RAT 2008

Friday, November 7, 2008


5:00 to 8:00 p.m.
RAT opens! Registration/housing sign-in;
"bookfair" begins (and runs throughout weekend)


8:00 to 10:00 p.m. 
OPENING PANEL


Cultures of Contention: Where Have We Been? Where Are We Going?

Emily Forman and Dara Greenwald


Saturday, November 8, 2008


7:30 to 8:45 a.m.
Breakfast


9:00 to 10:15 a.m.  
SESSION ONE


Anarchism, Permaculture, and Radical Ecology

Stephen Polk and Pavlos Stavropoulos


Remembering Utopia: Anarchist Ideals in the Inception of the Kvutza and Kibbutz

James Horrox, with Andréa Maria as respondent


The "Anti-Proletariat" against Enclosure

Scott Uzelman


"Impossible Is Nothing": China, Tibet, and the 2008 Olympics

Onto


10:30 to 11:45 a.m.  
SESSION TWO


Tracing the Anzaldúan Body

Ellen Chenoweth


Real Utopia: An Anarchist Philosophy of Participation

Thomas Nail, with Sean Parson as respondent


Anarchism, Decolonization, and Indigenous Political Systems

Pavlos Stavropoulos


From Housing to Anarchism: Challenging Private Property Rights through Urban Activism

Andrea Gibbons and Shiri Pasternak


11:50 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Lunch


1:15 to 2:45 p.m. 
SESSION THREE


Shutdown: The Rise and Fall of Direct Action to Stop the War (film and discussion)

Jonathan


Wobblies and Zapatistas

Andrej Grubacic, Ramsey Kanaan, and Cindy Milstein


Art as Micropolitical Anarchism

Olive McKeon, with Lindsay Caplan as respondent


The Abolition of the State

Wayne Price


3:15 to 4:45 p.m. 
SESSION FOUR


Infoshop as Anarchist Institution?

James Generic, Kate Khatib, Ramsey Kanaan, and John Duda


The Multitude Disrupts Downtown: Mass Action in Financial Centers--Recent Practice and Theories of Class

Carwil James


Going Global: Scaling Up Anti-militarist and Anti-imperialist Movements

Jeffrey Sasha Davis


Autonomy, Composition, and the Radical Imagination

Stevphen Shukaitis


Our Dreams, Their Ballot Box: A Critical Appraisal of Anarchist Organizing against the DNC/RNC

David Combs, Emily Forman, Alex Bradley, Cindy Milstein, and Andrew Willis Garcés


5:00 to 6:30 p.m.
Dinner


6:00 to 7:45 p.m.
Black Sheep Books Open House


8:00 p.m. onward
Short music set by Spoonboy; welcome to RAT and the IAS; short music set by Spoonboy; and two hours of dancing with DJ Ta$temaker


9:00 to 10:00 p.m. 
SESSION FIVE


Reading "Letters of Insurgents"

SW and Onto

Sunday, November 9, 2008


7:30 to 8:45 a.m.
Breakfast


9:00 to 10:15 a.m. 
SESSION ONE


All Hail the Vanguard!

Charles Weigl


New Perspectives on Anarchism

Nathan Jun


Infinite Demands and Responsibility: Anarchist Ethics Reloaded

Ryan Robert Mitchell


Border Vigilantes, Boundary Enforcement, and Social Movements on the U.S.-Mexico Border: Decolonization Struggles in the Twenty-first Century

Jose Palafox


10:30 to 11:45 a.m. 
SESSION TWO


Walking the Walk: Beyond Self-management, But Not Without It

Kiki Tropea and Joshua Stephens


Kwangju against the State, 1980

Todd Tavares


The Everyday Anarchist

Laura Portwood-Stacer, with Andrew Willis Garcés as respondent


Do Capitalists Fear Direct Action? (Anti)Capitalist Struggles

DT Cochrane and Jeff Monaghan


11:50 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Lunch


1:15 to 2:30 p.m. 
CLOSING PANEL


Post-election and in the Midst of Economic Crisis, What's an Anarchist to Do?

Facilitators and/or panelists TBA


Panel Descriptions


Cultures of Contention: Where Have We Been? Where Are We Going?

