AS the Labour Party prepared to scour its own soul in Perth and the SNP flirted with the frackers in Aberdeen, the real radicals were in Glasgow on Saturday. At the Renfield St Stephen’s Centre on Bath Street it was Marxism in Scotland day, and it seemed to me that Marxism is doing not too terribly at all.

I’d been asked to share my thoughts to this gathering last year not long after the referendum on Scottish independence, and was invited back to discuss the aftermath. For those of us who have made our own grubby deals with capitalism and who acquiesce in the way that society is ordered in this country, the sorts of people who attend days like this are easy targets. They are still playing at student politics, we try to reassure ourselves, while the rest of us got real and learned to accept that compromises have to be made if you want a quiet and peaceful life. We long ago chose to follow the other great Marx: “These are my principles, and if you don’t like them... well, I’ve got others.”

The event was organised by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), one of those “hard left” satellite groups I last encountered selling their newspaper on the steps of my old university union. No left-wing protest march or campaign launch is worth a candle if the SWP isn’t there.

More than 300 people were attracted to this well-known centre of Christian fellowship to listen to talks and workshops inspired by the spirit of Karl Marx, the great anti-theist himself. Not for the first time though, it occurred to me that without Christianity there would have been no Marx, but that a Christian who doesn’t believe in Marx is hardly a Christian at all.

All the themes that one would expect to see here were explored: Immigration and Asylum; Left Unity; Organising Resistance to the Tories. Once, many years ago, I’d protested and marched in support of them all and then quietly eased them out of my life. I still broadly supported them all, but had come to a sullen acceptance that things would probably never really change.

We accept that the UK is run by a privileged elite who have used the Conservative Party and the Parliamentary Labour Party to maintain the fiction that we live in a fair and equal democracy. But, so long as we’re doing okay with our cars, houses and holidays then why should we care? The people who turned up at the Renfield St Stephen’s Church are the remnant who kept up the fight long after the rest of us threw in the towel. And they still care.

I’m not saying that people in the Labour Party and the SNP don’t care about these issues and perhaps even passionately. But many in the SNP will put the cause of an independent Scotland ahead of everything while Labour is still hidebound by the slogan: “What do we want? Change; how do we want it? In moderation, if that doesn’t cause you any inconvenience.”

Both of the mainstream parties of the left in Scotland are still used by many opportunists as a vehicle for self-advancement and the chance to rub shoulders with power. Look again at the SNP’s fabled Westminster 56 and ask yourself: how many of them aren’t on a gravy train? The SWP and all those other pesky, edgy, pain-in-the-tonsils groups with bad haircuts and red T-shirts are among those who won’t compromise. For advancing their belief in society changing from below they are called the “hard left” yet you will never hear the phrase “hard right” associated with any government that believes, as this UK one does, that change must always come from the top.

DURING my session, I witnessed once more what proper passion and righteous anger looked and felt like. I was joined at the podium by Robin McAlpine, founder of the Common Weal project and by Angela McCormack, a college lecturer and SWP member. Each of them made up for my rather bland and ramshackle thoughts a year after the independence referendum with speeches that had fire and brimstone in their bellies. Thereafter, at least a dozen of the audience leapt forwards to express solidarity with Syrian refugees or indignation about the callous indifference to other people’s suffering that characterises the social policies of the Conservatives.

The right and those on the acquiescent left are fond of dismissing people such as these as ill-disciplined and fundamentalist zealots who would bring chaos to our economic models and to our balance of payments. Yet we are in an age when we are allowing ill-disciplined and fundamentalist zealots in the banks and in the UK Government to bring chaos to our economic models and impoverish hundreds of thousands of working families.

In every session I attended and on the lips of every soul who took the microphone two messages stood out from among all the others: we must help the steelworkers and we must help the refugees and asylum-seekers. This was expressed most eloquently by Margaret Woods of the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees. “This isn’t a refugee crisis,” she said, “this is a crisis for global capitalism.”

She said this almost two months after pictures of little Alan washed up dead on a beach travelled round the globe. The tears and messages of support which greeted this distressing image were, not long after, replaced by caveats and stipulations. Already, fences and walls are going up all over Europe to keep these poor, terror-stricken people out.

The foreign policies of the US, Britain and France for decades played havoc with the Middle East and all with one aim: to enrich ourselves at the expense of these wretched people. Now we treat them like scum and turn our backs on them.

At the foot of Bath Street, on Saturday afternoon, I didn’t see 300 extremists of the hard left who wanted to wreck civilisation as we know it. I saw kind and decent human beings who simply wanted to reach out and help those with nothing... without any quotas, caveats and stipulations. And what if the civilisation which permits this suffering is wrecked in the process..?