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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

Panel Description: 
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.

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A panel event held on April 5th, 2014 at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago at the Sixth Annual Platypus International Convention.

Panelists:

Bill Barclay 
James Heartfield (audacity.org)
Mel Rothenberg (Chicago Political Economy Group)

Moderator:
Alex Gonopolskiy (Platypus London)

Description:

With the end of the Cold War and the disintegration of the Communist states the world has witnessed the unchallenged restoration of capitalism. This new configuration seems to radically alter the conditions in which the Left thinks and acts. Economically the collapse gave the European Union an unprecedented upwind and allowed it to integrate the markets of many countries that were formerly part of the Soviet hemisphere. The EU set out with the aim to be a competitive economic entity on global markets and on the international political arena. The EU project was to guarantee for a lasting peace and prosperity in Europe – a “lesson learned” from war and destruction that shaped the first half of the 20th century. And yet there is no grand idea, no ideological driving force accompanying the close economic ties and dependencies that have developed throughout the continent.

After two decades of economic expansion Europe hit a severe crisis in 2009 that was neither foreseen nor properly resolved. The attempt to solve this problem, five years on, has resulted in the wholesale unravelling of the gains brought about by Social Democracy over the past 150 years. And yet, there does not seem to be any clear answer and not even a vague direction proposed by the Left to tackle it. While on the streets of Greece, Spain and Italy – the countries directly affected by austerity programs – there is popular unrest against the remedies imposed by “the Troika” there is no course of action by the Left that would be adequate to the international character of the problem. In the powerhouses of the EU the quiet and – at best – sporadic protests seem to aim at reproducing the politics of anti-austerity from their southern neighbors. From the Social Democratic suggestion of a “European New Deal” to the slogan of “Blockupy” the Left response speaks to the lack of imagination and possibilities through which to seriously challenge the course of events. The European Left seems to have lost its inspirational character for world politics, not to speak of any real organizational capacities.

This panel will focus on the meaning and potential effect of the crisis in Europe for the Left internationally. What are the conditions that created the crisis, what can it tell us about the world we currently live in and what lessons does it provide for the project of reconstituting an international Left?

Questions:

1. What is the European Union in light of the historical reconfiguration of international geopolitics after the Cold War? Does it have an impact on or is it a sign of a change of how capitalism operates today and in the future? Does thinking about the EU help us to understand the world of today or is it a merely retarded duplicate of changes that the US has undergone a long time ago?

2. What does the Euro-crisis signify for world economy and politics? Does it have a global or a merely “local” character? Is it just a more complicated instantiation of the global economic crisis of 2008 or does it have a “life of its own”, pointing to deeper problems either with the EU itself or global capitalism more generally? What caused the crisis and how can it be resolved – and what does “resolve” mean in this context?

3. What political answers are out there suggested by the Left? Are their regional, European or international in nature? Are they equipped to tackle the problems analyzed above? Is the Left equipped to politically answer or even understand the current crisis? Can you suggest any answers and a path to achieve it? What would need to happen to change the current deadlock?

4. Do the austerity programs mean an end of European Social Democracy? Does the dismantling of the welfare state mean an end of Europe's “third way between Capitalism and Communism”? What implications does this have for the global Left?

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A panel event held at the University of Chicago on December 3rd, 2012.

RAYMOND LOTTAJOE PERSKYDAVID RUCCIODAVID SCHEICKART

The present moment is arguably one of unprecedented confusion on the Left. The emergence of many new theoretical perspectives on Marxism, anarchism, and the left generally seem rather than signs of a newfound vitality, the intellectual reflux of its final disintegration in history. As for the politics that still bothers to describe itself as leftist today, it seems no great merit that it is largely disconnected from the academic left’s disputations over everything from imperialism to ecology. Perhaps nowhere are these symptoms more pronounced than around the subject of the economy. As Marxist economics has witnessed of late a flurry of recent works, many quite involved in their depth and complexity, recent activism around austerity, joblessness, and non-transparency while quite creative in some respects seems hesitant to oppose with anything but nostalgia for the past the status quo mantra, “There is no Alternative.” At a time when the United States has entered the most prolonged slump since the Great Depression, the European project founders on the shoals of debt and nationalism. If the once triumphant neoliberal project of free markets for free people seems utterly exhausted, the “strange non-death of neo-liberalism,” as a recent book title has it, seems poised to carry on indefinitely. The need for a Marxist politics adequate to the crisis is as great as such a politics is lacking.

