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(en) US, Report from the Renewing the Anarchist Tradition conference (Vermont)*

Date Fri, 16 Nov 2007 18:52:40 +0200

November 2nd-4th I attended the R.A.T. (Renewing the Anarchist Tradition) conference in Montpelier, VT. It was a definite improvement over previous years. The 4 panels and 1 speaker I heard were all interesting and informative. --- I put on a panel called "Ideology and Action: Commitment or Contradiction?" which included AnnaMarie (NEFAC supporter) as well as Mark and Senia (ex-Providence IWW). --- The "Anarchisms and Fundamentalisms" panel included Arya (NEFAC), Rami El-Amine (Left Turn), and Mary Foster (Tadamon! Montreal). I was especially interested in what Mary had to say about working and building relationships with diverse immigrant communities.---"Thinking Strategically: New Anti Authoritarian Approaches to Reform Struggles" with Chris Dixon was quite nuanced. Instead of arguing over whether we should work for reforms or not, Chris's interviews with members of "No One is Illegal" collectives and Critical Resistance brought out some ways we can work to achieve winnable gains and build for radical social transformation.

"When the Tear Gas Clears, We've Still Got a Movement to Build" included Mostafa Henaway and Aaron Lakoff, both from Montreal. Rather than just a rehashing of the old global vs. local debate it got into issues of how large convergences can compliment our local organizing and the problem of inexperienced activists repeating the same old mistakes when we skip the convergences and just concentrate on the local.

"Popular Power Struggles: Lessons from Iran, Portugal, and Argentina" was also fascinating with Arya dropping lots of knowledge and adeptly responding to questions about pro-U.S. social movements and out of touch exiles.

The evening social at the Langdon Street Cafe was awesome with old friends and great local beer.

The harmony was challenged as I returned to the dorm and tried to make sense of drunken discussions about Deleuze and Zerzan. The final panel was also a let down. Aragorn called for "interrogation" of marxist oriented anarchists and ended the discussion with an egotistic paraphrased poem from the Subcomandante ("Aragorn is an anarchist among anti-authoritarians...")

Despite the many limitations of the R.A.T. my involvement this year was definitely worth it. I would recommend other comrades consider attending and maybe put on panels next year.



Ideology and Action: Commitment or Contradiction?

AnnaMarie, Senia, and Mark Bray, and moderated by McKay

This panel will explore the relationship between our political ideas and the day-to-day struggles we organize around in our neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces. Does ideology hamper our organizing? Does it tie us to the writings of dead white men who developed their theory in a context very different from what we deal with today? Does the need to achieve short-term victories in our organizing lead us astray from our political ideas and on to the dead end path of reformism? Or is there a different way to view the interplay of ideas and action?

AnnaMarie is active in the Northampton Committee to Stop the War in Iraq, sings with the Raging Grannies, and is a founding member of the anarchist collective reVoltarine.

Senia and Mark were active in the recent Providence IWW campaign targeting local restaurants, successfully forcing them to drop an anti-union food distributor, and mobilizing against an unprovoked police attack on the march.

McKay works with students and low-income residents to distribute food and mobilize for community struggles.


Anarchisms and Fundamentalisms

Mary Foster, Autumn Brown, Rami El-Amine, and Arya Zahedi, and moderated by Eric Laursen

In a 2005 piece published in La Vanguardia, writing about ideology in the twenty-first century, Manuel Castells argued, "In the face of an out-of-control global capitalism, and a socialism settling into retirement, resistance arises from the contradictory opposition between fundamentalism and neo-anarchism." What evidence is there that this opposition is playing out in contemporary politics--whether global or local? How are anarchists defining and understanding "fundamentalism"? How do these definitions and understandings condition our opposition to them? In different contexts where fundamentalist ideologies, class, and race overlap in complicated ways, and intersect with state repression in gruesome ones, is a simple opposition to religion an adequate anarchist stance? Is it productive of the sort of resistance to capitalism that Castells invokes? Or is a more complex and contingent set of stances and relationships to fundamentalisms important to articulate?

Mary is a member of Tadamon! Montreal and the Justice Coalition for Adil Charkaoui.

Autumn, a practicing anarcho-Catholic, is a founding member of the Rock Dove Collective, a consensus and facilitation trainer, and president of the board of directors of the Fertility Awareness Center. She is affiliated with Anarchist People of Color, the New York Metro Alliance of Anarchists, and the Signals Collective.

