The Dutch atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen recently characterized the period marked by the start of the industrial revolution in the 18th Century to the present as a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. This periodization is meant to capture a change in the history of the planet, namely that for the first time in history its course will be determined by the question of what humanity will become; the question of freedom.
Sarah Henderson - Author of Building Democracy in Contemporary Russia
Adam Lunceford - Heart of the Valley Democratic Socialists of America
GL Morrison - Oregon Communist Party
William Smaldone - Author of European Socialism: A Concise History
1989 is largely remembered as a decisive close to the Cold War contest between communism and capitalism—with the victory of the latter casting a seemingly damning verdict against Marxism as a form of politics. The planned economies based on collectivized property of these states were indicted as failures, and their totalitarian regimes called into question the very notion of working class rule. The fall of communism thus profoundly affected the Left’s ability to imagine the overcoming of capitalism, and the possibility of a classless society beyond it. But in passing into history, the meaning of 1989 can also be reconsidered. The panel will use this anniversary to reassess the question of how 1989 weighs on the present. What is the significance of 1989 in its historical context, and what is its relevance for Left politics today?
A panel discussion held at Oregon State University on April 25, 2019. The discussion was moderated by Andony Melathopoulos.
Reform, Revolution, Resistance - how do these relate for the Left historically, what do these terms mean today, and how can they help us understand the obstacles and opportunities for building a Left adequate to the 21st Century?
For example, what might we make of recent phenomena such as Bernie Sanders call for "political revolution" leading up to the 2016 primaries, Hillary Clinton (post-2016) lending her support to the "resistance" against Trump and the current moment when avowed socialists in the Democratic Party are calling for reforms, most prominently a Green New Deal?
Also, how are these phenomenon related or distinct to other political actors who claim to also be fighting "the establishment", from Trump in the US to the Gilles Jaune (yellow vest) on the streets in France.
Against this backdrop, there appears to be the legacy of the 20th Century, namely the the mid-century welfare reforms in industrialized countries, the rolling back of these reforms under neoliberalism (beginning in the 1980s) and the resistance to neoliberal austerity (e.g., the alter-globalization movement in the 1990s and more recently after the downturn of 2008). In contrast, the legacy of revolution appears obscure, as exemplified by the muted response to the 100th Anniversary of the defeat of the German Revolution (1919).
We ask panelists to look forward and backwards in order to understand what revolution, reform and resistance mean for their politics today, the extent to which the past bears on the present and what how their understanding of these categories factor into how they view the future.
Held September 27, 2018 at Oregon State University. Moderated by Andony Melathopoulos.
Speakers (in order):
- Mika Goodwin - Democratic Socialists of America (Corvallis)
- Paige Kreisman - Communist Party of Oregon (CPUSA)
- Douglas Lain - publishing manager Zero Books, author of Bash Bash Revolution
- Christopher Nichols - History Department, OSU, author of Promise and Peril: America at the Dawn of a Global Age
The term ‘socialism’ appears to be enjoying a resurgence of public interest - both favorably where it is self-prescribed and pejoratively where it is meant to degrade the respectability of public figures. From early 2016 at the height of Bernie Sanders's campaign for the Democratic Party nomination to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory over Joe Crowley in June, the term ‘socialism’ appears to be gaining some level of purchase and a whole lot of press. In many instances, ‘socialism’ is commingled with terms as varied as ‘social democratic’, ‘communist’, ‘marxist’, ‘anarchist’, etc. As such, we view this is as an opportune moment to ask, “what is socialism after all?” What do public figures mean when they identify as socialists or any one of its varied strains? What do their opponents think it means? What does it mean and what can it mean? And perhaps, most important of all, what did it mean in the past?