Living in a small town, it can feel like you’re surrounded by apathy, and this can often lead to feelings of isolation and powerlessness in the fight against capitalism. However, Revolution Festival 2020, hosted by Socialist Appeal cut straight through this – it was a heartening and inspiring experience.
The launch of Rob Sewell’s new book, ‘Chartist Revolution’ began the festival, and set the tone for the whole weekend – one of empowerment, of learning our revolutionary history, and internationalism. And the brilliant talks all through the festival continued this. Learning that the working class, not only in other countries, but in Britain, too, have a strong revolutionary tradition was not only reassuring, but encouraging even, a source of Pride. We must absolutely read and learn from the theoretical work of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, and others, but weekend schools such as this one are invaluable sources of knowledge which can introduce us to new topics and issues.
As someone new to the ideas of Marxism, this was a brilliant way to learn about revolutionary history – Shaun Morris’ talk on Ireland and Fred Weston’s on China were excellent introductions to topics that Marxists must know about, and personally whet my appetite so much I spent all of Monday reading Socialist Appeal articles on China!
Sunday afternoon was my personal highlight. Alan Wood’s incredible talk on Art and the Revolution spoke to me deeply. Although I’m an engineer, his points ring just as true with me as they would any other artist. He said: “Art is the inner reaction of the soul to the sufferings of humanity. And what is art if it is not connected to the suffering of humanity? “Art must be for something, and artists don’t paint for themselves. They must relate themselves to society. Just look at the lamentable spectre of art, music and culture today. Art today is in a complete blind alley.”
Whilst Alan was speaking of paintings or symphonies, art takes many other forms, and we see the same degeneration of art under capitalism all around. As an engineer, the things I want to create are not the same as the things I am compelled to create by bosses.
Engineers should create to remedy human suffering, to meet a human need, but the capitalist system prevents us from doing this, forcing us to focus on only that which is profitable, alienating us in the process.
Therefore, in art as in engineering, Capitalism poses a fetter to the development of human culture. As long as music is a commodity that must be sold profitably, big record companies will stick with the same tried and tested formulas to produce and promote reliable cash cows, hampering experimentation and development. And, as long as
Engineers are compelled to make useless kitchen gadgets and over-engineered cars, we will be unable to genuinely help anyone, to make medical devices that all have access to, or to create everyday products that everyone needs and uses. Without a strong proletarian basis, the things we created lose all relevance to the working class, to the world around us. The things we create cannot be separated from the proletarian struggle, else they will suffer.
Ben Curry’s lead-off on the role of the Individual was another brilliant talk that really brought things into perspective for a relatively young and new revolutionary like myself. Too often does it feel as if each of us is insignificant, or conversely that the role we must play must require us to lead an entire revolution solo, as if we all must be Lenin himself. But Ben dispelled these anxieties and misconceptions, explaining that neither is the revolution the result of great men, and neither is it an impossibility for any individual to become a truly significant revolutionary.
The final rally was spectacular, and that shouldn’t be surprising given Alan was speaking. What spoke to me most, from the whole weekend, was when Alan, practically shouting into the camera, said: “The IMT is an orthodox Marxist Trotskyist revolutionary organisation. That’s what it is, plus or minus nothing. If you don’t like it, you best look elsewhere. We will not tolerate the slightest deviation, not one millimetre of deviation from the basic ideas of Marxist theory.” While the dense theory of the entire festival was educational, enlightening, inspiring even, nothing resonated with me as deeply as this here. Pure, uncompromising ideas of proletarian struggle are what is sorely needed, and exactly what the IMT stands for. I went into Revolution Festival frustrated at the state of the world, daunted at the seemingly herculean task ahead of us, at the myriad challenges and setbacks we face, but I left Revolution Festival confident, emboldened and ready to contribute to the building of the forces of Marxism as best I can.
by Deep Sohelia