Today was the closing day of the Life After Capitalism conference. Hundreds of people excited, stimulated and inspired, exhausted came together and are now going their separate ways again. It almost seems sad except I know that this opportunity to meet face to face has resulted in an exchange of ideas, experiences, strategies, tactics and visions.
Many will take this to the RNC, others will go back to their communities and organise, and still others may simply ponder the many issues raised over the weekend. What ever the case, such events have a quality that could be said to be that of a ‘liberated zone’, where people freely express, receive, experiment, and perhaps build. And although it is tough to go back to the many unsatisfactory institutions that one may have to face in their daily life, these events are fuel, and evidence that resistance is worth it.
Today I attended a workshop titled "Envisioning Democracy". The folks presenting were Cindy Milstein of the Institute for Social Ecology, Z commentator Steve Shalom, and Martin from the Argentinian Neighbourhood Assembly of Colegiales. I’ll be totally candid here, I am sympathetic to Steve’s vision of a nested council structure for a political vision. Hearing all three presenters today reaffirmed my sympathy. However, this does not contradict my sympathy for the other speakers. Both had very insightful things to say. Cindy spoke with intensity and clarity about a vision and practice of liberating human and social relations. She talked about many values and principles that I think are important. However, she had very little to say about the liberating institutions and procedures necessary to embody and facilitate her desired values, and social relations. Martin spoke with a passion and experience that demanded my attention and fascination. He outlined the background of Argentina’s financial crisis, analysed the human relationships formed and gave liberating examples of ways that we may relate to one another. However, I left, still without knowing anything about the institutions that embody Argentinian direct democracy. He mentioned a textile factory (I think the one that is often cited) and a school (I think a kindergarten), but I left not knowing anything about these institutions. How they got them or how they functioned. What worked and what didn’t (As a side note, Naomi Klein did address some of these issues in one of her forums and I can’t wait to see Klein’s "The Take", recently mentioned in D Morduchowicz’ blog)
Other highlites of the day included a workshop on "Multi-Racial Alliance Building" and Radical Queer Politics: Resisting Capitalist Co-optation". These two conferences were initially separated plenaries, however the organisers thought that it would be better to bring them together, which in fact it was. The only draw back was that there was now 7 speakers over a two hour period, very intense and exhausting. The speakers were Elizabeth Martinez, Chris Crass, Steve Williams, Monami Maulik, Geoffery Winder, Dean Spade and Rickke Mananzala. For this to, you’ll have to wait for the audio, there was simply to much content for me to recall here…