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Die historischen Wurzeln der Linken und des Marxismus liegen in den bürgerlichen Revolutionen des 17. und 18. Jahrunderts und deren Krise im 19. Jahrhundert. Mit diesem Lesekreis wollen wir versuchen, jenen geschichtlichen Hintergrund durch Lektüre der Texte von Marx und der radikalen bürgerlichen Philosophie der Aufklärung, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel sowie Nietzsche, herauszuarbeiten.

Im 20. Jahrhundert bemühten die Theoretiker der Frankfurter Schule, Marx und das politische Bewusstsein des Marxismus, kraft kritischer Reflexion, in seiner Relevanz lebendig zu erhalten. Durch Texte von Autoren wie Theodor W. Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Georg Lukács, Karl Korsch und Leszek Kołakowski, soll versucht werden, das Problem des politischen Bewusstseins der Linken im 20. Jahrhundert, das bis heute prägend bleibt, in seinem historischen Kontext zu beleuchten.

Erste Sitzung: 27. April
Jeden Donnerstag 18:30-21:30 Uhr
Ort: Artists Unlimited e.V.
August-Bebel- Str.94
33602 Bielefeld
Atelier von //re_vision
medienkollektiv

Folgende Texte werden vor den wöchentlichen Treffen gelesen und vor Ort gemeinsam besprochen. Kein Vorwissen nötig; Neueinsteigende sind herzlich willkommen! Reader wird zur Verfügung gestellt. Wenn du auf dem Laufenden bleiben willst, tritt der Mailingliste bei: https://groups.google/d/forum/platypusbielefeld

• vorausgesetzte Texte
+ zusätzliche Texte


Abschnitt 1: Vorgänger der Frankfurter Schule |


Abschnitt 2: Was ist die Linke? I. Kapital in der Geschichte |

+ Capital in history timeline and chart of terms
+ video of Communist University 2011 London presentation


Abschnitt 3: Was ist die Linke? II. Bürgerliche Gesellschaft |

+ Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Abhandlung über den Ursprung der Ungleichheit unter den Menschen (1754)
+ Rousseau, Auszüge [1. Buch, Kapitel 5-9 und 2. Buch, Kapitel 1-4] aus dem Contrat Social (1762)


Abschnitt 4: Was ist die Linke? III. Das Scheitern des Marxismus


Abschnitt 5: Was ist die Linke? IV. Utopie und Kritik | 18.11.2016


Abschnitt 6: Was ist Marxismus? I. Sozialismus | 25.11.2016

+ Commodity form chart of terms


Abschnitt 7: Was ist Marxismus? II. Die Revolution von 1848 |


Abschnitt 8: Was ist Marxismus? III. Bonapartismus | 09.12.2016

+ Karl Korsch, "The Marxism of the First International" (1924)
+ Korsch, Introduction to Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme (1922)


Abschnitt 9: Was ist Marxismus? IV. Kritik der politischen Ökonomie |

+ Commodity form chart of terms


Abschnitt 10: Philosophie der Geschichte |


Abschnitt 11: Was ist Marxismus? V. Verdinglichung |

  • Georg Lukács, “Das Phänomen der Verdinglichung” (Teil I des Kapitels “Die Verdinglichung und das Bewusstsein des Proletariats,” Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein(1923)

+ Commodity form chart of terms


Abschnitt 12: Was ist Marxismus? VI. Klassenbewusstsein |

+ Marx, Vorwort zu ersten Auflage des Kapitals (1867) und Nachwort zur zweiten Auflage (1873) des Kapitals


Abschnitt 13: Was ist Marxismus? VII Das Ende der Philosophie |

+ Marx, Thesen über Feuerbach (1845)


Abschnitt 14: 1960er Neue Linke I. Neo-Marxismus |

+ Postone, “History and helplessness: Mass mobilization and contemporary forms of anticapitalism” (2006)
+ Postone, “Theorizing the contemporary world: Brenner, Arrighi, Harvey” (2006)


Abschnitt 15. 1960er Neue Linke II. Gender und Sexualität |


Abschnitt 16: 1960er Neue Linke III. Anti-black racism in der USA |

+ Reed, “Paths to Critical Theory” (1984)
+ Spartacist League, “Black and red: Class struggle road to Negro freedom” (1966)
+ Bayard Rustin, “The failure of black separatism” (1970)

Was ist revolutionärer Marxismus?

