Well it’s that time again! It’s time for a month-or-so late update on an event ALL-oNE went to the month-or-so prior!
As always, this year’s Liberty Forum took place in February which means AltExpo #12 took place around the same time. This time around Jack and I were fortunate to get the whole amphitheater that’s in the basement section of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, courtesy of the kindness of the Liberty Forum organizers and more specifically Chris Lawless (thanks again Chris!). With this in hand AltExpo was geared up to take on the role of the alternative more strongly than ever before.
But how did that go? And what speakers did we have? And how did Liberty Forum itself go?
Well….we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start with a brief run-through of Thursday.
Thursday – Getting in
I got in a little later then I wanted to due to traffic and various delays so it ended up being around 7:30 or 8 PM that I got in instead of between 6-7 like I wanted to. I wanted to get in earlier so I didn’t miss catching James Tuttle as soon as possible. I ended up meeting him at the entrance near the main foyer and learning that he was having dinner with another speaker, Steve Cooksey, at the fancy bar and restraint in the hotel. So I joined them. James was apparently discussing the value of 3D printing and why it could sever a liberatory purpose for a libertarian movement. I gorged myself on what James was talking about…the food wasn’t half-bad either.
After about a half-hour or so Darian Worden showed up and we all talked until we decided to go back to James’s hotel room. Steve decided to go back to his own hotel room for the night so he could get some rest. I saw him once or twice more throughout the event and said hi and talked briefly but never managed to get a chance to really talked to him. He seemed nice though.
Once back in the hotel room Darian, James and I all got ourselves comfortable and I got myself set up with the internet relatively quickly (though sadly the internet was a little spotty off and on throughout the weekend). Jack came into the room and a few other friends joined and we all ended up talking until 12:00 or 12:30 in the morning. Jack ended up meeting Jeffery Tucker in an elevator on his way up and brought him along at some point. Jeffery said a few things about how “anarchy is life” and how beautiful life is and then said he had to depart for the night to get some rest for his opening speech the next day.
Jack and I also discovered (as you can see above) that AltEXpo #12 had made it into the main program!
As for the rest of the night, well unfortunately most of the informal discussions between myself, Darian and James have been lost to memory. But the general themes were discussions of what an anarchist society should tolerate and what it shouldn’t, what anarchists should do during war, how anarchists should handle war, how anarchists should handle other communities (such as a “Nazi community” or the like) and what to do about them, agorism and more. Definitely a very fun informal talk.
After most of the people left James and I stayed up to discuss his talk the next day that was gonna be on Freed Market Anti-Capitalism and C4SS and he was going over it with me and asking what I thought of it. I was constantly impressed by his passages and remember having nothing but high praise for it as he read bits of it to me. I read bits of my speech back to him if I’m remembering correctly and we had a few conversations about my talk and his and what we wanted to work on, etc.
We both (of course) stayed up way too late but still managed to wake up around 9:30 the next day.
James was preparing for my talk and I was nervous…why would that be you might askl?
Because I, a person who had never done this before, was introducing James.
Friday – February 22nnd – Day of James’s Talk
Before James’s Talk
Like I said, I managed to somehow get myself up with only four or so hours of sleep. While I was getting ready and finding things to eat (and quickly discovering bringing a few clementines wasn’t gonna be a sufficient way to keep me going off and on) I was also helping set up the ALL table which was set up sometime before 11 AM though I can’t remember exactly when.
From there what I was doing is a bit of a blur now. Generally speaking I was either manning the ALL table, getting ready for James’s talk or trying to find some food. In terms of conversations I had with people at the ALL table I can’t say I remember too many in general (and this goes for the event in general, though I do remember someone made a big $50 donation on Saturday!). I know I spoke a few times but when I did they were typically just explaining left-libertarianism or explaining the left more specifically or giving recommendations for certain pamphlets. Nothing really sticks out in my mind but then I didn’t write anything down and this is a month later so it’s quite possible something big was discussed before James’s talk and I’m just not remembering.
Regardless I was absolutely ecstatic (and nervous) for James’s talk and fueled on nothing more than some noodles in a cup as I headed downstairs to introduce James.
(I’ve asked and obtained permission from James to take direct quotes from the text version of his speech which I happen to have on my computer)
My introduction was very brief (though I originally intended it to be a little longer and convey way more enthusiasm and so on but alas…) and I kept it to just who I was, who James was, what his talk was about and giving the mic over to James. Unfortunately, just as what would end up happening with me in my speech I forgot to get someone to take a picture! So I don’t have any pictures of me doing the intro to James’s talk or me doing my talk at AltExpo #12. But hopefully once the video to both of these things are up that’ll make up for my blunder there.
The audience was almost full and Jack was operating the powerpoint. In remembering it recently he called it a “stirring” speech and I definitely have to agree with that assessment. I’m not gonna go over James’s speech and analyze a bit of it, what I liked and what I found interesting in the hope of explaining what James was talking about, why and the basic main parts and points of his talk without giving away his whole talk until it’s online.
Overall I felt James’s speech gave the FMAC (Free Market Anti-Capitalist) approach and critique a very good explanation.
