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USA: Putting forward a Socialist Alternative in Seattle
More than 140 people came to discuss socialist ideas for changing the world at the socialism conference, organised by the CWI-affiliated organisation Socialist Alternative and held at Seattle University, which marked a big step forward for socialists in Washington State.
Socialist Alternative reporters, US CWI
The discussion "Where is the change Obama promised? - resisting war and cuts in jobs and education" featured prominent anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, who set up a camp outside George Bush's Texas ranch in 2005 to ask him why her son Casey was sent to die in Iraq.
Cindy explained how she had concluded that capitalism is the root cause of wars and the economic crisis we face.
The discussion dealt with the role of the two-headed "war party", as Cindy termed the big-business Democratic and Republican parties that dominate the US political system.
Cindy spoke about how Democratic Party leaders promised her that if she helped get them elected, they would end the war. However, after they took control of Congress in the 2006 elections, they failed to follow through on their promises. In 2008 Cindy decided to run an independent, anti-war campaign for Congress against Democratic Party House leader Nancy Pelosi, coming in second place and winning an impressive 17% of the vote.
The discussion also featured Richard Curtis, an independent left-wing Washington candidate for the US Senate, as well as Philip Locker, a national organiser for Socialist Alternative. Philip explained how the working class anger has led to many opinion polls showing a growth in support for socialist ideas.
Another session, "Capitalism in Crisis and the Case for Socialism", featured Matt Gonzalez, the vice presidential running mate of Ralph Nader in 2008 who nearly became the first Green Party mayor of a major US city in 2003 in San Francisco.
Matt argued that the many injustices in society made it "easy to critique capitalism" and talked about the need to push for far-reaching reforms in society. This sparked a debate that helped clarify the need to fight for immediate reforms as well as for a socialist world.
The day finished with a debate between Tea Party blogger Keli Carender and Socialist Alternative organiser Ramy Khalil. The Tea Party movement, supported by Fox News and other corporate backers, has an echo for its ideas amongst a significant minority of Americans particularly because of their opposition to the Wall Street bailouts.
Keli made the case that capitalism is "the only moral system" for the protection of individual rights and argued that "big government" was the main problem in society. But Ramy argued that, under capitalism, the government was a tool of the corporate elite who always seek to increase their profits at the expense of working people.
The conference's success is reflected in the collection of over $1,800 in donations, and dozens of people signed up to get more information about Socialist Alternative.
In The Socialist 19 May 2010:
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party election analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Marxist analysis: history
Socialist Party workplace news