Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung

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Template:TOCnestleft The Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung is the New York affiliate of the Berlin based Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.

Linke Organizing Academy

This story documents a training course on community organizing run for the German left party (Die Linke) by Steve Hughes of the Working Families Party and Steve Williams of LeftRoots.

For the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (RLS), the journey into the idea of transformative community organizing began with a conference in 2012, and has developed through a combination of trainings and small investments in model projects around Germany. From these model projects a body of experience has been developed, as have a core group of increasingly experienced organizers. The Linke Organizing Academy represents the most ambitious effort to date to systematically train and develop these organizers in the practice of transformative community organizing.
Robert Maruschke, one of the key organizers of the Organizing Academy, noted the many ways in which he has been translating community organizing into the German context, starting with the language, but also drawing from the early history of working class organizing in the country.[1]

New York Office

The foundation’s New York Office, located at 275 Madison Avenue, opened its doors in 2012. It serves two major tasks: to work on issues concerning the United Nations, including collaboration with people and political representatives from the Global South, and to work with North American (U.S. and Canadian) progressives in universities, unions, social movements, progressive institutions, and think tanks. The office’s Co-Directors are Stefanie Ehmsen and Albert Scharenberg. The New York Office is part of the global network of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.[2]

New York staff

Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung staff September 2021:

Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, July 2018:

Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung - New York Office, July 29, 2017.


The RLS–NYC crew hanging out at the rooftop bar, saying good-bye to James Hare, who is going to move to Atlanta soon. — with James Hare, Albert Scharenberg, Stefanie Ehmsen, Mariana Fernandez, Claudette Chanoine, Heidi Chua, Kazembe Balagun, Claudia Horn, My Linh Dang and Ethan Earle.

Canadian student leader

Quebec student leader Jeremie Bedard-Wien attended the recent Young Democratic Socialists student conference in New York city as an official representative of the Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante (ASSÉ), formerly CLASSE, the national student organization formed to stop tuition hikes in Québec. Jérémie has acted as treasurer, co-spokesperson, and member of the executive committee of ASSÉ, and he sat down after the plenary session for an interview with Democratic Left - Matthew Porter, and Maria Svart.

Matthew Porter is YDS national co-chair and a member of Metro Washington, D.C. DSA. Maria Svart is DSA's national director. Photo credit: Mario Jean. Our thanks to the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung for bringing Jeremie to NYC.[4]

Towards a new strategy for the Left

The Party of the European Left in the Left Forum 2018 in New York – Towards a new strategy for the Left

At least thousand of people took part in the Left Forum 2018, which took place from Friday June 1st to Sunday June 3rd, offering one plenary per day covering on Friday the political sphere, on Saturday the academic approach and on Sunday the grassroots activists perspective on this year’s general topic.

The European Left presented 2 panels : “Connecting the European and North American Left: Identifying Spheres of Cooperation” and “ Party of the European Left - a Success Story of Radical Left Alliances? An Analysis from US and European Perspective”.

The EL participants (Paolo Ferrero, Waltraud Fritz Klackl and Piera Muccigrosso), were accompanied by Haris Golemis (Transform Europe), Andreas Gunter( future director of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, New York), Leo Panitch (York University, Socialist Register), Ethan Earle (Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung) and Ethan Young (journalist and editor).

Both events were attended quite well and stimulated lively debates. Many Americans, some of European origin, were very interested in the current situation of the different European countries and parties, e.g. the latest events in Italy and Spain, and how the left forces in Europe have been reacting to the Syriza experience in government. Even an individual member of the EL with Turkish roots was present to express his wish to have more information and being more actively involved into the EL politics.

The presence of the EL proved to be useful in more than one way, giving us the chance for information, discussion and debates. More contacts with representatives of the transatlantic left arose and lead us to a better understanding what kind of political and organization challenges a still quite fragmented radical left in the United States is facing in the Trump era.[5]

"Train the trainers"


Co-hosted by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York office & Democratic Socialists of America.

