On Saturday 27 May, comrades of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) in Britain met in London for the organisation’s first ever conference dedicated to the question of the Marxist newspaper.
Sixty delegates came from far and wide – including all the way from Cornwall and Scotland – to discuss the history of the revolutionary press, and to share experiences from branches up and down the country.
This weekend’s special conference saw comrades coming together to discuss the progress towards this goal, and how we can use our paper to build for revolution.
The conference began with a focus on where our organisation has come from, and where we need to go, with an excellent introduction by James Kilby of the Socialist Appeal editorial board on the inspiring traditions surrounding the Marxist press.
Some sceptics say that, given the internet and social media, a revolutionary newspaper in the 21st century is outdated and unnecessary. But this could not be further from the truth.
For Marxists, our paper is an essential tool to communicate our ideas to a wider audience – and to meet others looking to join us in building a revolutionary organisation.
The history of the Marxist movement, including the many class fighters and revolutionaries who have come before us, provide a treasure trove of lessons on the vital importance of a revolutionary paper.
Marx and Engels understood this well. They went to great lengths to publish the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, for example – a newspaper that connected directly with the revolutionary currents swirling around in Europe at the time, in the 1840s.
Such was the power of the ideas present in this paper, that when counterrevolution reared its head, the Neue Rheinische Zeitung was outlawed, forcing Marx to seek exile in London.
Lessons can also be taken from the mass revolutionary movement of the Chartists in Britain, whose papers included the Northern Star and Friend of the People.
These demonstrate the way in which socialist workers have always overcome all barriers in order to produce a paper around which to organise their struggles; as a necessary instrument to fight back against the ruling class and their reactionary propaganda.
In Russia, in the years building up to 1917, Lenin and Trotsky fought hard to establish a genuine workers’ press, as an essential foundation for the creation of a genuine revolutionary party – and, in turn, for the success of the revolution.
Under the harsh repressive conditions of the Tsarist regime, the Bolsheviks often had to smuggle papers into Russia, at great personal risk and sacrifice.
Only through this painstaking work could they connect the ideas of Marxism with the radicalising mood amongst the masses, and successfully lead the working class to victory with the October revolution.
The elan and dedication shown by these revolutionaries in writing, producing, and distributing a Marxist paper demonstrates that no obstacle can stand in the path of genuine communists, or – in the words of Victor Hugo – can stop an idea whose time has come.
It is these Bolshevik traditions that we base ourselves on. And it is this rich heritage of revolutionary activity and sacrifice that inspires our members today in the struggle for socialism.
Delegates from branches up and down the country gave inspirational and enthusiastic reports about how they have used the paper to build the IMT in their areas.
Some branches reported how, through educating comrades on the history and role of the revolutionary press, they have spurred comrades to use the paper in their daily activity in order to build.
Cambridge comrades, for example, reported how they are regularly selling dozens – even hundreds – of papers every week, and meeting many aspiring activists in the process, by establishing a regular presence in the town centre.
Other branches shared their experiences of using the paper in the labour movement; selling the paper on university campuses; and distributing the paper in workplaces.
All these reports demonstrated the bold attitude that comrades are taking in relation to spreading Marxist ideas. This is what has made all the difference, with notable gains and results – such as union branches taking out subscriptions to the paper.
Another inspiring report came from the Harrow branch of Socialist Appeal, who were harassed and penalised by the local Tory council for the ‘crime’ of being Marxists with a Marxist paper!
The comrades fought back and won, however, and with this defiant spirit they have continued to build a growing base of support in the community.
Across the country, branches have reported that they have been selling out of each issue of the paper – both of the Socialist Appeal in England and Wales, and of Revolution in Scotland. There is clearly a thirst for Marxist ideas in society.
As one comrade put it at the conference, the revolutionary press “is our sharpest weapon” in the class struggle. And as the class struggle intensifies, it will need ever-more sharpening. This is the task we have set ourselves.
Connected to our ‘are you a communist?’ recruitment campaign, the paper is a fundamental tool in finding budding communists, organising ourselves, educating members, and spreading the ideas of Marxism.
Only by being – as one comrade put it – a “Bolshevik 24/7” can we turn our ideas into a material force, by building a powerful Marxist tendency in Britain and beyond.
Build the Marxist press
Building such forces means refining the paper. The Socialist Appeal and Revolution papers are not finished products, but living, breathing organs that aim to provide a voice for revolutionary workers and youth.
These tools must become powerful weapons in our arsenal against the bosses and their system. Comrades therefore discussed how to improve the paper, and reach a wider readership.
To build the Marxist press, we must build a wider network of sympathisers and supporters – a network that will allow for a truly mass independent paper, providing Marxist analysis and support for workers in struggle.
We call on all our readers to help us in this task. If you haven’t already done so, set up a subscription to the paper. Even better, get in touch about receiving a batch of papers every issue, in order to help spread the ideas of Marxism in your own town or workplace.
This was precisely the initiative taken by one worker recently at a North Sea oil rig, after we reported on their ongoing struggle. And it is an example that we hope many more will follow.
Join the revolution
We have made a significant step forward as an organisation in recent months and years. And this special paper conference will be remembered as an important milestone in the development of the Marxist tendency in Britain. But we still have a lot of work to do!
One thing is certain: we must be communist not only in our words, but in our deeds.
We stand on the shoulders of class-fighters and revolutionary giants who have come before us. And thanks to their efforts and sacrifices, we are armed with the power of Marxist ideas.
On these solid foundations, we must go forward and build the forces of Marxism needed to finally put an end to the horrors of capitalism.
If you are a communist, looking to get organised and commit yourself to the fight for revolution, then join us today in the struggle for a socialist future.