And 2011 now seems to be fading into the past. In Greece today as elsewhere in Europe existing Left parties remain largely passive in the face of the crisis, eschewing radical solutions (if they even imagine such solutions to exist). In the United States, #Occupy has vanished from the parks and streets, leaving only bitter grumbling where there once seemed to be creativity and open-ended potential. In Britain, the 2011 London Riots, rather than political protest, was trumpeted as the shafted generation’s response to the crisis, overshadowing the police brutality that actually occasioned it. Finally, in the Arab world where, we are told the 2011 revolution is still afoot, it seems inconceivable that the revolution, even as it bears within it the hopes of millions, could alter the economic fate of any but a handful. While joblessness haunts billions worldwide, politicization of the issue seems chiefly the prerogative of the right. Meanwhile, the poor worldwide face relentless price rises in fuel and essential foodstuffs. The prospects for world revolution seem remote at best, even as bankers and fund managers seem to lament democracy’s failure in confronting the crisis. In this sense, it seems plausible to argue that there is no crisis at all, but simply the latest stage in an ongoing social regression. What does it mean to say that we face a crisis, after all, when there is no real prospect that anything particularly is likely to change, at least not for the better?

In this opaque historical moment, Platypus wants to raise some basic questions: Do we live in a crisis of capitalism today and, if so, of what sort — political? economic? social? Why do seemingly sophisticated leftist understandings of the world appear unable to assist in the task of changing it? Conversely, can the world be thought intelligible without our capacity to self-consciously transform it through practice? Can Marxism survive as an economics or social theory without politics? Is there capitalism after socialism?

Questions:

1. Do we live in a crisis of capitalism today and, if so, of what sort — political? economic? social? Is capitalism basically the same in its “laws of motion” and can it be grasped equally well today as it was by Marx? What difference, if any, does the collapse of the socialist workers movement make for our understanding of capitalism?

2. Why are sophisticated leftist understandings of the world seemingly unable to assist in the task of changing it? Conversely, is the world intelligible despite our incapacity to transform it politically? Can the Left survive as an economics or social theory? Is our work more “difficult” today in theorizing capitalism, or of a completely different kind than it was for past generations of leftist intellectuals?

3. Many on the Left welcomed the #Occupy movement in 2011 because, above all, it responded to capitalist austerity in its slogans and characterized itself in class terms. Did #Occupy betoken a renewed salience of class? How did #Occupy and other movements worldwide differ from the political response — whether by the new social movements or other political expressions — to the crisis of Fordism beginning in the late 1960s and crystallizing with the Oil Crisis in 1973?

4. How does the present crisis compare with past crises of capital? What might we expect to be the duration of the present crisis? Is there an end in sight? Or are we witnessing the “terminal crisis” of capitalism? How do we know? If not the end of capitalism as such, does the present crisis at least signal an end to neoliberalism? If so, what will take its place?

5. How do your political views influence your understanding of capitalism and crisis? In what sense is economics as a science or discipline independent and autonomous from those politics? How do you avoid the danger of your theory from simply confirming your politics, rather than allowing our understanding of present circumstances to help push beyond our present political impasse?

6. At different moments of its unfolding the crisis has been differently expressed in different locations — a sub-prime mortgage crisis in North America, then a sovereign debt crisis in Europe, and now in a still different form in China. What is the extent of the present crisis and how has it been distributed globally? Unevenly? What does globalization look like in a period of prolonged crisis? Is the era of US hegemony at an end? If so, what will take its place? How is/was American imperialism connected to first Fordism and, later, post-Fordist capitalism and how does the new capitalism challenge a new American Empire-led global (re-)organization?

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Video coming soon! Audio recording above.

A panel event held on Saturday, December 1st, 2012 at the Mile End campus of Queen Mary University.