James’s outline of his talk was as follows:
I would like to start out by talking a about the C4SS, its mission and successes. Then I would like to present a couple themes to orient our approach to this subject and clarify a number of terms found in a typical left libertarian critique. And finally discuss how these change the way we talk about “markets”, with a focus on breaking down the time-honored notion of the “invisible hand” into the antagonistic invisible fist versus the resistant invisible molotov.
As you can see James’s talk certainly seems quite imposing but amazingly James was able to fit the basic idea of all of this within thirty minutes! I for one thought that was pretty impressive. Given the scope of this and James’s time I don’t know if I was unsure how James was gonna fit all of this in in a very not only highly accessible but also fairly comprehensive way but I felt as if James delivered both of these things nonetheless.
In citing the success of C4SS James says,
Since October 2006, C4SS has published over 2,200 articles, to include 15 academic level studies. We have documented over 700+ reprints of our articles in mainstream media outlets. C4SS articles have been translated, by volunteers, into French, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Russian, Spanish and Swedish, and we have Media Coordinators for our Spanish and Dutch translations. And C4SS is proud to be the institutional home of the innovative and prolific Kevin Carson.
Further, he adds that,
…we pay our writers, are financed through micro-donations and partnerships, and are additionally staffed by enthusiastic volunteers and supporters, like myself.
Indeed, the successes of C4SS have been felt on a global scale by now and the op-eds have been published all over. There’s probably not a day that goes by that I don’t see a piece by C4SS that was published that day or the day before or that someone isn’t discussing something to do with C4SS. The Facebook page has over 5,000 “likes” and the Youtube channel for C4SS Media has over 13,000 combined video views with over 300 subscribers despite only being re-activated only very recently by myself and James Tuttle.
James’s main concepts in the talk were how to thematically tease out the FMAC critique which he explained through “Diafra” and “SbyMC”::
Difara: Damage Identified, Find a Route Around.
SbyMC: State by Monocentricism.
The first aligns with the general feel of what a FMAC tactic would be constituted by. We would use our approach of recognizing things like the subsidy of history and then find a way around it through direct action, counter-economics, dual power strategy and education anything else that strikes at the root.
The root, for James and for FMAC who take a more Ostromite position on this, is monocentrism as opposed to polycentrism but what’s the distinction?
James quotes Horia Terpe, in his article Between Monocentricity and Polycentricity:
The meaning of polycentricity was understood, both in the original 1961 article and later conceptual refinements, in opposition to monocentricity, as a system with multiple centers of power and decision making that are formally independent of each other.
And James adds,
Monocentric systems, by contrast, have reduced, singular, or hierarchical centers of power and decision making with fewer and fewer formally independent units.
The project of the FMAC critique and position then is to not create a single institutional space where FMAC norms and values can be built but many where many different conceptions of freedom and social experimentation can be had.
As James describes it elsewhere:
The “market” in market anarchy, for me, is a vocational, lifestyle, life-path bazaar; the more options the better I feel that authority is curbed and monopoly buried. I see/want a world where people can browse, taste test, try on, kick the tires and hassle free return any life they fancy; or knuckle down on one thing and feel the novel sensation of fusion with or mastery of one skill or craft, pushing it into new boundaries, ripping it up and starting again whether it be post-punk music, cabinet making or Starcraft II.
Indeed, a good way of looking at the fundamental ideal of anarchism is a sort of “voluntary abundance” that Voltairine speaks of and not only in wealth but also necessarily in options as well. As James notes well, the more options the more we can be convinced the authority that Voltairine hated and that we want to find a route around as FMACs the more we can be convinced that such an authority has in fact been undermined. More choices, more systems, more options, more freedom operating in a form of voluntary abundance in which people empower themselves through direct action, solidarity and more. The versatility in tactics, in systems and in the very means of living gives people a far better way of living then under a monocentric system.
But what makes systems that act monocentric bad? James and others have reached similar conclusions: It’s the problem monopolies.
For more on this, James elaborates on the major harm of monopoly and quotes Roderick Long and adds in his own comments:
Monopoly, on the other hand, is morally discouraging, and as it blocks our every attempt to “find a route around” our moral confusion grows until we either submit or explode.
Roderick T. Long points out, in his article Libertarian Anarchism: Responses to Ten Objections, with monopoly comes moral problems: “why us? What’s so special about us?”, incentive problems: “why should I attempt to improve production, offer a lower price, or better quality?”, leverage problems: “if the monopolist doesn’t like me, for this or that reason, the price could become impossible to meet or impossibly contingent”, and knowledge problems: “how do I know I am offering the best product for the best price?”.
James reasons that monopoly is guilty of blocking out one of the most fundamental things about FMAC which is the Diafra method. Without that progress is lost to the monocroppers who imperalize and colonize social spaces for their own benefit to the detriment of the many. The state is just one such institution that does this and many other values or ideas that can propagate institutions or relations like it (sexism, racism or heteronormativity being three that James specifically mentions later in his talk). This therefore calls for (in my opinion and I believe this is James’s as well) a thick libertarianism that holds a thick bundle of concerns and will not only find ways around the damage that these institutions, values and relationships cause among people but find ways to challenge, critique and undermine as well.
