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Report of Marxism 2007.
Monday March 12, 2007 18:25 by Red Wedge
I attended some of Marxism 2007. This is my account of proceedings.
The Socialist Workers Party organise an annual Marxism conference in Dublin. This year’s event took place in the ATGWU Hall in middle Abbey Street.
When I arrived in the Matt Merrigan hall on mid afternoon on Saturday, the second day of the gathering, a debate between Economist and Broadcaster David McWilliams and SWP leading light Kieran Allen was in full swing. The hall was packed for a re-un of the McWilliams versus the Left battle that also took place at the Social Party’s Marxism equivalent held last year. There was some agreement between the speakers, most notably on the question of the degradation of white-collar work and the persistence of inequality. Predictably, this consensus was not extended to questions of Irish foreign policy, class or immigration. McWilliams suggestion that Israel had a right to “Nuke” Iran was not well received by members of the packed audience. Equally, his suggestion that immigration would be a problem for the Left in the event of an economic downturn was greeted with hostility. To great ovation, a female speaker from the back interrupted McWilliams speech to remind him that the Left rejected divide and rule tactics.
The hall remained full for a talk on the “Rise of the New Left”. Well known activist and Dail Candidate in Dublin South East Rory Hearne took his place on the top table beside RESPECT General Secretary John Rees. Both speakers belted the message out loud and clear- broad anti war, anti-Neo liberal alliances are what we need. Included on Rory’s list of election issues included the bin-taxes, housing, bad health services, war, corruption, planning matters and environmental protection.
Rory Hearne also had sharp words for the Labour Party, Sinn Fein and the Green party. A Labour Youth speaker from the floor, agreeing with Hearne on many issues, pointed out that you could remove Labour, SF and the Greens in the morning but 80% of the voters would still be intent on supporting right wing parties in the general election. There was some debate from the floor about the role of revolutionaries in organisations such a RESPECT and the People before Profit alliance. Brid Smith, PBP Dail candidate in Dublin South Central, insisted that the move to form People before Profit had been forced on activists by the Social Movements while Richard Boyd Barret, PBP flag bearer in Dun-Laoghaire, argued that broad tactical alliances were always adapted by successful revolutionaries. He quoted the Bolshevik demand for “Peace, Bread and Land” as an example.
The hall emptied a little for the next talk “From Chavez to Morales: The Left Tide in Latin America” with academic Mike Gonzales. Gonzales tracked the progress of the Revolution in Venezuela, arguing that President Hugo Chavez was moving to the Left in response to the demands of Venezuelan grassroots movements. All the speakers from the floor were in agreement that the increased support for the Left in Latin America ought to be a source of great optimism and hope. There was some slight disagreement on Uncle Sams role in the continent. One speaker contended that the US military could not intervene at the present time because they were bogged down by the Iraqi resistance. In response, a contributor from Argentina argued that it was armies indigenous to Latin America countries who traditionally did the overthrowing of the Left and the insertion of Despots.
I returned on Sunday afternoon for a talk entitled “From Radicals to Rulers-a history of Irish Republicanism”. This talk was due to be given by Sean Mictchell, who recently polled a very respectable 774 votes as a People before Profit assembly candidate in West Belfast. However, he was detained elsewhere and so Kieran Allen and an SWP member from Belfast stepped in to fill the breach. KA identified two dominant responses to Republicanism on the Irish Left since the outbreak of the Troubles. One approach, traditionally was unremittingly hostile and condemnatory while another was uncompromisingly supportive. In the discussion that followed, there was optimism that the Left would grow in the North if it threw itself behind the campaign to stop the water charges and other issues that brought people from across the traditional divide together. It was agreed that despair in loyalist working class areas caused by decline in the North’s traditional industries, as well as increasing isolation from the British government and the British monarchy represented an opportunity for the Left.
The final discussion was on Partnership and Trade Unionism. Joanne Delaney led the charge with a talk on her experience as a MANDATE Shop Steward in Dunne’s Stores and the broad campaign which secured her re-instatement following her dismissal for wearing a Union pin. In the debate that ensued, speaker after speaker rose to profess despair at the partnership model and the trade union leadership. Prominent Left Wing trade unionist Des Derwin argued for Left unity in the Unions and his call was echoed by others. With the discussion on trade unionism done and dusted, Marxism attendees filed into the Matt Merrigan hall for the final rally, delivered by Sean Mitchell and Richard Boyd Barret. Both speakers returned to the need to build up People before Profit. They also insisted that the existence of a strong revolutionary current within these organisations was indispensable and for this reason, those present should consider signing up for the SWP.
The event concluded with a heartening, fists in the air rendition of the Left wing anthem the Internationale.