Socialism 2019?

Who knew that socialism had already come to the US? I’d given some of these links a few days ago to Aspie Corner, but he seemed to have been off on another project.  I thought he’d enjoy a lot of this; I know I do.  First, some background:

June 28, 2019 ‘Socialism 2019: the Left at a Crossroads’, Louis Proyect, counterpunch.org, June 28, 2018 (some bits and bobs)

“For a number of years, the International Socialists Organization, once the largest Marxist group in the USA, held educational conferences either in Chicago or in various American cities. In 2004, I attended a plenary session of a regional conference at City College in New York, mostly to hear my old friend Peter Camejo who was the featured speaker alongside Ahmed Shawki, the disgraced former leader whose cover-up of multiple rapes in the ISO led to its dissolution this year.”

“If Leninist groups have a shelf life, the 21-year history of the ISO is about par for the course. Except for Kshama Sawant’s Socialist Alternative, there is no self-avowed Leninist group that amounts to anything in 2019. Those that still exist tend to be hermetically sealed sects like the Spartacist League or the Socialist Equality Party [SEP] that have never sought to have an impact on the mass movement, seeing themselves instead as its high priesthood critics.


“It hardly comes as any surprise that sponsorship of the ISO’s Socialism 2019 conference to be held in Chicago from July 4th through 7th has been relinquished to Haymarket, Jacobin, and the Democratic Socialists of America. Haymarket was the publishing arm of the ISO that will soldier on. Jacobin and the DSA, as the emcees put it, need no introduction. With the Jacobin/DSA imprimatur, this might be a larger than usual conference and should at least be devoid of the kind of pep rally atmosphere you’d expect at an ISO event although—who knows—maybe there will be a surprise appearance by Bernie Sanders, the DSA endorsed candidate who has never bothered to encourage his supporters to join the DSA.”

“Gosh, I wonder if there will be any swinging parties at the Socialism 2019 conference. Since I generally hit the sack at 10:30 after drinking some warm milk, I might not be able to make them.

Whatever else, the conference will allow me to take the pulse of the ex-ISOers and DSAers who will likely dominate the panel discussions and account for comments during Q&A. My main interest at this point is in trying to understand the thinking of the young left in 2019 that has accepted the idea that voting for Democrats is a tactic that can help lead to a revolution sometime down the road.”

wd here: if you click into the Socialism 2019 link above, you’ll see the featured speakers, including Naomi Klein, Amy Goodman, and the editor of Teen Vogue.

“Ex-ISOer Todd Chretien, who was very close to my old friend Peter Camejo, left me staring in amazement when he told FB friends that Bernie Sanders’s Socialism = The New Deal speech was the most important one made by a major political figure since King’s “I have been to the mountain top” in 1968.”

“In a June 18th Jacobin article, ex-ISOer Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor shared Chretien’s enthusiasm over the Sanders speech that she understood as a call for “a complete transformation of the country.” It supposedly identified capitalism as the culprit and democratic socialism as the solution.

There are only two occurrences of the word capitalism in Sanders’s speech, but both are qualified by the word “unfettered”. If being opposed to “unfettered capitalism” is the same thing as calling for an end to capitalism itself, that would make a whole bunch of people as qualified as Sanders to call themselves socialist, including Elizabeth Warren. For example, Rutger Bregman, the Dutch historian who called out Tucker Carlson, has a spotless reputation for opposing “unfettered capitalism” but has made clear that he is no socialist. And what else are Michael Moore’s documentaries about, except a full-throated condemnation of “unfettered capitalism”? I should add that he, like Bernie Sanders, has undying hopes that a new FDR can bring our long nightmare to an end.”

I’ll add that Klein’s book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate also indicts unfettered capitalism as the culprit, and that as far as I’ve read, Liz Warren says that she is a capitalist.

