One of the plenary sessions held at the third annual Platypus Affiliated Society international convention, hosted by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago between April 29–May 1, 2011, set about exploring the legacy of Trotsky’s Marxism.
Speakers Mike Macnair of the Communist Party of Great Britain, Bryan Palmer of Trent University, Richard Rubin of Platypus, and Jason Wright of the International Bolshevik Tendency were asked to consider:
“What is the relevance of Trotskyism for the Left today? On the one hand, there is a simple answer: The mantle of Trotskyism is claimed by many of today’s most prominent and numerous leftist parties in America and Europe (and beyond). The International Socialist Organization in America, the Socialist Workers Party in Britain, and the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste in France all have their origins in Trotskyism. Evidently, the collapse of Stalinism in 1989 left Trotskyism’s bona fides, as anti-Stalinist Marxism, intact. On the other hand, Trotskyism has been infamously associated on the Left with sectarianism. Certainly, the ISO, SWP and NPA long ago made their peace in crucial ways with the politics of the post-Marxist New Left — a revisionism that their sectarian brethren (for instance, Trotskyism’s bête noire, the Spartacist League) have proudly and doggedly opposed. However, despite their differences, all varieties of Trotskyism today evince the conditions of the New Left’s ‘return to Marxism’ in the 1970s, for which the legacy of Trotsky provided one significant vehicle (the other being Maoism). For instance Trotsky’s biographer, Isaac Deutscher, strongly influenced the journal New Left Review. And yet there is something peculiar about this legacy. As one Platypus writer has suggested, Trotsky is as out of place in the post-World War II world as Voltaire or Rousseau would have been in the world after the French Revolution. Trotsky, unlike Trotskyism, exemplifies the classical Marxism of the early 20th century, and that tradition certainly died with him. Thus, before we can understand how Trotskyism’s legacy has influenced the Marxism of our time, we must first answer the question: What has Trotskyism made of Trotsky’s Marxism?”
Mike Macnair, Communist Party of Great Britain (Oxford Univ. St. Hugh College)
Bryan Palmer (Trent University)
Richard Rubin, Platypus
Jason Wright, representative of the International Bolshevik Tendency
Representative of the International Socialist Organization (Declined to attend)
A panel discussion organized by the Platypus Affiliated Society, held on March 20, 2011 at Left Forum, Pace University.
Marx and Engels were not the preeminent socialists but rather socialism's greatest critics, distinguishing their "communism" from "reactionary," "bourgeois" and "democratic" socialism. Lately, Marx is taken for his theoretical analysis of capitalism more than his and Engels's revolutionary politics, discredited after the 20th century's spectacular failures of "Marxism." So what is Marx and Engels's political legacy? What Marx wrote after the failed "social-democratic" revolutions of 1848 still resonates: "Every demand of the simplest bourgeois financial reform, of the most ordinary liberalism, of the most formal republicanism, of the most insipid democracy, is simultaneously castigated as an 'attempt on society' and stigmatized as 'socialism'." How does Marx and Engels's politics of "communism," that is, socialism aware of its historical vocation, task us today?
A panel discussion organized by the Platypus Affiliated Society, held on March 19, 2011, at Left Forum, Pace University.
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. Abbe Sieyes 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?
James Vaughn - University of Texas at Austin, Platypus Affiliated Society
Jeremy Cohan - New York University
Richard Rubin - Platypus Affiliated Society
Spencer Leonard - University of Chicago, Platypus Affiliated Society
Platypus presents: Lessons from the history of Marxism
Please join us for the following panel discussions:
The Bourgeois Revolution: from Marxâ€™s point of view
//Saturday, March 19 | 10:00 a.m. â€“ 11:50 a.m. | room W603A
Sponsored by the Platypus Review
James Vaughn - University of Texas at Austin, The Platypus Affiliated Society
Richard Rubin - The Platypus Affiliated Society
Spencer Leonard - University of Chicago, The Platypus Affiliated Society
Jeremy Cohan (chair) - New York University, The Platypus Affiliated Society
//Saturday, March 19 | 12:00 p.m. â€“ 1:50 p.m. | room W607
Chris Cutrone - School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Platypus Affiliated Society
Paul Le Blanc - LaRoche College
Lars T. Lih - Independent researcher
Ian Morrison (chair) - University of Chicago, The Platypus Affiliated Society
The Marxism of Rosa Luxemburg
//Saturday, March 19 | 12:00 p.m. â€“ 1:50 p.m. | room W606
Greg Gabrellas - University of Chicago, The Platypus Affiliated Society
Stephen Eric Bronner - Rutgers University
Ben Shepard (chair) - The Platypus Affiliated Society
//Saturday, March 19 | 3:00 p.m. â€“ 4:50 p.m. | room W607
Jeremy Cohan - New York University, The Platypus Affiliated Society
Marco Torres - University of Chicago, The Platypus Affiliated Society
Timothy Bewes - Brown University
Timothy Hall - University of East London, U.K.
