Mapping Socialist Strategies

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Mapping Socialist Strategies was convened from August 1-4 2014, in Briarcliff Manor, NY, by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York Office. It brang together 100 influential progressives and leftists from across the United States, Canada, and Europe for an “un-conference” on socialist strategies.

While socialism has a long history in Europe, Canada, and even the United States, in recent decades socialists on both sides of the North Atlantic have found it difficult to fight the neoliberal tide. Whether it is the capitulation of center-left politicians to neoliberal orthodoxy, the rise of austerity, or shifting class formations, the state of capitalism looks remarkably similar throughout the North Atlantic region. Meanwhile, the term “socialist” has most often been used as an epithet to denigrate any government policy that benefits ordinary people at the expense of the wealthy.

It is time for those of us who oppose capitalism and wish to transform society to proudly reclaim the socialist label. Many are already engaged in struggles of survival, resistance, and progressive reform. How can we support this necessary work while at the same time linking it to broader strategies for societal transformation? Can our movements add up to something greater than the sum of their parts? In an electoral context that is structurally inhospitable to socialist challenges, how can the left constitute itself politically and with strategic effectiveness?
This gathering will serve as a place to develop strategic concepts for the Left’s political interventions, both at a national level and also through international collaboration. As a center for international dialogue, the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York Office is committed to building connections between unions, social movements, academia, and other progressive institutions in the United States, Canada, and Europe. We have extensive experience working at the intersection of party and social movement politics to develop a pluralistic and non-sectarian form of democratic socialism. At RLS–NYC, we believe that only with such a reconstituted Left will we have a chance to get out of this mess and bring about transformative change in the West’s advanced economies.[1]

Advisory Group

In preparing the gathering, "we have worked with an Advisory Group" consisting of Greg Albo, Laura Flanders, Bill Fletcher, Jr., Rachel LaForest, Sarah Leonard, John Nichols, Frances Fox Piven, Bhaskar Sunkara, Maria Svart, Sean Sweeney, Bill Tabb, and Steve Williams.[2]

Program

PLENARY NO. 1 – MAPPING SOCIALIST STRATEGIES 7:00-7:15 Introduction by RLS–NYC Co-director Albert Scharenberg 7:15-8:30 Frances Fox Piven, Bhaskar Sunkara, and Hans van Heijningenin conversation about mapping socialist strategies. Moderated by RLS–NYC Co-director Stefanie Ehmsen

PLENARY NO. 2 - NEOLIBERALISM VS. THE PUBLIC/THE COMMONS Leo Panitch and Rachel LaForest introduce the state of neoliberalism and the notions of the public sphere and the commons.

PLENARY NO. 3 – CASE STUDIES: EXPOSING NEOLIBERALISM’S WEAK SPOTS • Tar Sands and Pipeline Campaigns along the Canada-U.S. Border. Led by Lara Skinner and Clayton Thomas-Muller • Chicago Teachers Union and the Strike of 2012. Led by Marilena Marchetti and Ethan Young • Austerity, Collapse, and the Rise of the Radical Left in Greece. Led by Ioannis Bournous and Giorgos Karatsioubanis • Jackson, Mississippi: Before and After Chokwe Lumumba. Led by Kali Akuno and Elandria Williams

SNEAK PEEK FILM SCREENING: SHE’S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE’S ANGRY She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry tells the story of the origin and rise of the women’s liberation movement of the 1960’s through the early 1970’s.

With rare archival footage and revealing interviews with Kate Millett, Fran Beal, Heather Booth, Ellen Willis, Rita Mae Brown, Linda Burnham, Vivian Rothstein, and many others. - Introduction and Q&A with Director Mary Dore

PLENARY NO. 4 – OVERCOMING FRAGMENTATION AND REBUILDING THE LEFT

Michael Brie and Sarah Leonard discuss building left alliances and new trends on the left. How can the left rediscover and strengthen relationships amongst natural allies in the fight to defend the public sphere and defeat encroaching neoliberalism?

BREAKOUT NO. 4 – SOCIALISM BY SECTOR

  • Labor and Unions: How do union members and labor activists bridge the gap between defending oftentimes narrow, reformist gains and the need to transition to a world of radically reduced exploitation? What does it mean to

be a socialist in labor? - Led by Sean Sweeney and Meredith Schafer

  • Community Organizing and Institution Building: How can models of community organizing be used to further link localized, defensive struggles to broader movements for socialist transformation? What role should institution

building play in this process? - Led by N’Tanya Lee and Denise Perry

  • Electoral Politics: What are the core strategic decisions of rising pluralist socialist parties in Europe and Quebec, as well as smaller left parties elsewhere in Canada and the United States? How can their positions

and resources be used to create bridges for common efforts across constituencies and sectors? - Led by Harald Wolf and Roger Rashi

  • Political Education: Encompassing popular education as well as academic institutions, how can we create a broader understanding of socialism that is linked to the challenges faced by the most exploited as well as working and

middle classes? - Led by Emily Kawano and Koray Yilmaz-Gunay

  • Alternative and Independent Media: The financial crisis has opened space for socialism to make headlines in the mainstream media. How are left media activists leveraging traditional and social media to push socialist ideas further into public conversation? - Led by John Nichols and Rebekah Scotland Phillips

