We're back once again with our third annual spring conference, and would like to invite you all to a day of discussion and debate. This year, there are six panels - a variety of eighteen speakers from across the left on a host of contemporary, challenging and exciting topics.
10am onwards: Registration
11.30am: WORKERS ROJAVA? THE KURDS, SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION AND THE CRISIS IN THE MIDDLE EAST
As Kurdish leftists consolidate their power combating ISIS and the Turkish state, the region of Rojava stands as an experiment in economic and social transformation reminiscent of the twenties and thirties. What are the prospects for Kurdish socialism, and how does the Kurdish situation reflect on the crisis situation in the Middle East in general?
Burhan Fatah (International Federation of Iraqi Refugees)
Azar Majedi (Worker-communist Party of Iran; chair, Organisation for Women's Liberation)
2pm: MUSIC AND COMMITMENT
For generations, popular music has played a central role in youth culture. Yet the organised left is largely absent from many contemporary music scenes. Does this mean that it is culturally distant to most young people? Inversely, does this divorce limit the social palette of popular music? In the words of Gang of Four, ‘most groups make most of their songs about falling in love’. In a world where David Cameron now publicly declares his love for the Smiths, of what relevance could music be to leftist politics, and vice versa? What has a committed music of the left looked like in the past – and what might it look like now?
Rhian E. Jones (author of 'Clampdown: pop-cultural wars on class and gender' [zero, 2013])
Alex Niven (author of 'Oasis' Definitely Maybe [33 1/3, Bloomsbury, 2014] and assistant editor of New Left Review)
David Wilkinson (assistant researcher, University of Reading)
2pm: RELATING TO ISLAMISM: SECULARISM, THE FAR RIGHT AND THE BATTLE FOR EQUALITY
The shocking massacre of Charlie Hebdo journalists in their offices in January reignited a debate which has raged across Europe since 9/11. Are there irreconcilable differences between core values held amongst many European Muslims and the broadly secular identity of modern Europe? Are such questions even relevant, when contextualised against the general assault against Muslim communities that has occurred in tandem with the War on Terror? As the political right grow in prominence both in France, the United Kingdom and elsewhere on the continent, how should the left address the question of Islamism?
Pragna Patel (director, Southall Black Sisters)
Hicham Yezza (editor, Ceasefire magazine)
3.15pm: SCALE AND AMBITION: ENTHUSIASM, PLANNING AND DREAMING UNDER SOCIALISM
The architecture of our towns and cities both creates our immediate spatial environment - channelling and directing our movements – but can also be read as a general expression of current social-economic values and political and philosophical priorities. From huge mega-malls in China to faceless luxury apartments in London, what does modern architecture tell us about the world we live in today, and how could a socialist architecture express our ambitions for the future?
Douglas Murphy (Icon magazine, author of forthcoming 'Last Futures: Nature, Technology and the End of Architecture' [Verso])
Angela Nagle (writer and researcher)
Morag Rose (Loiterers Resistance Movement)
3.15pm: POPULAR POLITICS & THE PROSPECTS FOR THE NEW EUROPEAN LEFT
Whilst traditional parties struggle, new forces are emerging to challenge the established paradigms of political participation. What does the rise of populist parties and other non-traditional movements mean for the left and how do we engage with them? After years of crisis caused by march of austerity, can an alternative model to neoliberalism be successfully forged?
David Broder (editorial board of Historical Materialism)
Robin McAlpine (director of the Common Weal)
Marina Prentoulis (UK spokesperson for SYRIZA)
4.30pm: FORGING A COMMUNIST CULTURE
The communist parties of Europe, during their 'heroic period’ of the twenties and thirties, were a 'world within a world' of organisations. Youth groups, organisations for militant unemployed workers, sportsmen and the trade union rank-and-file - as well as significant cultural fronts for music, theatre and film. The absence of such cultural reach today is a stark reminder of the decline of the left in the popular, creative spheres of society. So what did 'communist culture' look like previously? What could a healthy 'communist culture' look like today - and what is stopping us from creating it? Between both historians of communist culture and leading militants, we hope to create a discussion on how to build the cultural conditions for working class power.
Bill McKinstry (railway labourer, RMT union representative and community organiser)
Beth Redmond (National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts leadership)
Matthew Worley (author and academic, University of Reading)
1 James Street
£10 standard fee, £5 concession
Please book in advance to avoid disappointment... tickets can be found online at manchesterspring.org.uk/conference-2015/