Wöchentlich mittwochs, 18:45-21:45
ab 29. März 2016
Kommunikationszentrum (KomZ) der STV Politikwissenschaft im 2. Stock des Neuen Institutsgebäudes (NIG)
Universitätsstraße 7, 1010 Wien
Achtung! Ortswechsel ab 19. Juli 2016:
Cafe Gagarin
Garnisongasse 24, 1090 Wien 

Durch die Lektüre von bedeutenden Texten der Hochphase des Marxismus in der 2. Internationalen und ihrer Krise im 20. Jahrhundert betrachten wir das Problem des Bewusstseins dieser Geschichte und ihrer politischen Implikationen für die Gegenwart. Die Textauswahl beinhaltet Schriften von Luxemburg, Lenin und Trotzki, die philosophische Reflexion des Marxismus von Lukács und Korsch und ihre Auswirkungen auf die Kritische Theorie von Benjamin, Horkheimer und Adorno.

Die Texte werden zu Hause gelesen und beim Lesekreis besprochen. Kein Vorwissen ist nötig, Neueinsteigende sind absolut erwünscht.

Hier kannst du der Mailingliste beitreten: https://groups.google.com/d/forum/platypus-wien
Facebook: Platypus Österreich/Austria
Leseliste

• vorausgesetzte / + empfohlene Texte

Woche 1. Revolutionäre Führung | 29. März 2017
• Rosa Luxemburg, “Die ‘Junius-Broschüre’ / Krise der Sozialdemokratie” Teil I. (1915)
• J. P. Nettl, “The German Social Democratic Party 1890-1914 as a Political Model” (1965)
• Cliff Slaughter, “What is revolutionary leadership?” (1960)


Woche 2. Reform oder Revolution? | 5. April 2017
• Luxemburg, Sozialreform oder Revolution (1899/1908)


Woche 3. Lenin und die Avantgardepartei | 26. April 2017
• Spartakist-Broschüre, “Lenin und die Avantgardepartei” (1978)


Woche 4. Was tun? | 3. Mai 2017
• W. I. Lenin, Was tun? (1902)
+ Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate / A&Z, Introducing Lenin and the Russian Revolution / Lenin for Beginners (1977)


Woche 5. Massenstreik und Sozialdemokratie | 10. Mai 2017
• Luxemburg, „Massenstreik, Partei und Gewerkschaften“ (1906)
• Luxemburg, „Blanquismus und Sozialdemokratie" (1906)


Woche 6. Permanente Revolution | 17. Mai 2017
• Leo Trotzki, Ergebnisse und Perspektiven (1906)
+ Tariq Ali and Phil Evans, Introducing Trotsky and Marxism / Trotsky for Beginners (1980)


Woche 7. Staat und Revolution | 24. Mai 2017
• Lenin, Staat und Revolution (1917)


Woche 8. Imperialismus | 31. Mai 2017
• Lenin, "Der Imperialismus als höchstes Stadium des Kapitalismus" (1916)
+ Lenin, Sozialismus und Krieg I. Kapitel: Die Grundsätze des Sozialismus und der Krieg 1914/1915 (1915)


Woche 9. Das Scheitern der Revolution | 7. Juni 2017
• Luxemburg, Was will der Spartakusbund? (1918)
• Luxemburg, Unser Programm und die politische Situation (1918)
+ Luxemburg, Die Sozialisierung der Gesellschaft (1918)
+ Luxemburg, “The Russian Tragedy” (1918)
+ Luxemburg, Die Ordnung herrscht in Berlin (1919)
+ Sebastian Haffner, Die deutsche Revolution 1918/19 (1968) [Amazon verlinken? und PDF der englischen Übersetzung]


Woche 10. Rückzug nach der Revolution | 14. Juni 2017
• Lenin, Der „Linke Radikalismus“, die Kinderkrankheit im Kommunismus (1920)
+ Lenin, Notizen eines Publizisten (1922/24)


Woche 11. Dialektik der Verdinglichung | 21. Juni 2017
• Lukács, “Der Standpunkt des Proletariats” (Teil III. des Kapitels “Die Verdinglichung und das Bewußtsein des Proletariats”) In: Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein (1923)


