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Life After Capitalism

Francesca Fiorentini
Date Published: 
February 01, 2005
    In hopes of deepening the mainstream political debate beyond “Anyone but Bush” as well as to give organizers a break from meetings and protest planning, LAC offered a space to nurture and build analysis, vision, and imagination. Sessions were woven around the themes “Contours of Capitalism,” “Perspectives on Power,” “Envisioning Another World,” and “Organizing Strategies,” giving the conference a coherent and accessible narrative that unfolded throughout the weekend.

Out of a wide array of sessions addressing everything from prisons to education, queer politics and indigenous people’s rights, the conference was ultimately not only about life after capitalism, but life after the many oppressive institutions that make up the status quo. For the broadly defined global justice movement, the conference was able to reframe old questions and debates that enabled conversation to take off from a richer point of understanding. Therefore, sessions like “The Party’s Over: Post-party politics and the new radicalism,” “Confronting Capitalism: The summits and beyond,” and “Towards a New Politics of Solidarity,” began from the knowledge that party politics have become obsolete, that summit organizing should neither be condemned nor glorified, and that ideas of solidarity and anti-racism must move from rhetoric to action.

The format of each session also challenged the “expert/audience” dynamic often found in conferences by prioritizing interactive discussion where multiple and collective analyses could develop. Sessions gave ample time for small breakout conversations that empowered participants to look to one another for insight and actively shape the dialogue — creating a sense of ownership of the conference. Similarly the conference hoped to bridge rather than further divide the false dichotomy of “theory” versus “practice.” We tried to encourage academics to ground their presentations in real life experiences, while simultaneously challenging activists to connect their everyday work as organizers to longer term visions of social change.

It was a rare opportunity for the faces, voices, and visions of the often-termed “movement of movements” to actually meet, dialogue, challenge and build with one another. Rather than delineate goals such as forming a network or agreeing on points of unity, the conference’s ultimate success was that it facilitated the building of relationships that comprise foundations of true solidarity and coalition work. Now facing a grim four more years of Bush, recalling the sparks that flew amongst participants at Life After Capitalism is a promising reminder that we are indeed everywhere.

The following three articles in this section address the question of “Engaging the state,” which was the name of one of the sessions at Life After Capitalism. The first two pieces were written by participants in that discussion and the third is an interview conducted by one of the organizers of the conference, Marina Sitrin, together with author John Holloway which touches on many of the same themes the speakers addressed that day.

Engaging the State

Whether we are seeking to end it, wield it, or simply defend ourselves against its attacks, radicals are engaging with state power. Generations before us have largely assumed that necessity of seizing state power to bring about radical transformation. Yet the most inspirational and creative movements of the past decade, like the Zapatistas, are not interested in making change through these ends. What lessons can we take from past social movements in engaging with the State, and how can we develop alternative powers and institutions to transform society?