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Democracy and the Left (Sheffield)

Held at the University of Sheffield on April 12, 2019.

Description:

From Brexit and the French yellow-vests to the AfD in Germany, the present centre of political attention is the crisis being expressed through democratic politics both within the nation-state and at the level of the EU. How should the Left understand and relate to this crisis? More broadly speaking, 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?

Speakers:

Anton Jäger (PhD History student, University of Cambridge)
Patrick Finan (Alliance for Workers' Liberty)
Isaac Stovell (Independent researcher, activist, ecclesial ecologist)

Moderated by Rory Hannigan

Questions for panelists:

  1. 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 were “assimilated” to the system, or the only path to emancipation that they couldn’t avoid trying to take?
  2. Do you consider it as necessary to eschew established forms of mass politics in favour of new forms in order to build a democratic movement? Or are current mass form of politics adequate for a democratic society?
  3. Why has democracy emerged as the primary demand of spontaneous forms of discontent? Do you consider it necessary, or adequate, to deal with the pathologies of our era?
  4. 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?
  5. 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”?

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