Chris Cutrone (chair) - School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Platypus Affiliated Society
Aesthetics in Protests
//Saturday, March 19 | 3:00 p.m. â€“ 4:50 p.m. | room E330
Chris Mansour - Parsons School of Design, The Platypus Affiliated Society
Laurel Whitney - Yes Men
Marc Herbst - Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, Reclaim the Streets
Stephen Duncombe - New York University
Jamie Keesling (chair) - 491, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Platypus Affiliated Society
Debating Alain Badiouâ€™s â€œPolitics of Emancipationâ€
//Saturday, March 19 | 5:00 p.m. â€“ 6:50 p.m | room W615
Sponsored by the Demarcations
Bruno Bosteels - Cornell University
Chris Cutrone - The Platypus Affiliated Society, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Nayi Duniya - Demarcations journal
Saul Thomas (chair) - University of Chicago
//Saturday, March 19 | 5:00 p.m. â€“ 6:50 p.m | room W607
Ian Morrison - University of Chicago, The Platypus Affiliated Society
Jason Wright - International Bolshevik Tendency
Susan Williams - Freedom Socialist Party
Spencer Leonard (chair) - University of Chicago, The Platypus Affiliated Society
Marx and Engelsâ€™s Marxism
//Sunday, March 20 | 10:00 a.m. â€“ 11:50 a.m. | room W603A
Sponsored by the Platypus Review
Benjamin Blumberg - University of Chicago, The Platypus Affiliated Society
Nathan Smith - University of Chicago, The Platypus Affiliated Society
Pam Nogales - New York University, The Platypus Affiliated Society
Richard Rubin - The Platypus Affiliated Society
Tana Forrester (chair) - University of Chicago, The Platypus Affiliated Society
A roundtable discussion between Alan Goodman from The Revolutionary Communist Party USA, and Richard Rubin from Platypus entitled “Marxism and Israel: Left Perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” at Hunter College in New York City. Panelists were asked to speak on the role the Left has played in the development of Israel, the Left’s analysis of the role of American intervention in the Middle East, and what a critical Marxian approach to the conflict currently looks like, compared to what it might look like.
Questions for the panelists:
1. Historically, what role has the Marxist Left played in the development of Israel? What would a critical Marxist perspective on Israel, the ideology of Zionism and the Palestinian conflict look like? Has a Left critique historically been applied?
2. What is the relationship between American political hegemony and Israel? How has this traditionally been understood by the "Left", and how is it now portrayed? Has this understanding obscured attempts at political and theoretical analysis? How has it affected the international "Left's" approach to the actual political opposition among Palestinians?
3. Why have leftist approaches to the conflict emphasized a politics of resistance over cogent political visions? Do measures, such as BDS campaigns and the Flotilla effort, that seek to delegitimize Israel and the ideology of Zionism through resistance to its immediate means and policies ameliorate immediate social conditions or clarify political conditions? If not, what sort of approach should be emphasized?
On February 23th, 2010, Platypus hosted an event entitled Which Way Forward for Palestinian Liberation? in which Joel Kovel, author of Overcoming Zionism and frequent commentator on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and Hussein Ibish, political analyst and senior fellow at The American Task Force on Palestine, answered questions posed by Richard Rubin of Platypus.
Hussein Ibish is a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine and is the executive director of the Hala Salaam Maksoud Foundation for Arab- American Leadership. From 1998-2004, he was Communications Director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the largest Arab-American membership organization in the United States, with which he authored, along with Ali Abunimah, the issue-paper The Palestinian Right of Return. Ibish will discuss his recent book, What’s Wrong with the One State Agenda? Why Ending the Occupation and Peace with Israel is Still the Palestinian National Goal.
Joel Kovel is professor emeritus of social studies at Bard College, editor in chief of Capitalism, Nature, Socialism and the author of several books, including White Racism: A Psychohistory, A Complete Guide to Therapy, The Age of Desire: Case Histories of a Radical Psychoanalyst, The Radical Spirit, and The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or The End of the World. In 1998, he was the Green Party candidate for U.S. Senator from New York. He will be discussing his most recent book, Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine.