EVERY YEAR the City University of New York’s (CUNY) chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) sponsors the Socialists Scholars Conference (SSC). Bogdan Denitch, a Sociology professor at CUNY, is the founder of the conference. He is an honorary co-chair of the DSA and its permanent delegate to the Socialist International. Denitch has chaired the conference for eighteen years.
Each year the Socialist Scholars Conference features the elite of socialist academia. Last month the twentieth annual conference was held at the Cooper Union, a college in New York City. The occasion brought in 2000 scholars, union activists, political revolutionaries, reformers, and those fed up with "corporate greed."
Among the speakers for this year’s conference were Charles Barron, a New York City Councilman and former Black Panther, Michael Cohen, editor of Green Politics (the national newspaper of the Green Party USA), Leonard Weinglass of the National Lawyers Guild and attorney for Mumia Abu Jamal, and Edward Said.
Speakers and panel members at prior conferences included liberal luminaries such as Michael Moore, the Reverend Al Sharpton, Manning Marable of the Black Radical Congress, Katha Pollit, Noam Chomsky, Steffi Woolhandler, Julianne Malveaux, and Cornel Westwho is an honorary chair of the DSA.
More than a few politicians have also stopped by to participate in these confabs. Ron Dellums, a former congressman and one-time Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee who now serves as the Vice Chairman of the DSA, was a panel member for a 1995 session titled: "Toward a New Foreign Policy." New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler was there in 1997 for a panel session called, "Revitalizing the Labor Movement." His fellow New York Congressman, Major Owens, a DSA member, was a participant during the 1997 opening plenary session.
In 1995, Dellums and Owens were part of the Congressional Black Caucus and were two-thirds of the Progressive Caucus Executive Committee. Along with Congressman Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a frequent SSC speaker, Dellums formed the Progressive Caucus in 1992. The membership of the Progressive Caucus reads like a Who’s Who of Congressional Democrats. Ironically, in 1994 the Progressive Caucus issued some legislative alternatives to the GOP’s Contract with America. They called the alternatives the " Progressive Promise. " One piece of legislation the Progressive Caucus wanted to introduce in 1994 was a wholesale reduction of funding for military and intelligence spending.
Is there a trend here? Socialist members of Congress, who just happen to be Democratsor in Sanders’ case, an "Independent" who votes with the Democratsare featured speakers at a conference for socialist college professors. They routinely voted to decrease funding for military and intelligence activities during the Clinton administration. The comrade dons at the SSC represent colleges which have very active "peace movements." It seems the only question is who influences whom. Are the professors influencing the politicians, or is it the politicians influencing the professors?
Just as interesting as the speakers are the panel sessions and sponsors of the SSC. For example, Panel # 59 of the 2001 conference featured Major Owens and Cornel West. The title of the session was: "Can Elections Be a Vehicle for Democracy?"
Uh? A democracy without elections? You need to ask?
A 1998 panel was sponsored by Socialist Action and featured Teamsters’ President Ron Carey. It was titled, "Government Intervention in Unions." Carey should be intimately familiar with the subject since it was the government that deposed him. This same conference had a panel called "Communisms Realized and Unrealized."
One of the sponsors for the 1998 conference was the Radical Philosophy Association an organization that protests the war against terrorism. Another sponsor was the PhD program in Sociology at CUNY Graduate School. This sponsor is somewhat disconcerting. Are public funds being used to sponsor a socialist forum? Can Harvard University’s MBA program get public money to sponsor a capitalist forum?
The Socialist Scholars Conference is an excellent example of the nexus of socialists in government, academia, and the media. The conference is very well organized and funded. It provides the intellectual justification for the DSA and it serves as a marketplace of ideas for them. Because of this conference socialist politicians, media, and academicians can learn to communicate their message and educate the public. This is what the DSA wants to accomplish. It is a neo-Fabian socialist organization dedicated to educating America to vote for socialists and to change the USA to the USSA.