Marxist University 2020 was a four-day online school hosted on July 25-28 2020 by the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), devoted to defending revolutionary socialist ideas, and educating workers and youth in Marxist theory!
We hosted a wide range of discussions delving into various aspects of Marxist theory, and demonstrating its superiority over all the reactionary, revisionist and reformist ideas that have come up against it. These were translated into Spanish and a number of other languages for the benefit of our international audience.
If you weren't able to attend, or want to relive your favourite moments, we've included videos of all the sessions below. Edited audio files are also provided, with pauses for the translators removed.
2020: a world on fire
The year 2020 will enter the annals of history as a decisive turning point. The coronavirus pandemic, the economic collapse and the corresponding wave of popular anger and revolts have brought all the contradictions in capitalist society to the surface. Millions of people are questioning the status quo as never before, and the inspiring popular uprising in the USA is the harbinger of battles to come. The system has revealed its total bankruptcy, and despite the fervent desire of the ruling class for a return to normality, nothing will ever be the same again. We are witnessing the first stages of world revolution. Only the ideas of Marxism can offer a way out for humanity and prepare the way for the final victory of socialist revolution. Our speaker, Alan Woods, is the editor of the In Defence of Marxism website and author of a long list of books on Marxist theory.
Why has capitalism failed?
Apologists for capitalism argue that it is the best, most-efficient system that could ever possibly exist. But the current period of crisis and chaos prove otherwise. Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered an economic collapse that threatens to throw society back to the 1930s, sending the world into a full-blown depression. Clearly, something is rotten at the heart of the system. The advocates of Keynesian ideas - or modern varieties like Modern Monetary Theory - cannot provide a real solution to this crisis. Only the Marxist method can explain why capitalism has failed, and what the way forward is for humanity. Our speaker, Adam Booth, is a leading activist of Socialist Appeal, the British section of the IMT.
Class collaboration, compromise and the crisis of reformism
Marxists are frequently attacked as unrealistic utopians. Rather than talking about revolution, the reformists say we should focus on winning achievable goals for workers. But all over the world, the main reformist parties and organisations have discredited themselves by carrying out attacks on the working class and holding them back in order to save the system. Now, they are in total disarray, losing elections and support across the board. This talk will explain why reformism is a dead end, and argue that only revolutionary struggle can improve the lives of working people. Our speaker, Niklas Albin Svensson, is a leading activist of the International Marxist Tendency.
Marxism and modern science: Dialectics of Nature
On the anniversary of Engels’ birth, we will highlight one of Engels’ greatest works, Dialectics of Nature. With his masterful grasp of dialectics, Engels pre-empted scientific discoveries like the equivalence of matter and energy and the role of labour in the development of modern humans. In this talk, we will show that modern science serves as a continuing validation of the Marxist method of dialectical materialism, revealing a world in a constant state of motion, flux and revolution. Our speaker, Ben Curry, is a leading activist of Socialist Appeal, the British section of the IMT.
System change, not climate change! Marxism and the environment
Capitalism’s rampant exploitation of the earth’s resources is wreaking havoc on the natural world: with a spike in freak weather events, floods, wildfires and so on. In recent years, the struggle against climate change has erupted with explosive force all over the world, led by school students. But does the solution lie in ‘green’ production methods and policies? Are lifestyle changes like veganism the answer? Or is the problem more fundamental, requiring a radical transformation of the capitalist system? Our speaker, Jack Halinski-Fitzpatrick, is the director of Wellred Books, the official bookshop of the IMT.
Class struggle and small circle mentality: Marxism vs. sectarianism
In the socialist movement, there are those who compromise on political principles opportunistically in order to find a short-cut to the masses; and there those who place themselves outside the main workers’ struggle, spending their time attacking other organisations in a sectarian fashion. Opportunism and sectarianism are two sides of the same coin. Both must be combated if the programme of revolutionary Marxism is to become a mass force by connecting with the aspirations and movement of the working class. Our speaker, Claudio Bellotti, is a leading activist of Sinistra Classe Rivoluzione, Italian section of the IMT.
The poverty of philosophy: Marxism vs. postmodernism
Postmodernism is very popular on university campuses, and has also gained an echo in the workers’ movement. This school of thought denies the very idea of historical progress. It echoes Henry Ford, saying “history is just one damn thing after another”. Scientific truth is also sidelined in favour of a ‘subjective’ emphasis on language, experience and identity. Where do these ideas come from, and what does Marxism have to say about them? Our speaker, Daniel Morley, is a leading activist of Socialist Appeal, the British section of the IMT.