Woche 12. Die Lehren des Oktobers | 28. Juni 2017
• Leo Trotzki, 1917 – Die Lehren des Oktobers (1924)
+ Leo Trotzki, Bolschewismus und Stalinismus (1937)


Woche 13. Trotzkismus | 5. Juli 2017
+ Trotzki, "To build communist parties and an international anew" (1933)
• Trotzki, Der Todeskampf des Kapitalismus und die Aufgaben der 4. Internationale (Das Übergangsprogramm)(1938)
+ Trotzki, Die Gewerkschaften in der Epoche des imperialistischen Niedergangs (1940)
+ Trotzki, Brief an James Cannon (12. September 1939)


Woche 14. Der autoritäre Staat | 12. Juli 2017
• Friedrich Pollock, Staatskapitalismus (1941)
• Max Horkheimer, „Autoritärer Staat“ (1940/1942)


Woche 15. Über den Begriff der Geschichte | 19. Juli 2017
• Epigraphe von Louis Menand (über Edmund Wilson) und Peter Preuss (über Nietzsche) über den modernen Begriff der Geschichte
+ Charles Baudelaire, aus Fusées [Rockets] (1867)
+ Bertolt Brecht, "An die Nachgeborenen" (1939)
+ Walter Benjamin, "Zum Planetarium" (aus Einbahnstraße, 1928)
+ Benjamin, "Erfahrung und Armut" (1933)
+ Benjamin, "Theologisch-politisches Fragment" (1921/39?)
• Benjamin, "Über den Begriff der Geschichte" (1940) • Benjamin, "Paralipomena zu den Thesen Über den Begriff der Geschichte" (1940)


Woche 16. Reflexionen über den Marxismus | 26. Juli 2017
• Theodor Adorno, "Reflexionen zur Klassentheorie" (1942)
• Adorno, "Ausschweifung" (Anhang Minima Moralia) (1944–47)
+ Adorno, "Zueignung", "Vermächtnis“, "Vor Mißbrauch wird gewarnt" und "Zum Ende", aus Minima Moralia (1944-47)
+ Horkheimer und Adorno, Diskussion über Theorie und Praxis (1956)


Woche 17. Theorie und Praxis | 2. August 2017
+ Adorno, "Zu Subjekt und Objekt" (1969)
• Adorno, “Marginalien zu Theorie und Praxis” (1969)
• Adorno, “Resignation” (1969)
+ Adorno, "Spätkapitalismus oder Industriegesellschaft?" (1968)
+ Esther Leslie, "Introduction to the 1969 Adorno-Marcuse correspondence" (1999)
+ Adorno und Marcuse, "Correspondence on the German New Left" (1969)

Part II. Introduction to revolutionary Marxism

March 13 – July 17

Mondays 7–10pm

Zossener Str. 56, 10961 Berlin (Eingang A. 4. Stock. Buzzer: Zizoo)

Join us as we embark on our 4-month-long reading group.

We will discuss key texts from the high period of the history of Marxism in the 2nd International and the crisis of Marxism in the early 20th century. We will address the problem of consciousness of this history and its potential political implications in the present. Readings include Luxemburg, Lenin, Trotsky, the philosophical reflections on Marxism by Lukacs and Korsch, and their ramifications in the Frankfurt School Critical Theory of Walter Benjamin, Horkheimer, and Adorno.

The discussion will be in English but texts are available in German below.


  • required/ + recommended reading

Marx and Engels readings pp. from Robert C. Tucker, ed., Marx-Engels Reader (Norton 2nd ed., 1978)


Recommended winter break preliminary readings:

• Sebastian HaffnerFailure of a Revolution: Germany 1918–19(1968)
+ Leszek Kolakowski, “The concept of the Left” (1968)
+ Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate / A&Z, Introducing Lenin and the Russian Revolution / Lenin for Beginners (1977)
+ Tariq Ali and Phil Evans, Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. (1980)
+ James Joll, The Second International 1889–1914 (1966)
+ Edmund Wilson, To the Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting of History (1940), Part II. Ch. (1–4,) 5–10, 12–16; Part III. Ch. 1–6


Recommended viewing: March and April 2017

• 37 Days(2014) [Episode 1] [Episode 2] [Episode 3]
• Fall of Eagles (1974) episodes: "Absolute Beginners," "The Secret War," and "End Game"
• Rosa Luxemburg (1986)
• Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States (2012) Episodes A (1900-20) and B (1920-40)
• Reds (1981)