From June 24-25, 2017, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung co-hosted a “Democratic Socialism 101” workshop in collaboration with the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). More than 30 leaders from across the United States came to New York, together with 12 trainers, to participate in this “train the trainer” weekend. In it we focused on building leadership among women and gender nonconforming people, with the goal of training and developing a new generation of democratic socialists activists, who will then take their newly-honed skills back to their respective communities.

The weekend was both a lot of work and a lot of fun. We started with a Friday evening dinner for participants to better get to know each other. This was followed by all-day training sessions on Saturday, at the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York office, and Sunday, at The Nation magazine office. Topics we covered included: an introduction to training & community agreements; creating socialist communities and cultures at the base; social movements and fights for racial justice and socialist feminism; network mapping and coalition building; and identifying and developing leaders.[6]

DSA/Afrosoc training


Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung September 2017 with Maria Svart, Kristian Hernandez, Beth Huang, Jabari Brisport, Kazembe Balagun.

"Strategies Against the Far Right" Retreat with Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung

Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung held a "Strategies Against the Far Right" retreat hosted by the New York City office from June 15-18, 2017[7],[8] attended by "approximately 55 participants":

  • Kazembe Balagun is a project manager at RLS–NYC. Born in Harlem, NY, Kazembe received his B.A. in Philosophy from Hunter College. From 2007 to 2013, he was the Education/Outreach Coordinator at the Brecht Forum.
  • Heidi Beirich earned a doctorate in political science from Purdue University. She leads the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) Intelligence Project, which publishes the Intelligence Report and the Hatewatch blog, counting the nation’s hate and hard-line, antigovernment groups. She is an expert on extremism, including the white supremacist, nativist, and neo-Confederate movements as well as racism in academia.
  • Chip Berlet is an activist, journalist, and scholar studying right-wing social and political movements in the United States. After 35 years at Political Research Associates he retired as Senior Analyst but continues to write on the subject. He co-wrote the book “Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort” with Matthew Lyons.
  • Ioannis Bournous obtained a MA in Political Communication & New Technologies at the University of Athens. He participated in the founding processes of the Greek and the European Social Forum. After SYRIZA’s formation, he was elected to its Central Committee and served as a representative of SYRIZA to the Executive Board of the Party of the European Left (EL). Since 2015 he is in the Political Secretariat of SYRIZA and Head Responsible for European & International Affairs.
  • Linda Burnham, Senior Advisor at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, has worked for decades as an activist, writer and strategist, focused on women’s rights and racial justice. She co-founded the Women of Color Resource Center, where she served as Executive Director for 18 years. She has published numerous articles on African-American politics and women, left politics and feminist theory.
  • Pinar Cakiroglu-Bournous holds a PhD in Economics from the University of London. She was a teaching assistant, research fellow, and teaching fellow at universities in Turkey and London, and a lecturer on Microeconomics, Introduction to Economics, and Ottoman Economic History at Erciyes University. Since March 2017 she is a post-doc researcher at University of Crete.
  • Claudette Chanoine joined the RLS–NYC team in 2014 as financial manager. Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, she holds a BS in accounting and a Master of Business Administration.
  • Heidi Chua is RLS–NYC’s office manager and deputy bookkeeper. She was born in Quezon City, Philippines. She graduated in Political Science at Brooklyn College with a BA thesis on China’s internal migrant workers. Previously, she worked on anti-sweatshop campaigns in Brooklyn and Manhattan Chinatowns.
  • Tsafrir Cohen worked as a publicist in Berlin, writing reportages, commentaries, and reviews on German culture and literature, European and US politics as well as the Middle East—in Hebrew, German, and English. He co-founded the Jewish Film Festival Berlin and worked as a curator and coordinator of cultural events. Tsafrir served as the Middle East coordinator of medico and since 2015 he is the head of the Tel Aviv office of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung.
  • Max Bohnel is the US correspondent for the German socialist daily Neues Deutschland (Berlin). He is also a freelance radio producer for German, Swiss, and Austrian public radio networks.
  • Ethan Earle is a project manager at RLS–NYC. Born in Siler City, North Carolina, he formerly worked for The Working World cooperative loan fund in Buenos Aires and New York City. His M.A. thesis in International Relations examined U.S. foreign policy towards Bolivia under Evo Morales.
  • Stefanie Ehmsen was born in Hamburg, Germany. Before her appointment as RLS–NYC co-director, Stefanie lectured as Professor of Gender and Diversity at the Beuth Hochschule, Berlin. She wrote her Ph.D. thesis about the women’s movements in the United States and Germany. From 2006 to 2011, Stefanie was a member of the executive board of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung.