But how do we confront this? As James correctly notes, the typical answer would be the invisible hand. But in the past the iron fist has been right behind this hand, meaning that perhaps the invisible hand by itself is an insufficient means to confront monocropping (which is, according to Peter Evans, a professor of sociology at the University of CA, Berkley: “…[an] imposition of blueprints based on idealised versions of institutions whose applicability is presumed to transcend national cultures and circumstances…”) and monocentrism more generally speaking.
So what’s the answer?
For those of us interested in resisting and undermining coercive power, the issue is less how a truly freed market might one day improve our lives, but rather how the faint sparks of freedom in the market today are already working against hierarchy, banditry and the concentration of power and how those sparks might be stoked. Therefore our interest is not the market’s invisible hand, per se, but the invisible molotov it carries
But how to use it?
The FMAC approach, in the end isn’t interested in raising up monocentric systems the phenomenon of monocropping so that certainly leaves out raising up the state.
So the only thing left to do is bury it.
Let’s start writing that eulogy today.
After James’ Talk
Despite my somewhat lengthy elaboration from James’s talk and James’s own wonderful insights of course there were plenty of time for questions.
…Unfortunately the first one was quite literally:
What is left-libertarianism?
I, on one hand, can understand. This is all new to most of the audience. Some people were probably a bit confused, a few even baffled and one or two even left when leftist and right-wing conflationism was brought up as well as the anti-capitalism made more explicit. So I can understand the question in a sense.
But in another sense it’s somewhat puzzling and altogether frustrating that, in a speech in which LLism was more or less the focus of the talk the first question would be what it was. Now, granted, James never specifically defined the term LLism so I can understand that but I hope it can be also understood why hearing this first thing’s first after a talk like the one I just talked about above might seem a bit odd, if nothing else.
In any case James answered the question quite well by saying he appreciated Hess’s left-right spectrum and Gary’s The Left in Left-Libertarianism as well as seeing the approach of LLism to be about distributed power. Charles Johnson, coincidentally, had a recent post about this subject as well.
For Hess it’s about comparing the propensity for opposing or supporting concentrations of power and given that LLism is about distributed power and libertarianism more generally is as well it would make libertarianism on the left side of things if correctly viewed. Adding in Gary’s concepts of having libertarianism concerned with subordination, exclusion and deprivation means a libertarianism concerned with things commonly associated with the left within the confines of dispersing power. And dispersing power and going as far as you can with that to Hess, Chartier, James and myself means anarchism and also left-libertarianism.
Other questions were about polycentric orders versus panarchism and I don’t remember exactly how James differentiated the two so I can’t comment there.
Oh, and after I asked James what would he first recommend for people wanting to get into Ostrom’s work (he recommended this by the way) I compared the state to the overly-attached girlfriend (except that the state will actually kill you…)…so yup…that happened too.
After…After James’ Talk
The talk seemed…fairly successful. In my (probably overly honest) opinion it seemed as though some of the crowd was confused about what to make of it exactly, some who were already entrenched in LLism got it and were energized by it or generally liked it and others (like I said before) apparently disliked it enough to leave during the talk.
I can’t exactly pose why it was a mixed result like this except that maybe more things needed to be broken down further for the audience or that certain subjects just weren’t broached enough. But there’s always work to be done with this stuff and either way I was very impressed with James’s work, his writing and his speech overall. So in my opinion it was a great success!
I thanked Chris Lawless (by the way, isn’t that a great last name for a libertarian to have?) for having James there and giving him the opportunity.
After that, I went back to helping with tabling for ALL, discussing left-libertarianism with some folks (mostly non-hostile, friendly and curious as I recall it) and hanging out with various ALLies.
Eventually the hunger got to me and Jack and I went to the nearby supermarket in his van to get some food and whatnot. Eventually it became night and AltExpo had a bit of a party going on for most of the night.
Two things of note happened at the party as I recall it:
1. A conversation with James Tuttle about comic books and superheroes
2. James Tuttle, me Darian Worden and a few other people talking about IP.
The first was no real surprise to me. James Tuttle loved comic books and I knew that. He had discussed the similarities between Batman and a character of Les Miserables and about Batman (the Nolan version). So once that conversation began I was pretty pumped. The conversation mostly revolved around typical figures such as Batman, Superman, Iron Man and even a few Deadpool references here and there.
Darian, me and James briefly discussed The Watchmen and the latest comics for them (I wasn’t too up on this having never seen the movie nor read the graphic novel) and both James and Darian lamented a certain character who they felt ruined things. The conversation on comics was also continued on my Facebook
In all I remember the conversation being very enjoyable. Discussing the pros and cons of Batman and how we pretty much wouldn’t want to hang out with any of the characters. In a choice between Batman and the Joker I at first leaned towards the Joker because he’s a bit more interesting to be around while Batman is so methodical and seemingly crazy to a large degree. But upon second thinking I suppose Batman could be trusted more to not kill me for totally arbitrary reasons. Instead he’d just hurt me for his damaged and half-baked notions of justice.