Emily Forman and Dara Greenwald

This multimedia panel will present vivid examples, from the past and present, of antiauthoritarian cultural production and local infrastructure building during moments of social movement mobilization. The panelists will draw from their day-to-day organizing efforts and explorations of radical history to pull out inspiring practices that might shed light on the questions that haunted us in the streets at the DNC/RNC convergences, and that haunt us in the urgent political present: Desire or survival? De-normalization or articulation? Reinvention or revival? This panel should expand the role of culture as a social catalyst in times of crisis, and should give us a bit of hope for transversal strategies and collective creativity in the days to come.


Emily is an artist, activist, researcher, and serial collaborator. Her organizing activities range from public interventions and convergences to media production and popular education about struggles for spatial justice and self-determination. She is a coeditor of the publication
Trashing the Neoliberal City: Autonomous Cultural Practices in Chicago.


Dara is a PhD candidate in electronic art at RPI. She recently co-organized (with Josh MacPhee) the exhibit Signs of Change: Social Movement Cultures, 1960s to Present. Dara has spoken at previous RAT conferences about art, politics, and public space.


Anarchism, Permaculture, and Radical Ecology

Stephen Polk and Pavlos Stavropoulos

As we witness the continual co-optation of ecology by an authoritarian neoliberal global capitalism characterized by the hyperalignment of wealth and political power, decreasing access to space, and disappearing ecologies, it's time to rethink theory and practice within radical ecology. Utilizing the theoretical framework of social anarchism, we will explore permaculture as a practical tool that emphasizes social and ecological integration through design methods based on observance and replication of nature, diversity, egalitarianism, and decentralized, autonomous control of communities along with their environment and resources. What can permaculture teach us about strategy and place in designing ecologically scaled neighborhoods and communities? How can anarchism help bring out the implicit radical and liberatory potential of permaculture? How can a radical ecology resist the de-radicalizing phenomenon of cultural appropriation? Drawing on theory as well as real-life examples, we will critique contemporary anarchist practices while calling for a new radical ecology.


Stephen is an active member in Denver's anarchist community. He has been living collectively in renters' collectives for the last four years; is cofounder and co-organizer of Denver Radical Urban Gardeners; and is involved in a collective land and house-buying project. Stephen is also a graduate student at the University of Colorado at Denver in the political science department.


Pavlos is a community activist on indigenous solidarity, anarchist, environmental, and local struggles, and the cofounder of the Woodbine Ecology Center, which focuses on sustainable communities and indigenous perspectives. He is completing has masters in political science on indigenous political systems at CU-Denver.

Remembering Utopia: Anarchist Ideals in the Inception of the Kvutza and Kibbutz

James Horrox, with Andréa Maria as respondent

Noam Chomsky once observed that the early kibbutz movement "came closer to the anarchist ideal than any other attempt that lasted for more than a very brief moment before destruction," yet the kibbutzim, even as they existed before 1948, continue to receive little positive consideration from the anarchist Left. This talk hopes to provide an insight into the anarchist elements involved in the early years of the kibbutzim, discussing the impact of figures such as Peter Kropotkin and Gustav Landauer on the ideological self-understanding of the groups that contributed to the movement's inception, and how these ideologies found expression in the practical reality of the first collective communities. James will suggest some reasons why the example of the early kibbutzim is deserving of serious reevaluation from the anarchist Left, both as replicable models of Pareconic political economy in their own right and in terms of their historical role in the regional politics of Israel/Palestine.


James is the author of
A Living Revolution: Anarchism in the Kibbutz Movement, forthcoming in 2008 from AK Press. He is currently working on his doctoral studies at Manchester Metropolitan University.


Andréa is a member of the board of the Institute for Anarchist Studies. She is an ally in several decolonization struggles, and once wrote email from a kibbutz in Palestine. Some of her best friends are Israeli anarchists.

 The "Anti-Proletariat" against Enclosure

Scott Uzelman

In Marxist visions of anticapitalist struggles, the concept "proletariat" refers to the working class of industrial capitalism, the revolutionary subject. By contrast, Scott will suggest we use it to refer to the power effect of capital's tendency to enclose alternative sources of life and subsistence such that a dependent population of human beings emerge that is compelled to sell its capacity to produce to those who control accumulated wealth or the means of production. Yet since the dawn of capitalism, communities have struggled against being or becoming proletarian. In this talk, Scott will use the concept "anti-proletariat" ironically to challenge the "hegemony of socialist strategy," so to speak. He will argue that the concept is useful in drawing attention to those moments of resistance (e.g., the MST in Brazil or the Zapatistas) that attempt to develop or protect sources of autonomy, and thereby disrupt the proletarian condition, one of the constitutive elements of the capital relation.


