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March 8-9.- Washington, D.C. National Conference on Organized Resistance.
Article published on 14 February 2008

by r-c.
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IAS Radical Theory Track at NCOR,

March 8-9, 2008, at the

American University, Washington, DC

For the second year in a row, the National Conference
on Organized Resistance (NCOR) is offering the Radical
Theory Track—a selection of ten talks and
co-presentations explicitly aimed at activists who
wish to explore how social theory both informs and is
born out of our political work.

Radicals have long acknowledged the importance of
guiding thoughts in our work to transform the world.
We also understand the need to develop and critically
evaluate our own theories in a world rife with
exploitation, oppression, and hegemonic thinking.
Thus, the Radical Theory Track aims to provide a space
at NCOR in which to engage in theoretical discussion
and debate as political practice—a forum in which
theoretical discussion is not divorced from movement
concerns and experience, or bound up in abstraction,
but in which careful and original analysis of dynamic
concepts that are key to radical Left theory and
strategy can be articulated, shared, critiqued,
extended, and proliferated.

The Radical Theory Track is co-curated by an
organizing collective of the Institute for Anarchist
Studies (IAS) and the Free Society Collective, with
much support from the NCOR collective. The idea for
the track emerged out of the annual Renewing the
Anarchist Tradition conference, a project of the IAS,
as a way to create more spaces for anti-authoritarian
Left scholarship-as-praxis. We hope you will join us,
whether for one, some, or all of the sessions.

SATURDAY, MARCH 8

"In the World But Not of It":
New Anti-Authoritarian Approaches to Reform Struggles,
with Chris Dixon

9:30-11:00 a.m.

This workshop will focus on a promising area of
strategic reflection: the relation between reform and
radicalism. While some anarchists have dismissed
reform-based work, many anti-authoritarian organizers
in the United States and Canada have embraced what we
might call an "abolitionist" approach, to use a term
popularized by the prison abolitionist organization
Critical Resistance. This approach is oriented toward
building movements on the basis of collective fights
for survival and dignity while struggling against all
systems of oppression. Visible in diverse groups, it
fuses autonomous politics with a groundedness in some
of the most oppressed sectors of society (such as
migrants, prisoners, and First Nations and other
racialized communities). In the process, it suggests
new ways of thinking about the possibilities and
limitations of reform struggles. In this workshop, we
will explore an abolitionist approach—what anarchist
panther Ashanti Alston calls "being in the world, but
not of it." Together, we will look at case studies and
engage reflections from organizers. In examining these
examples, we will search for what is potentially
useful in our day-to-day work. This workshop will thus
challenge us to rethink our assumptions and approaches
to reform struggles as we seek to build liberatory
movements.

Chris, originally from Alaska, is a longtime
anti-authoritarian organizer, writer, and educator,
and a PhD student in the history of consciousness
program at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
He is a member of the administrative collective of
Colours of Resistance, serves on the advisory board
for the journal "Upping the Anti," and has recently
moved to Sudbury, Ontario, where he organizes with
Sudbury against War and Occupation.

Visions of Anarchism in the Twenty-First Century,
with Cindy Milstein and Brian

11:10 a.m. to 12:40 p.m.

Anarchism is not a static political philosophy or
social view. It is constantly evolving and shifting
its focus. In the past twenty years, we’ve seen
anarchism play a crucial role in the development of a
radical ecology movement and the movement against
capitalist globalization; become increasingly visible
via publications, conferences, and bookfairs,
traveling culture, and numerous community-based
projects; and emerge as a more expansive, compelling
perspective. What lessons can we draw from the past
couple of decades regarding which general approaches
do and do not seem to contribute to the building of
anarchist networks, visibility, and infrastructures?
Where will and/or could anarchists concentrate their
theoretical, direct action, and organizing energies in
the century that’s just starting to unfold? And what
might the search for utopia and an anarchist vision of
a free society look like, especially in view of the
possibilities of this historical moment? This session
is devoted to opening up a discussion about the shape
of contemporary anarchism as an idea and a practice,
beginning from our shared sensibilities and moving on
to a variety of points of departure.