  • Liz Fekete is the director of the Institute of Race Relations and head of its European Research Programme. She works on aspects of contemporary racism, refugee rights, far-right extremism and Islamophobia across Europe and is author of “A Suitable Enemy: Racism, Migration and Islamophobia in Europe.” She is currently an associate of the International State Crime Initiative at King’s College London and her most recent project is ‘Alternative Voices on Integration in Europe.’
  • Mariana Fernandez is a project manager at RLS–NYC. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she has a Licentiate degree in Art History from the University of Buenos Aires. Before joining RLS–NYC, she worked as Human Rights & Press Officer for the Argentine Embassy in Tel Aviv.
  • Peter Frase has been involved in socialist politics for 20 years and is a long-time Democratic Socialists of America member. Currently he organizes with Democratic Socialists of America’s chapter in the Hudson Valley of New York. He is also a member of the editorial board of Jacobin magazine, where he writes on issues including technology and the future of work. His first book, “Four Futures: Life After Capitalism,” was published in 2016.
  • Marcus Gratsch studied political science and international relations at the University of Bremen, Warwick University, and the Free University of Berlin. He is currently a visiting scholar at the CUNY Graduate Center. Marcus has been active in the anti-fascist movement and the Occupy/Blockupy movement in Germany. After spending 4 years as its program coordinator, Marcus is currently co-director of the Left Forum.
  • Daphne Halikiopoulou is Associate Professor in Comparative Politics at the University of Reading. Her work focuses on nationalism and the cultural and economic determinants of far right party support. She is author of “The Golden Dawn’s ‘Nationalist Solution’: Explaining the Rise of the Far Right in Greece” (with Sofia Vasilopoulou) and numerous articles, and editor of the journal Nations and Nationalism.
  • James Hare is a project manager at RLS–NYC, where his work focuses on labor, climate change, and the United Nations. He wrote his PhD thesis on the development of modern Hinduism and has taught South Asian religions at the New School and NYU.
  • Karin Heddinga has been working in different departments of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial Center for 23 years, in educational work, in science as well as in the artistic field. She studied education, sociology, and psychology and works on her main topics in feminism, traumatization, and transgenerational transmission. She was the co-initiator of the seminar “An offender in the family (children/grandchildren of NS offenders).”
  • Sarah Jaffe is a Nation Institute fellow and an independent journalist covering labor, economic justice, social movements, politics, gender, and pop culture. She is an editorial board member at Dissent and a columnist at New Labor Forum, and she is the author/host of Interviews for Resistance, a syndicated series and podcast on radical organizing in the Trump era.
  • Terri Johnson is a graduate of Northwestern University and has worked and volunteered in higher education, philanthropy, social services, youth services, human rights, public health, and advocacy. She is the Executive Director of the Center for New Community (CNC), a national research and advocacy organization monitoring organized racism in the United States. Terri is the founder of C-Change Strategies, a social enterprise working with different organizations.
  • Laura Lotte Laloire is pursuing her M.A. in International Studies/Peace and Conflict Studies at Goethe University Frankfurt am Main. For her thesis she researches on strategies of far-right movements between dissidence and rule, with an empirical focus on Turkey. She worked on a project on transnational political violence and has recently published, with Maik Fielitz, “Trouble on the Far Right. Contemporary Right-Wing Strategies and Practices in Europe” (2017).
  • Alexander Main holds degrees in history and political science from the Sorbonne University in Paris. He is Senior Associate for International Policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington DC, where he monitors contemporary developments in Latin America and Europe.
  • Josephine Michalke is currently an intern at RLS–NYC. She is pursuing her M.Sc. in Geography at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg as a scholar of RLS. She was the chairwoman of the socialist youth organization linksjugend [‘solid] which is affiliated with the Left Party in Germany for 3 years and is now active in the state of Saxony, working on antifascist, feminist, and environmental projects.
  • Peter Montgomery is a senior fellow at People For the American Way, where he contributes to the Right Wing Watch blog as well as in-depth reports on right-wing strategies and tactics. He is also an associate editor for Religion Dispatches, and has authored a chapter on the relationship between the Religious Right and Tea Party movements in “Steep: The Precipitous Rise of the Tea Party.”
  • Julian Plenefisch is Special Assistant to the Executive Director of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung since 2015, supporting the Director in strategy, communication, and administration. Prior, he was a research fellow in Japanese Studies at universities in Berlin, Tokyo, and London; and received his PhD. He is a political activist specializing in the history of fascism, global history, and political theory.
  • Dania Rajendra is a writer, editor, and extension faculty at The Worker Institute at Cornell University, board chair of Political Research Associates, and a member of the board of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ). Her previous experience includes work for worker justice and immigrants’ rights, in philanthropy, in the arts, and on the 2004 election cycle.
