NEW YORK — The Left Forum returned to Pace University this year and the event, now fully established in its vertical venue, was scheduled on an anniversary — an act that underscored what some see as the divide between academia and activism.
A number of activists who ordinarily go to the Left Forum told NLN that this year they would be out of town and expressed surprise and frustration that the annual Forum was scheduled on the same weekend as two major protests.
An ANSWER protest in Washington, D.C., drew thousands of protesters who descended on the capital to express their frustration as the U.S. war in Iraq entered its seventh iteration. The protest was held on Saturday, March 20 — day two of the Left Forum.
On Sunday, an immigrant rights protest in D.C. also drew good numbers.
For New Yorkers, Saturday’s Forum panels wrapped around a 1 p.m. protest at Times Square. A number of New York protest stalwarts were visible at the Forum’s afternoon panels.
NLN filmed two Left Forum panels that featured our colleague and comrade, historian-activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.
The first panel dealt with modern attempts to move beyond traditional Left sectarianism and bridge an apparently unbridgeable chasm: Anarchism and Marxism. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz spoke about her travels through both schools of thought and how social class and women’s struggles have impacted on her interpretation of the tensions between the traditions. Cindy Milstein spoke about a new, revitalized, libertarian Left. Andrew Curley discussed the Navajo nation’s efforts to find an indigenous path to socialism. Panel chair Andrej Grubacic discussed his youth in Yugoslavia and how it affected his interpretation of “two beautiful traditions.”
The second panel discussed “Women, Militancy and Organizing” and featured former SDS and Weatherman activist Laura Whitehorn, former Black Panther and Young Lords Party member Cleo Silvers, and Dunbar-Ortiz. The panel was anchored by Christina Gerhardt. Whitehorn discussed the FBI war on the Black Panthers and the need to support political prisoners, Silvers talked about her experiences feeding the community and caring for children — and expressed concern about sexism and racism at the Left Forum itself. Dunbar-Ortiz talked about her experiences with Sandinista women — many of whom were from the elite, several of whom were profoundly influenced by U.S.-based feminism, including the classic “Sisterhood Is Powerful.” One such Sandinista, Sofia Montenegro, mentioned a chapter in the feminist classic that was authored by Dunbar-Ortiz herself.