The Great Transition International Conference
May 21-24, Montreal
The 2007-2008 financial crisis did not put an end to neoliberal policies, but it did lead to a large-scale rejection of neoliberalism as an economic model and a mode of thought. In the last decade, several new protest movements emerged: the Arab Spring, the Indignados, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, Fight for $15… These movements challenged the status quo, mobilized millions and alerted the world to crucial issues. They also won significant victories in some areas. Furthermore, new left-wing parties and openly socialist candidates entered the political arena with impressive results. However, we must concede that the tide hasn’t turned yet. There is no evidence that the balance of power is shifting to the left, or that the abolition of capitalism is near. In some places, the left is even losing ground to a rising far right.
One of the deepest political lessons of our times is that the radical left is undergoing a crisis. We are currently unable to articulate a clear vision for the future. “Anti-capitalism”, anti-racism”, “Change the system, not the climate”, “Another world is possible”: this vocabulary expresses a negative and defensive political impulse, underlining our incapacity to put forward a positive, inspiring project. When we dare speak of revolution, it often evokes empty rehashing or, worse, the spectre of state violence committed in the name of so-called “communist” regimes.
Therefore, our most urgent task is to rebuild an alternative to this racist, capitalist and patriarchal world. Social theories have given us critical tools to analyse the system, but have given us very few pointers on how to replace it. In some circles, interesting proposals have been made and bold social experiments have been tried, but these initiatives are either overlooked or isolated. They need to be connected, discussed and debated, so that a stronger movement emerges.
To promote the convergence of various resistance movements into a powerful offensive, we must develop a genuine transition project based on the critical knowledges produced by scholars and activists. The Great Transition: Building Utopias international conference thus invites citizens and activists from all horizons to re-ignite our political imagination and to renew strategic debates along 6 main themes:
- An Economy in the Hands of Everyone
- Transforming our Relationship with Nature
- Anti-Imperialism in a Tempest-Tossed World
- Rethinking Democracy and Power
- Decolonizing Knowledge
- Fighting all Oppression
Now is the time to act. The multi-faceted crisis we are going through requires the creation of new utopias. The conference has three main objectives: (1) promoting alternatives to capitalism and to the many different systems of oppression, (2) equipping social movements and transformative initiatives by sharing experiences and knowledge, and (3) reinforcing ties between critical academics and militant organizations, as well as between francophone and anglophone networks.
An Economy in the Hands of Everyone
Strategies for a collective reappropriation of the economy: lessons from past and present experiments
Opposition to neoliberalism lives on, more than 10 years after the 2007-2008 financial crisis. But beyond resistance strategies, what experiments (in production, housing, organization of urban space, etc.) can prefigure the development of an economic infrastructure independant from capital? What lessons can we draw from past and present cooperatives and strategic nationalizations? How did they implement workers’ control and large-scale coordination? What were the obstacles they faced?
Alternatives to Capitalism: Democratizing the Economy:
In order to formulate a global alternative to the system, this theme aims to discuss and debate different models – such as democratic socialism, ParEcon, ecosocialism, degrowth, libertarian municipalism, and the “commons – that strive to break with the double productivist dead ends of 20th century social democracy and bureaucratic socialism.
What kind of institutions and processes would make the democratic planning of the economy possible? What should be the role of money, finance and markets? Would the socialization of housework be enough to overcome a racist and sexist division of labour? If not, how could we ensure that social reproduction work is shared equally? And how can we abolish the gendered segregation that structures contemporary labour markets?
What should be decided and organized at the level of the household, the workplace, the city, the region, the nation or the world? How can we distribute collectively-produced wealth to eliminate “North-South” inequalities and the racism and colonial oppression that come with them? What are the limits we should impose on production and growth to make our economies sustainable? How can we make sure these limits will be respected?
Transforming our Relationship with Nature
Strategies for ecological transition
Against unrealistic technological and financial solutions to the ecological crisis, several communities are organizing to defend the environment and to create new ways of inhabiting the land. What lessons can we draw from current and past movements? Can the transition foster a genuine convergence between labour activists, students, ecologists, feminists, and indigenous activists? What initiatives can lead us towards climate justice in the sectors of renewable energy, industrial reconversion and housing, among others? How do we make sure that we are moving towards a fair transition, one that does not put the burden of our ecological footprint on countries of the Global South and one that does not solely create “typically male” green jobs?
Models of sustainable and ecological communities
Several projects have been conceived and implemented in response to the ecological crisis, including local cooperative networks, ecovillages and various forms of commons. Is it possible to avoid reproducing dynamics of oppression within these spaces? How do we connect these local projects within a larger post-capitalist framework? What are the merits and flaws of different perspectives (ecosocialism, ecofeminism, degrowth, etc.) put forward to break with productivism? What can these perspectives bring to a mass democratic movement for a Green New Deal? What would a fair and ecological society look like?
Anti-Imperialism in a Tempest-Tossed World
Strategies to fight all imperialisms
With its military might and its hold on major financial institutions, American imperialism is still a force to be reckoned with. Hence, left-wing activists must identify the empire’s weak spots and find strategies to dismantle it successfully. What are the most efficient ways to fight American imperialism – and its allies (including Canada, Japan, and the European Union) – today? How do we build large grassroots anti-imperialist coalitions?