  • Tarso Ramos is the Executive Director of Political Research Associates, which has launched initiatives on subjects including the export of U.S.-style homophobic campaigns abroad, the spread of Islamophobia, and the Right’s investment in redefining religious liberty to assert a right to discriminate. He has researched the U.S. Right for a long time and wrote numerous articles and reports on Christian Right, anti-immigrant, anti-labor, and anti-environmental movements and campaigns.
  • Roger Rashi works as Campaigns Coordinator for the Quebec-based solidarity organization Alternatives. He is a founding member of the left-wing party Québec solidaire, sits on the editorial board of the French-language review “Nouveaux cahiers du socialisme,” and has published many articles on the web sites of Presse-toi à gauche and the Journal des Alternatives.
  • Lawrence Rosenthal is founder, Chair, and Lead Researcher of the Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies, which he founded in 2009. He was a scholar and taught at different institutions in the US and Italy. He has studied the Right in both countries and is currently working on a study of the contemporary American Right in comparison to movements of the Right in 20th century Europe. He has co-edited “Steep: The Precipitous Rise of the Tea Party” and “The New Nationalism and the First World War.”
  • Vicente Rubio-Pueyo is a participant in Spain’s Podemos and a spokesperson for the party’s International Secretariat. He holds a PhD in Spanish Cultural Studies from Stony Brook University and currently teaches at Fordham University. He has written on the current social and political conjuncture in Spain, the emergence of the Indignados movement, and political forces such as Podemos and the “municipal confluences.”
  • Bartosz Rydlinski holds a Ph.D. in political science, teaches at the Institute of Political Science at Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw and works for Amicus Europae Foundation. His research interests include relations between new social movements and traditional political parties and socio-economical sources of illiberal tendencies in Central Europe.
  • Anne Sabourin is member of the Executive committee of the French communist party (Parti communiste français, PCF). In the committee she is in charge of European affairs. Additionally, Anne is member of the political secretariat of the Party of the European Left.
  • Audrey Sasson is the Executive Director of JFREJ, where she formerly served on the Board of Directors. She holds a MA in International Affairs and has close to 20 years’ experience as an organizer and social worker, including work with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) as the director of Walmart-Free NYC, a labor-community partnership against the largest private employer in the world.
  • Albert Scharenberg was born in Leer, East Frisia (Germany). Before becoming RLS–NYC co-director, he worked as editor at the German monthly Blätter and as lecturer of Political Science at the Free University Berlin. He recently published a biography of Martin Luther King, jr. From 2008 to 2011, Albert served as president of the science advisory board of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung.
  • Evelyn Schlatter is a senior analyst with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. She holds a PhD in American history and an MA and BA in anthropology. Her fields of expertise are right-wing political and social movements, gender, and sexuality. She specializes in the anti-LGBT movement and the white nationalist movement.
  • Bhaskar Sunkara is the founding editor and publisher of Jacobin magazine, as well as the publisher of “Catalyst: A Journal of Theory and Strategy.” He is the editor of several books including “The ABCs of Socialism.”
  • Maria Svart is the National Director of the Democratic Socialists of America. Previously she has been a campus organizer and a union organizer. Democratic Socialists of America has local groups in communities large and small in 47 states, whose goal is to bring an ideological challenge to neoliberalism and Trumpism and organize a multi-racial grassroots socialist movement.
  • Kristof Szombati is a co-founder of the green LMP party and was an elected member of the Steering Committee until 2010. He then co-ordinated the activities of the Heinrich Boll Foundation in Budapest, before pursuing a PhD at Central European University on “The Revolt of the Provinces. Anti-Gypsyism and Right-Wing Politics in Hungary,” which will be published as a book. He is a part-time political advisor for Greenpeace’s Central and Eastern European office.
  • Federico Tomasone studied international relations in Padua, Italy and Political Science at Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. Since 2014 he is a project manager in the Brussels office of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, working on themes of right to the city, commons, international solidarity among workers in Europe, and antifascism.
  • Sofia Vasilopoulou is a Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of York. Her work examines political dissatisfaction with democracy and democratic institutions across Europe. Sofia is the convenor of the ECPR Standing Group on Political Parties. She has co-authored “The Golden Dawn’s Nationalist Solution: Explaining the rise of the far right in Greece” (with Daphne Halikiopoulou).
  • Gerd Wiegel is a staff member of the faction of the Left Party (Die Linke) in the German Parliament. His focal points of work are right wing extremism, and the popular right in Germany and Europe. Gerd has published several articles and books on these topics, including the most recent “Ein aufhaltsamer Aufstieg: Alternativen zu AfD & Co“ (2017).

