May 30, 2014 - June 1, 2014
Verso at the 2014 Left Forum
John Jay College of Justice
May 30, 2014 - June 1, 2014
8.00am - 10.00pm
John Jay College of Justice
City University of New York, 899 10th Ave
New York, NY
A weekend full of discussion and debate with Verso authors.
Left Forum convenes the largest annual conference of a broad spectrum of left and progressive intellectuals, activists, academics, organizations and the interested public.

This year, Verso's Marina Sitrin and Stanley Aronowitz will join Cornel West, and Amy Goodman in the Friday evening opening plenary

In addition, you can find Verso authors at an array of Left Forum panels throughout the weekend, and find our books for sale in the exhibition hall. Advance registration is available online

Everyday Revolutions 

Saturday, May 31 | 10:00am-11:50am | Room L.76 

Chaired by Leina Bocar; with Dario Azzellini, Diego Ibañez, Marina Sitrin 

Millions of people around the globe have been organizing alternative value systems and social relationships to those of capitalism – revolutionary alternatives – still within capitalism, but against it – aiming to overcome it. These alternatives are part of a process of creating everyday revolutions – beginning to prefigure our desired future while still in the present. These everyday revolutions are one part of a larger anti-capitalist movement. In this panel we will discuss what some of these everyday revolutions look like, as defined by people in movement around the world. The discussion will range from the examples of recuperated workplaces, from Latin America to Europe; the new global movements and the focus on creating horizontal social relationships and the day to day organizing in Brooklyn for housing and self organization. There is no blueprint or academic framework that once met means revolution has been achieved, but rather we see it as an ongoing and changing process in which everyday revolutions is a key element. 

The Compass and the Map: Anti-Capitalism, Strategy and the Political Imagination

Saturday, May 31, 2014 | 12:00pm-1:50pm | Room L2.84

Chaired by Zoltan Gluck; with Manissa McCleave Maharawal, David Harvey, Marina Sitrin, and Preeti Sampat

In his last essay, "The Future in Question," Fernando Coronil writes of the present moment: "If in the past the Left claimed to have a monopoly on the future, now it can offer but uncertain images of the future. Yet this very lack has opened spaces for the imagination and experimentation. Although the future is not open, it offers openings. And although the final destination may not be clear, the sense of direction is: toward justice, equality, freedom, diversity, and social and ecological harmony. The Left has no map, but it has a compass." This panel takes up the question of the political imagination today. Certainly the Left today seems to lack the unifying map(s) or imaginaries to ground a global struggle to end capitalism. But it may be equally true that a proliferation of radical political imaginaries now abounds as movements and revolts forge their own languages of resistance—zapatismo, horizontalism, commoning, recuperation, right to the city, prefiguation. What is the state of the radical political imagination at the present conjuncture? What images and imaginations of social justice and revolution traffic in our movements and political projects today? How do they relate to older struggles? And what strategies, tactics and organizational forms do they yield? This panel looks at contemporary movements, uprisings, everyday revolutions, and the contradictions of capital to discuss the state of anti-capitalism and the political imagination today.

On the Reproduction of Capitalism: Rereading Althusser

Saturday, May 31 | 12:00pm – 1:50pm | Room 1.89

Chaired by Michael Pelias; with Carlos Frade, Bruno Gulli and Kristin Lawler

The recent translation into English of Louis Althusser's On the Reproduction of Capitalism coincides with a moment where the reproduction of capitalist societies themselves are increasingly in doubt. This panel will examine the key questions and concepts developed by Althusser and their pertinence and importance to understanding contemporary social formations.

Sponsored by Situations: Project of the Radical Imagination and Verso Books

Art, Class and City

Saturday May 31, 2014 | 3:20pm-4:50pm | Room 1.93

Chaired by Martha Rosler; with McKenzie Wark and Sharon Zukin

It is now part of an accepted urban development strategy that 'creative' people 'pioneer' a neighborhood, which can then be slowly ratcheted up the hierarchy of desirable real estate. This story leaves out the displacement of working class communities, people of color, and sometimes also even certain kinds of artists: not every 'creative' person is a bourgeois with an alternate career path. However, the ambiguous position of a certain kind of art worker needs to be clearly acknowledged here. There may even be an 'art mode of production' via which 21st century commodification now works. In an era when not just neighborhoods but whole cities can become gentrified, what tactics are available for living, working and making in the everyday life of major cities? Is it time to withdraw from the urban space, or reimagine new kinds of responsible and imaginative engagement with it? What can be learned from historical examples from New York or elsewhere? This panel aims at being a modest step towards an inquiry into critical living in the shadow of twenty-first century urbanism.

