Tragedy of the Market: from Crisis to Commons

Indigenous Peoples at the forefront of community gathering on a market focussed dialogue, January 6-8

Tragedy of the Market: from Crisis to Commons

January 6th-8th, 2012
Bonsor Recreational Complex
6550 Bonsor Avenue, Burnaby
Coast Salish Territories

Panel presenters: Nefertiti Altán, Dave Bleakney, George Caffentzis,
Ian Caplette, Glen Coulthard, Silvia Federici, Arthur Manuel, Claudia
Medina, Farah M Shroff, Harsha Walia and Cease Wyss.

Bios and complete list of participants available here:

A crisis in capitalism is stalking the world. Ecological plunder, famines, displacement off the land and greed increasingly mark the battle lines between the rich and everyone else. Enforced homelessness, social service cuts, and environmental disasters are daily occurrences. But today we also see people in every corner of the world are rising up against these injustices, and we are inspired by this “indignant” moment. But we want to understand what lies beyond our collective “no!” to a future foreclosed by dispossession, debt and ecocide.

Communities around the globe have common cause, fighting for of safe food and housing, decent health, clean air and undeveloped spaces in nature. But these “commons” have either been captured by the market or are at risk. The commons refers to relationships based on shared resources, collective management, networks of mutual aid, respect and dignity. Taking back the commons means reclaiming community control over the parts of our lives that have been colonized by governments, markets, and corporations.

Can we recognize, reclaim and create alternative social realities that the elite tell us cannot possibly exist? A gathering is being organized to help us answer those questions. This gathering will cover the themes of land, food, water, health, education, media, decolonization, migration & the history of the commons. Stay tuned for more details.

CEOs are dreaming of owning everything on the planet – what are we dreaming of?

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>> Panels, Roundtables & Workshops


Market Fundamentalism: Responding to 500 Years of Economic Crisis - The global financial crisis may be five centuries old, but the latest financial debacle and the subsequent rounds of austerity are indicative of deep systemic crisis. What does today’s deepening economic crisis mean for communities that have been in struggle long before 2008? How are communities and movements around the world responding? What does the nature of this response mean for the kind of world that will emerge?
>> Presenters: Dave Bleakney, Arthur Manuel and Harsha Walia.

A Global Tradition: History of the Commons - Rediscovering and reclaiming historical and exising commons. What can we learn from commons of the past?  What commons continue to exist today that can inspire our movements?  The panel will help provide an understanding of the commons that rooted in tradition and obtaining justice for communities.
>> Presenters: Glen Coulthard, Silvia Federici and Farah M Shroff.

Radical Squares: Reflections on the Global Indignant Moment - The spreading scope of systemic crisis (economic, ecological, social) has been met with an intensifying circulation of struggles around the world. How can we analyze the public eruption of recent struggles beginning in the Middle East and spreading across the globe? What does this moment mean? What are people indignant about? Is this a moment of both cultural transformation as well political upheaval?
>> Presenters: Nefertiti Altán, George Caffentzis and Ian Caplette.

Plunder of the Planet: the Ecological Crisis - Land and watersheds everywhere are being exploited by industry and market forces, making them unusable for the communities who have depended on them for their basic needs. What are the decision-making models that support this exploitation? What kinds of alternative models exist or must we develop to prevent the plunder?
>> Presenters: Claudia Medina, Cease Wyss and Steve Collis.


Beyond “Public” Ownership & Services - People around the world continue to mount inspiring campaigns to demand that state governments provide secure housing, income for the unemployed and community resources like health & water services. By losing the means to provide for themselves communities are forced to rely government programs. But how can we move beyond making demands to develop self-rule and independence? Can communities meet their own basic needs?

Autonomous Labour Organizing - Organized labour is in crisis. The number of workers protected by union contracts are dwindling fast and unions, despite relatively large pool of resources seem to be unable to effectively respond to the increasingly precarious conditions of work in a profit-based economy. Should we organize outside of traditional union structures, through worker direct action, migrant worker organizing and worker collectives? What models of organizing will help us move beyond bargaining for wages and labour conditions while continuing to support those struggles?