Rami is an Arab and muslim activist who has been involved in a wide range of local and global struggles in the Washington, DC, metro area for the past fifteen years. For the last seven years, he has been most involved in Palestine solidarity work. He is a founding member, former editor, and current writer for Left Turn magazine.

Arya is a member of the Iran Solidarity Group and the Antithesis Collective (NEFAC-NYC). He is currently a graduate student in political science at the New School for Social Research.

Eric is an independent journalist and activist. He is a member of the New York Metro Alliance of Anarchists and the NYC Anarchist Book Fair Organizing Collective. Eric has also provided media outreach for the International Solidarity Movement-NYC.


Thinking Strategically: New Anti-Authoritarian Approaches to Reform Struggles

Chris Dixon

The question of strategy--how we might win in the near and long term as we struggle against exploitation and oppression--is pressing. In this presentation, I will discuss one promising, though perhaps surprising, area of strategic reflection: the relation between reform and radicalism. Many anti-authoritarian organizers in the United States and Canada have embraced an approach--or set of approaches— oriented toward building movements on the basis of collective fights for survival and dignity. This approach, visible in diverse groups, 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. Building on in-depth interviews with anti-authoritarian comrades in five North American cities, I will explore this approach as potentially more widely usable.

Chris is a longtime anti-authoritarian writer and organizer, and a PhD candidate in the history of consciousness program at the University of California at Santa Cruz. He is a member of the Colours of Resistance administrative collective, serves on the advisory board for Upping the Anti, and has recently moved to Sudbury.


When the Tear Gas Clears, We've Still Got a Movement to Build

Mostafa Henaway and Aaron Lakoff

At RAT 2004, Chuck Morse argued that the anti-globalization movement was dead, and Aaron vigorously contested that idea. Now, three years later, Aaron concurs . . . kind of. Reflecting on the recent demonstrations against Bush, Harper, Calderon, and the Security and Prosperity Partnership summit in Montebello, Quebec, we will question the utility of large street demonstrations. While police lines, miles of fences, and tear gas canisters have become the most visible symbols of confrontation between anarchists and the state since the turn of the millennium, we would contend that the real focal points of confrontation are in the everyday-- deportations, job precarity, evictions, and so on--and that this is where we should focus our organizing energies. Given that the anarchist movement, organized through the People's Global Action bloc, seemed to have relatively little impact in the Montebello demonstrations, we ask the following question: What are the points of confrontation for the anarchist movement--large street demos, or local, community organizing? Where should we put our efforts in the context of a revolutionary strategy?

Mostafa is an organizer with the Immigrant Workers Centre in Montreal, and was active in the Ontario Coalition against Poverty and the Toronto coalition of concerned taxi drivers. He is also involved in a campaign around the precarity of immigrant and migrant workers in Montreal through what is now called temporary worker programs in Canada.

Aaron is a community organizer and independent journalist from Montreal. He works with a variety of different anti-authoritarian groups, including Block the Empire, Solidarity across Borders, and more recently, the People's Global Action (PGA) bloc. Aaron has filed radio and print reports from Israel/Palestine, Haiti, Mexico, and across occupied Turtle Island.


Popular Power Struggles: Lessons from Iran, Portugal, and Argentina

Arya Zahedi, and Marina Sitrin

Throughout all of history, and all over the world, people have organized in various ways to collectively run their societies. This panel will discuss three of so many inspiring examples: Iran, Portugal, and Argentina. During the Iranian and Portuguese revolutions in the 1970s, as in Argentina in the early 1900s and contemporarily, factory takeovers and widespread political participation emerged from popular power struggles and direct democracy movements. This panel will explore the social, political, and economic context of these experiments in popular power, including the challenges and contradictions of the movements. The session will end with an open discussion. What are the current challenges and obstacles to building popular power? What roles have anarchists and other political tendencies had in these social movements? What are the strengths and weaknesses of anarchist involvement in these experiments, and in building horizontalism? We can learn much from the histories of these struggles. They have many ways to offer us insight and inspire us.

Arya is a member of the Iran Solidarity Group and the Antithesis Collective (NEFAC-NYC). He is currently a graduate student in political science at the New School for Social Research.

Marina is a professor at New College of California and the author of Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina. She is working on a new book with Citylights Press called Insurgent Democracies: Latin America's New Powers.
* NEFAC member gives his impressions of RAT 2007
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