Join Dissent magazine and the New School for two days of discussion with scholars, activists, and journalists from across the Americas about the challenges and opportunities for left politics in the region today.

Across Latin America, the “pink tide,” which saw a range of left governments come to power over the last two decades, is in retreat. At the same time, new, left-wing electoral and social movements have emerged in many countries in Latin America as well as the United States. It is a critical time to reconsider what limitations and accomplishments left governments and movements across the region have had in recent years, and how they can build on these lessons in the pivotal years ahead. Join Dissent magazine and the New School for two days of discussion with scholars, activists, and journalists from across the Americas about the challenges and opportunities for left politics in the region today.

Attendance is free, but please register, and consider donating to support Dissent and help us put on more events like this in future. You can also RSVP on Facebook.


Friday, October 5: Lessons from the past

9 am: Welcome (Michael Kazin, co-editor of Dissent and Patrick Iber, University of Madison, Wisconsin)

9:30—11:15 am: The social-democratic option

This panel focuses on the achievements and limitations of left governments in Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, and Costa Rica. What kinds of political conditions did these social democratic governments face, and how did this determine their fate? How have social movements interacted with them, and how should they do so in the future?

  • Celso Rocha de Barros (Independent blogger and journalist, Brazil)
  • Gerardo Caetano (Universidad de la República, Uruguay)
  • Gemita Oyarzo (Universidad Diego Portales, Chile)
  • George García (Universidad de Costa Rica, Costa Rica)
  • Nara Milanich (Barnard College, USA, chair)

11:30–1:15: The Bolivarian option

What kinds of things were “populist” governments able to do that others were not? Drawing on the experiences of Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador, panelists discuss the Bolivarian option, and what this has meant for both governments and social movements.

  • María Pilar Garcia Guadilla (Universidad Simón Bolívar, Venezuela)
  • Pablo Ospina Peralta (Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, Ecuador)
  • Pamela Calla (New York University, USA)
  • Miguel Gomez (Universidad Americana, Nicaragua)
  • Michael Kazin (Georgetown University and Dissent, USA)

1:15–2:30: Lunch

2:30–4:15: The Left and the Media

What sort of media should the left try to build? What challenges have Latin American journalists faced in reporting on left governments across the region? What other obstacles—including finance and security concerns—shape media coverage?

  • Carlos Dada (El Faro, El Salvador)
  • Alejandra Matus (Independent journalist, Chile)
  • Carlos Bravo Regidor (Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, Mexico)
  • Kate Doyle (National Security Archive, chair)

4:30–6:15: Learning from the Cuban experience

How should Cuba’s experiences with socialism inform the thinking of the left elsewhere? What should a “left” politics look like in Cuba?

  • Harold Cárdenas Lema (Columbia University; Cuba)
  • Yasmín S. Portales Machado (Northwestern University; Cuba)
  • Andrés Pertierra (Independent researcher, USA)
  • Ailynn Torres Santana (FLACSO Ecuador; Cuba)
  • Michelle Chase (Pace University, USA, chair)


Saturday, October 6: Visions for the future and how to get there

9:30—11:15 am: Foundational Ideas for a Future Left

What should democratic socialism look like in the 21st century? And what work does the left still need to do to build support for its goals?

  • Humberto Beck (Centro de Estudios Internacionales El Colegio de México, Mexico)
  • Maria Svart (Democratic Socialists of America)
  • Diosnara Ortega (Catholic University Silva Henríquez, Cuba, via Skype)
  • Pablo Stefanoni (editor-in-chief of New Society, Argentina/Bolivia)
  • Timothy Shenk (Dissent, chair)

11:30–1:15: Toward a Left Political Economy

What models are available for building a left economy? How do we account for the role of markets? How do finance ambitious programs and redistribute national and international resources more equitably? What political constraints do economic conditions impose on left projects? What opportunities?

  • Jeffery Webber (Queen Mary, University of London, UK)
  • Christy Thornton (Johns Hopkins University, USA)
  • Lena Lavinas (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, via Skype)
  • Julia Ott (The New School, USA, chair)

1:15–2:30: Lunch

2:30–4:15: Resisting extractivism and climate change

How do we build a post-extractive left? How will climate change alter the needs of populations in Latin America? How do the demands and rights of indigenous communities interact with left governments? How can we protect environmental activists?

  • Kate Aronoff (Independent journalist, USA)
  • Thea Riofrancos (Providence College, USA)
  • Frederico Freitas (North Carolina State University, USA)
  • Daniel Aldana Cohen (University of Pennsylvania, USA)
  • Vera Candiani (Princeton University, USA, chair)

4:30–6:15: Solidarity in the Twenty-First century

What should solidarity look like in the 21st century? How can like-minded organizations and people support each other internationally? How should Latin American migration to the US affect the way we do solidarity work?

  • Alejandro Velasco (New York University, USA)
  • Bill Fletcher, Jr. (Organizer and writer, USA)
  • Alexandra Delano (The New School, USA)
  • Lori Hanson (University of Saskatchewan, Canada)
  • Frances Negrón Muntaner (Columbia University, USA, chair)

This conference is presented with the support of the Open Society Foundations. To attend, please register via Eventbrite. You can also RSVP on Facebook. If you have any questions, please email conference@dissentmagazine.org.

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