Over the weekend of 9-10 July, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty held our annual Ideas for Freedom summer school, an event where socialists and activists can debate, discuss and hone ideas for independent working class politics.
This year, in the aftermath of both the G8 mobilisations and the London bombings, the need for those debates event was even more apparent than usual. While the governments of the richest countries throw crumbs of aid to the governments of the poorest (in order to “open up the markets” of countries rich in natural resources); while fascistic religious bigots blow up working-class Londoners; while all this goes on, the majority of the so-called left lose their political and moral bearings.
People around the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) have condemned the bombings in London for sure (unlike 9/11 and the daily suicide bombs in Baghdad), but they also believe those carrying out the bombings are part of an anti-imperialist struggle, albeit misguided in its tactics. The left fails to grasp, or will not say, that ideology of political Islam is the antithesis of democratic, liberatory socialism.
The session at Ideas for Freedom on the bombings heard John Leach, a RMT rep on London underground, who explained how the bombings had affected his members. He posed the issue as sharply as it could be — underground workers view the bomb, not as an expression of anger at the war on Iraq, but as murderous attack on them in their workplace.
There was debate around this notion of “blowback” — whether the bombs are the direct result of the “war on terror”, and whether Blair and Bush are “responsible” for the bombings. Most people had little truck with minimising the responsibility of the bombers and their reactionary political ideology. Another session at the school discussed and tried to draw out the lessons from the rise of Islamism in France.
The G8 mobilisation posed in a different way the failures of the left. The large demonstration in Edinburgh failed to focus on the only force that can make poverty history, the organised working class. Solidarity tried to rectify that. In the event there were very few trade unionists from Africa and Asia on the Make Poverty History platforms; they were viewed by most on the demonstration as, at best, a potential part of the answer, rather than the key. Such was the politics of the demonstration that Gordon Brown felt comfortable enough to endorse it.
We will continue to try and plug the gap. Sessions at the school on Africa, poverty and debt and the G8 mobilisation emphasised the necessity of focusing on the working class, the hypocrisy of the G8 leaders’ attempts to portray themselves as the saviours of Africa and the paucity of the deal they had cobbled together.
Ideas for Freedom was attended by about one hundred and fifty activists over the course of the weekend. Other sessions were as diverse as the Bolshevik revolution, Albert Einstein’s ideas, imperialism, nuclear power and secularism.