Scott is completing his PhD at York University in Toronto, and beginning a postdoctoral fellowship at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. His research and activism focuses on anticapitalist struggles for autonomy and self-/collective determination.


"Impossible Is Nothing": China, Tibet, and the 2008 Olympics

Onto

This summer, Onto was one of the forty-five internationals arrested and deported from China for participating in one of the many "Free Tibet" actions in Beijing during the Olympic Games. In this presentation, he'll talk about his experiences there, how and why they did it, and the politics of the Olympics and the Free Tibet movement. Along with this, Onto will focus on the hybrid meaning of Chinese capitalism today, its relation to our struggles here and struggles there, and why it presents a problem for anarchist analysis.


Onto hates borders, capital, and secret police. When he's not in a Chinese prison, he's a child care volunteer in New York City.


Tracing the Anzaldúan Body

Ellen Chenoweth

We will examine Gloria Anzaldúa's often-overlooked contributions as a theorist, focusing especially on her post-Borderlands formulations. Nepantla/nepantleras, the Coatlicue state, spiritual activism, el mundo zurdo, and conocimiento will all be presented before moving to a discussion of Anzaldúa's relevance and contributions to disability studies. We will think about and experiment with the idea of embodied knowledge as an alternative epistemology. How does it inform our work if we bring our bodies to the table? Where do the road maps that are Anzaldúa's legacy take us? What are the ways in which the body is silenced? How can our political activities help to dismantle the pervasive mind-body dichotomy? This session will involve a little bit of moving, writing, discussing, and questioning, among other activities.


Ellen is a graduate student in dance and women's studies at Texas Women's University, where she gets to roll around on the floor a lot. She loves thinking and dancing at the same time.


Real Utopia: An Anarchist Philosophy of Participation

Thomas Nail, with Sean Parson as respondent

Anarchism's theoretical problem today is that it has no positive philosophy. From Hakim Bey's "ontological anarchism," Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's "multitude," and Derridian "Deconstruction" to the practices of critical, postanarchist, postcolonial, and postmodern theory, a common thread can be followed: "There is nothing but chaos and becoming undermining every stable point of reference: every liberatory value is undermined no less than every hegemonic one." If anarchism as a philosophy is going to be taken seriously as a viable alternative to state and capitalist conceptual organization, it is going to have to consider, beyond monological philosophies of chaos and critique, its alternative conceptual features: its own philosophical vision. As a philosophical parallel inspired by Chris Spannos's Real Utopia: Participatory Society for the 21st Century (AK Press, 2008), this presentation develops several key philosophical concepts employed in Parecon, and their strength (against postanarchist concepts) for thinking through current participatory movements in Argentina, Mexico, and Venezuela.


Thomas is a PhD candidate in philosophy at the University of Oregon, and an activist with and member of the Students Cooperative Association. He is currently involved in organizing a Parecon-based low-income housing cooperative in Eugene, Oregon.


Sean is a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Oregon. His dissertation is titled "Insurgent Desires and Government Concerns: Prefigurative Politics, Projects for Autonomy, and American Political Institutions." He has also been involved in the radical environmental and anticapitalist movement for the last decade, and is currently involved in Eugene Rising Tide, Food Not Bombs, and Eugene CopWatch.


Anarchism, Decolonization, and Indigenous Political Systems

Pavlos Stavropoulos

Many North American precolonial indigenous political systems can be described as anarcho-communist, lacking institutions of coercive authority or private property. Yet we know more about the short-lived Paris Commune than about thriving political systems that existed for generations. Pavlos will argue that indigenous political systems offer a viable alternative to current statist and international systems of political organization. By reviewing select case studies we can understand the defining characteristics of these systems, which can inform both our daily politics and our long-term vision. In the process, we must look critically at the effects of colonialism and must ensure that anarchist analysis includes an explicit decolonization perspective.


Pavlos is a community activist on indigenous solidarity, anarchist, environmental, and local struggles, and the cofounder of the Woodbine Ecology Center, which focuses on sustainable communities and indigenous perspectives. He is completing has masters in political science on indigenous political systems at CU-Denver.


