FSP National Convention 2022: charting a revolutionary course as the class struggle sharpens

PHOTO: Dave Schmauch / FS
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During four cold and snowy days outside Seattle, U.S. Freedom Socialist Party members came together for FSP’s 2022 National Convention from Dec. 2–5. Also participating were comrades and friends who made the trek from Australia, Argentina, and Mexico. They included members of Radical Women (RW), FSP’s sister organization, and the Committee for Revolutionary International Regroupment (CRIR).

These radicals met amid a 24/7 news cycle that features an ongoing pandemic and constant warfare to prop up the ailing profit system. They spent the weekend sharing ideas and honing a political program for human liberation. Everyone agreed that to achieve this, capitalism must finally be pushed off the stage of history and be replaced with global workers’ democracy.

Under the banner “A time for tenacity and bold action,” speakers expressed revolutionary optimism throughout the gathering. But this was not at the expense of recognizing the depth and extent of the crises now facing humankind and our planet, themes introduced and explored by FSP leader Steve Strauss in his opening talk.

Instead, the optimism came from a belief in the ability of the working class to rise up and take power — a belief rooted in theory, history, and the actions of people all over the world today. Guiding the weekend of presentations, workshops, organizing, and socializing was the political tradition of Trotskyism: ideas informed by lessons learned in concrete struggles, with the power to make sense of confounding events and to chart a revolutionary path forward.

Also key to this tradition is understanding the indispensable role of the party in bringing home fundamental change. As FSPer and Seattle Radical Women Organizer Gina Petry said in her welcoming remarks, “This is all about how to carry the party and the revolution forward.”

Internationalism and resistance to the fore. Building worldwide working-class solidarity is also critical to revolution and central to FSP’s program. Stephen Durham, the party’s international secretary, focused his talk on developments in Latin America and the importance of CRIR, now more than 10 years young.

The presence of María Álvarez of Argentina’s Partido Socialismo y Libertad and Ramón Centeno of Mexico’s Partido Obrero Socialista, two CRIR leaders, contributed greatly to the confident and determined mood of the convention. As Centeno said of the assembled revolutionaries, “We are not supposed to be here. We are supposed to be demoralized, but instead we are building toward an international socialist feminist party!”

Durham and other presenters, like West Coast leaders Bob Price on Cuba and Steve Hoffman on the labor movement, showed convincingly that no matter how dismal things look, unionists, feminists, students, LGBTQ+ folks and other oppressed people continue to fight back everywhere.

In the U.S., labor upsurges include nurses, teachers, and railroad employees angry at being betrayed by the Democrats. The U.S. working class can move quickly and in surprising places: look at Amazon and Starbucks! It is a time of amazing possibilities for socialist labor activists.

National Radical Women Organizer Helen Gilbert, a primary initiator of the dynamic National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice, spoke on “The Global Revolt of Women.”

Since women are the largest and oldest oppressed group, it makes sense that their struggle represents the deepest and broadest emancipation movement of all. Gilbert said the FSP’s program of socialist feminism both predicted events currently underway and provides a guide going forward.

Halfway around the globe, women in Iran rebel against their patriarchal oppressors, asserting, “It’s not just about the hijab — we want revolution!” Meanwhile, protesters in neighboring Afghanistan have picked up the spreading Iranian slogan: “Women! Life! Freedom!”

Debuting new organizing materials. A highlight was the presentation of two new publications: A Revolutionary Call for Black Reparations and Which Way Forward for the Black Lives Matter Movement? (See reviews here and here.)

Authors Emily Woo Yamasaki and Christina López, writing on behalf of the National Comrades of Color Caucus of FSP and RW, offer these position papers as a contribution to the ongoing discussions and debates about how to win real justice for Black people in the U.S., whose struggle is crucial to successful revolution here and reverberates around the world.

The authors pointed out that capitalism relies on breaking down solidarity, separating people along any division real or imagined. But people want to establish connections with each other. And when they get together to fight for shared interests, barriers can quickly fall.

Turning resistance into victory. Survival of the party depends on continuity of leadership, and this was clearly on display as veteran and younger members stepped up and into new roles.

As part of this process, FSP members elected a new National Committee. This is a feature of each convention that is critical to maintaining party democracy — without which, many an organization has perished.

Combined with this democracy in discussion and decision-making is unity, or centralism, in action. This took center stage in a report given by FSP National Secretary Doug Barnes, which laid the basis for collectively setting party priorities in activism and education. Integral to this was thoughtful evaluation of current work, for example in the militant multi-union group Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity in Seattle and the Campaign for an Elected Civilian Review Board over the police in New York City.

In his keynote presentation, Steve Strauss stressed the urgency of overcoming the multiple crises of our era — economic, environmental, and political. This will take more than continued resistance, he said. “Resistance is not revolution. Resistance leaves the system intact. The job of our class is to develop a program to turn resistance into victory — to win.

“Imagine that in the U.S., women, people of color and all the oppressed could get together to free the world. What we do here matters,” he concluded. “Lives are at stake, as is the survival of the planet.”

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