Marxism in the Science Center

Charlene Mortyn

The New England Marxism Conference sponsored by the International Socialist Organization, took place in the Science Center during the weekend of November 12-13 attracting students and members of the Cambridge community.

The New England Marxism Conference convened at the Science Center this weekend, drawing 180 attendees with workshops such as “Marxism and Oppression” and a closing plenary session that broke out into raucous chants including “Free Palestine! Long live the Intifada!”

The meeting was hosted by the International Socialist Organization (ISO), a group founded in 1977 and supported by member donations, according to organizer Amanda Haziz-Ginsberg, a Divinity School student and participant in Occupy Harvard.

Many attendees at the event said they participated in Occupy protests, including those at Harvard, Burlington, Vt. and Wall Street.

Haziz-Ginsberg said the Harvard ISO was created last spring and is currently applying for club status at the University.

ISO activist and writer Ashley Smith delivered the opening plenary speech, “Why Marx Was Right.” Other conference workshops covered class struggle, racism, and the labor movement.

During the day’s closing plenary, “Is revolution possible in the US,” the crowd erupted into chants: “Obama’s not a socialist, we are!” and “Fuck the church, fuck the state, women must decide our fate!”

The ISO aligns itself with the ideologies of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, and Luxemburg, and does not support the major “corporate-dominated” US political parties.

ISO activist Sherry Wolf spoke about the “99 percent” living under “the ruling class.”

“We are the ones that did everything we were told to do,” she said. “You study hard, you get a degree, you work hard, you play by the rules. And we got screwed.”

Attendees also criticized the American labor movement, saying that individual workers could not be heard in American unions. Others decried the practice of appealing solely to economic interests as a basis for organizing.

One common thread of discussion was a perceived victimization of activists in the “garbage produced by the media.”

“The Protesters were attacked,” Tristin Aidie said. “But the press was able to turn it around with a couple quick words.”

Aidie cited the Minnesota Teamster Strike of 1984 as an example of how socialism may achieve success. Strike organizers depicted corporations as evil in the struggle for wage increases, shorter working hours, and union rights.

The strike of Verizon workers along the East coast, the Oakland general strike, and the Occupy Movement were all mentioned as opportunities for similar organizing strategies.

The Crimson asked Haziz-Ginsberg and Clark University Graduate student Khury Peterson-Smith whether the vocal support for the Intifada at the plenary session expressed support for violence.

“I am against violence but I believe in resistance,” Ginsberg said.

Citing the writings of Malcolm X, Peterson-Smith said, “I believe in resistance by any means necessary.”