Above photo: Delegates from Abahlali baseMjondolo and NUMSA arriving to the III Dilemmas of Humanity Conference. Rafael Stedile.
Left Leaders Gather In Johannesburg.
The III International Dilemmas of Humanity will run from October 14 to 18.
What does socialism and building socialism mean to the leaders of mass movements and left political parties from across the world? This question is at the center of the debates for the next several days at the III International Dilemmas of Humanity Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. Around 500 movement leaders, trade unionists, and members of left parties from more than 70 countries are partaking in the conference which will culminate on October 18, 2023.
The conference is organized by the International Peoples’ Assembly (IPA) and hosted by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), Abahlali base Mjondolo, and the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party of South Africa.
The first day kicked off with remarks by NUMSA President Andrew Chirwa who condemned that, “The world capitalist system survives and thrives by exploiting nature, exploiting the working class, the poor, the rural farmers, and Indigenous people. It extracts maximum value it does not pay for, from the working class and the poor.” But he said, this conference would be a space to “plot how to overcome this crisis and build socialism.”
This was followed by a panel discussion which focused on the current situation in Palestine, condemning the indiscriminate Israeli bombing of the Gaza strip, as well as how to strengthen the international solidarity movement to end the occupation of Palestine once and for all. The discussion featured Palestinian activists Leila Khaled, historic member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Arwa Abu Hashhash, representative of the Palestinian People’s Party; as well as Naledi Pandor, the Foreign Minister of South Africa, Ronnie Kasrils, ex-minister of Intelligence of South Africa and founding member of the armed wing of the ANC during the anti-apartheid struggle, uMkhonto we Sizwe, and Claudia de la Cruz, the presidential candidate for the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
In the afternoon, delegates partook in a discussion titled: Building Socialism Today, where panelists spoke about concrete experiences of building socialist solutions to the problems facing humanity.
Daniel Jadue, the mayor of the Recoleta municipality and a member of the Communist Party of Chile, shared his reflections on how his municipality has tried to confront the primary issues facing the population such as access to healthcare and medicine, access to housing, and increases in the cost of living. He said that by strengthening grassroots work, and retaking direct and consistent dialogue with the community, his administration has not only been able to implement social programs and services which meet their needs such as the popular clinic and pharmacy, subsidized housing, and discounted rate for services, but they have also rebuilt trust and the social fabric of the community. He stated that the strengthening of this kind of grassroots work has to be a primary task for the left across the globe if people are serious about defeating the rising threat of the far-right. “Socialism is not just a possibility, it is the only possibility,” the Recoleta mayor declared.
The People’s Republic of China has been building its own path towards socialism since 1949, and “[it] has gone through many stages. Many advances, and many steps back. Many lessons, many errors,” Tings Chak of the Dongsheng News collective said. The researcher focused her intervention on sharing of the recent initiatives by the country to further itself on the path towards socialism and address some of the more difficult contradictions that persist in the country.
The eradication of extreme poverty is one such example. Chak stated, “The people, the poor, the peasants themselves were the protagonists in lifting themselves out of poverty. It wasn’t just a handout from the government.”
Carmen Navas, the executive director of the Simón Bolívar Institute of Venezuela spoke about the Bolivarian Revolution and how a socialist consciousness was built in the country through the construction of social policies but also a transformation of the political system and political life, to put people at the center. “The Venezuelan population, which did not talk about socialism in 1989, 30 years later began to talk about socialism, thanks to Chávez,” Navas stated.
For Marxist historian Vijay Prashad, socialism is the process of transcending the obstinate facts in the world such as “hunger, illiteracy, homelessness”. He added that it is not that there is no consensus among the majority of the world’s population that these things should be overcome, but the people lack the power to be able to take this forward. Prashad gave a rallying call and stated that “In order to build power we have to build the strength of the working class and the peasantry. And in many places, this will require rebuilding the class, rescuing collective life, rebuilding the culture of struggle.”