Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Marxism 2006: A Festival of Resistance

Talking of going to big-name big-rhetoric events it's time to decide on going to Marxism 2006: A Festival of Resistance. It's on from Thursday, July 6th to Monday, July 10th - a timing to test the resolve of the more devoted football enthusiasts. Marxism used to run from Friday to Friday and last year's event made the shift to the long-weekend, justified in terms of its proximity to the Make Poverty History events in Edinburgh and the Gleneagles summit. Cynics suggested that there weren't going to be enough people around to keep it going through the week, and it certainly seemed a lot smaller than the Marxisms of just a few years ago. It was of course also a bit disrupted by the bombings of July 7th.

This year certainly has an attractive roster of big-name or interesting speakers. The opening rally line-up includes a former minister from Venezuela. Ken Loach will be introducing a showing of Land and Freedom. Gillo Pontecorvo will be introducing Battle of Algiers (reminds me of how good Martin Smith's talk about the film was a few years back) at the same time as Ken MacLeod is talking about Science Fiction, but that's a reminder that over the last few years the highpoint of Marxism have been the talks by the incredibly cool China Mieville, who just doesn't seem to be present this year - boo hoo.

Tony Benn is talking about planning, followed by George Galloway and John Rees doing a big Logan Hall forum on 'What Next for Respect' (always good to get the word), followed by Bernadette McAliskey and Michael Rosen among others talking about the 1960s. For us sad academics noted theorist Paul Gilroy is on with Weyman Bennett talking aabout multiculturalism, Terry Eagleton talking about his autobiographical memoir and Istvan Meszaros on alienation. So there's lots of goodies and I haven't even mentioned Tariq Ali or Hassan Jumaa yet, or the guaranteed scandal and controversy that will accompany Gilad Atzmon.

Is there a downside? Well there'll be a lot of hackier meetings and there'll be a lot of annoying shallow rhetoric and the efforts at recruitment will be aggravating, so I'm not denying a certain level of pain and masochism about being there, but it still looks good and maybe with time and good therapy I will recover again. And, you know, the SWP do attract a lot of people to a well-organised event that at its best does have a buzz about it. See you there?


Louisefeminista said...

Doesn't look like Steven Rose is speaking, which is a shame as he is such as good speaker and writer.

Interested in the one with Louise Christian and Winston Silcott speaking on the British criminal justice system.

Wendy Savage is also down to speak. Interesting as well they have been able to get Sam West. Wonder if he'll speak about Romans in Britain play he directed.

Mark P said...

No chance. If I wanted to go to a religious revival meeting I'd go buy a tambourine. Hysterical rhetoric and simple minded cheering make my teeth hurt, I'm afraid. As for the rigged discussions where any dissenting voice who manages to get in will be immediately followed by half a dozen androids... well stabbing yourself in the spleen a few times would be more productive and amusing.

David Broder said...

They're having Atzmon again!


I organized a little protest against him last year - - looks like it'll be the same again in '06.

Come along and protest, anyone who thinks the Holocaust happened and that Palestinians and Jews have the same right to self-determination (you don't have to pick one over the other).

I'll even invite you to AWL summer school

badmatthew said...

Dave is kind in his invite to the AWL Summer School. These things are interesting and I'd like to invite Dave to record what was good and what was bad about this year's version for the Socialist Unity site. I've been to the AWL's event and would always encourage people to go to socialist weekend schools. It was certainly more open to discussion and debate than the Marxism event, but it's also tiny in comparison and the general atitude of the AWL - "we are the righteous Bolsheviks, martyred for our true belief by the fake, kitsch and anti-semitic left" gets a bit nauseating. And Dave's version of the Zionist justification for the racist, exclusionary, apartheid-style settler-colonialism of Israel is objectionable as well. However I still gold to the idea that socialists should work with each other despite our long traditions of hostility and mutual sectarianism.

I heard Atzmon speak at Marxism a couple of years ago and he was embarrassing (his music is great though), but would also note that the SWP put a lot of effort into attacking his views. I wouldn't invite him, so we'll have to find soeone from the SWP who thinks it's a good idea.

Finally here, I've never stabbed myself in the spleen, but I have been depressed by the constant rhetoric, hysteria, etc. at Marxism; but it is more than that. There is much of interest, much to learn, much to criticise and it remains the biggest single manifestation of socialist discussion we have. Just don't weaken, and only discuss whether you're willing to join the SWP with people who are willing to leave.

Jim Jay said...

Just quickly searched the archive for our coverage of the Atzmon debacle from 2005 FYI.

Jews against Zionism statement and Reuben Bard-Rosenburg's excellent review of Gilad Atzmon's website both are well worth reading.

One of the 'lines' that the SWP was coming out with last year is that Atzmon was not speaking at the event (only playing) although this year he clearly is speaking.

Personally I have no objection to him speaking per se - what I do worry about is that if such a dubious individual is to speak he should be put on the spot over his anti-semitism, not given space to speak in a safe debate about John Coltrane.

ps Adrian Mitchell will be there - wooo!

AN said...

I don't mean to be a smart arse, but can you really have a "festival of resitance" isn't a festival a joyous celebration, and doesn't resistance imply a defensive response to something unpleasant.

Anyway - I stopped going to marxism except for the occassional day sometime around 1990. I don't know whether it is just me that has changed, or just the SWP, or more probably both, but I think that there did used to be more debate, and it used to be more friendly.

badmatthew said...

AN might not mean to be a smart arse, but.... you can't expect me to believe that can you. Of course the history of resistance is full of joy and festivity and excitement as well as other things. Damn those anti-war marches, some people enjoyed them, don't they know they were meant to be serious! Those ANL Carnivals, hah they might have had music on them, but it should have been a solemn funeral march.

And AN, if you stopped 15 years ago, how do you know how much debate or how unfriendly it is? Yep, better change your plans and I'll see you there.

badmatthew said...

On the Atzmon issue can I recommend the very interesting and knowledgeable posting at Jews sans Frontieres on the aubject of 'Gilad Atzmon, Linda Grant and the SWP'(May 28th):
The invite remains inexplicable and seems to represent a retreat from past promises.

AN said...

Up until 15 years ago I went for the whole event, since then I have gone for the odd day most years. Enough to sample the atmosphere, and level of debate.

But what do you think matthew, do you think it unchanged?

badmatthew said...

I think it's changed; but there's a big subjective component, which is the shift fromm thinking that building the SWP was the most important thing and the downside features were very much secondary problems, to thinking that those problems: the lack of genuine debate on key issues, the exaggerations, the simplifications, the hype and hysteria were flaws that undermined the whole project.I also think that the likes of Tony Cliff and Duncan Hallas were political giants and we won't see there klike again. If someone thought that about Chris Bambery or John Rees I'd get very edgy! So I go now and feel ill-at-ease and out-of-place. But maybe I'm just too old and wrong and the way forward is the SWP's current political style....

Jim Jay said...

Chris Bambery and John Rees have both said and done very impressive things over the years. Credit where it's due.

eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrr - i feel so dirty!!!!

AN said...


Darren said...

No idea it was only four days this year.

I don't think even the most ardent SWPer can put a positive spin on that.