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You are here: Platypus /Archive for December 2011

Watch live streaming video from platypus1917 at livestream.com

Transcript in Platypus Review #48 (Click below):

The Encyclopedia Britannica’s entry on Lenin states that,

“If the Bolshevik Revolution is — as some people have called it — the most significant political event of the 20th century, then Lenin must for good or ill be considered the century’s most significant political leader. Not only in the scholarly circles of the former Soviet Union, but even among many non-Communist scholars, he has been regarded as both the greatest revolutionary leader and revolutionary statesman in history, as well as the greatest revolutionary thinker since Marx.”

Lenin is the most controversial figure in the history of Marxism, and perhaps one of the most controversial figures in all of history. As such, he is an impossible figure for sober consideration, without polemic. Nevertheless, it has become impossible, also, after Lenin, to consider Marxism without reference to him. Broadly, Marxism is divided into avowedly “Leninist” and “anti-Leninist” tendencies. In what ways was Lenin either an advance or a calamity for Marxism? But there is another way of approaching Lenin, which is as an expression of the historical crisis of Marxism. In other words, Lenin as a historical figure is unavoidably significant as manifesting a crisis of Marxism. The question is how Lenin provided the basis for advancing that crisis, how the polarization around Lenin could provide the basis for advancing the potential transformation of Marxism, in terms of resolving certain problems.

The Frankfurt School Critical Theorist Theodor Adorno, in his 1966 book Negative Dialectics, wrote of the degeneration of Marxism due to “dogmatization and thought-taboos.” There is no other figure in the history of Marxism who has been subject to such “dogmatization and thought-taboos” as much as Lenin.

It is important to note as well that Adorno himself sought to remain, as he put it, “faithful to Marx, Engels and Lenin, while keeping up with culture at its most advanced,” to which his colleague Max Horkheimer replied, simply, “Who would not subscribe to that?”

Today, such a proposition seems especially implausible, in many ways. Yet perhaps the memory of Lenin haunts us still, however obscurely.

A series of roundtable discussions hosted by The Platypus Affiliated Society. This is the first part of the discussion series held in Cambridge.

SPEAKERS:
Jason Giannetti (Lawyer)
Doug Enaa Greene (Kasama Project)
Nick Ford (ALL-oNE)
Evan Sarmiento (FRSO)
Stephen Squibb (Occupy Harvard, n+1)

Held on December 15, 2011 at Harvard University.

The recent Occupy protests are driven by discontent with the present state of affairs: glaring economic inequality, dead-end Democratic Party politics, and, for some, the suspicion that capitalism could never produce an equitable society. These concerns are coupled with aspirations for social transformation at an international level. For many, the protests at Wall St. and elsewhere provide an avenue to raise questions the Left has long fallen silent on:
• What would it mean to challenge capitalism on a global scale?
• How could we begin to overcome social conditions that adversely affect every part of life?
• And, how could a new international radical movement address these concerns in practice?

Although participants at Occupy Wall St. and elsewhere have managed thus far to organize resources for their own daily needs, legal services, health services, sleeping arrangements, food supplies, defense against police brutality, and a consistent media presence, these pragmatic concerns have taken precedent over long-term goals of the movement. Where can participants of this protest engage in formulating, debating, and questioningthe ends of this movement? How can it affect the greater society beyond the occupied spaces?
We in the Platypus Affiliated Society ask participants and interested observers of the Occupy movement to consider the possibility that political disagreement could lead to clarification, further development and direction. Only when we are able create an active culture of thinking and debating on the Left without it proving prematurely divisive can we begin to imagine a Leftist politics adequate to the historical possibilities of our moment. We may not know what these possibilities for transformation are. This is why we think it is imperative to create avenues of engagement that will support these efforts.
Towards this goal, Platypus will be hosting a series of roundtable discussions with organizers and participants ofthe Occupy movement. These will start at campuses in New York and Chicago but will be moving to other North American cities, and to London, Germany, and Greece in the months to come. We welcome any and all who would like to be a part of this project of self-education and potential rebuilding of the Left to join us in advancing this critical moment.