In defence of Marxist economics
Many attempts have been made over the years to ‘update’ Marx’s economic theories. Inevitably, these ideas jettison the revolutionary core of Marxist economics. Instead of applying a dialectical and materialist method to the economy, the revisionists slip into a mechanical and idealist mode of analysis. They do not see the economy as a living, breathing system, composed of human beings and conflicting classes, but as a set of abstract equations. This discussion will set the record straight, show how these revisionist ideas fall short, and give an overview of genuine Marxist economic theory. Our speaker, Rob Sewell, is a leading activist of Socialist Appeal, British section of the IMT.
Spontaneity, organisation and the role of the state: Marxism vs. Anarchism
Marxists and anarchists share many of the same objectives in common: fighting oppression, smashing the bourgeois state, creating a society without class exploitation and so on. However, there are also important differences in our ideas and methods, particularly related to the nature of power in general, and of state power in particular. In this talk, we will explore the differences between Marxism and anarchism. Our speaker, John Peterson, is a leading activist of Socialist Revolution, the US section of the IMT.
Is history bunk? Historical materialism on trial
Bourgeois, liberal and postmodern historians alike tend to reject the Marxist view that history is driven by material laws and processes. Some also reject the idea of progress, saying this is merely a point of view. They say that history is basically random, punctuated by exceptional individuals on whom the fate of human society turns. But why is it that similar conditions result in similar events, outcomes and characters reoccurring across history? And has there really been no progress between stone tools and spacecraft? This talk will demonstrate and defend the method of Marxist historical materialism. Our speaker, Josh Holroyd, is a leading activist of Socialist Appeal, British section of the IMT.
The politics of division: Marxism vs. identity politics
In the current period, identity politics are in vogue. Along with the related trend of intersectionality, these ideas stress the importance of self-identification, personal experience, and the various layers of oppression people experience on racial, sexual, gender and other lines. What is the basis for identity politics? Why are they so popular with the youth in particular? And how do they square with the Marxist method of solidarity and class struggle? Our speaker, Ylva Vinberg, is a leading activist of Revolution, Swedish section of the IMT.
The history of the IMT
The International Marxist Tendency traces its roots all the way through the First, Second, Third and Fourth Internationals. In the postwar period, there was a general retreat by the forces of genuine Marxism, and the left was dominated by the distortions of Stalinism and reformism. While other groups were preparing for a Third World War or denying the existence of the working class, our tendency put up a firm defence of the theories and traditions of Marxism; which at every turn, were proved to be correct. By building on the firm basis of theory, our organisation is today emerging as the strongest revolutionary force amongst workers and youth worldwide. Our speaker, Fred Weston, is a leading activist of the International Marxist Tendency.
Is class struggle ‘Eurocentric?’ Marxism vs. postcolonialism
Marxists are often accused of ‘Eurocentrism’ and ‘class reductionism’ (particularly in academic circles) when we argue for the struggle of workers of all races and nations against capitalism. It is said our emphasis on international working-class solidarity ignores the experience of people from the former colonial world, who must ‘decolonise’ their minds of Western-imposed ideas (Marxism included), and fight their own battles for liberation. But what is the best way forward for oppressed peoples throughout the world? This talk will explore these debates from a Marxist perspective. Our speaker, Hamid Alizadeh, is a leading activist of the International Marxist Tendency.
Marxism and religion
One of Marx’s best-known quotes is “religion is the opium of the people”, but that is not the end of the question. Marxism rejects all forms of superstition. Religion plays a profoundly reactionary role in society. But it cannot be overcome by argument alone. We must instead dismantle its social basis: the class system itself, which causes such misery and hardship that many people can only cope through the promise of an eternal reward after death. With the creation of a just and decent existence on earth, religion would serve no purpose. Our speaker, Alex Grant, is a leading member of Fightback, the Canadian section of the IMT.
Liberty through struggle: Marxism vs. Queer Theory
Marxism defends the unity of peoples across all gender and sexual lines in the fight against the oppressive capitalist system. But Queer Theory holds that our gender and sexual identities are a fiction produced by discourses and oppressive power in society: a learned performance. What does this idea mean for the liberation struggle? Is Queer Theory compatible with Marxism? This discussion will tackle these issues. Our speaker, Yola Kipcak, is a leading activist of Der Funke, the Austrian section of the IMT.
Their morals and ours: Marxism vs. pacifism
One of the many slanders hurled at the Bolsheviks is that they were bloodthirsty intriguers who got their way through violent means. This is a criticism shared both by the hypocritical bourgeois, and elements on the left. These pacifists say that we need peace, love and understanding to counter the brutal repression of capitalism, not violent revolution. But will the ruling class ever really relinquish power without a fight? What is the real Marxist attitude to violence and pacifism? Our speaker, Ben Gliniecki, is a leading activist of the International Marxist Tendency.