"When capitalism ends, humanity begins" is the statement that opens each Capital's End event. Judging from the group's frank open-mic discussions and diverse attendance, humanity seems alive and well. The weekly meetings at Lawrenceville's Istanbul Grille have taken place every Sunday night since October, aiming to unite Pittsburgh's anti-capitalist community.
"It's supposed to get people thinking about alternatives to capitalism," says Russ Fedorka, an artist who designed the group's "Capital's End Clock." The hands of the clock are moved depending on how much recent world events signify capitalism's decline. (Things like economic depressions and the 2008 bank bail-out are noted on the clock's circumference.)
Each evening has a theme. After a drum circle, local artists, musicians, poets and activists perform or give presentations to stimulate discussion. At the heterosexism-themed event, on Dec. 17, presenters included a bisexual soldier who'd served in Iraq, and music came in the form of an opera aria.
"The themes are anything that challenges current perspectives," says Angelle Guyette, one of the 30 or so people in attendance. The fiction-writer suffered a brain injury recently and will present at an ableism-themed Capital's End on Feb. 24.
"We bring issues to people that they don't necessarily know about," says Capital's End founder, Indiana University of Pennsylvania sociology professor Harvey Holtz. "There's tremendous diversity in the anti-capitalist movement in Pittsburgh but it's really segregated and isolated. If we bring all the disparate groups together, we can do something much larger than what they might do alone." And not just anti-capitalists, Holtz adds: "I would hope to attract any progressives — anyone who thinks that the system needs a great deal of change."
Attendees can BYOB, buy Turkish food from the restaurant and share anecdotes on stage. "It's not a meeting: It's a social space that people really enjoy being in," Holtz says. "People go up to the microphone who wouldn't usually go up."
The theme of the Jan. 6 Capital's End is democracy. "I'll be asking, ‘Is democracy circumscribed by money, and what is real democracy?'" Holtz says. "We only have two parties and they both represent capitalism. I have a saying: ‘Two parties, one caterer.'"
Holtz's key aim is to generate new ideas. "People should spend more time outside of electoral politics building movements to affect those within it," he says.