Proyect then touts Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins, quotes from Hawkins’ “Bernie Sanders is no Eugene Debs”, then names a number of socialists organizations and publications such as “Beyond the Vote: Base-Building for Class Independence in Philadelphia” at regenerationmag.org.  He brings this outtake from the end of what looks to be a very thought-provoking essay and magazine:

‘Elections are often seen as the obvious site for political activity because people in the U.S. are conditioned to think of them as the sum total of political engagement, and because they come with a fixed timeline and clear strategies that lead toward an obvious “win.” But the needs of the working-class are broader than the electoral system allows. Movements that focus on electoral campaigns miss the opportunity to build meaningful, long-term, trust-based relationships with large sections of working and marginalized people by focusing only on those who can, and do, vote. They also fail to develop their own independent political structures, leaving them ill-prepared to act without the support of either the State or elected officials.’

“There is consolation for some in the hope that electing Bernie Sanders can relieve the pain that an out-of-control “unfettered” capitalism produces. The left has to face up to its historic responsibility in organizing a movement that can overcome capitalist property relations, fettered or unfettered, once and for all.

“As Rosa Luxemburg once put it, the choice is between socialism and barbarism but even more starkly posed than ever.”

But aha!  Your intrepid copy/paste reporter remembered that Proyect-indicted SEP journalists had done any number of exposés on the ISO.  Let’s start with:

‘Who funded the ISO? An analysis of the financial basis of pseudo-left politics’, Eric London, wsws.org,  15 April 2019

“A review of the tax filings of the nonprofit umbrella organization of the ISO and Haymarket Books—the Center for Economic Research and Social Change (CERSC)—reveals that the ISO was, to a great extent, funded by Democratic Party-led think tanks and nonprofits.
The “Big Three” Democratic Party-linked foundations supporting the ISO

A full 37 percent of CERSC’s funding has been from grants by Democratic Party-aligned think tanks and nonprofits. Since 2007-08, CERSC has received $3,172,117 from foundations and think tanks. In large part through these grants, CERSC’s revenue flow increased four-fold, from $1,055,100 in 2007-08 to $4,245,626 in 2016-17. Its cash-on-hand has increased by 1,175.6 percent, and its total assets have increased from $420,700 to $2,956,775 (603.1 percent) over the same period.”

“Of the revenue from nonprofit grants, roughly 85 percent—$2,709,617—comes from just three nonprofits: the Lannan Foundation, the Tides Foundation and the Wallace Fund.”

He names the funding sources of those non-profits, but this is the short-hand for R.J. Reynolds tobacco heiress established Tides foundation: George Soros, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the AT&T Foundation, the ChevronTexaco Foundation and the Verizon Foundation. The US Agency for International Development (USAID), a CIA-linked government organization, has also provided funding for the Tides Foundation.  London’s epistle is about nine yards long. 

An assembly of political bankrupts: Historical Materialism and Jacobin host “Socialism in Our Time” conference’, 16 April 2019

“There was no discussion of the rise of the far-right and fascistic movements internationally, the significance of the growth of the class struggle, or the danger of world war. No one provided any serious assessment of the Trump administration or the role of the Democratic Party in facilitating its right-wing policies.

While it was held just two days after the arrest of Julian Assange in London, this also went unmentioned. No one considered that the seizure of the WikiLeaks founder and his threatened rendition to the United States had any relationship to the building of a socialist movement.

As for history, an ostensible theme of the conference, the participants studiously avoided any reference to the historical record, which would only expose their own record of betrayal and treachery.

In January, the Socialist Equality Party submitted a panel proposal to the conference under the headline “The fight against fascism and the lessons of history.” The featured speaker was to be Christoph Vandreier, deputy national secretary of the Sozialistische Gleichheitspartei (Socialist Equality Party) in Germany and author of Why Are They Back?; Historical Falsification, Political Conspiracy and the Return of Fascism in Germany.

The SEP panel proposal was rejected by the conference organizers. Any expression of genuine socialist politics was to be excluded.”

