Beyond Sect or Movement: What is a Political Center? (Left Forum 2019)
On June 30, 2019 at the Left Forum at Long Island University Brooklyn in New York City, the Platypus Affiliated Society hosted a panel titled "Beyond Sect or Movement: What is a Political Center?"
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?
Spencer A. Leonard - Platypus Affiliated Society
Jim Creegan - ex-SDS, ex-International Bolshevik Tendency, ex-Spartacist League
Michael Hirsch - New Politics Magazine, Portside News Service, DSA