Summer 2003 In Defence of Marxism international school a huge success

The In Defence of Marxism web site is not merely a site where you can find interesting Marxist material. The site is an expression of a political tendency active in many countries. Our aim is to develop a Marxist current within the labour movement of all countries, with the long-term objective of winning the whole of the labour movement and its organisations to the ideas of revolutionary socialism.

The articles, documents and books that we publish are aimed at re-arming the working class and youth activists with the genuine ideas of Marxism. This is an essential tool for understanding the world around us. But we do not merely wish to understand the world, we want to change it. That involves building a living force in each country that can take the ideas into the labour movement.

As part of this task we organise seminars, conferences and schools, where we gather together Marxist cadres and keen youth who wish to grasp the ideas of Marxism. This summer in Spain we held an important international school with this purpose in mind.

The school was a big success with about 250 comrades attending from many different countries. There were comrades from Canada, the USA, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Ireland, Britain, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Serbia, Poland, Russia, Greece, Turkey, Israel, and Pakistan. For financial or visa problems, comrades from Nigeria, South Africa, Morocco, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia, Cyprus, Macedonia and Slovenia were unable to attend.

The mood of the school was one of tremendous enthusiasm. This reflected two questions. One was the new mood in the international labour movement everywhere. Most of the comrades could report on major developments such as general strikes, mass demonstrations, shifts to the left inside many of the mass organisations, in particular the trade unions. The other was the fact that the comrades are finding it easier to connect with the more advanced workers and youth. There is a greater interest for genuine Marxist ideas among this layer and many are becoming more actively involved in the dissemination of these ideas.

One highlight of the school was the presence of Trotsky’s grandson, Esteban Volkov. He spoke to the gathering about his memories of Trotsky in Mexico and how he remembered the day his grandfather was assassinated. As he spoke there was complete silence, with every comrade carefully listening to what was being said. As Volkov reached the point where he recalled the moment he entered the house in Coyoacan to discover what had happened, he had to stop as the emotions of that day came back to him. As he finished his speech he received a standing ovation, which was as much a tribute to the memory of Trotsky as to Volkov’s determined efforts to bring the genuine ideas of his grandfather to today’s generations.

The school opened on the first day with a speech by Alan Woods on the world situation. This was followed by comrades from different countries reporting on such events as the recent Nigerian general strike, the revolutionary developments in Venezuela, the mood developing among workers in the USA as the reality of the situation in Iraq sinks in. 

Other comrades reported on the situation in Italy after the massive antiwar movement there which saw millions of people march through the streets of Rome and the situation in Spain where 6-7 million people demonstrated all over the country against the war. This discussion set the tone for the rest of the week.

In the days that followed there were different seminars on many different subjects. There was a special session on the situation facing the Marxists in Pakistan. Comrade Lal Khan, editor of the Asian Marxist Review, gave an encouraging report of the big successes the comrades there have achieved in very difficult conditions. This was further emphasised by the presence of two Marxist MPs who added their weight to the report. The very presence of these two comrades served to show that our ideas can connect with the masses and can get big support.

There were also commissions on the following subjects: Marxism and Anarchism, the State, Marxism and War, the Middle East, Argentina, Venezuela, Cuba, the British Trade union movement, the Spanish student movement (with particular reference to the tremendous work of the Spanish Student Union), a Marxist critique of the ideas of Toni Negri (in particular on his book Empire), the role of the Revolutionary Party, Guerrillaism and the theory of the Permanent Revolution.

These commissions were especially tailored for the new young comrades who have become active in the Marxist tendency in the recent period. The general consensus was that all the commissions were extremely interesting and had served to raise the level of understanding of all the comrades present. We intend to publish over the coming weeks and months a large part of the speeches given during the seminars, so that comrades who were not able to attend can also benefit.

The mood of enthusiasm was reflected during the financial appeal, which was also a huge success. Our tendency has to spend money on trips to visit the comrades in various countries, to help the work of the comrades, particularly in the less developed countries, on telephone calls and on running the web site. We receive no financial backing from any rich sponsors. We count on the small (and big) contributions that the workers and youth who support us can afford to give. The collection at the school raised 27,000 Euros. This was money which had been raised by comrades all around the world, who see contributing money to the Marxist tendency as a worthwhile investment. It is an investment in the future socialist society that we are struggling to achieve internationally.

The closing session was a speech by Alan Woods on Marxism and Art in which he gave the comrades a foretaste of the book on the same subject which he is working on, and which should be published some time next year. From the speech given we have an idea of the kind of book it will be. 

It will surely match Reason in Revolt in terms of the impact it will have. Reason in Revolt has been published in seven different langauges languages and in more than one country the book has sold out and second editions have either been published, as in Spain, or are planned. A Dutch and a French edition are being prepared.

A special moment at the school was the appearance of Ted Grant, who has now reached the age of 90. He has dedicated his whole life to the cause of Marxism, starting back in the late 1920s when he first encountered the ideas of Leon Trotsky. He defended the ideas even when everything seemed bleak, especially in the late 1940s and 1950s when it was difficult for the Marxists to break out of their isolation. Without his determined will to stick to the fundamental ideas over decades our tendency would not be here today. 

Ted spoke to the school about the need to build an international movement based on the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. As he spoke, again, all the comrades listened attentively. Particularly touching was the affection shown by the youngest comrades who see in Ted the historical link to the struggles of the past.

Everyone left the school with a mood of excitement and renewed determination to go back to their respective countries and build the forces of Marxism. This bodes well for the future of the Marxist tendency on a world scale.