Cindy is a co-organizer of the Renewing the Anarchist
Tradition conference, a board member of the Institute
for Anarchist Studies, and a collective member of both
Free Society and Black Sheep Books in Montpelier,
Vermont. She also taught at the "anarchist summer
school" called the Institute for Social Ecology. Her
essays appear in several anthologies, including
"Realizing the Impossible: Art against Authority" and
"Globalize Liberation," and she does community
organizing at home and public speaking/popular
education anywhere else.

Brian hails from a small town in which anarchists
maintain a wide array of social programs including
regular Really Really Free Markets, free breakfasts
for day laborers, free grocery distribution, a
books-to-prisoners group, and several different
publishing projects. He has outrun police vans in
Leipzig, dodged tear gas canisters in Quebec City, and
lodged with the MST on occupied land outside Belo
Horizonte; he also writes and edits.

Red and Black: Toward Common Ground,
with Pavlos Stavropoulos

2:00 to 3:30 p.m.

This presentation will offer a foundation for the
examination of anarchism and indigenism by exploring
common principles as well as areas of potential
misunderstanding or disagreement. Many traditional
indigenous political systems can be described as
anarcho-communist, lacking institutions of coercive
authority or private property. Indigenous liberation
movements also appear to have a strong
ethno-nationalist and spiritualist component. How has
colonialist language influenced our understanding of
traditional indigenous systems? Can anarchist analysis
provide a different framework through which that
language is understood and used? Can traditional
political systems and the contemporary indigenous
movements that are inspired by them offer viable
alternatives to the current statist systems? Is a true
indigenous anarchist philosophy, devoid of
Eurocentrism, possible or even desirable?

Pavlos is a political science graduate student at the
University of Colorado at Denver completing his
masters in indigenous political systems, and a
longtime community activist on indigenous solidarity,
anarchist, environmental, and anti-globalization
struggles.

Remaking Gender, Remaking Ourselves,
with Ace McArleton

3:40 to 5:10 p.m.

As all we aspiring gender-radicals know, the urgency
of dismantling the Gender binary and hierarchical
system it supports means dissenting from,
interrogating, and challenging practices of (big-G)
Gender that hurt others and ourselves. But it also
entails making something new with (little-g) gender
that celebrates our complexities as people while
moving us toward greater joy, expression, and
liberation. Unmaking and undoing gender is a part of
this process; yet so too is the practice of doing anew
and making anew. This talk will explore, how do we
both inhabit the deconstructive, critical moments as
well as the moments of remaking and rebuilding in
regard to G/gender? As in all our organizing efforts,
we must strive not only to resist social and political
ills but to shape together those new practices that
move us closer to freedom.

Ace has happily lived in central Vermont for five
years with his loving orange cat named Poopers. He
works as an out trans butch in the building trades,
works with teenagers, and is a collective owner of
Black Sheep Books. Ace taught gender theory at the
Institute for Social Ecology, and is a member of the
Free Society Collective.


Meddlesome Property:
A Brief History of Black Autonomist Movements,
with Kazembe Balagun

5:20 to 6:50 p.m.

In recent years, the work of C.L.R. James and James
Boggs, as well as lesser-known Black queer and
feminist collectives, has brought the concept of
"Black autonomy" to the foreground. In this brief
talk, I will look at the history of Black Autonomism
from its roots in revolutionary nationalism, Marxism,
and anarchism. In the mix also will be the continued
resistance that has taken place from the plantations
to the prison industry.

Kazembe is a writer from New York City. He currently
serves as the outreach coordinator at the Brecht
Forum, and his writings can be found on
blackmanwithalibrary.com.

SUNDAY, MARCH 9

Between Now and Utopia: Understanding Capitalism,
with D. T. Cochrane and Peter Staudenmaier

9:30 to 11:00 a.m.