Report Back

Report back found here:[9]


By RLS–NYC. From June 15-18, 2017, the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York Office held a retreat in Stony Point, New York. The goal of the retreat was to identify the array of rising far right formations across North America and Europe, and to discuss tactics and strategies to counter their increasing influence on both sides of the Atlantic and indeed globally. To do this, we gathered leading progressive voices ranging from the state of California to the country of Turkey, from the American South to Quebec, from Germany to Greece, and beyond. Among our participants were journalists, movement activists, trade unionists, political party members, and, of course, academics and experts working in NGOs and watch-dog organizations.
Over two full days and two half days, we discussed a wide range of issues. We traced out explanations for the recent rise of the far right, including: economic crisis and the threatened middle classes; the draw of authoritarian personalities; racism and anti-Semitism; the failure of the liberal model of neoliberal governance; and the enduring grip of heteropatriarchy. We also analyzed a number of comparative case studies: Trump, Brexit, and the electoral upset; Hungary, Poland, Turkey and the far right in government; France’s Front National versus Germany’s AfD; and views from Greece and Spain on how to fight the right with left populism.
We also mapped out right-wing organizations and their international networks; discussed how to fight the right through education; and analyzed how to connect frontline strategies to long-term transformation, including through the use of media strategies. Throughout, we had both formal and informal spaces for smaller groups to break into discussion. More broadly, the retreat gave our approximately 55 participants plenty of chances to get to know each other, strengthen their own networks, and also to unwind.
RLS—NYC has compiled and summarized the presentations and discussions from the gathering in this report we are presenting today. This document, complied [sic] by James Hare,[10],[11] reflects only one interpretation of several days that were rich in conversation about complex and highly debated topics, and in no way seeks to be an exhaustive or authoritative account of this retreat. Rather, we hope that it will be read as another piece in the ongoing discussions about how progressive forces may strengthen strategies against the rise of the far right.

