A panel discussion held at Loyola University on April 3rd, 2014.
Tarek Shalaby (Revolutionary Socialists)
Quentin Cyr (Quebec Student Strike)
Glauk Tahiri (VETEVENDOSJE! movement)
Respondent: Samir Gandesha
Moderator: Nathan Smith
From massive demonstrations by students in the UK and Canada, to square occupations and general strikes in Greece, to the reemergence of Left political currents in Kosovo in response to waves of privatization and austerity, responses to the economic downturn were international in character. While the crisis has stabilized, conditions for many remain desperate. The fate of these new political movements in light of changed conditions is uncertain.
These new developments require coordination across global networks and it is why Platypus at Loyola is organizing a series of international panels that we hope can take place in Universities across the world where Platypus student members have been able to forge connections.
We hope that this panel will be an opportunity to report on activity and form new connections across international efforts. Panelists will report on the state of the Left in their respected regions and reflect on their experience as organizers while helping formulate what the next steps in organizing and planning could look like in the months and years ahead.
A panel held at the Sixth Annual Platypus International Convention on Saturday, April 5, 2014 at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
It seems that there are still only two radical ideologies: Anarchism and Marxism. They emerged out of the same crucible - the Industrial Revolution, the unsuccessful revolutions of 1848 and 1871, a weak liberalism, the centralization of state power, the rise of the workers movement, and the promise of socialism. They are the revolutionary heritage, and all significant radical upsurges of the last 150 years have returned to mine their meaning for the current situation. In this respect, our moment seems no different.
There are a few different ways these ideologies have been taken up. Recent worldwide square occupations reflect one pattern: a version of Marxist theory — understood as a political-economic critique of capitalism — is used to comprehend the world, while an anarchist practice — understood as an anti-hierarchical principle that insists revolution must begin now — is used to organize, in order to change it. Some resist this combination, claiming that Marxism rejects anti-statist adventurism, and call for a strategic reorganization of the working class to resist austerity, and perhaps push forward a “New New Deal”. This view remains wedded to a supposedly practical welfarist social democracy, which strengthens the state and manages capital. There is a good deal of hand waving in both these orientations with regard to politics, tactics, and the end goal. Finally, there have been attempts to leave the grounds of these theories entirely — but these often seem either to land right back in one of the camps or to remain marginal.
To act today we seek to draw up the balance sheet of the 20th century. The historical experience concentrated in these ideas must be unfurled if they are to serve as compass points. To see in what ways the return of these ideologies represent an authentic engagement and in what ways the return of a ghost. Where have the battles left us? What forms do we have for meeting, theoretically and practically, the problems of our present?
1. What do Marxism and Anarchism have to say to those politicized today? Do they instruct us as to how we might act, now? Must we return to these orientations? If so, how?
2. Many recent leftist groupings tend toward square occupation and leaderless horizontality, while retaining an unclear, even reformist, ideological orientation toward capitalism and the state. How do you understand the advent of these forms? Do they challenge traditional Marxist theory and ways of organizing? Are they affirmations of Anarchist modes of thinking and practice? In general, what forms of organization are necessitated by the theories we inherit and the tasks of today?
3. Can you briefly assess the most important splits and breaks between and within both traditions? Does the historical divide between Marxism and Anarchism still matter? What are the significant splits within Marxism and within Anarchism that continue to shape the context?
4. What are the inalienable values and the end goals of radical politics? Are Marxism and Anarchism ideologies of freedom? Of democracy? Of the working class? How do they handle the objective contradictions of realizing these principles under the conditions of capitalist life?
5. What should we fight for today - more state or less state?
6. Has history vindicated Marxism or Anarchism or neither at all?
A panel held on April 4th, 2014 at the Sixth Annual Platypus International Convention at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
“‘I became a Trotskyist in 1933. The theory of state capitalism is a development of Trotsky's position.... But at the end of the Second World War, the perspectives that Trotsky had put forward were not realized. Trotsky wrote that one thing was certain, the Stalinist bureaucracy would not survive the war. It would either be overthrown by revolution or by counterrevolution.... The assumption was that the collapse of the Stalinist bureaucracy would be a fantastic opening for the Trotskyist movement, for the Fourth International. The Stalinist bureaucracy not only didn't collapse but it expanded.... Therefore, at that time, Stalinism had a fantastic strength. And we had to come to terms with it.’
— Tony Cliff, interview with Ahmed Shawki (1997)
Tony Cliff's recognition in his own moment of a certain kind of impasse within Trotskyism and his attempt to overcome it require full consideration and appreciation both in terms of the merits of its potential and a consciousness of its limits. Panelists will address this legacy for the Left today.