Book Launch Celebration - They Can't Represent Us! Reinventing Democracy from Greece to Occupy

Saturday, May 31 2014 | 3:20pm-4:50pm | Room 1.105

Chaired by Camilo Turi, with Dario Azzellini and Marina Sitrin

How the new global movements are putting forward a radical conception of democracy. Mass movements in disparate places such as Greece, Argentina, and the United States ultimately share an agenda—to raise the question of what democracy should mean. These horizontal movements, including Occupy, exercise and claim participatory democracy as the ground of revolutionary social change today. Written by two international activist intellectuals and based on extensive interviews with movement participants in Greece, Spain, Venezuela, Argentina, across the United States, and elsewhere, this book is an expansive portrait of the assemblies, direct democracy forums, and organizational forms championed by the new movements, as well as an analytical history of direct and participatory democracy from ancient Athens to Zuccotti Park. The new movements put forward the idea that liberal democracy is not democratic, nor was it ever.

Sponsored by Verso Books

Cloud Labor: Working in the Digital Economy 

Saturday, May 31 | 3:20pm-4:50pm | Room 1.113 

Chaired by Sarah Jaffe; with Moshe MarvitMelissa Gira Grant, and Sydette Harry 

Social media companies seemingly offer free services that allow users to interact and express themselves, while their business models depend on generating revenues from the free work these users put into their platforms. Other new technology companies look to the Internet as a marketplace for a crowdsourced, amateur, contracted labor pool that is underpaid and unregulated. Both of these trends are part of a digital economy where the boundary between labor and play is blurred, where increased "flexibility" and room for creativity are the price for exploitation, and where women often perform the majority of the work. Under these conditions, how can "users" reimagine the content they produce as a source of value? Will this kind of work reinforce gender, racial, and class disparities? How can a dispersed workforce undertake collective action, and can online platforms themselves serve as tools for organizing digital labor? 

Sponsored by: Dissent Magazine 

Bourgeois, White-Collar, Precariat!: Class in the 21st Century 

Saturday, May 31 | 5:00pm-6:50pm | Room 1.82 

Chaired by Nikil Saval; with Benjamin KunkelAlex FotiNicole Aschoff 

What is the nature of class in the 21st century? What has happened to the bourgeoisie? Where do white-collar workers belong? Has a new exploited class -- the precariat -- become a reality? 

Sponsored by: n+1 and Jacobin Magazines. 

Post-Chávez Venezuela: New Directions under the Presidency of Nicolás Maduro?

Saturday, May 31 | 5:00pm-6:50pm | Room 1.1124 

Chaired by Clara Irazabal; with Steve EllnerDario AzzelliniGeorge Ciccariello-MaherNaomi Schiller, and Arnold August 

In many ways, the challenges faced by Hugo Chávez's successor Nicolás Maduro are a continuation of those dating back to 1998. Nevertheless, the economic crisis caused by shortages and currency speculation is more intense than during the Chávez presidency. The Maduro government's reaction both at the level of discourse and specific actions is also distinct in some ways. The panel will attempt to determine what elements are relatively new. It will discuss the government's activist role against business and political groups responsible for acute shortages, sharp price increases often far above that set by the government, currency speculation and refusal of the opposition to recognize the government's legitimacy. The panel will also analyze the reaction of the radical current of the Chavista movement and many in the rank and file who fear that Maduro's overtures to the opposition signal a softening of government positions and possible concessions to powerful interests. The panel will also examine Maduro's record in combating corruption. In addition, the panel will discuss developments over the last year on the social front, specifically the amalgamation of community councils into communes and the attempts to promote worker participation in the decision making of state companies. Finally, the experiences of Chavista rule, and specifically over the last year, will be examined for what they tell us about the nature of the state in the democratic transition to socialism. 

