A week of controversy

Our annual school - the Communist University - starts on August 13, the last day of our specially extended Summer Offensive. (There will be a celebration meal that first evening. All supporters and sympathetic readers are welcome to come). In contrast to much of the rest of the left, the CU will feature sharp clashes of opinion between different trends on the revolutionary left, not dull lectures by red professors or toothless debates. Controversy and theoretical dispute educates both the audience and the speakers. And who can doubt that the entire left needs some serious re-education? In the 20th century, the grim experience of the Soviet Union was a powerful ideological weapon against socialism. Imperialism celebrated its collapse as proof that no other world was possible, that capitalism was here to stay. Today, in a confused, incoherent way, a sense that "another world is possible" is starting to re-emerge in the consciousness of millions of people globally. But does the revolutionary left measure up to the challenge of leading them towards that better world? Clearly not. This is why we are determined to feature real debates at CU - a genuine festival of ideas. If we do not want see another century characterised by the horrors of the 20th, then Marxists need clarity, unity and purpose. We need to rediscover genuine communist politics again. Some of the highlights of this year's school include: l The first weekend's clash between Duncan Morris of the Alliance for Workers' Liberty and the CPGB's Tina Becker. They will debate 'Galloway or King' and the AWL will doubtless elaborate on its idea that the reconstitution of working class politics would have been served by Oona King beating George Galloway in the recent general election. Saturday August 13, 4.45pm-7pm: CPGB v AWL - 'Galloway or King - who should socialists have voted for in Bethnal Green?' l Andy Newman of the Socialist Unity Network will debate the CPGB's Lee Rock on the thorny topic of Respect. Is it a popular front? Is it a bridge to a new workers' party? If so, what type? Thursday August 18, 2pm-4.15pm: Andy Newman and Lee Rock - 'Respect - genuine left or popular front' l Chris Knight is a Marxist active in the Labour Party and a noted anthropologist. A few years ago, he put forward the radical hypothesis that human culture originated with a sex strike by female primates, a revolutionary act of collective solidarity that transformed 'females' into women. Culture was, in effect, the social ritualisation of the rules consequent on the sex strike. Chris will turn a light on the pre-history of humanity under primitive communism in an attempt to glean lessons for the fight for the communism of tomorrow. Sunday August 14, 10am-12.30pm: Chris Knight - 'Primitive communism' l Hillel Ticktin is the editor of Critique and a leading Marxist theoretician. Over three sessions, he will analyse the decline of capitalism and, as he describes it, "discuss what decline means in the context of dialectics, how important it is to Marxism and how it was Lenin who really introduces it as a feature of modern capitalism". Then he will look back at instances of decline in the past - ie in the ancient mode of production and feudalism - and so introduce the connection between transition and decline. "I will go over to the nature of decline under capitalism, using (and criticising) Lenin and Hilferding." After that, Engels's "invading socialist society" will be dealt with. Tuesday August 16, Wednesday August 17, Thursday August 18, 4.45pm-7pm: Hillel Ticktin - 'The decline of capitalism' l Peter Tatchell is a prominent human rights activist and the bête noire of the Tory press. He will elaborate on his view that Britain needs a new Chartist movement to challenge the unjust election system and results. Only 22% of eligible electors voted Labour, but Labour won 55% of the seats - securing a majority of 67. "We need a campaign of Chartist-style protests to demand a genuinely democratic electoral and parliamentary system. The methods of the Chartists and suffragettes are ethically and politically justified." Wednesday August 17, 2pm-4.15pm: Peter Tatchell - 'The democratic deficit in the UK and the need for a new Chartism' l Jack Conrad is a leading member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and author of a soon-to-be published work on religion. Yet some on the left believe the study of religion to be wasted effort: "Why write another Marxist book about religion? Amazingly, though our world still groans beneath religion's iron age many, far too many, leftwing activists pride themselves in giving a 'don't bother' answer. Paraphrasing a certain 20th century American capitalist, they dismissively say, religion is bunk. "Yet look at the world today: a born-again George W Bush, holy Tony Blair, the Christian Democratic bloc that dominates Europe's parliament, Russia's reinstalled orthodox church, India's saffron communalism, the global Calvary of John Paul II, the toxic evangelicalism sweeping Africa, Latin America and southern Asia, the house of Saud's pitiless wahhabism, al Qa'eda's sensationalist terrorism, the Iranian theocracy. The question is, why aren't there more - many more - serious Marxist studies of this thoroughly contemporary question?" Monday August 15, 2pm-4.15pm: Jack Conrad - 'Why bother studying religion?' Click here for more details on Communist University 2005