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Anarchists invade the nation’s largest Marxist event!

By kate | March 10, 2012

Okay, not really. There will probably still be more Marxists at this year’s annual Left Forum conference (March 16-18 at Pace University in NYC), and a lot of those Marxists are our close friends and colleagues and we look forward to seeing them every year! But there are a tremendous number of very pointedly anarchist panels planned this year, which makes us happy. (Still no anarchists vs. Marxists dodgeball match, but ya know, that’s because they know we’d win!)

Especially exciting is the track organized by our pals at the Institute for Anarchist Studies, called Occupying from Below: Resist, Reflect, Re-create, which aims to create a participatory space and encourage theoretical conversations as political practice–where thought and strategy are inextricably bound in dialogue with movement concerns and experiences, through an antiauthoritarian lens, so as to better reflect and act on the possibilities as well as messiness of social transformation made palpable by occupy.

All sessions will take place in Room W510, which will also double as an IAS social space in between sessions. Here’s the full list & description of this seven-part track:

Saturday, March 17 at 10:00 a.m.

WHERE DID OCCUPY COME FROM?
MOVEMENT HISTORIES AND PRESENTS
Facilitator: Cindy Milstein
Participants: Chris Dixon, Silvia Federici, and George Katsiaficas

While the occupy movement sprung into public consciousness in September, it has developed from previous experiences of struggle, such as the New Left, the women’s liberation movement, and the global justice movement. This session explores crucial movement histories, and how they have influenced the ideas, practices, and forms of the current movement. Presenters will offer a range of historical perspectives, and engage session participants in a critical discussion about the possibilities and pitfalls of carrying the past into contemporary movement organizing.

Cindy Milstein, an active participant in Occupy Philly and Institute for Anarchist Studies board member, has long been involved in numerous anarchist and collective projects. She’s also the author of Anarchism and Its Aspirations (AK Press), and coauthor with Erik Ruin of the book Paths toward Utopia: Explorations in Everyday Anarchism (PM Press).

Chris Dixon is a longtime organizer, writer, and educator with a PhD from the University of California at Santa Cruz. He is currently completing a book based on interviews with antiauthoritarian organizers across the United States and Canada involved in broader-based movements. Chris serves on the board of the Institute for Anarchist Studies and the advisory board for the journal Upping the Anti. He lives in Sudbury, Ontario, where he is involved with antipoverty and indigenous solidarity organizing.

Silvia Federici is a longtime feminist activist, teacher, and writer. She taught in Nigeria, and is now professor emeritus at Hofstra University. Her published work includes Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation; Enduring Western Civilization: The Construction of the Concept of Western Civilization and Its “Others” (editor); and A Thousand Flowers: Social Struggles against Structural Adjustment in African Universities (coeditor).

George Katsiaficas is a longtime activist whose writings include books on the global uprising of 1968 and European social movements. Together with Kathleen Cleaver, he edited Liberation, Imagination and the Black Panther Party. He recently completed a two-volume book, Asia’s Unknown Uprisings, dealing with popular occupations of public space in Asia in the 1980s and 1990s. His Web site is http://www.eroseffect.com/.

* * *

Saturday, March 17 at noon

OCCUPY OUTSIDE METROPOLIS:
SMALL-TOWN AND RURAL OCCUPATIONS
Facilitator: Chris Dixon
Participants: Welch Canavan, Joseph Lapp, and Heather Pipino

Most discussions of the occupy movement have focused on major urban centers such as New York and Oakland. And yet there has been an explosion of occupy activities in smaller cities, towns, and rural areas, where activists are experimenting with new forms of horizontal organizing and engaging unlikely allies. This session brings together people who have been active in occupys in these nonmetropolitan areas. Presenters will discuss the unique difficulties and opportunities they face, and draw lessons from the work they are doing.

Chris Dixon is a longtime organizer, writer, and educator with a PhD from the University of California at Santa Cruz. He is currently completing a book based on interviews with antiauthoritarian organizers involved in broader-based movements. Chris serves on the board of the Institute for Anarchist Studies and the advisory board for the journal Upping the Anti. He lives in Sudbury, Ontario, where he is involved with antipoverty and indigenous solidarity organizing.

