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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


Panel Description

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?


Hosted by the Platypus Affiliated Society at the University of Tennessee (Knoxville) on March 25, 2014.


Dr. Allen Dunn, University of Tennessee English Department Head

Chris Irwin, United Mountain Defense

Jon Phoenix, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth

Moderated by Grady Lowery.

Panel Description

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 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?


Posted below are two videos from the day-long symposium, What is Critique?, held on November 20th, 2010, at Parsons, the New School for Design, New York. The first video is from the afternoon panel, The Art Critique: Its History, Theories, and Practices. This panel consisted of Tom Butter, Simone Douglas, and James Elkins; it was moderated by Laurie Rojas. The second video is documentation of the evening panel, The Relevance of Critical Theory to Art Today. The panel consisted of J.M. Bernstein, Chris Cutrone, Lydia Goehr, and Gregg Horowitz; it was moderated by Chris Mansour. Both videos can also be found at

The Art Critique: Its History, Theories, and Practices

The Relevance of Critical Theory to Art Today

What is Critique? was a day-long symposium that consisted of two panel discussions with artists, critics, teachers, and students and investigated the role that art critiques and criticism play in art production. The first half of the day focused on the nature and function of art critiques as a form of criticism and pedagogy. The latter part of the day was a panel discussion addressing the relationship between critical theory, art production and reception. More information can be found at


Friday, February 19th, 2009.   7pm
Hart House, South Dining Room
7 Hart House Crescent,
University of Toronto

The economic crisis, as many commentators and critics are quick to point out, has rekindled interest in—and anxieties over—Marxism. Although many on the Left hope this renewed curiosity marks the beginning of a radical turn, similar revivals of anti-capitalist politics in the 1930s, 1960s, and 1990s failed to achieve the revolutionary transformations they sought.

Has Marxism returned as a significant political force? How might this translate into the possibility for a revitalized Left? Will the resurgence of Marxist theory provide opportunities for social change—or merely the opportunity to fail again?

Dr. Leo Panitch is Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy and Distinguished Research Professor of Political Science at York University in Toronto, and coeditor of the annual Socialist Register.


Left Forum 2009 "Turning Points"
April 17-19, 2009
Dialectics of Defeat: Towards a Theory of Historical Regression and
Politics of the Contemporary Student Left: Hopes and Failures


Public forum with the Marxist-Humanist Committee hosted by the Platypus Affiliated Society

The Crisis in Marxist Thought

Panel presentations and audience Q&A by: Kevin Anderson, Chris Cutrone (Platypus), Peter Hudis, Andrew Kliman, and Sandra Rein.

Event was held on Friday, July 25, 2008 6-9PM

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

112 S. Michigan Ave. (ballroom)


A teach-in, panel discussion and moderated audience Q&A on the failure of the Left in Pakistan.


-Ayesha Siddiqa (author of Military Inc, Inside Pakistan's Military Economy) on "Pakistan's Military Economy"
-Manan Ahmed (University of Chicago) on "The Populism of the Bhuttos"
-Atiya Khan (Platypus, University of Chicago) on "The Vicissitudes of Leftist Politics in Pakistan"


The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 280 S. Columbus Drive, main auditorium @ 2pm.





(Chicago, 11/6/07)
Public forum on The 3 Rs: Reform, Revolution, and "Resistance" -- the problematic forms of "anticapitalism" today.
Panelists: Michael Albert (Z Magazine, author of Parecon: Life After Capitalism), Chris Cutrone (Platypus), Stephen Duncombe (Gallatin School of New York University, editor of Cultural Resistance Reader), Brian Holmes (Continental Drift and Université Tangente), and Marisa Holmes (new Students for a Democratic Society).


(Chicago, 11/6/07)
Public forum on The 3 Rs: Reform, Revolution, and "Resistance" -- the problematic forms of "anticapitalism" today.
Panelists: Michael Albert (Z Magazine, author of Parecon: Life After Capitalism), Chris Cutrone (Platypus), Stephen Duncombe (Gallatin School of New York University, editor of Cultural Resistance Reader), Brian Holmes (Continental Drift and Université Tangente), and Marisa Holmes (new Students for a Democratic Society).