Recalling the Future: Strategies and Speculations in Jameson and Spivak 

Saturday, May 31 | 5:00pm-6:50pm | Room 1.87 

Chaired by Richard Dienst; with Sonali PereraHenry Schwarz, and Terrell Taylor 

This panel explores the need to imagine different and existing modes of collectivity in literature and theory. We will engage with the work of two prominent materialist intellectuals, Fredric Jameson and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, to illuminate the difficult relationship between memories of historical collectivity and Utopian hopes for radical transformation. In the work of Spivak and Jameson, the "classical" Marxist narrative of revolution has been recast along new lines of antagonism and solidarity, traversing subaltern workers, tribal communities, contradictory forms of cooperation and dependency, imperial warfare, and ecological catastrophe. In mapping these dimensions of the contemporary situation, we will call upon the resources of both political strategy and theoretical speculation, with special emphasis on examples from the global South. 

Building a Movement of Debt Resistance

Sunday, June 1 | 10:00am-11:50am | Room 1.92

Chaired by Kylie Benton-Connell; with Andrew Ross, Ohyoon Kim, Jim Costanzo, and Max Cohen

Contrary to what economists are saying, the debt crisis is not over. The creditor class wants us all to perform a lifetime of debt service. How do we build a debtors movement capable of mass economic disobedience? The panelists, all active with Strike Debt, will discuss the movement challenges and the alternatives to predatory credit.

US "Dirty" Wars, Targeted Killings and Secret Operations Supercede Military Occupations, but Are still Illegitimate 

Sunday, June 1 | 10:00am-11:50am | Room L2.85 

Chaired by: Debra Sweet, with Nick MotternBen KuebrichEd KinaneMedea BenjaminPaki Wieland 

More than twelve years into the "war on terror," the CIA and Pentagon war planners are increasing emphasis on special operations and targeting killing, with open discussion of targeting US citizens. International law has gone by the wayside, as have constitutional protections of citizens.

Does the Left Exist?: Global Perspectives - Part 2

Sunday, June 1 | 12:00-1:50pm | Room 1.71

With Martin CortesMarcus GrätschCarlos FradeBruno BosteelsRose Kim

This extended panel will examine the presence of, potential for, and limits on revolutionary political movements in key countries around the world. Countries examined will include: Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Ukraine, Argentina, and the United States.

Sponsored by: Situations: Project of the Radical Imagination

Changing Climates: A Collective Presentation of the Yale Working Group on Globalization and Culture

Sunday, June 1 | 12:00pm-1:50pm | Room 3.78

Chaired by Michael Denning; with Jorge Cuéllar, Sigma Colón, David Minto, Edward King, and Tao Leigh Goffe

Changing Climates: Weathering the Everyday and the Cultures of the Anthropocene. Climate is a keyword in contemporary culture, serving as an interface between natural history and cultural history; cultural studies might be thought of as a kind of "climate science," studying cultural climates, the atmospheres informing and generated from sexual mores, political opinions, and social tensions. In this collective presentation, the Working Group on Globalization and Culture explores the cultural meanings of climate, from the climate determinisms of empire to the climate control of consumer culture. Originally a term describing spatial divisions of the earth, climate is increasingly used to denote our relationship to our material, social, and affective environments, spheres, spaces, and times in which agency is present yet disembodied. The panel encompasses the ways climate and weather are imported into these quotidian structures of feeling and perception, as well as exploring the intersection of geologic histories and cultural histories.

Registering Class in 21st Century Socialist Strategy

Sunday, June 1 | 12:00pm-1:50pm | Room L2.84

Chaired by: Greg Albo; with Arun Gupta, Bryan Palmer, and Vivek Chibber

In his landmark essay on 'Reform and Revolution' in the 1968 Socialist Register, Andre Gorz wrote that 'the power to initiate a policy of reforms is not conquered in Parliament, but by the new dynamic of struggle that a new relation of forces makes possible'. This calls today for a sharpened conceptual apparatus to apprehend the changing composition of both capitalist and working classes in recent decades. This panel brings together three of the authors in the 2014 Socialist Register to discuss this.

