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The following is an edited transcript of a panel hosted by the Platypus Affiliated Society at the University of Pennsylvania on March 21st, 2019. The panelists were Jon Bekken, editor of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review, Adolph Reed, Jr., Professor of Political Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, Warren Breckman, Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, and Erin Hagood, member of the Platypus Affiliated Society. The panel discussion was moderated by Austin Carder, member of the Platypus Affiliated Society.

Discussion about the significance of democracy for the Left, held at the University of Pennsylvania on March 21, 2019. The discussion was moderated by Austin Carder.

An edited transcript of the event was published in the Platypus Review Issue #117.

Speakers:

Adolph Reed (Professor of Political Science, UPenn)
Jon Bekken (Editor of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review)
Warren Breckman (Professor of History, UPenn)
Erin Hagood (Platypus Affiliated Society, NYC)

Description:

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 does democracy mean for the Left? What are the potential futures for “democratic” revolution, especially as understood by the Left?

Questions for panelists:

  1. 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?
  2. Do you consider it as necessary to eschew established forms of mass politics in favour of new forms in order to build a democratic movement? Or are current mass form of politics adequate for a democratic society?
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. Is democracy oppressive, or can it be such? How would you judge Lenin’s formulation that: “…democracy is also a state and that, consequently, democracy will also disappear when the state disappears.”