Platypus at the 2019 Left Forum
This year Platypus will participate in Left Forum at Long Island University Brooklyn in New York City, hosting two hosting two panels titled "The New Deal and American Socialism" and "Beyond Sect or Movement: What is a Political Center?"
Visit leftforum.org for more details and registration.
[7-12-2019]: Recordings of each event have been added below.
Beyond Sect or Movement: What is a Political Center?
Sunday, June 30th
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10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
In his 1973 essay, "Anatomy of the Micro-Sect," Hal Draper gives a definition of a party as opposed to a ‘movement’ or the ‘sects’ that seemed to dominate the Left of his time:
A sect presents itself as the embodiment of the socialist movement, though it is a membership organization whose boundary is set more or less rigidly by the points in its political program rather than by its relation to the social struggle. In contrast, a working-class party is not simply an electoral organization but rather, whether electorally engaged or not, an organization which really is the political arm of decisive sectors of the working class, which politically reflects (or refracts) the working class in motion as it is. A “socialist movement” sums up the mass manifestations of a socialist working class in various fields, not only the political, usually around a mass socialist party.”
Against both the “sect” and merely building a “movement,” Draper argues for the formation of a “political center,” which would be different from a unification of sects, as a first step towards the goal of building a socialist party. How is our present moment similar to or different from that of Draper? What is a socialist party and what are the greatest obstacles today to its realization and how can those obstacles be met? Hal Draper was deeply influenced by his study of Marx and Marxism when he wrote this essay. What can we learn from Hal Draper’s Marxism today?
Grant Gallagher is a former member of the Red Party and a host of Swampside Chats, a member of the Emancipation Podcast Network.
Spencer A. Leonard is a professor of history at the University of Virginia and a founding member of the Platypus Affiliated Society.
Jim Creegan is a former member of Students for a Democratic Society as well as the International Bolshevik Tendency and the Spartacist League.
Michael Hirsch is an editor of New Politics Magazine and Portside News Service and a member of Democratic Socialists of America.
The New Deal and American Socialism
Sunday, June 30th
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12:30 - 2:30 p.m.
The New Deal is widely associated with socialism. This association holds true not only within the popular imagination shared across many sections of American society, but also within the historical imagination of the contemporary Left. This panel will consider the New Deal as it appeared to organized political tendencies that struggled for socialism during and after the 1930s. It will ask whether and how the New Deal -- its life, its legacy, its crisis, its memory, and its potential revival -- has advanced the struggle for socialism in America and beyond.
We ask the panelists to consider the following questions:
- How did socialists of various tendencies -- the Communist Party USA, the Socialist Party of America, Trotskyists, and anarchists -- relate to the New Deal during the 1930s?
- How, in their respective views, did the New Deal (considered both as policy and as politics) present obstacles to and/or opportunities for advancing the struggle for socialism?
- The liberal political coalition forged in part through New Deal policies subsequently prosecuted first the anti-fascist Second World War and then the anti-Communist Cold War; it also administered the American-led reconstitution of global capitalism beginning in 1945 that oversaw the creation of the European welfare state. Considering how the New Deal helped usher in a new era of global capitalism: What is the New Deal's relationship to socialism? What is its relationship to capitalism?
Marc Kagan is a PhD candidate in the CUNY Graduate Center history department. Formerly, he was a NYC transit worker and an officer in Transport Workers Union, Local 100.
Jason Wright is a long-time member of the International Bolshevik Tendency.
Jack Devine is a PhD candidate in the CUNY Graduate Center. He is a Democratic Socialists of America and host of Revolutions Per Minute, the DSA's weekly radio show in NYC (WBAI 99.5 FM).
Jack Ross is an independent historian and author of The Socialist Party of America: A Complete History