Spring-Summer 2017 syllabus

Introduction to revolutionary Marxism 

Week 13. Revolutionary leadership | March 13, 2017

•  Rosa Luxemburg, “The Crisis of German Social Democracy” Part I / “Die ‘Junius-Broschüre’ / Krise der Sozialdemokratie”Teil I Part 1 (1915)
•  J. P. Nettl“The German Social Democratic Party 1890–1914 as a Political Model”(1965)
•  Cliff Slaughter, “What is Revolutionary Leadership?” (1960)


Week 14. Reform or revolution? | March 20

•  LuxemburgReform or Revolution?/ "Sozialreform oder Revolution"


(1900/08)

Week 15. Lenin and the vanguard party | March 27

•  Spartacist LeagueLenin and the Vanguard Party/ “Lenin und die Avantgardepartei” (1978)


Week 16. What is to be done? | April 3

•  V. I. LeninWhat is to be Done?/ "Was tun?" (1902)
+ Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate / A&Z, Introducing Lenin and the Russian Revolution /Lenin for Beginners (1977)


Break: April 10, 2017 [Platypus international convention] 


Week 17. Mass strike and social democracy | April 17

•  LuxemburgThe Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions/  „Massenstreik, Partei und Gewerkschaften“  (1906)
+ Luxemburg, "Blanquism and Social Democracy" / „Blanquismus und Sozialdemokratie"  (1906)


Week 18. Permanent revolution | April 24

•  Leon TrotskyResults and Prospects/ "Ergebnisse und Perspektiven" (1906)
+ Tariq Ali and Phil Evans, Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.(1980)


Week 19. State and revolution | May 1

•  LeninThe State and Revolution/ "Staat und Revolution"  (1917)


Week 22. Failure of the revolution | May 8

•  Luxemburg“What does the Spartacus League Want?”/  "Was will der Spartakusbund?" (1918)
•  Luxemburg“On the Spartacus Programme” / "Unser Programm und die politische Situation" (1918)
+ Luxemburg, 
"German Bolshevism" (AKA "The Socialisation of Society") (1918)
+ Luxemburg, “The Russian Tragedy” / "Die Sozialisierung der Gesellschaft" (1918)
+ Luxemburg, 
“Order Reigns in Berlin” / "Die Sozialisierung der Gesellschaft" (1919)
+ Sebastian Haffner, 
Failure of a Revolution: Germany 1918–19 / "Die deutsche Revolution 1918/19" (1968)


Week 23. Retreat after revolution | May 15

•  Lenin“Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder/ "Der „Linke Radikalismus“, die Kinderkrankheit im Kommunismus"(1920)
+ Lenin, 
"Notes of a Publicist" / "Notizen eines Publizisten" (1922)


Week 24. Dialectic of reification | May 22

•  Lukács“The Standpoint of the Proletariat”(Part III of “Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat,” 1923). Available in three sections from marxists.orgsection 1 section 2 section 3 / “Der Standpunkt des Proletariats” (= Teil III. des Kapitels “Die Verdinglichung und das Bewußtsein des Proletariats”) In: Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein


Week 25. Lessons of October | May 29

•  TrotskyThe Lessons of October(1924) [PDF] "Die Lehren des Oktobers"
+ Trotsky, "Stalinism and Bolshevism" /  "Bolschewismus und Stalinismus" (1937)


Week 26. Trotskyism | June 5

• TrotskyThe Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International / "Der Todeskampf des Kapitalismus und die Aufgaben der 4. Internationale" (Das Übergangsprogramm) (1938)
+ Trotsky, "To build communist parties and an international anew" (1933)
+ Trotsky, "Trade unions in the epoch of imperialist decay" (1940)
+ Trotsky, Letter to James Cannon (September 12, 1939)


Week 27. The authoritarian state | June 12,

•  Friedrich Pollock"State Capitalism: Its Possibilities and Limitations"(1941) (note 32 on USSR)
•  Max Horkheimer, "The Authoritarian State" (1942)


Week 28. On the concept of history | June 19

•  Epigraphs by Louis Menand(on Edmund Wilson) and Peter Preuss(on Nietzsche) on the modern concept of history
• Benjamin"On the Concept of History" (AKA "Theses on the Philosophy of History") (1940) [PDF] • BenjaminParalipomena to "On the Concept of History"(1940)
+ Charles Baudelaire, from Fusées [Rockets] (1867)
+ Bertolt Brecht, "To posterity" (1939)
+ Walter Benjamin, "To the planetarium" (from One-Way Street, 1928)
+ Benjamin, "Experience and poverty" (1933)
+ Benjamin, Theologico-political fragment (1921/39?)


