Every generation claims to live through a unique epoch, viewing their contemporary period as one fundamentally different and finally ripe for revolutionary change.
A generation ago, we began to see a rise in incarceration, unemployment and poverty rates while living and education standards, particularly in urban centres steadily declined.
However, even the most pessimistic among us expected time to mitigate many of the social ills afflicting the nation as it had in the past. But things are not getting better and it is looking more like a permanent bust in the perpetual cycle of capitalism.
Poverty, historically reserved for the base on which capitalism stands on, has reached the American mainstream, evident in the decaying buildings strewn throughout the post-factory urban centres of Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore and Camden among others. While more Americans are out of work, out of homes and out of hope, disdain rises for the system that had always told them that things would get better.
For those on the margins of society, this has always been a reality. However, this epoch is different as more and more people are supporting movements to create new realities; a challenge to the narrative that emerged out of the post-Cold War era where politicians and even movement leaders were telling us there was no alternative to this system, that at the very best it could simply be reformed.
But people are beginning to realize that in order for this to fundamentally change and the historically oppressive institutions be dismantled is only through a revolutionary transformation.
It is during this crucial time for movement building that the Left Forum is being held May 29 to May 31. An open space for those on the ground confronting oppressive and reactionary forces to come together with organizations challenging power both from within and out. Despite not having any single nationally recognized keynote speaker, the record pre-conference registration and panel submission is testament to the willingness to expand conversations, share strategies and divert the course we’re on.
Left Forum elected the title of ‘No Justice, No Peace’ not simply in solidarity with the powerful mobilizations against police and economic terror in communities of colour, but as a unifying cry reflecting all the movements around the world challenging the same system.
This year Left Forum brings together various voices from organizations and movements both in traditional institutions of power to the more dispersed areas of grassroots horizontalism.
The Opening Plenary will feature speakers discussing and debating the groups and parties transforming the face of European politics today.
With the swift election victories in Europe of parties organizing under anti-austerity and open critiques of capitalism, non-establishment voices are forming strategic blocs within the traditional institutions of power. Friday evening will serve as the setting for these speakers to come together and analyze what the future for electoral politics.
Moderated by Paul Jay from The Real News Network, Saturday’s Plenary will feature prominent leading voices from movements confronting the very crisis of capitalism and democracy in various dimensions. From the #BlackLivesMatter movement to fighting the prison-industrial complex, this plenary looks to explore the possibilities for societal transformation that lay ahead.
Bringing the conference to a close on Sunday, will be a structurally new plenary featuring three separate parts with two discussants and an interlocutor. The Sunday plenary should be one engaged in vibrant discussion as the speakers each bring forth radical and distinct perspectives to the stage.
In between these plenaries will be over 400 panels organized and attended by people from the wide spectrum of the left as well as those beyond it, covering a wide range of issues, themes, and concepts.
The arts will be very much present this year in the form of numerous panels showcasing movies, performances and other creative projects. And the Black Box events will be doubled from last year and be holding four total sessions reflecting the importance of art for resistance and movement building.
From the rejection of neoliberalism in the elections of radical anti-capitalist governments in Europe, to the internal social movements confronting power in Latin America to the north of the hemisphere in the U.S. with the occupy movement and now #BlackLivesMatter movement, you get a sense that we are living through a unique period, and if this is not truly the revolutionary epoch cynics believe it is, it will certainly be the catalyst, one that will provide the tools and lessons to carry out a permanent and lasting change.
Register for the Left Forum 2015 conference here.
George Ygarza has been an organizer with the Left Forum for over two year. He is a graduate student who has participated in numerous social justice movements from OCCUPY to most recent actions against police violence. He is currently part of a grassroots collective in NJ called Passaic PedalEA.
Left Forum provides a context for the critical dialogue that is essential for a stronger Left and a more just society.
Each spring Left Forum convenes the largest gathering in North America of the U.S. and international Left. Continuing a tradition begun in the 1960s, we bring together intellectuals and organizers to share perspectives, strategies, experience and vision. For the U.S. and the world, revitalizing an American Left has never been more urgent; Left Forum has a critical role to play in that undertaking.