RSS FeedRSS FeedLivestreamLivestreamVimeoVimeoTwitterTwitterFacebook GroupFacebook Group
You are here: Platypus /Archive for category Halifax Media

Halifax, NS:
Panelists:

Shirley Tillotson (Department of History, Dalhousie University)
Herb Gamberg (Author of "Marxism After Marx" (forthcoming))
Madelaine (Parti communiste révolutionnaire-Revolutionary Communist Party (supporter))

 

During the 19th century, suffrage rights were widened in the heart of capital, confronting political radicals with the question of whether and how elective offices could be used to achieve revolutionary aims. Since that time, differences of opinion on how to approach electoral politics have been at issue throughout the Left’s most fundamental splits: the break between Marxism and anarchism; the apparent capitulation of international social democracy to world war; the struggle for the legacy of the Russian Revolution; to capitalist stabilization and the apparent apathy to politics that would characterize our time.

Since the early 20th century such splits have attended the decline of the Left rather than its ascendancy, forcing recent generations of marginalized radicals to grapple with an impossible choice: either a "realistic" electoral compromise with the status quo, often couched in the logic of “lesser evilism,” or a "sectarian" electoral purism doomed to irrelevance, often inspired by fidelity to once-revolutionary “correct positions.” This impasse guarantees a hearing for those who, like many Occupy movement activists, advocate a principled abstention from electoral politics.

In the present moment there seems to be a shift back from popular mobilization and movement building, to electoral strategies and parliamentary representation. Although previously social movements severely criticized existing parliamentary democracy, the idea of facilitating radical causes through electoral politics and campaigns has recently gained prominence. So in Canada there has been the growth of the NDP (not only federally, but with a victory in Alberta); the European crisis has seen the rise of Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain in and the victory of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party in the U.K.; in the U.S. an avowedly social democratic Bernie Saunders appears to be having some success in the race for the Democratic leadership.

This panel tries to bring into question the significance of electoral politics in a moment when party representation has been largely delegitimized and disapproved. What are the uses, limits, promises, and perils of electoral campaigns and elective offices for Leftist politics?

In spite of many different political currents and tendencies, perhaps the most significant question informing the "Left" today is the issue of "political party.” Various "Left unity" initiatives have been taking place in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis and subsequent downturn, following Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring, alongside continuing "post-political" tendencies inherited from
4th September 2014
A moderated roundtable hosted by the Platypus Affiliated Society (Dal/King's). Part of the 2014 NSPIRG Rad Frosh.
Round table participants:
Anna Dubinski (King's)
Holly Lobsinger (Dalhousie, NSPIRG)
Ian Matheson
Jack Wong (NSCAD)
Description:
What is the relation of student activism to what might be broadly called the Left? What might it be? The responses to these questions seem to either look to or eschew the past for inspiration.Many contemporary movements have taken as their inspiration the student radicalism of the 1960s, like the Students for a Democratic Society; the subsequent anti-oppression movements of the 1970s and 80s, of gender, environmental, anti-imperialism; and the horizontal democratic resistance politics of the anti/alter globalization movement which characterized much of 1990’s activism. Such an approach of connecting student activism to the Left, however, often ends up in what can seem like anachronistic esoteric arguments. In a present moment dominated by austerity and the seemingly never ending rise of the Right, there seems to be more fundamental questions than, say, the rehashing of position of feminists, anarchists and Marxist groups of the past — questions that might unsettle the comfortable assumptions of radical politics today.An alternative stance is to think of such of questions as an irrelevant, academic obstruction to real action, recognizing that theory can often confuse more than clarify. The abundance of jargonistic takes on the Left, however, does not diminish that students specifically and the Left more broadly, need spaces to ask themselves questions and struggle for answers.A place for critical thought and discussion then may be necessary, as movements, whether confused or theory-avoidant, need to ask themselves what political success and failure would look like, on their terms. This roundtable gives radical student activists an opportunity to reconsider what the relation of student activism might be with respect to a reconsidered Left. How would we move beyond the past, to consider freshly the question of how student activism might relate to the Left?Questions
1. What sorts of questions should radical students ask themselves, the Left, and about the world?

Student life presents unique opportunities — to read, discuss, examine and critique different traditions of politics, sometimes with no previous political experience at all. And yet, a fear of sectarian controversy that could rip apart fragile student coalitions seems to call for, at least partially, imposed limitations to debate and criticism, and perhaps even the intellectual and political development enabled by the post-secondary setting. Even more, as students we often occupy a precarious part of the broader Left, due to perceived (and, perhaps often, real) social privilege. How can we as students actually engage in serious, honest reflection and conversation to clarify these uncertainties? What obstacles do they face? What sort of fundamental questions ought we as student activists ask ourselves and the broader Left? How should we ask them?