On the topic of Batman, I highly recommend, Batman: Under The Red Hood. Gonzo Times has written about it here. I also recommend Year One, the re-tellings of Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns which are all great as well. And if you haven’t watched Mask of the Phantasm…well…
Moving away from comics the IP debate was a bit interesting, though I have a little less to say about that. More or less there was a person who was interested in technology who lived on the west coast and was talking about IP. James, me and Darian and him (and a few other people) started discussing the topic with him and he emphasized not necessarily knowing the best way to handle IP in the right way while me and my ALLies were pretty strongly coming out against it.
I can’t remember much from the conversation itself sadly but soon after that most of us went to bed (it was probably around 3 in the morning and I needed to get up around 8!).
It’s probably not a good idea to do this when you have your speech going on around 12 PM the same day right?
Eye-Opener: 8-10 AM
…Of course not!
Instead of waking up around 8 like I wanted to, I ended up waking up closer to 10 AM if memory serves (though honestly some part of me now feels like I was lucky to wake up at all to be honest…) and made it for the end of Kevin’s talk which is partially caught on video here. You can see me enter the room around the 17 and 30 second mark meaning I probably woke up and got down there around 9:30 or so.
It was a nice informal and friendly audience. I can’t really recall what happened or what Kevin Innes talked about but you can catch most of it there in his own words if that helps.
Unfortunately I won’t have that luxury for most of the other speakers. Most of the other speaker’s talks have not yet been uploaded to AltExpo’s YouTube channel.
That’ll be remedied all in due time but for now…
I’m gonna go talk by talk and detail what I remember or at least some personal notes and various other things that happened around the same time as the event if I wasn’t there at the event. Unfortunately due to tabling for ALL, taking care of other priorities, at one point getting my talk printed out (which ironically I don’t think I used…).
Jack’s talk: Building New Libertarian Community
Unfortunately while I think I was there for most (if not all) of Jack’s talk I don’t really remember much of it. One part of me wants to blame a lack of sleep for this one but I don’t think that cuts it. Nevertheless the audience was pretty good. Somewhere between 15-20 people if memory is serving me correctly. Jack sounded off on what AltExpo was, what New Libertarianism is and was and how those ideas and the AltExpo ideas are relevant to building a community. Aside from that rather innocuous sounding description I remember it being a good opening talk for AltExpo.
Jame’s talk: Libertarianism and Radical Labor
Unfortunately/fortunately Jack, James and I all agreed that putting James’s speak about radical labor and libertarianism would be (strategically speaking) a good precursor to my own talk which very much touched on that same topic.
On the plus side, this meant that the audience that stuck around past lunch (it was my personal decision to more or less “sacrifice” my talk in the form of having at lunch instead of having another speaker’s talk sacrificed…more on my reasoning for that later) but on the negative side I was getting ready for my talk and started doing that about 10 minutes or so.
It took most of my time to get my talk printed because I was waiting on a few people which, as it turns out wasn’t as big of a deal for me or for you since James had already done this talk before but it’s worth noting that even so James had explicitly mentioned me to Darian and myself in his hotel room that he had rewritten a few things and added a few details here and there. So think of it as a more primed version of the talk you’ll see there.
Hopefully that “primed” version will be up sooner rather than later…
…But until then…
So I definitely wasn’t nervous at all. Really. But either way I was only presenting to (as it turned out) 10 people or less and I did it right after I got a nice deep breathing and relaxing exercise from Kevin Innes. In addition I was sitting down so I wouldn’t (hopefully) continue my bad habit of awkwardly (read: painfully distracting) fidgeting while presenting. Gotta work on that…
At any rate I’ll give a bit of an overview of my essay and what I talked about and why I thought and still think it’s important. I probably won’t go as in depth as I did with James’s talk but it’ll be fairly comprehensive for those who just wanna get a general sense of what I was talking about.
Before I get to that though, I just wanna elaborate a little on why I chose the lunch period (of all periods) of time during Liberty Forum. The basic idea was that I was an organizer so that if my talk wasn’t well attended and the event overall still went well then I’d be happy. But for someone who only really had to worry about their talk I didn’t really like the idea of them only presenting to 10 or less people, just didn’t seem fair to me. As it turned out it way the right move to make.
My general purpose of the talk was to elaborate upon why I thought agorists and anarcho-syndicalists have more to discuss and talk about and potentially even work together about if they realize their commonalities as well as their differences. This doesn’t entail a whitewashing of their differences or the fact that there are differences and for some of those differences there are not easy answers sometimes. But nevertheless I attempted to define agorism and one of the main syndicalists tactic (I did not feel comfortable enough in my knowledge of anarcho-syndicalism to do an overview of the philosophy so I focused using one of the anarcho-syndicalists main tactics to explain in a roundabout way what some of their concerns and foundational concerns were). I also addressed them a bit more head on in the conclusion too.