December 2011

Live broadcast: www.livestream.com/platypus1917

Saturday, December 17, 2011
9AM U.S./Canada PST / 10AM MST / 11AM CST / 12PM EST;
and 17:00 London / 18:00 Frankfurt and Berlin /
19:00 Thessaloniki / 22:30 Delhi / 02:00 Seoul

 

 

If you are in Chicago:
Saturday, 11am | 17 December 2011 |School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 112 S. Michigan Ave. room 919

Please join Platypus for a brief introduction to and discussion about the relevance of Lenin today, in anticipation of our Winter-Spring 2012 primary Marxist reading group, on the history of revolutionary Marxism, centered on the writings of Lenin, Luxemburg, Trotsky, and Adorno.

The Encyclopedia Britannica's entry on Lenin states that,

"If the Bolshevik Revolution is -- as some people have called it -- the most significant political event of the 20th century, then Lenin must for good or ill be considered the century's most significant political leader. Not only in the scholarly circles of the former Soviet Union, but even among many non-Communist scholars, he has been regarded as both the greatest revolutionary leader and revolutionary statesman in history, as well as the greatest revolutionary thinker since Marx."

Tribune for a Leninist (1989) by Avvakumov Y., Kuzin Y., Podyomschikov S.

Lenin is the most controversial figure in the history of Marxism, and perhaps one of the most controversial figures in all of history. As such, he is an impossible figure for sober consideration, without polemic. Nevertheless, it has become impossible, also, after Lenin, to consider Marxism without reference to him. Broadly, Marxism is divided into avowedly "Leninist" and "anti-Leninist" tendencies. In what ways was Lenin either an advance or a calamity for Marxism? But there is another way of approaching Lenin, which is as an expression of the historical crisis of Marxism. In other words, Lenin as a historical figure is unavoidably significant as manifesting a crisis of Marxism. The question is how Lenin provided the basis for advancing that crisis, how the polarization around Lenin could provide the basis for advancing the potential transformation of Marxism, in terms of resolving certain problems.

The Frankfurt School Critical Theorist Theodor Adorno, in his 1966 book Negative Dialectics, wrote of the degeneration of Marxism due to "dogmatization and thought-taboos." There is no other figure in the history of Marxism who has been subject to such "dogmatization and thought-taboos" as much as Lenin.

It is important to note as well that Adorno himself sought to remain, as he put it, "faithful to Marx, Engels and Lenin, while keeping up with culture at its most advanced," to which his colleague Max Horkheimer replied, simply, "Who would not subscribe to that?"

Today, such a proposition seems especially implausible, in many ways. Yet perhaps the memory of Lenin haunts us still, however obscurely.

 

 

The discussion will be broadcast live on the web. Additionally, a recording will be made available after the event.

Recommended background readings:

"1917"
/2009/11/18/the-decline-of-the-left-in-the-20th-century-1917/

"Lenin's liberalism"
/2011/06/01/lenin%E2%80%99s-liberalism/

"Lenin's politics"
/2011/09/25/lenins-politics/

A series of roundtable discussions hosted by The Platypus Affiliated Society. This is the second part of the discussion series held in New York City.

Speakers: Hannah Appel (OWS Think Tank Working Group), Erik Van Deventer (NYU), Nathan Schneider (Waging Nonviolence), Brian Dominick (Z Media Institute)

Held on December 9, 2011 at New York University.

Transcript in Platypus Review #44 (Click below):

The recent #Occupy protests are driven by discontent with the present state of affairs: glaring economic inequality, dead-end Democratic Party politics, and, for some, the suspicion that capitalism could never produce an equitable society. These concerns are coupled with aspirations for social transformation at an international level. For many, the protests at Wall St. and elsewhere provide an avenue to raise questions the Left has long fallen silent on: What would it mean to challenge capitalism on a global scale? How could we begin to overcome social conditions that adversely affect every part of life? And, how could a new international radical movement address these concerns in practice?

We in the Platypus Affiliated Society ask participants and interested observers of the #Occupy movement to consider the possibility that political disagreement could lead to clarification, further development and direction. Only when we are able create an active culture of thinking and debating on the Left without it proving prematurely divisive can we begin to imagine a Leftist politics adequate to the historical possibilities of our moment. We may not know what these possibilities for transformation are. This is why we think it is imperative to create avenues of engagement that will support these efforts.

