This Saturday, the Midwest Marxist Conference was held at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. The event was teeming with teachers who spoke about the new found bond between the radical socialists and their Teachers Union. The all-day event, which collected money to support Chicago Socialists and featured a communist bookstore, provided students on-campus along with the radical left community to plan the next phase in their activism.
Becca Barnes, a Chicago Teachers Union teacher and organizer with Chicago Socialists, proclaimed at the beginning of the conference that “the struggle here in the United States has entered a new phase. Nowhere have we pointed the way forward more clearly than here in Chicago with the teachers union strike.”
After the opening plenary, breakout sessions addressed more specific topics like the history of the Democratic party, education, and case studies in Russia. In these sessions, speakers continued to celebrate the use of education as a mechanism to insert Marxism into public institutions. In one session, the idea of targeting their message to students, even over “the working class,” was debated.
One teacher, who spoke in an afternoon session, described his tactics to overcome the problem of teachers’ unwillingness to take part in the strike, while Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey underscored Barnes’s earlier point when he spoke about the “struggle” of Chicago teachers and the need for additional support from other revolutionary movements. Through a renewed focus on the “strike weapon,” Socialist organizers remarked that they felt their movement had rediscovered its vigor—and the path forward ought to include “mass strikes,” they said.