Welch Canavan lives in Braddock, PA, a small suburb of Pittsburgh, where he spends most of his time working with the Some Ideas Collective (http://someideas.info/) to start an intentional community. He grew up in Washington, DC, and has been involved in a variety of organizing efforts, including the DC Childcare Collective and Bobby Fisher Memorial Building.

Joseph Lapp is an Alaska-based student and activist. He has been engaged in small-town and rural activism since 2006, primarily around queer and reproductive rights issues. Joseph has organized with the Industrial Workers of the World, including participation in its 2007 delegation to Haiti, served on the board of Alaskans Together for Equality and the Alaskans Together Foundation, worked on campaigns with the AKCLU, and most recently organized with the Alaskan Occupy movement.

Heather Pipino is a rural organizer from Barre, Vermont. She is a member of the Vermont Workers’ Center (VWC), which takes an organizing approach to build power for working-class people. Through the Healthcare is a Human Right campaign, the VWC worked on a statewide level to pass the country’s first universal health care law using human rights framing and analysis. For many years, Heather was a volunteer at Black Sheep Books in Montpelier and has also been involved with Occupy Central VT.

* * *

Saturday, March 17 at 3:00 p.m.

BEYOND THE ENCAMPMENTS:
NEW DIRECTIONS FOR THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT
Facilitator: Hillary Lazar
Participants: Max Rameau and Joshua Stephens

Many of the initial encampments established by the occupy movement have been evicted, and yet the movement persists. Just two months from OWS’s inauguration, its signature horizontal format and direct action orientation was being mapped onto struggles from racist policing, to foreclosure resistance, to workplace democracy and self-management. In many places, the practice of general assemblies recalls the emergence of neighborhood assemblies in late 2001 Buenos Aires, and offers glimpses of what popular, parallel institutions might look like. This panel will explore how new spaces–physical and otherwise–are becoming the terrain of struggle, and what challenges and successes have emerged in this new phase.

Hillary Lazar, a researcher, writer, and anti-poverty worker, is a librarian at the Occupy DC library.

Max Rameau is a Haitian-born Pan-African theorist, campaign strategist, organizer, and author. He is one of the founding members of the Take Back the Land movement, and is currently with Movement Catalyst, a movement support organization, providing campaign development and other support to social justice organizations.

Joshua Stephens is a board member with the Institute for Anarchist Studies, and currently works with Occupy Brooklyn and contributes to the Occupy Workplace Democracy project. He likes coffee and dislikes wearing socks.

* * *

Saturday, March 17 at 5:00 p.m.

OCCUPY ANARCHISM
Facilitator: Joshua Stephens
Participants: Irina Ceric and Cindy Milstein

As the “do-it-ourselves” uprisings and occupations that have swept across the globe from Egypt to United States are proving, the ethical practices that anarchists have long advocated are becoming powerful everyday experiences for millions, with people self-organizing everything from civic defense and trash collection to tent encampments and general assemblies. Indeed, the contours of the US occupy movement in particular could be viewed, in large part, as anarchism in action. Yet despite its obvious debt to anarchism, OWS and its lightning-speed proliferation across North America seemed to come as a surprise to anarchists, and in many ways, our learning curve as antiauthoritarians has been just as great as for those many liberals and political newcomers who overwhelmingly populate(d) the spaces of occupy. That surprise has created novel challenges and contradictions for anarchist theory and practice as well as anarchists’ own self-understanding. More surprisingly still, it also appears to have cracked open the potential for fundamental social transformation in a way that our recent anticapitalist efforts never could on their own. This session will reflect on occupy anarchism within the quirky, compelling experiment of occupy everything.

Joshua Stephens is a board member with the Institute for Anarchist Studies, and currently works with Occupy Brooklyn and contributes to the Occupy Workplace Democracy project. He likes coffee and dislikes wearing socks.

Irina Ceric is a longtime organizer and movement lawyer from Toronto. She is a PhD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, and works primarily with the Global Balkans Network and the Movement Defense Committee.

Cindy Milstein, an active participant in Occupy Philly and Institute for Anarchist Studies board member, has been involved in numerous anarchist projects, including the USSF’s New World from Below convergence, the Hope from People not Presidents and Don’t Just (Not) Vote efforts, and Black Sheep Books collective in Vermont. She’s the author of Anarchism and Its Aspirations (AK Press), and coauthor with Erik Ruin of the book Paths toward Utopia: Explorations in Everyday Anarchism (PM Press).

