Guest author: Alan Stowers
The 2010 winter Young Democratic Socialists (YDS) conference at Norman Thomas High School (a location aptly named after a prominent socialist from the early 20th century) in Manhattan, was a snap shot of the current socialist movement in the United States. Headlined by several of the most prolific and renowned social critics of our day, such as Cornel West, Gayatri Spivak, and Frances Fox Piven, to name a few, it is sure to have enriched the intellectual understanding of socialism for all in attendance. YDS chapters from William Paterson University in New Jersey and Temple University in Philadelphia were very strongly represented, in addition to members from as far away as Kansas, Michigan, and Las Vegas.
The three day conference provided a unique opportunity for student activists to meet comrades from around the country, trade stories, share experiences, and build the solidarity necessary to be resilient in the face of the overwhelming forces opposed to a true socialist agenda in America. The plenary with Cornel West provided a moving and insightful approach to reminding the audience why democratic socialism is something we must continue to fight for. As he said "indifference is the essence of inhumanity" and we must not fall victim to striving only for material success and becoming "well adjusted to injustice." The other plenaries also helped shape our general understanding of the state of democratic socialism from various perspectives. Gayatri Spivak delivered the final, and in my opinion most thought provoking plenary. She asks us to think internationally as we move forward, and presented the idea that while capital will always exist, and is not necessarily a bad thing, we must harness it with a "will to socialism."
The various workshops held throughout the conference helped supply attendees with advanced knowledge on particular topics thanks to the expertise of the panelists at the conference. In depth looks at issues such as the state of the labor movement, strategies for the Left, responding to Obama's wars, race and gender, and many others were offered. These panels offered background knowledge on the issues, up to date statistics, rhetorical points, and advice for those seeking to confront these problems. Armed with these intellectual tools, and a stronger sense of purpose and solidarity, the YDS members left the weekend conference to continue the struggle against capitalism.
Alan Stowers is a second year student at William Paterson University of New Jersey, studying psychology and philosophy.