Activists Call for Marxist Revolution at Northwestern U, Decry Evils of Toothpaste

by Charles Rollet - Northwestern University on November 19, 2012

Crowds of students, teachers, and others streamed into Northwestern University’s Fisk Hall on November 10th to attend the Midwest Marxism Conference, organized by the Chicago-based International Socialist Organization.

The day-long event opened in a crowded auditorium with a passionate speech from Becca Barnes, a teacher and member of the Chicago Teachers Union.

In her speech, Barnes heavily criticized the recent election, praised the CTU’s recent success as the “type of democracy” the US needs, and characterized the American capitalist system as “fundamentally inhumane.”

She was unsparing of newly re-elected President Obama.

“Both Obama and Romney support capitalism, aim to maintain US imperial dominance in the world, and are committed to implementing austerity necessary to restore the profitability of the American capitalist class,” she said.

Barnes also called for a revolution in America in which workers would overthrow the “capitalist class” and “create a genuine workers’ democracy.”

“Never has it been so easy to see, from the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, that revolution is back on the table. It’s not only possible – it’s necessary,” she said.

The conference was lengthy, lasting from 10am to 8pm. It featured numerous lecturers and workshops, along with a Socialist bookshop called Haymarket Books.

There were twelve workshops in total, whose topics varied. Classical Marxist theory was approached in lectures such as “Lenin’s Theory of the Revolutionary Party” and “Education & Capitalism.” Yet other workshops, such as “from Apartheid to the New Jim Crow: Racism, USA” and “The Democrats: A Critical History,” addressed more American issues.

Workshop attendees were instructed to “raise your fist” after each presentation if they wished to ask questions or comment.

In the workshop “The Meaning of Marxism,” Socialist Worker journalist Eric Ruder explained basic Marxist theory to a filled classroom.

He addressed the conundrum that most people today seem relatively well-off under capitalism.

“We’re so much more productive as a society, literally thousands of times more so, except we let huge proportions [of people] actually die of starvation and material want, for no particular reason,” he said. “It’s a social problem, not one of material wealth.”

Towards the end of the lecture, Ruder used toothpaste as an example of capitalism’s inefficiencies.

“If you no longer have one section competing against another, you start to eliminate all kinds of waste,” he said, referencing toothpaste brands Colgate and Crest.

Ruder then described the “wastefulness” of toothpaste’s price: “About 90% of the price you pay for toothpaste goes into packaging, advertising, and profit, and 10% is the actual contents of the toothpaste.”

“If you look into our economy as a whole, there is waste of that sort everywhere that you look,” he said.

Ruder concluded his presentation with a quote from the Communist Manifesto. He stated that once the working class takes power through revolution, “in place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”

Another workshop titled “Imperialism: Capitalism Wages War” was hosted by Brian Bean, and discussed war from a Marxist perspective.

In his lecture, Bean cited tracts from the Soviet leader Nikolai Bukharin, and said that war and imperialism are “woven into the fabric of global capitalism.”

Bean stated that war as we know it is an “outgrowth of capitalism,” and urged that “the beast must be slain.”

“The ruling class is going to do it [start wars] again, and again, and again, until capitalism is abolished,” Bean said.

The conference ended with a lecture from author Marvin Surkin on his latest book, Detroit: I Do Mind Dying: A Study in Urban Revolution, followed by dinner and drinks at local bar The Celtic Knot.

Despite being held in Fisk Hall – where Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism is located – the Midwest Marxism Conference was not covered by the university’s newspaper of record, The Daily Northwestern.

It was covered, however, by Breitbart.com author and activist “Rebel Pundit,” who was expelled from the event before it ended.

Conference attendees were informed that they were not allowed to use recorders or take pictures without explicit permission from the conference’s organizers.

