Thursday | October 5, 2017

Washington Court Hotel, Atrium Ballroom
525 New Jersey Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001
Thursday, Oct. 5 to Friday, Oct. 6


Co-Sponsors:  the American Federation of Teachers | American Prospect Magazine | Center for Innovation in Worker Organization, Rutgers University | Democratic Socialists of America | Dissent Magazine | Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, Georgetown University | New Labor Forum  |  United Association for Labor Education


We are experiencing an organic crisis of democracy that is international in scope. In response, a conference is being convened that draws together intellectuals and activists from across the globe to examine and explore different dimensions of that crisis. The speakers will venture into a deeper analysis of the political forces and dynamics at work, with an eye to identifying opportunities to strengthen democratic institutions and democratic practices.

Speakers will explore such themes as the:

  • Relationship between growing economic inequality and the loss of political trust in the capacity and purpose of government;
  • Intersections of race, class, religion, ethnicity and immigration in Trumpism, Brexit and other populist movements of the right;
  • Decay of political parties and civil society (declines in organized religion, organized labor, and community and neighborhood associations), on the one hand, and the rise of authoritarianism, on the other;
  • Relationship between protest movements, political action and power in the resistance to authoritarianism;
  • Ways in which a number of reactionary initiatives, from voter suppression initiatives to attacks on immigration and immigrants, are centered on redefining citizenship in exclusionary and restrictive ways; and
  • Most effective ways for citizen activists to organize in defense of democracy, both in the United States and abroad.

THURSDAY, October 5

Welcome: Leo Casey, Albert Shanker Institute

The Crisis of Democracy: Global Perspectives

Han Dongfang, leader of independent unions in 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, China Labour Bulletin

Mac Maharaj, imprisoned on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela, African National Congress of South Africa

Moderator: Patricia Keefer, American Federation of Teachers


Education, Civil Society and the Defense of Democracy

Shuli Dichter, Hand in Hand: Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel

Rob Goodman, Columbia University

Tatiana Vaksberg, leading activist in the Bulgarian Students' movement; journalist

Moderator: Lorretta Johnson, Secretary Treasurer, American Federation of Teachers


FRIDAY, October 6

A Conversation on American Unions and the Crisis of Democracy

Mary Kay Henry, President, Service Employees International Union

Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers

Moderator: Harold Meyerson, American Prospect


The Populist Challenge in the Crisis of Democracy: Class, Race, Gender

John Judis, Talking Points Memo

Bob Kuttner, American Prospect

Carla Murphy, writer

Phil Thompson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Maurice Weeks, Action Center on Race and the Economy

Moderator: Michael Kazin, Georgetown University


The Political Dynamics of the Crisis of Democracy I

Sheri Berman, Columbia University

Jazz Hooks, Democratic Socialists of America

Anton Shekhovstov, “Explorations of the Far Right” book series; Institute for Human Sciences, Austria

Fred Van Leeuwen, Education International

Moderator: Gerry Hudson, Secretary-Treasurer, Service Employees International Union


The Political Dynamics of the Crisis of Democracy II

Barnabas Kadar, Momentum Mozagalom, Hungary

Joseph Schwartz, Temple University

Ken Surin, Duke University

Moderator: Marilyn Sneiderman, Center for Innovation in Worker Organization, Rutgers University