“The comrade in the black hat please”- These were the first words I heard when I entered the New England Marxism Conference on Saturday, November 12, 2011. Though I find it unsettling that I can use the terms ‘Marxism’ and 2011 in the same sentence, I found it more uncanny that the socialists decided to hold their conference in the Science Center of one of the top Ivy league colleges in the country, Harvard University.
The two day conference was broken into workshops, which discussed subjects like the working class and oppression, Black Liberation and Socialism, and objectives of Marxism. Though I have never felt marginalized as a non-white before, my curiosity forced me to check out the Black Liberation conference. As I settled down on the stairs of the auditorium, as all the seats were filled out, it tickled me to notice a handful of Asians, and a Rasta black guy with a big Afro.
“Capitalism forces to compete. It creates the potential to pitt working classes against each other, and forces racism, ethnic and gender divides”, yelled out Jonah Birch from the podium. Birch had taken the time out from his busy Occupy New York schedule to attend this conference in Boston. After he finished his energetic rant where he ripped apart Ron Paul, bank and mortgage companies and the media all with equal fervor, Birch open the floor to his comrades. One of the initial participants who spoke brought up the issues of foreclosures and stated that there had been 10 million foreclosures since 2008, and most were affecting homes of black and Latino people. Another lady brought the injustice against Troy Davis to the floor. For the next hour, people from all over New England, each representing an occupy movement, expressed dissatisfaction in almost every aspect of public structure. If it wasn’t the occupy movement that brought them together, it was their hatred for White people, antagonism towards “American Apartheid”, and amazing ability to find oppression hidden in every mundane social process.
Unable to contribute much to the discussion, I flipped over the reading material handed out to all participants of the conference. The last two pages had listings of various food and refreshment venues in the area. Starbucks and Dunkin headed the list.
Figuring that I had nothing in common with black oppression and slavery, I waltzed off to check out the conference on women’s oppression. At least this room had a significant number of women, most of whom sat holding hands and nuzzling each others hair. The speaker, a daunting tall white woman with a booming gospel voice had enamored her audience with speeches on sexual liberation, right wing politics, the church, the criminal justice system and what have you. I learnt new phrases that day, ‘Power Feminism’ being my favourite one. The term simply means that women in politics, or in high ranks of business and power are capitalists themselves. In this room, Michelle Bachmann and Hillary Clinton got their fair share of mud slinging.
“The comrade with the anti-NATO pins”, yelled the chair allowing the young man his turn to speak. He got up in his place, scratched around his bull ring and smoothed the crease of his plaid shirt, before he mumbled a few words of gratitude to the speaker.
As I got up to leave a pretty young comrade winked and waved a peace sign at me. I departed the conference and went Christmas shopping at Macy’s.
Written for an ‘Opinions and Editorials’ class at Boston University with Boston Globe Columnist, Adrian Walker.