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John Passant

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April 2011
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The joy of socialism

There is joy in a meeting of comrades like Marxism 2011. There’s the internationalism. First there’s the theoretical side of internationalism with talks on struggles across the globe and their interrelationship, an interrelationship  summed up in the Egyptian sign to Wisconsin workers ‘One world, one pain.’ And I might add ‘One solution, revolution.’

Not only that, there were the international speakers, with for example Thanasis Kourkoulas from the Greek International Workers Left, Kabul based international journalist Anand Gopal and Shaun Harkin from the US International Socialist Organization. That’s not to mention Lars Lih, internationally renowned author of Lenin rediscovered: What is to be done? in context (available from Socialist Alternative and other good bookshops), Joe Carolan from NZ, Pascual Pichun, a visiting Mapuche activist from Chile, an activist from the Philippines, and our own Palestinian and other Middle East comrades. And John Pilger with his new film, the war you didn’t see, and the Bahraini freedom fighters with their talk and film which gives humanity to the dead, showing very very graphically exactly what the rotten US backed dictatorship and Saudi troops are doing there.  No humanitarian concerns, right to protect, no’ no fly zones’, no boots on the ground in Bahrain (other than the US Fifth fleet, who won’t of course intervene since the US supports the massacre ofthe masses to protect its interests.)

Then there were the talks. The conference featured over 70 session on a huge range of topics – from radical history to women’s and LGBTI liberation, imperialism and the Middle East, socialist theory, the global economic crisis, the carbon tax and workers’ struggles today.

These talks were a treasure trove of ideas and inspiration. They provoked debate and discussion and showed to me, once again, that Socialist Alternative is a serious organisation committed to the liberation of humanity through the self-emancipation of the working class.

But Marxism 2011 was a joy for another reason – the young revolutionaries. Here is a group of socialists eager to learn and keen to participate in struggles. Hope springs eternal in an old man’s breast when he sees the new generation of comrades. And when the working class begins to move.

Of course, we are small at the moment. A few hundred people can put theory into practice only in a small number of areas. Imagine what a few thousand members could do. That is why we ask people who want to change the world, who want to learn the ideas and practice of the emancipatory project of socialism from below, to join us. 

If you are serious about wanting to change the world, you should consider joining Socialist Alternative. If you are concerned about economic and environmental crises, about hunger and poverty, if you oppose war, want a society without women’s oppression and racism and homophobia, with decent public health and education, one that we can proudly leave to future generations, come to our meetings or other events in the capital cities.



Comment from dl
Time April 25, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Good to see you there John (though I admit I was a little shy.) I spoke to several othermembers of socialist alternative throughout the day, and it was interesting to get some insight into their activities. I’ll probably say that Shaun Harkins’ speech was my favorite, and it was intruiging to hear that the Tea Party isn’t as large as some American Media outlets make out. Most of the other speakers were eloquent, and I’ll add fairly forceful in their speech, though.

It was worth the $20 entry fee, which is probably what i’d pay for a ticket to a two hour movie at the cinemas.

How did the rest of the weekend go? (Btw, are socialist alternative members the ones currently protesting outside Maribyrnong dentention centre, as repoted in The Age.)
regards dl.

Comment from Mike Ballard
Time April 25, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Just a bit of Marx inspired theory for ya, fellow worker: The whole conceptual orientation of Marx, especially concerning the interchangeable use of the ‘socialism’ and ‘communism’ was changed in the left public mind by the weight of the Soviet propaganda machine, along with Marx’s notion that socialism meant the abolition of wage-labour and its replacement with a system which would have the transparency of socially necessary labour time vouchers in the first phase of socialism.

“But democracy means only formal equality. And as soon as equality is achieved for all members of society in relation to ownership of the means of production, that is, equality of labor and wages, humanity will inevitably be confronted with the question of advancing farther, from formal equality to actual equality, i.e., to the operation of the rule “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”.” Lenin THE STATE AND REVOLUTION.

Equality of wages is something Marx ridiculed e.g. “What are the mistakes committed by the piecemeal reformers, who either want to raise wages and in this way to improve the situation of the working class, or regard equality of wages (as Proudhon does) as the goal of social revolution?” WAGE LABOUR AND CAPITAL

“Indeed, even the equality of wages demanded by Proudhon only transforms the relationship of the present-day worker to his labour into the relationship of all men to labour. Society is then conceived as an abstract capitalist.

“Wages are a direct consequence of estranged labour, and estranged labour is the direct cause of private property. The downfall of the one aspect must therefore mean the downfall of the other.” Marx ECONOMIC AND PHILOSOPHIC MANUSCRIPTS

As you may know, equality of wages was more or less the rule in the 1920s in the USSR and inequality of wages was introduced in the 1930s. Marx’s critique of the wage system was more or less forgotten: “One form of wage labour may correct the abuses of another, but no form of wage labour can correct the abuse of wage labour itself.”
The Grundrisse:

Comment from MarianK
Time April 25, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Alas! The Marxism 2011 conference was not held in Brisbane, so I couldn’t attend. But I was there in spirit.

I’d be interested to know if there was any discussion on bringing Socialist Alternative goals and concepts more into the mainstream.

I’ve felt for a long time that Socialist activism has voluntarily, but perhaps misguidedly(?) remained on the fringes. While this may maintain conceptual integrity, it means that the millions of ordinary people who are most likely to benefit from socialist reform are not being reached.

Comment from John
Time April 25, 2011 at 10:10 pm

MarianK, it is part of what we talk about every day. Our answer is to be involved in teh struggles we can be – after all we only have around 300 members and have to prioritise. But we want to build a party based on that section of society, especially workers, that wants to fight back. Since that group is fairly quiet and disorganised at the moment this task is especially difficult. But we talked about attempts to rebuild rank and file groups in our unions. And continuing our work in equal marriage, equal pay for equal work, refugee action groups, demonstrations and the like. Not sure what you mean by socialist reform but our goal is the democratisation of the workplace and the establishment of a society in which all workers govern.

Comment from John
Time April 25, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Glad you enjoyed it. Shaun was great. It was a great weekend. I learned a lot. And yes we were among a large group of people at Maribyrnong. I went because I am still in Melbourne. I have written about it on this site.

Comment from John
Time April 26, 2011 at 6:00 am

Mike, Marx also wrote about the Paris Commune and the lessons he took from that are important.

I am unsure what point you are trying to make except perhaps to criticise the Russian revolution. I dunno. Read the Critique of the Gotha Programme which looks pretty much to me like an argument that says immediately after the democratic working class revolution rewards will be on the basis of work and that this will become over time from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. The new emerges out of the womb of the old society.

Comment from Mike Ballard
Time April 26, 2011 at 10:18 pm

I’ve got two things in mind: the wage system and socialism/communism. Marx wanted to abolish the first and thought the second, socialism/communism, were interchangeable concepts meaning the establishment of a classless society where labour time vouchers would replace wages in the initial stage of communism and commodity production/sale in general would cease to exist as well. This was never achieved under any form of leninist inspired socialism.