The International Marxist Tendency held its World School in Barcelona this year from July 29 to August 3. This followed on last year's successful 2006 World Congress. Present were 300 comrades from 26 countries, including El Salvador, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Pakistan, Iran, Israel, Russia and most European countries. Unfortunately, comrades from Serbia, Morocco and Nigeria were denied visas. However, the Nigerian comrades, who had gathered in an office in Lagos, were able to listen to the opening and closing sessions over the Internet, thanks to the new technology now available.
In the opening session, Lal Khan, the International Secretary of the Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign and editor of the Asian Marxist Review, addressed the school and paid tribute to comrade Phil Mitchinson, who died tragically last November. Acknowledging the tremendous role Phil had played in developing the Socialist Appeal, the British section of the International, over the past 15 years, he noted how proud Phil would have been to see so many young people in attendance from Britain. Over half of the 40-strong British delegation was youth, most attending for the first time. Lal Khan recalled Phil's inspirational qualities from a visit he made to Pakistan back in 1997: "Phil spoke to workers in Sindh. Most wouldn't have understood much but such was his enthusiasm and passion that he received the biggest reaction I have ever seen." A minute of silence was observed in his honour.
On the first day, the International Secretary of the Hands Off Venezuela campaign, Jorge Martin spoke on the revolutionary events that have been taking place in Venezuela, particularly on the developments since Hugo Chavez's re-election last December. He started off with an evaluation of the intervention of the International Marxist Tendency in the Venezuelan revolution over the last few years:
"What we have done is to apply the Marxist dialectical method of analysis to the situation in Venezuela. The Venezuelan revolution has a lot of peculiarities and elements that are specific to the way it has developed, and it could not be otherwise. Every real social process has characteristics that are rooted in the history of the country, the particular development of its economy, the historical experience of the different classes involved in the struggle. This is what needs to be analysed in order to understand the Venezuelan revolution. In order to do so, historical parallels with the experience of revolutions in other countries and of previous movements in Venezuela, are certainly very useful so long as we are aware of the limitations of any historical analogies. In the case of Venezuela, a little knowledge of magic realism is also very useful! Marxism starts from the real situation as it is, then draws general conclusions from this and then always returns to the real situation on the ground."
The nature of the Venezuelan state was analysed, as was the ongoing debate in society on the role of the army in the revolution, and the roles to be played by the UNT and the PSUV in the class struggle. Pointing out the main challenge ahead, Jorge explained:
"The problem is clear, as Marx explained after the experience of the Paris Commune, "the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes." The experience of the Venezuelan revolution in the last few years provides many examples that confirm this. One cannot simply put honest revolutionaries within structures that replicate the capitalist state and expect these to work better. The whole of the old state machinery has to be done away with and replaced with a new one, based on democratic elections with the right of recall and accountability of all functionaries, in which no functionary receives a wage higher than that of a skilled worker, and in which there is no standing army separate from the people, but the people in arms."
| Gerry Ruddy from Ireland |
Throughout the rest of the week the school was divided up into different smaller sessions running simultaneously. Comrades had to make tough decisions such as choosing between ‘Brazil and the Black Question' by comrade Miranda from Brazil, or the ‘RCP and the War Years' by comrade Rob Sewell from Britain. Or between a lead-off by Gerry Ruddy of the Irish Republican Socialist Party: ‘Ireland - 1967-2007' and Lal Khan's introduction on ‘Islamic Fundamentalism'. Comrades found themselves both frustrated and spoilt for choice.
There were also sessions on the situation in El Salvador, the ideas of Che Guevara, three sessions covering the Russian Revolution, Mexico, the Cuban Revolution, the situation in the Middle East and Anarchism and Centrism in the Spanish Revolution. Of particular interest was a session organised by the Danish comrades on their battle against the witch-hunt carried out against them in the SUF, drawing strong parallels from the experience of the Militant in the Labour Party in the 1980s, a valuable lesson for comrades to learn.
Throughout the week, some sessions were followed by the screening of videos such as the one on the activities of The Struggle in Pakistan and their recent congress, as well as the video of the "Festa Rossa", the first ever festival of the Italian comrades of FalceMartello. Besides relatively short clips like these, also longer films were shown like the new film from Hands Off Venezuela, ‘No Volveran! The Venezuelan Revolution Now!', which received many positive comments from the comrades who watched the documentary in the evening.
