A discussion on the Politics of Critical Theory, held on February 17, 2017 at the University of Vienna, as part of the 3rd annual Platypus European Conference.
Speakers (in order):
- Chris Cutrone, Platypus Affiliated Society, Chicago
- Martin Suchanek, Workers Power, Berlin
- Haziran Zeller, Berlin
Recently, the New Left Review published a translated conversation between the critical theorists Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer causing more than a few murmurs and gasps. In the course of their conversation, Adorno comments that he had always wanted to develop a theory that remains faithful to Marx, Engels and Lenin, while keeping up with culture at its most advanced.’ Adorno, it seems, was a Leninist. As surprising as this evidence might have been to some, is it not more shocking that Adorno’s politics, and the politics of Critical Theory, have remained taboo for so long? Was it really necessary to wait until Adorno and Horkheimer admitted their politics in print to understand that their primary preoccupation was with maintaining Marxism’s relation to bourgeois critical philosophy such as Kant and Hegel? This panel proposes to state the question as directly as possible and to simply ask: How did the practice and theory of Marxism, from Marx to Lenin, make possible and necessary the politics of Critical Theory?
7:00pm / 30 November 2016
London School of Economics
Speakers (in order):
Adam Booth (writer and activist with Socialist Appeal and the International Marxist Tendency)
James Heartfield (Sp!ked / Author of 'An Unpatriotic History of the Second World War')
Patrick Neveling (SOAS Development Studies, Utrecht University Cultural Anthropology)
Paul Demarty (Weekly Worker / CPGB)
The Left has for over a generation – for more than 40 years, since the crisis of 1973 – placed its hopes in the Democratic and Labour Parties to reverse or slow neoliberal capitalism – the move to trans-national trade agreements, the movement of capital and labor, and austerity. The post-2008 crisis ofneoliberalism, despite phenomena such as SYRIZA, Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring and anti-austerity protests more generally, Bernie Sanders's candidacy, and Jeremy Corbyn's Labour leadership, has found expression on the avowed Right, through UKIP, Brexit, the U.K. Conservatives' move to "Red Toryism" and now Donald Trump's election. The old neoliberal consensus is falling apart, and change is palpably in the air. Margaret Thatcher's infamous phrase "There Is No Alternative" has been proven wrong. What can the Left do to advance the struggle for socialism under such circumstances?
In the 1960s the Left faced political and social crises in an era of full employment and economic growth. Departing from official Communism, which had largely supported the development of the welfare state in industrialized capitalist countries, many on the Left challenged the existing political order, of Keynesian-Fordism, through community organising on the principle of expanding individual and collective freedom from the state. Against Keynesian economic demands, many of these Leftists supported the Rights efforts, to integrate formerly oppressed identity groups into the corporate professional-managerial class. Since the 1970s, the significance of the fact that all these aims were taken up, politically, by the Right, in the name of ‘freedom’, in the form of neo-liberalism is still ambiguous today.
Some on the Left have understood this phase of ‘neo-liberalism’ to be continuous with the post-war Fordist state, for example in Ernest Mandel’s conception of “late capitalism” and David Harvey’s idea of “post-Fordism”. The movement of labor and capital was still administered by the Fordist state. Distinctively, others on the Left have opposed neo-liberalism for over a generation through a defence of the post-war welfare state, through appeals to anti-austerity and anti-globalisation.
How does this distinction within the Left between the defense of the welfare state and the defense of individual freedom affect the Left’s response to the crisis of neo-liberalism? Why has the Left recently supported attempts to politically manage the economic crisis post-2008, against attempts at political change? How can the Left struggle for political power, with the aim of overcoming capitalism and achieving socialism, when the political expression of the crisis of neo-liberalism has largely come from the Right, and Trump won the election in November?
A panel on the politics of work held at the University of Houston, December 4, 2016 by Platypus Houston.
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.
A Platypus panel at NYU, Kimmel Center, room 808
Panelists (in speaking order):
R.L. Stephens (Labor organizer and editor of The Orchestrated Pulse)
Benjamin Serby (volunteer-organizer, Team Bernie NY and PhD Candidate in US History, Columbia)
Howie Hawkins (Green Party, USA)
Karl Belin (Socialist worker from Pittsburgh, labor organizer
Moderated by Tana Forrester (Platypus).
The Left has for over a generation -- for more than 40 years, since the crisis of 1973 -- placed its hopes in the Democratic and Labour Parties to reverse or slow neoliberal capitalism -- the move to trans-national trade agreements, the movement of capital and labor, and austerity. The post-2008 crisis of neoliberalism, despite phenomena such as SYRIZA, Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring and anti-austerity protests more generally, Bernie Sanders's candidacy, and Jeremy Corbyn's Labour leadership, has found expression on the avowed Right, through UKIP, Brexit, the U.K. Conservatives' move to "Red Toryism" and now Donald Trump's election. The old neoliberal consensus is falling apart, and change is palpably in the air. Margaret Thatcher's infamous phrase "There Is No Alternative" has been proven wrong. What can the Left do to advance the struggle for socialism under such circumstances?
Recent generations of marginalized radicals have been forced to grapple with an impossible choice: they must either submit to a “realistic” electoral compromise with the status quo, often in the form of “lesser evilism,” or they must vote for a third-party candidate, hoping that by making their platform public the winning party could be pushed leftward. Alternatively, out of exhaustion with this impasse, they may choose not to vote, advocating instead a principled abstention from electoral politics.
What lessons can the Left draw from the history of mass electoral parties for socialism to create more emancipatory choices in the future? How do we reimagine the role of electoral campaigns for Leftist politics today? Given that a significant number of working people in America have left the Democratic Party, what is possible?
This event is free and open to the public. All are welcome.
The Platypus Affiliated Society, established in December 2006, organizes reading groups, public fora, research and journalism focused on problems and tasks inherited from the “Old” (1920s-30s), “New” (1960s-70s) and post-political (1980s-90s) Left for the possibilities of emancipatory politics today.