Do we need to understand capital and capitalism if we
want to struggle for and create positive social forms
based on autonomy and solidarity? If we do, what
should this understanding inform? Is it simply a
matter of "know your enemy" or should it show us
pitfalls to avoid in a postcapitalist society, keeping
the ills of capitalism from emerging anew? Or would it
have something to say about how a postcapitalist
society should be organized? Even capitalism’s
critics, despite invoking its name as the source of
our current political and economic ills, are far from
having a universal agreement on the essential
characteristics and/or structure of capitalism. From
common ground yet with different perspectives, D. T.
and Peter will offer their thoughts on what capitalism
is, what capitalism does, and how understanding
capitalism can help anarchists and other
anti-capitalists in both their current organizing and
their articulations of a postcapitalist society.

After two degrees in economics left D. T. less than
convinced by capitalism’s justifications, he fled the
clutches of neoclassic thought. His journey led him to
heterodox political economy. Now, as a PhD candidate
in social and political thought at York, D. T.’s
research interests include capital theory, business
history, and the process of technological and social
change.

Peter is an anarchist and a historian who has been
involved in anti-capitalist politics since the 1980s,
and whose work focuses on modern European right-wing
thought, including fascism and Nazism. He recently
returned from a year of research in Germany and Italy.
Peter used to facilitate courses called Understanding
Capitalism and Alternatives to Capitalism at the
Institute for Social Ecology. He has worked
extensively with a variety of cooperatives and worker
collectives.

Anarchist People of Color,
Civil Rights, and the Myth of Liberation,
with Ashanti Alston and Ariel

11:10 a.m. to 12:40 p.m.

While the civil rights movement won many small
victories for U.S. blacks who were interested in
playing by the rules of the electorate and accepting
minimalist strides, movements that sought liberation
outside the legislature and pushed the boundaries of
what made the mainstream United States comfortable
were crushed. As anarchists—wanting to highlight
social, political, and economic contradictions within
the United States as well as destroy the illusion that
is the "American Dream"—we are charged with carrying
the legacy of many of these liberationist groups. As
people of color, we carry the baggage of both the
hollow victories and outright failures of civil
rights. Is liberation even still a viable concept?
What can anarchists learn from the confrontation in
this discussion? How can we use this to more
critically engage with the work we are doing? How
should it inform our present and future choices for
strategizing and organizing?

Ashanti is the national co-chair of the Jericho
Movement and a member of the revolutionary black
nationalist Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. A former
member of the Black Panther Party and the Black
Liberation Army, Ashanti was a political prisoner for
fourteen years in the United States. He is known as
the anarchist panther and is the author of the essay
"Beyond Nationalism, But Not without It."

Ariel is helping to organize the New York City
Anarchist Bookfair, and the Berkeley Anarchist
Students of Theory and Research and Development
(BASTARD) anarchist theory conference, and taught
classes in Girl Army (women’s self-defense) as well as
firearm practice and safety. She has been a member of
Anarchist People of Color, and contemplates the
possibility of anarchist economics.

Beyond "Representation":
Anti-Authoritarian Alternatives to
Democracy, Justice, and Green Capitalism,
with Carwil James

2:00 to 3:30 p.m.

How we can envision a democracy that goes beyond
political parties and media figures, a justice that is
more than public trials and incarceration, or an
economics that allows space for planning a sustainable
world together? Anarchists, along with others from
many ethical and cultural standpoints, have ways of
conceptualizing these aspects of life that go beyond
the one-dimensional forms that have become known as
representative democracy or the justice system, market
economics or climate change solutions. This session
will be a discussion of working alternative models to
various "representative" systems that never really
represent us, from grassroots democracy in Bolivia to
collective visions for a sustainable response to
climate change.

Carwil researches strategies of grassroots autonomy
and disruptive protest in Latin America as a CUNY
Graduate Center anthropology student. He taught at the
New College of California, and worked in campaigns
against U.S. wars and corporate globalization and
supporting indigenous resistance to oil exploitation.