‘The ISO’s Socialism 2018 Conference: Socialist phraseology in the service of American imperialism’, Alexander Fangmann, wsws.org, 5 July 2018  (a very short part of a long critique)

“The ISO sees the growth of the DSA as an opportunity, but also views it with concern. It above all wants to ensure that any leftward movement of young people is infused with support for imperialism. It functions as an arm of the State Department in the milieu of pseudo-left politics.

The individuals brought in to speak on foreign policy issues at the conference expose this fact, including Anand Gopal, Joseph Daher and Gilbert Achcar.

Gopal  (who is leading the panel “Revolution and Imperialism in the Middle East: Eyewitness to the Syrian Uprising”) is currently a fellow in the International Security Program at the New America Foundation (NAF), a Washington, DC think tank. He holds a sinecure as a research professor at Arizona State University’s Center on the Future of War and the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict.

The NAF is a think tank with intimate state and business ties, currently run by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former State Department official in the Obama administration. Its board of directors is chaired by Eric Schmidt, the former executive chairman of Google, who himself has longstanding ties to the American foreign policy establishment.”

Given that Louis Proyect indicating that he’d be attending Socialism 2019, I’d hoped he’d have written about it.  A side note: for some now-forgotten reason he’d left  bad taste in my mind, to mix up a metaphor.  But bingling yesterday, I had found this:

‘The 2019 Socialism Conference, sponsored by American leftist juggernauts the DSA, Jacobin magazine, and ISO’s Haymarket Books, features regime-change activists from multiple US government-funded NGOs’, Ben Norton and Max Blumenthal, July 6, 2019, grayzone.com  [The cheeky sods have created their own banner; smile.]


“Socialism is now apparently brought to you by the US State Department.

From July 4 to 7, thousands of left-wing activists from across the United States are gathering in Chicago for the 2019 Socialism Conference.

At this event, some of the most powerful institutions on the American socialist — but avowedly anti-communist — left have brought together a motley crew of regime-change activists to demonize Official Enemies of Washington.

One anti-China panel at the conference features speakers from two different organizations that are both bankrolled by the US government’s soft-power arm the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a group founded out of Ronald Reagan’s CIA in the 1980s to grease the wheels of right-wing regime-change efforts and promote “free markets” across the planet.

Another longtime ally who has spoken at every single annual Socialism Conference since 2009, Anand Gopal, works at a liberal foundation that is directly funded by the US State Department. He is headlining a panel this year to provide “A Socialist View of the Arab Spring.”

Yet another 2019 conference panel rails against the socialist governments of Nicaragua and Cuba — two-thirds of John Bolton’s “troika of tyranny” — with outspoken proponents of regime change. One of the speakers, Dan La Botz, hosted an event in 2018 that featured right-wing Nicaraguan activists wearing masks and disguised as students, who were junketed to meet with Republican lawmakers in Washington by the US government-funded right-wing organization Freedom House.

The Socialism Conference’s regime-change lobbying “Nicaragua expert” La Botz has admitted in leaked emails obtained by The Grayzone that “there is virtually no left among the opposition” to Nicaragua’s democratically elected socialist government.

La Botz, a leader within Democratic Socialists of America, likewise acknowledged in these emails that there is “little likelihood of an outcome to the rebellion that goes beyond a more democratic capitalist regime.” But he has still vociferously lobbied for Nicaragua’s Sandinista government to be overthrown by US government-backed insurgents — and is using his platform at the biggest socialist conference in the United States to do it.”

“Each ticket comes in at a neat $105 per person (or a $250 “solidarity rate,” for the hardcore supporters) — and this doesn’t include the rate for the rooms at the hotel where it’s held.” [nor $20/day parking charges @ the Hyatt Regency]

“As an avowedly anti-communist organization, the ISO eschewed symbols long associated with the communist left, like hammers and sickles and red flags. Instead, it chose a clenched fist — one eerily similar to the symbol used by the US government-funded Serbian activist group Otpor and similar offshoots in Eastern Europe, which carried out Washington-backed neoliberal “color revolutions” in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the restoration of capitalism.”

