Summer Education Series 2018: How Can We Build the Revolutionary Socialist Movement?


Between the outrages perpetuated by the Trump administration and the inspiring struggles of the last year, there is a renewed interest in socialism as an alternative in the U.S. Join us for a summer educational series examining the history, theory, and practice of the revolutionary socialist movement.

Look at the schedule below to find topics, readings, audio/video resources, and study questions.

All meetings will take place on Tuesdays at 7pm at the Common Good Cafe, 1415 NE 43rd St., Seattle.

 

July 17: Why the Working Class Can Change Society

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Socialists talk a lot about the working class having the power to change society, but who is the working-class? Is it just white blue-collar industrial workers or does it include women, people of color and the LGBTQ community? What is it about the working class that makes it equipped to transform the world? Join us for a discussion about the role of the working-class under capitalism and in struggle.

Recommended readings:

Recommended Audio/Video Resources:

Study Questions:

  1. Explain why socialists don’t idealize the working class.
  2. What compels the working class toward socialism?
  3. Why do workers tend to challenge the capitalist system when they struggle? How does this contrast with peasants and middle class intellectuals?
  4. What is the working class’s unique power to make a socialist revolution?
  5. What is the difference between socialism from above and socialism from below?
  6. What do Stalinism and Social Democracy have in common?
  7. How does Proudhon, the father of modern anarchism, fit into the tradition of socialism from above?
  8. What is the difference between the elitist approach and the vanguard approach to socialism?

July 24: Why We Need a Revolutionary Party

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This discussion will explore the concrete history of the Bolshevik party and the conditions that gave rise to Lenin’s theoretical contributions. The readings delve into questions of economic and political struggle and the purpose of a socialist political organization, agitation and propaganda, and the importance of demarcating oneself in order to win over wider layers of the working class.

Recommended Readings:

Recommended Audio/Video Resources:

July 31: How Far Can the Left Go in the Democratic Party? & How the ISO Organizes in the Trump Era

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The last couple of years have seen a new wave of socialists running for office across the country, inspiring many and building the profile of socialism in the U.S. The recent victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a Democratic Party primary in the Bronx is the latest success story. At the same time, Democratic politicians overall continue to raise only mild resistance to the Trump agenda and to endorse U.S. imperialism. As a result, discussions are happening among socialists everywhere about what to say about the Democratic Party and how to organize. The ISO is part of a tradition that doesn’t view the Democratic Party as a vehicle for change, but that still leaves many questions open about how to relate to campaigns that are energizing left activists and raising important demands. Join us for a discussion about the left, the Democratic Party, and the socialist movement today.

The second half of our meeting will be devoted to a discussion about the ISO’s methods of organizing in recent years.

Recommended Readings:

Recommended Audio/Video Resources:

August 7: Debate, Democracy and Action: How the Left Organizes

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How do revolutionaries organize in a time when most people are not yet revolutionary? This discussion will examine the relationship of socialist organization to a working class that has mixed political consciousness. We will also delve into the differences between social democratic, Stalinist, and revolutionary socialist parties; the theory behind democratic centralist organizing; and the role of training and democratic debate within an organization.

Recommended Readings:

Supplemental Readings:

Recommended Audio/Video Resources:

August 14:Organize, Mobilize, Resist! Why Fighting Racist Terror is More Urgent Than Ever & Why We Organize on Campus

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A year after the fascist violence in Charlottesville, racists emboldened by Trump are once again on the rampage.The vicious murder of Nia Wilson by a racist killer with connections to the Proud Boys was a stark reminder of how dangerous they can be. Join us to discuss and strategize how we can build a movement to drive the far-right off of our streets and out of our communities.

Suggested reading:

The second half of this meeting will be devoted to the ISO’s strategy towards building on campuses over the last several years.

August 21: Marxism, Unions, and the Lessons of the 1930s

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After witnessing the wave of teacher strikes earlier this year, we’ll examine the relationship of socialist activists to the labor movement. At its peak, the U.S. labor movement was deeply connected with socialists and communists. Today, those radical labor traditions are largely absent and unions are fighting to continue to exist amidst an onslaught of attacks. Join us to discuss the history of socialists in the labor movement and how that informs our strategy today.

Recommended Readings:

Recommended Audio/Video Resources:

Study Questions:

  1. Labor unions are reform organizations within capitalism. Why do socialists support them?
  2. What is the “trade union bureaucracy” and what role does it play in US labor relations? Why do socialists organize the rank and file?
  3. What were the achievements of the IWW? What are the problems with anarcho-syndicalism?
  4. What were strengths and weaknesses of the Communist Party in the 1930s?
  5. What role did the Democratic Party and Roosevelt play in the 1930s?
  6. Why did 1934 mark a turning point in US labor history?
  7. How did the Communist Party lead labor radicals backward?
  8. How would a labor party have made a difference in the 1930s?