Fix contributor Charles Rollet is a junior at Northwestern.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002193373384 Rog Jerry

    I will never forget my Russian mother-in-law’s comment when I took her to an American grocery store for the first time: “They lied to us.” I’d like to send these Marxists back in a time machine to the Soviet Union in 1990 and let them wait in long lines with their ration coupons to pick up a tube of that one brand of Socialist toothpaste, only to find that the limited supply was sold out. There is no system less efficient than Communism.

    • VictorErimita

      The opposite reaction happened to a Russian-speaking friend of mine who hosted a Russian emigre in the late 79s. She took her to a not terribly impressive Manhattan supermarket (this is late 70s mind you.) The Russian was utterly convinced the American government had staged a fake store just to fool her.

    • http://www.facebook.com/richard.nygaard Richard A Nygaard

      My mother in law is from Romania and I can see the tears in her eyes when she starts to describe how it was to live in Romania under communist rule. If communism was so great the world wouldn’t be down to its last 5. Its also very interesting that the fences of communist countries face the same way as the fences of prisons. The countries with a free market have fences to keep people from sneaking IN not OUT.

  • lasnoball

    12 hours of ranting? If students sat thru that they have waaay to much time on their hands. I’m sure their parents would prefer they spent that time studing or working at part time jobs to help pay for tuition.

  • Out_Fang_Thief

    Isn’t it curious how all these Marxist preaching nobodies conveniently gloss over any reference to the millions of lives extinguished in the work camps and gulags of the various collectivist/Marxist systems? Even more curious, is how they compare a political ideology to an economic business model. Capitalism is not a political ideology. Marxism is. Also lost in the speechifying, is the fact that collectivism wasn’t created by Marx. Collectivism predates Christianity, and was the same failed system in B.C. as it is in A.D. Talk about stupid!

    I also notice that none of the Marxist fetishists ever renounce their U.S. citizenship and move to a country of their dreams. One that already has a Marxist system in place. Hmm? Why do you suppose that is?

    • http://www.facebook.com/brett.kosowski Brett Kosowski

      well said Out_Fang_Thief

    • missmnu

      No. Communism is a political ideology. Marxism is an economic theory. There are, thus, no countries with “a Marxist system in place.” There is no such thing as a “Marxist system.” Talk about stupid!

      • David Patton

        The effort to implement a Marxist economic system that is patterned after the “theory” is a reality. Only Communists and socialists are stupid, since they love a lie, despise freedom and personal responsibility, and volunteer for a life of misery and wickedly work for the same for others.

  • ncmcdawg

    With this kind of kiddish nonsense the competition would necessarily vanish
    leaving one type of car, one type of television, and one type of toothpaste. As
    the former Soviets how that worked out for them. These people are absolute base
    instinct idiots. They’re like my English bulldog except I can stand to be around him.

  • Garrysworld

    Hey, that’s the answer. Nationalize the toothpaste industry and turn out one brand at 90 per cent less cost to the consumer. But, of course, few (only the Marxist elitists) could afford to buy a tube because 10s of thousands – if not millions – of jobs would be wiped out. No need for promotions agencies, advertising venues, and on and on. Wait. Isn’t that what happened in the unlamented ex-Soviet Union? Isn’t it wonderful that our universities (up here in Central Canada, too) are “educating” our young people to the evils of capitalism!

  • Bill

    How many of our brave young soldiers have died in the name of fighting communism?

  • http://www.facebook.com/mitchell.baxter.944 Mitchell Baxter

    Because the USSR was famous for its surplus of high-quality, low-advertising toothpaste.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ken-Pittman/1443151434 Ken Pittman

    Lock n’ load. The only good commie is a dead one.

  • David Patton

    The self loving humanist actually believes they can create a utopian society since all that is lacking is for other people to be as enlightened as they are….or exterminated if necessary.

  • Mo Hammed

    My wife grew up in Poland under communism. They had no toothpaste; at times no soap, no feminine hygiene products, no this that and the other. She feels like she escaped communism to come here 15 years ago; now she feels trapped. She has seen this, done that, and now it seems we’re poised for her to do it again, only this time, there’s nowhere to escape TO. WTF have we done?