Transcribed in Platypus Review #55 (Click below to see):

theprweb1-91

The present moment is arguably one of unprecedented confusion on the Left. The emergence of many new theoretical perspectives on Marxism, anarchism, and the left generally seem rather than signs of a newfound vitality, the intellectual reflux of its final disintegration in history. As for the politics that still bothers to describe itself as leftist today, it seems no great merit that it is largely disconnected from the academic left’s disputations over everything from imperialism to ecology. Perhaps nowhere are these symptoms more pronounced than around the subject of the economy. As Marxist economics has witnessed of late a flurry of recent works, many quite involved in their depth and complexity, recent activism around austerity, joblessness, and non-transparency while quite creative in some respects seems hesitant to oppose with anything but nostalgia for the past the status quo mantra, “There is no Alternative.” At a time when the United States has entered the most prolonged slump since the Great Depression, the European project founders on the shoals of debt and nationalism. If the once triumphant neoliberal project of free markets for free people seems utterly exhausted, the “strange non-death of neo-liberalism,” as a recent book title has it, seems poised to carry on indefinitely. The need for a Marxist politics adequate to the crisis is as great as such a politics is lacking.

And 2011 now seems to be fading into the past. In Greece today as elsewhere in Europe existing Left parties remain largely passive in the face of the crisis, eschewing radical solutions (if they even imagine such solutions to exist). In the United States, #Occupy has vanished from the parks and streets, leaving only bitter grumbling where there once seemed to be creativity and open-ended potential. In Britain, the 2011 London Riots, rather than political protest, was trumpeted as the shafted generation’s response to the crisis, overshadowing the police brutality that actually occasioned it. Finally, in the Arab world where, we are told the 2011 revolution is still afoot, it seems inconceivable that the revolution, even as it bears within it the hopes of millions, could alter the economic fate of any but a handful. While joblessness haunts billions worldwide, politicization of the issue seems chiefly the prerogative of the right. Meanwhile, the poor worldwide face relentless price rises in fuel and essential foodstuffs. The prospects for world revolution seem remote at best, even as bankers and fund managers seem to lament democracy’s failure in confronting the crisis. In this sense, it seems plausible to argue that there is no crisis at all, but simply the latest stage in an ongoing social regression. What does it mean to say that we face a crisis, after all, when there is no real prospect that anything particularly is likely to change, at least not for the better?

In this opaque historical moment, Platypus wants to raise some basic questions: Do we live in a crisis of capitalism today and, if so, of what sort — political? economic? social? Why do seemingly sophisticated leftist understandings of the world appear unable to assist in the task of changing it? Conversely, can the world be thought intelligible without our capacity to self-consciously transform it through practice? Can leftist theoretical frameworks survive as an economics or social theory without politics? Is there capitalism after socialism?

Panelists:
David Graeber (author, Debt: the First 5000 Years)
Saul Newman (author, From Bakunin to Lacan)
Hillel Ticktin (co-founder, Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory)
James Woudhuysen (contributor to Sp!iked magazine)

Moderator:
Lucy Parker

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Platypus Affiliated Society member Chris Cutrone on RT's Crosstalk, hosted by Peter Lavelle, on the global economic crisis.

“The IMF has released a report that predicts the hoped-for global economic growth is again endangered. Why is this happening? Why has the Great Recession come back so early? Did it ever end? Has austerity made things worse? And is there a way to avoid the ‘fiscal cliff’ issue in Washington? CrossTalking with Seijiro Takeshita (Mizuho International, London), Martin Hennecke (Tyche Group, Hong Kong) and Chris Cutrone (School of the Art Institute of Chicago).” The impasse of policy, stimulus vs. austerity, and the question of different models for capitalism and the need for socialism.

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Presentation by Platypus Affiliated Society member Thodoris Velissaris at the Finanskriseseminar conference in Karlsøya, Norway, on August 10, 2012.

The following transcript is from an event that took place on April 2, 2012 at the University of Chicago, in conjunction with the 2012 Platypus International Convention, titled “Responses to the Global Economic Downturn.” Members and contacts of the Platypus Affiliated Society in Europe were invited to speak on their experience of leftist responses to the economic downturn. The speakers included Haseeb Ahmed (Netherlands), Valentin Badura (Austria), Cengiz Kulac (Austria), Moritz Roeger (Germany), Jerzy Sobotta (Germany), and Thodoris Velissaris (Greece).
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A public forum with students, activists and organizers from across the globe held on April 2nd, 2012.

