By Marc Eliot Stein, May 28, 2018
There is no event in the world like Left Forum, which bursts into existence for a dynamic three days every summer in the heart of midtown Manhattan, gathering leftists, socialists, anarchists, pacifists, environmentalists and just plain concerned citizens of the world together for discussion, debate and solidarity. Left Forum 2018 will kick off on Friday, June 1 at John Jay College – just west of Times Square and south of Lincoln Center in the neighborhood that was called Hell’s Kitchen before the wealthy real estate developers kicked a lot of the working class out. They haven’t been able to make the activists go away.
World BEYOND War will be represented at the 2018 gathering by a panel discussion titled “The Challenges of Peace Activism”. This hour-and-fifty-minute event brings together four different speakers who have each spoken out in different ways against the tragedy and absurdity of endless global war, and against the United States of America’s increasingly malevolent role in this cataclysm. These four speakers will be:
- Roxana Robinson, author of the acclaimed 2013 novel ‘Sparta’, which told the stark tale of a young ex-Marine tormented by PTSD after returning from Iraq. She was president of the Author’s Guild from 2014 to 2017, and has also written a biography of artist Georgia O’Keeffe, essays and criticism for the New Yorker and Washington Post, and the foreword for the 2017 short fiction collection ‘The Road Ahead: Fiction from the Forever War’.
- Alice Slater is part of World BEYOND War, Abolition 2000, the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, the Rideau Institute and the People’s Climate Committee, and is the United Nations NGO Representative of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. She is a member of the New York City Bar Association and has written numerous articles and op-eds, with frequent appearances on local and national media.
- Joe Lombardo, co-coordinator of the United National Antiwar Coalition and delegate to the Troy Area Labor Council. A lifelong antiwar and social justice activist, he is a former staff person for the Vietnam-era National Peace Action Coalition and member of Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace. In 2018 he helped to organize the #SpringAgainstWar Spring Action rallies in various cities.
- Bob Keeler is a retired journalist and an unretired peace activist. During his decades at Newsday, he was Suffolk County reporter, Albany bureau chief, Sunday magazine editor, and a member of the editorial board. He won a Pulitzer prize for a series about a Catholic parish in Westbury, Long Island. He belongs to the Catholic peace group Pax Christi and is planning a book about America’s dangerous worship of the military.
I will be moderating this discussion, and chose the four speakers because they each represent a unique entry point into the vital struggle to resist our society’s deadening conformity as we repeat the mistakes and moral failures of the past. Each of these speakers has bravely and repeatedly spoken out about what they believe in, and I hope our panel discussion will highlight both the common ground that sustains all peace activists and the perplexing differences of opinion, judgement, method or attitude that often divide us. I think the one thing we will all agree on is the urgent need to further our cause. Here is the abstract for the discussion we will have:
“How do peace activists stay in the fight? The antiwar movement today is demoralized and directionless, and the entire planet seems to be sleepwalking towards disaster. Our panelists include writers, journalists and organizers who have kept their spirits up in the face of apathy, derision and misunderstanding. What have they learned about the human and psychological side of our world’s addiction to war? How can activists dig deeper into the heart of the most brutal problem our planet has ever known? What will we find there? This panel aims to stir up new ideas and new avenues for hope, cooperation and agitation for change.”
Left Forum 2018 will also include many other valuable and diverse events, including the following:
- Stop the Wars at Home and Abroad: Hosted by Black Alliance for Peace, with Abayomi Azikiwe, Ajamu Baraka, Bernadette Ellorin, Margaret Kimberley, Joe Lombardo, Efia Nwangaza
- Divest from the War Machine: Hosted by CODEPINK, with Ariel Gold, Marc Eliot Stein, Adam Hockenberry
- The Trump Regime’s Expanding Militarism: on-the-ground and in-the-air via drones: Hosted by World Can’t Wait, with Debra Sweet, Ed Kinane, Nick Mottern
- A Broken System: How We Got Here: with Jane Sanders, Jumaane D. Williams, Gayle McLaughlin, Richard D. Wolff
- How an Ordinary Person Runs for Public Office: with Marni Halasa, Louis Flores, Sander Hicks, Michael Friedman
- How Can Nonviolent Resistance Be Powerful? With David Slesinger, Richard Ochs, Julio Torres
- Rebellion of The “Shithole Countries”: Haiti, Africa, and The Caribbean Respond to Trump: Hosted by Haiti Liberte, with Nathaniel Wood, Kim Ives, Mamadou Niang, Ray Laforest, Milton Allimadi
- The Endless Scream in the Breaking News – Readings on Israel-Palestine: with Sam Friedman, Farid Bitar, Gordon Gilbert, Lynne Lopez-Salzedo
- Combatting U.S. War and Disinformation on Iran and Yemen: Hosted by Chicago ALBA Solidarity, with Dan Kovalik, Sara Flounders, Stansfield Smith, Ben Norton