“Top speakers at the conference include Democracy Now host Amy Goodman, Jacobin magazine founder and editor Bhaskar Sunkara, and journalist Naomi Klein, the inaugural Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University. Klein was chosen to head the final plenary, titled “Care and Repair: The Revolutionary, Democratic Power of a Global Green New Deal.”

The 2019 Socialism Conference, like its annual predecessors, combines calls for radical economic democratic transformation and progressive social progress with the demonization of independent foreign governments that are targeted by the US government for regime change, such as Nicaragua, Cuba, Syria, Iran, China, and Russia.

The schedule of panels on foreign policy and international issues features a veritable who’s who of leftist regime-change activists. There is even a talk devoted specifically to demonizing the anti-imperialist left.”

The authors spend three feet of text on the Anti-China speakers and funding sources, and later add these bolded categories and their funding sources:

US State Department-funded speaker providing ‘socialist’ take on ‘Arab Spring’  [Anand Gopal]

‘Socialist’ lobbying for US-backed right-wing coup in Nicaragua [La Botz and Farber]

and include this:

“The Grayzone has obtained internal DSA email reports authored by La Botz which revealed that, days after the event at Saint Peter’s Church, those same students met with right-wing Republican legislators on Capitol Hill, including neoconservative Senators Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

[In a Tweet from Ted Cruz] The students beamed with pride, appearing without masks in photo ops with the avowedly anti-socialist members of Congress. Their trip was financed by Freedom House, a right-wing soft-power organization that is funded almost entirely by the US government.”

They follow up with an earlier chilling grayzone report on NED funding of the ‘anti-Sandanista insurgents’ in Nicaraugua, which was of course…a putsch, likely by way of the CIA.  There’s more, but this is certainly…plenty.

The conference seems to be up again by now, but may bring a few Tweets in comments, as they’re too hard to embed in two venues other, but these are all just text:

@socialismconf Jun 17  “Trump says “America will never be a socialist country.” The growing socialist movement in this country says otherwise. Meet other like-minded folks interested in fighting for a better world.”

@haymarketbooks 17h17 hours ago  “In the midst of all this joy, of all the victories we have experienced together, we see so much sorrow and pain, caused by the greatest manmade disaster to ever befall mankind: capitalism.”

Unsurprisingly, they seem to have deleted their notification of discount prices for tickets, indicating that not so many of ‘the thousands’ had shown up as they’d hoped?

(cross-posted from Café Babylon)

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wendy davis's picture

this is cool
@socialismconf "We're pleased to announce that comrades from @The_Red_Nation will be giving a presentation at #Socialism2019 on revolutionary socialism and indigenous liberation! 5:35 PM - 11 Jun 2019

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Roy Blakeley's picture

Thanks for this Wendy. There is a lot of information to digest. A few thoughts: Although Bernie calls himself a socialist, he is really a New Deal Democrat that might venture as far left as Scandinavian welfare state capitalism. This is not really a criticism of Bernie. His views have been pretty consistent for a long time and his ideal state would be a lot more humane than the one we live in. The term "socialist" does not really fit him. Likewise most DSA members are welfare state capitalists, not socialists. They are striving for a better state than we have, but not really a socialist state. A problem with welfare state capitalism is that capitalism has an intrinsic tendency to take over the state so the degree of regulation that is required to make capitalism and the common good compatible is difficult, if not impossible, to maintain. Witness the transition of the United States from a semi-functional regulated capitalist system in the 40's-60's to the capitalist hell of today. Foreign policy seems to be a big problem with Bernie and other left leaning Democrats and an increasing problem for people like Amy Goodman. Some of this is because rejection of US imperialism seems now to be way outside of the Overton window. The main-stream Democrats and Republicans are fighting over who can be the most imperialist. When someone like Tulsi takes the reasonable step of visiting Assad, she is branded as being complicit in murder. The defense/security/intelligence establishment is feeding us so much bullshit, with the complicity of the main stream media, that sanity is labeled insanity. The co-opting of the Democratic party has been a great success, so co-opting a nascent socialist movement is a logical next step.

