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English Description:

The politics of anti-austerity remained relatively muted in Canada until the massive Quebec student strike in 2012. While the symbol of the red square seemed to imply solidarity among the strikers, it was frequently unclear what the goals of this movement was beyond protesting tuition fee hikes. For some the strike was about resisting neo-liberalism and the "modèle québécois", the system of labour legislation, educational reform and public welfare that emerged from the 1960s Quiet Revolution. But for others the strike signaled the possibility to go beyond the past. This was expressed as a desire to pick up where the 1970s social democracy left off through demands such as free tuition. Others viewed Quebec's social democratic past as being part of the problem. They judged that parliamentary approaches, in the wake of Occupy and the Arab Spring, had grown irrelevant in the face of a direct democracy that has carried the strike through five months in spite of massive police reaction.

Whatever differences in goals, the strike fell short of expectations. While the tuition fee increases were placed on hold, the election of a sovereigntist (Quebec nationalist) social democratic party resulted in an underwhelming resolution. Unity among different Left factions during the strike has given way to acrimonious debates over whether anarchist or socialist tactics are to blame over the ultimate defeat of the movement. The attempt to overcome the past through the strike has ironically stirred up older historical sediments of the history of the Canadian Left that seem difficult to overcome.

The teach-in will explore the current crisis of the Canadian Left following the Quebec student strike through the history of the Left in Canada.

Andony Melathopoulos is an interdisciplinary PhD student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. He has been broadly involved with the Canadian labour, environmental and health care advocacy . He was the first Canadian member of Platypus and currently functions as the Vice President for Platypus in Canada and the US Midwest.

German Description:
Bis zum Ausbruch der massiven Studierendenproteste von 2012 waren die politischen Reaktionen gegen die Austeritätspolitik kaum wahrnehmbar. Auch wenn das Symbol des roten Platzes eine Solidarität unter den Protestierenden suggerierte, war es oft unklar, welche konkreten Ziele die Bewegung verfolgte, die über den Protest gegen die Erhöhung von Studiengebühren hinausgingen. Für einige war der Studienstreik eine Form des Widerstandes gegen den Neoliberalismus und das „modèle québécois“, ein System von Arbeitsgesetzen, Bildungsreformen und öffentlichen Zuschüssen, die in der „Stillen Revolution“ der 1960er entstanden waren. Aber für andere signalisierte der Streik die Möglichkeit, die vergangene Versuche zu überflügeln. Das zeigte sich in dem Versuch, dort weiterzumachen, wo die Sozialdemokratie der 1970er aufhörte – etwa in der Forderung nach der Abschaffung von Studiengebühren. Andere wiederum sahen in der sozialdemokratischen Vergangenheit Quebecs das Problem. Angesichts von Occupy und dem Arabischen Frühling sahen sie parlamentarische Versuche als unbedeutend im Vergleich zur direkten Demokratie an, die über fünf Monate hinweg den Studierendenstreik, trotz massiver Polizeigewalt, getragen hatte.

Welche Ziele auch immer verkündet wurden – der Streik unterbot alle Erwartungen. Während die Erhöhung der Studiengebühren vorerst eingefroren wurde, hatte der Wahlsieg einer souverignistischen (Quebec-nationalistischen) sozialdemokratischen Partei enttäuschende Folgen. Die Einheit der verschiedenen linken Fraktionen während der Proteste zerbrach infolge von erbitterten Auseinandersetzungen darüber, ob anarchistische oder sozialdemokratische Taktiken für die schlussendliche Niederlage der Bewegung verantwortlich zu machen seien. Der Versuch, die Vergangenheit durch den Streik zu überflügeln, hat ironischerweise ältere Auseinandersetzungen aus der Geschichte der kanadischen Linken wiederaufleben lassen, die anscheinend nur schwer zu überwinden sind.

Der Teachin wird einen Blick auf die gegenwärtige Krise der kanadischen Linken nach den Studierendenprotesten in Quebec werfen, und anhand dieser eine Einführung in die Geschichte der kanadischen Linken geben.

In der Diskussion wollen wir uns über Ähnlichkeiten und Unterschiede zu der politischen Landschaft in Deutschland und der Entwicklung der Studierendenproteste hierzulande austauschen.

Andony Melathopoulos ist ein interdisziplinärer PhD Student an der Dalhousie University in Halifax, Kanada. Er hat sich für Arbeits-, Umwelt- und Gesundheitsanliegen eingesetzt. Er war das erste kanadische Mitglied von Platypus, wo er gegenwärtig die Arbeit in Kanada und dem mittleren Westen der USA koordiniert.

Die Veranstaltung wird auf Englisch stattfinden.

A panel event held on November 14th, 2012, at Dalhousie University. The first iteration of our "Democracy and the Left" international panel series.