From Housing to Anarchism: Challenging Private Property Rights through Urban Activism

Andrea Gibbons and Shiri Pasternak

Private property holds a special place in the hearts of North Americans, and it is rooted particularly deep in the hearts and minds of the people living in the United States. Among other things it is one of the founding myths, the basis of much law, the principle raison d'etre of the police force, and the source of grave political and economic inequality. There is a general acceptance of its necessity among almost everyone. Except for us, a small minority, and to win anything we have to move others. This panel will look at organizing strategies around housing, ways to raise the conversation and move people to a deeper understanding of rights and land, and ways to begin dismantling the structures that have been created to maintain the wealth and power of the few.


Raised in Arizona, Andrea moved to Los Angeles, worked as a paralegal and researcher, and got her urban planning masters from UCLA. Becoming the lead organizer and researcher for SAJE, she organized tenants, reveled in popular education, uncovered slum housing empires, and helped create the Fugueroa Corridor Community Land Trust.


Shiri researches the colonial history of property rights, and is involved with several anti-property projects, including Abandonment Issues, a Toronto-based housing coalition pushing for a Use-It-or-Lose-it bylaw for vacant buildings.

Shutdown: The Rise and Fall of Direct Action to Stop the War (film and discussion)

Jonathan

Shutdown (45 min.), directed by Beca Lafore, Helen Rasti, and Jonathan, uses the March 20, 2003, occupation and disruption of the San Francisco Financial District as a case study. The film casts a thoughtful eye on one of the most successful actions of the current antiwar movement, facilitated by Direct Action to Stop the War (DASW). Created to gain insight, inspire, and draw lessons, the movie tells the story of how social justice organizers and everyday people came together to plan and shut down the financial district of a major U.S. city. The film includes details of what made the action successful, followed by reflections from DASW participants on the many obstacles and failings of the organizing model and organizing culture (broken into themes such as race and gender inequality, lack of long-term strategy, and tyranny of the articulate and police repression). The film will be followed by a discussion.


Born and raised in New York City, Jonathan completed his BA at Hampshire College studying video making, history, and community organizing. He directed a number of short films and was awarded the Community Partnerships for Social Change Grant. Working for three years as an organizer for Peace Action West, he is also a journalist who has written wtih the Bay Area paper
Frontlines, currently serves on the board of Education Not Incarceration, and works as a community organizer for SF Women against Rape.


Wobblies and Zapatistas: A Panel Discussion on Anarchism and Marxism

Andrej Grubacic, Ramsey Kanaan, and Cindy Milstein

This panel revolves around the newly published book Wobblies and Zapatistas: Conversations on Anarchism, Marxism, and Radical History (PM Press), coauthored by Staughton Lynd and Andrej Grubacic. This wide-ranging text is a provocative discussion of history, the new social movements, and where next. The panel, like the book itself, will focus on the complicated relationship between anarchism and Marxism. The panelists will interrogate the most pertinent questions that the authors have raised, including the (im)possibility of a synthesis between two political traditions; the relevance of class for contemporary antiauthoritarian politics; the relationship between revolutionary theory and practice, and the role of "intellectuals" in revolutionary politics.


Andrej is an anarchist dissident from the Balkans. He is a lecturer at the ZMedia Institute, a visiting assistant professor of sociology at the University of San Francisco, and the editor of the forthcoming PM publication
The Staughton Lynd Reader.

Ramsey founded AK Press--named after his mother--several decades ago. He cofounded PM Press-named after an utter failure of the collective imagination--a year ago.

Cindy, a (likely tired) RAT co-organizer, happily agreed to this panel for the sheer pleasure of conversing with Andrej and Ramsey.


Art as Micropolitical Anarchism

Olive McKeon, with Lindsay Caplan as respondent

The central question that Olive will address is how can one approach artworks as being moments of anarchism rather than being about anarchism. When examining the relationship between art and anarchism, one can view aesthetics works as a means to refer to or reflect on power and politics. In distinction to this perspective, Olive's precise interest is in works whose primary project is to create moments of micro-anarchism rather than refer to an anarchist politics existing somewhere else. Herbert Marcuse, among other theorists, has advocated an understanding of art as a domain of experimentation in which different social relationships can temporarily materialize and come to fruition. This talk will traverse a number of thinkers and artists who pursue this line of thinking: Nicolas Bourriaud's relational aesthetics, Obadiah Eelcut's experimental currency Noney, choreographer Anouk van Dijk's STAU, and others who are facilitating fleeting anarchisms.


Olive is currently a graduate student at New York University in the arts politics program.


Lindsay is a doctoral student in art history at the CUNY Graduate Center. She teaches at Baruch College and is a member of the Autonomedia editorial collective.


