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You are here: Platypus /Archive for category Duy Lap Nguyen

Held April 19, 2019 at the University of Houston.

Speakers:

Bernard Sampson (CPUSA)
Ryan Booker (Socialist Alternative)
Duy Nguyen (Assistant Professor of World Cultures and Literatures, UH)
Danny Jacobs (Platypus Affiliated Society, Houston)

Panel Description:

“The conquest of the governmental power by an hitherto oppressed class, in other words, a political revolution, is accordingly the essential characteristic of social revolution in this narrow sense, in contrast with social reform.” - Karl Kautsky, member of the First Marxist International (“On the Social Revolution”, 1902)

In 1918, a revolutionary moment gave rise to an opportunity for seizure of state power in Germany. This task was put on the table for a divided German Left that sought to bring about in political form the change that the masses were already demanding in practice. This posed the question of leadership directly—what does it mean to take power? What would revolution in a highly industrialized country entail, especially in relation to the Russian experience that polarized the German Left, and how might the Left of today be a legacy of such an unresolved moment in Left-centric history?

How can we politically understand the relationship between reformism, reformists, and opportunism, alongside the ideas of Revolution: when we think of Russia 1917, Germany 1918, and the failed world socialist revolution on our present? How does the history of the German Revolution inform the 20th century and today about what is considered a ‘social’ revolution and what is considered a ‘political’ revolution?

A panel on the politics of work held at the University of Houston, December 4, 2016 by Platypus Houston.

Panelists:

Dylan Daney - UNITE HERE!
David Michael Smith - Houston Socialist Movement
Duy Lap Nguyen - Professor of World Cultures and Literatures, University of Houston

"Capital is not a book about politics, and not even a book about labour: it is a book about unemployment." - Fredric Jameson, Representing Capital: A Reading of Volume One

"...the misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all." - Joan Robinson

"The error consists in believing that labor, by which I mean heteronomous, salaried labor, can and must remain the essential matter. It's just not so. According to American projections, within twenty years labor time will be less than half that of leisure time. I see the task of the left as directing and promoting this process of abolition of labor in a way that will not result in a mass of unemployed on one side, and aristocracy of labor on the other and between them a proletariat which carries out the most distasteful jobs for forty-five hours a week. Instead, let everyone work much less for his salary and thus be free to act in a much more autonomous manner...Today "communism" is a real possibility and even a realistic proposition, for the abolition of salaried labor through automation saps both capitalist logic and the market economy." - Andre Gorz

It is generally assumed that Marxists and other Leftists have the political responsibility to support reforms for the improvement of the welfare of workers. Yet, leading figures from the Marxist tradition-- such as Lenin, Luxemburg and Trotsky-- also understood that such reforms would broaden the crisis of capitalism and potentially intensify contradictions that could adversely impact the immediate conditions of workers. For instance, full employment, while being a natural demand from the standpoint of all workers’ interests, also threatens the conditions of capitalist production (which rely on a surplus of available labor), thereby potentially jeopardizing the system of employment altogether. In light of such apparent paradoxes, this panel seeks to investigate the politics of work from Leftist perspectives. It will attempt to provoke reflection on and discussion of the ambiguities and dilemmas of the politics of work by including speakers from divergent perspectives, some of whom seek after the immediate abolition of labor and others of whom seek to increase the availability of employment opportunities. It is hoped that this conversation will deepen the understanding of the contemporary problems faced by the Left in its struggles to construct a politics adequate to the self-emancipation of the working class.