The Seventeenth National Convention of Socialist Action was held Aug. 19-21 in Kansas City, Mo. The convention was preceded by the party’s traditional three-month pre-convention discussion period, which included some 50 written contributions from SA members.
Delegates from across the country presented reports of their work in many movements—including struggles against global warming and for climate justice, Black Lives Matter and ending racist cop violence, women’s and LGBT rights, the $15 minimum wage, the antiwar movement, and in the trade unions. The convention approved a campaign to improve and increase the readership of Socialist Action newspaper and to bolster the party’s presence on the internet and in social media.
A project that will take center stage in the next few months is the Socialist Action election campaign of Jeff Mackler for U.S. president and Karen Schraufnagel for vice president. Both candidates will be speaking in some 20 U.S. cities during the lead-up to the elections.
Jeff Mackler, who noted Socialist Action’s recruitment of Black and Latino youth and its expansion to a number of cities, summed up what is at stake in the 2016 elections: “There is no doubt that the ruling class is well aware of the mounting discontent bubbling up in broad sectors of the population—and especially among youth and in the working class and oppressed nationalities more generally. Both the Clinton and Trump campaigns are aimed in different ways at channeling the disgust over declining opportunities for decent jobs, capitalist austerity, institutionalized racism, sexism, environmental destruction, and more back into safe channels. The two-party charade, in which voters are cajoled into supporting the ‘lesser evil,’ is the major device that this country’s rulers use at election time to divert and dilute this discontent.
“Our job is to present a working-class alternative and to pose the most important question of all: the need for working people to reject capitalist politics and politicians and rely on themselves politically. The working class and its allies among the oppressed, acting in their own interests, have the power to win real and substantial victories.”
The convention opened with discussion that highlighted some of the major aspects of the political situation around the world. The Political Resolution approved by convention delegates described the situation this way: “Eight years into the world capitalist crisis—the Great Depression of the modern era—no nation on earth can boast anything resembling a recovery. Stagnation and continued decline are the norm the world over, with the broad imposition of austerity measures taking an ever-increasing toll on the working masses and oppressed, while imperialist wars for domination and plunder in all their manifestations proceed seemingly without end on every continent.”
At the same time, the report pointed to opportunities in the emergence of important struggles of working people and minority communities against many aspects of capitalist oppression. It listed, for example:
- The fight against increasingly harsh austerity and union-busting attacks on U.S. workers, reflected in the strike of Verizon workers, the on-going fight around a new Chicago Teachers Union contract, and other struggles.
- The battles of low-wage workers for a $15 minimum wage and a union.
- The fight against racist cop murders and the growing strength of the Movement for Black Lives and other anti-racist groups and coalitions emerging in Black and other communities of oppressed peoples.
- The growing struggle against climate change and for a quick and just transition to 100% renewable sources of energy—a struggle that includes the demand for an immediate ban on fracking.
- The movement against deportations and extending the rights of immigrant workers.
Socialist Action supports and participates in all of these struggles and plans to deepen involvement in the coming year.
In discussion on the Organizational Report, the delegates outlined plans for this fall and beyond. A series of tasks were outlined that project Socialist Action “outward” towards heightened engagement with radicalizing workers and students engaged in struggle against capitalist oppression. The report and discussion encouraged SA members to obtain unionized jobs in the industrial workforce where possible.
The convention approved a National Sales Drive designed to make sales of the paper a central part of the activity of every SA branch and at-large area. Also approved was an effort to improve the newspaper’s content and quality by adding staff and encouraging local areas to make frequent contributions that feature involvement of SA members in local struggles. An important national fund drive of $25,000 was also planned.
The most pressing task in the coming months is to expand the 2016 Socialist Action campaign of Jeff Mackler for U.S. president and Karen Schraufnagel for vice president. Branches and at-large areas will organize distributions of campaign material at political meetings, transit stops, and door-to-door in working-class neighborhoods. Branches will also schedule forums in local areas for the candidates during organized national tours during September and October. We invite our readers to join us at these events. The times and locations, as they become known, will be posted in the EVENTS listings on this website.
