On May 21, the Marxist-Leninist Party for Socialism and Liberation hosted a Southern California Regional Socialism Conference at Los Angeles City College. Over 200 students, labor organizers, teachers, veterans, workers and others attended. The event’s theme was “Organize and Fight Back.”
The “multinational and working-class community college matched the character of the attendees”, who came from various backgrounds and from all over the region: Los Angeles, Long Beach, even as far as Victorville, San Diego and San Francisco.
The day began with an opening plenary entitled, “The people rise up: Egypt, Wisconsin, Los Angeles.” PSL member Muna Coobtee started the conference by pointing out that, “The root problem that causes misery for workers from here in Los Angeles to Ramallah is the dominant system in the world today—capitalism.”
Coobtee went on to frame the conference as being “grounded in the understanding that another world is not only possible, but inevitable. We believe that the only solution to the deepening crisis of capitalism is the socialist transformation of society.”
She explained, “Our optimism comes from scientific understanding of society, social movements and social change. … Our optimism comes from the heroic struggle of workers in Wisconsin. Hundreds of thousands of workers and their supporters stood up to the rich and powerful when they were faced with a union busting law. It was a small window into the power that we have as a working class.”
Other speakers discussed the mobilization of teachers and students against tuition hikes and massive teacher and faculty layoffs, the need to stand against racism and LGBT bigotry, the importance of labor unions to workers, and the significance of the people’s uprisings from Wisconsin to the Arab World.
Guest speaker, Juan Jose Gutierrez, coordinator of the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition, spoke about the importance of the immigrant rights movement and the significant role played by immigrant workers within the working class.
Keynote speaker Richard Becker, author of Palestine, Israel and the U.S. Empire, discussed why socialism is the only answer to exploitation, racism, imperialist war and environmental degradation. Becker presented the audience with the ultimatum faced by the working class today: either continue with an increasingly destructive capitalist system that threatens our very existence as a species or fight for a socialist reorganization of society.
PSL candidate member, Eman Khaleq, spoke about why she joined the PSL, citing her family’s experience of struggle after the loss of her father, who had been the primary wage earner for her family. Khaleq said, “Ever since the day I lost my father I have come to the realization that my life has become one of struggle. Being Palestinian, I’m illegal in my own country, which has allowed me to sympathize with undocumented immigrants, who are called ‘illegal’ here. Being a woman, I face being objectified, having to live up to a chauvinistic standard that capitalism generates. Being Muslim, I’m subjected to prejudice based on the need for imperialist powers to demonize a certain group of people in order to feed their own greed. Most importantly though, I’m a worker, just like my father.”
Khaleq closed by saying, “I joined the PSL because conventional politics, the way they have been, no longer works. We will no longer sit under a capitalist bi-partisan government and wait for our chance at the dream. Instead we will fight until we achieve revolutionary change!”
Attendees participated in various workshops throughout the day. There were educational workshops on the ongoing Arab uprisings and the basic myths and facts about socialism. One educational workshop titled, “Socialism and Latin America” was conducted in Spanish by the PSL’s Spanish Language Department, showing the expanding reach of the party’s work to Latino workers. Another workshop focused on organizing strategies in the movement against budget cuts, featuring union teachers, students and guest speaker Angela Bartolome of AF3IRM. A lively panel discussed organizing against the repressive police.
There was also a special workshop titled, “Cultural Revolution: Creating People’s Art and Media,” led by filmmaker Travis Wilkerson and PSL member Abel Macias. The workshop focused on the need for the working class and revolutionaries to take art out of the hands of the bourgeoisie and wield it for the purposes of revolutionary change, rather than elitism, individualism, and profit-motive.
The theme of the closing plenary was, “Socialism: The only alternative to capitalism.” It emphasized the need to organize and build a revolutionary movement in the United States that can create real equality and end the systemic war, racism and exploitation that the working class faces under capitalism…
The successful conference ended with a chant that embodied the fighting spirit of those in attendance and promoted working class unity and struggle, “Capitalists say get back: We say fight back!”
It is worth remembering that the PSL is only of one of a dozen major Marxist organizartions currently active in the US.