Transcript in Platypus Review #48 (Click below):

From teach-ins in the UK, occupations in Austria and Germany and protests in the Netherlands and Greece, responses to the economic downturn are international in character. These new developments require coordination across global networks and it is why Platypus at U. Chicago is organizing a series of international panels that we hope can take place in Universities across the world where Platypus student members havebeen 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 ahead.

Panelists:
Haseeb Ahmed(Maastricht)
Valentin Badura(Austria)
Cengiz Kulac (Austria)
Moritz Roeger (Germany)
Jerzy Sobotta (Germany)
Thodoris Velissaris(Greece)

Moderated by Pam C. Nogales C. (Platypus)

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23/11/2011
Φιλοσοφική Σχολή Α.Π.Θ.
Ομιλητές:
Στάυρος Μαυρουδέας
Χρήστος Λάσκος
Γρηγόρης Τσιλιμαντός
Μπάμπης Κουρουνδής
Συντονιστής:
Θοδωρής Βελισσάρης

@Thessaloniki, Greece: Wednesday, Nov. 23rd, 6:00 – 9:00pm
New building of School of Philosophy, Room 112
Aristotle University

An international forum on the
CRISIS OF THE LEFT
Chicago | NYC | Philly | Boston | Thessaloniki

A panel of the Crisis of the Left international forum held on November, 23rd, 2011 at Aristotle University

Crisis: Pathol. The point in the progress of a disease when an important development or change takes place which is decisive of recovery or death. “…Existing strategies and theories seem inadequate in a bewildering contemporary political scene. Disparate groups have begun to show an interest in rethinking the fundamentals of Left politics…”

Many on the Left feel a sense of crisis.

Existing strategies and theories seem inadequate in a bewildering contemporary political scene. Disparate groups have begun to show an interest in rethinking the fundamentals of Left politics. The Platypus Affiliated Society seeks to make the conversation explicit, and to host a series of discussions about the crisis of the contemporary Left: its quality, causes, and significance for future reconstitution and transformation.

Across five cities worldwide, we’ve invited figures from across the Left–academics, political organizers, theorists–to answer and debate six fundamental questions. We also pose these questions to the Left as a whole and invite responses from all quarters. The questions below stem from confusion; taking nothing for granted, we hope that confronting this confusion might open up future possibilities for renewed consciousness and practice on the Left.

Speaker Questions
1.) How would you define the Left?

2.) Do you think the Left is in crisis? If so, then what constitutes the crisis?

3.) In trying to understand the contemporary Left, what history matters most? What tasks and problems have we inherited from the Old Left and the New Left?

4.) Could the Left have done something to avoid its current impasses? If so, what?

5.) What is the relationship between the Left and anti-capitalism? Between the Left and Marxism? What should it be?
How does the Left need to change? Who is responsible for making the change happen?

Speakers: Stavros Mavroudeas, Xristos Laskos, Grigoris Tsilimantos, Babis Kouroundis

Moderated by Thodoris Velissaris

Stavros Mavroudeas is an Associate Professor of Political Economy in the Department of Economics of the University of Macedonia, where he has worked and taught since 1993. He’s published several articles in international and Greek journals of political economy, including Science & Society, Review of Radical Political Economics, Review of Political Economy, and has contributed to edited volumes. His publications include “Forms of existence of abstract labour and the value-form,” “Regulation theory: The road from creative Marxism to post-modern disintegration” and “Henryk Grossmann’s falling rate of profit theory of crisis: A presentation and a reply to old and new critics,” among many others. He is also a founding member and secretary of the Greek Scientific Society of Political Economy.

Xristos Laskos is an economist and member of the Political Secretariat of SYN (Coalition of Left and Ecological Movements). His articles frequently appear in newspapers such as Avgi and Epochi, and he is a member of the editorial board of Entos Epochis (a journal distributed every two weeks with Epochi). His recent book, No turning back: From Keynes to Thatcher: Capitalist crises, social needs, socialism (with Eykleidis Tsakalotos) was recently published in Greece by Kapsimi editions.

Grisgoris Tsilimantos lives and works in Thessaloniki. He is a member of the Anti-authoritarian Movement.

