I didn't succeed in a making it through a marathon day at the Left Forum. I was interrupted by the stomach flu (perhaps its this one)that seems to be making its way through most of my friends. Really, I wasn't vomiting in the women's room at Cooper Union just because I didn't like Curtis Mohammed'stalk about his good work in New Orleans; I did feel I had to wait to run out of the lecture hall until he was done, however, for fear that he might see a small white chick running from the lecture hall as confirmation of his view that everyone at the LF was probably a phony, white, academic poseur. He may be right, I only mind a little that he began his talk by raising his eyebrows and playing at what he assumed was the audience's fear or guilt in the presence of a genuine a Black radical. In a room full of Trotskyists, Maoists and old-guard Stalinists he asked, "Did you know that everything won for Black people was won through bloodshed?" as if this were the first time they'd ever heard it. It's all for the good though, because after all, what is a good conference of lefties without an insult to the audience for its lack of commitment, knowledge, and its disconnection from real people's struggles?
The panel on which Mohammed spoke was called "What's Left and Who's Left in New Orleans"? I did wish that the flu hadn't rushed me out the door, because I was curious to hear the third speaker, Gary Younge . I went to the whole thing because I really wanted to hear the real deal, of what it's been like to have members of every sectarian left organization in the world descend on New Orleans to help out, and to find out what these groups are doing, and whether they feel they are getting anywhere.
Jordan Flaherty, who's done some of the best writing on NOLA since Katrina, has written an indictment of the poverty pimpingin NOLA that probably comes from the same general place as Mohammed, who recently participated in a trip to Venezuela with members of his organization. I'm sure the audience discussion was enlightening,because the speakers started out from a more moral position and I hope that the conversation became more informative after the initial presentations.
The first talk I went to today was sort of like that. Gilbert Achcar talked about Lebanon, Bashir Abu-Manneh talked about Palestine and Hamas, in what was the most informative talk of the day for me, and Sabah Alnasseri, who talked about Iraq, insisted that there was no "civil war" in Iraq, and that the Shiite/Sunni division was irrelevant. All these talks are connected to papers that will eventually show up in the journal The Socialist Register, where we can find more explanation of Alnasseri's argument, which seemed to veer between the Maoist and the Post-modern, at least in my fever-addled brain. Achcar and Nasseri looked as if they might be in for an argument, but time was up.
Unfortunately, the flu led me home so that I could watch some cheerful movies while sucking down a bottle of ginger ale. As a result, I am missing the 5pm Iraq panel featuring Achcar (who, as he was last year, is on appearing in several different sessions), Phyllis Bennis, and Nir Rosen, whose book In the Belly of the Green Birdis one of the more interesting descriptions of Iraq under occupation. If anyone reading this does go this evening's Iraq panel, please post a little comment here saying how it was.
Over all, I'd say that the conference wasn't particularly well-attended in comparison with last year's, but I didn't try to go both days then, so I may find more people in the crowds tomorrow. And, now, well, I think it's time for me to head to the bathroom.