a weekend at marxism: how do we relate to the SWP?

David Broder reflects on this weekend’s Marxism festival, a thousands-strong conference organised by the Socialist Workers’ Party. He argues that the libertarian left should be doing more to engage with SWP comrades in order to provide a positive alternative for those put off by how it organises.

Marxism is the biggest event on the British left. Across five days several thousand people converge on London for the Socialist Workers’ Party summer school, including representatives of most other significant left groups. The conference itself is SWP self-promotion, so they do not invite groups they disagree with for debate: they prefer to give a platform to ‘big name’ trade union leaders, politicians like Tony Benn or Marxist academics, who may sermonise for socialism but won’t really question the SWP’s own modus operandi.

This is a great shame, since ‘Marxism’ has great unfulfilled potential. It could be a weekend for the left to debate strategy and ideas in a collective way. Instead, the meetings are heavy on top-table speakers, while SWP audience members tend simply to reaffirm what the speaker has already said. Often in an anti-cuts meeting or similar, The Commune members will question whether we should really be collaborating with Labour politicians, what kind of direct action is appropriate, or if we should be making more radical, positive proposals rather than purely defensive demands. The SWP stock reply is: this isn’t the time to debate among ourselves, we need to be ‘out there’ campaigning. OK, so when can we have these debates? Continue reading “a weekend at marxism: how do we relate to the SWP?”

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is marxism just too abstract?

by Nathan Coombs

The following commentary is in response to a forum organized by The Commune and the Marxist-Humanist Initiative, held in London on July 5, 2010.  This involved a talk by Anne Jaclard, “You Can’t Change the Mode of Production with a Political Agenda,” followed by a talk by Andrew Kliman, “The Transformation of Capitalism into Communism in the Critique of the Gotha Program.” Both talks can be read here.

In 1965 Louis Althusser opened his famous paean For Marx with a withering reflection on French theoretical culture at the time. He bemoaned the fact that ‘we have spent the best part of our time in agitation when we would have been better employed in the defence of our right and duty to know’.[i] The result of which was ‘the stubborn, profound absence of any theoretical culture’; whereas, he claimed, ‘Marxism should not be simply a political doctrine, a ‘method’ of analysis and action, but also, over and above the rest, the theoretical domain of fundamental investigation’.[ii] For this task Althusser saw as indispensable the role of intellectuals committed to necessary theoretical work.

Plato: an 'abstract' proto-communist?

Continue reading “is marxism just too abstract?”

the commune issue 14

The May issue of our monthly paper The Commune is now available. Click the image below to see the PDF or see individual articles as they are posted online in the list below.

To purchase a printed copy for £1 + 50p postage, use the ‘donate’ feature here. You can also subscribe (£12 a year UK/£16 EU/£20 international) or order 5 copies a month to sell (£4) online here. If you want to pay by cheque, contact uncaptiveminds@gmail.com. Continue reading “the commune issue 14”

the london commune: introduction to marx’s communism

This spring The Commune in London will be holding a series of educational discussions on the communism of Karl Marx as part of our organising meetings.

On each of the following Mondays (separated by three week intervals) we will have an hour’s discussion on a theme or text followed by an hour of planning for movement events and organising in the capital. See below for the list of dates and texts. Continue reading “the london commune: introduction to marx’s communism”

communist theory forum, february 14th

The Communist Theory Forum, hosted by The Commune, takes place from 2pm on Sunday 14th February at the Lucas Arms, Grays Inn Road, near London’s King’s Cross.

The Communist Theory Forum represents an attempt to establish an engaged research programme to think through the impasses of the left. The forum was established out of a dissatisfaction with most of the academic debates on the left, which rarely transcend scholastic studies. If you think of a journal such as the New Left Review, for all the good academic work contained within there is very little engagement with either the big questions of communist strategy in the 21st century, nor the nuts and bolts of real world praxis today. The debates are very rarely conducted from the point of view of what is needed to reinvigorate communist ideas to assist overturning the economic and political structures of capitalism. Continue reading “communist theory forum, february 14th”

bristol reading group, sunday 24th january: capital and capitalism

The first of The Commune’s Bristol reading group sessions will be on Sunday 24th January at 6pm in Cafe Kino on Ninetree Hill, Bristol.

The series of sessions is entitled “Alternatives to capitalism”. The first session is called “Capital and capitalism”. A brief look at the features of capitalism. Capital, wage-labour, profit, capital accumulation and its effect on our lives.This first session sets the scene and will allow us to contast proposed alternatives. Continue reading “bristol reading group, sunday 24th january: capital and capitalism”

russia’s marxist labour party: twenty years after the wall fell

The coming week marks twenty years since the fall of the Berlin wall. This event represented one of the high points of a great mass struggle against the tyrannical order in the Eastern Bloc, but with the defeats of movements opposed to both these statist régimes and the free market, the popular movements of 1989 are now used to prove there is no alternative to capitalism.

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In the coming week The Commune shall be presenting a series of interviews with communists from the former Eastern Bloc focussing on the struggles of the time, what system really existed in the ‘”communist” countries and what has happened to the working class over the last twenty years. In the first of these we talk to Russia’s Marxist Labour Party. Continue reading “russia’s marxist labour party: twenty years after the wall fell”