Babis Kouroundis is a lawyer who lives in Thessaloniki. He is a member of the Socialist Workers Party’s Regional Committee of Thessaloniki, and is also a member of the national coordinating committee of the ANTARSYA (Front of the Greek Anti-capitalist Left).

Thodoris Velissaris has studied economics and philosophy, and currently works as a teacher. He has been active in several political projects in Greece over the past years. He is now a member of Platypus Affiliated Society. Check out his recent article on the Greek crisis in the Platypus Review.

Play

An international forum on the
CRISIS OF THE LEFT
Chicago | NYC | Philly | Boston | Thessaloniki

Crisis: Pathol. The point in the progress of a disease when an important development or change takes place which is decisive of recovery or death. “…Existing strategies and theories seem inadequate in a bewildering contemporary political scene. Disparate groups have begun to show an interest in rethinking the fundamentals of Left politics…”

Many on the Left feel a sense of crisis.

Existing strategies and theories seem inadequate in a bewildering contemporary political scene. Disparate groups have begun to show an interest in rethinking the fundamentals of Left politics. The Platypus Affiliated Society seeks to make the conversation explicit, and to host a series of discussions about the crisis of the contemporary Left: its quality, causes, and significance for future reconstitution and transformation.

Across five cities worldwide, we’ve invited figures from across the Left–academics, political organizers, theorists–to answer and debate six fundamental questions. We also pose these questions to the Left as a whole and invite responses from all quarters. The questions below stem from confusion; taking nothing for granted, we hope that confronting this confusion might open up future possibilities for renewed consciousness and practice on the Left.

Speaker Questions
1.) How would you define the Left?

2.) Do you think the Left is in crisis? If so, then what constitutes the crisis?

3.) In trying to understand the contemporary Left, what history matters most? What tasks and problems have we inherited from the Old Left and the New Left?

4.) Could the Left have done something to avoid its current impasses? If so, what?

5.) What is the relationship between the Left and anti-capitalism? Between the Left and Marxism? What should it be?
How does the Left need to change? Who is responsible for making the change happen?

Speakers:
Paul Berman is a writer on politics and literature who is affiliated with two magazines, The New Republic and Dissent, and also contributes from time to time to the New York Times, once in a while to Slate, and to other journals. He has written a history of the left-wing Generation of 1968 around the world, so far in two volumes, under the titles "A Tale of Two Utopias" and "Power and the Idealists." His other books include "The Flight of the Intellectuals," "Terror and Liberalism," and a number of edited anthologies, including a "Selected Poems" of Carl Sandburg. His books have been translated into fifteen languages. His next book will be a study of Nathaniel Hawthorne - who, after all, went through a socialist phase.

Carl Dix is a long-time revolutionary activist. He was one of the Fort Lewis 6, soldiers who refused to ship off to Vietnam. He is a founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. He is a leading figure in the movement to stop the mass incarceration of Black and Latino youth.

Bertell Ollman is a professor in the Dept. of Politics at NYU, but has also given courses on Marx at Oxford and Columbia. He is the author of Alienation: Marx's Conception of Man in Capitalist Society, Social and Sexual Revoluition: Essays on Marx and Reich, Dance of the Dialectic: Steps in Marxâs Method, Class Struggle is the Name of the Fame: True Confessions of a Marxist Businessman (he is also the creator of the Class Struggle board game), How to Take an Exam...and Remake the World, and a number of other works in this general area. He is currently completing the first collection of Marx's writings on economic crisis.

Marco Roth is an editor and co-founder of n+1 magazine.

Nikil Saval is an associate editor of n+1, where he is a frequent contributor. His writing has appeared in Slate, The New York Times, Oxford American, and The London Review of Books. He is currently working on a book about the history of office design and white-collar work.

Moderator:
Jeremy Cohan is a PhD candidate in sociology at NYU, as well as the lead NYC organizer for the Platypus Affiliated Society. Jeremy has written and presented on the political and social theory of Marx, Georg Lukacs, and Michel Foucault; he has chaired several panels for the Platypus Affiliated Society, including on nationalism, bourgeois revolutions, Obama and the Left, and sexual liberation; he is currently doing research on transformations in American education and on early twentieth century revolutions. He has taught introductory sociology and philosophy courses, as well as courses on fascism, and will be a graduate assistant in the year to come in a program on Critical Theory and the Arts.