PLENARY NO. 5 – WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? This plenary serves as a forum to collect participants’ thoughts and experiences from the weekend and give space to new ideas for collaboration. What are the next steps, both broadly and for this particular process? How can participants take the lead going forward? Facilitated by Laura Flanders[3]

Attendees

Known attendees included Kazembe Balagun, Joseph Schwartz, Kazembe Balagun, Marisol Ocampo Munoz, Judith LeBlanc, Libero Della Piana, Bill Gallegos, Kali Akuno, Albert Scharenberg, Elandria Williams, Carl Davidson, Bhaskar Sunkara, Klaus Lederer Die Linke, John Nichols, Steve Williams, Frances Fox Piven, N’Tanya Lee, Luka Mesec, newly elected to Slovenia’s National Parliament as a member of the recently formed Initiative for Democratic Socialism, RLS–NYC Co-director Stefanie Ehmsen, and Dutch Socialist Party Secretary Hans van Heijningen, Chinese Progressive Association Executive Director Alex Tom; ; Special Projects Director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance Alicia Garza; and author and GRITtv.org Founder and Host Laura Flanders, Swedish Left Party Press Secretary Petter Nilsson, Left Forum Coordinator Eric Canepa, Barbara Epstein, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Professor Sandra Jones, DRUM – South Asian Organizing Center Executive Director Fahd Ahmed; weekend Advisory Group Member Bill Tabb, RLS–NYC Office Manager Heidi Easton Chua Schwa, Portuguese Left Bloc Member Catarina Principe, Haymarket Books Board Member, and co-producer of Dirty Wars Anthony Arnove; Izquierda Unida, Margarita Ferré,. Socialist Register Editor Leo Panitch, ; Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity leader Denise Perry; Causa Justa/Just Cause Executive Director Maria Poblet; Canadian activist and journalist David O’Keefe; and National Jobs for All Coalition Chair Trudy Goldberg, Officer for Public Services at the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB), Claudia Falk, U.S. Solidarity Economy Network Emily Kawano , and Board Member of the Initiative Black People in Germany Tahir Della, Betsy Avila, Tammy Bang Luu, Claudette Chanoine, Jacob Stevens, Chris Ramsaroop, Susan Spronk, a professor at the University of Ottawa,Québec Solidaire Organizer Roger Rashi, Andrea Levy, coordinating editor of Canadian Dimension magazine and editorial board member of Les Nouveaux cahiers du socialism, together with the head of the RLS Berlin's department on EU, OECD, UN, and North America Johanna Bussemer, National Vice-chair of the Democratic Socialists of America Joseph Schwartz, Jacobin magazine Creative Director Remeike Forbes, journalist Sarah Jaffe, and Jacobin magazine National Organizer Neal Meyer, Cornell Worker Institute Associate Director Lara Skinner and Indigenous Tar Sands Campaign Co-director Clayton Thomas-Muller, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and CORE caucus member Marilena Marchetti, Ethan Young, RLS–NYC Project Manager Ethan Earle, SYRIZA European Policy Department Member Giorgos Karatsioubanis and SYRIZA Central Committee and European Policy Secretariat Member Ioannis Bournous SYRIZA , Marisol Ocampo Munoz, RLS–NYC Project Manager Jenny Weyel, Democratic Socialists of America National Director and retreat Advisory Group Member Maria Svart, Young Democratic Socialists National Organizer Betsy Avila; Verso Books Publisher and New Left Review Editorial Board Member Jake Stevens, Chicago-based filmmaker Danny Alpert, U.S. Verso Books Editor Andy HsiaoDeputy Director of the RLS Center for International Dialogue and Cooperation Karin Gabbert, Kai Barrow, Andrius Bielskis,professor of political theory at Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius, Lithuania, and Public Advisor on Science and Education to the country's Prime Minister, Polish Political Consultant Agata Czarnacka, International Socialist Organization Member Jonah Birch, Project Manager James Hare, BAYAN USA and MIGRANTE North East Organizing Committee Member Gary Labao, Michael Brie from RLS Berlin's Institute for Critical Social Analysis, Jose Alejandro La Luz and Canada's People's Social Forum organizer Roger Rashi, The Nation Senior Editor Sarah Leonard, Head of DIE LINKE's Strategy Department Christina Kaindl, Anne Mitchell, and her Left Labor Project colleague Pat Fry, RLS–NYC Newsperson Claudia Horn, Harald Wolf, former Minister of Economic Affairs for the state of Berlin and member of Die Linke's Executive Board, Lori Minnite Jeremie Bedard-Wien Québec Solidaire, York University Professor and Socialist Register Co-editor Greg Albo, a fixture of Canadian politics as well as a member of the preparatory Advisory Group, Rebekah Scotland Phillips, co-executive director of Philadelphia's Media Mobilizing Project, Koray Yilmaz-Günay, advisor for migration at the Academy for Political Education (RLS Berlin), Cindy Wiesner, whose work ranges from the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance to POWER, the Miami Workers Center, and the U.S. Social Forum, Meredith Schafer, who has come through rank-and-file movement work to now do industry research and strategic campaigning for UNITE HERE, Sam Gindin, Jill Furillo, executive director of the New York State Nurses Association, Independent journalist Sarah Jaffe, speaking during a self-organized breakout on Marxist Feminism, film team, led by Fivel Rothberg.

References