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Renewing the Anarchist Tradition
Archive: Summer Conference 2004 ... September 24th to 25th

During the conference be sure to check out Tara Jensen's ongoing interactive installation "The Museum of Gender". And make sure to visit War of the by John Lawson. Book, infoshop, and media tables - including AK Press, Raven Used Books, the Institute for Anarchist Studies, CKUT radio of Montreal, May Day Books, Just Seeds - and a variety of free literature will also be available. Go to Sunday program schedule


Friday, September 24th

  • 8:15 to 10:00 pm

    Toward a New Anarchist Theory of Economics
    Stacey Cordeiro, Eric Laursen, Ethan Miller, Suresh Naidu, & Stephen Shukaitis

    This panel will explore the anarchist approach to economics, and how that approach has evolved since the days of the "classic" nineteenth-century anarchist thinkers. For example, the Zapatistas, the landless movement in Brazil, agricultural coops in India, and other indigenous movements have shown that "grassroots" alternatives to both capitalist and Marxist economic models are alive and well. And insights by postwar economists and theorists ranging from J. K. Galbraith and E .J. Mishan to Michel Foucault underscore the crucial role in economic growth played by the generation of new desires and needs. This suggests the need for a fresh look at the economic dimension of the anarchist goal of the liberation of desire. Meanwhile, globalization and technological developments like the Internet have made possible not only a destructive lurch toward corporate control of the world economy but also the possibility of organizing autonomous, nonhierarchical economic projects that cover many geographic areas with relative ease. All of this points to anarchist economics being a living and dynamic tradition, but one that has perhaps moved in some directions that its "founders" could not have anticipated.

    The Life or Death of the Anti-Globalization Movement?
    Chuck Morse & Marina Sitrin

    The anti-globalization movement that erupted onto the scene in Seattle 1999 frightened elites and inspired activists around the world to fight the system in a utopian, anti-authoritarian way. However, this movement has occupied a much less significant place on the public stage since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Is it over? The two panelists will offer differing responses to this question and continue a dialogue begun in the spring issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory.

    Mardi Gras: Made in China (Documentary Showing and Discussion)
    David Redmon & John Lawson

    How are Mardi Gras beads connected to the U.S.-led attack on Iraq, conspicuous consumption in New Orleans, and China's entry into the WTO? This session will introduce some contemporary components of capitalist globalization by following the life cycle of Mardi Gras beads from the factory in China to the Carnival in New Orleans, and to the war in Iraq. The international movement and circulation of Mardi Gras beads throughout history coincides with developments in war, the opening of "free market capitalism," and the ethos of "escapist consumption" in the United States and Brazil. These three themes: war, the expansion of capitalism into China, and escapist consumption will be the basis for a discussion following the showing of this documentary film.


Saturday, September 25th

  • 9:15 to 10:30 am

    Consensus & Rational Community
    Mark Lance

    This talk will be anchored in a practical discussion of consensus decision making, specifically the distinction between two elements. The first of these is a conception of virtuous group process and focuses on things like taking over other viewpoints seriously, defending your own positions in a serious but sensitive manner, attending to elements of the dialogue that exclude others, etc. The second is the formal structure: blocks, stand-asides, support, ways of rotating speaking, etc. This presentation will argue that the first-call it "consensus virtue"-is important and deserves our support, while the second-"consensus deontology"-does not. Insofar as we need a set of formal rules for decision making, nothing beats majority vote, but insofar as we need to rely on any set of decision-making rules we are failing as anarchists. This contention is merely one instantiation of a more general point: anarchism is all about epistemology-the way we go about seeking understanding together. The central idea we need to explore as anarchists, then, is the notion of an inclusive rational community.

