Hosted by the Platypus Affiliated Society at the University of Tennessee (Knoxville) on April 26, 2017.
• Travis Donoho, Co-chair of the Knox area Democratic Socialists of America
• Barbara Bridges, Chair of the Green Party (US) of Knoxville
• Jason Dawsey, Lecturer of History at the University of Tennessee
Moderated by Matt Cavagrotti
Electoral politics are a longstanding problem for the U.S. left. In recent decades, a number of parties have formed as an alternative to the Democratic Party: the Labor Party, the Green Party, and now, the Justice Party. However, these parties risk becoming little more than networks of activists or pressure groups on the Democratic Party, and it still remains unclear whether a serious electoral challenge to the Democratic Party is possible.
Many progressives blame the “first-past-the-post” structure of U.S. elections, contra labour-friendly parliamentary systems; yet others insist that this procedural focus is misplaced. Leninists charge some quarters of the Left with misunderstanding the proper relationship of the party to the state; but for many, it remains unclear how State and Revolution bears upon the present. Most activists grant the desirability of a viable party to the left of the Democrats, but why exactly such a party is desirable-- to win reforms? to spread emancipatory consciousness?-- is contested as well.
These are old questions for the American left-- as old as Henry George, Daniel De Leon, and the 1930s American Labor Party, perhaps the high point of independent electoral politics in the U.S. This panel will investigate several contemporary approaches to electoral politics to draw out the theories that motivate Leftist third parties; it will also ask how the historical achievements and failures of third parties bear upon the present.
1. How does the present election represent an opportunity for the development of a third party?In what ways have Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Jill Stein, and Gary Johnson each helped develop a window of opportunity for a third party?
2. In what ways might these figures be responsible for miseducating, depoliticizing, or simply misdirecting potential allies?
3. What conditions would a Clinton or Trump administration produce for the left? How would each represent a challenge to the Left?
4. How might a third party avoid simply becoming either an instrument for pressuring the Democratic Party to the Left or a mere recruiting tool for activist and sectarian organizations? In other words: what are the practical and theoretical obstacles to the development of the Left beyond the default form of activity that have characterized it since the mid-20th century?
5. While we take for granted that a third party would have to distinguish itself from the two major parties, how could a third party attempt to draw from voters from both the Democrats and the Republicans?
6. The rise of progressivism and socialism in the late 19th/early 20th century defined every attempt at the development of a third party in the 20th century. How are progressive and socialist politics distinct and/or related? What role would each play in the development of a mass third party for the 21st century?
In spite of many different political currents and tendencies, perhaps the most significant question informing the "Left" today is the issue of "political party.” Various "Left unity" initiatives have been taking place in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis and subsequent downturn, following Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring, alongside continuing "post-political" tendencies inherited from
Communist University took place August 13-20, 2011
Goldsmiths, University of London
63 Wickham Road
London SE4 1LX
Platypus Affiliated Society members presented as follows:
Friday, August 19, 10AM-12:30PM
â€¢ Spencer Leonard, "Marx's critique of political economy: proletarian socialism continuing the bourgeois revolution?"
Recommended background readings:
Background reading compiled from recent engagements between the CPGB and Platypus can be found at: /wp-content/uploads/2011/08/macnairmike_platypuscritique_may-august2011_081111.pdf or /wp-content/uploads/2011/08/cpgbcontraplatypus081111.pdf
Facebook invitation at:
June 20â€“24, 2011
Institute for the Humanities, University of Illinois at Chicago
Marxism and the bourgeois revolution
Spencer Leonard, "Marxâ€™s critique of political economy: Proletarian socialism continuing the bourgeois revolution?"
Pamela Nogales, "Marx on the U.S. Civil War as the 2nd American Revolution"
Jeremy Cohan, "LukÃ¡cs on Marxâ€™s Hegelianism and the dialectic of Marxism"
Moderator: Chris Cutrone
The "bourgeois revolutions" from the 16th through the 19th centuries -- extending into the 20th -- conformed humanity to modern city life, ending traditional, pastoral, religious custom in favor of social relations of the exchange of labor. AbbÃ© SieyÃ¨s wrote in 1789 that, in contradistinction to the clerical 1st Estate who "prayed" and the aristocratic 2nd Estate who "fought," the commoner 3rd Estate "worked:" "What has the 3rd Estate been? Nothing." "What is it? Everything." Kant warned that universal bourgeois society would be the mere midpoint in humanity's achievement of freedom. After the last bourgeois revolutions in Europe of 1848 failed, Marx wrote of the "constitution of capital," the ambivalent, indeed self-contradictory character of "free wage labor." In the late 20th century, the majority of humanity abandoned agriculture in favor of urban life -- however in "slum cities." How does the bourgeois revolution appear from a Marxian point of view? How did what Marx called the â€œproletarianizationâ€ of society circa 1848 signal not only the crisis and supersession, but the need to fulfill and â€œcompleteâ€ the bourgeois revolution, whose task now fell to the politics of â€œproletarianâ€ socialism, expressed by the workersâ€™ call for â€œsocial democracy?â€ How did this express the attempt, as Lenin put it, to overcome bourgeois society â€œon the basis of capitalismâ€ itself? How did subsequent Marxism lose sight of Marx on this, and how might Marxâ€™s perspective on the crisis of the bourgeois revolution in the 19th century still resonate today?