Panelists:
Matthew Furlong (Foundation Year and Contemporary Studies Programme, King’s University)
David Howard (Historical and Critical Studies, NSCAD University)
John Hutton (student activist, Dalhousie)
Clare O’Connor (Toronto activist and author)

From the financial crisis and the bank bail-outs to the question of “sovereign debt”; from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street; from the struggle for a unified European-wide policy to the elections in Greece and Egypt that seem to have threatened so much and promised so little — the need to go beyond mere “protest” has asserted itself: political revolution is in the air, again.

At the same time, the impending general election in the U.S. seems, by comparison, to be a non-event, despite potentially having far-reaching consequences for teeming issues word-wide. Today, the people — the demos — seem resigned to their political powerlessness, even as they rage against the corruption of politics. Hence, while contemporary demands for democracy to politicize the demos, they are also indicative of social and political regression that asks urgently for recognition and reflection. Demands for democracy “from below” end up being expressed “from above”: The 99%, in its already obscure and unorganized character, didn’t express itself as such in the various recent elections, but was split in various tendencies, many of them very reactionary.

Democracy retains an enigmatic character, since it always slips any fixed form and content, since people under the dynamic of capital keep demanding at times “more” democracy and “real” democracy. But democracy can be like Janus: it often expresses both the progressive social and emancipatory demands, but also their defeat, their hijacking by an elected “Bonaparte”.

What is the history informing the demands for greater democracy today, and how does the Left adequately promote — or not — the cause of popular empowerment?

What are the potential futures for “democratic” revolution, especially as understood by the Left?

Questions for panelists to consider:

What would you consider as “real” democracy, as this has been a primary demand of recent spontaneous forms of discontent (e.g. Arab Spring, Occupy, anti-austerity protests, student strikes)?

What is the relationship between democracy and the working class today? Do you consider historical struggles for democracy by workers as the medium by which they got “assimilated” to the system, or the only path to emancipation that they couldn’t avoid trying to take?

Do you consider it as necessary to eschew established forms of mass politics in favor of new forms in order to build a democratic movement? Or are current mass form of politics adequate for a democratic society?

Why has democracy emerged as the primary demand of spontaneous forms of discontent? Do you also consider it necessary, or adequate, to deal with the pathologies of our era?

Engels wrote that “A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is”. Do you agree? Can this conception be compatible with the struggle for democracy?

How is democracy related with the issue of possibly overcoming capital?

Is there a difference between the ancient and the modern notion of democracy and, if so, what is the source of that difference? Does “real” democracy share more with the direct democracy of ancient polis?

Is democracy oppressive, or can it be such? How would you judge Lenin’s formulation that: “…democracy is also a state and that, consequently, democracy will also disappear when the state disappears.”

A roundtable on the Quebec Left following the student strike / Une table ronde sur l'avenir de la Gauche québecoise à la lumière de la grève étudiante
Hosted by the Platypus Affiliated Society / Présenté par la Platypus Affiliated Society
June 18, 2012 / Lundi, 18 heures / le 18 juin 2012
QPIRG McGill

Participants:
Matthew Brett (Canadian Dimension magazine editorial collective, Secretary for the Society for Socialist Studies, Concordia University)
Jamie Burnett (McGill student activist)
Brad Fougere (International Workers of the World (IWW) / Midnight Kitchen)
Coralie Jean (Mouvement Étudiant Révolutionnaire (MER-PCR))
Molly Swain (Gender, Sexuality Diversity, and Feminist Studies Student Association, McGill)

Moderator:
Andony Melathopoulos (Platypus)

Description: While it is clear that the student strike in Quebec expresses more than just discontent against tuition fee hikes, it’s less clear if there is general agreement among strikers on what follows the strike. For many the strike is about resisting neo-liberalism and its assault on the "modèle québécois", the system of labour legislation, educational reform and public welfare that emerged from the 1960s Quiet Revolution. But for others the strike signals a possibility to go beyond the past. This is has been expressed as a desire to pick up where the 1970s social democracy left off through demands such as free tuition. Others view Quebec's social democratic past as being part of the problem. They judge that parliamentary approaches have grown irrelevant in the face of a direct democracy that has carried the strike through five months in spite of massive police reaction.

The Platypus Affiliated Society is hosting this roundtable to explore these different political visions for the future of the Quebec Left. We encourage political disagreement among participants in the spirit of clarifying the potential directions and further development of the student movement. We assert that only when we are able create an active culture of thinking and debating on the Left without it proving prematurely divisive can we begin to imagine a Leftist politics adequate to the historical possibilities of our moment. We may not know what these possibilities for transformation are. This is why we think it is imperative to create avenues of engagement that will support these efforts

Déscription: Bien qu'il soit évident que la grève étudiante au Québec exprime plus qu'un simple mécontentement face à la hausse des frais de scolarité, il est moins évident de discerner une position commune parmi les grévistes par rapport à ce qui suivra la grève. Plusieurs voient la grève comme étant une forme de résistance contre le néo-libéralisme et l'assaut que celui-ci exerce sur le "modèle québécois": le système de la législation du travail, de réforme éducative et de sécurité sociale établie lors de la Révolution tranquille des années 60. Mais pour d'autres, la grève signale la possibilité d'aller au delà du passé. Ce point de vue a été exprimé par le désir de prendre la relève de la démocratie sociale des années 70 à travers des demandes comme celle de l'abolition totale des frais de scolarité. Encore d'autres grévistes voient le passé social-démocrate du Québec comme faisant partie du problème. Ceux-ci jugent que l'approche parlementaire est devenue désuète face à une démocratie directe qui a porté la grève pendant 5 mois, en dépit d'une massive réaction policière.