    The Relation of Art to Anarchism: From Dada through Anthropofferjism
    Erika Biddle

    Sociorevolutionary cultural projects always take place outside of institutions. They are not formed and realized in the given apparatus of the capitalist state nor in institutions supporting this state, but rather in self-organized practices, decentralized consolidations, and microgroups. These groups are autonomous, anti-authoritarian, and consciously opposed to all "dominant" structures and mechanisms. The public demonstration of their dissent, demands, and refusal are like a signal against the all-encompassing logic of power networks, and are attacks on hegemonic culture and the systems it operates within and ultimately without.

    Dada spoke of the violence of everyday life, of disrupting and destructing history; this destruction is a desire to change the world. Dada was a movement that obliterated its memory, but left traces of influence that are visible in the work and ideologies of aesthetic revolutionaries throughout the twentieth century and today. Other examples of movements/moments that leave "barely a trace," and run parallel to or are influenced by anarchist theory and praxis, are: Gordon Matta-Clark and Robert Smithson, artists with conceptual, minimalist, nihilist, "ephemeral" projects in the late 1960s/early 1970s that were site-specific, and dealt confrontationally with issues of community, property, and alienation of "public space," the "right to space," and the ideologies of progress; Gustav Metzger's theories on auto-destructive/auto-creative art (also in the late 1960s/early 1970s); the London Psychogeographic Association; Pataphysics; the Art Strike in the early 1990s (Neoism and the Neoist Alliance); situ-inspired projects vast and far-ranging; Surrealism in Chicago; and some "culture-jamming" projects, digital resistance, and "technologies of resistance" today.

    Marxism & Anarchism
    Wayne Price, Seth Weiss, & Graciela Monteagudo

    The Marxist and anarchist traditions have a long and interconnected history. They both have articulated a critique of the capitalism and even the state, and have both suggested strategies to undermine capital and the state. While there are similarities between Marxism and anarchism, there are also many critical differences. This panel will look at how Marxism and anarchism have laid out different visions, critiques, and theories in the past and present. Panelists will seek to explain how Marxism and anarchism differ or could relate today.

    Flagging, Fornicating, & Fourier: Emma Goldman's Glimpse into the Limitless World of Sexual Harmony
    Hilton Bertalan

    While not only open to nearly every sexual proclivity, fantasy, and fetish imaginable but also suggesting their centralized enforcement to ensure the sexual happiness of citizens, Fourier's seemingly boundaryless utopia in which the line between public and private sexuality is eradicated provides a relevant example of the structural and conceptual boundaries that may continue despite the insistence on a limitless world. Fourier's utopian vision offers an important and sometimes humorous example of the ways in which the enforcement of such an ideal can, in some unintended way, become that which it fights against.

    While this presentation appreciates the anarchism of Fourier and his passion for a world in which the desires of citizens are as adamantly met as their need for food, the normative, singular, and universalizing tendency finds itself in a role of both value and contradiction for contemporary radical social movements presently negotiating and debating concepts of "ideal" space. Alternatively, Emma Goldman's work shares a great deal in common with many interpretations of global justice movements in terms of an openness of tactics, diversity of issues, and an aversion toward hierarchical, centralized, hegemonic, and prescribed structures. Subsequently, Goldman's work, life, and experiences of the reactions to such a politic are uniquely relevant today.

    Clarifying Dilemmas of Student Organizing
    Nicole Acosta, Ben Grosscup, & Lauren Barthel

    What does it mean to do political work for radical social change while in school? As student activists, we are in formative years of our lives and so are our peers. How can we become agents of our own self-formation as well as agents of social change during this important time? This panel will discuss the daunting task student organizers face in clarifying the purpose of their actions and organizations, the participation and/or membership of these bodies, and to whom their organizing is accountable. For and with what communities should student activism be directed? The school? The local community? Far-away communities? With what approaches can we bridge the gaps between these places?

    Reflecting on the often contradictory relationship between one's social location and one's aspirations for radical political praxis, the panel seeks to locate ourselves as change agents against a world that isolates us, only to graduate us as the new guardians of the system. What role should anarchism play in our own student organizations and what aspects of the tradition should we draw from in creating spaces for our work? While identifying immediate as well as long-term challenges students face in becoming change agents, this panel will emphasize ways of thinking that can imagine transformation beyond the crises that immediately confront us.