The Abolition of the State

Wayne Price

Revolutionary anarchists and antistatist Marxists oppose all forms of domination and oppression: class, race, national, gender, sexual orientation, and so on. Important in maintaining all oppression is the state. Both anarchists and Marxists talk about abolishing the state. But what does this mean? What actually is the state? How could it be abolished? What could replace it? What lessons can be learned from past revolutions? How can our theories about the state affect our present-day organizing and thinking?


Wayne, a longtime revolutionary activist and writer, has been active in labor, human rights, and antiwar struggles, and is a member of the New York City local of the Northeastern Federation of Anarchist-Communists. He writers regularly for www.Anarkismo.net, the Utopian, and the Northeastern Anarchist, and is the author of the book The Abolition of the State: Anarchist and Marxist Perspectives.


Infoshop as Anarchist Institution?


James Generic, Kate Khatib, Ramsey Kanaan, and John Duda

Convened by members of the organizing committee of the 2006 Infoshop Gathering, this panel explores the history and development of the infoshop movement in the United States, with an eye toward illuminating the role the infoshops and autonomous spaces play in the larger anarchist and antiauthoritarian community. Drawing on a wealth of examples, culled from original research and personal experience, we intend to explore infoshops as anarchist interventions in the urban terrain, as potential sites of resistance to gentrification and displacement, and as laboratories for the exploration of new models for self-managed societies. What untapped possibilities and what innovative roles can infoshops play in the development of a more just society? What limitations are placed on infoshops by the uneasy position they hold as a point of contact between the mainstream and the radical Left? The results of this discussion will be integrated into the planning of the next Infoshop Gathering, tentatively scheduled for 2009.


James grew up on a sheep farm in Northeast Pennsylvania until moving to Philadelphia at age fourteen. He has been involved in the Wooden Shoe Books infoshop collective since 2000, and is involved with the Philadelphia chapter of Jobs with Justice.


Kate helped to sustain the Counter-Information Agency Infocafe in East Amsterdam before moving to Baltimore in 2003, where she helped to found Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, a collectively owned and democratically managed infoshop and cafe.


Ramsey has been a member of the (all-volunteer) Bound Together collective now for fifteen years, and was a cofounder (with other Bound Together folks) of the Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair, which will be entering its fourteenth year in 2009!


John learned about autonomous social centers helping to run ASCII, a squatted Internet cafe and computer lab offering free computer access and technology skill shares to the residents of Amsterdam. He is also a founding member of the Red Emma's collective in Baltimore.


The Multitude Disrupts Downtown: Mass Action in Financial Centers--Recent Practice and Theories of Class

Carwil James

What happens when mass direct action moves from targeting institutions to disrupting a city, from targeting decision makers to the political system itself? Carwil will look at the San Francisco antiwar effort in 2002-2004 as an arena where this shift tentatively happened. For a glimpse of larger-scale possibilities, he will turn to the growing creation of grassroots power in Bolivia--a trajectory that has led from rural base building to disruption to changing national political life. In these episodes, public anger physically interrupts "information-based" financial capital on downtown streets. Popular protest, conventionally focused toward state institutions, is widened to confront economic power and everyday complicity. As these interventions multiply, decentralized and participatory forms of organization are given space to grow. If this is a large-scale deployment of suddenly unalienated labor, what does this say about the class formation of those who carry them out?


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 participated in Direct Action to Stop the War, a directly democratic resistance effort committed to uprooting the system behind war and empire.


Going Global: Scaling Up Anti-militarist and Anti-imperialist Movements

Jeffrey Sasha Davis

Sasha intends to present a case study of the global anti-militarist and anti-imperialist organization "No Bases." As the name suggests, this is a worldwide network of local activist groups that struggle against the everyday violence of U.S. military bases in their communities. In the presentation, Sasha will examine the issues that come up when radical groups organize at the grassroots level while trying to maintain a nonhierarchical structures that retains local groups' autonomy. During the No Bases global conference in 2007, three major discussions developed that would be of interest to anarchist theorists/activists. There were debates over the extent of centralization for the organizational structure, the rhetorical framing of the activism (explicitly anti-imperialist or not), and the benefits and dangers of using nationalism and local calls for sovereignty when confronting U.S. militarism.


In 2003, Sasha received a PhD from Penn State University. Over the past seven years, he has been doing research with activist groups at militarized sites in the Marshall Islands, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, and other places, while teaching at the University of Vermont and University of Hawaii.


