Rebecca Short writes:
Colin Barker and Sølvi Goard’s workshop on Social Movements and United Fronts Today tackled arguments that are key for anyone organising on the left. As the room started to fill, a video was played from perhaps one of the most exciting struggles in the past year, that in in Bosnia Herzegovina, etching it into our minds for the rest of the meeting.
Colin Barker spoke first on social movements. He argued that class struggle translates into social movements, which include everything from struggles against oppression to trade union struggles. Revolutionary socialists, therefore, have to think very carefully about how they are going to relate to them, how they should advance the ideas within them and, ultimately, win people to revolutionary socialist politics.
Colin talked about the economic crisis today and the social movements this has thrown up around the world, from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street and the Indignados movement in Spain. He emphasised the uneven nature of these movements, giving the example of trade union movements in Greece and in Britain. He concluded by talking specifically about what we can learn from the successes of the Chicago teachers strike and the Quebec student movement.
Sølvi Goard then looked at united fronts and their importance for revolutionaries in trying to maximise their impact. She talked much about the recent struggles in Bosnia Herzegovina that escalated from strikes to riots of workers and the unemployed, to the setting up of workers councils or “plenums”.
Personally, I found the discussion extremely useful. Contributions covered everything from how a successful NHS campaign has been organised in Bromley and Bexley; how socialists organised in the community a century ago and how we can do this now around the bedroom tax; the impact of neoliberalism on social movements; how a stronger community element should be built into teachers strikes and how to organise in anti-fracking campaigns.