A panel discussion held on May 29, 2010 at the second Platypus International Convention at SAIC.
The late 1960s and early 1970s witnessed the rise of a new militancy and sectarianism on the Left. Whether in the case of the Black Panthers, the Weather Underground, the Gay Liberation Front, or many other currents on the Left, developments from that time did much to shape the New Left's legacy as it comes down to the present. This panel seeks to move beyond the usual antinomies of unity versus fragmentation and idealism versus sectarianism that typically shape the discussion of the political trajectories of the period. Instead, it will attempt to grasp these turn of the decade developments as the results of long-standing problems inherited and confronted, yet ultimately abandoned and left unresolved by the New Left.
Platypus panel held at Left Forum 2010 in New York City, Pace University, March 20, 2010
Pat Korte, New School Students for a Democratic Society and Radical Student Union, Organization for a Free Society
Hannah Rappleye, CUNY School of Journalism, freelance journalist for Mott Haven Herald in the South Bronx, New School alumnus, former Senior Editor, New School Free Press
Easton Smith, Sarah Lawrence College, UNITE-HERE organizer
Ashley Weger, DePaul University, UNITE-HERE organizer, Platypus Affiliated Society
Moderator: Pamela Nogales, Platypus Affiliated Society
Within both historical and contemporary imaginations, university students are posed as playing an indispensable part in progressive and radical Left political movements. This legacy is imbued with and reproduces a sort of mythological nostalgia of the dissident student exemplified in early groups of the New Left such as SDS, whose name and politics found themselves recycled in the American anti-war movement surrounding the Afghan and Iraq wars. However, the twenty-first century student Left is hardly monolithic in its inclinations, ideologies and impulses. Rather, the current state of student politics is one exemplified both by autonomous actions and alliances, converging and diverging in the anti-war movement, labor solidarity campaigns, school occupations, new attempts toward intellectual discourse and theoretical engagement. Such a multifaceted scene requires adequate address. This panel seeks to host a variety of perspectives amongst actors and organizers of the contemporary student Left, engaging their experiences in dialogue with a multitude of questions that remain incompletely addressed as to the future of the university within the realm of emancipatory politics. Particular attention will be paid to the panelists' perspective on the importance of protest as political act, the prevalence and relevance of identity politics, and the current direction of student intellectualism and activism.
Platypus panel held at Left Forum 2010 in New York City, Pace University, March 20, 2010.
One catch-phrase that has flown in the wake of the successful election of Barack Obama is "post-racial," raising the question of the degree to which America has overcome racism. But perhaps the matter is not one of our historical moment being post-"racial" but rather post-racist. This panel will pose the question of how racism has changed since the historical racism that plagued the U.S., from the failure of the post-Civil War Reconstruction era through Jim Crow until the overcoming of legal racial segregation with the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s-60s. If today this historical form of racism is over it has not meant the meaningful improvement of conditions of life for the vast majority of black people in America, but rather has accompanied worsening conditions, as part of the broader greater stratification and brutalization of American society in the general downturn since the late 1960s - early '70s. This situation demands a strident refutation of the pseudo-problem of "class versus race" and rather requires today's Left to seriously consider the implications of the political scientist Adolph Reed's formulation that racism is a class issue. This panel will address this issue by approaching racism as a historical social problem that was surpassed but not fundamentally overcome, thus allowing the structural conditions that shaped racism historically to continue if in increasingly unrecognized, and thus de-politicized forms. This panel will address how the resolution to the "black question" was not the result of the emancipatory outcome of the Civil Right / Black Power movements of the 1960s, but was rather a part of the general de-politicization of American society in our era. Panelists will assess the historical depths of the present post-political situation by examining how the American Left failed to adequately politicize the social issue of racism in three significant periods of the history of the American Left, the pre-World War One Socialist Party, the early years of the Communist Party, and the decade of the New Left.
Tim Barker, Columbia University
Benjamin Blumberg, Platypus Affiliated Society
Pamela Nogales, Platypus Affiliated Society
Chris Cutrone, Platypus Affiliated Society, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, University of Chicago
A panel discussion with:
Alexander L. Hanna (chair): former organizer for United Students Against Sweatshops
Atlee McFellin: Students for a Democratic Society, New School Radical Student Union
Pam Nogales: Platypus (New York)
C. J. Pereira Di Salvo: former organizer for United Students Against Sweatshops
Laurie Rojas: Platypus (Chicago), former member of Students for a Democratic Society
Young people’s heightened participation in politics in the run-up to the election of Barack Obama was crucial to his election and cannot be ignored. The burning post-election questions that the Left must answer are 1) what are the current politics of youth and student organizations and 2) how can the mobilization of youths and students be expanded and deepened? This panel aims to explore these questions by critically reflecting upon the politics of two of the largest and most successful Left student organizations of recent times: the new Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS).
The panelists will engage these organizations by examining the various perspectives currently influencing them, and explore how these ideas affect their means and ends. This requires us to delve into their current politics, principles, and practice with relation to the history of Left student activism, as well as the history of the Left as a whole. We hope this panel will not only provide insight into the failures of the student Left, but also begin a serious discussion within these organizations and the Left at-large of what the revolutionary potential of such struggle can be.