Autonomy, Composition, and the Radical Imagination

Stevphen Shukaitis

What is the nature of the radical imagination? Drawing from autonomist politics, class composition analysis, and avant-garde arts, this presentation will explore the emergence, functioning, and constant breakdown of the resistant social imaginary. To invoke the potentiality and subversiveness of the imagination as underlying and supporting radical politics, over the past forty years, has almost become a cliché, a rhetorical utilization of that which is already in circulation. What does it mean to invoke the power of the imagination when it seems that is already in power (through media flows and the power of the spectacle)? By reopening the question of recuperation, the inevitable drive to integrate power of social insurgency back into the working of capital and the state, creating the possibility to explore a politics refounded against and through the dynamics of recuperation, to keep open an antagonism without closure that is continually composed and recomposed.


Stevphen is a lecturer at the University of Essex. He is a member of the Autonomedia editorial collective and is the editor (with Erika Biddle and David Graeber) of
Constituent Imagination: Militant Investigations // Collective Theorization (AK Press, 2007). For more on his writing and projects, see http://stevphen.mahost.org.


Our Dreams, Their Ballot Box: A Critical Appraisal of Anarchist Organizing against the DNC/RNC

David Combs, Emily Forman, Alex Bradley, Cindy Milstein, and Andrew Willis Garcés

Many anarchists across the United States devoted a great deal of energy over the past year to organizing against the Democratic and Republic National Conventions in Denver and Saint Paul. This panel will bring together participants in the demonstrations from across the country for a critical discussion of the goals, strategy, and tactics of the mobilization. They will ask: What was effective? What wasn't? What lessons can be articulated and applied to future mobilizations? What did we forget along the way? What role do/can/should anarchists play in opposing electoral politics, and are national conventions and counterconventions the most effective moments to play that role? And what conclusions do we draw--collectively and as individuals--about the strategic, symbolic, or other value of investing time, energy, resources, and political passion in disrupting electoral spectacle?


David is an anarchist punk musician and activist from Washington, DC, who spent a good deal of time this past year organizing around the DNC/RNC protests in Denver and Saint Paul, and traveling the country doing workshops on anarchism and direct action. In some musical circles, he is known as Spoonboy.


Emily is an artist, activist, researcher, and serial collaborator. Her organizing activities range from public interventions and convergences to media production and popular education about struggles for spatial justice and self-determination. She is a coeditor of the publication
Trashing the Neoliberal City: Autonomous Cultural Practices in Chicago.


Alex is a cofounder and current member of the Pittsburgh Organizing Group (POG), an anarchist group based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For the past six years he has worked with POG on issues of global economic justice, local labor solidarity, and anti-militarization/military recruitment, combining education with direct action.


During the DNC in Denver, Cindy was deeply disturbed that she was "an anarchist," but has since regained her hope in that political identity--sort of. She's joyfully a member of the Black Sheep Books collective, an IAS board member, co-organizes RAT, and writes (slowly) on anarchism and direct democracy.


Andrew is an organizer in Washington, DC, focused on housing, labor, and immigrant rights issues, and international solidarity work. This fall, he's also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, and looks forward to hanging with fam in Colombia when the semester's done.


Reading "Letters of Insurgents"

SW and Onto

SW and Onto read Letters of Insurgents this summer in between trips to occupied lands near and far. After reading it, it began to infect their conversations, their beliefs, and their relationship as well. The only way to cure this contagion is to spread it to others; they hope it works. Simply put, Fredy Perlman's Letters to Insurgents is the best anarchist book ever written. In this session, in homage to the folks at audioanarchy.org who recorded the whole book in mp3, SW and Onto will read aloud some of their favorite passages, sharing their personal and political stories of how it affects them. All of this is done in hope of starting a conversation of what it means to be insurgent today. People's own experiences with fiction and politics will be encouraged too.


SW is a bunny. Onto is a dragon.


All Hail the Vanguard!

Charles Weigl

Common sense declares anarchism opposed to vanguards. Scratch the surface of this truism, however, and things become more complicated. Historically, many anarchists have advocated vanguardist forms of revolutionary organizing. The categorical rejection of vanguards is a recent phenomenon in our movement. At times, there can be something pathological about this rejection: an attempt to escape rather than address contradictions inherent in what we do. Building a better world, and inspiring/convincing/educating others to do the same, is vanguardist by definition. Knee-jerk reactions to words like "vanguardism," without a clear understanding of what the term means, create a serious strategic impasse in which we not only lack the courage of our convictions but often deny ourselves the right to have convictions at all--while nonetheless constantly and guiltily working hard to propagate them. The goal of this discussion, then, is to find ways to productively work through the issues surrounding this debate.