Sponsored by: Socialist Register

Rethinking Rosa Luxemburg: Pathways from Capitalism to Socialism 

Sunday, June 1 | 12:00pm-1:50pm | Room 1.75 

Chaired by: Paul Le Blanc, with Peter Hudis and Jen Roesch 

The growing impact of Rosa Luxemburg's writings has begun to inform current discussions and debates on the nature of global capitalism, ways of thinking about alternatives to capitalism, and practical strategies to get us from "here" to "there." As Verso publishers, with the support of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, begins to make available in English The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg (a collaborative project under the editorship of Peter Hudis), it is to be expected that this process will deepen and accelerate. In this session, Luxemburg's thought will be presented as a dynamic totality – involving a specific and still-relevant critique of the capitalist economy, a rich conceptualization of what a genuine socialism might look like, and an intensely practical-minded approach to the politics of reform and revolution.

Sponsored by: Verso; Haymarket Books

Occupy Wall Street and Labor

Sunday, June 1 | 3:40pm-5:40pm | Room 1.109

Chaired by David Berger, with Virgilio Aran and Jackie DiSalvo

This panel will explore the relationship between the Occupy movement, especially in New York, and labor, organized and unorganized. This panel will discuss the history of this relationship, which predates the actual occupation of Zuccotti Park. it will touch on the dynamics and high points of that relationship, such as the protection of the park by members of unions and the united May Day march in 2011. It will also discuss grass-roots labor organizing efforts that have been going on for several years, which the Occupy movement has been working with, such as that of the Hot and Crusty workers, who, under the auspices of the Laundry Workers Center, won an important victory last year. Members of the panel will include Eleanor Rodgers of Occupy Kensington and Socialist Alternative, Oscar Ramirez and Maggy Crecencio from the Laundry Workers Center and Greg Dunkel, a long-term member of the Occupy Wall Street Labor Outreach Committee

Registering Reform and Revolution: 50 Years of The Socialist Register

Sunday, June 1 | 3:40pm-5:40pm | Room L2.84

Chaired by Leo Panitch; with David Harvey, Zillah Eisenstein, Barbara Epstein, and Bhaskar Sunkara

The Socialist Register has long been what Mike Davis once described as "the intellectual lodestone for the international left'. The theme of this year's Left Forum has been the central concern of Register since it was founded by Ralph Miliband in 1964; indeed the 1968 volume featured Andre's Gorz famous essay, "Reform and Revolution", where the concept of structural reforms was first introduced. This panel bring together a highly distinguished roster of of socialist intellectuals - Zillah Eisentsein, Barbara Epstein, David Harvey, Bhaskar Sunkara, chaired by Leo Panitch, co-editor of the Register since 1985 - to discuss the Register's 5five decade long contribution to reform and revolution, and where to go with it today.

Sponsored by: Socialist Register

Special Bonus!

Zizek Delenda Est

Saturday, May 31 | 3:20-4:50pm | Room 1.89

Chaired by: Jacob LevichHannah WolfeMolly Klein, and John Steppling

Is Slavoj Zizek a US propaganda psyop? I want to ask my comrades on the left to consider the possibility. After years of research, I have come to the conclusion that Zizek is a charlatan posing as a "Stalinist" to both discredit communists by performing a caricature Bolshevik and simultaneously, to smuggle fascist ideas including old fashioned Aryan supremacism and 19th century race theory, back into public discourse disguised as radical left critique of liberalism. I zill focus on how he exploits his radical left image to spread imperialist propaganda and disinformation. I'll trace the origins of the Zizek Industry to his first anointing by the New Left Review, then under the control of Croatian Nationalists and Tudjman supporters, as the Balkan Leftist who would initiate, in 1990, the dominant strain of imperialist propaganda about Yugoslavia, and yet further back to his career as an antiMarxist dissident and Slovene ethnic nationalist. I will discuss the way he has influenced a generation to the point where now right wing and reactionary ideas as well as pure white house disinformation and propaganda are routinely packaged as hip "lefty" and "radical" thought.