* * *

Sunday, March 18 at 10:00 a.m.

THE QUESTION OF COLONIALISM:
UNOCCUPYING, REOCCUPYING, DE-OCCUPYING
Facilitator: Tamara Vukov
Participants: Jimmy Johnson, Maia Ramnath, and Pavlos Stavropoulos

Given the role of settler colonialism in establishing North America, and the presence of the U.S. military across the world, “occupy” is nothing if not loaded vocabulary for a liberation movement. Virtually all of the territory on which the occupy movement plays out (on this continent) has been occupied for centuries, yielding consequences all at once material, psychological, and discursive up to and through the present moment. Panelists in this session will discuss how this history meets the movement’s stated aspirations, how it shapes power disparities and priorities within the movement, and how it might offer strategies for decolonizing the ethics, tactics, and strategies of participants and the movement more broadly.

Tamara Vukov is a writer, researcher, filmmaker, and activist, currently living between Montreal, Philadelphia, and Belgrade. She is a founding member of the the Global Balkans network and the Volatile Works collective, and is completing a documentary about the impacts and grassroots resistance to the neoliberal transition to capitalism in Serbia. Tamara is a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Mobilities Research and Policy at Drexel University.

Jimmy Johnson is a dancer and the founder of Neged Neshek, a project critiquing Israeli militarism and the arms trade, and former international coordinator for the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions. He is a featured writer for Electronic Intifada, and his writings and photography have appeared in Against the Current, CounterPunch, El Pais, Haaretz, Ma’ariv, News from Within and elsewhere. He lives on Turtle Island in the city of Detroit.

Maia Ramnath, a board member of the Institute for Anarchist Studies, is active with South Asia Solidarity Initiative and Adalah-NY, through which she plugs into the OWS Global Justice working group. She teaches history in New York University’s Interdisciplinary Humanities and Social Thought program, and is the author of Haj to Utopia (University of California Press, 2011) and Decolonizing Anarchism (AK Press, 2011).

Pavlos Stavropoulos was born and raised in Greece, where he still maintains active ties. He has been active in indigenous solidarity movements for over twenty-five years, and has presented on the connections and challenges shared by anarchists and indigenous activists.

* * *

Sunday, March 18 at noon

IS THIS REALLY WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE?
SELF-GOVERNANCE, LEADERSHIP, AND AUTONOMY
Facilitator: Brooke Lehman
Participants: Carwil Bjork-James and George Machado

Much has been made of the occupy movement’s “no leaders” ethic, the challenges and rewards of acclimating newcomers to the practice of direct democracy, and the gritty, unpredictable complexity that results when often wildly disparate people act in concert. Despite slogans and declarations, real questions loom about how or whether this prefigures the world we seek to create. And as the movement grows, drawing new participants who take on and innovate practices of direct democracy, it warrants asking how this models the cultivation of initiative and leaders in a horizontal body. This panel will explore these themes, reflecting on the successes, failures, and prospects of direct democracy on the ground.

Brooke Lehman is a faculty member at the Institute for Social Ecology and a longtime activist. She is on the board of Smartmeme, the Brecht Forum, and Yansa, and spends most of her time organizing with Occupy Wall Street.

Carwil Bjork-James, a PhD candidate in anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center, is currently writing a dissertation exploring how Bolivian grassroots movements use public spaces in mass protests, and how these experiences shape their political visions. He has been researching, advocating, and organizing on issues of indigenous rights, environmental destruction, and militarization since the 1990s. Carwil tweets at @CarwilJ and blogs at http://woborders.wordpress.com/.

George Machado is a former student of philosophy and international relations at American University. He was introduced to organizing and activism at Occupy Wall Street in early October, and has been deeply involved with facilitation and direct action. George is currently working on climate justice issues within OWS, and coalition building with community-based organizations and Occupy the Bronx.

* * *

Sunday, March 18 at 3:00 p.m.

CLOSING SESSION
OCCUPYING FROM BELOW: RESIST, REFLECT, RE-CREATE

We’ll wrap up the track with an open, facilitated conversation, drawing on some of the big themes and/or issues that came up over the weekend during Occupying from Below.

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