2. What is capitalism, and how can it be overcome?

In 2006 the new SDS, a broad coalition of student activists in the US, asserted its aims were to: “change a society which depends upon multiple and reciprocal systems of oppression and domination for its survival: racism and white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy, heterosexism and transphobia, authoritarianism and imperialism, among others.” A very similar vision was advanced during the 2012 student strike in the CLASSE Manifesto. These systems, with a single exception, are straightforward forms of domination. A ruling stratum (whites, men) oppresses a given subaltern. While capitalism might appear likewise, as the direct and violent oppression of one class by another, many on the Left would argue this oversimplifies the complicated historical, social, political, economic and cultural characteristics of capitalism. How ought the students think about the specific form of capitalist domination? And what forms of politics are adequate to overcome it?

3. Why, and how, could students succeed today where they didn't in the past?

The Port Huron (1962) statement of the original Students for a Democratic Society sought to “replace power rooted in possession, privilege, or circumstance by power and uniqueness rooted in love, reflectiveness, reason, and creativity…” From the vantage point of the present, the first SDS seems to have failed to meet its own task. Possession, privilege and circumstance still determine social power. So why did the student movement of the past fail to achieve its ultimate ends? And how can the new student movement succeed, especially in the absence of a large-scale, organized international movement in the present? What would make international revolutionary politics possible again? How ought we to understand the loss of political possibility?

 

(October 20, 2014)
Bruce Barber (Media Arts Faculty at NSCAD University),
 Sebastien Labelle (SEIU, Halifax Mayworks Festival Organizer),
 Chris Mansour (Platypus Member and independent writer)
NSCAD University Fountain Campus, 5163 Duke Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
 

Throughout the 20th century, there was a powerful idea that there could be a homogeneous experience which would culminate into a revolutionary 'working class culture.' Whether represented through the USSR's Prolekult during the 1920s, the Mexican muralists and American Artist Union in the 1930s, or by the artists associated with the Art Workers Coalition in the 1960s-70s, each movement sought to create artworks which would transcend the decadent forms characteristic of bourgeois culture. However, since the variety of revolutionary aspirations of all these groups ultimately failed to transform society in an emancipatory direction, the merits and potentiality of a coherent working-class culture have been thrown into question. This panel seeks to explore the concept of working-class culture, its history, and what it might mean today.

A panel discussion held at University of King's College on 1 February, 2014.

Sponsored by the King's Student Union and Dalhousie Student Union

Panelists:
Eva Curry - Stand
Christoph Lichtenberg - International Bolshevik Tendency  
Chris Parsons - student activist
Alex Khasnabish - The Radical Imagination Project, Mount Saint Vincent University

Description:
It seems that there are still only two radical ideologies: Anarchism and Marxism. They emerged out of the same crucible - the Industrial Revolution, the unsuccessful revolutions of 1848 and 1871, a weak liberalism, the centralization of state power, the rise of the workers movement, and the promise of socialism. They are the revolutionary heritage, and all significant radical upsurges of the last 150 years have returned to mine their meaning for the current situation. In this respect, our moment seems no different.

There are a few different ways these ideologies have been taken up. Recent worldwide square occupations reflect one pattern: a version of Marxist theory — understood as a political-economic critique of capitalism — is used to comprehend the world, while ananarchist practice — understood as an anti-hierarchical principle that insists revolution must begin now — is used to organize, in order to change it. Some resist this combination, claiming that Marxism rejects anti-statist adventurism, and call for a strategic reorganization of the working class to resist austerity, and perhaps push forward a “New New Deal”. This view remains wedded to a supposedly practical welfarist social democracy, which strengthens the state and manages capital. There is a good deal of hand waving in both these orientations with regard to politics, tactics, and the end goal. Finally, there have been attempts to leave the grounds of these theories entirely — but these often seem either to land right back in one of the camps or to remain marginal.

To act today we seek to draw up the balance sheet of the 20th century. The historical experience concentrated in these ideas must be unfurled if they are to serve as compass points. To see in what ways the return of these ideologies represent an authentic engagement and in what ways the return of a ghost. Where have the battles left us? What forms do we have for meeting, theoretically and practically, the problems of our present?