Freedom Socialist Party convention 2014 — convention diary

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I arrived in Los Angeles on May 24, several days before the start of the Freedom Socialist Party convention, to help with outreach and other preparation for our party’s most important event. I felt the electricity almost immediately, because our politics are about the biggest questions facing humanity. How to defend working people and our planet against capitalist greed and war? How to replace brutal capitalism with humane socialism and get rid of oppressive patriarchal structures?

Several decades of revolutionary politics have taught me that none of our goals is guaranteed. That’s why we work hard at building our party, at developing and promoting our program of socialist feminism. That’s what the convention is all about.

DAY 1. 10-minute walk from the hotel on Saturday morning takes me to the AFSCME District Council 36 union hall, where the council has kindly made space for us. The third floor housed our main conference room, a separate bookstore and refreshment room, and areas for side meetings.

Steve Hoffman got things rolling with his presentation of our draft political resolution. Branches had already spent two months going through this document with a fine-toothed comb. But there was a lot more to say! To me, the most exciting part of the discussion was the high level of enthusiasm and self-confidence exhibited by newer and younger comrades. It was clear that FSP is attracting bright young fighters and thinkers, activists committed to learning how to apply Marxist science to the struggle for a better world.

The afternoon session, led by Yolanda Alaniz and Christina López, centered on immigrant rights. How nicely their discussion of the U.S. government’s abominable deportations dovetailed with the special evening session: a panel of revolutionaries from Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and the U.S. discussing the need to build an international organization to fight U.S. imperialism and defend local workers’ struggles.

DAYS 2 & 3. These two days had the same structure: a panel discussion in the morning and small-group workshops in the afternoon. The day two panel, on which I spoke, focused on the fight to save public education, and the day three panel took up the importance of building class-struggle union caucuses. Again, the two sessions complemented one another, because public-sector workers like teachers and school staff are the most unionized in the country, and they pose the main obstacle to the bosses’ drive to privatize every morsel of public wealth.

Afternoon workshops ranged from electoral politics to saving the environment to the fundamentals of socialist feminism. I attended one on the campaign to free Nestora Salgado, an indigenous woman from Mexico and naturalized U.S. citizen, imprisoned in her native country for organizing self-defense squads against drug gangs and the corrupt politicians who protect them. Her husband, José Luis Avila, explained the status of her legal defense, and the international mix of attendees laid plans for expanding the movement to win her liberty.

During one of the session discussion periods, several self-righteous pedants from the sectarian Spartacist League spoke. The Spartacists, who lectured us from prepared written monologues, could not bring themselves even to express solidarity with Nestora Salgado. This exposed their pathetic opposition in practice to the Trotskyist principle of building united fronts, despite all the rhetoric they lavish on the topic. A good lesson on how to not to build a socialist party!

Like good politics, the key to entertainment is good timing. And by the third night we were all ready for an evening of radical poetry and rap. Working-class entertainment not only makes you laugh and smile in the moment. It’s also a great reminder, one that you take away with you, of why we do what we do. Because, while the bosses try to beat humanity down, we won’t let them take away our capacity to love life. Revolutionary politics is the science of optimism.

DAY 4. We concluded our convention with a day devoted to collectively evaluating the party’s recent past activities, deciding upon plans for the future, adopting new internal statutes, and voting in our next National Committee.

FSP National Secretary Doug Barnes led the session on the draft organizational resolution, which he wrote. Along with action in the movements, the next period will include endeavors with an educational theme: a subscription drive for the Freedom Socialist and the publication of a new book, a follow-up to the popular Voices of Color, featuring writings by FSP comrades of color and our sisters of color in Radical Women.

Finally, we sang the International, a sea of fists held high, committing ourselves to hard work — and victory.

Also see: A world to win, a planet to save

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

Also see: Partido Obrero Socialista shares impressions of the gathering

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