The Future of the Left webcast


The Future of the Left webcast

How can we build a stronger democratic socialist movement in the 21st century? Can we find a form of left unity, and if so, around what principles? How can we reach out to newly politicized people and build a democratic and majoritarian movement capable of taking down the capitalist system?
Watch the WEBCAST of this June 5th dialog! This will not be your typical socialist event - just brief remarks and then a reception for sharing ideas for folks in NYC.
The Future of the Left - A Conversation on Socialist Unity

June 5th at 6pm EASTERN TIME. Location: SEIU Local 1199, 311 West 43rd Street, New York, NY. Subways: A/C/E to 42nd Street, 1/2/3/S/N/Q/R to Times Square.

Chaired by Pat FryLeft Labor Project

Opening remarks from Mark SolomonCommittees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism.

Responses by:

With participation and support from: Jacobin Magazine | Left Labor Project | Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York Office.

2016 YDS Winter Conference

According to Louie Messina: The 2016 national Young Democratic Socialists Winter Conference, aptly titled “Generation Left: Millennials Building the Next Socialist Movement,” was a powerful demonstration of the widespread excitement and motivation that is growing in today’s Left, especially among its youth leaders. The conference was held at the MayDay Community Center in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, Feb. 12-14 2016. The event served as a successful forum for education, networking, and camaraderie for over 100 young activists and socialists.

As was to be expected, some of the weekend was focused on the Sanders campaign, and what we, as young socialists, can do to show our support. The main topic for discussion at the conference, however—and the Berning question in everyone’s minds—was, of course: “What comes after the campaign?” The opening plenary of the conference, titled “Building on Bernie: What Comes Next,” sought to address this question.

Co-sponsored by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung and moderated by Moumita Ahmed, from People for Bernie, this exciting session set the tone for the rest of the conference. Speakers from Jacobin magazine, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, and College Students for Bernie, as well as the We Need Bernie Committee of the DSA, addressed a packed room—filled with socialists, young and old—who were more than happy to fill all available space. Each speaker discussed what their organization was doing to help the campaign and how they were using it as a means to build up the socialist movement. The plenary provided all who attended with a demonstration of the multiple different ways in which we as young socialists can get involved in educating the public and garnering support for the DSA and for socialism in general. In addition, many informative workshops, plenaries, and even casual conversations, addressed the true impact of the Sanders campaign and how we should use it as a means to a greater end, by building the DSA and building the next socialist movement. [12]

DSA Afrosocialists and Socialists of Color Caucus

From the Democratic Socialists of America website;[13]

AFROSOC advocates for and builds power with DSA’s Black/POC membership and their communities. We pursue this work to help build a multiracial working-class base, the only viable strategy for securing a socialist future.

Through public and internal education and agitation, we aim to continue the legacy of the Black radical tradition, as well as the radical traditions of other oppressed minorities. Our goal is to act as a network that will support and develop non-white DSA members as leaders in the organization.
AFROSOC’s most recent efforts include:
Afrosocialists Training: Generously funded by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, the caucus hosted its first training in NYC for 45 DSA members nationwide in 2017. Members of DSA’s national training team led modules focused on socialist organizing, leadership development and campaign strategy.

Mapping Socialist Strategies

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.

Historical Materialism conference


Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung - New York Office, May 21 2018;

Our panelists at Historical Materialism in Montreal this weekend (from left), Claus Thomasberger (HTW Berlin), Michael Brie (RLS Berlin), Kari Polanyi Levitt (McGill University), Maria Starzmann (RLS–NYC), Malin Kuth (intern, RLS–NYC), Harmony Goldberg (Grassroots Policy Project), Ethan Young (Left Labor Project), and Lorenz Gosta Beutin (MP, Die Linke).

Left Democrats in Search of Anti-Trump Strategy

Last weekend, the Congressional Progressive Caucus met for its annual strategy conference in Baltimore. For the first time, a delegation of European left-wing parties organized by the New York office of the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung attended the summit.

With Donald Trump in the White House and Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, the Democratic Party is having a hard time on Capitol Hill. But with the November midterm elections approaching, resistance is increasing all over the country.

