Sherri Mitchell

Sherri Mitchell


Questioning capitalism? Learn more about an increasingly popular alternative.

April 19, 2017


Last year, a Harvard University survey concluded that a majority of young Americans between 18 and 29 years old rejected capitalism, and fully one-third now support socialism as an alternative. Despite this interesting development, very few Americans of any age have a clear idea of what socialism is. To help remedy that situation locally, the Boston Socialist Unity Project (BSUP) is holding its second annual public conference this weekend at MIT. I caught up with Suren Moodliar, one of the BSUP organizers, to ask him why people should consider attending to learn more about a political economic system based on the idea that workers should democratically control their government, their workplaces, and the fruits of their labor.

What is the Boston Socialist Unity Project?

It is a collaborative that focuses on education to foster a greater sense of community among Boston area socialists and organizations in hopes of developing better communication, stronger campaigns, and a broader vision of a future without capitalism.

Socialism has been making a comeback in recent years, and is considered a fresh set of ideas worth considering by many young people. Why do you think that is?

To be sure there is a certain newness. But it is a powerful and deeply popular idea that has resurfaced in the United States and globally in response to the bomb dropping, climate altering, and livelihood destroying economic system championed by Donald Trump and his fellow race warriors. If activists “name our pains,” socialist activists must also name that which we must gain. When Bernie Sanders had to distinguish himself from his bomb dropping, climate altering, and livelihood-destroying Democratic Party rivals, he turned to the socialist idea. In doing so, he was echoing a movement that elected mayors and congresspeople from Kansas to Massachusetts in a previous gilded age, and that had deep roots in the South as defenders of Black freedom. Young people, union workers, and people of color have historically been the most receptive to socialist ideas given their experience of a system that fails to address their most basic needs as individuals, that also fails them as communities, and serves only a rapidly diminishing minority of humanity.

What is the goal of the 2017 BSUP conference in the context of a socialist resurgence?

This year’s conference takes place in a historical context that is unprecedented in modern times — never before have the dominant parties and the presidency shared such low legitimacy while their ruling ideas hang on by force of habit and power rather than merit. For the Boston Socialist Unity Project, the challenge is to engage that majority of Americans who are searching for answers; our second annual conference promises to be a second installment paying down a huge debt to the future. Specifically, the conference showcases important ideas and strategic choices that the left has to consider.

Who are the keynote speakers this year?

On Friday, we have turned to Barbara Madeloni of the Mass Teachers Association, a union that successfully defended public education in Massachusetts against corporate privatizers last year, and to Eugene Puryear, organizer of this coming August’s “Millions for Prisoners” march in Washington.

On Saturday, we take the climate crisis head on with Sherri Mitchell, an indigenous activist and lawyer from Maine, and Fred Magdoff, a soil scientist from Vermont. Together, they address both the original sin of the American state and the global challenge of environmental catastrophe.

Matching the dysfunctional economic system is a political one that rewards its boy-president every time he lobs a bomb on a defenseless country. Helping the conference understand these dynamics is the legendary socialist writer and activist Vijay Prashad. He will lead a workshop and a plenary session on imperialism.

There are several small socialist organizations in Boston … plus many self-identified socialists — myself included — who aren’t in an organization. How can people interested in socialism figure out where to plug in?

Each conversation provides entry points for interested individuals to engage with socialist ideas and formations. More intimate discussions will also take place in workshops that address grassroots organizing on campuses, for housing and health, in the media, and on music and revolution.

I should add that socialists have notoriously diverse political strategies; so, our Saturday lunchtime plenary deals with that issue directly. Political projects of various stripes will present their strategies for social change — working inside of the dominant parties, against the same, or outside the entire system, or some combination thereof. This may also surface important areas of convergence and cooperation.

The Boston Socialist Unity Project 2nd Annual Conference will be held on Fri., April 21 and Sat., April 22, 2017 at MIT Room 34–101, 50 Vassar St. in Cambridge. For full info and to register, check out the BSUP website: $10 donation requested.

Apparent Horizon is syndicated by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. Jason Pramas is BINJ’s network director and senior editor of DigBoston.

Copyright 2017 Jason Pramas. Licensed for use by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and media outlets in its network.

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