Discussing the world we want

June 1, 2011

NEW YORK--Nearly 2,000 people crowded into the big hall of Manhattan's famed Riverside Church on May 20 to hear left-wing authors Angela Davis, Ruthie Gilmore and Vijay Prashad speak as part of an event titled "The World We Want Is the World We Need," moderated by GRITtv host Laura Flanders.

The event was sponsored by the prison abolition organization Critical Resistance and was meant to address the growing climate for change in the world. The audience included people of many ages and backgrounds, and activists from various political struggles.

All the speakers recognized that everyone present was clearly for change. And not just any "change"--several remarked that the world that we want and need is a socialist one.

Speaking on topics as diverse as immigration rights, U.S. imperialism, mass incarceration, the Arab Spring and the occupation of the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., the speakers argued that all issues are interrelated, and that a system where profit trumps need--where people came second to the wealth of a small elite--inevitably breeds oppression.

Davis referred to the old labor movement slogan that an injury to one is an injury to all. She recalled an interview she had given a journalist who asked her what she would pick if she had to pick one issue as the most important of our time. As she thought about racism, Islamophobia, sexism, homophobia, mass incarceration, xenophobia, health care, labor, education and many more, she came back with an answer: All were equally as important and interdependent. You could not solve one, she said, without addressing the others.

The issue of prison abolition was raised by Davis and Ruthie Gilmore--in the spirit of socialist Eugene Debs, they argued that so long as there were people behind bars, none of us could be free. The "war on drugs," which targets communities of color, the poor and the working class, is a foul example oppression, Davis said.

Unfortunately, speakers failed to emphasize the connections between such issues. And the evening would have benefited from more discussion about the role of organization in the struggles and movements of today.

Nonetheless, the speakers were inspiring--as was hearing the words "democracy" and "socialism" blaring to hundreds of eager ears inside the walls of Riverside Church.

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