Week 29. Reflections on Marxism | June 26

•  Theodor Adorno“Reflections on Class Theory”(1942)
•  Adorno“Imaginative Excesses”(1944–47)
+ Adorno, Dedication"Bequest""Warning: Not to be Misused" and "Finale"Minima Moralia (1944–47)
+ Horkheimer and Adorno, "Discussion about Theory and Praxis" (AKA "Towards a New Manifesto?") [Deutsch] (1956)


Week 30. Theory and practice | July 3

• Adorno“Marginalia to Theory and Praxis” (1969)
• Adorno“Resignation” (1969)
+ Adorno, “On Subject and Object” (1969)
+ Adorno, “Late Capitalism or Industrial Society?” (AKA “Is Marx Obsolete?”) (1968)
+ Esther Leslie, Introduction to the 1969 Adorno-Marcuse correspondence (1999)
+ Adorno and Herbert Marcuse, correspondence on the German New Left (1969)

On November 7, 2016, the eve of the U.S. presidential election, the Platypus Affiliated Society hosted a panel discussion entitled “Immigration and the Left” at the University of Illinois at Chicago [UIC]. Moderated by Joseph Estes of Platypus, the event posed three questions to the panelists: How has the Left approached the question of immigration historically? What opportunities exist in the immigrants’ rights movement today for a renewed emancipatory politics? What role can left-wing civil and political organizations play in immigration politics? Three speakers addressed these questions: Jorge Mujica, seasoned activist and the Strategic Campaigns Organizer for Arise Chicago; Ralph Cintron, professor of English and Latino and Latin American Studies at UIC; and Jacqueline Stevens, professor of Political Science at Northwestern University. What follows is an edited transcript of their discussion.

On October 23, 2016, the Platypus Affiliated Society hosted a panel discussion entitled “Immigration and the Left” at the University of Houston. Moderated by Danny Jacobs of Platypus, the event posed three questions to the panelists: How has the Left approached the question of immigration historically? What opportunities for a renewed emancipatory politics exist in the immigrants’ rights movement today? What role can left-wing civil and political organizations play in immigration politics? Three speakers addressed these questions: Alvaro Rodriguez, from the Communist Party, USA; Henry Cooper, from Proyecto Latino Americano; and Liam Wright, a veteran of Occupy Seattle and other social movements. What follows is an edited transcript of their discussion.

7:00pm / 30 November 2016
London School of Economics

Speakers (in order):

Adam Booth (writer and activist with Socialist Appeal and the International Marxist Tendency)
James Heartfield (Sp!ked / Author of 'An Unpatriotic History of the Second World War')
Patrick Neveling (SOAS Development Studies, Utrecht University Cultural Anthropology)
Paul Demarty (Weekly Worker / CPGB)

Panel description:

The Left has for over a generation – for more than 40 years, since the crisis of 1973 – placed its hopes in the Democratic and Labour Parties to reverse or slow neoliberal capitalism – the move to trans-national trade agreements, the movement of capital and labor, and austerity. The post-2008 crisis ofneoliberalism, despite phenomena such as SYRIZA, Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring and anti-austerity protests more generally, Bernie Sanders's candidacy, and Jeremy Corbyn's Labour leadership, has found expression on the avowed Right, through UKIP, Brexit, the U.K. Conservatives' move to "Red Toryism" and now Donald Trump's election. The old neoliberal consensus is falling apart, and change is palpably in the air. Margaret Thatcher's infamous phrase "There Is No Alternative" has been proven wrong. What can the Left do to advance the struggle for socialism under such circumstances?

Some background:

In the 1960s the Left faced political and social crises in an era of full employment and economic growth. Departing from official Communism, which had largely supported the development of the welfare state in industrialized capitalist countries, many on the Left challenged the existing political order, of Keynesian-Fordism, through community organising on the principle of expanding individual and collective freedom from the state. Against Keynesian economic demands, many of these Leftists supported the Rights efforts, to integrate formerly oppressed identity groups into the corporate professional-managerial class. Since the 1970s, the significance of the fact that all these aims were taken up, politically, by the Right, in the name of ‘freedom’, in the form of neo-liberalism is still ambiguous today.