The convention heard greetings from Socialist Action’s sister party in Canada, Socialist Action/Ligue pour L’Action Socialiste, whose representatives participated in the wide-ranging discussions.
In regard to Socialist Action’s antiwar work, discussion was devoted to evaluating the course of the war in Syria. The convention re-affirmed Socialist Action’s major positions adopted over the past several years and summarized as follows in an article by Jeff Mackler that appeared in the January 2016 issue of Socialist Action newspaper:
“In the wake of virtually all U.S. Middle East wars over the past decade and longer, ‘failed states’ have been the inevitable outcome. In Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan, death and destruction and endless internecine wars waged by competing tribal-based reactionary groups are accompanied by almost unbelievable human suffering—poverty, disease and starvation—U.S. imperialism’s trademark and legacy for whomever it conquers.
“Again, unconditional support to the right of self-determination of all oppressed nations, free from all imperialist intervention in all its manifestations, is a central and strategic component of revolutionary socialist politics. Having affirmed this fundamental working-class principle, support to self-determination is not at all synonymous with political support to the governments or regimes of these oppressed nations—in the case of Syria, the Bashar al-Assad government. Socialists have no illusions that the Assad regime represents any form of revolutionary nationalist or otherwise progressive break with capitalism….
“Nevertheless, the removal of Assad’s oppressive capitalist Syrian regime is the sole responsibility of the Syrian people, not U.S. imperialism and its reactionary allied forces.
“Socialist Action’s unanimously adopted 2014 national convention Political Resolution makes this absolutely clear: ‘Today’s war in Syria is a war between U.S. imperialism’s direct and indirect capitalist-fundamentalist and reactionary forces on the one hand and the capitalist Assad government on the other. The Syria masses have no independently organized political, military or economic presence. Under these circumstances, Socialist Action stands full square against U.S. imperialism and those allied with it in Syria and elsewhere. In accord with our support to the right of self-determination of all oppressed nations, even those under capitalist rule, we are for the defeat of the U.S.-backed imperialist intervention in all its forms’ ….
The January 2016 article continued, “Syria’s right to self-determination necessarily includes the right of the Syrian government to seek and accept the support of the militia fighters that are today defending Syria against imperialist intervention in several of its manifestations. … In a similar vein, the agreements recently signed by Syria with Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia to share intelligence information in fighting ISIS, al-Qaeda and all other groups aimed at removing the Assad government, including the 13-nation U.S. imperialist-led ‘coalition,’ fall squarely within Syria’s right to self-determination. This includes Syria’s agreement to accept Russian air, naval, and related military support to accomplish the same end….
“Undoubtedly, the Russian capitalist government of Vladimir Putin has its own reasons for accepting Syria’s invitation to intervene, including NATO’s increasing encroachment on its borders and the U.S. and European Union economic sanctions. Revolutionary socialists suffer no illusions that capitalist Russia can serve as Syria’s strategic ally in the present war. Indeed, the Putin government has consistently and cynically offered itself as a mediator in the Syrian war, repeatedly proposing a ‘negotiated solution’ wherein all parties, including U.S. imperialism and its NATO allies, as well as the Saudis and others, will collectively decide Syria’s fate….
The article continued, “The Russian intervention may well have prevented the overt marching of reactionary jihadist/religious fundamentalist groups or other imperialist-allied forces into Damascus with a resulting Libyan-type chaos, anarchy, and bloodbath to follow. Historic tragedy has a habit of unfolding in a myriad of forms—some less devastating than others. Here we have a distinction, perhaps with a significant difference, in that the opportunities for future Syrian anti-capitalist struggles may become somewhat improved.
“Antiwar and social justice fighters can best help to tilt the scale in favor of Syria’s people and future class-struggle fighters by building the most powerful U.S. movement possible demanding the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of U.S. military aid and forces in all their manifestations from Syria. Removing the imperialist boot from Syria and the Middle East more generally best opens the door for the oppressed masses to resume their struggle. U.S. out now! Self-determination for Syria!”