Charles is currently a member of the AK Press collective. In the 1980s, he was a member of the Left Bank Books collective and taught at Tolstoy College. In between, he's been a cabbie, bartender, truck driver, furniture mover, and heavy drinker, among other things. He lives in Berkeley, with two grown-ups, one toddler, and a cat.



New Perspectives on Anarchism

Nathan Jun

New Perspectives on Anarchism (Lexington Press, spring 2009) is a collection of essays representing some of the best work in the contemporary study of anarchism. True to the spirit of its subject, moreover, contributors to the volume come from all over the world, and cover the widest possible range of disciplinary approaches and methodologies. This presentation explores some of the challenges that the editors faced in putting together the book as well as various issues broached within the book itself, such as the backlash against anarcho-primitivism, the emerging "historicism" among anarchist scholars, the alleged (re)turn toward syndicalism in U.S. anarchist movements, and so on.


Nathan is an assistant professor of philosophy and the Philosophy Program Coordinator at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. He is coeditor with Shane Wahl of
New Perspectives on Anarchism, and is the author of several articles and book reviews on political philosophy, ethics, and contemporary European philosophy. Nathan is also a long-standing political activist.


Infinite Demands and Responsibility: Anarchist Ethics Reloaded

Ryan Robert Mitchell

In a debate that ran across both Harper's magazine and the London Review of Books, Slavoj Žižek critiqued the anarchic politics in Simon Critchley's Infinitely Demanding (2007) as being defeatist for surrendering the game of state power to capitalism. Far more than a caustic book review, Žižek condemned anarchism and the politics of resistance for being parasitical to the state that ensures radicals the very right to resist. Drawing from the tradition of continental philosophy, Critchley's work centers on the conception of the ethical subject that is rooted in Otherness, and how this subjectivity leads to anarchic meta-politics that resist any attempts to impose order on it. Strangely absent from Critchley's work, however, is any sustained discussion of anarchist theory. Is Infinitely Demanding an example of the academic cool hunting of radical politics, as some claim, or does Critchley's work open up new avenues of discussion within the anarchist tradition? This presentation will examine the Žižek-Critchley debate as well as evaluate what Critchley's work has to offer anarchist theory and politics.

Ryan lives in Toronto, where he has been involved in various arts and community education projects. He is interested in the concept and theory of desire, and how it informs both radical politics and cinema. Ryan is currently obsessed with the films of Harry Dean Stanton.


Border Vigilantes, Boundary Enforcement, and Social Movements on the U.S.-Mexico Border: Decolonization Struggles in the Twenty-first Century

Jose Palafox

This talk will explore the origins and development of the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, and its relationship to the recent escalation of anti-immigrant violence. In response to both state violence and vigilante violence along the border, this talk will discuss and analyze the struggles by immigrant and border rights groups along the California and Arizona border region. Special attention will be given to revolutionary autonomous collectives in Nogales, Mexico, and Tijuana, Mexico. In this presentation we will watch portions of Jose's film New World Border (28 min., 2001) to give a visual representation of the social movements along the U.S.-Mexico border.


Jose was born in Tijuana and grew up in San Diego, where he was involved in many DIY-political punk bands. He attended the University of California at Berkeley for undergraduate and graduate school (comparative ethnic studies and sociology), and currently is working on a new music project called "Baader Brains" as well as taking a break from full-time teaching to work in publishing at AK Press. He's published articles in
Social Justice, Covert Action Quarterly, ColorLines, Z Magazine, Borderlines, Shades of Power, Left Turn, and Maximum RocknRoll.


Walking the Walk: Beyond Self-management, But Not without It

Kiki Tropea and Joshua Stephens

Within the anarchist tradition, worker self-management has functioned as a sort of conventional reconstructive economic vision. The history of experiments therein is both rich and well-worn. But as a container for social transformation, especially while so many destructive forces shape and speak through us--often well outside the sphere of production relations--is this model and the conversation it often produces adequate? What other questions might our chosen flavor of workplace organization pose? What is its relationship to the communities in which it is carried out? What is its role in movement building? What does it communicate to the social body outside the proverbial shop floor? Perhaps most important, what the hell do a bunch of dogwalkers know about any of this? Two members of the Brighter Days Collective (a worker-run pet care firm in DC) will explore these questions, based on their day-to-day work.


