Marxism Conference discusses building a movement

The New England Marxism Conference was held at the First Church in Boston Nov. 4. / Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons
The New England Marxism Conference was held at the First Church in Boston Nov. 4. / Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

By Eirin Combs, news correspondent

The New England Marxism Conference drew in hundreds of socialists Saturday at the First Church in Boston, where they discussed Marxist theory and participated in educational sessions.

The International Socialist Organization, or ISO, has been hosting these one-day conferences in nine cities across the country. The ISO prioritizes various issues such as anti-imperialism, environmental causes, the labor movement, Palestinian solidarity, LGBTQA+ liberation and fighting racism. These discussion topics were addressed at the different sessions offered at the conference.

One of the sessions, Marxism and the Fight Against Racism, was led by geographer and activist  Khury Petersen-Smith. The talk focused on the origins of racism and how it continues to persist in society. Petersen-Smith also made a call to action to the attendees to recognize these systems of oppression.

“We all need to do some kind of reflection,” Petersen-Smith said during his talk.

He said socialism opposes all forms of oppression and wants to reconstruct the system.

Many attendees of the conference said they were eager to have these discussions, including Ernest Reed, an ISO member and Boston resident.

“I think it’s important to get together with people and talk about not just what’s going on right now, but the history and theory and how we win a better world,” Reed said.

Reed said he became involved in socialism after volunteering for the Obama campaign.

“I think the change that was promised through that campaign in 2008 did not materialize,” he said. “It was a whole political process for me, as it is for many people, to figure out what else I can do, and that’s how I became a socialist.”

Other socialists at the conference had similar experiences in finding socialism, including one of the speakers, Alpana Mehta, who campaigned for former President Bill Clinton in 1992.

“I very much believed that Clinton would deliver on a variety of the promises made in that election campaign,” Mehta said.“He broke his promises and it led me to ask me, ‘Why is that? Why would someone say one thing and do the complete opposite?’”

Similar to Reed, Mehta used her experiences as motivation to find a way to create real change. She said socialism was the way she could achieve that.

“I gravitated toward socialists because they were the ones who actually brought a full history of the role of the Democratic Party,” she said. “Once I understood that, it was just another step to be able to understand that I wanted to change society.”

Mehta led a session at the conference that focused on how the socialist movement should move forward as a political party. She said she hoped the session would create a lasting dialogue among those who had attended.

“I don’t think [the session] was the final word in any way,” Mehta said. “I think that people, like I said in my talk, around the country and around the world are angry that change isn’t being made.”

The conference’s sessions sparked many conversations on how to build a successful socialist movement.

“There are different interpretations of socialism,” Mehta said. “We think we have one that really can be victorious.”

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