  • 10:45 am to noon

    Proposal for an Anarchism That Goes "All the Way Down"
    Alejandro de Acosta

    This talk proposes an anarchism that is both ontological and in between ontologies. Ontological anarchism can be conceived with Deleuze and Guattari as stressing that affectivity and desire are the fundamental political and existential phenomena. A theory of multiple selves, not fragmentary but pluralistic, is possible here, as the embodiment of a processual tendency that undoes rigid and hierarchical structures. Anarchism between ontologies "goes further down," discarding the need for any foundation. Here we think with of Bruno Latour and Isabelle Stengers as well as Walter Mignolo, daring to accept that perhaps the affective-libidinal force of anarchist desire is something that at the limit resists conceptualization and categorization completely. Between ontologies, multiple selves engage in multiple struggles. In practice, this means to combine two attitudes: a "cynical" one that seeks to make the weaker argument the stronger, believing in the power of minorities and in "border gnosis"; and a constructivist or processual attitude, a creative cognitive-theoretical "diversity of tactics" that would enhance our practices of liberation.

    Imperialism & the Making of the Modern Civil Subject
    Darini Nicholas

    This presentation will attempt to analyze the colonial relationship and creation of the modern civil subject. It will not only investigate how the civilizing mission functions for the imperial project at large but also how it functions for the state in the creation of the modern national subject. Of particular interest here is how power constitutes its subject through notions of civility that are inscribed on the colonial subject's mind and body through compulsory mission education. Yet this talk will examine the inherent contradiction in the civilizing mission, in that while the colonial project not only creates new subjects, it also serves to distance the newly transformed modern subjects from "the whites." Indeed, the subjects' newly acquired identity can lead to the process of self-realization, which can then manifest in the process of collective emancipation from the confines of colonialism through national liberation. Finally, this discussion will look beyond the nationalist subject to ask, What has become of this newly constituted subject of empire?

    Are Cooperatives a Dual-Power Strategy?
    Stacey Cordeiro

    The two aspects to dual power are: creating the new structures of a just and democratic society under the noses of the existing institutions; and directly challenging those institutions in order to dismantle and overthrow them. Anarchists are committed to workers' control and are usually proponents of workers' cooperatives as a revolutionary strategy. But is an economy based on worker ownership, or on other forms of cooperatives, really the economy we want? Is the development of cooperatives really a revolutionary or dual power strategy? If not, what would make them so?

    The Marxist Origins of Primitivism
    Spencer Sunshine

    The controversial anarchist trend known as primitivism is seen by many as a form of neo-Rousseauian radical ecology, but in fact it emerged out of the libertarian Marxism of the post-1960s' period, and it still retains many of the characteristics and philosophical categories of that style of thought. This presentation will trace the emergence of primitivism from several different strains of western Marxism, such as the critique of mediation, progress, and technology by the Frankfurt school; the refusal of political representation and the "revolt against work" in the French and Italian ultra-left; and the creative and ecstatic nature of the self as a locus of resistance as posited by the Situationist International. Particular attention will be paid to the thought of John Zerzan, and how his version of primitivism differs from alternatives posed by others, such as Fredy Perlman and David Watson.

    American Anarchism & the Russian Revolution: A Page from Anarchist History
    Kenyon Zimmer

    "The greatest problem facing the Anarchists since the War," wrote a U.S. anarchist in 1934, "is summed up in the word 'Russia.'" Anarchists reacted to the Communist seizure of power by reaffirming their faith in the principles of libertarian socialism and their opposition to authoritarian Marxism. The Russian Revolution, however, also proved that more than millenarian expectations, a rebellious working class, and individual militancy were essential to the realization of the anarchist project. The Russian experience prompted a fruitful, though mostly forgotten, period of ideological and organizational reexamination, which de-emphasized the usefulness of violent insurrection and stressed the necessity of long-term transformation of popular consciousness. Although a number of factors-including endemic conflicts with U.S. Communists-marginalized anarchists' influence within the U.S. Left and society as a whole, their insights into the process of social transformation and the meanings of the Russian Revolution remain provocatively relevant, and their attempts bring us closer to an egalitarian society.

