The 200-plus people attending Workers’ Liberty’s annual Ideas for Freedom event on 21-23 June were this year invited to attend discussions built around developing clear socialist ideas to strengthen the class struggle.
We looked at the idea of “transitional demands”, linking immediate struggles to the goal of a different society, and at what a “workers’ united front” and “workers’ government” mean today.
Anti-cuts councillor Gill Kennett from Hull spoke about the fight to make councillors defy cuts. We looked at how to fight to save the NHS and welfare state while seeking to go beyond defensive struggles today.
Working-class history was the subject of many sessions. The event featured speakers from Turkey and Greece on the mass struggles taking place there, as well as comrades from Australia and Iran, and an assessment of Hugo Chavez’s legacy in Venezuela
Sessions on the Marxist traditions helped to solidify the ideas from other discussions. We talked about the distinctive contributions of Gramsci and Lenin, the latter contrasted to the invented tradition of “Leninism”. Sean Matgamna debated John Palmer on the “International Socialist tradition” of the SWP, and led another session on what is distinct about the ideas and tradition of the AWL.
But the theme of transforming the labour movement ran across the board: how do we revolutionise the trade unions?; what should benefits workers do about the government’s sanctions regime against claimants; lively debate on staying in and seeking to transform mass organisations such as Unite and Unison, versus joining or setting up smaller, radical unions.
If you were there and have thoughts about what was good, bad or could be improved/done differently, or ideas for the future — please let us know. Email us at email@example.com or speak to an AWL member.
Liberation at IFF
In the opening plenary of Ideas for Freedom 2013 Janine Booth described fighting oppression as one of Marxism’s “big ideas”, and the battle for liberation was key to many of the weekend’s sessions.
These sessions built on the successful series of meetings we organised around the country on Marxism and feminism earler this year, exploring the role Marxist ideas have played in past women’s movements and the possibilities of renewing that link today.
At IFF we engaged with, and critiqued, key feminist writers and diverse viewpoints.
Cath Fletcher examined Silvia Federici’s Caliban and the Witch: Women, the body and primitive accumulation, in which Federici rethinks Marx’s analysis of the beginnings of capitalism from a feminist viewpoint.
Kate Harris explored the impact of Judith Butler’s ideas on feminist activism, asking how her ideas can inform our engagement with the recent feminist revival and how this sits alongside advocating more radical solutions to women’s and LGBTQ oppression.
Camila Bassi looked at the global picture of sexual violence, and the debates on the Indian left after the Delhi protests following a gang rape in the city in December 2012.
And we held a panel discussion with RMT activist Becky Crocker; CWU activist and TUC LGBT committee chair, Maria Exall; and NUJ organiser, Jenny Lennox on how challenging sexism within the labour movement and left is key, as the fight for women’s rights must be central to the struggle to transform and democratise our movement.
We want to take these ideas into activity, working with others to think about how we can challenge sexism in the labour movement. We’ll continue to publish our bi-monthly feminist paper, Women’s Fightback, and blog as spaces for discussion and debate and welcome contributions from everyone. The next issue (July) will focus on the theme of socialist responses to violence against women.