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The Russian Revolution, which Lenin held up as the torch-light of emancipation for the world proletariat, is being run into national socialist channels. . . . “The Russian proletariat,” said Lenin, “cannot single-handed bring the socialist revolution to a victorious conclusion. But it can give the Russian revolution a mighty impetus such as would create most favorable conditions for a socialist revolution, and would, in a sense, start it. It can help to create more favorable circumstances for its most important, most trustworthy and most reliable collaborator, the European and American proletariat, to join the decisive battles” (“Farewell letter to the Swiss workers,” 1917).
– “Lenin lives in the work of the Opposition” (1931)

Boston, Chicago, London, New York, Philadelphia

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/// Week 1 Lecture /// 1879-1905 /// 6.16.12

/// Week 2 Lecture /// 1905-1917 /// 6.23.12

/// Week 3 Lecture /// 1917-1923 /// 6.30.12

/// Week 4 Lecture /// 1923-1933 /// 7.7.12

/// Week 5 Lecture /// 1933-1940 /// 7.14.12

/// Week 6 Lecture /// 1940-1953 /// 7.21.12

/// Week 7 Lecture /// 1953-1963 /// 7.28.12

Video will be broadcast live and available as recordings at:

Saturdays 1–4PM CST
School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC)
112 S. Michigan Ave. room 920

Saturdays 2–5PM EST
New School University New York (New School)
Eugene Lang Building
65 W. 11th St. ground floor (enter at 66 W. 12th St.) conference room

Full Syllabus and Readings

/// Recommended preliminary readings
x recommended / + supplemental reading

+ Tariq Ali and Phil Evans, Introducing Trotsky and Marxism / Trotsky for Beginners (1980)
+ Nicolas Krasso, "Trotsky's Marxism" (1967)
x Platypus Historians Group, "The dead Left: Trotskyism" (2008)
x Richard Rubin, "The decline of the Left in the 20th century: 1933" (2009)
x Ian Morrison, "Trotsky's Marxism" (2011)
x Mike Macnair, Bryan Palmer, Richard Rubin, and Jason Wright, "The legacy of Trotskyism" (2011)
x Grover Furr, "Learning from the Communist Movement of the 20th century: A response to Richard Rubin" (2012)
+ Spartacist League, Lenin and the Vanguard Party (1978)
+ Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate / A&Z, Introducing Lenin and the Russian Revolution / Lenin for Beginners (1978)
+ Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet: Trotsky biography (three volumes: 1954, 1959, 1963)

/// Week 1 Readings
/// 1879-1905
x Tariq Ali and Phil Evans, Introducing Trotsky and Marxism / Trotsky for Beginners (1980)
x Leon Trotsky, Results and Prospects (1906)

/// Week 2 Readings
/// 1905-1917
+ Trotsky, 1905 (1907)
x Trotsky, The Lessons of October (1924) [PDF]

/// Week 3 Readings
/// 1917–23
x Trotsky, Terrorism and Communism (1920)
x Trotsky, The Lessons of October (1924) [PDF]
+ Trotsky, Literature and Revolution (1924)
+ Bret Schneider, “Trotsky’s theory of art” (2011)

/// Week 4 Readings
/// 1923–33
+ Trotsky, Where is Britain Going? (1925)
+ Trotsky, Problems of the Chinese Revolution 1927–31 (1932)
+ Trotsky, writings on the rise of Hitler and the destruction of the German Left (1930–40), especially “To build communist parties and an international anew” (1933)

/// Week 5 Readings
/// 1933–40
x Trotsky, “Stalinism and Bolshevism” (1937)
x Trotsky, The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International (1938)
+ Trotsky, “Trade unions in the epoch of imperialist decay” (1940)
+ Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed (1936)
+ Trotsky, In Defense of Marxism (1939/40), especially “Letter to James Cannon” (September 12, 1939)
+ Trotsky, “Art and politics on our epoch” (1938)
+ Mary McCarthy, “My Confession” (1954)

/// Week 6 Readings
/// 1940–53
+ James Cannon, “The coming American revolution” (1946)
+ C.L.R. James, Raya Dunayevskaya, et al., “Program of the minority tendency of the Workers Party/U.S.” (1946)
+ C.L.R. James, “Dialectical materialism and the fate of humanity” (1947)
+ Herbert Marcuse, “33 Theses” (1947)
+ Earl Browder and Max Shachtman with C. Wright Mills, “Is Russia a socialist community?” (1950)
+ Ernest Mandel, “The theory of ‘state capitalism’” (1951)
+ Michel Pablo, “On the duration and the nature of the period of transition from capitalism to socialism” (1951)
+ Pablo, “Where are we going?” (1953)

