Educational conferences reflect growing interest in socialist ideas

Nov. 2017 Conn. conf.

Taliba Obuya of the Malcolm X Grassroots Network speaks to the “Solution is Socialism” conference in Connecticut on the Black struggle for self-determination.

Connecticut: ‘Solution is Socialism’

By KEITH LESLIE

— NEW BRITAIN, Conn. — On Nov. 4, Socialist Action Connecticut and the Central Connecticut State University Youth for Socialist Action held their second annual conference, entitled “The Solution is Socialism.” More than 100 workers, students, and activists from as far away as Alabama turned out for a day packed with talks, workshops, and educationals from 21 speakers.

Taliba Obuya from the Malcolm X Grassroots Network brought the revolutionary history of the Black nationalist movement and the fight for self-determination among Black Americans to the forefront. Michael Roberts, a leading Marxist economist from Britain, explained key elements of the crises of world capitalism.

Socialist Action member Daniel Adam gave a stirring speech on the prospects for socialism and the potential of a socialist future. A set of workshops organized and led by the YSA covered the struggle for a united Caribbean against imperialism, LGBTQ+ liberation, lessons of the Russian Revolution, immigration and Islamophobia, and feminism and fossil capitalism.

Left Voice’s Juan Ferre and Socialist Action’s John Leslie covered the task of building a class-struggle left wing in the labor movement. Puerto Rican activist Mikael Rosa raised the topic of the colonial oppression of Puerto Rico in light of its devastation by Hurricanes Irma and Maria as well as the disaster capitalist offensive in their wake. Christine Marie of Socialist Action and Tatiana Cozzarelli of Left Voice exposed the central role of gendered oppression under capitalism and the need for a feminist voice in the revolutionary left.

The YSA also made significant contributions, not only helping to organize and advertise the conference, but also constructing the workshop sessions and providing four speakers, including CCSU YSA leader Shelby Williams, who delivered opening remarks and spoke in a workshop on building Caribbean resistance to imperialism.

The conference revealed some of the potential of socialist politics in the current climate. Capitalism’s status quo is failing billions of people in extremely apparent ways. The failures of the Democratic Party and disillusionment with the Bernie Sanders campaign, which served mainly as a vehicle to try to lead discontented people back into the party, have opened a space for the genuinely socialist left to share our perspectives. This opening has been recognized even by right wingers—who felt the need to tear down posters advertising the conference at CCSU and elsewhere in an effort to suppress news of it.

The conference drew in many new faces, particularly young people. Socialist Action was able to build new relationships with workers, students, and activists, many of whom are enthusiastic to learn more about socialism and to join the struggle.

Capitalism’s crises are clear to anyone who bothers to look. Scientists warn, for example, that capitalism is quickly pushing toward shattering crucial thresholds on global warming and other environmental catastrophes.

The release of the “Paradise Papers” has exposed massive corruption among the ultra-rich members of the capitalist class. The assault on Puerto Rico has shown the class interests of the austerity offensive against working people.

The revelations of Donna Brazile in her new book “Hacks,” concerning the inner workings of the Democratic Party, have confirmed once more its role as a bourgeois party owned and operated by capitalist elites and the need for workers to break from it.

These constitute only the tip of the iceberg; new outrages are arising on a daily basis. It is necessary, however, to construct and broadcast a socialist vision for society, and shatter the lie that there is no alternative to capitalism. As the anniversary of Russia’s October Revolution turns 100, it is imperative that we ensure that its memory and legacy do not fade away. As the Nov. 4 conference emphasized: the solution is socialism!

Minneapolis: ‘Socialists in Action’

MINNEAPOLIS—Twin Cities Socialist Action, together with the Philosophy Department at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC), hosted a conference entitled: “Socialists in Action: Taking Theory to the Streets,” on Nov. 3 and 4 on the MCTC campus.

Over 80 people were in attendance for at least some portion of the conference—many for the entire two-day event. A majority of those in attendance were students—well over 60%—most of whom were being exposed to socialist ideas in real depth for the first time.

The conference opened with a keynote address by Socialist Action’s National Secretary, Jeff Mackler, speaking on “The Relevance of the Russian Revolution Today”—in this, its 100th anniversary year.

All day on Saturday, Nov. 4, we explored the core concepts of Revolutionary Socialism. Michael Livingston explained: “What is Socialism Really?” to people who might only have heard of socialism through the Bernie Sanders campaign. Bruce Lesnick gave an “Introduction to Marxist Economic Theory.” Carl Sack spoke on “Eco-Socialism: How Marxists Confront the Climate Crisis,” while Karen Schraufnagel, branch organizer for the Twin Cities branch, addressed: “Marxism and Women’s Oppression” in her talk.

Rob Wallace spoke on: “How Capitalist Agriculture Misuses Science,” in a lecture that transfixed the audience and led to a Q&A session running well into the time for the closing panel, as the deeply engaged crowd asked question after question.

The day ended with a shortened closing panel: “Socialists in Action,” featuring Jeff, Carl, and Karen, together with Adam Ritscher. When it was over, several students asked to join Socialist Action immediately, with another 10 or more expressing interest in learning more and potentially joining in the near future.