The Marxism of Second International radicalism: Lenin, Luxemburg, and Trotsky
Chris Cutrone, Lenin
Greg Gabrellas, Luxemburg
Ian Morrison, Trotsky
Moderator: Spencer Leonard
The legacy of revolution 1917-19 in Russia, Germany, Hungary and Italy is concentrated above all in the historical figures Vladimir Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky, leaders of the Left in the Second International (1889-1914) -- what they called â€œrevolutionary social democracyâ€ -- in the period preceding the crisis of war, revolution, counterrevolution and civil war in World War I and its aftermath. In 1920, Georg LukÃ¡cs summed up this experience as follows: â€œ[T]he crisis [of capital] remains permanent, it goes back to its starting-point, repeats the cycle until after infinite sufferings and terrible detours the school of history completes the education of the proletariat and confers upon it the leadership of mankind. .Â .Â . Of course this uncertainty and lack of clarity are themselves the symptoms of the crisis in bourgeois society. As the product of capitalism the proletariat must necessarily be subject to the modes of existence of its creator. .Â .Â . inhumanity and reification.â€ Nonetheless, these Marxists understood their politics as being â€œon the basis of capitalismâ€ itself (Lenin). How were the 2nd Intl. radicals, importantly, critics, and not merely advocates, of their own political movement? What is the legacy of these figures today, after the 20th century -- as Walter Benjamin said in his 1940 â€œTheses on the Philosophy of History,â€ â€œagainst the grainâ€ of their time, reaching beyond it? How did Lenin, Luxemburg, and Trotsky contribute to the potential advancement and transformation of Marxism, in and through the crisis of Marxism in the early 20th century? How can we return to these figures productively, today, to learn the lessons of their history?
Chris Cutrone, Platypus (School of the Art Institute of Chicago)
Andrew Feenberg (Simon Fraser University)
Richard Westerman (University of Chicago)
Respondent: Nicholas Brown (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Recently, theÂ New Left Review published a translated conversation between the critical theorists Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer causing more than a few murmurs and gasps. In the course of their conversation, Adorno comments that he had always wanted to â€œdevelop a theory that remains faithful to Marx, Engels and Lenin, while keeping up with culture at its most advanced.â€ Adorno, it seems, was a Leninist. As surprising as this evidence might have been to some, is it not more shocking that Adornoâ€™s politics, and the politics of Critical Theory, have remained taboo for so long? Was it really necessary to wait until Adorno and Horkheimer admitted their politics in print to understand that their primary preoccupation was with maintaining Marxismâ€™s relation to bourgeois critical philosophy (Kant and Hegel)? This panel proposes to state the question as directly as possible and to simply ask: How did the practice and theory of Marxism, from Marx to Lenin, make possible and necessary the politics of Critical Theory?
Co-sponsored by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago Departments of Art Education, Art History, Liberal Arts, and Visual and Critical Studies, and the SAIC Student Association.
A teach-in by Chris Cutrone
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
4:30 - 6:00 PM
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
112 S. Michigan Ave. room 601
Alain Badiouâ€™s recent book (2010) is titled with the phrase promoted by his and Slavoj Zizekâ€™s work for the last few years, â€œthe communist hypothesis.â€ Zizek has spoken of â€œthe Badiou eventâ€ as opening new horizons for both philosophy and communism. Badiou and Zizek share a background in Lacanian and Althusserian â€œpost-structuralistâ€ French thought, in common with other prominent post-New Left thinkers â€” and former students of Louis Althusser â€” such as Etienne Balibar and Jacques RanciÃ¨re. Althusser found, in the Russian and Chinese Revolutions, a salutary challenge to the notion of the Hegelian â€œlogic of history,â€ that revolutionary change could and indeed did happen as a matter of contingency. For Badiou, this means that emancipation must be conceived of as an â€œevent,â€ which involves a fundamental reconsideration of ontology.
Suggested background readings:
Cutrone, â€œThe Marxist Hypothesis: A Response to Badiou's 'Communist Hypothesis'â€ (2010)
Badiou, â€œThe Communist Hypothesisâ€ (2008)
Cutrone, â€œChinoiserie: A Critique of the RCP, USA on Badiouâ€ (2010)
Badiou, â€œTunisia, Egypt: The Universal Reach of Popular Uprisingsâ€ (2011)
Wal Suchting, "Althusser's Late Thinking about Materialism" (2004)
Below are links to download the audio of all the Platypus panels at the Left Forum. (Nota bene: Several of the files begin after the panel was already underway, and others end before the panel concluded.)
The Bourgeois Revolution:
Aesthetics in Protests:
On the Politics of Alain Badiou:
Marx and Engelsâ€™s Marxism:
Public forum of the Platypus Affiliated Society
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 9TH 6:00 PM
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
INTERNATIONAL HOUSE ASSEMBLY HALL
1414 EAST 59TH STREET
Spencer A. Leonard
The memory of the 1960s, which has long kindled contestation and debate on the means and ends of freedom politics, is rapidly fading into the political unconscious. The election of Barack Obama and the collapse of the anti-war movement mark the end of a period that has now come full circle. After a half-century of rebellion, many old New Left-ists now call for a â€œnew New Dealâ€ to return to welfare-statist and authoritarian society against which the New Left rebelled. History threatens to repeat itself, this time in an even more dimly recognized and ferocious form.
â€œIn the United States today there is no Left,â€ C. Wright Mills declaimed in the waning months of the 1950s, making him one of the most beloved intellectuals of his generation, â€œpolitical activities are monopolized by an irresponsible two-party system; cultural activities -- though formally quite free, tend to become nationalistic or commercial -- or merely private.â€ If Mills continues to speak to us, it is as a reminder of tasks long deferred, memories long repressed.
This panel attempts to address the current moment, in which many who participated in the moment of the New Leftâ€™s beginnings have survived a full cycle of history. Rather than a rehash of old debates or yet another nostalgia- ridden recap of the era, interventions which have ceased to offer critical perspective on the present, this panel seeks to ask the simple but fundamental question: What, if any, is significant for us today in the thwarted attempt by 1960s radicals to re-found emancipatory politics?
The Global Voices Lecture Program of International House, with the support of the University of Chicago Student Activities Fund