La Platypus Affiliated Society présente cette table ronde dans le but d'explorer ces différentes visions politiques de l'avenir de la Gauche québécoise. Nous encourageons le désaccord politique parmi les participants, dans l'esprit de pouvoir clarifier les directions et développements possibles au sein du mouvement étudiant. Nous affirmons que nous ne pourrions imaginer une politique de gauche, adéquate aux possibilités historiques de notre moment, que lors d'avoir créé une culture de débat et de pensée active au sein de la Gauche elle-même. Il se peut que nous n'avons pas encore pris conscience de ces possibilités de transformation. Voici pourquoi nous croyons en l'impératif de créer des forums de délibération qui soutiendront ces efforts de prise de conscience.

A moderated panel discussion and audience Q&A on problems of strategies and tactics on the Left today held on Thursday, 19 January 2012 at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Panelists:
Eric Anatolik (Occupy NS)
Jacques Beaudoin (Parti communiste revolutionnaire - Revolutionary Communist Party, Canada)
Howard Epstein (New Democratic Party MLA Halifax Chebucto)
Max Haiven (Edu-Factory, Historical and Critical Studies NSCAD)
Andony Melathopoulos (Platypus)

The panel was moderated by Pam Nogales.

"After the failure of the 1960s New Left, the underlying despair with regard to the real efficacy of political will, of political agency, in a historical situation of heightened helplessness, became a self-constitution as outsider, as other, rather than an instrument of transformation. Focused on the bureaucratic stasis of the Fordist, late 20th Century world, the Left echoed the destruction of that world by the dynamics of capital: neoliberalism and globalization.

"The idea of a fundamental transformation became bracketed and, instead, was replaced by the more ambiguous notion of 'resistance.' The notion of resistance, however, says little about the nature of that which is being resisted, or of the politics of the resistance involved.

"'Resistance' is rarely based on a reflexive analysis of possibilities for fundamental change that are both generated and suppressed by the dynamic heteronomous order of capital. 'Resistance' is an undialectical category that does not grasp its own conditions of possibility; it fails to grasp the dynamic historical context of capital and its reconstitution of possibilities for both domination and emancipation, of which the 'resisters' do not recognize that that they are a part."

-- Moishe Postone, "History and Helplessness: Mass mobilization and contemporary forms of anticapitalism" (2006)

In the mid-19th century, Marx and Engels famously observed in the Communist Manifesto that a specter was haunting Europe: the specter of Communism. 160 years later, it is Marxism itself that haunts us.

In the 21st century, it seems that the Left abandoned Marxism as a path to freedom. But Marx critically intervened in his own moment and emboldened leftists to challenge society; is the Left not tasked with this today? Has the Left resolved the problems posed by Marx, and thus moved on?

With Platypus Affiliated Society member Andony Melathopoulos.

Last November Platypus organized a teach-in led by Sam Gindin of the Canadian Auto Workers on "Public Sector Unionism, Austerity and the Left" at York University in Toronto. An audio and video recording is available above. What follows is an edited version of the interview Andony Melathopoulos of Platypus conducted with Gindin as a follow up to the teach-in.
In September of this year, Andony Melathopoulos interviewed Imre Szeman, author, professor, and founder of the Canadian Association of Cultural Studies, on behalf of the Platypus Review, to discuss his analysis of oil politics in light of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the political responses to it. The interview was prepared in conjunction with Brian Worley.
The ominously titled 2007 PBS documentary Silence of the Bees begins with a montage of the streets of a major U.S. city that had grown silent because its inhabitants vanished. The empty city, we are told, is not unlike the beehives afflicted by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a commercial honey bee syndrome that has resulted in massive apian losses. A few minutes into the documentary, however, we are informed that the metaphor should be considered more literally, as “the bees’ disappearance could have colossal repercussions for humans.”
The following interview was conducted as an email exchange between Andony Melathopoulos and Terry Glavin in December 2008. Terry Glavin is a Canadian journalist, an outspoken critic of the anti-war movement's call to withdrawal foreign troops from Afghanistan and a founder of the Afghanistan Canada Solidarity Committee (afghanistan-canada-solidarity.org).
A paradox confronts American environmentalists, according to James Gustave Speth, the Dean of Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies: “We now have a flourishing environmental movement, a proliferating number of organisations, more and more money going into this, decades now of environmental legislation and programs, at all levels of government, and the environment keeps going downhill.”