Taking Nonviolence (and Violence) Seriously,
with Mark Lance and Matt Meyer

3:40 to 5:10 p.m.

Discussions of nonviolence and violence in radical
circles seem almost always to generate more heat than
light. Frequently one finds a near-fundamentalist
faith on both sides: those like Colman McCarthy who
insist that Malcolm X was no better than the Klan
because both advocated violence, and others like Ward
Churchill who take advocacy of nonviolence to be no
more than craven complicity with oppression. Less
often, the debates are more civil but rather stale, as
when it is assumed up front that what is at issue is
merely a choice of tactics, no more important than,
for instance, whether to utilize street theater in a
demonstration. Sad to say, things are rather more
complicated, and indeed downright messy. This talk
will try to bring a bit of this complexity to the
table by summarizing some work by a wide range of
activists, social theorists, and philosophers. We’ll
see that the range of attitudes toward the morality
and politics of violence is broader than usually
thought, and explore what certain of the more
interesting currents have to do with an anarchist or
anti-authoritarian vision of society. In the end, this
talk will suggest that there are plenty of tactical
issues, but matters of deep principle also, even if
the relevant principles are more complicated than
either "never use violence" or "by any means
necessary." There will also be lots of time will be
left for discussion and debate.

Mark is a professor of philosophy, and professor and
chair in the program on justice and peace at
Georgetown University. In his day job, he writes and
teaches about philosophy of language, logic,
epistemology, moral philosophy, and political
philosophy while trying to subtly subvert, in small
and local ways, the function of an elite educational
institution. In one of his many night jobs, he has
been an activist for over twenty years, working on a
wide range of peace and social justice issues both
local and global. Mark is currently on the board of
the Institute for Anarchist Studies and the editorial
collective of "Perspectives on Anarchist Theory." He
is also at work on a book defending an idiosyncratic
version of anarchism, to be finished sometime in 2008.

Matt, the former chair of the War Resisters League and
the founding chair of the Peace and Justice Studies
Association, is currently the educational director of
a small, alternative high school in New York City.
Author of "Guns and Gandhi in Africa: Pan African
Insights on Nonviolence, Armed Struggle, and
Liberation" (2000), and "Time Is Tight: Urgent Tasks
for Educational Transformation—Eritrea, South Africa,
and the United States" (2007), Matt is in constant
search of a better, twenty-first-century, working
definition of the phrase "revolutionary nonviolence."

"Get Out of Art Free": Collapsing the Binary of Culture and Politics, with Erika Biddle, Lindsay Caplan, and Malav Kanuga

5:20 to 6:50 p.m.

Anti-authoritarian social movements are increasingly
posing the question of possibility. This marks a
return to important questions of politics beyond
resistance, but it’s often difficult to transform our
responses into practice. In an exploratory effort, we
suggest taking this moment to draw inspiration and
insight from some artistic and cultural strands of our
radical tradition that have historically been on the
periphery of political action, yet focus on the
question of potentiality in-through-and-against the
social context. Most of us know that there is a
profound relationship between art and a horizontal
politics. But is it simply a matter of linking
together art and revolution? Or is there a
co-articulation between the two? Whatever the
description, the conceptual as well as practical
concerns seem to remain muddy. This panel will seek to
explore historical and contemporary precedents in the
relationship between art and revolutionary processes,
and then ask how this may help anti-authoritarian
movements today better understand the twin tasks of
creativity and critique.

Erika is an editor at Autonomedia and managing editor
for "Perspectives on Anarchist Theory," the biannual
journal of the Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS).
An IAS board member, she is also currently working on
a film project on utopianisms.

Lindsay is an editor at Autonomedia, and researches
social and aesthetic theory at the Graduate Center of
CUNY.

Malav is a collective owner of Bluestockings bookstore
on the Lower East Side of New York City as well as a
PhD student and teacher in the CUNY system.

More on NCOR

More on the IAS


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