Even so, I totally admit I should’ve done more research on the philosophy of anarcho-syndicalism before delving into this project but my defense for this is saying that my main focus was on the tactics of counter-economics and the general strike and the philosophies were a bit of a second priority for me (at least in this talk). Which doesn’t mean that the philosophies aren’t important to compare and contrast (and, indeed, I do this periodically throughout the talk, albeit in small and controlled ways) but just that I didn’t feel comfortable enough to tackle that. And, like I said before, that wasn’t my main focus within the context of this talk.
Going back to the talk, showing that alliances can be made between these groups (in tactical spirit if not more than that) is part of a larger project of me calling on different factions of the anarchist movement to come together and analyze each other’s thoughts (something I’m guilty of not doing myself of course, especially in regards to anarcho-communism and primitivism, etc.) and realize that these “ideological chasms” that we envision between us are sometimes more self-enforced than actually-existing.
One of my main lines in the introduction of the talk is that this essay is a project that is most interested in talking about one of my most major aspects of my work and ideas:
Synthesis of many ideas while remaining a strong core of disciplined but flexible principles can lead to rewarding experiences, tactics and ideology
Now obviously that’s a pretty general thing to say so I’m not exactly going for mind-blowing things here. But I do think this general idea is one that is under-emphasized, under-appreciated and generally over-looked by anarchists who feel that their economic system is the “key” to anarchism. I’m inclined to say that certainly some systems are better than others at certain things.
For example maybe anarcho-communism works better in small and decentralized agrarian areas while mutualism and individualism work better with larger and more industrial and interconnected communities and towns. I don’t know, but I’m not about to claim any three of these schools of thought (or any of the others either under their umbrellas or around them) have the one definitive “plan” to get us “to” anarchism.
And to go on a side-issue/tangent I’d also like to stress that the end goal isn’t anarchism but progress because there’s not just some magical place called anarchism (and while we’re at it nor is there a magical tradition) and until we learn that progress is generally what justifies our actions and indeed our existence then anarchists are gonna be stuck in the past in some way or another. Which isn’t to say the past isn’t worth looking at, is worth forgetting, isn’t worth deep analysis and constant analysis when needed but getting ourselves knee-deep in tradition (of all things) doesn’t seem like a healthy project to me for anarchists to take on.
In the end, I hope I delivered a satisfying and a thought-provoking talk to the people who attended my talk. A few of the people who stuck around for my talk they said they appreciated it. And before via emails most people said it looked good/fine and another person after the speech when I sent it to him said he liked it. So I’m feeling okay about my talk in general.
Ironically during my Q&A (I thankfully had 10 minutes left over) someone who had came in late asked me what the talk was about so I had to re-state what I was trying to do and how I was trying to do.
As you can see on the title I’ve put it on my own personal blog (it’s the first time I’ve updated it in many months sadly…) though not all of the links are up and the emboldened and italicized words didn’t transfer as well (though that’s a minor thing so I don’t think I’ll do anything about that) but it’s more or less up. I might do a few revisions here or there but for now what you see is what you’ll get.
…Well ya know, until I fix up my fifty page plus original version of the talk that included much more theoretical and some practical elaborations about the content, aims and practices of a counter-economic general strike.
But I wouldn’t suggest holding your breath about it if I were you.
Darian Worden’s Talk: Thoureau and Tomorrow: What a Libertarian Forefather Teaches Us
Darian’s talk was another one that I mostly missed. I was feeling pretty tired after the talk and wanted to catch a bit of Darian’s talk but in the end only stuck around for some of it at the beginning and some it at the end. As you can see though Darian has been kind enough to have a version of it that was appropriate for C4SS as an article there. So go and check it out, I’ve read it and definitely liked it a lot. It looks like Darian knocked it out of the park.
During this time I think I got some food and hung around the ALL table for a bit but then again I remember some of the end of Darian’s talk and talking about feminism and Thoreau (which is briefly mentioned at the end of Darian’s article version) and looking for a specific quote from one of Thoreau’s essays. Other than that I’m sad to say I don’t remember much.
But like I said, just reading what was put on C4SS and via what I do remember from the talk I remember (as per usual) being impressed with Darian’s work.
John Bush’s talk: Sustainable and Autonomous Communities Initiative
This one is a bit of a bummer as I literally can’t say anything about this talk other than I got the brochure from John at the beginning and then had to go man the ALL table for an hour or so. I heard John’s talk was well received and Jack related to me that he enjoyed it. The audience seemed pretty big as well and I don’t really have any doubt that John was a very capable speaker.
Nevertheless you can see what he was talking about above (which, ironically until now, I had no idea had been put online).
As for my time at the ALL table I’m gonna have to confess that nothing particularly is striking a bell for me in terms of conversations I had.
Theresa Earle’s talk: Community Food Security
Okay, so this is a talk I can recall. I specifically made sure I could get in on this talk since I had heard Theresa about the consensus decision process that she helped facilitate in Occupy Boston and knew she was a smart and capable thinker and man did she not prove me wrong!
First off Theresa opened up with no script. Period. She had nothing in her hands (except a few notes she hardly ever looked at which were placed on a table near her) and no powerpoint either. And despite that she had pretty much memorized everything she wanted to say, said it in a pretty emphatic, passionate and overall endearing tone and manner.
