Left Forum tackles police brutality & harnessing the Sanders campaign (LIVE VIDEO)
The second day of the Left Forum heard damning accounts of police brutality in the US and explored how the Bernie Sanders campaign is shaking America’s political foundations.
On Sunday, the final day of the conference, panel sessions included discussions on a wealth of topics, including “Europe’s Refugee Crisis,” “Black Labor and the Fate of Capitalism,” and “Detroit, Greece and Capitalist Abandonment.”
The closing plenary session, entitled “Rage, Rebellion, Organizing New Power: A Hegelian Triad,” is the highlight of Sunday’s schedule.
Democracy Now host Amy Goodman and public intellectual Slavoj Žižek are both speaking during event, a live stream of which can be watched above.
Thousands have flocked to the weekend conference named “Rage, Rebellion, Revolution” at John Jay College in New York City. Saturday night’s main event was a discussion entitled “Black Liberation and the Sanders Groundswell: Prospects for Left Unity.”
Speaking during the plenary were activist and Socialist Seattle councilmember Kshama Sawant, author and Princeton University professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, author and professor of political science August H. Mintz, and investigative journalist Debbie Bookchin.
In a wide ranging discussion, aspects of the Black Lives Matter movement were discussed, but a particular focus was given to groups interacting with the movement – in particular, police.
Pointing to the policing of black communities across the US, Taylor described how “police are an invasive species that are unleashed by the capitalist class to maintain social control… and to maintain the disorder that is this society.”
"We are seeing the fundamental incompatibility of capitalism and democracy."- August H. Nimtz #LeftForum2016— Left Forum (@LeftForum) May 22, 2016
Sawant echoed this, stating that those in power, even as high as the Oval Office, aren’t doing enough for those who need help most.
“Obama may have similar skin color to me and Keeanga but he’s not on our side because he’s not of our class, he’s not fighting for us,” Sawant told the audience.
Bookchin went one step further, arguing that for changes to be implemented in “the police state,” it would be necessary to “destroy the nation state”.
Running parallel to this was a discussion on the best way to form a unified Left to challenge the duopoly in US politics presented by the Republican and Democratic parties, so that such issues could be tackled from the top down.
Sawant thought the best approach would be for “the Left” to come together, not just within the US, but around the world.
“The only alternative to the race to the bottom globally is for working class people everywhere to challenge and beat back the domination of big business wherever they are,” she said.
Discussing how best to harness the movement for change that has grown off the back of the Bernie Sanders campaign, Sawant said she believed that “because of the shift in consciousness that has happened, his [Bernie’s] campaign has electrified tens of millions of ordinary working people, especially an entire new generation.”
“Bernie’s campaign offers us the potential to start discussing the question of independent politics in a serious manner, and the other is a corporate candidate whose entire record is antagonistic to our movements,” she added.
The panel discussed the importance of laying the foundations for a new, independent party, rather than trying to fix the Democratic Party with its ties to Wall Street and corporations.
Wrapping up the session, Sawant again highlighted how important it is for those on the political Left outside the main parties to respond to the growing need for something different.
“If we are the Left, then we have a duty to show a way forward,” Sawant said. “It would be a profound abdication of responsibility if we refuse to engage in struggles today because there were defeats in the past,” she stressed