Oppose and Propose! Lessons from Movement for a New Society; an evening with author Andrew Cornell

May 26, 2011


Friday, May 26 · 7:30pm
Dream City
White Garage in the Northside Alley
West of 11th on Monroe Street NW
RSVP on facebook, if that’s your thing

Join Left Turn, Dream City Collective, the Institute for Anarchist Studies, and AK Press for an evening with author Andrew Cornell, whose study of Movement for a New Society sheds new light on modern radicalism’s roots in the 70s and 80s.

Where do the strategies, tactics, and lifestyles of contemporary activists come from? Movement for a New Society, a radical pacifist organization active in the 1970s and 1980s, pioneered forms of consensus decision making, communal living, direct action, and self-education now central to antiauthoritarian movements. Brimming with analysis, interviews, and archival documents, Oppose and Propose!: Lessons from Movement for a New Society recovers a missing link in recent radical history, while drawing out crucial lessons on leadership, movement building, counterculture, and prefigurative politics.

MNS served as a crucial organizational link between the movements of the 1960s and the post-Seattle global justice movement. Yet the group’s political innovations created tensions of their own. Members found their commitments to “live the revolution now” often alienated potential allies and distracted them from confronting their opponents, while their distrust of leadership and rigid commitment to cumbersome group processes made it difficult to keep their analysis and strategy cutting-edge. Oppose and Propose! fills an important historical gap, asking where the tactics, strategies, and even ways of living we take for granted today come from. Cornell answers that question in this concise collection of documents, which include an edited transcript of a panel discussion held with former MNS members, an interview with MNS founder George Lakey, and excerpts from two MNS pamphlets, as well as Cornell’s own long monograph on the history and legacy of Movement for a New Society.

Andrew Cornell is an educator, writer, and organizer living in Brooklyn, New York. He has been involved in labor, global justice, anti-prison, and other movements for over a decade. He teaches classes in labor history, social theory, and urban studies, and is completing a book length study of anarchism in the United States during the 20th century. Andrew is a contributor to the The Hidden 1970s: Histories of Radicalism (Rutgers University Press, 2010), The University Against Itself: The NYU Strike and the Future of Academic Labor (Temple University Press, 2008), and Letters From Young Activists: Today’s Rebels Speak Out (Nation Books, 2005). His writing also appears on the web and in periodicals such as Left Turn, LiP, Clamor, Utne Reader, Z Magazine, MRzine, and the Journal for the Study of Radicalism.

Andrew received a grant from the Institute for Anarchist Studies to write about Movement for a New Society. He first became interested in the organization while living in a collective house in West Philadelphia in the early 2000s. By day he worked as an administrator for Mountain Meadow, a summer camp for children of LGBTQ parents founded by MNS members. In the evenings he packed books with Philadelphia Books Through Bars, an organization housed in MNS’ former office space. This enduring, but underappreciated, legacy prompted him to begin exploring the organization’s archive and to contact former members. An article he wrote in the IAS journal Perspectives on Anarchist Theory spurred interest from MNS veterans and younger activists alike, leading to the series of intergenerational dialogues and exchanges that comprise Oppose and Propose!.

Oppose and Propose! is the second title in the AK Press Anarchist Interventions Series, co-published with the Institute for Anarchist Studies.

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