Second, Theresa referred to statistics, personal experiences and more to illustrate her points in a fairly comprehensive and believable fashion. She also peppered her points with bits of humor here and there and with a relatability that seemed really grounded and out of the clutches of obscure ideology or philosophy that can sometimes happen at events like this.
Before Theresa was even done I was raving on Facebook that I thought she was pretty much the best speaker AltExpo had thus far (and made it clear I was only speaking for myself).
As to what Theresa was talking about? It was mostly geared towards her interest in having open access and nutritious food via farms and operating our own farms in our own communities and having them self and locally produced so we can move away from the governmentalized and corporatized food distribution systems that are in place now.
I certainly hope Theresa will come back and speak more at Porcfest for AltExpo #13!
SABA Cooperative (Shasta Stewart, Evan Pierce, Rich Angell)’s talk - Co-operative Living
Justin Holmes and Kieran Prasch – Mesh Networking
Unfortunately I pretty much missed the last three talks before Thaddeus Russell’s talk so I can’t even really comment on what happened on each of these talks. I was mostly online trying to keep up with current events online and manning the ALL table and engaging in discussions with people who were curious about left-libertarianism.
Of particular note was that I actually met Thaddeus Russell in the area where you buy the books near Jim Dodson’s Liberty Books stand. He and I looked at each other for a few seconds and I asked if he was Thaddeus and he said he was and I told him who I was (we had communicated before online, mostly through Facebook). We then engaged in some discussion about him and his political positions and left-libertarianism’s relation to anarcho-capitalism and other left-anarchists. We went back to the ALL table and I talked to him a bit more with Darian and another ALLy or two. It was quite fun to discuss stuff with him but he eventually had to go off to his room.
I caught the end of Danny’s talk and it seemed alright but either way there’s a link to basically what he was trying to get at with his talk at AltExpo. Though, as you might be able to tell, it’s a talk that happened before that. The talk he gave at AltExpo was a bit more refined version of that talk with a few more things added on to make it a bit longer. When I came in it was a Q&A and it seemed to be going fine.
I caught some of the beginning SABA talk but I had to keep running around due to manning the ALL table and keeping other things in check. Seemed like they had a big audience though and hopefully were well received. I meant to catch up with Evan more but never did so as much as I wanted.
As for the mesh-networking talk it was pretty packed when I came in at the end to catch Thad’s talk and it seemed to be going well. Unfortunately I can’t say much more than that due to a mix of not knowing what exactly they were getting at, forgetfulness and general lack of knowledge of the subject they were bringing up.
Thaddeus Russel’s talk: Renegades for Freedom
Note: The speech linked above was the LF version of the AE #12 talk.
First off, I must say I was a bit nervous about Thaddeus’s talk.
This wasn’t because I was nervous about Thad talking (no, I was ecstatic about that!) but I really hadn’t seen Thad since I had seen him last. And I had hopes he’d show up at AltExpo for a bit beforehand but to no avail. Frantic texting and IM’ing around yielded me no results for Thad’s whereabouts so (as I remember it) as I finally decided to head upstairs a little before Thad’s talk he was there in the elevator looking a bit more dressed up and I headed back to the Ampitheater.
Thad’s talk, of course, went amazingly well (not that I expected much less).
The audience was a bit more mixed for Thad’s talk, and by that I mean numbers. Surprisingly for it being at dinner time (an unfortunate reality of making Thad the closing speaker…) Thad still managed to get around 20 people or more to his talk. And he didn’t disappoint.
He started off by asking the audience whether we thought dancing was okay, if women not walking with a chaperon was alright, if listening to things besides classical music is okay and so on. More or less he was trying to discern how “open” the audience was to the sort of “seedy” underbelly of American culture that Thaddeus praises in his book, A Renegade History of the United State.
Surprisingly to Thad, everyone pretty much agreed with him the whole way through.
After that he started going through how the whores of older times were the first to achieve and not merely advocate equality for women like the feminists. He also proclaimed that every women in the audience was a whore. Why? Because most were wearing bright clothing, make up, were without a male chaperon and generally acted like the whores did back before the feminist movement even got started. A provocative point but a very good one.
He also chastised libertarians for not being so great on the work ethic and then (for me at least) amazingly added,
Except for my good friend Nick. … But I’m sure there are other Foridsts in the room.
To top it off I sarcastically asked him if he was saying that there was anyone else in the room that loved Voltairine de Cleyre and he responded by saying,
No, don’t push your luck.
Definitely a great moment for me.
At any rate he continued talking about how alcoholics basically earned the worker forty hour week, better wages, the weekend and so on through their obstinate refusal to go for what the boss wanted out of them.
One notable quote I thought to type out to a comrade I was talking to then:
There should be postage stamps with gangsters on them. There should be postage stamps with brothel owners on them. There should be postage stamps with drunks on them.
He mentioned the gay liberation movement and the Stonewall Inn incident and how the modern gay movement is a shadow of such events now.
His speech went on for about thirty minutes and he got a good amount of applause.
