|Attendees at the YDS conference in February 2016 gather for a group photo.|
By Louie Messina
The 2016 national YDS Winter Conference, aptly titled “Generation Left: Millennials Building the Next Socialist Movement,” was a powerful demonstration of the widespread excitement and motivation that is growing in today’s Left, especially among its youth leaders. The conference was held at the MayDay Community Center in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, Feb. 12-14. The event served as a successful forum for education, networking, and camaraderie for over 100 young activists and socialists.
As was to be expected, some of the weekend was focused on the Sanders campaign, and what we, as young socialists, can do to show our support. The main topic for discussion at the conference, however—and the Berning question in everyone’s minds—was, of course: “What comes after the campaign?” The opening plenary of the conference, titled “Building on Bernie: What Comes Next,” sought to address this question.
Co-sponsored by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung and moderated by Moumita Ahmed, from People for Bernie, this exciting session set the tone for the rest of the conference. Speakers from Jacobin magazine, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, and College Students for Bernie, as well as the We Need Bernie Committee of the DSA, addressed a packed room—filled with socialists, young and old—who were more than happy to fill all available space. Each speaker discussed what their organization was doing to help the campaign and how they were using it as a means to build up the socialist movement. The plenary provided all who attended with a demonstration of the multiple different ways in which we as young socialists can get involved in educating the public and garnering support for the DSA and for socialism in general. In addition, many informative workshops, plenaries, and even casual conversations, addressed the true impact of the Sanders campaign and how we should use it as a means to a greater end, by building the DSA and building the next socialist movement.
Though the YDS winter conferences never lack fun and excitement, they are essential to the growth of our organization, as they always provide high quality discussion and opportunities for education to both new members and seasoned veterans. I was able to attend a wide variety of informative workshops and plenaries over the weekend that branched out from the normal Sanders rhetoric, which many of us are already well versed in. Among my personal favorites were two workshops, one of which was entitled “Fighting the Neoliberal University” and the other, “Coalition Work and Solidarity.” The first of these, “Fighting the Neoliberal University,” was of particular interest to me, as my own chapter at Sewanee University is discussing the possibility of a campaign for workers’ rights for those employed by our school. The workshop provided valuable information about some of the challenges and strategies of running such a campaign. All the speakers provided helpful commentary and tips, and were able to answer all of my detailed questions. Other topics of discussion included Gender and Sexuality, Socialist Feminism, Starting a YDS Chapter, Alternative Labor Organizing, and Climate Change and Capitalism—all of which are important aspects of our organization and our political movement.
In many ways, the Sanders campaign has already sparked the next socialist movement, but it doesn’t stop there. It is up to us to continue being social justice activists, continue speaking out against capitalism and the systems of oppression which it creates, continue campaigning for socialist candidates, and continue feeding the fire. This conference was evidence of the desire for change that already exists in our nation’s youth. With so many people feeling the Bern, we must seize this opportunity to create a red-hot political revolution.
Louie Messina is an at-large member of the YDS Coordinating Committee and co-chair of the Executive Board of the Sewanee YDS chapter.
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