/// Week 7 Readings
/// 1953–63
+ Cornelius Castoriadis, “The workers and organization” (1959)
x Cliff Slaughter, “What is revolutionary leadership?” (1960)
x Revolutionary Tendency of the Socialist Workers Party/U.S., “In defense of a revolutionary perspective” (1962)
+ Tony Cliff, “The coming Russian revolution” (final chapter of Russia: A Marxist Analysis, 1964)
+ Hal Draper, “The two souls of socialism” (1966)
+ Isaac Deutscher, “Marxism in our time” (1965)
+ Murray Bookchin, “Listen, Marxist!” (1969)
x Spartacist League, “Genesis of Pabloism” (1972)

Richard Rubin
Lecture 2:

Part of the Summer 2012 Platypus Affiliated Society Primary Reading Group Lecture Series: Trotsky and Trotskyism

Recorded on 6.23.12
The New School

• recommended / + supplemental reading

Recommended preliminary readings:

Week 2 Readings:
+ Trotsky, 1905 (1907)
• Trotsky, The Lessons of October (1924) [PDF]

Full Syllabus and Readings

Please Note: Due to technical problems, the video recording glitches after ~32:00. The audio recording is without glitches, however.

A roundtable on the Quebec Left following the student strike / Une table ronde sur l'avenir de la Gauche québecoise à la lumière de la grève étudiante
Hosted by the Platypus Affiliated Society / Présenté par la Platypus Affiliated Society
June 18, 2012 / Lundi, 18 heures / le 18 juin 2012

Matthew Brett (Canadian Dimension magazine editorial collective, Secretary for the Society for Socialist Studies, Concordia University)
Jamie Burnett (McGill student activist)
Brad Fougere (International Workers of the World (IWW) / Midnight Kitchen)
Coralie Jean (Mouvement Étudiant Révolutionnaire (MER-PCR))
Molly Swain (Gender, Sexuality Diversity, and Feminist Studies Student Association, McGill)

Andony Melathopoulos (Platypus)

Description: While it is clear that the student strike in Quebec expresses more than just discontent against tuition fee hikes, it’s less clear if there is general agreement among strikers on what follows the strike. For many the strike is about resisting neo-liberalism and its assault on the "modèle québécois", the system of labour legislation, educational reform and public welfare that emerged from the 1960s Quiet Revolution. But for others the strike signals a possibility to go beyond the past. This is has been expressed as a desire to pick up where the 1970s social democracy left off through demands such as free tuition. Others view Quebec's social democratic past as being part of the problem. They judge that parliamentary approaches have grown irrelevant in the face of a direct democracy that has carried the strike through five months in spite of massive police reaction.

The Platypus Affiliated Society is hosting this roundtable to explore these different political visions for the future of the Quebec Left. We encourage political disagreement among participants in the spirit of clarifying the potential directions and further development of the student movement. We assert that only when we are able create an active culture of thinking and debating on the Left without it proving prematurely divisive can we begin to imagine a Leftist politics adequate to the historical possibilities of our moment. We may not know what these possibilities for transformation are. This is why we think it is imperative to create avenues of engagement that will support these efforts

Déscription: Bien qu'il soit évident que la grève étudiante au Québec exprime plus qu'un simple mécontentement face à la hausse des frais de scolarité, il est moins évident de discerner une position commune parmi les grévistes par rapport à ce qui suivra la grève. Plusieurs voient la grève comme étant une forme de résistance contre le néo-libéralisme et l'assaut que celui-ci exerce sur le "modèle québécois": le système de la législation du travail, de réforme éducative et de sécurité sociale établie lors de la Révolution tranquille des années 60. Mais pour d'autres, la grève signale la possibilité d'aller au delà du passé. Ce point de vue a été exprimé par le désir de prendre la relève de la démocratie sociale des années 70 à travers des demandes comme celle de l'abolition totale des frais de scolarité. Encore d'autres grévistes voient le passé social-démocrate du Québec comme faisant partie du problème. Ceux-ci jugent que l'approche parlementaire est devenue désuète face à une démocratie directe qui a porté la grève pendant 5 mois, en dépit d'une massive réaction policière.

