“The Party of Revolutionary Optimism” was the message inscribed on a banner above the podium at the Oct. 13–16 national convention of the U.S. Freedom Socialist Party (FSP), held outside Seattle. The gathering was made up of FSPers, including Australian comrades; members of the party’s sister organization and partner in socialist feminism, Radical Women (RW); and, for the first day, interested guests.
The meeting opened with a rousing welcome by Los Angeles FSP Organizer Karla Alegria-Gimeno, who asked the assembly, “What’s important to you?” Four days of analyzing and planning, which included spirited floor discussions, provided answers to her question.
Plenary sessions addressed collaboration with co-thinkers in Latin America, a socialist understanding of the refugee crisis, and more. A panel discussed lessons learned through the party’s work in causes and groups such as the multi-union caucus Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity in Seattle.
Workshops tackled subjects from ecosocialism to how to improve political writing. A hospitality suite provided the chance for informal conversation in the evenings. And a night of entertainment provided by each branch was witty, rowdy, and invigorating.
Key to moving forward: history and analysis. Dr. Susan Williams of New York City, FSP’s national education coordinator, gave the opening keynote. Her talk set the stage for achieving the main convention task: hammering out FSP’s goals and strategies for the next period.
Williams emphasized that just as the right wing is on the rise internationally, so too is radical protest, opening the door to the possibility of uprisings that lead to lasting social transformation. She urged members to study the science of Marxism, known as dialectical materialism, because it is the rational basis for FSP’s revolutionary optimism. (The written political resolution her talk was based on will be published in the new year at socialism.com.)
Newer FSP comrades, who are stepping up to more responsibility in the branches, also stepped up to the microphones. Seattle’s Jared Houston defined optimism as “not accepting the way things are,” while L.A.’s Jess Steever expressed confidence in seeing “a light at the end of this capitalist tunnel.”
Unionist, professor, and San Francisco Bay Area Organizer Bob Price followed Williams with a talk that explained FSP’s continuity from early Marxists to V.I. Lenin, Leon Trotsky, and more contemporary socialists like James P. Cannon and Murry Weiss in the U.S. Price explained how FSP co-founder Clara Fraser and early members like Gloria Martin contributed to revolutionary theory and practice by developing the programs of socialist feminism and revolutionary integration. The latter analyzes the key leadership role of Black workers in the struggle for socialism and joins that with an understanding of the need for socialism to achieve total Black liberation.
Tackling the issues of the day. Emily Woo Yamasaki of New York City coordinates the growing National Comrades of Color Caucus (CCC), a joint body of FSP and RW. She spoke on the call for Black reparations, which followed an exploration of this subject in the party branches, local CCCs, and leadership committees.
Clearly, Yamasaki said, the demand for reparations is just. Equally clearly, cash payments to individual descendants of slaves cannot solve the problem of slavery’s ongoing racist legacy, which also affects Black immigrants and, by dividing workers against one another, everyone.
Comrades agreed that what’s needed most are social reparations to address inequalities in housing, education, healthcare, and income through vehicles like affirmative action. After FSP refines a set of demands related to reparations, it will publish a pamphlet explaining the relationship of this issue to the idea of revolutionary integration.
Anti-fascist organizer Su Docekal of Seattle spoke about “Populism, Fascism and the Working Class,” examining the different forms that capitalist states can take. These range from liberal parliamentary democracies, suited for times of relative class peace, to fascism. The function of the latter is to destroy all workers’ organizations in order to save capitalism at a time of maximum crisis.
These distinctions provide a framework for understanding entrenched realities like the suffocating two-party system in the U.S. They also help radicals analyze and respond to breaking events, like the impeachment of Donald Trump (see article in this issue).
A notable development of the past few years is the leap in organizing and protest by women. This featured in talks given by both FSP International Secretary Stephen Durham of New York City and National RW Organizer Helen Gilbert of Seattle.
Durham spoke on advancing both socialist feminism and global left cooperation through the Committee for Revolutionary International Regroupment (CRIR), and he reported on recent developments within the group. FSP is a member of this promising regroupment effort, which also includes parties in Mexico and Argentina, where women lead campaigns for public education and reproductive rights.
Gilbert discussed Radical Women’s importance given these inspiring mobilizations and others led by women, from Poland and Ireland to Kurdistan. At the microphones, speakers pointed to more examples of women leading struggles ranging from indigenous rights and the health of the planet to queer and trans liberation. They reaffirmed the political need for an autonomous women’s movement and FSP’s support for building both CRIR and RW.
Wanted: comrades and leaders. On the final day, FSP National Secretary Doug Barnes assessed the party’s work since the last convention and made proposals for going forward. In addition to CRIR and RW, among the priorities comrades voted to approve were education, recruitment, and sustaining the Freedom Socialist newspaper with a fund drive in 2020.
The convention wrapped with the election of a new leadership team for the party, known as the National Committee, and fiery closing remarks by Christina López, coordinator of the Pacific Northwest CCC.
By that time, the answers to the question Alegria-Gimeno posed on the first day couldn’t have been clearer. What’s important is to free humanity and save the planet by winning socialism.
Are you an aspiring leader? A believer in a better world? In revolutionary socialist feminism? FSP’s doors are open!