I received feedback that some liked my opening remarks at the live-televised closing plenary last month. Let me share it with my readers here:
March 20, 2011
Colleagues and distinguished guests,
Thank you for coming to New York City to attend the largest international conference of its kind at Pace University. I want to thank the Left Forum board of directors, and many others including Dean Herrmann and Prof. Salerno of Pace University for helping to make this wonderful event possible. Pace University is committed to academic freedom and free speech. It’s heartening to see hundreds of panelists and thousands of participants taking advantage of this rare opportunity to engage in a global dialogue on critical issues facing the world today.
Leaders of democratic countries have advocated for change, but change is impossible when even the victims of traditions accept status quo as a result of various deliberate indoctrination. As many people see socialism as defeated, unionism decayed, organized labor lost its way while terrorism is on the rise, a different context is needed for the critical dialogue that is essential for social justice and truthful scholarship. The voices of senior and junior intellectuals, organizers, and activists at this conference are important to the diversity of views crucial to every democracy where the working class and the middle class are still the backbone of the society.
At the international level, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the “open door” of China and other former socialist countries have greatly changed the world, largely for the better. Nonetheless, in my scholarly view, the world has not completely learned its historical lesson. My research of the Chinese case has challenged the assumption that the most important change in 1978 was the “open door” and reform policy, often interpreted by some Westerners as turning to capitalism. My theory is that the de-politicization of the socialist “economic state” was the first key to understanding the dramatic changes and remarkable results. In other words, socialism as a socioeconomic system was never fully tested. The Chinese leadership under Deng Xiaoping wisely put aside the debate on “-isms” in order to grab the last chance for the nation state. However, as the economic state has been de-economicized by the reform, the Chinese state is increasingly facing the same issues that have dominated the national agendas of Western countries (whether “welfare states” or not any more). Therefore, the topics of this conference are increasingly relevant to those countries as well.
Again, thank you all for your contributions to the broad and non-sectarian discussions at the conference. Whether you’re returning to your home in North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa, Australia, or Europe, please keep in touch with the colleagues you’ve met at the conference. Best wishes for your pursuit and I hope to see you again at Pace in the near future.