Ed Rampell, Stephan Hammel, Valerlie Carlson, Jim Lafferty, Carl Wood
Saturday, 2:15 to 3:30 p.m.
This panel is inspired by the bicentennial of Karl Marx’s birth on May 5, 1818. On June 30, 2018, the NY Times published a column headlined: “The Millennial Socialists Are Coming.” Is “the spectre of communism [still] haunting” America and the world 200 years after Marx was born? Panelists representing different leftist parties and perspectives will tackle these questions and more. Speakers will explain their conceptions of what Marxism is and explore whether Marxism is still relevant 170 years after Marx and Engels wrote The Communist Manifesto. Is Marxism a Stalinist police state with a command economy and gulags? Or is Marxism a utopian pie-in-the-sky fantasy of a classless society? Is this just an outdated philosophy from 1848 that is no longer relevant in the 21st century? Or is Marxism a participatory, direct democracy of the workers, by the workers and for the workers? Is Marxism applicable in 2018? Come the revolution, how will Marxism impact on economics? Race? Gender? Class? Militarism? Endless war? Can Marxism solve inequality across the board and create an egalitarian social system? Is Marxism a workers’ paradise, “an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all,” where the golden rule is “from each according to their abilities to each according to their needs”?
Ed Rampell is an L.A.-based full-time freelance writer and author. He was named after legendary CBS broadcaster Edward R. Murrow because of his TV exposes of Sen. Joe McCarthy and majored in Cinema at Manhattan’s Hunter College. After graduating, Rampell lived in Tahiti, Samoa, Hawaii, and Micronesia, reporting on the nuclear free and independent Pacific and Hawaiian Sovereignty movements for: ABC News’ “20/20,” Reuters, AP, Radio Australia, Radio New Zealand, NewsWeek, Honolulu Weekly, etc. In 1999 Rampell relocated to L.A. and contributed to: “The Finger” column for New Times L.A., Variety, Written By, The Nation, L.A. Times, L.A. Daily News, Financial Times, New York Press, Guardian, The Progressive, Sierra Magazine, Earth Island Journal, Washington Post, The Forward, In These Times, AlterNet, DestinAsian, etc. Rampell currently covers L.A.’s arts scene for: HollywoodProgressive.com, Jesther Entertainment, People’s World, etc.
Stephan Hammel is a Marxist educator and agitator living in Santa Ana, California. He is Assistant Professor of Music at the University of California at Irvine. He has written about value theory, Marxist Aesthetics and the continued relevance of the historical materialist approach to history.
Val Carlson is a retired attorney who has spent her career fighting for affirmative action, civil rights, civil liberties, and workers’ rights. She led legal teams that protected the First Amendment associational privacy privilege in electoral politics and that won race, sex, and political ideology discrimination cases. She is a socialist feminist, a Marxist scholar and is a member of the National Committee of the Freedom Socialist Party. Along with Jim Lafferty she founded the Marxism and the Law Caucus in the National Lawyers Guild.
Jim Lafferty is the Executive Director Emeritus of the National Lawyers Guild in L.A.; the host of The Lawyers Guild Show on KPFK; for the past 50+years a national leader in various antiwar and social justice movements; honored by the National Lawyers Guild, the ACLU, Death Penalty Focus, KIWA, the Stop L.A. Spying Coalition; the Church in Ocean Park; and is an elected fellow of the University of Southern California’s Insitute for the Humanities.
Born into a progressive working class family in Baltimore, MD, Carl Wood has been active in the civil rights and anti-war movements since childhood. He attended the University of California, Riverside where he was elected student body president and organized local opposition to the Vietnam war. After serving two years of alternative service as a conscientious objector, Wood and his new bride Anne moved to Indiana, where he completed an apprenticeship as an industrial electrician in the huge U.S. Steel plant in Gary. Seven years later, the Woods, with two chidren in tow, returned to California, where Carl worked at Kaiser Steel in Fontana until he was laid off in 1981. Carl found employment at Southern California Edison Co., and in 1986 was elected Business Agent (chief officer) of Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 246, representing 2000 power plant employees. In 1987, Wood was elected to the National Executive Board of UWUA. In 1997, he was appointed Senior National Representative, servicing UWUA locals in California and the other Western states and acting as the union’s National Deregulation Coordinator. In 1999 Wood was appointed to the California Public Utilities Commission, where he played a key role in protecting the state’s consumers from the disastrous Enron-inspired deregulation project. At the end of his 6-year term at the CPUC, he worked for a number of unions, retiring from the UWUA in 2016. As a long-time member of the Communist Party USA, Carl Wood does not take a one-dimensional view of the fight for democracy and progress. He believes that movements for social justice cannot succeed in isolation from each other. As a union leader Wood has fought for racial and gender equality and for LGBTQ rights. He has championed the right of working class consumers to reasonably priced, universally accessible and high quality utility services. He has worked successfully to build coalitions between unions, environmental justice organizations, community groups and consumer advocates. Since the 2016 election, Wood has played an active role in protesting and resisting Trump’s fascistic assault on democracy and peace.