Boston socialist group engages with NU students

Boston socialist group engages with NU students

By Zipporah Osei, news correspondent 

The International Socialist Organization’s (ISO) Boston branch held a chapter meeting, entitled “The System is Broken: The Fight for a Socialist Future” on Sept. 15 on Northeastern’s campus. The event was the first step in facilitating what ISO hopes will be a vibrant socialist forum within the university community.

The discussion centered on group conversation about the negative ways capitalism affects the lives of average working-class citizens and why the group believes socialism is the best system to repair the injustices created by capitalism.

“With socialism, we can see a future where the average person is given respect and treated the way they deserve to be treated,” Northeastern University alumna Akunna Eneh said. “What we want is a system that pushes for human needs and makes sure we’re treated like we’re worth something.”

One community member who attended the meeting told the group about his experiences as a worker in a factory owned by a Fortune 500 company in India and how he and his fellow workers were mistreated by the system. Others who worked in government offices discussed their limited opportunities to make change in the capitalist system.

The conversation was not all grim, however. Attendees spoke of the movement’s history and discussed how it would inspire future progress. Older members also gave advice to newer members on how to navigate being a socialist in a capitalist world.

“I came to the meeting because socialism was an interest that I had,” freshman journalism major, Jill Sojourner said. “After hearing what was said, I can say I agree with a lot of their ideas and I now think it’s a system that could work.”

Members of the group framed socialism as the most practical response to social unrest, economic inequality and political corruption. Some spoke of “socialism from below,” the idea that the disenfranchised majority must work collectively to overpower the wealthy majority. Many mentioned the fact that the richest 62 richest people in the world own the same amount of wealth as half the world’s population.

One of the organizers of the event, 26-year-old ISO member Amanda Achin, spoke about how members of Northeastern’s community are already embracing socialism through its campus chapter of the student activist group Socialist Alternative.

“We made a lot of use of tabling and canvassing on campus and will continue to do that,” Achin said. “We also have study groups where we read the literature and history of the socialism movement, as well as get actively involved in issues like Black Lives Matter and other independent grassroots groups, so we try not to just do one thing.”

The group is coming to Northeastern at the tail end of this past year’s wave of strong support for former Democratic primary candidate Bernie Sanders. As a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, Sanders helped bring socialism into mainstream American politics and media. For the ISO, however, socialism is not just a fad for millennials interested in politics – it has existed prior to Sanders’ bid for the election and will continue after this election cycle.

According to a YouGov poll, 43 percent of Americans under 30 view socialism favorably, and the ISO is confident that number will only increase.

Junior sociology major Elan Axelbank has been a member of Socialist Alternative for three years. He said he believes the cause should be open to everyone.

“[The] system of capitalism distorts, in many ways, the way life should be so it’s not just young people that this should matter to,” Axelbank said. “Anybody can get involved.”

Eneh said she realized the system of capitalism was broken back in 2003 when politicians’ explanations for the war in Iraq brought her more questions than answers.

“I asked myself ‘what is war all about?’ and ‘why can’t these politicians end it?’” Eneh said. “What I realized was that the answer was we need a complete flip in the system. We need to focus on human need, and socialism is about human need.”

Photo by Patrick Burgard

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