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wendy davis's picture

@Roy Blakeley

into my current word document, add paragraph breaks to read it coherently. while i mainly agree with your first two paragraphs, i'd like to address my boldeds a bit:

'Some of this is because rejection of US imperialism seems now to be way outside of the Overton window.

i agree in spades, unfortunately.

The main-stream Democrats and Republicans are fighting over who can be the most imperialist. When someone like Tulsi takes the reasonable step of visiting Assad, she is branded as being complicit in murder. The defense/security/intelligence establishment is feeding us so much bullshit, with the complicity of the main stream media, that sanity is labeled insanity. The co-opting of the Democratic party has been a great success, so co-opting a nascent socialist movement is a logical next step.

is that why tulsi continues to say 'assad gassed his people' or did she evolve after seeing the suppressed report on douma? if it's for the sake of expedience, i cry foul. but she wasn't even mentioned in any of these links i've brought, so...i dunno.

but if i'm catching your drift, you seem to say that coopting the dsa/jacobin/haymarkets is the next logical step. i could agree, but i cannot, although you hadn't sad it was a good step, by any means. but still, this sort of fake socialism has been bought and paid for, again via silly incrementalist step to throttle actual socialist movements (whatever they are, in the end). my loosey-goosey defintions don't mesh with most, lol. but true socialism must be anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-no-colonialist, as i see it.

thank you for such a well-considered comment, amigo.

and on edit: wish i knew more of the truth about scandinavian social state democracy.

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wendy davis's picture

@Roy Blakeley

me what i may have misinterpreted in your comment, amigo. i've further wondered if you'd meant that bernie sanders and others FP is weak because they saw comments against t. gabbard as a cautionary tale for their own timidity or close to that.

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The Aspie Corner's picture

It's not one bit surprising. They say they want socialism, yet they seem to be much more inclined to keeping liberalism, capitalism and imperialism, continuing super exploitation in the Global South to pay for the Global North Herronvolk Democracy.

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Modern education is little more than toeing the line for the capitalist pigs.

Guerrilla Liberalism won't liberate the US or the world from the iron fist of capital.

wendy davis's picture

@The Aspie Corner

gladio b foreign policy, but after a rest, i'll try to remember cointelpro better. but according to the grayzone's report, your paragraph seems just about right.

oddly, the abq red nations do seem fairly radical, but it's always good to have some indigenous support to showcase, as klein and bill mckibben have long known.

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wendy davis's picture

@The Aspie Corner

again, but i'm still thinking gladio b, an extension of the new cold wars against the global south, and most all of the proxies: syria, russia, china, and russia.

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wendy davis's picture

from 1968, jamaican rastafarian. t gets under your skin, into your belly...

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wendy davis's picture

i'd been advised by a friend that this diary was a hit piece, perhaps on bernie sanders. not so, but it was a hit on the Socialism 2109 conference, their blended big D and foundation funding sources, as well as its pro-imperialist panels and speakers.

bernie's clear as to being a Democratic Socialist, which by definition is 'reform capitalism' which works pretty darned well for domestic policy, not so much with FP, imo. but this conference was chock-full of ID politics, including imani perry and others (perhaps that was the banner's allusion to 'no binaries'. but it does not, and will not, take the place of grassroots socialism (from the bottom to the top, then back again for decisions about 'what's next, what works and doesn't work?'). what sectors to socialize, who should carry guns in defense, what should ecosocialism look like, etc.

i'd add that true socialism is both anti-war and anti-imperialist.

anyhoo, i'm sorry that it was such an epic flop, this. i guess i should have made my case as to why i'd written it, but i reckon i'd thought it would have been obvious, i.e.: 'you can't buy actual socialism'.

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