It actually was the case that because the talk was happening during dinner that he was wanted to be up there by 7:45 but when I mentioned this to Thad during the Q&A he had some choice words for it and kept going. The Right to be Lazy was used as a reference to give an example of criticisms of the work ethic that Thad used or sympathized with.
Interestingly, Thad also remarked he actually respected conservatives because at least (typically speaking) they’re honest about their shaming and puritanism while progressives aren’t so honest. Thad then added that this means that while he’s aware of which side of the barricades that the conservatives are on he feels he needs to “barrel” through the progressives first before doing much about them.
Overall I was very impressed with Thad’s talk and definitely appreciated him being there.
After AltExpo #12 - Hospitality in the AltExpo suite on the 2nd floor
First off I just want to say that overall AltExpo #12 was a huge success!
In a discussion that happened a few weeks or so after the event, in trying to recall it both Jack and I had serious issues trying to come up with problems we had. The speakers were great, the talks were great, the topics were interesting and informative, the audience receptive, the general receiving positive and the costs all but covered! Much discussion of important topics from a wide range of issues were covered and covered in pleasant and well needed ways.
Wrapping up the ALL table was done a little hastily by myself while my head was rushing with excitement and not exactly thinking. So James ended up taking all of the things off of the table (due to a mess up on my part).
Other than that though the night transitioned well into the “hospitality” section of the night and this is where the Twilight Zone portion of this story begins.
The Twilight Zone
While there was a bit of a hospitality thing going on at AltExpo things didn’t really start until after Vermin Supreme‘s movie was over in the Ampitheater and I got a friend or two to mention that stuff was going on at the AltExpo suite rooms.
Within about a half-hour or so the rooms in the suites were packed pretty full of people. Before that I had done some playing on my bass guitar, gotten in a few small conversations here and there and felt somewhat engaged with people and in a good mood to discuss things, man did I pick the right night!
As more and more people came in, more and more conversations began and this is where The Twilight Zone begins.
From approximately 1 AM to 4 AM I was in many different debates about left-libertarianism, landlordism, the definition of the word “voluntary”, rape culture, the definition of (of course!) capitalism and all of the “lovely” things that entailed.
I ended up talking to various anarcho-capitalists, a minarchist or two and had plenty of lively debate…let me try to sum it up.
One of the anarcho-capitalists I was talking to was a guy who me, Jack and James had spoken to earlier about the definitions and terminology behind capitalism and why it was at best a lackluster word for libertarians to use. We particularly referenced Advocates of Freed Markets Should Embrace “Anti-Capitalism” and used the terminology there to try to separate different ideas of capitalism and try to help him figure out why we were against capitalism.
Ultimately this conversation (and many others) resumed during the hospitality thing in the AltExpo suites. It got to a point where my interlocutor started defending the “choices” that wage-makers (and, if memory serves me, even wage-slave kids in foreign countries!) were making and somehow saying that this sort of system is progressing towards a better world. I was almost beyond belief. We went in circles and circles about capitalism, wage-labor, social-capital, landlordism and a whole bunch of other topics.
My general feeling of his positions were that they were pretty much what I’d hope an an anarcho-capitalist wouldn’t be. I made the argument that the worker, even in the US has their choices artificially constrained by corporations, the government and systematic elements that his critique of actually-existing capitalism (though he wouldn’t call it such) was missing. I don’t remember what his responses were but I do remember another libertarian (of the right-wing persuasion it sounded like) complaining about entitlement and the victim playing that some people. I was already thinking about other conversations and was getting too angry to find it worth my time to engage with that person too.
Nevertheless it continued well into the morning. At one point I was asked about my position about rent and I think James puts it correctly that:
I think a salient distinction between C4SS and other forms of anarchism re property-like relationships, is *skepticism* and *context*.
This is a major focus of our freed market approach.
We are *skeptical* about rent, for example, not claiming it wrong or right prior to context. Other forms of anarchism, depending on who you talk to, are *certain* about rent, again for example, that itis either right or wrong – period – regardless of context.
At the time however I was unsure how I felt about rent and so on. It’s still not something I feel solid on but I guess keeping the context and skepticism approach in mind I suppose within the context of the contracts and negotiation being more or less equal between “tenant” and “owner” that I’d see significantly less to be skeptical and cautious of. It would be in such a state that the relationship between the two would be (especially comparatively to now) more or less equal with the roles of both being pretty blurry and it’d be hard to tell who was what in any real easy way like it is now.
Now, that wouldn’t mean it would be beyond reproach but the skepticism and context of it would situate it more closely with an anarchic relationship. Even so though I’d say that with the breaking up of the many monopolies (especially credit and land) that renting in general would be less prevalent than it is right now and when it would occur it’d be between free equals and uniques who have plenty of options for themselves in terms of where they live and what they do with their lives.
But at the time I really had no good answer so I pretty much just said that. As you might imagine, it wasn’t well received.
Eventually I ended up resting and sitting on a bed talking to another friendly interlocutor who was a minarchist but still engaged in the conversation with me well and surprisingly whom I had a better discussion with (I feel). We talked about patriarchy, feminism and libertarianism and Charles Johnson’s excellent essay on that topic. We also talked a bit more about landlordism and my problems with it and I finally was able to explain a bit more of my position on it and why I felt like I did.