Some on the Left have understood this phase of ‘neo-liberalism’ to be continuous with the post-war Fordist state, for example in Ernest Mandel’s conception of “late capitalism” and David Harvey’s idea of “post-Fordism”. The movement of labor and capital was still administered by the Fordist state. Distinctively, others on the Left have opposed neo-liberalism for over a generation through a defence of the post-war welfare state, through appeals to anti-austerity and anti-globalisation.

How does this distinction within the Left between the defense of the welfare state and the defense of individual freedom affect the Left’s response to the crisis of neo-liberalism? Why has the Left recently supported attempts to politically manage the economic crisis post-2008, against attempts at political change? How can the Left struggle for political power, with the aim of overcoming capitalism and achieving socialism, when the political expression of the crisis of neo-liberalism has largely come from the Right, and Trump won the election in November?

A panel on the politics of work held at the University of Houston, December 4, 2016 by Platypus Houston.

Panelists:

Dylan Daney - UNITE HERE!
David Michael Smith - Houston Socialist Movement
Duy Lap Nguyen - Professor of World Cultures and Literatures, University of Houston

"Capital is not a book about politics, and not even a book about labour: it is a book about unemployment." - Fredric Jameson, Representing Capital: A Reading of Volume One

"...the misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all." - Joan Robinson

"The error consists in believing that labor, by which I mean heteronomous, salaried labor, can and must remain the essential matter. It's just not so. According to American projections, within twenty years labor time will be less than half that of leisure time. I see the task of the left as directing and promoting this process of abolition of labor in a way that will not result in a mass of unemployed on one side, and aristocracy of labor on the other and between them a proletariat which carries out the most distasteful jobs for forty-five hours a week. Instead, let everyone work much less for his salary and thus be free to act in a much more autonomous manner...Today "communism" is a real possibility and even a realistic proposition, for the abolition of salaried labor through automation saps both capitalist logic and the market economy." - Andre Gorz

It is generally assumed that Marxists and other Leftists have the political responsibility to support reforms for the improvement of the welfare of workers. Yet, leading figures from the Marxist tradition-- such as Lenin, Luxemburg and Trotsky-- also understood that such reforms would broaden the crisis of capitalism and potentially intensify contradictions that could adversely impact the immediate conditions of workers. For instance, full employment, while being a natural demand from the standpoint of all workers’ interests, also threatens the conditions of capitalist production (which rely on a surplus of available labor), thereby potentially jeopardizing the system of employment altogether. In light of such apparent paradoxes, this panel seeks to investigate the politics of work from Leftist perspectives. It will attempt to provoke reflection on and discussion of the ambiguities and dilemmas of the politics of work by including speakers from divergent perspectives, some of whom seek after the immediate abolition of labor and others of whom seek to increase the availability of employment opportunities. It is hoped that this conversation will deepen the understanding of the contemporary problems faced by the Left in its struggles to construct a politics adequate to the self-emancipation of the working class.

A Platypus panel at NYU, Kimmel Center, room 808

Panelists (in speaking order):

R.L. Stephens (Labor organizer and editor of The Orchestrated Pulse)
Benjamin Serby (volunteer-organizer, Team Bernie NY and PhD Candidate in US History, Columbia)
Howie Hawkins (Green Party, USA)
Karl Belin (Socialist worker from Pittsburgh, labor organizer

Moderated by Tana Forrester (Platypus).

The Left has for over a generation -- for more than 40 years, since the crisis of 1973 -- placed its hopes in the Democratic and Labour Parties to reverse or slow neoliberal capitalism -- the move to trans-national trade agreements, the movement of capital and labor, and austerity. The post-2008 crisis of neoliberalism, despite phenomena such as SYRIZA, Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring and anti-austerity protests more generally, Bernie Sanders's candidacy, and Jeremy Corbyn's Labour leadership, has found expression on the avowed Right, through UKIP, Brexit, the U.K. Conservatives' move to "Red Toryism" and now Donald Trump's election. The old neoliberal consensus is falling apart, and change is palpably in the air. Margaret Thatcher's infamous phrase "There Is No Alternative" has been proven wrong. What can the Left do to advance the struggle for socialism under such circumstances?

