marxism 2010: what i saw, with more to follow

I started to post this yesterday, until I saw the news about the Gaza Flotilla. It didn't seem right to be enthusing about what a great time I had on such a dark day. Still doesn't, but life goes on.

I had an absolutely amazing time at the Marxism conference! The talks I saw were so enlightening, and in some cases electrifying. It was also just so much fun.

Because of my weekend schedule, I was only able to attend Friday and Friday night, plus I left work early to attend the Saturday night events. Both nights I hung out afterwards, gabbing and drinking on the patio of the student pub. This is, without a doubt, the best community I have ever known - the place where I am truly my best self.

These are the talks I attended. It's very difficult to choose! When people ask each other, "Which talks did you see?" the answer always seems to include their process and rationale of how they ended up in one room versus another. I went for maximum education value in areas of particular interest to me.

I will write about each of them in varying degrees of detail as the week progresses. I'm also hoping to post video of some.

  • "20 years since Oka: the fight for indigenous sovereignty." Ellen Gabriel talked about this episode of native resistance to land development on the Mohawk community of Kanesatake, the ensuing blockade and standoff, the solidarity movement around it, and Mohawk resistance before and since. Although this was a huge event in Canada, it was completely unknown to me, living in New York at the time. Gabriel was behind the barricades and has been fighting for her Mohawk people all her life. It was fascinating and thrilling to hear her.

  • "From South Africa to Israel: histories of Apartheid." This talk was given jointly by Joe Kelly, a South African activist, and Clare O'Connor, from the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid. Kelly laid out the case for why it is accurate, appropriate and historical to refer to Israel as an apartheid state. I didn't need convincing, but I did need more facts. There was discussion afterwards about the use of the word in organizing. There's video, and I hope to post it soon.

  • On Friday night, everyone came together for "After Cochabamba: the fight for climate justice". This brought together Andrea Harden, a member of the Council of Canadians who participated in both the state-run climate change conference in Copenhagen and the people's climate change conference in Bolivia, Charlotte Ireland, a Toronto-based peace and environmental activist, and Clayton Thomas-Mueller, of the Indigenous Environmental Network. All three were great, and Thomas-Muller was especially inspirational. But although most people seemed to find the talk uplifting and energizing, I found it overwhelming and depressing. Probably not what they were going for.

  • On Saturday night, the one event was "Crisis & Resistance: from Greece to the G20". It featured:
    - Kostas Katarahias, General Council, Federation of Hospital Doctors Unions of Greece
    - Judith Orr, Leading member, British Socialist Workers Party & anti-war activist
    - John Cartwright, President, Toronto and York Regional Labour Council
    - Carolyn Egan, President, Steelworker Toronto Area Council; International Socialists
    This was positively electrifying. Kostas blew us all away, and Judith only added to that. John and Carolyn brought it all back home to Canada. I am very much hoping to post video of this, and you must all watch it!

  • After this, we all grabbed a drink and watched a Tribute to Howard Zinn. IS members read excerpts from The People Speak (trailer here), interspersed with footage from the movie. It was beautifully staged and read, but the highlight was Jeremy Hinzman reading a letter from a Gulf War veteran resister. Very powerful. Labour activist John Bell performed excerpts from Zinn's play Marx In Soho, in which Marx returns 150 years after his death. Bell was brilliant and Zinn's words, as always, were cutting, funny and hopeful.
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