On the Wednesday the comrades rejoined for a plenary session on Marxism and Religion by Alan Woods. Alan opened his speech by saying:
"The attitude of Marxism towards religion is a most important question, and it can be approached from different standpoints: theoretical, historical and practical. Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg paid enormous attention to this question. There are marvellous, profound works of Marxist philosophy on the question such as Engels' Anti-Duhring and Ludwig Feuerbach. And yet some comrades have asked my, why devote a whole session to this subject? Surely it is not all that important? And if one approaches the question from a purely rational point of view, you may have a point. With all the marvellous discoveries of modern science and the general progress of education, you might think that religion has ceased to have any hold on the minds of men and women. Physics has established the basic laws of conservation which state that energy (the same as matter) cannot be created or destroyed. Once you understand that, a very profound revolution takes place. God and the Devil, Heaven and Hell, the angels etc. go flying through the window. The results of the Human Genome Project have completely shattered the whole conception of creationism. Men and women can never be considered as special creations of God or anything else. Our origins are far more humble than that. We share the same genes as all lower animal species."
He also dealt among other things with the anti-religious sentiments of the USA's Founding Fathers and the class struggle as expressed through religious conflict. It was a superb application of historical materialism to this intriguing subject, and should hopefully be available as a small book in the near future.
On the free afternoon of that day, most comrades assembled outside the Mexican diplomatic mission in Barcelona where a demonstration was organised demanding the release of Adan Mejia, a member of the Students' Union in Mexico, an activist in the APPO of Oaxaca and a member of the Marxist Tendency of Mexico, Militante. He was illegally arrested in Oaxaca in July, as part of a campaign of repression being carried out by the illegitimate government of Felipe Calderón against the workers and left militants. Since then seven more students were arrested in Mexico, of which four are members of Militante. They have since been released on bail, yet the campaign to release Adan continues. The International Marxist Tendency is calling for an International Day of Action on September 13th when pickets will be organised outside Mexican consulates and embassies around the world.
On the last day of the School, an International report was given on Friday by Fred Weston, which outlined the growth and progress made by the IMT over the last year. This was an inspiring session where comrades were able to exchange experiences and explain the achievements in their respective countries.
The general picture of our tendency is one of growing influence around the world. In those countries where we are an established and well-known tendency we are making significant progress in terms of more supporters coming towards us.
Pakistan is the clearest example of this, where we have established a very important position in the labour movement, with thousands of supporters including important trade union leaders and youth leaders, and where we have also a foothold in parliament itself.
Other examples are Venezuela and particularly Mexico where after last year's magnificent movement of protest against electoral fraud the influence of the Marxist Tendency has increased significantly.
We also have the successes in several important European countries like Italy, France and Spain, where we have achieved significant growth in the recent period. But also the comrades in Greece, Poland, Austria and Denmark have made important steps forward.
|Miranda from Brazil|
Beyond these countries where we have established groups, we are also attracting the attention of activists in countries where until recently we had no links, for example in El Salvador, a country from which for the first time ever a comrade attended this international event.
One of the important achievements of the school, however, was the fact that six comrades from Brazil attended, amongst which Serge Goulart, leader of the occupied factories movement, and Miranda, one of the leaders of the Black Socialist Movement in Brazil. These comrades represent the Marxist Left of the PT and have been coming closer and closer towards the IMT. In fact it felt as if we had been comrades for many years, so warm was the feeling of solidarity between the two groups. We are sure this will lead to closer and closer collaboration over the next period. Working together we will build strong sections of the International throughout Latin America.
It has become a tradition that on the last night of the school comrades from all the different countries sing traditional revolutionary songs from the labour movement of their respective countries. There is no lack of talent, with many fine contributions from all the different sections, although some comrades could do with a bit more practice! Every evening after a long day discussing in the formal meetings, the comrades could relax at the excellently run bar that had been manned by the Spanish comrades all week long, and socialise with comrades from all over the world, discussing and getting to know each other. There was even a football tournament where even some of the firmest internationalists tended at times to bend somewhat towards nationalism as everyone supported their own team!
The school was in the first place a political event that aimed to raise everybody's political level. This we believe was achieved with the excellent leadoffs and debates throughout the week. The comrades were enthused by the event and given a feeling that they belong to something great, a genuine Marxist International, with comrades on all continents working for the same goal, the emancipation of the working class and a genuine classless society.
| Singing of the Internationale |
The school brought comrades together with a collective sense of importance. As one comrade from Britain explained, "The school gave us the opportunity to understand the scope, perspectives and importance of the International."
Above all, what this World School showed was the enthusiasm and confidence in the ideas of Marxism and the organisation that is putting these into practice on a world scale. This was reflected in the collection: this year, as in previous years, the record was broken and no less than 37,700 Euros were collected! This money will undoubtedly be put to good use and will enable us to pay for more trips to different sections and sympathising groups, the hosting of this website, and other expenses for the promotion of Marxist ideas and the building of a strong organisation on a world scale.
For more pictures, see this picture gallery.