Food Sovereignty & Healthy Communities - People are becoming increasingly dependent on food and health delivery models that are commodified and industrialized. Health is vital to any practical politics of the commons. How does food and health activism link common struggles that are often understood to be separate? How can we re-imagine providing our collective food and health needs in a manner that frees us from institutions that are entwined with the food and health industries?

Indigenous Self Determination & Solidarity - Indigenous peoples have been at the forefront of the struggle for self-determination in the face of ever-intensifying efforts to commodify & exploit the land. What forms of solidarity offer the most useful support for decolonization struggles? How can solidarity with indigenous communities extend beyond mutual opposition to extractive industries in order prioritize support for indigenous self-determination?

Defending Neighbourhoods - In this workshop, we’ll hear about neighborhoods – past and present – that have fought back successfully against gentrification, oppression and displacement. Neighbourhoods can be seen as collective spaces, often generation old. How do actions taken to defend them contribute to the ability for people to reclaim local power?

COLLECTIVE CREATIVITY & WRITING -  Hosted by the Press Release Collective

Sex-Gender Liberation - From Vancouver’s downtown eastside to Tahrir Square struggles for sexual emancipation and gender liberation have many expressions around the world today. At the same time, governments & corporations, from Afghanistan to Alberta’s tar sands, are attempting to harness this political energy to legitimize the concentration profit and power. In what ways does violence and subjection of people based on sexual orientation and gender result from the dominant political and social
systems? How does it exist in our collectives spaces? How does sex-gender liberation connect with broader movements for self-determination and survival?

Barriers to Collective Spaces - This will be a facilitated space for sharing strategies for both sustainability & accountability of collective spaces. These challenges were heightened during the “occupy” movements, but they are central to any collective organizing effort. What would safer and more inclusive collective spaces look like, and how can we create them together? How do we ensure safety in mass movements and open spaces?

Our Safety & Their Policing - An intensification of policing and militarization has come to define the mainstream definition of safety and security. Witnessing what has happened with the missing and murdered women’s inquiry, the mass arrests at the G20 & on going incidents of police violence we can see how policing is geared towards the protection of property and privilege. Marginalized communities often need protection from the police themselves. What kinds of strategies are communities coming up with to ensure both our own safety and that of the commons?

The Media Commons - Today, media and communication projects are erupting in every corner of the world as communities attempt to circumvent top-down control of the circulation of news and ideas. The digital revolution gives rise to new possibilities for global connections even while it raises the possibility of new regimes of exclusion and exploitation. What is the role of communication & media in the struggle to reclaim the global commons? How can these tools be developed so they are collective and accountable?

Defending Land, Water & Future Generations - Whether it is coltan mining in the Congo or gold and gas exploration in BC, much of the wealth being extracted to feed today’s growth dependent economy is directly linked to ecological devastation.  Supporting indigenous sovereignty and ecological governance are integral to the struggle against increasingly destructive resource extraction practices supported by the dominant political system. What are our responsibilities to the land, the water and the generations of people who will follow us?  What decision-making models can best help communities protect ecosystems?

Displacement & Migration in Our Communities - Corporations and governments displace people to gain control of land, water and resources. Displaced populations are treated as commodities to be bought and sold on global market for exploitable labour.  How do those who migrate, within and outside of national borders, seek just and dignified lives? What is the relationship and responsibility of migrants to self-determining communities where they arrive?

Reclaiming Knowledge - Corporations are increasingly setting their sights on the control of knowledge. Plants, seeds, cures, traditional medicine, digital code, language, ideas and knowledge about the natural and social world accumulated over generations are being pulled into the logic of marketization. This history of theft over the last five centuries has been met with fierce resistance at every stage. What kinds of struggles are taking place today to resist the new efforts to commodify knowledge?

Creating Spaces for Our Movements - Any project for the commons needs space if it is to flourish and connect with other commons projects. Yet we find free and accessible spaces are increasingly difficult to create, especially in places where gentrification has become the dominant model of uneven and highly exclusionary economic growth. What role do community spaces play in supporting social movements? How can we make those spaces both ethical and sustainable?

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