I first heard of the event, “Socialism from moment to movement,” when some Facebook friends clicked “interested” and it appeared on my timeline. I paid it no mind, but took a screenshot of it so I would be reminded of it every time I went through my photos. It was the day before the event that I decided to attend.
I arrived 10 minutes early. For some reason I did not notice that it was an International Socialist Organization event. When I entered the room, a mid-50’s white woman cornered me and bombarded me with questions:
“What are you thinking about this election?”
“Do you consider yourself a leftist?”
“Would you like to join one of our book groups?”
I answered them as quickly as she asked them. Although, I felt like I was trying to impress her as if I had to show her that I was a card carrying Leftist. Around 7, I took my seat in an empty row. Shortly after, the room started to fill up. As I watched those who entered the room, my eye caught the moment when another white woman in her mid-50’s entered and spoke with the one I just talked to and I saw her point to me. The newly arrived woman then came and sat next to me. She too asked me several questions. These were more personal though. Like what I did for work and where I live. She seemed more interested in what I thought than the first woman. It wasn’t until 7:20 when the speaker finally gave her presentation. She offered an incredible historical overview of socialism in the US starting with the 1919 Strike in Seattle up through Occupy Wall Street and Bernie. I was hoping the talk was going to address how to harness the energy from the Bernie campaign and use it to empower the Left; instead, they called Bernie a totalitarian socialist. It felt like they were trying to split the already fractured and unorganized Left. We need to protect and watch each other’s backs, not to stab each other.
After the talk, there was an hour and a half for questions and responses. They were both done by audience members, which I liked that it wasn’t the speaker who had all the answers. The questions included “Who will pay for free healthcare?” “How can there be free tuition?” and “Do we really need Democracy; will it not always be tied to capitalism?” By the end of the hour, I heard so much proselytizing for socialism that I felt very uncomfortable. As well, as the event went on, the room kept getting warmer and I was ready to leave. The question session ended at 9:10pm. I tried to burst out of there, but before I could, I was handed a Socialist newspaper and a flier by one of the women I spoke with earlier.
I found the whole event overwhelming. There was not much room for political discourse, other than what they called ‘socialism from below.’ I came in not quite knowing what the event was about and left exhausted and sad for the state of Leftist discourse. I’ve never thought of myself as a socialist. For me, the language is too strong and I’d rather not have the State be our only overlord of Almighty Capital.
I’ll keep with the label anarchist or anarcho-communist, situating myself in a politic of community, autonomy-in-togetherness, and anti-capitalism: where we’re fighting for a world where everyone has a place to live and thrive. And sure, socialists have similar ends, but their means depend far too much on power-as-it-is rather than imagining new ways of being.
In general, the title “Socialism from moment to movement” was more of a history lesson than anything one can posit for the future. At one point the speaker said that we need to be ready for revolution at any moment and their reading groups and conferences are how we get prepared. Maybe that’s how one prepares intellectually and emotionally, but also we too need to prepare by getting to know our neighbors, their needs, and start living into the revolution here and now.