SU student is youngest to speak at local conference for socialism

19-year-old Michael Kowalchuk, an student in his second year at SU, gives speech at the Liberation Conference on Socialism.

A sophomore from Syracuse University was the youngest person to speak at the Liberation Conference on Socialism this past Saturday in Syracuse. The Party of Socialism and Liberation hosted the daylong conference at the Southwest Community Center on the South side of Syracuse.

Michael Kowalchuk, 19, is a second year architecture student who decided to join the Party of Socialism and Liberation last year when he came to college. The Party of Socialism and Liberation is a political party made up of mainly members who consider themselves working class. Members say they hope to reverse the traditional imperialist nature of America by establishing socialism in the U.S. through their party.

“I really like the party because it’s so multiracial,” Kowalchuk said. “There’s so much diversity in terms of age, sexual orientation, backgrounds. That was a huge draw.”

Kowalchuk grew up in New Hampshire and attended a diverse, public high school. His knowledge of socialism goes back to eighth grade, when Kowalchuk said his social studies class mentioned Karl Marx, a founder and important figure in socialism ideology. Even though his family isn’t too political, he became more radical and interested into politics junior year of high school, he said.

“I think we all have an obligation to be politically active,” Kowalchuk said. “There’s so many things to change.”

He decided to come to Syracuse because of the great architecture program. Also, since it was a very large campus, he knew he could pursue different interests, he said.

Kowalchuk is also involved in the group Students for a Democratic Society on campus.

“It formed last year and I got involved from a friend who lived on my floor,” Kowalchuk said.

The main goal of Students for a Democratic Society is to make education more accessible for the oppressed and less fortunate people, he said.

Although he joined the party last year, there’s a six-month candidacy process in order to become a full member. Kowalchuk had to take political education classes, mostly done over the phone or face to face over the summer. He became an official member by the time he returned to school this fall, he said.

“There’s weekly meetings here on Marshall Street and we do outreach work in the community on the weekends,” Kowalchuk said.

The Conference on Saturday covered a variety of topics that are important to the Party of Socialism and Liberation. Fourteen different local and national speakers addressed the crowd with speeches on anti-war and racism issues, immigration and women’s rights, victims of police brutality and socialism in general.

The Party of Socialism and Liberation and the A.N.S.W.E.R Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) co-sponsored the Conference.

Kowalchuk’s 10 minute speech “From Anti-War to Anti-Imperialism” focused on war related issues. Kowalchuk said he believes that no matter who the President of the United States is war will be inevitable because the United States is an imperialist country that seeks to maximize profits by the expense of others.

“My first demonstration was when I was 15, against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with my friends from high school,” Kowalchuk said. “I guess anti-war issues have been my focus since I was younger.”

Syracuse student and Party of Socialism and Liberation member Ashley Sauers introduced speakers for the first panel of the Conference along with answering questions in a discussion portion of the event. Another Syracuse University student, Alice Feng, also gave a speech about socialism at the end of the Conference. 

Kowalchuk plans to still be involved in politics after college and takes his commitment to the party very seriously.

“Even though a lot of things don’t directly affect me, we still need to realize that a lot of terrible things are being done in our names,” Kowalchuk said. “Collectively, we have the power to stop it.”

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