La Platypus Affiliated Society présente cette table ronde dans le but d'explorer ces différentes visions politiques de l'avenir de la Gauche québécoise. Nous encourageons le désaccord politique parmi les participants, dans l'esprit de pouvoir clarifier les directions et développements possibles au sein du mouvement étudiant. Nous affirmons que nous ne pourrions imaginer une politique de gauche, adéquate aux possibilités historiques de notre moment, que lors d'avoir créé une culture de débat et de pensée active au sein de la Gauche elle-même. Il se peut que nous n'avons pas encore pris conscience de ces possibilités de transformation. Voici pourquoi nous croyons en l'impératif de créer des forums de délibération qui soutiendront ces efforts de prise de conscience.

Richard Rubin
Lecture 1: Overview of Trotskyism and its significance for Platypus

Part of the Summer 2012 Platypus Affiliated Society Primary Reading Group Lecture Series: Trotsky and Trotskyism

Recorded on 6.16.12
The New School

• recommended / + supplemental reading

Week 1 Readings:
• Tariq Ali and Phil Evans, Introducing Trotsky and Marxism / Trotsky for Beginners (1980)
• Leon Trotsky, Results and Prospects (1906)

Full Syllabus and Readings

A panel discussion with audience Q & A on the problematic forms of "anticapitalism" today.
Held on Wednesday 13th June, 7pm at the University of London Union (ULU), Malet Street, London.

Clare Solomon (co-editor of Springtime: The New Student Rebellions (2011); President of the University Of London Union in 2010)

James Heartfield (active in extra-parliamentary Left for thirty years; author of The 'Death of the Subject" Explained (2002), and the forthcoming Unpatriotic History of the Second World War (2012)).

James Turley (member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) for five years, and a regular writer for the Weekly Worker; co-editor and contributer to Red Mist, a blog of Marxist cultural commentary)

Matt Cole (organizer, researcher, editor, writer, Rousseauist; Kingston University)

Moderated by:
Laurie Rojas (founding member of the Platypus Affiliated Society, editor of the Platypus Review).


"[After the 1960s, the] underlying despair with regard to the real efficacy of political will, of political agency [. . .] in a historical situation of heightened helplessness [. . .] became a self-constitution as outsider, as other [. . .] focused on the bureaucratic stasis of the [Fordist/late 20th Century] world: it echoed the destruction of that world by the dynamics of capital [with the neo-liberal turn after 1973, and especially after 1989].

The idea of a fundamental transformation became bracketed and, instead, was replaced by the more ambiguous notion of âresistance.â The notion of resistance, however, says little about the nature of that which is being resisted or of the politics of the resistance involved â that is, the character of determinate forms of critique, opposition, rebellion, and ârevolution.â The notion of 'resistance' frequently expresses a deeply dualistic worldview that tends to reify both the system of domination and the idea of agency.

'Resistance' is rarely based on a reflexive analysis of possibilities for fundamental change that are both generated and suppressed by [the] dynamic heteronomous order [of capital]. ['Resistance'] is an undialectical category that does not grasp its own conditions of possibility; that is, it fails to grasp the dynamic historical context of which it is a part."

- Moishe Postone, "History and Helplessness: Mass Mobilization and Contemporary Forms of Anticapitalism"
(Public Culture 18:1, 2006)

1. Since the 1960s, and especially since the 1990s, struggles for social, economic and political emancipation have been conceived less in terms of structural reforms or revolutionary transformation and more in terms of "resistance." How do you define âresistanceâ and how do you understand its role in possibilities for social change?

2. One powerful way "resistance" has been conceived has been in terms of "culture" and practices of âeveryday life.â How do you understand the implicit (if not explicit) distinction thus made of politics directed at society as a whole, from the more apparently mundane concerns and stakes of quotidian existence?

3. What, in your understanding, are the reasons for and the consequences of this historical shift away from movements for reform or revolutionary politics, to tactics, strategies, and self-understandings in terms of "resistance?"

4. Where do the new forms of politics of âresistanceâ point, in your estimation, for social-emancipatory possibilities, today and in the future?

5. What kinds of change do you envision on the horizon of present social concerns? How do you imagine the potential manifestations of such change?

6. What can and should those on the Left and those interested in working towards social emancipation do, tactically and strategically, in view of such possibilities for change?