Towards this goal, Platypus will be hosting a series of roundtable discussions with organizers and participants of the #Occupy movement. These will start at campuses in New York, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia but will be moving to other North American cities, and overseas to London, Germany, Greece, India and South Korea in the months to come. We welcome any and all who would like to be a part of this project of self-education and potential rebuilding of the Left to join us in advancing this critical moment.

The Platypus Affiliated Society

December 2011

Discussants were asked to consider the following questions:

1. In light of the recent series of coordinated and spectacular evictions that took place on November 15th, as well as the international Day of Action that followed two days later, is it fair to say that the #Occupy movement has entered into “phase 2”? If so, what is the nature of this new phase of the movement’s development? How has the occupation been forced to adapt to a changing set of conditions on the ground and what sorts of fresh difficulties do these new conditions pose for the occupiers? A moment of crisis can often be a moment of opportunity—what direction do you feel the movement should take in order to remain viable and relevant?

2. There are striking similarities between the Occupy movement and the 1999 anti-WTO protests in Seattle. Both began in the last year of a Democratic presidency, were spearheaded by anarchists, were motivated by discontents with neo-liberalism, and were supported by organized labor.
What, if anything, makes this movement different? How is it a departure from Seattle? What are the lessons to be learned from the defeat of the anti-globalization movement?

3. Some have characterized the #Occupy movement as sounding the tocsin for “class war” (e.g., of the 99% vs. the 1%). Others recognize the fact of dramatic inequality, and want the #Occupy movement to spearhead a set of economic reforms. Others see #Occupy as transforming something revolutionary beyond the “economic”. These perspectives point to radically different directions for this movement.
Would you characterize this movement as “anti-capitalist”? (Should it be?) If so, what is the nature of these “anti-capitalist” politics? In what way does the #Occupy movement affirm or reject the political ideas of anti-capitalist movements before it?

4. Some have become wary about the role of labor organizations in the #Occupy movement. Concerns point to the possibility of eventual “co-optation” into Democratic Party politics. Others worry that the “horizontal,” leaderless structure cultivated by the occupiers might be undermined by the decidedly top-down, hierarchical organization of labor unions. Certain of these collaborations, for example between the labor activists and occupiers in Oakland, have been seen as highly fruitful. Still, the broader call for a general strike that some organizers have hoped for has so far not been met.
What role should organized labor play in the #Occupy movement?

5. One division that emerged early on among the occupants concerned the need to call for demands. Some took issue with the content of the demands, arguing that if these are to be truly “representative of the 99%” they cannot assume a radical stance that would alienate a large section of the population. Others worry that demands focused on electoral reform or policy would steer the movement in a conservative direction. Some call into the question the call for demands in the first place, as these would limit — even undermine — the open-ended potential for transformation present in the #Occupy movement and could only close revolutionary possibilities.

What, if any, demands do you think this movement should be calling for? And, more importantly, what kind of social transformation would you like to see this movement give rise to?

6. What would it mean for the #Occupy movement to succeed? Can it?

Roundtable Participants
Brian Dominick has nearly 20 years' experience as an activist, organizer, and journalist. In his writing and lecturing, he has largely focused on questions of strategy and tactics for far-reaching social change. Forming and consulting alternative institutions has been a specialty of Brian's, from affinity groups to worker coops to 501(c)(3)s to international activism networks. He is a former co-founder of NewStandard News and instructor at the Z Media Institute.

Erik Van Deventer is a doctoral student at NYU in the Department of Sociology, presently working on the political economy of finance. He has been active at OWS and in the demands working group.

Hannah Appel earned her Ph.D. in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University. With research interests in the daily life of capitalism and the private sector in Africa, in particular, Hannah's work draws on critical development studies, economic anthropology, and political economy. Her current project - Futures - is based on fourteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in the transnational oil and gas industry in Equatorial Guinea.

Nathan Schneider is an editor for Waging Nonviolence. He writes about religion, reason, and violence for publications including The Nation, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The American Prospect, and others. He is also an editor at Killing the Buddha.

***Unless otherwise stated by the participants, their comments today do not necessarily reflect the overall opinion of their respective Working Groups.

