I’ve always been fascinated by Left Forum, the annual New York gathering of the far left on panels with the reputation for a) being hijacked by real odd ducks and b) consistently having more presenters than audience members given the ratio of panels to conference attendees is like 2:1 because no panels are rejected. Now I really do have to go just to witness this. Amber Frost:
At its worst, however, Left Forum is Comic Con for Marxists—Commie Con, if you will—and an absolute shitshow of nerds and social rejects. There are bitter old codgers that will harangue you about a thirty-some-years-old internecine grudge, and there are politically unsophisticated kids with Che Guevara t-shirts and Adbusters subscriptions. There are sanctimonious Trotskyists, ridiculous Maoist Third-Worldists, condescending horizontalist anarchists, smug social democrats and a glut of ardent adherents to similarly esoteric ideological traditions, all competing for the title of Most Insufferable Anti-Capitalist. Left Forum is notorious for grueling Q&A sessions, often with nary a “Q” to be found. People like to demonstrate how many books they’ve read (or worse, have written and self-published) in embarrassing displays of pretension and/or machismo, and cynicism is frequently substituted for insight.
But the grumps and the brats, the blowhards and the sectarians, the narcissists and the pessimists—all of these people are bearable to me, some even charming. No, the worst part of Left Forum is the crackpots, the paranoiacs, the hysterics, and all the other truly dysfunctional personalities attracted by the conference’s most infamous policy: no panel submission will be rejected.
That’s right: If you pay your registration fee and fill out the proper forms, you get a room and a table and a spot on the schedule. So in addition to all those experienced and intelligent rabble-rousers, Left Forum is a home for 9/11 Truthers, those who would save us from the terrors of “mandatory fluoridation,” and the generally batshit and/or pathologically anti-social. No one is required to observe their lectures, but they wander into other people’s and there is something truly dispiriting about not being able to distinguish self-identified radicals from the parodies of us imagined by the right wing.
In fairness, I’ve also heard very good things about it in that there are a lot of great people there to meet, even if you have to wade through the conspiracy theorists and the last 20 hardcore Stalinists in the United States.
But live tweeting this sounds like the reason I was put on this planet. Really, the worst part of all of this is the idea of not rejecting panels. My revolution rejects lots of things. Being inclusive is one thing. Having no standards is not a project I can support.