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It moves! What makes a social movement?

4 April 2019 at 8:00 pm10:00 pm

Over the last year, and after a depressive slump, we have seen an unprecedented rise in activity around particular issues. Whilst we might have expected the 2008 recession to have produced more popular unrest than it did, it is hard not to conclude that many of the contradictions of the long-term decline of neoliberal capitalism are now manifesting themselves, for good and ill.

The Gilets Jaunes movement in France has presented one of the most impressive challenges to the neoliberal government of Emmanuel Macron, whilst Extinction Rebellion and the Youth Strikes for Climate have given us a glimpse of what popular struggle against climate change might look like. Amidst all of this, however, the way we understand ‘social movements’ remains patchy at best. What makes a successful ‘social movement’; how does it relate to struggles in the workplace, and how do we, as Marxists respond to movements with contradictory politics?

Below are a couple of texts intended to stimulate discussion, as always, not having read the texts will not be a barrier to full participation in the discussion.

This piece by Colin Barker offers one of the most comprehensive attempts to think through the politics and theory of social movements from a Marxist perspective.

This text, from the Verso blog, attempts to think through the prospects of the Gilets Jaunes protests as a largely reactive movement, and raises some of the problems of identifying a ‘strategy’. ‘Above all, this struggle has produced a new synthesis in which the build-up of rage contained far too long, and the accumulated experience of the struggles of recent years, together sound a call for revenge.’


4 April 2019
8:00 pm – 10:00 pm


The George
The George
40 Parkholme Road, London E8 3AG United Kingdom


East London rs21

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