The primary Congressional body the resistance can turn to is a group of progressive Democrats, organized as the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC). Founded in 1991, it is the largest association of congresspeople in Washington. On March 8 and 9, the CPC hosted this year’s strategy conference, focusing on how to oppose the daily attacks by the President and his right-wing conservative enablers. Pressed by younger, decidedly left-wing voters mobilized by Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, Democratic congresspeople have to choose which course to take: should they follow the centrist trajectory of Clinton and Obama, or follow Sanders’ example and take a left turn?

European delegation, Diane Abbott second from right

While there are a variety of opinions within the CPC, a clear majority of its members seem to be veering left, towards CPC co-founder Sanders. The strategy conference, which has historically focused solely on domestic politics, bucked this trend by inviting a small foreign delegation for the first time ever. Composed and supported by the New York office of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, the delegation consisted of representatives of European left parties: Sevim Dagdelen (deputy chair of Die Linke in the German Bundestag), Eduardo Maura (member of the Spanish parliament for Podemos), Yiannis Bournous (head of International Relations for SYRIZA) and Diane Abbott (representative of the British Labor Party and member of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet).

Senator Elizabeth Warren gave the conference keynote speech, heavily criticizing some of her Democratic colleagues. Just a week before the conference, 16 of them had voted with Republicans on a bill softening banking regulations which had been passed after the Great Recession. “It is so hard to fight against all the money and all the lobbying. It is so hard to fight when we fight and lose. It’s worse when some of our teammates don’t even show up for the fight,” she said.

Warren set a tone that resonated with many congresspeople as well as with Sevim Dagdelen, who vehemently criticized US-led wars, especially the war in Afghanistan, which has been raging for over 16 years. Dagdelen pointed to her work on the UN Global Compact and the waves of refugees triggered by these wars. She contrasted the reality of war and forced migration with the call for an end to military intervention and the “right to stay.”

Following Senator Warren, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took the stage. Pelosi exceeded her speaking time considerably, perhaps in an effort to reestablish herself with the CPC after having been challenged from the left in her most recent re-election. In another challenge from the left, Yiannis Bournous successfully pressed Pelosi to agree to send a letter of complaint to IMF head Christine Lagarde regarding the institution’s handling of Greece. Obviously, political pressure has an effect on this level as well.

Former CPC spokesman Keith Ellison gave a brilliant speech, in which he personally thanked the European representatives. The Sanders supporter was the first Muslim to be elected to the US Congress. Last year he narrowly lost the election for party leadership to Tom Perez. Baltimore was friendly territory for Ellison, as well as for New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio.

In general, the atmosphere was excellent. For one thing, the gathering took place in an informal setting. Even controversies were dealt with in a friendly manner. Secondly, great polling results have elevated Democrats’ hopes for an election victory in November. They might even recapture the majority in the House of Representatives, which in turn would fundamentally change decision-making on Capitol Hill and allow for impeachment proceedings against the President.

With this in mind, the progressive congresspeople joined forces and set to work. They discussed current topics, such as the #MeToo movement, but their main focus was oriented towards trying to develop proper strategies, coalitions and electoral messages confronting the Trump agenda.

And last but not least, the conference was also a large networking event, given the presence of civil society representatives and guests like the delegates from Europe. For example, Podemos’ Eduardo Maura spoke with the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, about the disastrous situation in Puerto Rico following the hurricane. Sevim Dagdelen had a discussion with representative Ro Khanna (California) about his recent initiative to end the war in Yemen, and exchanged ideas with Barbara Lee who, three days after 9/11, had been the only member of Congress to vote against launching the war on Afghanistan.

On the second conference day, Diane Abbott gave a speech typifying the political orientation of the CPC and the Democrats. She talked about how Jeremy Corbyn, herself, and a few others had experienced the dark years of Blair’s “Third Way” in the House of Commons. She explained how they did not give up, but fought on, and then, when the opportunity presented itself, took over the neo-liberal party and threw the rudder of the Labour Party to the left. And she explained how this new course, which she emphasized is socialist, has become increasingly popular.

