International Marxist Tendency at the European Social Forum - a breakthrough

Last week comrades of the IMT from several countries intervened very successfully at the European Social Forum in Malmö, Sweden, finding an audience for their ideas and making contacts with new layers of activists.

Last week the European Social Forum, ESF, was held in Malmö, Sweden. The ESF is organised by a wide range of organisations and it attracts everything from trade unionists to greens, feminists, solidarity movements and sectarians. For us it was an opportunity to spread our ideas and discuss with the youth and labour activists that go to this forum in search of ideas.

Book stall of the IMT in the Latin American area
Book stall of the IMT in the Latin American area

The International Marxist Tendency, IMT, had an international team of comrades from Sweden, Denmark, Britain, Poland, Russia and Slovakia present. We had a stall in the Latin American area selling books, journals and t-shirts from different countries. On one of the first days of the ESF our presence was noted in a daily paper that covers Southern Sweden. We were described as a Trotskyist organisation whose leadership, under the name Militant Tendency, had tried to radicalise the British Labour Party, and that we try to radicalise other social democratic parties too. During the week they had a picture covering half a page with our stall and quoting Will Roche, from the British section of the IMT, "Things are going well for us; we are getting more members all the time."

Because there were so many organisations that proposed seminars, different organisations had to merge their seminars. On Friday morning we organised a seminar called "Marxism and altermondialism". This was not our preferred title. "Altermondialism" is a vague concept that can be described as alternative globalisation. The meeting was organised by the IMT and Transform!, which is a network of mostly European left parties' study groups including the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung and Espaces Marx (an ideological study group close to the French Communist Party, PCF). The main speakers were Jorge Martin, Elisabeth Gauthier, from Espaces Marx, the chairman of the Austrian Communist party Walter Baier; P. K. Murthy, a trade-unionist from India; someone from Attac in France; Aleksander Buzgalin from Russia, and Samir Amin.

Jorge Martin speaking at the seminar “Marxism and altermondialism”
Jorge Martin speaking at the seminar “Marxism and altermondialism”

The discussion was about the validity of Marxism and what its role is in the anti-globalisation movement. Buzghalin spoke about how the ESF was "a communist space in a communist time". That sounds good, but what does it mean? Some of the speakers argued that the old version of Marxism, probably meaning the Stalinist distortion of Marxism, had failed. They argued for a new version of Marxism, saying that since "capitalism has changed", Marxism must also change. A lot of speakers were pessimistic about the "low level of consciousness" and activity of ordinary people. Jorge Martin explained that we cannot be pessimistic when we look at the revolution in Latin America and the struggles that have been taking place all over Europe and the rest of the world. He added that the most relevant book to understand today's world is the Communist Manifesto, and that the ideas of Marxism were more relevant than ever. Martin Lööf from Sweden made an intervention in which he said that all kinds of activity are welcome, but the activity of the labour movement is decisive if one wants to change society. Clearly most of those in the audience wanted a different world, and they wanted to struggle, but they also needed revolutionary theory. There was a good audience of about 80 people present. After the meeting several people came up to our stall and wanted to have contact with the IMT.

At the same time, Wojtek Figiel, of the IMT in Poland, and also representing the Polish trade union paper New Popular Weekly spoke at a meeting about trade unions in Eastern Europe. The meeting was organised by the Polish Trade Union confederation OPZZ, the Swedish trade union confederation LO, and Trade Unions from Latvia and Russia. Wojtek spoke about the situation in Poland and the importance of the paper. Jonathan Clyne, from Sweden, spoke about the common struggle of workers from all countries and the need for the Swedish Trade Unions to learn from the fighting spirit of the Polish youth who are working with the New Popular Weekly, instead of wasting members' strike funds on the stock market. A trade union activist from Slovakia told a stirring story about her struggle, despite terrible harassment (including attempts upon her life), for workers' rights at a steel plant taken over by US Steel.

Panel of the seminar “Marxism and altermondialism”
Panel of the seminar “Marxism and altermondialism”

In the afternoon we took part in meeting of about 50 people together with the League for the Fifth International about how to build a socialist Europe. The first speaker was from the League and he spoke about how capitalism is in crisis and how it is necessary to build a Europe based on workers' power. Then Jonathan Clyne spoke for the IMT explaining that he agreed with the need to abolish capitalism and establish a democratic workers' state, but he added that this could only be done by removing the biggest obstacle that was in the way of this - the bureaucracy in the Labour Movement - and that this could not be achieved by standing on the sidelines of the Labour Movement. Fredrik Olson from the IMT in Denmark spoke about his experiences of how the bureaucracy is united in their resistance against Marxists. But far from being pessimistic, Fredrik explained that Marxist ideas are getting a great echo in the Labour movement. Various attempts, with pinpricks and anecdotes, by speakers from the League to question our orientation passed the audience by. After the meeting we sold some papers and collected some addresses from people interested in further discussion.

On Saturday we participated in the demonstration where we sold papers. One comrade alone sold sixteen papers. We had a small bookstall at the start and the end of the demonstration. In the evening we had a meeting at our headquarters to evaluate the intervention of the IMT at the ESF. Everybody agreed that this and that detail could have been better. But the end result was very good with a high level of enthusiasm, a high morale, good comradeship and a great deal of pride in the IMT. The comrades who took part are now returning to their countries and labour organisations determined to build the IMT on an international scale. After this evaluation, we went to the Swedish Left Party's social event and had a good time. The ESF continued on Sunday where we sold more material and discussed with more people.

Our intervention at the ESF shows that not only do we have good ideas and good publications, but that there is also an audience for our ideas. There is a layer of people inside and outside the labour movement who are drawing the same conclusions as us. We made contacts with people from Kenya, France, Greece, Finland, Norway, USA, Hungary, Slovakia, Ukraine and more countries. But most importantly, this was a breakthrough for the Swedish Marxists around the paperSocialisten. For a long time we have struggled to build a Marxist tendency in Sweden. There has been a favourable situation, but we have lacked the resources to properly use the opportunities that have existed. Now we can see that all the time and money spent in preparing the organisation for the ESF intervention has been worth it. This will have an impact on the Swedish labour movement as well as in our neighbouring countries leading to the increased influence of Marxism internationally.

September 26, 2008