Author and journalist Owen Jones discusses the future of socialism alongside Thierry from the L'Etincelle tendency of France's New Anticapitalist Party and Daisy Forest of Workers' Liberty
Last year Ideas for Freedom, the annual weekend of socialist discussion and debate organised by Workers’ Liberty, was attended by just over 200 people (see here for our report and pictures). This year, despite a more sluggish political atmosphere following the defeat of the public sector pensions dispute, attendance was perhaps up slightly and almost every meeting was crowded.
People came from across the country (and beyond), with a good mix of trade unionists, student activists and others. This is a bit of a far left cliché, but we were very pleased how many new activists and young people were there.
IFF is a “showcase” for our politics, but we also use it to genuinely debate and think through ideas. The quality of the discussion was consistently high, as were the speakers – including the AWL speakers, a mix of young and older comrades. There were many highlights – not only the big names and debates, but also the smaller workshops and the wide variety of sessions introducing different aspects of Marxist politics.
A number of themes featured consistently: understanding capitalism; the European crisis and the need for a Europe-wide response; the need to renovate the labour movement, in Britain and internationally, from bottom to top; and the need to renovate, clarify and regenerate Marxist ideas. In every discussion the themes of class politics and consistent democracy were centre stage.
Since 2007 we have run an opening event on Friday night. This year’s opener, celebrating the class struggles of 1972 and their relevance to recent winning workers’ disputes, was packed out, with more than 80 people. So was the Saturday night discussion on Greece (the second at the event), with a viewing of two Reel News documentaries about Greek workers’ and community struggles. We were also treated to beer and lager brewed and donated to the event by two attendees, including a specially created “Liberty” ale with an IFF label.
Another highlight was John Cunningham, former miner and secretary of the new Spanish Miners' Solidarity Committee, speaking about the inspiring battle of miners in northern Spain (see John's article here).
Activists from different trade unions held caucuses throughout the event. Our fundraising appeal raised almost £2,200 in much needed funds for the AWL’s campaigning.
All in all it was a great weekend. Many thanks to everyone who helped out.
• For the final agenda click here.
• For Twitter comments on and quotes from the event, see here.
• We produced a book of articles for the event, What is capitalism? Can it last?, with pieces by Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Theodora Polenta, Sean Matgamna, Maziar Razi, Martin Thomas, Daniel Randall, Leon Trotsky and Max Shachtman among others - edited by Cathy Nugent. It costs £5. If you would to order a copy, email email@example.com
• If you have any comments on the event or suggestions for improvement, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org - we have already received some very helpful suggestions.