Marxist-Humanist Initiative (MHI) launched activities in the UK with two public meetings in London on March 17 and 21. They are described in the fliers which announced them (click here for meeting announcements). Videos of the meetings appear below.
“Do We Need Marx’s Humanism Today?” featured talks by Andrew Kliman and Anne Jaclard of MHI, who argued that Marx’s humanism remains vital to class struggle and social-economic transformation, while Enlightenment humanism stops short of laying a path out of capitalism. In opposition were Michael Fitzpatrick and Alan Hudson of the former Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) in the United Kingdom. Fitzpatrick favored Enlightenment humanism, finding Marx irrelevant on the grounds that the working class has been dead ever since the defeat of the 1984-85 miners’ strike and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Key questions turned on the condition of the working class and its role for those who aspire to social transformation. The speakers from the former RCP had concluded that the working class has been finished as an agency for revolutionary change, and has no existence as a political force, so they were extremely pessimistic about the relevance of Marx’s aspiration to see society remade. The MHI speakers challenged such a thorough-going rejection of Marx’s view of the working class as necessarily revolutionary. A lively debate ensued from the floor.
Points about what working-class defeats mean in terms of shaping consciousness, and how revolutionaries should understand this in order to respond effectively, were raised by both sides, but not in a manner that shifted either side. In many ways, this inability to convince the opponents stems from very different starting conceptions of the task of revolutionaries in relation to class struggle, and even of what class struggle is.
The order of the speakers was Kliman, Hudson, Jaclard and Fitzpatrick. Ravi Bali was the chair. Click here for the written texts of Kliman and Jaclard’s opening remarks.
“Theory, Activism and the Grassroots Housing Movement” was co-sponsored by MHI and the Radical Housing Network, a coalition of grassroots housing groups in London. The meeting featured talks by Ravi Bali and Jack Dean, housing activists, followed by Anne Jaclard, a Marxist-Humanist activist with 50 years’ history in US tenants’ and other movements. The chair was Ian Abley.
Unfortunately, the video ends before the end of the meeting, cutting off considerable additional discussion. Much of that focused on the speakers’ assertions that “housing is a human right,” which the chair considered to be legalistic and false. The speakers and others argued that it is a revolutionary demand because it reflects the aspirations of mass movements of working people today; while the “right” cannot be realized in capitalist society, it is an assertion of their vision of a future society that they will control.