I’m writing these words in the last hours of what has been a quiet May Day.
For me, at least.
Elsewhere in the world, red and black flags are being proudly waved as people march through the streets, chanting and singing. In Greece, a nation-wide strike is being carried out in defiance of massive lay-offs enacted by the government. In Bangladesh, thousands are protesting after the collapse of a sweatshop resulted in the death and injury of hundreds of workers. Similar protests have broken out in the Philippines as nearly 10,000 workers march in Manila. Youth in Spain are raging against the nearly 30% unemployment rate. Korea, Cambodia, Turkey, Indonesia- just to name a handful- are witnessing similar turnouts.
In the US, however, the first of May is overwhelmingly just that- the first of the month. Barring a smattering of marches in New York and other cities, the day has gone largely without event. While the majority of the world has some form of working class heroics taking place, America has yet to really see the rise of poor and working class unity. As a great man once said:
I guess that crushing silence makes the few times we do get an alternative to the conservative-liberal slap fight all the sweeter, and there is perhaps nothing more refreshing than the annual Socialism conferences.
Hosted cooperatively by a number of leftist groups (most notably the Center for Economic Research and Social Change and the International Socialist Organization), the Socialism Conference has been held every year since 2009 in Chicago and Oakland, the Mecca and Medina of the American Left.
Now you might be thinking, “Okay, commi, you might get all hyped up about the overthrow of the bourgeois taskmasters and the establishment of a truly free and democratic society, but why should we care?”
This is why.
There really isn’t, in this country, any solid alternative perspective to the views of Republicans (who believe in Capitalism with some minor restrictions) and Democrats (who believe in Capitalism with some minor restrictions). For all the hissy-fits thrown by Limbaugh and Maher, there’s not a whole lot of real difference between ’em. Heck, a person could go to sleep in 2003 and wake up today and not have any reason to assume Bush wasn’t still president. The so-called “third” parties are simply extensions of the big two. Greens don’t fundamentally differ from Democrats, and all but the most hardcore Libertarians (though this is changing a bit) will vote Republican after Ron Paul loses for the seventieth time.
Simply for the fact that a truly alternate perspective is being offered is reason in and of itself to take interest. What really hits it home though, is that Socialism conferences aren’t just dissent- they’re good dissent.
We’re talking about a host of topics offered not from starchy professors and oily economic consultants, but rather from a diverse array of individuals, ranging from teachers to activists, to writers (novelists and journalists alike), veterans, holocaust survivors, union organizers, prisoners, and musicians.
You’re going to be able to hear discussions of issues you’d never see tackled elsewhere. Scheduled for the 2013 conference is a session on the Asian-American community. Up as well is a talk on the rise of “Juan Crow” laws. There’s going to be Native American history. Courses on how to perform activism in your community.
“Leninism vs. Zinovienism.”
I have no clue what that last one is, but it sounds interesting.
And we’re not just talking about audios of the lectures (open to the public on their website- check it out), but videos as well. You can see the testimonies of the families of young black men killed by the police- if those don’t stir you, I don’t know what will.
Of course, all of that’s possible through the simple high-quality of everything they’re offering. You don’t have to scan through some manifesto on an html page in the dark recesses of the internet- everything you need is laid out, well, professionally. Format, as Evan will be quick to tell you, makes or breaks a message. Fortunately, the Socialism conference’s materials are unimpeachably well-done.
So what are you waiting for? Head on over and check out a few lectures. Watch a few videos. Expand your horizons a bit.
Who knows? Maybe enough people doing it will mean next May Day won’t be so quiet.