In the United States, the future of democratic socialism appears bright. From the top of politics with the Bernie Sanders candidacy and the Green New Deal to the bottom-up organizing of teacher strikes and the growth of DSA, the momentum feels like it is on our side. But what happens when some or all of those gains vanish? The United States is entrenched in systems of capital, imperialism, racism, and patriarchy, not to mention the media consolidation and continuously monopolistic control of our communication infrastructure by people opposed to our interests. We are bound to lose more than win in the foreseeable future, so how do we keep moving forward together? This session will focus on the challenges surrounding us and the challenges ahead. We discuss how to move forward, how to overcome failure, and why we have no choice but to do so.
What is the relationship between the struggle against racism and socialist theory and practice in the United States? Why should people of color active in antiracist movements take democratic socialism seriously? And how can American socialists today learn from inadequate attempts by socialists in the past to understand the complexity of racism?
Socialists have fought for decades to create a more equal society and uplift the poor and the powerless. Like Marxism, socialist feminism recognized the oppressive structure of a capitalist society. Like radical feminism, socialist feminism recognized the fundamental oppression of women, particularly in a patriarchal society. However, socialist feminists did not recognize gender and only gender as the exclusive basis of all oppression. Rather, they held and continue to hold that class and gender are symbiotic, at least to some degree, and one cannot be addressed without taking the other into consideration. Socialist feminists wanted to integrate the recognition of sex discrimination within their work to achieve justice and equality for women, for working classes, for the poor and all humanity. At this session, we will discuss what is socialist feminism, some history from leaders of the movement, and how we can build a more egalitarian society regardless of your gender.
- Theory: What Is Socialist Feminism?
- History: Combahee River Collective Statement
- Practice: A Feminism for Tomorrow
- Paige McNamara
We live in an era when ideals of human rights have moved centre stage both politically and ethically. A great deal of energy is expended in promoting their significance for the construction of a better world. But for the most part the concepts circulating do not fundamentally challenge hegemonic liberal and neoliberal market logics, or the dominant modes of legality and state action. We live, after all, in a world in which the rights of private property and the profit rate trump all other notions of rights. This is no more apparent than in the current housing crisis where major cities are becoming unaffordable to working class tenants, homelessness is on the rise, and gentrification seems to have become a permanent feature of urban life, but also pertains to everything from transportation, our access to food and health care, and where and how we spend our leisure time. In this session, we examine the political economy of housing and the city, and look to visionary experiments in social housing from abroad.
The capitalist system, driven at its core by the maximization of profit regardless of social and ecological costs, is incompatible with a just and sustainable future. Ecosocialism offers a radical alternative that puts social and ecological well-being first. Attuned to the links between the exploitation of labor and the exploitation of the environment, ecosocialism stands against both reformist “market ecology” and “productivist socialism.” By embracing a new model of robustly democratic planning, such as the Green New Deal (GND), most vocally advocated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ed Markey and Bernie Sanders, society can take control of the means of production and its own destiny. But as Naomi Klein points out, an effective climate justice movement must be a mass movement—it must be able to win primarily economic victories, something that major social movements of the past decades have struggled to do. In this session, we will discuss how a GND that centers the working class is our only option and how can we help build the sort of mass movement that it will take to win it.
From the first moment Columbus set sail in the direction of the “New World,” to the ongoing Syrian Civil War, the entire history of the capitalist epoch has been defined by imperialist activity. Though associated with Europe’s industrial revolution, some have argued that capitalism would never have developed without imperialism. Marx himself wrote that capitalism “compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production…. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.” In this discussion we will explore the complicated politics of imperialist conflict and discuss how only a new form of internationalism will allow us to move beyond this conflict to a world in which prosperity can be shared more broadly among everyone regardless of your country of origin.
- History: Neo-Colonialism, the last stage of imperialism (Introduction)
- Practice: Social Democracy at Home Requires Anti-Imperialism Abroad
- Theory: Global Capitalism as Imperialist Construct
Due to its role in capitalism, the labor movement has long been the centerpiece of Leftist politics. Labor struggles in previous years, both successes and failures, provide valuable lessons for future struggles. For more than a century, unions were at the core of the socialist movement, a fact confirmed by the many ways capitalists attacked worker-based movements and persecuted organizers. In this session, we will discuss the history and role of labor in socialist organizing and what we can learn from this history to inform our current struggles to empower the working class to gain and win power to build a better society that works for the many not just the few.
- Theory: The New Terrain of Class Conflict
- History: The State of American Labor
- Practice: Beyond Social Movement Unionism
Capitalism is the economic system that guides our society in the production of goods and services to be bought and sold on the market. It divides society into two classes where one class owns the means of production and the other class has no choice but to sell their labor to this first class to survive. But while capitalism has arguably raised our aggregate standard of living, it has also created immense instability, inequality, exploitation and suffering where the few benefit at the expense of the many. In this session, we will discuss the economics of capitalism and discuss how it results in these contradictions. It is only with a clear-eyed understanding of our current predicament can we hope to move beyond it to build a society that benefits everyone.