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A time for working-class mobilisation

MEIRIAN JUMP reports from the weekend’s international conference to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of Marx Memorial Library and Workers School

SPEAKING at Saturday’s international meeting to mark the 90th anniversary of Marx Memorial Library and Workers School, the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Sitaram Yechury called for a renewed international movement of solidarity against the increasingly coercive character of neoliberal exploitation worldwide.  

When the library had been founded in 1933 workers faced fascism. “Today we see a rapid political rightward shift globally. It is the way finance capital is able to use ‘liberal democracy’ itself to ensure super-exploitation and super-profit.

“Elected parliaments are themselves legally stripping working people of secured rights and collaborating in a disastrous degradation of the environment. Racism, bigotry, communalism and chauvinism are, as in India and elsewhere, the tools of control. 

“That is why we need a new popular front able to create truly international resistance and which, through Marxist explanation and political struggle, is able to develop the international unity needed to defeat an enemy that is also organised internationally.”

Representing the German Communist Party, international secretary Renate Koppe agreed that the immediate danger was the way, as in Germany, the Social Democrats and trade unions had been largely subordinated to the agenda of imperialism — in Ukraine, in the Pacific and in Palestine — and was complicit in legislation that was now silencing critics.  

From France, Marxist author Patrick Theuret stressed the importance of the politics of the popular front in the 1940s for the comprehensive defeat of fascism in France and elsewhere and the resulting victories of socialism and national liberation. 

Today, however, imperialism was using the institutions of liberal democracy itself to maintain the coercive controls needed for imperialist super-profit. 

Yet there was now the beginnings of resistance — particularly from the global South, as indicated by recent votes in the UN and the expansion of the Brics. This had to be consolidated by a class-based movement internationally, an alliance that could expose the nature of imperialism and ensure that, as in the popular front, the democratic gains secured by working people were defended and advanced.  

This theme was carried forward in the final session chaired by John McDonnell, president of the library. This focused on the challenges faced by Britain’s trade union and labour movement. 

Labour lawyer Lord Hendy QC outlined the escalating legal assault through Parliament on the rights of working people. “The issue is not so much the Labour Party itself but the creation of a new popular unity that can transform politics on the ground with trade unions and trades union councils building a mass movement of resistance.” 

This was also the theme of Fran Heathcote, president of the Public and Commercial Services union. “Over the past two years a number of unions have demonstrated their ability to defeat government attacks on living standards. This now needs to be generalised — particularly in face of the “minimum service” legislation.  

President of the RMT, Alex Gordon, called for a united front across the trade union movement as the basis for mobilising a wider unity of working-class communities.  

Opening the conference, Professor Mary Davis, secretary of the Marx Memorial Library and Workers School, had stressed the need for constant vigilance in face of racism and the rise of the far right.  

“This library was set up in 1933 at a time when Marx’s writings, and those of left-wing thinkers generally, were being burnt by fascists across Europe. Today we see racism and chauvinism again on the rise. Now, as then, no slogan is more relevant than ‘workers of the world unite’.”

Meirian Jump is director of the Marx Memorial Library & Workers’ School.

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