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TMC at Left Forum

Interview with Cindy Milstein - Institute for Anarchist Studies

by Geordie Gwalgen Dent

New York - The TMC interviews Cindy Milstein with the Institute for Anarchist Studies at Left Forum.

Toronto Media Co-op:  You're from Philadelphia.  Have you heard of the Media Co-op before?

Cindy Milstein: Yes! I was part of the Vancouver Media Co-op for a week during the 2010 olympics.  I went with an affinity group to Vancouver to do media because of the political importance of the event.  What was striking was how the VMC picked up on the issues and problems of Indymedia and learned how to collaborate and share skills.  It was one of the most empowering projects I've worked on.  I found that the VMC centre was made up of very powerful people that came out of political struggles.

TMC: Why are you here?

CM: I’m not sure why I’m here.  I’ll be honest that I always come to Left Forum but I’m never certain why I’m here.  I thought that this year, Left forum would be happening in a context where I strongly believe we are at a very special time in history.  Everyone around the world is feeling that we can transform things.

Lots of new people may come here to Left Forum and find a structure and people that are normally very disengaged from what is happening at the street level.

My group came this year and decided to try a new experiment at Left Forum.  We try to ensure that all newly engaged political people will get a bunch of our materials and ideas.  But we also try to create spaces for them to engage politically through open space for dialogue and reflection.  We asked Left Forum if, this year, we could have a room for the weekend and run a series of panels rather than individual panels in individual rooms.

I find the Left Forum is a very deadening space, a lot of people talking to each other and running around quickly.  There’s no food, open spaces or child care.  In our first session, people brought this (child care) up and we ended up talking about this for 5-10 minutes, even though it had nothing to do with the workshop.  This lead to people bringing up ideas for how to incorporate children into our conferences and movements, rather than sitting them in front of crayons or TV’s.

TMC: Many corporate or government forums or conferences are held and come up with strategies and coordinated actions for those in power. What do you think comes out of Left Forum?

CM: I don’t think a lot comes out of it.  Well…OK obviously something comes out of it.  There used to be a conference in Washington DC that was held around the same time that organized around resistance. All of these people would create a new generation for people to come together to promote their ideas.

I find Left Forum way too broad….some people feel that Obama is the way to go while others really support Stalin.

It feels like Left Forum doesn’t have a political aim…it’s very schmoozy. What does it really do when we have a chance to impact the structure of capitalism? Is it about having stars like Michael Moore?  Is it about handing out cards and promoting how important we are?

TMC: This is a major forum though, one of the largest in North America with many panels and people.  Isn’t the networking done here important?

CM: I think we should be creating space to do new things.  But even if it is about networking the forum hasn’t changed to go along with what is happening in the movement.  Left Forum is held at a university in a difficult to navigate space; it’s expensive in downtown New York; there’s no food.

If we’re here to do networking why don’t we do it better, outside in open spaces with child care, food spaces?

Cindy Milstein works in Philidelphia with the Institute for Anarchist Studies Project.  She worked in Media Centres in Vancouver and Philly Occupy.


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