Friday, 17 April 2009

Marxism - university of the Left

The annual Marxism event - the 'university of the left' (T Benn) or 'gathering of the tribes of the left' (G Galloway, back when he was on friendly terms with the SWP) - comes around again this July. Speakers this year include - take a deep breath - Tariq Ali, Chris Bambery, Tony Benn, Michael Billington, Nick Broomfield, Jeremy Corbyn, Terry Eagleton, David Edgar, David Harvey, Ghada Karmi, Bernadette McAliskey, Eamonn McCann, Steven Rose, Michael Rosen, Sheila Rowbotham, Sam West, Zoe Williams, Gary Younge, Haifa Zangana and Slavoj Zizek. And many, many more.

Quite a few of these speakers bring back memories of Marxisms past (I've been going every year since 1994). I recall my cousin, who lives in London and isn't a SWP member, popping along to her first Marxism and attending a session with Chris Bambery - and finding his rather strident speaking style faintly terrifying. It maybe had something to do with the topic being Ireland, but whatever the subject Bambery certainly knows how to make his points assertively (and a good thing too, as far as I'm concerned, but a slight shock for the first-timer). Zizek, by contrast, is known for what might politely be called a rambling and tangential style. My sister once had the extraordinary challenge of chairing one of his meetings, and somehow managed to bring him to a halt before the ULU night shift shut up shop for another day.

Tony Benn always has long queues, Tariq Ali can be relied on to be lucid, insightful and generally magnificent, and Steven Rose is one of the few people who can make science comprehensible to someone like me. I've heard Mike Rosen several times over the years, on my pet subjects like education, language and literature, and he's always witty and engaging. The cultural sessions are often the highlights: last year I heard Guardian theatre critic Michael Billington talk about British theatre and bought his book on the subject ('State of the nation', which turned out to be fascinating). This year he and actor Sam West are paying tribute to the late Harold Pinter.

One way or another, I'm sure Marxism will be as unmissable as ever. For info check:

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