LAC, Day One: Beyond Bush
By Chris Spannos at Aug 21, 2004
Keynote speakers for the evening were Michael Albert, Robin D.G.Kelly, Naomi Klein and Vijay Prashad. Interspersed between the speakers were organisers and activists mobilising opposition to the Republican National Convention. This report back is only abroad outline of last nights events. Audio from the evening will soon be available to hear the speakers in their own words.
The evening started with introductions and a preview showing of the film "The Fourth World War", produced by Big Noise Tactical Media. The film brings together images and voices from allover the world. "From the front-lines of conflicts in Mexico, Argentina, South Africa, Palestine, Korea, 'the North' from Seattle to Genova, and the 'War on Terror' in New York, Afghanistan, and Iraq."..."It is a story of a war without end and of those who resist."
The first speaker after the film was Vijay Prashad, Director of International studies at Trinity College and author of Fat Cats and Running Dogs: The Enron Stage of Capitalism. Vijay spoke eloquently and precisely getting straight to the message that he wanted to deliver, beginning by saying that, "Every country gets the fascism that it deserves". Spring boarding off the title of Bertram Gross' book "Friendly Fascism", Vijay said "We have a friendly fascism in the United States. Friendly for some, Fascist for others." He went on to make the point that this is a global phenomena and then spoke of the vision and strategy needed to resists it, "Our terrain is a very vast one. We can't afford to have only a short term vision of social struggle. It is neo-liberal economics, neo-classical economics that lives in the quarter system.They need to post profits every quarter. We don't need to have strategies that are always quarterly. We need to have a very long vision of what we're doing."
The next speaker was Michael Albert, founder and editor of Z Magazine and ZNet, and author of numerous books. Michael spoke,outlining the attitudes congenial to believing that there is no alternative(TINA). That, "There is no point in forming a movement against poverty and war and racism, and so on. Because these things are TINA. They are inevitable. There is no alternative. They are a part of reality." He then spoke about replacing the institutions that are central to capitalism: private ownership, profit seeking, markets, corporate divisions of labour, remunerating
people for their power, property, or output. He outlined a broad sketch of his model of a participatory economy. Not only did Michael Albert suggest
replacing the institutions of capitalism, but also of other spheres of social life. He argued for the equal necessity of gender, cultural and
political visions. He ended by outlining obstacles to social movement building. One obstacle specificly, is the "stickiness problem"; the
problem of getting people who take part in movement building, and getting them to stay, "It's that the movements that we build are not conducive
enough to people feeling good, to people feeling empowered, for them to stay and feel more , and more, and more involved."
Naomi Klein is an award winning journalist and author of "No Logo". Rather than speak of "Life After Capitalism", Naomi wanted to talk about "Death
After Capitalism", and how social movements "may act to stop the killing." She began with the war on Iraq, "I wanna talk about it [Iraq], because I
believe it is our pressing and inescapable moral responsibility to use this moment[the Republican National Convention] when so many of us are
going to be coming together to condemn, in the most forceful, clear, possible way, the atrocities that are currently unfolding in Iraq. Not
just condemn them, but make forceful and concrete demands for change." She concluded by speaking of the US siege of Najaf, the Iraqi resistance
and what we owe them, "I've heard it said that we should express our solidarity with the people of Iraq by venting our anger here next week.
And, I can see the appeal, and as you can see I'm angry, and I can barely contain it. But I believe that we owe the Iraqi people more than our
anger. We owe them more then our temper tantrum. We owe them results. We owe them liberation from occupation. From our government and corporations. We owe them more than that. We owe them massive reparations for two wars and thirteen years of sanctions."
The last speaker of the evening was Robin D.G. Kelly, a leading African American historian and author of "Hammer and Hoe:Alabama Communists during the Great Depression". Robin focused his talk on the limits of protest and the need for a new politics of liberation, "Protests alone don't produce the kind of society many of us dream about. It won't create the conditions of our liberation." Robin says that this is in part because liberation
requires the transformation of the culture and the way we think, "It requires deep connections to communities and developing new ways of
thinking. Liberation cannot be seized or toppled. Nor is it driven by anger, frustration or oppression. It's a struggle to change ourselves and
in the process build what we might call the beloved community..." In trying to build this community, Robin advocated that in addition to
protests, we need to be "building the future in the present." However, he argued that a big problem for social movements today is that much of the
left is disconnected from the working class, the poor and non-white movements. One group that Robin gave as an example for overcoming these
disconnections was Sister to Sister, a Brooklyn based "collective of working class young and adult, black and Latino women, building together
to model a society based on liberation and love. [The] organisation is dedicated to working with young women to develop personal, spiritual and
collective power. [It's] committed to fighting for justice and creating alternatives to the system we live by making social and cultural
and political change." This group provides an example of "sisters liberated ground" where violence against women is not tolerated, "These spaces include designated buildings, schools, parks." Protecting these spaces are women who are trained in self defence and conflict resolution. They deal with violence as a community issue and confront abusers together. As Kelly says, the purpose is "change the culture. To create a society where no one in the neighbourhood tolerates violence against women in the community." They use street theatre, video screenings and discussion groups to educate and the out come is a change in culture. This is "sisters liberated ground" and as Robin says, "This is amazing revolutionary work."