Marxism 2016 – A promised review

The colour coded lanyards...

I promised I’d write a review of Marxism 2016… well…

Marxism is an annual political conference hosted by Socialist Alternative in Melbourne. In the past I’ve attended and written reviews; if you’re interested you can read my review of Marxism 2012 here and Marxism 2013 here.

There is no denying that Marxism is the most significant political conference on the far-left in Australia. Socialist Alternative claims to have sold 1,253 tickets to this Easter’s conference, which seems broadly plausible. There were several hundred people actively participating across three days, with up to seven concurrent sessions at any given time. Socialist Alternative presented a range of international speakers, as well as streams on workers’ organizing, Indigenous struggles, current political debates, ‘Marxism 101’, and more.

For all anyone might like to criticize Socialist Alternative’s conference, no one is putting on anything better.

Yes, their conference is geared towards recruiting new members to Socialist Alternative. There is no great debate or diversity of opinion in the material presented (that is not to say that the material itself is not diverse, but the political perspective is largely uniform); Socialist Alternative has their line and they advance it. As an organisation they know what they are doing with Marxism, and they do it well.

I say this as someone who wishes there was something better. I am not a member of Socialist Alternative; I am an unapologetic and unrepentant anarchist. I sincerely wish that anarchists in Australia were prepared and willing to undertake the work to put on an explicitly anarchist political conference that could rival Marxism.

No, scratch that, I wish we would put on a conference better than Marxism. I wish we could put on something with greater depth, better debate, and more diversity of opinion. I wish we would put on an event that gets people excited about politics!

Socialist Alternative should rightly be proud of the work they’ve put into Marxism. Anarchists and others should rise to the challenge that it presents.

Odds and Ends and Gossip

Members of the Spartacist League attended the conference on the first day (they even purchased a ticket!) but it seems their welcome was conditional and they were soon ejected. Socialist Alternative members inform me the Spartacist League were ejected for disrupting a ‘Marxism 101’ session. Others claim that the Spartacists were informed they could attend a ‘101’ session but they would not be permitted to participate in the usual Q&A/Discussion these involve; it seems they decided to participate nonetheless.

For all their rhetoric about fighting “left wing treason” and “communism”, the sewer dwellers of the United Patriots Front were nowhere to be seen all weekend.

Raif Rawandi takes issue with Socialist Alternative’s attitude on Islam in his review, .

The lanyards were colour coded.

After his session on the Cuban revolution, former RSP member James Crafti wrote:

Discussion on the Cuban Revolution held at Marxism… organisation did not explode.

I hope he gets to host a session on post 1959 Cuba at a future conference, I look forward to going to troll!

Bonus David Rovics trolling
Clash Of Clans Cheat And Hack Tool


  1. ablokeimetApril 2, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    Excellent review. And I also have problems with SAlt’s line on religion. It’s the sort of thing where getting it wrong could lead to a large amount of blood being spilled. I’ve commented on Raif’s blog, too.

  2. As an Anarchist from Aotearoa who attended Marxism 2016 I must concur on all points with my namesake. I was accosted by a Spartacist when rushing to get to the opening night and, though I didn’t have time to talk, he seemed absolutely determined to be a comical caricature of sectarian idiocy.

    All through the conference I felt a fierce ambivalence; admiration and envy clashed with a slightly queasy and alarmed feeling of disdain.

    The worst part, for me, was the need to maintain the Party Line over Syria. This led to an entire session of specious rationalisation aimed at trashing the PYD and the PKK with miscontextualisation and jaw-dropping double-standards. However, it says something positive about the conference (in a way) that the audience largely did not buy into the line that the organisers were feeding them.


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