16 Oct 2008

Croydon - the revolutionary storm centre this weekend!

Croydon - the revolutionary storm centre this weekend!

What direction for the left? Discuss.

(Sunday 12 October 2008)

ANDY GOODALL previews the Communist University, where progressives can debate the issues of today.

WITH the US presidential ballot only weeks away, people across the world will be considering the implications of the result.

Would president John McCain be an improvement on George W Bush? Would he step up US military intervention in the Middle East and elsewhere or follow a less aggressive foriegn policy?

Then there is the prospect of president Barack Obama. How would his policy on Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Cuba and South America differ from that of the current White House regime? Why are trade unions backing him? And would his election victory open a new chapter in race relations in the US?

All these questions and more can be put to leading US communist Sue Webb at this year's Communist University of Britain from October 17-19 at Ruskin House in Croydon.

On the opening Friday evening, Ms Webb will be joining an all-female platform to celebrate the role of women in working-class and socialist struggle.

Alongside her will be Communist Party of Ireland chairwoman Lynda Walker, Azar Zepehr of the Tudeh Party of Iran, Joanne Stephenson of Britain's Young Communist League and leading trade unionists Mary Davis and Anita Halpin.

It's a fitting way to kick off the Communist University in the anniversary year of the London match girls' strike (1888), the death of Eleanor Marx (1898), votes for women (1918 for women over 30 and 1928 for full suffrage) and the Ford machinists' strike for equal pay (1968).

The current financial and economic crisis has helped to put major questions back on the political agenda - even the words "capitalism" and "nationalisation" have been rehabilitated within the mainstream media. Plenary sessions at the Communist University propose some additional terms and concepts which might still be taboo on the BBC.

For instance, Morning Star editor John Haylett and Irish Communist Party general secretary Eugene McCartan will be among those discussing Crisis For Capitalism - Opportunity For The Left? And US editor of the prestigious journal Nature, Society and Thought Erwin Marquit will be asked by author Marj Mayo: "Philosophy - who needs it?"

John Foster will later chair a meeting on Challenging Imperialism, Saving the World, with leading Green Party member Derek Wall, Harriet Roethling of the YCL and Manfred Idler from the German Communist Party.

A briefing on developments on the left in Germany is also being arranged for the weekend, along with discussions on developments in Colombia and Euzkadi (the Basque Country).

Other anniversaries this year include the May 1968 revolt in France and the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia. Nick Wright, who witnessed the Paris events before returning to help lead the student occupation of Hornsey College of Art, will introduce a workshop retrospective.

Eight other workshops will consider race and class, nationalism, socialism and state power, the character of modern China, the concept of "peak oil," the European Union and the commodification of health and education. They will be addressed by, among others, Indian communist Joginder Bains, author Jenny Clegg, peace activist Carol Turner and teachers' leader Bill Greenshields.

The year of 1956 is another date that resonates with the left. This year saw the rising in Hungary and British military intervention in Suez. These were traumatic events in a post-war period, which featured the cold war, the rise and fall of the Bevanites, divisions in the Communist Party and 13 years of Tory government.

Women's rights campaigner Jean Turner and industrial militant Kevin Halpin lived and struggled through those times. They will share a platform with the authors of the forthcoming volume Class Struggle On Two Fronts, The Communist Party In Britain 1952-64 - current general secretary Robert Griffiths and transport workers' leader Graham Stevenson.

Looking back and learning lessons is essential because the left in Britain must find a way forward for the working class and its labour movement. That is why the final session on Sunday afternoon will consider the perspectives For a Change of Course, For a Mass Party of Labour.

Carolyn Jones may have her work cut out chairing what promises to be a lively session with left Labour MP John McDonnell, RMT general secretary Bob Crow, Robert Griffiths and leading public services union activist Moz Greenshields.

But the Communist University is not only about debate and speeches.
There will be stalls selling the latest T-shirts and badges and new publications will include Neo-Liberalism Is Bad For Your Health by international expert Theodore MacDonald and an updated edition of Women And Class by Mary Davis.

The university is open to all socialists and progressives, Morning Star readers, anti-fascists and anti-war activists, especially now that there will be creche facilities for children under 12.

See you at Croydon - the revolutionary storm centre this weekend!

For further details and to book a place, phone the Communist Party headquarters on (020) 8686-1659, email office@communist-party.org.uk or visit www.communist-party.org.uk

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