The Freedom Socialist Party 50th Anniversary Convention held Sept. 3-6 was a time for members both to take stock of FSP’s achievements and to arm themselves for new challenges and a new level of struggle today. Much of the discussion focused on the marked polarization in society and its meaning for the working class both in the U.S. and internationally — analyses that take on new weight in light of the U.S. presidential election.
Participants, who represented a wide spectrum of ages and colors, report that they found the gathering fruitful, exhilarating and energizing.
A world in flux. The gathering was a national convention of the U.S. party, but members of the Australian sympathizing section also attended, and comrades from Australia and Europe contributed to a rich pre-convention written discussion period. Topics ranged from the Black Lives Matter movement to the party’s work to build alliances across borders, notably in the Committee for Revolutionary International Regroupment, whose member parties have mobilized vigorously to free political prisoners.
Held at a forested conference center in Washington state, the event included discussions of policy resolutions, workshops, a rowdy evening of songs and entertainment, and a video of highlights from the socialist feminist party’s history. On the final day, members elected a new national leadership committee.
Members approved the main thrust of the general political resolution, “Standing on the Edge of Something Big,” written by Andrea Bauer for the FSP National Committee, which will be serialized in upcoming issues of the Freedom Socialist.
“Standing on the Edge” analyzes the recent past of relative political stability and the shift in the political weather to volatility and polarization. It takes note of the austerity and repression caused by neoliberal free trade, privatization, and permanent war as the profit system attempts to overcome its global malaise. Hardship and inequality have ignited new upsurges in movements of workers and people of color.
However, just as liberal capitalist democracy has a crisis of leadership and direction — as the U.S. presidential election made obvious — so too do working-class movements, including the Left and labor. The paper concludes that FSP’s urgent task is to show “optimism by doing.” This means pushing forward in building democratic, multi-issue united fronts against reaction grounded in a working-class leadership and program while showing that the only realistic solution, finally, is socialism.
Revolutionary integration as a focus. Race is a live wire and touchstone in the U.S. today, as it is throughout much of the world. Discussions of issues relevant to people of color and immigrants, and of the party’s signature theory of Revolutionary Integration, were central throughout the assembly’s four days.
To put it simply, the FSP’s theory posits that Black liberation cannot be gained short of socialism and that the leadership of the Black working class is crucial to the success of the struggle for socialism. The issues and key role of African Americans in the fight for revolution — and for reforms, for that matter — is vital to everyone.
This truth is again being demonstrated in today’s organizing against cop killings, which the New York City party branch is involved in through the Campaign for an Elected Civilian Review Board. Says Elias Holtz, a new FSP National Committee member, “The campaign we are building is an interracial one — so having the space at the convention to talk directly about what it really takes to build trust between people of color and whites was invaluable.”
Convention-goers debated the feasibility of launching elected review board efforts in other FSP branch cities, given the legalistic tangles involved. And they discussed other ways to carry forward the urgent fight for race liberation at a time Trump has brought outright white supremacists into his inner governing circle, along with warmongers and foes of the rights of unions, immigrants, LGBTQ people and women. As the widespread protests show, the battle is joined!
Striding ahead in the labor movement. Although their membership is shrinking, unions remain important as labor’s only mass organized force. Their survival is critical, as is their transformation into true, democratic representatives of the rank and file. Convention-goers were proud of the advances the party has made in increasing its contingent of union members and its participation in unions in the private and public sectors.
Gil Veyna is a Chicano union retiree active with Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity (OWLS), a cross-union militant caucus in Seattle, who looks forward to unions regaining what he calls a “fire in their belly.” Veyna says that he appreciated the opportunity that the convention provided for OWLS activists to “share what we have learned with members in other branches and gain the benefit of their perspectives.”
Even before its outcome was known, the election made crystal clear, once again, the necessity for the working class to have a political voice of its own — meaning, a labor party completely independent from the Democrat and Republican parties. After debate, convention attendees agreed that now is the time to push forward that idea — implementation of which will require quite a shakeup in the House of Labor. (See Only an independent labor party can speak for the working class).
Developing team leadership to advance the struggle. Realizing that the continued survival of any group depends on making successful transitions, FSP has been working hard to build team leadership and develop new leaders. There was general agreement that the convention showed the fruit of that determination, with members across the board demonstrating new levels of political maturity and sagacity — combined with a fiery energy to get this revolution thing done!
Norma Gallegos is a millennial-generation member of the Comrades of Color Caucus, a joint body of FSP and Radical Women, who was also newly elected to the party’s National Committee. Said Gallegos, “This convention was extremely important for me in my growth as a U.S. revolutionary and deepened my dedication to our collective fight for the working class.”
With the election of Donald Trump as imperialist-in-chief, the party has its work cut out for it. However, after 50 years on the front lines of the fight for the most oppressed at home and abroad, convention attendees left feeling upbeat about the struggles to come.
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