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March 2012, Week 2

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Tidbits - March 10, 2010

* Left Forum 2012 - March 16, 17, 18
* Science & Society panels at Left Forum
* Re: How Sandra Fluke is Recharging Feminism (Christopher
  Lowe)
* Re: A Look Back in History As We Await The Next Occupy
  Movement (Laurel MacDowell)
* Re: 'I Am Woman Hear Me Roar': Violence is Not Radical or
  Revolutionary (Gordon Fitch)
* Fukushima One Year Later: Don't Let It Happen Here -
  Indian Point, Westchester - March 11

==========

* Left Forum 2012 - March 16, 17, 18
http://www.leftforum.org/

A unique phenomenon in the U.S. and the world, Left Forum
convenes the largest annual conference of a broad spectrum
of left and progressive intellectuals, activists, academics,
organizations and the interested public. Conference
participants come together to engage a wide range of
critical perspectives on the world, to discuss differences,
commonalities, and alternatives to current predicaments, and
to share ideas for understanding and transforming the world.
The conference is held each spring in New York City.

Left Forum 2011 featured Cornel West, Barbara Ehrenreich,
John Nichols, and Laura Flanders. It involved more than 3500
attendees, 1000 speakers and 300 panels. Left Forum is the
culmination of the creative efforts of hundreds of people
who engage the gamut of volunteer activities, from helping
generate artistic events and panels, to outreach and
involvement of a rainbow of organizations and individuals.

http://www.leftforum.org/

====

Friday, March 16, 12:30 p.m.

"Russia, Capitalism, the World, the Democratic Movement:
Brown Bag Lunch with Alexander Buzgalin"

hosted by the Brecht Forum, sponsored by "Science & Society"
451 West Street, New York City
phone to reserve space: 212-242-4201

Alex Buzgalin is Professor of Political Economy at Moscow
State University, and Editor of *Alternativy*. He is a
leading figure in contemporary Russian, and post-Soviet,
Marxism, author of many books, and an exciting and
informative speaker. This session will be informal: a
"brown bag lunch" with remarks by Alex and a lively give-
and-take following. Bring questions about the Democratic
Spring opposition movement in Russia, prospects for Marxist
renewal there, latest thinking among Russian Marxists about
the present world capitalist crisis, and anything else of
importance and interest.

"Science & Society" panels at the Left Forum, New York

Saturday, 12:00 p.m. Room E302
"Roots of the Occupy Wall St. Movement and Its Potential
Impact"

What economic, political, social, and cultural factors led
to the emergence and rapid growth of the Occupy Wall St
movement? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this
movement? What are its similarities to and differences from
earlier popular movements? What are the possibilities for
this movement to have a major transformative impact on
society?

Chair: Justin Holt
Speakers: Alexandr Buzgalin, Barbara Epstein, David Kotz,
David Laibman

Sunday, 12:00 p.m. Room E327
"Occupy Wall Street, and Main Street, and the White House,
Not Just Physically, but Socially: Design Socialism!"

Even in periods when the political forces necessary to begin
building socialist societies do not yet exist, the careful
envisioning of socialism--methods of coordination,
principles of decision making, exact plans to raise
solidarian consciousness, increase meaningful participation
and overcome long-existing divisions--is hugely important.
Thinking grandly, but also rigorously, about alternatives to
capitalist polarization and crisis helps the 99% do what
needs doing in the present. It is time we begin comparing,
critiquing and aligning our visions of what a post-
capitalist society can and should be. This panel is
presented in conjunction with the appearance of a Special
Issue of "Science & Society": "Designing Socialism: Visions,
Projections, Models," Vol. 76, No. 2, April 2012.

Chair: David Laibman
Speakers: Dario Azzellini, Renate Bridenthal, Al Campbell

==========

* Re: How Sandra Fluke is Recharging Feminism

Mostly I find Emily Bazelton's article illuminating,
particularly when it gets into the focus on consent and date
- and acquaintance-rape and ways the legal system uses
sexual stigmatization to allow women to be treated as
rapable or less entitled to the protection of the law. It
brought to mind struggles many years ago, which may still go
on in some states, over rape in marriage, for instance.

But framing this in terms of "sex positivity" is
problematic. The term and the framing of the story quite
unfairly I think imply that "normal" or "mainstream" or
whatever-you-want-to-call-it feminism is sex negative, and
that sex positivity is new. That's just historically false.
Going back to the 1960s and early 1970s feminism was always
partly about grappling with the implications of sexual
liberation, and radical feminism in particular was always
defined by radicalism not only in social terms around class
and race/ethnicity but radicalism in sexuality and gender
identity.

The feminist movement nurtured the broadening of those
struggles. Likewise the upholding of sex positivity as
it's now called was a major movement issue and internal
debate no later than the late 1970s, producing at the
intellectual level major conferences leading to widely
discussed books in the early 1980s, in which the "sex
positive" position was strongly advanced. If younger
feminists aren't aware of those histories, it's a shame.
But the idea that these are new ideas is simply a myth.
More developed, maybe, but that's only possible because
they've been around a long time.

By the same token, the fact that "sex positivity" has not
entirely won the day suggests that critique of sexuality
remains a live issue and an important intellectual role for
feminism.

For example, within the past couple of years I have listened
on an NPR radio show to young women discussing what they
portrayed as a common generational expectation and
experience among young men and women around what they called
"hooking up," entailing women gratifying men with oral sex
on the basis of very little relationship, not reciprocated
and with no expectation of reciprocation in pleasure, and
not entailing expectation beyond the occasion. Some said
they regarded it as "no big deal." Some were developing a
critique, but were almost agonizingly self-doubtful about
doing so, apparently feeling pressure not to appear anti-sex
or prudish and feeling that since they had acted willingly
they shouldn't criticize.

