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A panel event held at the School for Visual Arts on February 25th, 2014.

Panelists:

Alan Akrivos (Socialist Alternative)
Dick Howard (Stony Brook)
Alan Milchman (Internationalist Perspective)
Joseph Schwartz (DSA)

Panel Description:

From the financial crisis and the bank bail-outs to the question of “sovereign debt”; from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street; from the struggle for a unified European-wide policy to the elections in Greece and Egypt that seem to have threatened so much and promised so little -- the need to go beyond mere “protest” has asserted itself: political revolution is in the air, again.

At the same time, the elections in US and recently in Germany, by comparison, to be a non-event, despite potentially having far-reaching consequences for teeming issues word-wide. Today, the people -- the demos -- seem resigned to their political powerlessness, even as they rage against the corruption of politics.  Hence, while contemporary demands for democracy to politicize the demos, they are also indicative of social and political regression that asks urgently for recognition and reflection. Demands for democracy “from below” end up being expressed “from above”: The 99%, in its already obscure and unorganized character, didn’t express itself as such in the various recent elections, but was split in various tendencies, many of them very reactionary.

Democracy retains an enigmatic character, since it always slips any fixed form and content, since people under the dynamic of capital keep demanding at times “more” democracy and “real” democracy. But democracy can be like Janus: it often expresses both the progressive social and emancipatory demands, but also their defeat, their hijacking by an elected “Bonaparte”.

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? What are the potential futures for "democratic" revolution, especially as understood by the Left?

Questions:

1. What would you consider as “real” democracy, as this has been a primary demand of recent spontaneous forms of discontent (e.g. Arab Spring, Occupy, anti-austerity protests, student strikes)?

2. 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 got “assimilated” to the system, or the only path to emancipation that they couldn’t avoid trying to take?

3. Do you consider it as necessary to eschew established forms of mass politics in favor of new forms in order to build a democratic movement?  Or are current mass form of politics adequate for a democratic society?

4. Why has democracy emerged as the primary demand of spontaneous forms of discontent?  Do you also consider it necessary, or adequate, to deal with the pathologies of our era?

5. 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?

6. How is democracy related with the issue of possibly overcoming capital?

7. Is there a difference between the ancient and the modern notion of democracy and, if so, what is the source of that difference? Does “real” democracy share more with the direct democracy of ancient polis?

8. Is democracy oppressive, or can it be such? How you judge Lenin’s formulation that: “…democracy is also a state and that, consequently, democracy will also disappear when the state disappears.”

February 25, 6:30 PM - 9:00 PM, School for Visual Arts, 133 West 21st Street, New York City

Our weekly Coffee Breaks are a great way to meet Platypus members and fellow travelers, and to get to know the Platypus project. It’s an opportunity to discuss issues raised in the latest issue of the Platypus Review, consider the state of the Left, and just hang out with people who have similar political interests.

 

Spring 2014 Coffee Breaks

Loyola University: Wednesdays | 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Damen Student Center, Room 123
6511 North Sheridan Road
Contact: luc@platypus1917.org

School of the Art Institute of Chicago: Thursdays | 4:30 – 5:30 pm
Cosi 116 South Michigan Avenue
Contact: saic@platypus1917.org

University of Chicago: Tuesdays | 4:30 – 5:30 pm
Harper Cafe University Hall, 601 South Morgan Street
Contact: uic@platypus1917.org

This four week reading group will examine and contextualize the history and potential future of sexual politics through an discussion of the struggle for sexual emancipation in the epoch of capitalism.

[Click on titles for PDFs of readings]


Introductory Teach-in: “Is Feminism Left?”

Loyola University — Monday, February 10 @ 7 PM

Cuneo Hall | Room 203

School of the Art Institute — Tuesday, February 11th @ 5 PM

112 S Michigan Ave | Room 919

University of Illinois at Chicago — Wednesday, February 5th @ 7 PM

Student Center East | Room 610


Juliet Mitchell — “Women: The longest revolution” (1966)

Loyola University — Wednesday, February 12 @ 5:30 PM

Dumbach Hall | Room 238

School of the Art Institute — Tuesday, February 18th @ 4:30 PM

112 S Michigan Ave | Room 919

University of Illinois at Chicago — Wednesday, February 5th @ 7 PM

Student Center East | Room 610


John D’Emilio — “Capitalism and gay identity” (1983)

Loyola University — Wednesday, February 26 @ 5:30 PM

Dumbach Hall | Room 238

School of the Art Institute — Tuesday, February 25

112 S Michigan Ave | Room 919

University of Illinois at Chicago — Wednesday, February 19th @ 7 PM

Student Center East Room 610


Theodor W. Adorno — “Sexual taboos and the law today” (1963)

Loyola University — Wednesday, March 12 @ 5:30 PM

Dumbach Hall | Room 238

School of the Art Institute — Tuesday, March 11th @ 4:30 PM

112 S Michigan Ave | Room 919

University of Illinois at Chicago — Wednesday, March 5th @ 7 PM

Student Center East Room 610


Clara Zetkin and Vladimir Lenin — “An interview on the woman question” (1920)

Loyola University — Wednesday,  March 26th @ 5:30 PM

Dumbach Hall | Room 238

School of the Art Institute — Tuesday, March 25th @ 4:30 PM

112 S Michigan Ave | Room 919

University of Illinois at Chicago — Wednesday, March 19th @ 7 PM

Student Center East Room 610

Taking advantage of the January break in our primary reading group schedule, we will hold a discussion of the recent Hannah Arendt biopic by the German New Wave director Margarethe von Trotta.

Saturday, January 18 from 1-4 PM
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
112 S. Michigan Ave
Room 920

Readings for discussion of the film:

* priority readings

* Hannah Arendt (2013) film DVD insert

* Hannah ArendtPrologue to The Human Condition (Vita Activa) (1958)

* Martin Heidegger, “Only a god can still save us,” interview with Der Spiegel (1966)

Walter Benjamin, “To the planetarium,” One-Way Street (1928)

Theodor W. Adorno, “Reflections on class theory” (1942)

* Alan Ryan, “Dangerous Liaisons,” book review of Elzbieta Ettinger, Arendt and Heidegger (1996)

* Michael A. Musmanno, “Man with an unspotted conscience,” original New York Times book review of Arendt’sEichmann in Jerusalem(1963)

* Norman Podhoretz, “The perversity of brilliance” (contra Arendt on Eichmann) (1963)

* Max Horkheimer, "On the capture of Eichmann"

ArendtEichmann in Jerusalem (1963)