Three overseas visitors reflect on the week

Comrades attending Communist University spoke to the Weekly Worker about their impressions

Paul Le Blanc, International Socialist Organization (USA)

The educational gathering of the CPGB was a pleasant surprise. There are political differences, yet also common ground: a commitment to all struggles of the oppressed, to the interests of the working class majority, and to the radical democracy represented by socialism.

A comradely exploration of common ground, but also of differences, was of sufficient interest to the CPGB for me to be brought in as a speaker, and I benefited from searching discussions of my presentations on Lenin controversies, on Rosa Luxemburg’s ideas, and on political organising in the United States.

It was also valuable to learn from Moshé Machover and Yassamine Mather on Middle East developments, from Marc Mulholland’s historical survey of ‘bourgeois liberty’, from Gregor Gall and Sarah McDonald on experiences of the Scottish Socialist Party, from Hillel Ticktin’s examination of global capitalism, from Anne Mc Shane’s illuminating presentation on women in the Bolshevik movement, and from Jack Conrad’s bold effort to shed light on the meaning of religion in the midst of humanity’s persistent oppression and liberation struggles.

All this and much more - including the warmth, generosity and genuine comradeliness of CPGB members, as well as others who are decidedly not members. It was a truly good experience.

Susann Witt-Stahl, Assoziation Dämmerung (Hamburg)

I was impressed by the political culture of comradeship, of progressive collectivism and freedom of speech, at Communist University (the great sense of humour among the participants was an infallible indicator of these essential qualities of a communist movement, which the German left, sadly, has partially lost). The debates were conducted at a high intellectual level, and with a keenness to explore controversial issues that is infectious and motivating.

What I missed, however, was any critical engagement with art and culture. The one-dimensional nature of our lifestyle is today dangerously evident. The culture industry is the most effective facilitator of false consciousness and a vehicle for the mass deception (eg, for war propaganda) of the whole of western society. We have to respond with a radical and enlightened critique. The Marxist philosopher, Walter Benjamin, was right to say that a communist movement has to face up to the “aestheticisation of politics” - a warning against the process of fascistisation - and must find the only satisfactory response: the “politicisation of art”.

But what I missed was much less than what I gained and learned at CU. One of so many things I took home with me was the certainty that there are a lot of people ‘over there’ who embody and represent the pride and dignity of the working class. That feels damned good.

Comrades, you are doing a great job - walk on!

Peter Moody, Socialist Party USA

I have been attentive and sympathetic to the politics of the CPGB for a few years, so I was very pleased to have the opportunity to attend this year’s Communist University. It was, admittedly, a slightly intimidating as well as very exciting prospect, considering the high political level of CU sessions.

Nevertheless, once the event got underway, I felt sufficiently able to keep up both with the presentations and the contributions from the floor. In fact, I think physically attending sessions was actually more beneficial, compared to watching recorded sessions online, as the floor debate helped flesh out at least some of the concepts I may have otherwise found difficult. Beyond this, everyone at the school was very approachable in terms of discussion between and after sessions, to help flesh out any questions I had regarding the presentations or something that had come up during the debate.

A spirit of comradeship predominated throughout the week, which was helped by the collective sharing of tasks like food preparation and setting up the venue for sessions. Even during heated debates on the floor of the sessions, there was a general sense that everyone involved was serious about the left (in whatever country we were from) having a positive future, and we were all fighting for the same general goal, even if the strategy and tactics used were under severe criticism.

All in all, Communist University exceeded my hopes and expectations for what it would be, and I hope to continue my engagement with the politics of the CPGB, as well as use what I have learned over the week to help build a strong left and a united Marxist party in the United States.