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Counterfire's Revolution! Festival featured in-depth discussions on revolutionary politics and strategy for the left in a time of crisis

Last weekend's Revolution! Festival was an inspiring combination of serious discussion, collective self-education and often moving solidarity. 350 people attended the weekend which started with in-person radical walking tours in five cities and moved onto Zoom on Saturday and Sunday for twenty events addressing key political and theoretical issues.

The festival took place against the background of the Tories' crazed plan to lift all restrictions as the new variant surges and a time when Keir Starmer has consolidated his hold on Labour despite his inability to mount any serious opposition to the Tories. 

The opening rally on Covid and the crisis brought together French ant-racist MP Daniele Obono, author and anti-war leader Lindsey German and writer and activist Tariq Ali to discuss the multi-level crisis that poses so many challenges for the left.

Among Saturday's workshops were a discussion on revolutionaries and the struggle for women's liberation with Rachel Holmes and Kate Connelly and an assessment of the future of the Labour Party with Holly Rigby and Chris Nineham. There were many more including a panel on racism, class and Islamophobia, Biden and the fate of neoliberalism, and a fascinating discussion about a Marxist approach to union organising led by tube worker Unjum Mirza.

Saturday ended with an outstanding mixed media event on Palestinian cultural resistance hosted by author and musician Dave Randall. It brought together performance and comment from 47Soul's Z the People, Mustafa Sheta from the Freedom Theatre in Jenin and Shahd Abusalama, singer and member of all-female dance company Hawiyya. Their testimonies about the situation in Gaza and the West Bank and the role of culture in the Palestinians struggle for liberation were fascinating and moving in equal measure. 

Highlights on Sunday included a discussion on the break up of Britain stressing why it's important socialists support a united Ireland and the right of Scots and Welsh to self determination, an analysis of the culture wars with Mike Wayne and Kevin Ovenden and a discussion of the life of US black revolutionary Fred Hampton led off by Yonas Makoni.

There was throughout a real attempt to grapple with a series of complex issues that face the left and it was noticeable that the meetings on Marxist revolutionary theory were amongst the most popular at the event.

The Festival was also about activity and organisation. The final rally on the left after the lockdown saw Laura Pidcock from the People's Assembly call for a massive protest outside the Tory Party conference in Manchester on October 3, Antohny O'Hanlon from Liverpool university urge everyone to build solidarity for the crucial lecturer's strike there and Lucy Nichols discuss growing student resistance.

Lowkey joined the panel to talk about the scandals behind the Covid crisis and much else, Yaseen Aslam reported on the brilliant work his app drivers' union the ADCU has done organising Uber drivers, and John Rees put the case for building a movement of resistance that unites on the key issues of the moment but also a left that conducts discussions on the difficult issues seriously.

In the absence of any effective official opposition the festival showed a real thirst for a renewed Marxist politics and a combative extra-parliamentary movement.

Videos of the various sessions will be available on our YouTube channel soon. Counterfire will be hosting similar events in the future, so sign up to our mailing list to get the latest updates.

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Counterfire is expanding fast as a website and an organisation. We are trying to organise a dynamic extra-parliamentary left in every part of the country to help build resistance to the government and their billionaire backers. If you like what you have read and you want to help, please join us or just get in touch by emailing [email protected] Now is the time!

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