A series of roundtable discussions hosted by The Platypus Affiliated Society. This is the first part of the discussion series held in Cambridge.
Held on December 15, 2011 at Harvard University.
The recent Occupy protests are driven by discontent with the present state of affairs: glaring economic inequality, dead-end Democratic Party politics, and, for some, the suspicion that capitalism could never produce an equitable society. These concerns are coupled with aspirations for social transformation at an international level. For many, the protests at Wall St. and elsewhere provide an avenue to raise questions the Left has long fallen silent on:
• What would it mean to challenge capitalism on a global scale?
• How could we begin to overcome social conditions that adversely affect every part of life?
• And, how could a new international radical movement address these concerns in practice?
Although participants at Occupy Wall St. and elsewhere have managed thus far to organize resources for their own daily needs, legal services, health services, sleeping arrangements, food supplies, defense against police brutality, and a consistent media presence, these pragmatic concerns have taken precedent over long-term goals of the movement. Where can participants of this protest engage in formulating, debating, and questioningthe ends of this movement? How can it affect the greater society beyond the occupied spaces?
We in the Platypus Affiliated Society ask participants and interested observers of the Occupy movement to consider the possibility that political disagreement could lead to clarification, further development and direction. 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.
Towards this goal, Platypus will be hosting a series of roundtable discussions with organizers and participants ofthe Occupy movement. These will start at campuses in New York and Chicago but will be moving to other North American cities, and to London, Germany, and Greece in the months to come. We welcome any and all who would like to be a part of this project of self-education and potential rebuilding of the Left to join us in advancing this critical moment.
Live broadcast: www.livestream.com/platypus1917
Saturday, December 17, 2011
9AM U.S./Canada PST / 10AM MST / 11AM CST / 12PM EST;
and 17:00 London / 18:00 Frankfurt and Berlin /
19:00 Thessaloniki / 22:30 Delhi / 02:00 Seoul
If you are in Chicago:
Saturday, 11am | 17 December 2011 |School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 112 S. Michigan Ave. room 919
Please join Platypus for a brief introduction to and discussion about the relevance of Lenin today, in anticipation of our Winter-Spring 2012 primary Marxist reading group, on the history of revolutionary Marxism, centered on the writings of Lenin, Luxemburg, Trotsky, and Adorno.
The Encyclopedia Britannica's entry on Lenin states that,
"If the Bolshevik Revolution is -- as some people have called it -- the most significant political event of the 20th century, then Lenin must for good or ill be considered the century's most significant political leader. Not only in the scholarly circles of the former Soviet Union, but even among many non-Communist scholars, he has been regarded as both the greatest revolutionary leader and revolutionary statesman in history, as well as the greatest revolutionary thinker since Marx."
Lenin is the most controversial figure in the history of Marxism, and perhaps one of the most controversial figures in all of history. As such, he is an impossible figure for sober consideration, without polemic. Nevertheless, it has become impossible, also, after Lenin, to consider Marxism without reference to him. Broadly, Marxism is divided into avowedly "Leninist" and "anti-Leninist" tendencies. In what ways was Lenin either an advance or a calamity for Marxism? But there is another way of approaching Lenin, which is as an expression of the historical crisis of Marxism. In other words, Lenin as a historical figure is unavoidably significant as manifesting a crisis of Marxism. The question is how Lenin provided the basis for advancing that crisis, how the polarization around Lenin could provide the basis for advancing the potential transformation of Marxism, in terms of resolving certain problems.
The Frankfurt School Critical Theorist Theodor Adorno, in his 1966 book Negative Dialectics, wrote of the degeneration of Marxism due to "dogmatization and thought-taboos." There is no other figure in the history of Marxism who has been subject to such "dogmatization and thought-taboos" as much as Lenin.
It is important to note as well that Adorno himself sought to remain, as he put it, "faithful to Marx, Engels and Lenin, while keeping up with culture at its most advanced," to which his colleague Max Horkheimer replied, simply, "Who would not subscribe to that?"
Today, such a proposition seems especially implausible, in many ways. Yet perhaps the memory of Lenin haunts us still, however obscurely.
The discussion will be broadcast live on the web. Additionally, a recording will be made available after the event.
Recommended background readings:
UPDATE: Noam Chomsky's talk has been moved to Saturday Oct. 22 due to the rain. Platypus will still be in attendance.
The time hasn't been determined. Time: 6:00 PM. Dewey Square, Boston, MA.
Please make sure to coordinate with us at email@example.com or use the contact tab.
This week, on 19th Oct 2011, the MassArt Coffee Break will meet at Dewey Square to attend a talk by Noam Chomsky.
Saturday, Oct 22| 6:00 PM
Noam Chomsky at OccupyBoston
FSU Soapbox, Dewey Square occupation.
Time: Thursday, October 13 · 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Place: CGIS South Building, Room, S050 Harvard University (Map: http://goo.gl/UoiC1)
Contact: boston [at] platypus1917 [dot] org
Battle on Wall Street?
Part 1 of 2-part film screening series: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)
"Want to know what the mother of all bubbles was? Came out of nowhere, by chance. They called it the Cambrian Explosion. It happened around 530 million years ago. And, over the next 70-80 million years, the rate of evolution accelerated so fast that we came along, the human race. They still can't explain how that happened, except that it happened. Some people say it was by chance. Others, design. But who really knows?"
The recent #occupy protests depart significantly from the anti-war politics that has defined activism on the Left for the past decade. Slogans decrying corporate greed now dominate the picket signs that until recently were used to condemn U.S. imperialism. However, does this spreading protest movement signal a new era of activism in the U.S.? Or, are these recent demonstrations expressing old and familiar discontents? Perhaps, as the role of Adbusters suggests, something of the 1990s has come back into vogue, bringing back to the fore the age-old hatred of the bankers and impersonal financial institutions, and opposition to neoliberal globalization, now in crisis. The spirit of the 1999 Seattle protest against the World Trade Organization seems to have returned, with a vengeance. Please join Platypus in considering the historical sources of the ongoing anti-Wall Street protests through the lens of two recent films that highlight the popular imagination of contemporary capitalism and its discontents.