Photo by Tim Horras
On August 4-6, Philly Socialists held a national conference in Philadelphia entitled Toward a Marxist Center: Base-Building in the Socialist Movement. Socialist groups, mainly youth, came from Mobile, Alabama; Richmond, Virginia; Seattle and Tacoma, Washington; Sacramento, California; Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky; Austin, San Marcos and Houston, Texas; Colorado Springs; New York; Paterson, New Jersey; Pittsburgh, Lancaster, Haverford and Bucks County, PA; and, of course, Philly.
The focus was around base-building. These words from the website defined the conference: “Each group has its own unique character and history emerging from specific local conditions, but all of our groups possess in common two characteristics: ideological pluralism within a socialist framework and a political practice which focuses on base-building and the construction of ‘dual power’ institutions.”
To break it down: Base-building is work among the people. Many people are asking where to dig in and how to dig in. For us, we need to have conversations that build the muscle and bone of a beginning revolutionary movement. Without knowing how people live and their questions (and answers), without us communicating our strategy and ideas to them, without debating the big questions with them and among ourselves, we cannot lay the basis for a revolutionary movement that is actually revolutionary and is actually a movement.
The conference did this. It also raised some new questions. For example, what about internationalism? And after Charlottesville, one debate has become even more important than ever: How do we get rid of white supremacy?
People have asked, “What is dual power?” This is my answer: We do not have state power. But we can organize ourselves—in our communities and wherever we are. Tenant groups are a form of dual power institution. Campuses can have anti-fascist groups. There need to be movements to free prisoners, political or otherwise, and alliances to give sanctuary to immigrants and to stop the escalating attacks on immigrants.
People have also asked, “What is ideological pluralism?” I think it means we are open to different political philosophies. We welcome debate. How do we prepare for conjuncture—when things come together in a certain way and the result is like an earthquake—in our base-building and other moments that light the sky? I do think we need to study theory, and apply that theory to our practice. One or the other will not take us where we need to go.
We were not able to discuss at the conference, “How do we prepare to be ungovernable in 2017?” by Kali Akuno. For the future.
At the end of the conference, after some groups had to leave, those remaining came to some non-binding agreements. There are plans for a one-time theoretical journal stemming from the conference. This would include transcription of conference panels and conversations initiated by the conference. All this would include the questions, “What is base-building?” and “What is the dual power approach to socialist organizing?”
There was agreement on having a follow-up conference in 2018. There was also agreement on having both regional training camps and one centralized national training camp in Philly.
I think people are still summing up the conference, and this will continue. You can send your thoughts to the Partisan and to Philly Socialists on Facebook.
Congrats to the people who made this conference real. As we move ahead, let’s debate what kind of world we want. We need a common language.
Seems a different day is approaching. This conference met the challenge by contributing to building the national movement needed.
Empires don’t break up all at once. But there are some cracks here.
As an earlier writer to the Partisan said, “As we speed ahead in this era of uncertainty, we hope you’ll join us.”
Yes. Join us. To the Future!
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