Before the cacophony of the anti-RNC protests, this three-day conference encourages activists to have a calm and cerebral debate that goes beyond righteous Bush-bashing. The spectacle and sloganeering at the demonstration is necessary, but the CUNY Grad Center promises to be an arena that’s more conducive to original thought. The problems go deeper than Bush, the Democrats, and the upcoming election, the organizers say, and new ideas and strategies are needed. This conference dares to dwell on the awkward question that your crotchety old man likes to ask: Well then, Little Miss Activist, what would you have instead of capitalism?
The panel discussion on Friday might generate some ideas. Speakers include Naomi Klein, author of No Logo; Michael Albert, co-founder of Z Magazine; Robin Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams; and Vijay Prashad, author of Fat Cats and Running Dogs: The Enron Stage of Capitalism. Two days of discussions ensue, focusing on “Envisioning Another World” and “Organizing Strategies”—a blend or a confrontation of theory and practice? If the protests over the following weekend mark the resurrection of the Seattle/Genoa anti-capitalist movement, this is a good time for the left to consider which is needed more urgently: better ideas, or more action.