After what seemed like an eternity I decided I was tired and that I needed to go to sleep if I wanted any chance of waking up in the morning.
To paraphrase Thaddeus,
“[Anarchism] sure is a lot of work!”
Sunday – Getting Out
My day started off around 10 AM or so (still only getting me five hours or so of sleep) and happily discovered that the leftovers of the morning buffet were being allowed to be given to us peasa-I mean people who couldn’t afford it!
Anyways, I “dined” for the first time in a while and felt a bit recovered.
With that I set up the ALL table and managed to get a few purchases from a few people and a lovely anti-voting poster from Davi Barker from the Vote for Nobody Campaign. After that I packed back up the boxes rather furiously in order to get things taken care of so I wouldn’t miss anything else that was going on. I would later regret this as I had to organize the pamphlets again but it ended up not being as big of a deal as I thought it would be.
More on that later though…
I helped get some of the suites for AltExpo set up and I rushed down to see Thaddeus’s talk. And of course as I walk into the room someone left a few glass cups that are made for drinking wine on the floor and under the seats. So I of course knocked a few around a little bit and ended up breaking one of them. After a few looks from people (yes, I’m socially-awkward and physically clumsy folks, thanks for noticing!) I managed to pick up some of the cups (luckily it was only broken in big parts not small so I didn’t cut myself) and put them on a nearby table.
Thaddeus (thank goodness) didn’t even pause (though the video seems to suggest he kind of laughed it off for a second or so) and kept going on.
I’m not really gonna go into his talk since it was more or less the one he gave at AltExpo. But more or less the talk there went fine and the Q&A was interesting. After the talk I ran out to get my bags which had a copy of Thad’s book to discover…all of the stuff was gone! The pamphlets, my guitar, my amp, my bags, everything!
I immediately panicked and asked around if anyone had seen it and no one had seen anyone take it. I asked a few people at the front desk for anything and they said they’d check. Luckily I ran into Jack within a minute or so of that and he told me that he had moved all of the stuff to his van. I had told him where my stuff was and didn’t think he was gonna do it so soon and to make matters worse had forgotten I mentioned that to him!
But even so I got my book signed once I got the stuff back and a few pictures with Thad. Definitely one of the highlights of my weekend!
Unfortunately Thaddeus had to leave for his flight soon after his talk so I ended up hanging out with James and Jack in the main foyer of the hotel while Jack was finishing up an interview with someone from Reason TV. I don’t know if anything became of that but I somewhat doubt it as the same happened to me last year and I don’t know that anything happened there either.
Regardless James and I were pretty much worn out and both feel promptly asleep on some comfortable furniture for about a half-hour until Jack woke us both up for James to get ready for his hotel ride to the airport.
Jack and I and another friend that we made during the day after Thaddeus’s talk and signed was over and said goodbye to James as he went off to the airport.
After that, Jack me and our new friend went to a nearby pizza place to talk politics while I dazed off and watched a crappy movie on the side half-brain dead still. While there we discussed a bit about morality, Max Stirner’s The Ego and His Own and I also recommended Robert Anton Wilson‘s Natural Law, or Don’t put a Rubber on Your Willy which he later read and let me know he enjoyed. By around 5 PM I was ready to go home and take a nice nap.
I came home to a nice three hour nap or so after having a wonderful weekend.
Conclusion – What’s Left and What’s Next?
ALL in ALL it was a great weekend and I am definitely grateful to anyone and everyone who helped AltExpo #12!
I think the idea of communication is constantly being beaten in my head time in and time out and hopefully as a result of this (and other things) I’m getting better at this. I definitely learned just from writing this blog that I have to write stuff that happens at events, conversations I have, important notes from talks and so on. I should also try to write these blog posts just a little closer to when they actually happened. But ya know…I don’t want to aim too high now…
I don’t have much else to say about the events or Liberty Forum. For the most part I hung out at either the ALL table or AltExpo and while there were a few talks (like the Thaddeus Russell talk and a political vs. non-political activism panel) I mostly did not attend the main event (which makes since sense I was assisting organizing a whole ‘nother event as well as a table and a few other important things. So I was a little short on time for other things to say the least. Nevertheless though it was exhausting (I didn’t even feel totally back to normal until a day or so after the weekend was over!) I had tons of fun and am excited for AltExpo #13!
Expect that when ALL-oNE goes to the NYC (A) Bookfair I’ll have a bit more detailed of a memory when I upload the post. Happily and sadly ALL-oNE will be tabling in NJ-ALL’s stead due to a lack of participants from that group being able to make it this time around. It should still be a good time though and I hope you can make it! Scott Crow will also be there which is very exciting for me as I’m currently reading (and furiously attempting to finish) his Black Flags and Windmills which I’m quite enjoying.
Now as for when that post on the bookfair will be posted…
[Editorial note: I did indeed take much more copious notes for the Bookfair...hopefully it'll add up to a much richer post!]