“Socialism 2023” conference: Imperialist warmongering and … – WSWS

The “Socialism 2023” conference took place in Chicago from September 1 to 4. It was sponsored by Haymarket Books and the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), along with a handful of pseudo-left organizations, including Left Voice, Socialist Alternative, Tempest, Firebrand and splinters from the now-defunct International Socialist Organization (ISO), which used to organize the annual conference.

The event, held under the slogan “Politics. Education. Community,” had a thoroughly bourgeois-academic character. It was dominated by the self-absorption and reactionary politics of the upper middle class milieu populating the DSA, the fraudulent “reformists” of the trade union bureaucracy and pro-imperialist state operatives.

The political concepts and viewpoints put forth were squarely within the political and ideological framework of the Democratic Party, from the moral-religious “ethics of care,” to obsessions over issues related to identity politics, to support for US imperialism.

No panel attempted to seriously address the political situation or the critical experiences of the past several years, including the COVID-19 pandemic; the colossal political, economic, social and cultural crisis in the US and internationally; the rise of fascism; and the political character of the Biden administration. To the extent any of these issues were even referenced, they were presented through the lens of identity politics.

Underneath the academic pettifogging, the main aim of the conference was promoting the politics of the Democratic Party, above all the US-NATO war against Russia and the preparations for war against China. These were combined with efforts to promote illusions in the corporatist trade union apparatus, the key means of suppressing the class struggle and subordinating the working class to the war effort.

Pro-imperialist warmongering

Two panels on imperialism and war were directed in particular at shoring up support for the war in Ukraine and regime change in Russia, under conditions in which the much vaunted Ukrainian “counter-offensive” has produced a debacle.

The first panel, “Imperialism & Anti-Imperialism,” was led by prominent former members of the now-defunct International Socialist Organization, Ashley Smith and Lee Wengraf. Smith in particular has made a career of promoting the line of the CIA and State Department. Prior to the dissolution of the ISO, Smith was an ardent supporter of the CIA-backed regime change operation in Syria. When the ISO dissolved itself in 2019, he entered the DSA to be the chief promoter of US imperialism. 

Wengraf and Smith presented a potted history of the last 150 years, culminating in the 1991 dissolution of the USSR. Smith explained that this resulted in the US being “the biggest bully on the block” and “the main enemy—but not the only enemy.” 

After this pro-forma statement, Smith proceeded to the central argument: that it is necessary for “socialists” to support the operations of US imperialism in its conflict with other “imperialist” powers. He declared that Russia, China, Syria and Iran are “imperialist” and “sub-imperialist” powers. Referring to Brazil, China, India and Russia, he said, “They are after imperial power.” 

The false claim that not only Russia and China, but also Syria, Iran, etc. are “imperialist” or “sub-imperialist” is aimed at providing the political justification for supporting US-backed regime change operations under the guise of backing struggles for “national self-determination.”

The “left,” Smith continued, has made the mistake of “selective solidarity,” by dismissing US-backed regime change operations as “color revolutions.” Ignoring himself the role of US intelligence agencies in countries targeted for regime change, he insisted that “It’s never true that the US is manipulating masses of people, especially as the US is in decline since Iraq.” 

As for the war in Ukraine, he declared, “Russia has launched an imperialist war. The US-NATO struggle for control over Ukraine doesn’t matter.” In this way, the entire history background of the war is simply dismissed as insignificant, as is the fact that the United States and NATO powers have financed the war with unlimited weaponry. 

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