Only in the D.C. bookstore/restaurant Busboys and Poets would you hear Ralph Nader accused of being too milquetoast.
The consumer advocate was on the stage with Gar Alperowitz, promoter of the concept of a new economy and author of the book “Beyond Capitalism.”
Alperowitz was talking about the need for gradual transformation of the capitalist system through cooperatives, local buying initiatives for institutions and greater political engagement. Regulations are not enough, he argued. Nader, meanwhile, was calling for people to reclaim power from corporations.
And yet someone in the audience kept pushing them on why they were just “tinkering” with the system and not tearing it down. Others criticized their movements as being too “white” and not confronting U.S. imperialism.
This was a tough crowd, for sure, with Occupy DC participants, African-Americans who felt left out of the alternative economy of co-ops that Alperowitz was talking about, and people who were pointing to Venezuela as a model for worker cooperatives.
I had heard of Busboys and Poets, and a similar place called Politics and Prose, and the events they sponsor. But this was my first time to attend It was quite enlightening, not only for the speakers’ presentations but the views of the (very leftist) audience.
The place was packed, with my friend and I sharing a table with two women we didn’t know, and people filling every chair and standing space in the events room.
And all that education and entertainment was had for just the price of a turkey burger and shared glass of wine with a friend.