At the same time, how should we deal with the emergence of “new” powers that undermine American hegemony? Can we support those who are fighting these new players without being instrumentalized in inter-imperialist rivalries? How do we avoid falling for the idea that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”?
Alternatives to Imperialisms: Building internationalism
What role can we play in struggles for demilitarization and for nuclear disarmament? How do we fight the military-industrial complex and its grasp on our economies? How can we dissolve NATO and replace it with alliances based on cooperation, solidarity and peace?
Last but not least, how can we lend a hand to the peoples of the Global South who are fighting against the predatory practices of Canadian companies, especially in the mining industry? While the Canadian government is complicit in the destructive exploitation of the tar sands, in the dispossession of indigenous peoples and in the imperialist destabilization of several countries, it is still often perceived as “progressive”. How do we change the narrative surrounding Canada?
Rethinking Democracy and Power
Strategies for a democratic breakthrough
The liberal capitalist state constrains democracy in our societies. Though it does allow some forms of popular political participation, it is much more open to the pressures of the capitalist class than to the will of the people. In this era of financial restructuring and austerity policies, how do we democratize our movements so that they can themselves contribute to a radicalization of democracy?
As right-wing forces are trying to destroy what’s left of our liberal-democratic protections, what strategies can help us defend and above all extend our civil rights? How do we move away from a bureaucratic and disciplinary state and towards a truly democratic state, open to popular demands and supportive of workers’ control and local self-management? What are the challenges of such a democratic breakthrough? What can past and present experiments teach us about the best ways to implement democratic planning?
Alternative ways of exercising power
What are the differences and similarities between radical democracy, participatory democracy and democratic socialism? What can we learn from 20th century councilism, communism and anarchism in our efforts to rethink democracy? What bold and innovative proposals can be put forward to reinvigorate our political systems? What do we make of various suggestions to reform our electoral systems, such as selection by lot or recall elections? How do we invent forms of political representation which ensure that the delegates respect their constituents’ mandates but can also fully participate in deliberation processes? How do we create an inclusive democracy, one that does not reproduce historical patterns of marginalization and underrepresentation?
Strategies for Indigenous struggles and decolonization
The First Peoples are often on the frontline of resistance against the impacts of capitalism and extractivism. Whether they are fighting against pipelines and fracking or protecting waterways, their actions are generally rooted in a deep experiential knowledge of their territory and of the entities that inhabit it. These struggles are part of a larger movement for the decolonization of our territories, our knowledges and our social relationships. How do we create solidarities with these struggles? What relationships do they have with other anti-racist, decolonial and socialist currents across the world?
Alternative models: towards a post-colonial and post-capitalist world
Colonialism has been built on the marginalization of non-Western knowledges and ways of living. But these practices and systems of thought could now play a significant role in the creation of a post-colonial and post-capitalist world. For instance, inspiration can be drawn from the Sumak Kawsay of Ecuador. How can the diverse economic, political and legal systems developed by the First Peoples contribute to the construction of an alternative to the system we live in?
Although colonialism and capitalism share similar dynamics, they are distinct in several ways. To what extent can struggles against both systems converge? Can anti-capitalist struggles learn from decolonization projects without falling into appropriation?
Fighting all oppressions
Strategies to overcome the multiplicity of oppressions
Our world is shaped by the co-constitution of multiple forms of oppression and exploitation. Capitalism in particular depends on the perpetuation of a colonial, sexist and racist order. But we are currently witnessing the growth of various movements aiming to dismantle these systems. Local and transnational resistances are multiplying to tackle problems such as colonialist nostalgia, the growth of sexual violence and the high incarceration rates targeting racialized communities.
What strategies are put in place and which tools are use to fight the rise to power of openly xenophobic and often misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic governments? What lessons can be drawn from the recent wave of feminist stuggle (#MeToo, Google Walk-Outs, international women’s strikes, the movement to legalize abortion in South America and elsewhere, etc.) and anti-racist struggles (Black Lives Matter, Abolish ICE, the fight against cultural appropriation in Québec, etc.)? How can we take inspiration from the recent successes of trans and non-binary advocacy movements? How can these movements converge with other movements such as Fight for $15? How can the Left effectively fight against deportations, degrading migration policies and the militarization of borders? What strategies can help us end sexual violence towards women and marginalized people? How can we support the self-organized and grassroots struggles of oppressed groups?
Alternatives: Creating societies free from oppression
What emancipatory futures are imagined by those who are involved in anti-racist, feminist and LGBTQ+ struggles today? Are there initiatives and social experiments that prefigure a genuine understanding of difference? What would human relationships look like in a society liberated from the constraints of patriarchy and heteronormativity? How can we transform our legal systems to destroy the sexist and racist foundations of the rule of law? Can we imagine progressive migration policies, based on the free movement of peoples and on the “no one is illegal” principle? How can we envision sexualities freed from racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic stereotypes and practices? How can we build communities that are fundamentally inclusive and internationalist?