They looked like an ordinary assortment of young people settling into a Marvin Center room Tuesday night, but the dozen attendants at the meeting of the International Socialists Organization called themselves and their mission “revolutionary.”
Embracing the prospect of economic equality and deriding the sins of capitalism, the young ISO members debated where to concentrate their efforts and how best to keep their vision of reform in motion.
The ultimate goal of the ISO is to institutionalize its ideology of economic and social equality throughout the world and dissolve the world’s firmly entrenched capitalist structures, members said. But until that day comes, they are finding some success tackling important related issues, warming the public to the socialist agenda on an incremental basis.
Last fall, the ISO and the Campaign to End the Death Penalty co-sponsored a rally to halt Maryland’s execution of convicted murderer Tyrone Gilliam. Though Gilliam eventually was executed Nov. 16, the campus program, which featured a live chat with the death row inmate, drew a crowd of nearly 150 people, estimates ISO member Angela Davis.
The ISO also joined many campus groups in protesting a Ku Klux Klan rally in Annapolis, Md., last year.
“We do so much,” junior Barak Epstein said. “From protesting the death penalty, to trying to expose the destruction of the sanctions in Iraq.” ISO members are promoting a video that purports to show “the gritty truth of what the war and UN sanctions have done to the Iraqi people,” according to a promotional flier. The video will air this Monday at 7 p.m. Marvin Center room 410.
In their group’s second year on campus, ISO members are developing a presence by stationing themselves outside the Marvin Center every Friday afternoon, selling copies of the Chicago-based socialist newspaper Socialist Worker, and distributing free literature about relevant issues and upcoming events. Members said their meetings soon should be held weekly.
Speaking at the meeting Tuesday, Socialist Worker writer Lee Sustar gave an impassioned plea for the socialist cause, suggesting his economic ideology as the answer to a “deep crisis internationally.”
Sustar argued the capitalism that was supposed to “save the world” at the end of the Cold War has “failed” in nearly every country because of the ever-widening gap between rich and poor.
“In Thailand, parents are selling their daughters into prostitution before they graduate from the sixth grade,” he said. “Why? Because they can’t afford to feed them. Their parents think it’s better to have them alive and working in prostitution than dying of starvation.”
Noting the numerous global economies that crashed in the past year, Sustar warned that America’s mighty dollar could not possibly be far behind.
Sustar said getting past the “myth of socialism in Russia” is still a major challenge to the progress of the ISO, though policy changes in many western nations show the tide is turning toward socialist initiatives such as universal health care and Social Security benefits.
Russia’s failings, he said, were caused by the poverty of the nation, which left people vulnerable to Stalin’s takeover and subsequent abuse. In the many countries that are rich by comparison, socialism should flourish, he said.
Davis, a graduate student, said many students are unsure how to become activists without going through government channels.
“Many students come to this school specifically because they have an interest in changing things through politics,” she said. “So they join the college political organizations, but they won’t really find solutions.”
Once a College Democrat, Davis said she is glad to work with any organization for a similar cause, but the ISO does “believe that reforming the political system is critical.”