  • 2:00 to 3:45 pm

    Gender, Sex, & Power
    Kazembe Balagoon, Hilton Bertalan, & Eli Robinson

    This panel will examine the relationship of sex, gender, and sexuality to power, capital, and our movements/work. As anarchists/anti-capitalists who struggle against the world as is, we must be critically aware of the changing nature of sex, gender, and sexuality under advanced capitalism. And as activists working toward a better society, we must also advance a liberatory vision of sex, gender, and sexuality. This panel will share our ideas/work with each other.

    Anarchy & International Solidarity
    Jaggi Singh, S'ra DeSantis, Mark Lance, & Andrew Willis

    This panel will share perspectives about the practice of international solidarity, by several anarchists actively involved in ongoing campaigns of support for international self-determination struggles, including East Timor, Palestine, Iraq, and Chiapas. After providing a brief overview of the campaigns and movements that the panelists have supported-or are supporting-the following guiding questions will be addressed: How do anarchists practicing direct solidarity maintain accountability to the movements and people they aim to support? How do anarchists navigate support for autonomy and self-determination with movements that are often articulated through ideologies of national liberation, as well as political parties, organized religion, governments, and states? What changes in anarchist thought and practice are necessary for the genuine practice of solidarity with movements of self-determination? What are the limitations of our solidarity efforts? What are the limits of anarchists, and anarchism, in practicing solidarity?

    Art & Anarchism
    Lex Bhagat, Dara Greenwald, & Erika Biddle
    facilitated by Josh MacPhee

    This panel discussion places art and culture within a critical anti-authoritarian context. We will raise a large number of questions regarding cultural production, reaching audience, distribution, and existence within mass culture and capitalist economies. This panel will address questions about what makes culture "anarchist," can anarchist culture exist outside of traditional capitalist economies or state socialist patronage systems, is the history of radical/leftist cultural practice useful to anarchists, and how can the anarchist community build language to usefully critique and nurture it's cultural producers?

    The Commodity Cul-de-Sac
    J.J. McMurtry

    Most twentieth-century social, cultural, and political philosophy from Lukacs to poststructuralism has been marked by Marx's analysis of commodity fetishism. While the effects of this influence are wildly divergent, they all share a belief that commodity capitalism has radically limited the political potential for socioeconomic and political change. Anarchism is no exception to this rule. In fact, the effects of this commodity cul-de-sac are perhaps most pronounced on it given its bedrock belief in the importance and possibility of social and individual freedom. This presentation will examine the theoretical and practical pitfalls of accepting the commodity framework on the anarchist project for human liberation, arguing that we need to see our way past the commodity fetishism framework and develop our understanding of the social spaces that resist the impositions of capitalism as the location of our political project.

    Fashion & Anarchism
    Tara Jensen, Vanessa Stasse, & Nicole Acosta

    The question of fashion for anarchists is one that is rarely explored. Questions discussed informally among ourselves about whether anarchists have a "dress code" (Why do anarchists wear so much dark clothing?) have long perplexed us. Beyond the dress code issue, we would like to encourage panelists to think about how fashion relates to being an anarchist. Should anarchists be "fashionable" or should they reject fashion as a bourgeois practice?