Recent generations of marginalized radicals have been forced to grapple with an impossible choice: they must either submit to a “realistic” electoral compromise with the status quo, often in the form of “lesser evilism,” or they must vote for a third-party candidate, hoping that by making their platform public the winning party could be pushed leftward. Alternatively, out of exhaustion with this impasse, they may choose not to vote, advocating instead a principled abstention from electoral politics.

What lessons can the Left draw from the history of mass electoral parties for socialism to create more emancipatory choices in the future? How do we reimagine the role of electoral campaigns for Leftist politics today? Given that a significant number of working people in America have left the Democratic Party, what is possible?

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This event is free and open to the public. All are welcome.

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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.

http://platypus1917.com/newyork

Thursday 11 February 2016, 7pm, Goldsmiths, University of London

N.B. An audience question has been removed from audio at the request of the questioner.

Speakers in order:

Jack Conrad - CPGB / Weekly Worker

Elaine Graham-Leigh - Counterfire

Jamie Green - Goldsmiths Labour Students / Momentum

Judith Shapiro - London School of Economics

Panel Description

The conditions for the novel political formations of Syriza and Podemos developed out of the disintegration of the traditional Social Democratic parties in Greece and Spain. Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the Labour Party in Britain, argued for greater democracy in the party and invoked Labour's origins in working-class organisation and socialism. Yet it is unclear by the invocation exactly what is being remembered, and what is being forgotten. The Bernie Sanders campaign as a "socialist" candidate for leadership of the US Democratic Party appears equally obscure. Precisely when historical consciousness is most necessary, the project of Social Democracy seems to be fading from memory. Little remains of the foundation moment of Social Democracy today, both in practice and thought.

In the late nineteenth century, working people’s response to capital was expressed in the political demand for Socialism. This demand galvanized the formation of European Social Democratic parties guided by the ideology of Marxism. Among the most influential members of the German Social Democratic Party, the political leaders of the Second International, agreed that the primary task of Social Democratic parties was bringing about the dictatorship of the proletariat, that is, the decisive political struggle between capital and labor. And while some of these leftist ultimately found the revolution too risky in the decisive decades of the 1910s and 1920s, even their political judgment is far to the left to those Social Democratic party members who, after World War II, openly espoused the integration of workers into a more just and thus more democratic capitalist order.

Once a global movement for the self-emancipation of the working class, today’s social democratic parties have fully substituted the task of educating workers in order to overthrow capitalism, with the task of creating and maintaining the conditions for a more just market economy. The present standpoint of social democracy is society as such, bound by national economies and mediated by the state. Social Democracy today promises to fight socialinjustice in the name of the people, but it no longer promises to realize socialism.

Yet what remains is the name, and with it the promise and the problem of Social Democracy.
In this panel we would like to investigate this transformation by looking at the history, the birth and decline, of Social Democracy. How can we understand the historical crisis of social democracy for the Left today? How, if at all, could the trajectory of social democracy shed light on problems yet to be superseded on the Left today?

Questions to panellists:

1. What was Social Democracy? How was it constituted, how did it form and what was it ideological foundation? What problem did it address and what promises did it make?

2. What role did Social Democracy play for the Left throughout the 19th and 20th century? How has this role changed? How did it affect the world and how was it affected by a changing world? When did it come into its own?

3. Was the promise of Social Democracy fulfilled? If yes, how, if no, why did it fail? The current crisis of the Left reveals a need for a reconsideration of Socialist Politics, yet Social Democratic parties are on the retreat and are unable to offer a credible alternative. What does this crisis tell us about the success, failure and the need for Social Democracy?

4. What would you characterize as the beginning moment of the crisis of Social Democracy? Was it the revisionist dispute in 1903, the voting of the war credits in 1914, the Russian Revolution of 1917, the New Left of 1960, the crisis of Fordism in the 1970s, the Reagan and Thatcher era of 1980s, the creation of New Labour in 1994 or the economic crisis of 2008?

5. Taken at face value today, is Social Democracy still project of the Left? Does Social Democracy represent a way forward, or a road block? Do we need a return of the politics of Social Democracy? What problems would they address today, and what lessons could be gained from its reconsideration?

Mondays 6.30-9.30 PM
Goldsmiths College, University of London
Room 257, Richard Hoggart Building, Lewisham Way, New Cross