty coup-plotters support a system that has caused the biggest and bloodiest wars in history, and continues to inflict brutality on the human race to protect its interests. We are not violent, but neither are we willing to accept the barbarism of class society. We are prepared to fight for an end to this rotten system, as part of the revolutionary workers’ movement. “The only just war is the class war. The only just means of fighting it are those which really lead to the liberation of mankind,” Ben said.
Workers and youth of the world: unite!
The day ended with a rally, introduced by Jorge Martin from the editorial board of In Defence of Marxism. He declared this the most successful school in the history of the IMT, despite the challenges of the pandemic. Thousands of people from every corner on the planet watched the sessions over the course of the school. We expect further success at our upcoming rally to commemorate Leon Trotsky, who was murdered in Mexico 80 years ago this August.
The level of enthusiasm for our ideas is a slap in the face to the ‘intellectual’ cynics who say the workers have no interest in theory. On the contrary, Jorge mentioned a Chilean worker on a building site and a Canadian janitor, who wrote in saying they tuned into our school, and turned up the volume so their colleagues could listen in! These are just two examples among hundreds, as social media attests!
Aside from the success of Marxist University, Jorge reported that we have had 1.8 million pageviews on our main website (marxist.com) in the three months of the pandemic. This massive public health crisis has triggered an acceleration of our growth worldwide: reflecting a growing questioning of the capitalist system everywhere, particularly amongst the youth. All of this contrasts with many other so-called socialist organisations, which are drowning in splits and crisis. What sets us apart, Jorge said, is our solid foundation in Marxist theory and our friendly, non-sectarian approach to the workers’ movement.
Jorge explained that theory is not just an intellectual exercise, but a guide to action. As Marx wrote in his Theses on Feuerbach, the philosophers have merely interpreted the world, in various ways, the point however is to change it. He then made an appeal for anybody listening who has yet to do so to join the IMT in our struggle to transform society. With the right leadership, Jorge said “this time, our class will win!”
Comrades from all over the international were then invited to speak about the unstoppable march of Marxism on every continent. Comrade Paras explained that the IMT’s largest section now has a presence in every region of Pakistan, where workers and youth are drowning in poverty, illness, repression and state corruption. A revolutionary situation is on the horizon, and our comrades are racing to build the necessary leadership that can become a reference point to the masses and to show the road forward.
He was followed by Lucy from Brazil, where the weak and reactionary Bolsonaro government’s reckless response to the coronavirus crisis has provoked the anger of the working class. As the first left organisation to embrace the slogan, Fora Bolsonaro (Bolsonaro Out), our comrades have played an important leading role in the fightback against the rotten government and have grown hugely on this basis.
Next was Fiona from Britain, where we have experienced a significant amount of growth in the last period. After the defeat of the Corbyn movement, a whole layer of frustrated activists have begun to draw radical conclusions, bolstered by the reactionary Johnson government’s disastrous handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. All of this has meant a tremendous boost in popularity for Marxist ideas, particularly amongst students and youth, which the British comrades have been capitalising on with regular, well-attended online meetings. They also have plans to move soon to a weekly paper – an enormous step forward!
Oleg from Russia was next, starting with a tribute to Comrade Alexei, leading member of our Russian section, who is currently recovering from an accident. We send him revolutionary regards. Oleg talked about how the degeneration of the workers’ movement after the collapse of the USSR in 1991 meant Russia’s revolutionary legacy was effectively buried. However, the comrades have been fighting to excavate it: performing systematic work to build their forces and ensure the spectre of October continues to haunt the gangsters at the top of the Russian regime.
Alessio from Italy then spoke about how the coronavirus pandemic, which hit Italy early, has forced a massive change of consciousness, as grassroots workers struck spontaneously to resist being forced back to work in unsafe conditions. The comrades organised an extremely successful solidarity campaign, ‘The Workers Are Not Cannon Fodder’, which allowed them to organise large meetings and connect with this new vanguard. They are also continuing to win over many youth and school students, who will play an important role in the dramatic events to come.
Finally, Laura reported from the ‘belly of the beast’: the United States. Following dramatic developments such as the Sanders movement, the COVID-19 crisis, and Black Lives Matter, over 600 people have reached out to our American comrades asking to join. Sales from their bookshop have tripled, as has the traffic to their website. We now have comrades in 60 different US cities and towns. Trump’s ravings about the ‘Marxist’ Democrats and BLM movement aside, there is indeed a massive audience for socialist and communist ideas: the US ruling class is right to be afraid!
Between donations before and throughout the school, and the big collection on Sunday, we raised almost 280,000 EUR: an astounding figure that proves the dedication and sacrifice of all our comrades and supporters, and their commitment to building a better world.
The future belongs to the Marxists!
Finally, Alan Woods gave his closing remarks. He said that, for the first time in his life, he felt like he was speaking to the whole world. He asserted that the IMT stands for the indivisible unity of the working class across all boundaries. As such, we resist all reactionary ideas that seek to divide the workers and turn them against one another. This means that our discussions are not of an abstract character. If we are to win the class struggle, the workers and youth must be armed with the correct methods and, above all, ideas. In so doing, Alan said, we follow in the footsteps of Leon Trotsky, who gave his life in the defence of the genuine ideas and traditions of Marxism and Bolshevism.
“The IMT is the only organisation on a world scale with the right to inherit the legacy of the international that was established by Leon Trotsky, before he was treacherously struck down. We must have confidence in ourselves comrades. We must come to the following conclusion: if we do not do this necessary work, nobody else will do it for us… The IMT carries on its shoulders the fate of the world socialist revolution!”
The task of this school has been to defend Marxist ideas against all forms of slander, reaction and revisionism. This was accomplished with aplomb by every comrade who spoke and intervened, all of whom demonstrated an excellent grasp of the science of Marxism. But the school itself was a testament to the validity and power of these ideas. While the bourgeois, petty-bourgeois and sectarians look on this tumultuous world in horror and confusion, unable to make sense of what they see, the Marxists grasp that we are seeing the death agony of the old society, and a new one struggling to be born.
This clarity, and belief in a better future, is winning more and more workers and youth to our banner. It is on the basis of our theory that we can look ahead with optimism about the revolutionary epoch we have entered, and with determination to accomplish the task of socialist revolution in our lifetimes.
Marxist University has come to an end, but the struggle for socialism goes on! Onward to victory! Join us!