  • 4:15 to 6:00 pm

    Carnival against Capital: The Radical Subjectivity of Andre Breton & Georges Bataille
    Gavin Grindon

    Since the early 1990s many protests and actions have increasingly been characterized by a notion of carnival. This is a tendency that owes much to the influence of anti-road protest and groups such as Reclaim the Streets in the United Kingdom as well as 'second wave' anarchist theorists such as Hakim Bey or John Zerzan. However, these theories themselves are part of a longer tradition that sees in carnival or festival a cultural event with revolutionary social implications, and which furthermore attempts to use this cultural event to directly encourage revolutionary social change. This tradition stretches back from these second wave anarchists to the French radical groups the Situationist International and the College of Sociology. This presentation will look at the beginnings of this thread of thought in the College of Sociology's work in the 1930s to articulate an activist role for festivals in modern society.

    Poststructuralism & Anarchism
    Sandra Jeppesen, Regina Cochrane, Alejandro de Acosta, Jack Bratich, & J.J. McMurtry

    This panel will look at themes relating to the intervention of poststructuralism into anarchist theory and practice. A number of books and articles have been published recently advocating that anarchists should take poststructuralism seriously. Panelists will explore how the two are compatible and/or offer criticisms.

    We Must Advance Where They Retreat: Dual Power & Revolutionary Strategy
    Wesley Morgan

    Questions of strategy loom large in anarchist discussions, as do concerns regarding our marginalization as a movement? There are probably no anarchists who have not been told that anarchism is "just not possible." This presentation will emphasize the key role of dual power in creating a truly revolutionary praxis. In particular, as the effects of neoliberalism continue to threaten the public sector, anarchists are offered a strategic opportunity to begin organizing to create dual power institutions that have deep roots in their communities.

    Toward an Anti-Authoritarian Commitment to International Solidarity (or, "Why are Anti-Authoritarians such Shoddy Anti-imperialists?")
    Andréa Schmidt

    Drawing on first-hand involvement with recent attempts at "international solidarity work" in occupied Iraq, this presentation will examine different models of "international solidarity" from an anti-authoritarian perspective. Without purporting to offer a perfect alternative, the presentation will highlight the dilemmas and tensions elicited by different models for North American activists committed to both anti-imperialist and anti-authoritarian principles and practice.

    De/Constructing Parecon
    Suresh Naidu

    Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel have done anarchists a great favor by being very explicit about what a post-capitalist world might look like. But it's not the end, and it may not even be a good starting place. In this workshop we'll interrogate the participatory economics vision. We will examine the principles of justice underlying Parecon, the style of the vision, and the feasibility of the mechanisms.

    Reflections on The Dispossessed
    Alan O'Connor

    Some of the most valuable political books are novels: Edward Abbey, The Fool's Progress (1988); Elena Poniatowska, Tinisima (1992); and of course Ursula LeGuin, The Dispossessed (1974). They are all books about politics and revolution in the twentieth century, and are written by activists. The Dispossessed is filled with the anarchist spirit of Kropotkin, Taoism, and anthropological writings. It has a great deal to say about revolutionary movements, which always involve ordinary people and not paper blueprints. And this novel does not shy away from the possibility of revolution in the streets.

  • 8:00 to 9:30 pm

    Que se vayan tod@s! A Cardboard Piece
    Graciela Monteagudo

    Puppet show created in Argentina in February 2003 through a democratic collaboration project with Argentinean activists, organizers, artists, intellectuals, students, unemployed workers, feminists, and Bread & Puppet artists. The show narrates the history of Argentina's social movements, with an emphasis on current events.

    Stencil Pirates
    Josh MacPhee

    This slideshow will chronicle the stencil art form from its origins in caves, to revolutionary political usage in the 1950s through 1970s, to conceptual art on the street in the 1970s and 1980s, to its present life as a street art form popular with artists, anarchists, activists, and even corporate advertisers.

    Media & Anarchism
    Aaron Lakoff, Justin Park, & Andy Crawford

    How does the mainstream media influence how the public understands political issues? What successes has the alternative media had in providing different, even radical viewpoints? What does the media say about the culture we live in? Anarchists view mainstream media outlets with contempt. How has this contempt led to actions and counter-institutions by anarchists, and have these been successful?


Program schedule for Sunday September 26th

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