<em>A series of roundtable discussions hosted by The Platypus Affiliated Society.</em>
Second roundtable discussion, <a title="What is the #Occupy movement? (NYC)" href="http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=286469644716174" target="_blank">(fb invite)</a>

<h2><strong><span style="color: #ff0000;">Friday 7pm | December 09, 2011</span></strong>
NYU Kimmel Center (Room 905/907)
60 Washington Square S., NYC</h2>

<h3>Speakers: <strong>Hannah Appel (OWS Think Tank Working Group), Brian Dominick (Z Media Institute), David Graeber (Author, Debt: The First 5000 Years), Erik Van Deventer (NYU), Nathan Schneider (Waging Nonviolence)</strong></h3>

The recent #Occupy protests are driven by discontent with the present state of affairs: glaring economic inequality, dead-end Democratic Party politics, and, for some, the suspicion that capitalism could never produce an equitable society. These concerns are coupled with aspirations for social transformation at an international level. For many, the protests at Wall St. and elsewhere provide an avenue to raise questions the Left has long fallen silent on:

What would it mean to challenge capitalism on a <em>global scale</em>?
How could we begin to overcome social conditions that adversely affect <em>every part of life</em>?
And, how could a new international radical movement <em>address these concerns in practice</em>?

Although participants at Occupy Wall St. have managed thus far to organize resources for their own daily needs, legal services, health services, sleeping arrangements, food supplies, defense against police brutality, and a consistent media presence, these pragmatic concerns have taken precedent over long-term goals of the movement. Where can participants of this protest engage in formulating, debating, and questioning the ends of this movement? How can it affect the greater society beyond the occupied spaces?

We in the Platypus Affiliated Society ask participants and interested observers of the #Occupy movement to consider the possibility that political disagreement could lead to clarification, further development and direction. Only when we are able create an active culture of thinking and debating on the Left without it proving prematurely divisive can we begin to imagine a Leftist politics adequate to the historical possibilities of our moment. <em>We may not know what these possibilities for transformation are</em>. This is why we think it is imperative to create avenues of engagement that will support these efforts.

Towards this goal, Platypus will be hosting a series of roundtable discussions with organizers and participants of the #Occupy movement. These will start at campuses in New York and Chicago but will be moving to other North American cities, and to London, Germany, and Greece in the months to come. We welcome any and all who would like to be a part of this project of self-education and potential rebuilding of the Left to join us in advancing this critical moment.

The Platypus Affiliated Society
October 2011

<span style="color: #808080;">The Platypus Affiliated Society, established in December 2006, organizes reading groups, public fora, research and journalism focused on problems and tasks inherited from the “Old” (1920s-30s), “New” (1960s-70s) and post-political (1980s-90s) Left for the possibilities of emancipatory politics today.</span>

<a href="http://newyork.platypus1917.org" target="_blank">newyork.platypus1917.org</a> <span style="color: #808080;">|</span> <a href="http://www.platypus1917.org" target="_blank">www.platypus1917.org</a>

<a href="http://newyork.platypus1917.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/What-is-the-occupy-movement_.pdf"><strong>What is the #Occupy movement? PDF</strong></a>

 

<span style="color: #ff0000;"><a href="http://newyork.platypus1917.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Occupy_lores.pdf" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Poster for event (11 x 17)</span></a></span>
<span style="color: #ff0000;"><a href="http://newyork.platypus1917.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Program_What-is-the-Occupy-Movement.pdf" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Event program (8.5 x 11)</span></a></span>

On November 5, 2011, using questions formulated together with Chris Cutrone, Haseeb Ahmed interviewed Slavoj Žižek at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, the Netherlands. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
THE FIRST EVER REACTION by the Victorian ruling class to “Marxism” is found in a London Times leader of September 2, 1851 on “Literature For The Poor,” “only now and then when some startling fact is bought before us do we entertain even the suspicion that there is a society close to our own, and with which we are in the habits of daily intercourse, of which we are as completely ignorant as if it dwelt in another land, of another language in which we never conversed, which in fact we never saw.”
HOW ARE WE TO REGARD the history of revolutions? Why do revolutions appear to fail to achieve their goals? What does this say about consciousness of social change? One common misunderstanding of Marx (against which, however, many counter-arguments have been made) is with respect to the supposed "logic of history" in capital.