August 28: How Socialists Relate to the Labor Movement & Seattle ISO Local Fall Organizing Perspectives

This meeting will delve into some current debates among socialists about how to relate to the labor movement under Trump. What does the wave of teacher strikes tell us about the state of the labor movement today? Should we be focusing on getting more socialists into union jobs or are there other strategies that are better suited for our current situation? What are some of the ways that socialists can raise conciousness in their workplaces?

During the second half of the meeting, we’ll also discuss our local organizing perspectives for Fall and various aspects of our work in Seattle.

September 4: Marxism and Black Liberation

The fight against racism and for Black liberation is critical for socialists in the US. This discussion will examine the relationship between racism and capitalist society and also look at some of the debates on the left about how to best fight racism.

Recommended Readings:

Recommended Audio/Video Resources:

Study Questions:

  1. What role did slavery play in the rise of capitalism?
  2. Was slavery the cause of racism, or racism the cause of slavery?
  3. Why did racism survive the end of slavery? Whose interests did it continue to serve?
  4. How did Lenin and the Russian Revolution change the American Communists’ attitude to racial oppression?
  5. Why did Trotsky call for our supporting self-determination for Blacks?Did he mean support for a separate Black nation?
  6. What did CLR James right mean when he wrote, “the Negro struggle, the independent Negro struggle, has a vitality and a validity of its own?”
  7. Do all white people benefit from racism? Is working class unity possible?

September 11: Building a Multiracial Organization Today & Seattle ISO Local Fall Organizing Perspectives

Revolutionary socialists want to build a working class revolution that is by necessity multiracial, multi-gendered, and international. However, given the history of segregation and racism in the U.S., building organizations that are multiracial can be a challenge. In this discussion, we’ll examine some of the challenges of building multiracial organization and developing leadership of socialists of color.

The second half of the meeting will be devoted to continuing a discussion about our Fall perspectives for organizing in Seattle.

September 18: Marxism, Anti-Colonial Struggles, and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination

One of Lenin’s most important contributions to Marxist theory are his writings on the right of nations to self-determination. Drawing on Marx’s dictum that a nation which oppresses another cannot be free, Lenin argued that working-class unity could not be built without workers in the oppressor nation recognizing, and fighting for, the national rights of oppressed nations. Lenin’s views have implications for not only understanding national oppression and its relationship to the fight for socialism, but for approaching other forms of oppression under capitalism.

Recommended Readings:

Recommended Audio/Video Resources:

Study Questions:

  1. Why did Marx and Engels see bourgeois nationalist movements against feudalism as progressive?
  2. Why did Marx and Engels support Ireland’s fight for independence? How did they see this as advancing the international class struggle?
  3. Why did Lenin oppose the Bund’s demand that it be the sole representative of Jewish workers?
  4. Why does Lenin argue for oppressed nations right to self-determination?
  5. Why does Lenin argue that socialist should support this right, but not necessarily endorse secession?
  6. What is Luxemburg’s position on the national question and what are Lenin’s arguments against it?
  7. Why does Lenin oppose the idea of national cultural autonomy and instead support international or cosmopolitan culture?
  8. What is the significance of Lenin’s argument that socialist should maintain their independence in national liberation struggles and never give them communist coloration?

September 25: Debates on the Left: Marxism and Anarchism

Marxism and anarchism share many political positions, including opposition to capitalism and a desire to build a society based on cooperation and meeting everyone’s needs. Nonetheless, there are differences between Marxist and anarchist philosophies that have implications for how we organize and the structure of the society we want to build. Join us for a discussion about the places where Marxists and anarchists agree and disagree, and what that means for our movements.

Recommended Readings:

Recommended Audio/Video Resources:

Study Questions:

  1. What are some core beliefs of anarchism?
  2. How did the founders of modern anarchism become proponents of authoritarianism themselves?
  3. Why is a worker’s state necessary to consolidate a socialist revolution?
  4. How did anarchism’s principles lead to defeat in the Spanish Revolution?
  5. How can anarchism lead to elitism and opposition to democracy?
  6. What are prefigurative politics? Is this an effective way of organizing?
  7. Can society be changed without taking power?
  8. Are anarchists in favor of reforms?
  9. How should Marxists relate to anarchists in movements?

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