"Can You Imagine Living in a Socialist USA,” – Speak Out, Friday, October 17 - 4200 Cedar, Minneapolis, MN USA
This ecumenical event was organized by Socialist Action, which was having a national convention in Minneapolis. SA is a Trotskyist group loosely affiliated with what is left of the 4th International grouped around Socialist Viewpoint. On board was a panel of speakers, live and on Skype, talking about what it would be like to live in a socialist society in the U.S. The event was coordinated with the 2014 book, “Imagine Living in a Socialist USA.” Michael Smith, one of the editors, was the first speaker from New York via Skype. He humorously described how he was inspired by Frances Goldin to publish the book, and how they put the arm on Harper to publish it. 10,000 copies have been sold so far and more printings are scheduled. It is a series of essays by more than 30 socialists about the need to move to a new kind of society. Well known contributors include: Rick Wolff, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Angela Davis, William Ayers, Paul Le Blanc, Terry Bisson, Michael Moore, Leslie Cagan as well as many others. It is in stock at May Day books right now, 15% off.
Sanna Nimitz Towns, a social activist and lecturer with a variegated family talked about bringing up children in the context of Ferguson and racism. She pointed out that racism would be dealt with directly under socialism, not ignored. A Native American activist, Chris Mato Nunpa discussed the connections between the communism practiced by traditional native peoples and socialism. He also highlighted the fact that native religious sites are now white property, and so even native religion cannot be practiced thoroughly anymore. A student from Superior, WI, Heather Bradford, discussed the ways debt, clueless tests and high college costs crush students and education, and why under socialism education would be free and not just job training.
Harry Magdoff, from Vermont via Skype, writer for Monthly Review, described the different ways socialism will change the many problems in the U.S. – ecological, democratic, labor, military. It will enable the country to immediately deal with ecological problems, will give workers and employees control of the workplace, will end the warfare state, and will usher in a period of real democracy, not fake electoral democracy.
Mick Kelly, editor of the Fight Back newspaper and member of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization thanked SA for their defence of FRSO against the legal attacks of the FBI and U.S. government for alleged ‘terrorism.’ He talked about the campaign for justice for Palestinian Rasmea Odeh, who has been accused of ‘immigration fraud’ and is on trial in Detroit. Supporters have been accused of ‘jury tampering’ by exercising their free speech. He urged people to defend Odeh. He stressed that under what he termed socialism, the capitalists will have to be repressed, as they will attempt a comeback.
In one of the most interesting speeches, a labor activist from France in an observer organization of the Fourth International commented on the recent struggles of French workers against austerity and his organization’s attempts to influence strikes and bring other leftists into cooperation against Hollande’s government. A young woman from Guatemala, who now lives in the U.S., portrayed her political awakening to become a socialist revolutionary when she understood that all the deaths and suffering in Guatemala were being caused by capitalists, local and international.
Mel Reeves, an activist and pastor on the north side of Minneapolis, focused on Ebola, and the racist treatment of the first Ebola patient in the U.S., Thomas Duncan, in Texas. Reeves made it clear in his inimitable style that Duncan was sent home because he had no health insurance, he was black, and information about his recently being in West Africa was ignored by doctors in this ‘world class’ Texas hospital. Given the paltry response by the U.S. and the WHO to Ebola, the real plan seems to be to isolate Africa and let people die until it endangers the North. Cuba, by contrast, immediately sent large medical teams. He urged leftists to show up on the North Side so that young black activists can actually see that white radicals give a damn about issues like Ferguson and Ebola.
Linnea Sommer, a relative of one of the 1934 labor activists, Chester Johnson, who was involved in the Minneapolis Teamster strikes during that period, commented on how her grandfather would have appreciated Occupy and the young activists in Ferguson. Ricardo Levins-Morales, an activist artist and educator from Minneapolis, linked society, nature and the body when he described how we should reject poisons in each one of these areas, poisons produced on a daily basis by capitalism. A young member of Socialist Alternative, Chris Gray, mentioned the recent major electoral victory of their candidate, Kshama Sawant, in Seattle. This victory indicates that the word ‘socialism’ is no longer the bourgeois bogeyman it once was under Reagan and Clinton. Among younger people, surveys show they are now more positive towards that term than the term ‘capitalism.’
Lastly, a Canadian comrade with Socialist Action Canada, Barry Weisleder, poked fun at his comrades in the U.S., insisting Canada will get to socialism before the US, given it already has a partially class-based party, the NDP, and socialized medicine.
However, no one who presented had lived or was living in ‘actually-existing socialism,’ as the torturous term goes. Nor was there a mention that a version or versions of ‘socialism’ have been tried or are still in existence. That would have been an improvement, and given a bit of reality and grounding to the talks. What is needed is to incorporate the experience of the actual past and present, both positive and negative, into any struggle for the future of socialism, instead of turning a blind eye.
October 22, 2014