A proletarian discussion forum in Manchester

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The Manchester Class Struggle Forum was created at the beginning of 2010 and has met once a month since February. It was motivated by a group of young people who are active in the internet forums like Libcom and who see the need to deepen an understanding of working class politics by bringing similar minded people together, including several older, experienced militants. The aim is to discuss in the context of assisting a fight back against the current and planned attacks on the working class produced by the deepening economic crisis of world capitalism. The meetings are the forum for a confrontation of positions between different organisations and individuals and between the anarchist/ anarcho-syndicalist and marxist traditions and their different perspectives for political work and intervention.

The first discussion of the Forum was held just prior to the British general election and addressed the question of the relevance of parliamentary elections to the working class. Then we discussed the role of the trade unions to today’s working class in the context of a revival of current labour disputes in Britain (strikes and occupations). The third meeting took up the question of nationalism and internationalism, both in the history of the workers’ movement and with regard to the importance it has for revolutionaries today. Next we attempted to broach the question of how revolutionaries organise themselves, including some reflections on the positions and practices of Lenin and the Bolshevik party. The meeting in July was about anarcho-syndicalism and we discussed around the personal experience of a member of the Solidarity Federation. The last meeting on August 19th looked at the massive growth of strikes and struggles (and the way the Chinese ruling class is dealing with them) that have seen the working class of China at the forefront of the international class struggle in the recent period, this following the opening up the country to foreign investment and ‘free market’ forces since the mid-1990s.

What is important about these meetings is that they are open to anyone who wants to discuss and deepen their understanding of revolutionary politics. In addition they have demonstrated a real proletarian spirit of fraternal debate and respect for the different political viewpoints and positions of the participants. They are attended by people involved in various groups, primarily the Anarchist Federation, SolFed, the Commune group and the ICC, as well as people who are not directly involved with any groups, and there have also been people from various leftist groups, including someone with a profound knowledge of the situation in China, at the last meeting, which proved a good stimulus to the discussion. There is a solid core of regular attenders, amongst them some individuals who are eager and willing to take on the responsibility of doing the presentations and who are prepared to book the room and post the details on the internet (see the Manchester Class struggle Forum blog on Libcom) without which the meetings couldn’t take place. Others attend irregularly and there are some who have only attended once and may not want to return. But it is significant that new faces appear at each meeting. Everyone who attends has been able to contribute by bringing their own knowledge, experience and understanding to the Forum.

We can draw a positive balance sheet of these meetings because they express a commitment to the class struggle and a concern to improve our understanding of the measures and the manoeuvres the ruling class uses against the class’s capacity to defend itself against the attacks. The discussions so far have clearly rejected any illusions in the capitalist state, such as through support for the ‘lesser evil’ in elections or through defence of ‘oppressed’ minority nationalisms in imperialist wars, in the guise of anti-Americanism or anti- any other imperialism. In other words they have adopted a clearly internationalist orientation.

The Forum did have some discussion at one of the meetings about a joint intervention in the class struggle but this wasn’t pursued as the specific strike/dispute that would have been the focus didn’t materialise. We did present an ICC international leaflet that was written around the time of the big strikes in Greece for discussion in the context of organising an intervention in Manchester, but that was at the end of a meeting and there hasn’t been the opportunity to re-discuss a joint intervention since. No doubt it will come up again soon.

Just as the working class as a whole is faced with the difficulty of re-connecting with its traditions of organisation and debate, so the Forum is in its early stages and there are many questions posed about how it can best organise its activities, draw conclusions from its discussions, attract new elements to the meetings and develop a coherent framework for combined activities.

There are immense challenges ahead for the working class today. It is under attack internationally because of capitalism’s need to make it pay for the deepening economic crisis. If workers are going to resist, it is essential for them to unify their struggles across all the divisions that capital imposes on them. It is equally important for revolutionaries to come together across the different proletarian traditions and across the generations to develop clear political perspectives and a common intervention towards the working class. The Manchester Class Struggle Forum is one small step along this road, and it is an example that deserves to be followed elsewhere in the country. Duffy 30.8.10