Kiki has somehow managed to drag herself, relatively recently, out from the bowels of fundamentalist Christianity and into the heart of the struggle for total liberation. She has spent the past three years living in Washington, DC, and throwing herself headlong into collective work spaces and the seedy underworld of antiauthoritarian politics.


Joshua lives down the street from Kiki. He likes coffee more than you do, and (as a professional dogwalker) is evangelically committed to the belief that bodily functions are hilarious. He is a founding member of the Brighter Days Collective, works with Critical Resistance DC, and is rumored to be on the IAS board.


Kwangju against the State, 1980

Todd Tavares

This presentation will focus on the historical background, immediate events, and lasting legacy of the spontaneous armed revolt of the citizens of Kwangju against the dictatorship of South Korea in 1980. Little-known outside of Korea, the Kwangju Uprising compares remarkably well to the Paris Commune, which occurred 109 years earlier. Kwangju was more than an antiauthoritarian revolt as the people built their own communal social order in the absence of experienced political leadership and programmatic ideology during their brief period of freedom from the state. The presentation will seek to open a discussion on anarchist interpretations of the historical events, what can be learned from this particular struggle, and how it informs and reinforces the principles of understanding and struggle for real human liberation.


Todd is a graduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle pursuing a PhD in political science. He recently returned from South Korea, where he witnessed and participated in the largest and most peaceful anti-government demonstrations he had ever seen.


The Everyday Anarchist

Laura Portwood-Stacer, with Andrew Willis Garcés as respondent

Although it is sometimes said that there are as many anarchisms as there are anarchists, most of us can agree on the importance of bringing the principles and values of anarchism into our everyday lives. For some this may mean actively working against hierarchy within personal relationships; for others it may mean refraining from consumption practices that promote cruelty toward humans, animals, and the earth; for still others it may mean being part of an anarchist subculture that is identifiable by its stylistic markers. Though the rhetorical figure of the "lifestyle anarchist" is often invoked as an object of derision, Laura wants to take lifestyle seriously as a significant aspect of anarchist politics and identity. With this presentation, she hopes to generate discussion on what an "anarchist lifestyle" means to each of us, and what its place is within the anarchist tradition.


Laura is a doctoral candidate in communication and cultural studies. She is currently working on a dissertation titled "Making the Anarchist Self: Culture, Lifestyle, and Radical Political Identity."

Andrew is an organizer in Washington, DC, working on housing, labor, and immigrant rights issues; international solidarity work; and bringing style back to lifestyle. This fall he's also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University.


Do Capitalists Fear Direct Action? (Anti)Capitalist Struggles

DT Cochrane and Jeff Monaghan

How are we to judge the success of anticapitalist actions? How do we know if particular tactics are effective in undermining capitalist institutions? This panel suggests that the power theory of capital offers one means of assessment. According to this theory, capital is solely a financial entity and capitalists understand their own success differentially. The accumulatory struggle is an intracapitalist struggle; everyone and everything else is merely collateral damage. From the perspective of resistance, a successful campaign should cause a corporation to differentially de-accumulate. A broad array of groups use economic disruption campaigns for their organizing--from strikes or boycotts, to divestment, or overt and covert sabotage, and so on. How can we measure the impacts of these campaigns? Can the power theory of capital aid organizers in choosing tactics? The copresenters will explore these questions using the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) campaign as a case study.


Currently a PhD student in Toronto, DT's days are busy with baby and partner. Through two degrees in economics, he developed a hatred for the neoclassical doctrine: capitalism's pseudoscientific ideology.


Jeff lives in Ottawa, where he is active with CKCU community radio, the local infoshop, and Books to Prisoners Ottawa.



Post-election and in the Midst of Economic Crisis, What's an Anarchist to Do?

Facilitators and/or panelists TBA

So you didn't vote--and it's hardly news that capitalism is all about bailouts for the wealthy. Still, an African American is now the president of a nation built on slavery, propelled in part by a dynamic electorally oriented activism. And global economic turmoil poses all sorts of challenges to grassroots organizers, working-class people, and theorists alike. In this last conversation at RAT, we'll set aside our more-antiauthoritarian-than-thou ennui and election week burnout to reflect on and debate how to assess, strategize, and organize in this moment.

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