When Abbott delivered the greetings of the “socialist Labor Party” right at the beginning of her speech, the crowd became a little uneasy. However, when she spoke of “socialist” politics for the third time at the end of her speech, she had already won over the audience – which applauded with a standing ovation. At that point, it looked like most of the audience really wanted the Democratic Party to finally stop lagging behind the Republicans, and to begin recognizing the signs of the times by moving decisively to the left. For the many, not the few![14]

Organizer Ady Barkan of Center for Popular Democracy, was honored at the summit for his work fighting for health care. Barkan suggested a campaign around a jobs guarantee, with the hope of making the issue central to the 2020 presidential race. “It would be a great campaign to say if you can’t find good work in the private sector, we are not going to give you unemployment benefits, we are going to give you employment,” he said. “We are going to put you to work cleaning the streets, rebuilding our infrastructure, taking care of older people or young people, writing plays, making music. There is so much good to be done.”

Lorette Picciano of the Rural Coalition argued that the best program will come from listening to people—including those who are in often written-off parts of the country, the ones these days usually assumed to be “Trump Country.”

The #MeToo moment was on many people’s minds, and one of the guests had played a key role in turning the public’s attention away from famous women and toward the working class. Monica Ramirez of the Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, the farmworker organization behind a widely circulated letter from farmworking women to Hollywood actresses about sexual violence, noted that there were real policy issues that Democrats could bring forward—not just improving the federal laws around sexual harassment, which still leave out women in small businesses and have a short time frame for people to take action, but also extending the protections of the National Labor Relations Act to include farmworkers so that they can organize to protect themselves through a union.

To Yiannis Bournous of SYRIZA, it was necessary for the CPC to think through the way American wars in the Middle East have created a refugee crisis that is now bearing down on his country and shaping right-wing anti-immigrant discourse across Europe. The Democratic Party has long tended to assume that it is weak on so-called national security issues, and has over-corrected to sometimes disastrous effect. But Corbyn, Abbott noted, bucked the entire establishment (including, again, much of his own party, which had backed Tony Blair on Iraq) and actually gained in popularity for criticizing the U.K.’s involvement in wars in the Middle East following a bombing in Manchester last May. This is, despite the challenges in Washington, a winning issue.

To help it advance its program, the CPC could take another page from the European leftists and adopt a particular feature of the parliamentary system: the shadow cabinet. The shadow ministers are appointed within the opposition party to shadow the ministers from the leadership party, to study the position closely and put forward a response to every government policy. Diane Abbott, shadow home secretary, explained, “It helps because we focus more than we might otherwise on actually being in government and what we could do or say.” The CPC already puts out in essence a shadow budget—a shadow cabinet could help move the caucus from principled opposition to thinking seriously about power.

Anat Shenker-Osorio, communications researcher and adviser with ASO Communications, told author of this article Sarah Jaffe, “People feel incredibly and rightfully disillusioned and cynical about the political process at all. When we run as ‘not Trump,’ when we run as ‘not that other guy’ but nothing positive, then what we are saying to them is that their cynicism is well placed. We’re not actually offering to do something, we’re not offering to create something, we’re not offering a beautiful tomorrow, we’re offering them a whole bunch of problems and the best that we can do is some amelioration of those harms.”[15]

Just Transition Research Collaborative

The Just Transition Research Collaborative (JTRC) is a joint project of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York Office, the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), and the University of London Institute in Paris (ULIP).

In this first iteration of our collaboration, we are excited to present the Just Transition(s) Online Forum. This Forum seeks to bring together different stories and perspectives on the issue of Just Transition to low-carbon development. We hope to include a range of experts working on different aspects of this transition—including from our Trade Unions for Energy Democracy initiative, as well as our broader political network—to showcase different case studies, narratives and approaches to the Just Transition and their implications for equality and social justice.

This Online Forum, which is additionally co-hosted by the International Social Science Council, will serve as a platform on which to build toward a more comprehensive report on Just Transition, which we intend to release together with UNRISD and ULIP at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24), taking place in Katowice, Poland, in December 2018.[16]