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Socialism 2019 Conference Review (Part 1)

Story Highlights

  • International Socialist Organization (ISO) was dissolved on 28 March 2019
  • Ex-ISO members have moved to and joined Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)
  • Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) will be an integral part of the Democratic Party for the next 20 years

Socialism 2019 was a public conference held in Chicago, July 4-7. According to their website, anyone with “an interest in overthrowing capitalism” was welcome to attend. Students were especially encouraged to partake in the conference at half-priced rates. According to their twitter page, attendants are “fighters against greed, racism, war, and oppression.” Although the former organiser of the event, International Socialist Organization (ISO), was absent because of its dissolution in March, its sponsors took over organisation for the first time. The two main sponsors of this event were Jacobin, a quarterly socialist magazine, and Haymarket Books, a socialist publishing company.

Getting to know the themes surrounding the talks at this conference can help students and scholars of IR, Political Science, Philosophy, and Economics, know a strand of thought that is still alive in our times. Marxism and socialism have gone through many transformations and having an up-to-date understanding of what they mean to their followers is a must before having any meaningful debate on various subjects.

According to the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), ex-ISO members have moved to and joined Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which is an integral part of the Democratic Party. This source also argues that the Socialism 2019 Conference had taken side with the Democratic Party and believed that socialist changes will be possible if one the main two parties in the US is used as a platform. Speeches by Naomi Klein and Astra Taylor suggested moral reasons as to why voting for a Democrat is better. With the dissolution of ISO, the empowered DSA is looking for a 20-year plan to stay with the Democratic Party (Sunkara), and socialists must “take DSA more seriously,” since older writings of socialists do not have answers to modern situations/problems (Paul Le Blanc).

On the opposite pole, according to Jarrett Stepman (The Daily Signal, National Interest), six themes surrounded the speeches at the Socialism 2019 Conference. His views show a critical stance vis-a-vis the conference, and socialism in general. The first thing Jarrett observed was that socialists are looking for a system that evades the pitfalls of past totalitarian implementations. The modern offshoot of socialism looks at the family structure critically as well. Those who focus on this aspect, see it as an enabler for capitalism. Regarding open borders, the case for the free movement of people is that the current system lets capital move freely between countries, but labour finds itself at the borders, unable to pass the national frontiers. Jarrett further notes that socialists are using modern methods to teach young people about Karl Marx. In order to address environmental problems and to reverse climate change, socialists are still looking for an alternative to capitalism. Last but not the least, Jarrett notes that socialism is seeing growth in popularity (according to recent Gallup polls).

YouTube is barren of Socialism 2019 Conference videos at this moment. The event’s videos may be under review and editing. However, the online platform provides some info on previous year’s conference. Hard Lens Media (Parts 1 & 2) conducted interviews with some of the attendees. Two interviewees claimed that the “S word” was put back to mainstream discussions after Bernie Sanders bravely identified himself as a democratic socialist (Sherry Wolf, Alan Maass). Another respondent addressed the necessity to address healthcare, education, job guarantees, and infrastructure investment problems with collective solutions (Michael Kelly). On whether socialism could work, Sherry Wolf responds with equating the belief in socialism with the belief in democracy. To her, socialism is the “democratic decision-making and democratic distribution of the wealth of society.” It also seems that siding with the Democratic Party was absent in 2018, since both parties are in “function and form,” capitalist (Alessandra Gaglio). Another interviewee called “the history of Democrats: outrageously bad” (Tim Gaughan). Even Paul Le Blanc, who is a supporter of DSA (positioned within the Democratic Party) now in 2019, used to be highly critical of Democrats in 2018, claiming that all major political parties receive money from big corporations. From these videos we could concur that aligning with Democrats is a 2019 phenomenon that has the democratic socialists adapt to the current political structure.

Link to Part 2 will appear here

References

#Socialism2019. (2019, July). Retrieved July 27, 2019, from Twitter: https://twitter.com/socialismconf

Fangmann, A. (2019, July 19). Socialism 2019: The ex-International Socialist Organization embraces the Democratic Party. Retrieved July 27, 2019, from World Socialist Web Site: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/07/19/soci-j19.html

Hard Lens Media. (2018, July 9). Socialism Conference 2018, Chicago, IL, Part 1. Retrieved July 27, 2019, from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqQBPVRbnX8

Hard Lens Media. (2018, July 10). Socialism Conference 2018, Chicago, IL, Part 2. Retrieved July 27, 2019, from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdOLSeTRwJs

Socialism Conference 2019. (2019, July). Retrieved July 27, 2019, from July 4-7, Chicago – Socialism 2019: http://socialismconference.org/

Stepman, J. (2019, July 15). I Went to a Socialism Conference. Here Are My 6 Observations. Retrieved July 27, 2019, from The Daily Signal: https://www.dailysignal.com/2019/07/15/i-went-to-a-socialism-conference-here-are-my-6-observations/

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