by Greg Beiter, Conference Delegate From Seattle, WA
In May, Socialist Alternative, publishers of Justice, held its 9th National Conference in Boston. Over 50 delegates and members of Socialist Alternative from across the country attended the conference, as well as two representatives of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI – the international socialist organization with sections in over 35 countries, with which Socialist Alternative is in political solidarity).
The national conference, the highest decision-making body of our organization, allows our members to democratically discuss and decide our analysis of political developments, perspectives for the next period, and program. We discuss and draw lessons from the past and present to politically guide our activities for the next period.
The attendees reflected a new layer of members, particularly young people. Many of these members joined within the last two years, and this was their first time attending a national meeting of Socialist Alternative. 70% of attendees were under 30, lending the sessions an energetic, enthusiastic mood.
The main discussions were: the occupation of Iraq and world relations; the anti-war movement; perspectives for the political situation in the US; the presidential election and Ralph Nader’s left-wing, independent bid for president; reports on the CWI’s work in other countries; building Socialist Alternative; how to raise finances to fund and expand our campaigns and activities; and the election of a new National Committee to carry out the decisions of the conference.
The conference concluded that a radicalization was occurring in U.S. society, particularly in reaction to the right-wing corporate policies of the Bush administration and its imperialist occupation of Iraq. This radicalization, along with the presidential election, Nader’s anti-corporate campaign, and the anti-war movement, offers our organization enormous opportunities to further expand the forces of Marxism here in the U.S.
The past two years have seen some of the biggest political demonstrations in U.S. history. In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the largest ever “preemptive” anti-war movement rocked U.S. society, culminating in mass demonstrations across the country. On April 25, over a million people marched in Washington, D.C. to defend women’s abortion rights. This “Million Woman March” was the largest ever women’s rights demonstration in the U.S. These are just a few examples of the colossal movements and upheavals that are shaking U.S. society now and in the coming period.
However, it is crucial that these movements address the root cause of these injustices and oppression – the capitalist system that concentrates the vast majority of wealth and power in the hands of an elite few. Until capitalism is overthrown and replaced with a more humane alternative, society will continue to be plagued by war, racism, sexism, poverty, homophobia, and environmental destruction. That is why Socialist Alternative is building an organization to not just participate in and build mass movements, but to also end the capitalist system that breeds inequality and oppression and replacing it with a socialist society.
One delegate, Jessica Moore from Seattle, commented on the tasks of Socialist Alternative coming out of the conference: “While mass social movements are on the ascendancy, there’s an astonishing poverty of ideas among the leaders of the labor, women’s, civil rights, and environmental movements. The leaders of these organizations fail to provide a program to take these movements forward, instead channeling them into the dead end of the Democratic Party. This highlights our role of continuing to agitate for these movements to break from the Democrats and form their own party to fight for the interests of workers and the oppressed.”
An excellent $8100 was raised in cash and pledges during the financial appeal. This tremendous sacrifice on the part of our members reflects their enthusiasm about the possibilities of building Socialist Alternative in the current period. This money will help fund our campaigns, publish literature, and pay the salaries of our full-time organizers. Additionally, over $550 of socialist literature was sold, reflecting our members’ thirst for ideas to end the injustices and oppression in society.
This latest conference of Socialist Alternative poised our organization to more effectively build the forces of socialism in the heart of the imperialist superpower. The delegates agreed on a target of recruiting 50 new members by the end of 2004. Such an expansion of our membership would represent an enormous step forward for our work and would place more socialists into workplaces, schools, and communities to popularize socialist ideas.