Marxism 2010: fixing a broken system

Published on The, by Alex Callinicos, July 1, 2010.

In the wake of the financial crisis Marxist thought is thriving, and in London leading names are discussing turning ideas into action. The death of Ken Coates last weekend silenced yet another strong and distinguished voice on the radical left. The past year or so has taken from us some of the most outstanding Marxist intellectuals of the 1968 generation – Giovanni Arrighi, Jerry Cohen, Peter Gowan, and, particularly painful for me, Chris Harman and Daniel Bensaïd.

In the supposedly ideology-free world of the Con-Lib coalition, it would be tempting to conclude that these individual disappearances are representative of a much broader decline of Marxism as an intellectual and political tradition … // 

… Organised by the Socialist Workers party, this forum for socialist ideas has been held every year since 1977 and expects to have more than 4,000 participants this year. There should be plenty of intellectual fireworks – Tariq Ali on Islamophobia, Slavoj Žižek, John Holloway and me on the idea of communism, Hester Eisenstein, Judith Orr, and Nina Power on the new sexism, along with a gallery of leftwing talent – Tony Benn, Eamonn McCann, Gareth Peirce, Steven Rose, Michael Rosen, Sheila Rowbotham, and the Guardian’s Gary Younge.

But running through the sessions will be a more practical intent as well. As austerity sweeps through Europe, the Con-Lib coalition now seems intent on reinventing the sado-monetarism of the 1980s on a scale undreamt of even by Margaret Thatcher. The Marxist left is thriving intellectually. The real test it faces is political: can it help to develop effective resistance to the coalition’s plans to devastate the public sector and the poor? Events in Greece show how neoliberal shock therapy can provoke social rebellion. The real future of Marxism depends on the scale on which these revolts develop and on the political direction they take. (full text).

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