I am not sure how accurate the generality of the portrayal
was, but assuming some degree of where there's smoke,
there's fire, this suggests to me that issues of cultural
coercion extend beyond conformity to heterosexist and other
repressive "norms." There remains cultural coercion to
engage in sexual activity against one's inclination, faced
in particular and unbalanced ways by young women both in
terms of pleasure and risk, and resistance to it may be
attacked as being anti-sex.

That in turn seems to have everything to do with the
excellent issues relating to focus on consent, power and
agency that Emily Bazelton illuminates. To put a somewhat
sharper point on it, women's sexualities don't exist in
isolation from men's. The applicability of sex positivity
to male sexualities when they are coercive (or even women's
sometimes, I suppose), and not just at the level of force or
"no means no," but in the murky areas where cultural
coercions to accept things you don't like come into play,
has to be faced up to. Feminists who raise such issues
shouldn't be disdained as "sex negative."

What's telling about the Limbaugh episode in one way is that
matters have come full circle to entry of these issues into
the core definition of "second wave" feminism going back to
the 1960s being tied to the widespread expansion of
contraceptive use. The radical consequences of highly
effective, widely available contraception in dramatically
changing without eliminating the pregnancy risks faced by
women compared to men, on which historical sexual double
standards had been based, as well as coercive power
relationships based on controlling women's child-bearing
capacity and ultimately their children, have defined the
movement ever since, They continue to define it, and their
re-emergence in sharp focus should be connected to that
history.

All power and praise to the feminists of today, of all ages,
who are re-engaging this struggle, as reactionaries seek to
turn back the clock to control women and their sexualities.
The struggles today must be on today's terms, of course.
But ignoring or misrepresenting their antecedents won't help
win them.

Chris Lowe
Portland, Oregon

==========

* Re: A Look Back in History As We Await The Next Occupy
Movement

Great piece. Thanks. Debs was one of my heroes when I was a
kid. Workers of course did come into their own in the late
30 and 1940s with the CIO movement and continued to do well
until the early 70s. Then began the backlash; men versus the
women's movement; Milton Friedman telling us greed was good;
corporate concentration and globalization of trade without
social or environmental standards, and an aggressive
corporate sector intent on union busting and plant shutdowns
so they could invest overseas and exploit cheap labour
pools.

Laurel MacDowell

==========

* Re: 'I Am Woman Hear Me Roar': Violence is Not Radical or
Revolutionary

There has been a considerable discussion of violence and
nonviolence with regard to the various Occupy movements. A
serious problem with this discussion is that violence and
non-violence are ill-defined. Another problem is that many
participants in the discussion, including proponents of non-
violence (for whatever they mean by that) take a kind of
religious-authoritarian view of the issues, which reduces
the discussion to name-calling, and changes no one's mind.

A possible mitigation for the ignorance involved might be a
reading of David Graeber's 'Direct Action: An Ethnography'
which is a well-written personal account of many kinds of
direct action by a participant who is also an
anthropologist. See
http://www.akpress.org/2009/items/directactionakpress

The text can be found online.

Or, people may prefer the quasi-religious stance, which has
the virtue of relieving them of all doubt and uncertainty,
leaving more energy for name- calling.

By the way, this note is not intended as a defense of the
'Black Bloc' or any other tactic or grouping of activists.

Gordon Fitch

==========

* Fukushima One Year Later: Don't Let It Happen Here

A year ago on March 11, an earthquake and tsunami triggered
a nuclear disaster at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear
power plant, leading to the evacuation of 160,000 people, a
12-mile exclusion zone around the crippled plant, and an
ongoing crisis. A disaster of the same scale here, at Indian
Point nuclear power plant, which sits just 35 miles from
Midtown Manhattan, could cause the evacuation of as many 20
million people and hobble the nation's largest city.

Don't let it happen here. Even absent a catastrophe, Indian
Point is a source of radioactive leaks and the killer of
more than 1 billion fish and other river creatures every
year. With Nuclear Regulatory Hearings on Indian Point's
future on the horizon this summer, we have the best
opportunity in a generation to close a plant that is
dangerously past its expiration date. We have better
options, readily available, to provide low-cost electricity
that is cleaner and infinitely safer.

Commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Fukushima
tragedy and show your support for closing Indian Point on
Sunday, March 11 with a series of events organized by
Riverkeeper and its partners:

1 p.m. Press conference and demonstration by the No More
Fukushimas Peace Walkers. Meet at the ShopRite parking lot
on South Riverside Drive in Croton, N.Y.

3:30 p.m. Rally, with a performance with 10-foot puppets on
stilts by Redwing Blackbird Theater; and speeches by
Katajima San, who worked at Fukushima Daiichi; Phillip
Musegaas, Riverkeeper's Hudson River Program director and
several others. Meet at the Indian Point gates, at the
intersection of Bleakley and Broadway in Buchanan, N.Y.

4 p.m. Vigil in the Japanese Buddhist tradition, with prayer
drums and changing.

5 p.m. Potluck dinner at the Old School House, 210 Sixth
Street, Verplanck, N.Y.

6 p.m. Concert, featuring Dar Williams, Dan Einbender and
the Rivertown Kids, James Durst, Hope Machine, Lydia Adams
Davis, Sarah Underhill, Roland Moussa, Taeko Fukao, The
Raging Grannies and others.

For more information, call Riverkeeper at 914-941-2505 or
visit www.shutdownindianpointnow.org

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