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On April 1st, 2016, during its eighth international convention in Chicago, Illinois, the Platypus Affiliated Society hosted a panel discussion entitled, “What is socialism? International social democracy.” The panelists were Bernard Sampson, a member of the CPUSA and a precinct chair in Houston, Texas, for the Democratic Party; Karl Belin, a socialist worker, writer, and member of the Pittsburgh Socialist Organizing Committee; Jack Ross, a freelance editor and historian, and author of The Socialist Party of America: A Complete History (2015); and Chris Cutrone, president of the Platypus Affiliated Society.

Against the backdrop of the numerous discussions of the political agenda, appearance, and vocabulary of the candidates running in the American presidential election, there is almost no demand for one subject: What is the class nature and mass social base of each politician?

In April, the Platypus Affiliated Society held its Eighth Annual International Convention, based on the question, “What is socialism?” On April 2, 2016, Platypus held the convention’s closing plenary, “The Death of Social Democracy,” a discussion and Q&A moderated by Pam Nogales of Platypus, with the following panelists: Jason Schulman of the Democratic Socialists of America; Christoph Lichtenberg of the International Bolshevik Tendency; Brian Tokar, former director and current board member of the Institute for Social Ecology; and William Pelz, director of the Institute of Working Class History. What follows is an edited transcript of this event.

Bruce E. Parry

The role of revolutionaries is to lead the working class. To follow the ruling class is not to lead but to tail after its leaders. Through this strategy, the CPUSA has discouraged and prevented the political independence of the working class since the 1980s.

Given the disintegration of traditional social democratic parties, 2015 saw the rise of novel political formations such as Syriza and Podemos. 2016 has seen the rise of the Corbyn leadership of the Labour Party and the mass support for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Party. This panel seeks to address the project of social democracy today, both in light of these new political formations and the long history of social democratic politics on the left.

Beneath a consensus of avowed anti-racism, the American Left remains conflicted about whether and how to politicize race. This panel seeks to shed historical light on today's political impasses, asking: How has racism changed throughout U.S. history, and to what degree has racism been overcome in America?

Named after Juliet Mitchell’s 1966 essay, this panel will explore the long history of the struggle for women’s liberation from the vantage point of the Left today. Mitchell critiques bourgeois feminist demands such as the right to work and equal pay to posit the need instead for equal work.

Workshop with Brian Tokar (Institute for Social Ecology), held on Saturday April 2, 2016.

Workshop on the Bernie Sanders Campaign, with Bernard Sampson (CPUSA) and Jason Schulman (DSA), held on Saturday April 2, 2016, at the Platypus International Convention 2016.