Marxism 2000 conference: confident in the future of socialism

Green Left Weekly #388 – December 8, 1999
By John Percy

Whose century was the 20th, and whose century will the 21st be? As the millennium draws to a close, we should reflect on this.

Capitalism is still in power across most of the globe. Capitalists in the imperialist countries have accumulated unprecedented wealth. They have previously undreamt-of military power and weapons of mass destruction at their disposal. Some think they can act with complete impunity, slaughtering millions in Iraq with bombs and brutal blockades or raining destruction on Serbia from a great height, free from retaliation.

Workers and the oppressed have certainly suffered numerous defeats this century. Capitalist ideologues celebrate 10 years of the collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. They’re relishing further assaults on the huge Chinese market as China’s government proceeds apace with privatisation.

Some capitalist hawkers of get-rich-quick manuals are even convinced of ever-upward stock market prices. They think they’ve hit on the magic elixir of automatically generated wealth – for the few, of course. They would seem to be riding high.

Yet the 20th century in its broad sweep would have to be seen as a century of revolution, when the ideas and analysis of Karl Marx came into their own.

There were revolutionary struggles in Marx’s 19th century. Workers began organising and gaining consciousness of their class interests. But it was small scale compared to the breadth of class struggles in the 20th – general strikes, national liberation struggles, wars, revolutions and the Bolshevik Revolution, which almost spans the century and certainly exerted its influence on all its important political and social facets.

Persistent contradictions

The contradictions analysed by Marx that gave rise to those tumultuous struggles are still there. The gaps between rich and poor are widening, within countries and between countries. Fortress Europe, USA, Australia are pulling up the drawbridges against the mass of humanity sinking further into poverty, misery and oppression. Wealthy enclaves within US cities erect their own walls to keep the riffraff out.

Struggles keep breaking out; they can’t keep the lid on them. How could they, when the contradictions and inequalities are still there?

The long struggle by the people of East Timor for freedom was finally rewarded, supported by masses on the streets in Jakarta, Lisbon, Melbourne and Sydney.

Even in Seattle, in the imperialist heartland, home of Microsoft and the world’s richest man, 50,000 demonstrated against the World Trade Organisation and all it symbolises. Futuristic-looking official thugs used the vandalism of a few to arrest hundreds and tear gas and viciously baton charge the thousands.

It’s a symbolic end to a century of struggle, and a portent for the century we’re entering.

Greatest thinker of millennium

So it was totally appropriate that Karl Marx was voted the greatest thinker of the millennium in a poll conducted on the internet by the British Broadcasting Corporation in September.

Marx best analysed the workings of capitalism, and has inspired thousands of liberation struggles and millions of workers and oppressed. Murdoch’s Australian headlined its feature on the 150th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto two years ago, “Why Karl Marx was right”. Sometimes even the hired hacks of the big capitalists have to tell the truth.

Marxism is still not only relevant, but essential, for analysing, and providing a tool to fight, rapacious capitalism. The 21st century will undoubtedly be a century for Marxism.

So the Marxism 2000 Asia Pacific Solidarity and Education Conference, initiated by the Democratic Socialist Party and Resistance, is very timely, and expresses a confidence in the future of socialism.

It will be a multipurpose conference.


Firstly, it will be a conference to promote solidarity and international collaboration between the left forces in the region.

In this sense, it is a continuation of the extremely successful Asia Pacific Solidarity Conference in Sydney in April 1998. That conference was attended by more than 700 people, including 67 international guests.

With more than 50 international guests already committed to attend Marxism 2000, this conference is likely to match that level of international representation. Most of these guests are from the Asia Pacific region, but speakers are also coming from Europe, North America, Africa and the Middle East.

(See the advertisement on the opposite page for a list of the international guests coming and countries represented at the moment. An updated list will be available on the DSP web site <>.)


Secondly, the conference will play an important educational role for DSP and Resistance members and others attending. The DSP has traditionally organised a major gathering in early January, alternating between a delegated congress and a broader educational conference.

These meetings have to provide a series of basic education classes for comrades, on the classics of Marxism, history, Marxist economics and philosophy.

They also help organise and plan the tasks and perspectives for the year ahead. Reports analyse important developments in world and Australian politics, assess different areas of work and set future projections and priorities.

The provisional agenda so far provides 15 plenary talks and panels, four major sessions and 92 talks, classes and workshops. The multiple choice talks are organised into 24 streams, the themes of which are listed opposite. The full list of talks is available on the web site, and will be updated in the lead-up to the conference.


Thirdly, the conference will be an opportunity for broader discussions, for looking at ways to renew socialism, to regroup the left, to convince new activists to join the movement.

The conference agenda and the conference itself will be an opportunity for important debates, on issues thrown up by new developments in the class struggle in 1999, and on issues contested and unresolved for decades: the national question, Leninism, permanent revolution, Kosova, East Timor and perspectives for the student movement, the women’s liberation struggle, solidarity campaigns.

The conference will be overwhelmingly a gathering of activists: workers, students, young people involved in building parties and organisations and a range of campaigns and struggles.

The conference won’t have an academic approach, though there will be many academics there, and we’re fortunate to have three very respected keynote speakers – John Pilger, James Petras and Francisco Nemenzo.

But it will have a high level of political discussion, a real depth, because of its connection with real struggles and the serious level of commitment to fundamental social change by most of the participants


A constant thread running through the conference will be internationalism. How should socialists organise internationally? How should we distinguish between forms and essence? What is internationalism?

As Lenin pointed out, a revolutionary’s first internationalist duty is to wage the struggle and build the party, and make the revolution, in one’s own country. But we also have to work out how best to help other struggles win, how best to assist the workers and oppressed in other countries, how best to help other socialist parties develop.

The conference will look at concrete ways of helping such collaboration: building solidarity, promoting joint work, common tours and projects, joint publishing activities such as Links magazine.

We’ll be working at learning from each other, through discussions, debates and collaboration. And, hopefully, we’ll be reaching agreement on promoting and organising similar conferences in the region.

The APSC 18 months ago was an exhilarating, enthusiastic experience, drawing high praise from all the international guests and participants. The seminars that seemed the most packed and appreciated were those that discussed important concepts of Marxism.

This conference will cater to that felt need. Because we have five days, and comrades will be able to live on site, we’ll be able to discuss in greater depth, have a thorough educational experience. It will be even better than 1998.

The Sydney Olympics, scandal ridden and commercialised though it is, has tended to make Sydney somewhat of a focus for the year 2000. Marxism 2000, January 5-9 in Sydney, will make its own impact, and express a statement. It will express a renewed confidence in the ideas of Marxism, in the struggles of the working class and oppressed, and in the future victory of socialism, for the start of the 21st century.

[John Percy is the national secretary of the Democratic Socialist Party.]