Freedom Socialist Party 2014 Convention — A world to win, a planet to save

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From May 24 to 27, U.S. Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) members, friends, and international allies came together in Los Angeles to discuss the economic and environmental disasters threatening humanity — and what to do about them. Just days before, a ruptured pipe had spread 10,000 gallons of oil knee-deep over the streets of an LA neighborhood, underlining the urgency of these questions.

District Council 36 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) generously donated its headquarters for the convention. Banners calling for open borders, freedom for political prisoners, and queer rights joined the labor posters lining the walls. Participants cheered a gracious and thoughtful welcome by Council 36 President Alice Goff as they settled down to business.

Organizing globally. FSP believes that certain elements are indispensable to a successful fight for socialism: the organization, direction, and power that a revolutionary party can provide; the leadership of women and the oppressed; and international collaboration. Sessions from the first day to the last explored these points, beginning with a keynote talk on the global state of affairs and ending with the election of new party leadership.

A strong red cord of internationalism wound through the convention, which people from six countries attended, including comrades from the FSP section in Australia. Participants were especially thrilled to share the experience with Latin American partners with FSP in the year-old Committee for Revolutionary International Regroupment (CRIR).

A presentation chaired by FSP International Secretary Anne Guerry Hoddersen gave CRIR members a chance to discuss “One Hemisphere Undivided.” Panelists were Marcos Adames for Núcleo por un Partido Revolucionario Internacionalista, Dominican Republic; David Morera for Partido Revolucionario de las Trabajadoras y los Trabajadores, Costa Rica; Cuauhtémoc Ruiz for Partido Obrero Socialista, Mexico; and Stephen Durham for FSP.

One subject they addressed was CRIR’s involvement in the campaign to free Nestora Salgado, unjustly jailed in Mexico for leading a community self-defense force. (See story here.)

Striking a deep chord with FSPers, the CRIR members from Latin America paid tribute to party co-founder Clara Fraser for her pioneering theoretical work on the interrelationship of socialism and feminism. In order to build the revolutionary movement in Mexico and internationally, Ruiz said, “We need many more Clara Frasers and Nestora Salgados, women who will not only join emancipatory movements but who will also lead them.”

Of CRIR itself, Morero said, “CRIR is the embryo of an international party that we dream of, that we need.”

New openings. Throughout the convention, CRIR members brought home the commonality of global struggles and the impossibility of winning meaningful change in one country at a time. This was also a theme in several of the many greetings sent to the FSP assembly by other political organizations. And the keynote presentation by AFSCME rank-and-file activist and FSP National Committee (NC) member Steve Hoffman sounded this same note.

Hoffman spoke on a draft political resolution that he had written on behalf of the NC for discussion in party branches in the months before the convention and then discussion and a vote at the gathering. The political resolution surveys the state of the class struggle and proposes a direction for the party in light of that analysis.

Said Hoffman, “Capitalism today is a twin-headed monster of economic and ecological crisis. Worshipping at the altar of profit is no way to run a world, or to take care of a planet.”

He described our times as racked by crisis but ripe with opportunity. In speaking of the bosses’ attempt to solve their problems by lowering living standards all over the world, he noted that this assault has been met with fierce levels of resistance. But much of this resistance has been stymied or smashed.

The missing ingredient, Hoffman said, is revolutionary parties that can work together from country to country to strategize and give one another solidarity and material aid. The counterrevolution in progress against the Arab Spring demonstrates this need sharply.

That means, he concluded, that the most important thing FSP members can do is work to build their own revolutionary organization while continuing the international collaboration in CRIR.

What FSP brings to the table is a feminist, ecosocialist perspective that is always cognizant of the special impact that economic hardship and environmental destruction have on women, children, people of color, and immigrants.

Hoffman thanked members and guests for their contributions, particularly the issue of urban environmental racism raised by Emily Woo Yamasaki, chair of the joint National Comrades of Color Caucus (CCC) of FSP and its sister organization, Radical Women. (See her article here.) The revised resolution will be published in the Freedom Socialist. (Subscribe to the FS here.)

Power of organization. Priorities proposed in the resolution and endorsed by FSPers included building militant caucuses within unions and promoting united fronts — broad, democratic alliances with working-class leadership.

Panel presentations on the labor and immigrant rights movements drove home the need for these types of organizing efforts. They also demonstrated the prominent political role that CCC members play in FSP.

During a session on their paper called “Which Road Forward for Immigrant Rights,” writer-activists Yolanda Alaniz and Christina López discussed the attacks on the rights of immigrants, the deplorable exploitation they endure, the courage with which they demand justice, and ways in which FSP can continue to make an impact in the movement.

In discussion, Cuauhtémoc Ruiz underscored the internationalism of the immigration issue. He pointed out that the majority of people who cross the southern border into the U.S. are now from Central America, and the Obama administration is pressuring the Mexican government to serve as its police force.

In the labor session, a four-person panel of FSP unionists urged comrades and friends in unions to “take it to the next level” and become more effective by developing radical caucuses. They also talked about the value of organizing multi-union caucuses like Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity, which has contributed to the success of union fight-backs in Seattle.

Caucuses can also help workers who may be in a union whose officials see their jobs as keeping the membership from behaving too militantly. Union officials, like other movement leaders, can often be moved forward by the rising tide when there is a surge in working-class struggle. Caucuses can be key in making this happen.

Young people to the fore. The panel on education and youth of color was vibrant with optimism. Education analyst Steven Strauss gave a blistering exposé of exactly how and why the school system is being gutted, and students and teachers on the panel gave examples of vigorous challenges to corporate privatization.

San Francisco Radical Women member Duci Thomas expressed the transcendent moment for an emerging activist when they realize, as she did, “I don’t have to be scared.”

Daily experience bears out the polls that show that young people, especially youth of color, have a growing confidence about the possibility of creating change and a rising interest in socialism. But as Steve Hoffman noted on the convention’s first day, windows of opportunity don’t remain open forever. The time is now for FSP to seize the day, and the party is looking for a whole lot of new friends to do this with. Are you one? If so, please get in touch!

Send feedback to Susan Williams at drsusan762@gmail.com.


Also see: Convention diary: Four days of revolutionary optimism in Los Angeles

Also see: Camaraderie, education, and a meeting of minds

Also see: Partido Obrero Socialista shares impressions of the gathering

To view videos of speakers from the Convention, click here.
To listen to this and other articles from this issue, click here.

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