Socialists at SF State
Iraq war dominates discussion in first meeting.
February 3, 2006 12:31 AM
Mostly boos and hisses filled the crowded room in response to a student saying that 2005 began with the reelection of President George Bush.
“We need to not give up power, we need to put up a fight,” said Alex Schmaus, 21, a member of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) at SF State. “Do we still have hope?”
Schmaus was part of nearly 40 students who attended the ISO's first meeting of the semester Thursday night at 7 p.m. in Rosa Parks Room A, which is located at the lower level of the Cesar Chavez Student Center.
The group discussed hot topics such as the war in Iraq, abortion and capitalism.
“Capitalism means racism, homophobia and war,” said Schmaus, who is also a member of Students Against War (SAW), another student organization at SF State. “We could have enough food and clean water for everyone in the world with the amount of money they have spent on the war. Who do we have to blame? The easy answer would be George Bush.”
According to the Congressional Budget Office, $320 billion has been spent on Iraq and Afghanistan since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Schmaus and the ISO are not alone in their estimation of the current administration's actions.
According to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, 42 percent of Americans approve of the president's performance, while 56 percent disapprove. Bush's bottom-line job rating is the worst for a president entering his sixth year in office since the Watergate scandal discredited Richard Nixon, according to the poll.
However, many members of the ISO are not pleased with the democratic party either.
"The Green Party has done more to raise people's confidence to demand what they want more than the Democratic Party could ever offer," said Michael Hoffman, 25, a graduate student in mathematics and member of ISO for two and a half years. Nonetheless, the organization is not officially affiliated with any political party.
The ISO was formed around 7 years ago at SF State, and it currently has 35 members. However, the ISO is not exclusive to SF State. The organization has branches and members in about 40 cities across the United States.
The philosophy behind the group is that the current economic system is inherently contradictory, serving as the root cause of poverty, oppression and racism. The group advocates the creation of a multiracial movement that replaces the current economic system with one that is run by the working class, not capitalism, according to Hoffman.
"This is very possible as demonstrated by the transit worker strike in New York," Hoffman said. "They serve as the symbol of the growing class anger against racism and oppression. Most of the workers were blacks and latinos."
"New York had a glimpse of the power of the revolutionary working class movement," said Schmaus.
While all the members share a unified vision of society, the reasons for joining the group varied.
Twenty-three-year-old physics major Leigh Smith joined the ISO because its members believe that abortion is a woman's full reproductive right. Smith's friend was harassed outside Planned Parenthood, which is a health center that provides affordable, reproductive health care and sexual health information to men, women, and teens. "We have to keep abortion legal," Smith said.
"Getting involved is empowering," said Jerald Reodica, 23, political science junior, who has been in the ISO for 10 months.
"I am angry about the war in Iraq," said Jeff Boyette, a cinema junior. "There are a lot of things that are not available today because of the economy.”
However, ISO members are not against war if it serves a great cause, according to Hoffman.
"Most of us would have fought the war against slavery and racism," he said. "We believe in the right to take up arms in self-defense."
The group will continue to meet every Thursday night in the Rosa Parks Room.
On Thursday, Feb. 23, Ahmed Shawki - the author of "Socialism and Black Liberation" - will serve as a guest speaker.
Contributing writer: Rania Tikoo
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