A moderated panel discussion and audience Q&A with thinkers, activists and political figures focused on contemporary problems faced by the Left in its struggles to construct a politics adequate to the self-emancipation of the working class. Hosted by the Platypus Affiliated Society.
Room 224, Dalhousie Student Union Building
October 2nd, 7:00 PM
George Caffentzis - Midnight Notes Collective
Shay Enxuga - Baristas Rise Up
Larry Haiven -Solidarity Halifax / Saint Mary's University
Co-sponsored by the Halifax Radical Imagination Project:
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.
14 November 2012
Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS
Audio Link (click here)
Matthew Furlong (Foundation Year and Contemporary Studies Programme, King's University)
David Howard (Historical and Critical Studies, NSCAD University)
John Hutton (student activist, Dalhousie)
Clare O'Connor (Toronto activist and author)
From the financial crisis and the bank bail-outs to the question of "sovereign debt"; from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street; from the struggle for a unified European-wide policy to the elections in Greece and Egypt that seem to have threatened so much and promised so little -- the need to go beyond mere "protest" has asserted itself: political revolution is in the air, again.
At the same time, the impending general election in the U.S. seems, by comparison, to be a non-event, despite potentially having far-reaching consequences for teeming issues word-wide. Today, the people -- the demos -- seem resigned to their political powerlessness, even as they rage against the corruption of politics. Hence, while contemporary demands for democracy to politicize the demos, they are also indicative of social and political regression that asks urgently for recognition and reflection. Demands for democracy "from below" end up being expressed "from above": The 99%, in its already obscure and unorganized character, didn't express itself as such in the various recent elections, but was split in various tendencies, many of them very reactionary.
Democracy retains an enigmatic character, since it always slips any fixed form and content, since people under the dynamic of capital keep demanding at times "more" democracy and "real" democracy. But democracy can be like Janus: it often expresses both the progressive social and emancipatory demands, but also their defeat, their hijacking by an elected "Bonaparte".
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 are the potential futures for "democratic" revolution, especially as understood by the Left?
Questions for panelists to consider:
- What would you consider as “real” democracy, as this has been a primary demand of recent spontaneous forms of discontent (e.g. Arab Spring, Occupy, anti-austerity protests, student strikes)?
- 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?
- Do you consider it as necessary to eschew established forms of mass politics in favor of new forms in order to build a democratic movement? Or are current mass form of politics adequate for a democratic society?
- 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?
- 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?
- How is democracy related with the issue of possibly overcoming capital?
- Is there a difference between the ancient and the modern notion of democracy and, if so, what is the source of that difference? Does “real” democracy share more with the direct democracy of ancient polis?
- 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.”
A teach-in on the Communist Manifesto
Hosted by the Platypus Affiliated Society at Dalhousie
Part of the NSPIRG Alt-101 Radical Frosh Series
Thursday 7pm | September 20, 2012
Room 302, Student Union Building, Dalhousie University
In the mid-19th century, Marx and Engels famously observed in the Communist Manifesto that a ‘specter’ was haunting Europe — the specter of Communism. 160 years later, it is ‘Marxism’ itself that continues to haunt Left.
What does it mean that Marx and Marxism still appeal while political movements for socialism are weak or non-existent? What were Marxism’s original points of departure for considering radical possibilities for freedom that still speak to the present? How does Marxism still matter?
A roundtable on the Quebec Left following the student strike / Une table ronde sur l'avenir de la Gauche québecoise à la lumière de la grève étudiante
Hosted by the Platypus Affiliated Society / Présenté par la Platypus Affiliated Society
Monday 6pm | June 18, 2012 / Lundi, 18 heures / le 18 juin 2012
QPIRG McGill 3647 University Street
Download audio (link)
Jamie Burnett (McGill)
Brad Fougere (International Workers of the World (IWW) / Midnight Kitchen)
Coralie Jean (Mouvement Étudiant Révolutionnaire (MER-PCR))
Molly Swain (Gender, Sexuality Diversity, and Feminist Studies Student Association, McGill)
Andony Melathopoulos (Platypus)
While it is clear that the student strike in Quebec expresses more than just discontent against tuition fee hikes, it’s less clear if there is general agreement among strikers on what follows the strike. For many the strike is about resisting neo-liberalism and its assault on the "modèle québécois", the system of labour legislation, educational reform and public welfare that emerged from the 1960s Quiet Revolution. But for others the strike signals a possibility to go beyond the past. This is has been expressed as a desire to pick up where the 1970s social democracy left off through demands such as free tuition. Others view Quebec's social democratic past as being part of the problem. They judge that parliamentary approaches have grown irrelevant in the face of a direct democracy that has carried the strike through five months in spite of massive police reaction.
The Platypus Affiliated Society is hosting this roundtable to explore these different political visions for the future of the Quebec Left. We encourage political disagreement among participants in the spirit of clarifying the potential directions and further development of the student movement. We assert that only when we are able create an active culture of thinking and debating on the Left without it proving prematurely divisive can we begin to imagine a Leftist politics adequate to the historical possibilities of our moment. We may not know what these possibilities for transformation are. This is why we think it is imperative to create avenues of engagement that will support these efforts
Bien qu'il soit évident que la grève étudiante au Québec exprime plus qu'un simple mécontentement face à la hausse des frais de scolarité, il est moins évident de discerner une position commune parmi les grévistes par rapport à ce qui suivra la grève. Plusieurs voient la grève comme étant une forme de résistance contre le néo-libéralisme et l'assaut que celui-ci exerce sur le "modèle québécois": le système de la législation du travail, de réforme éducative et de sécurité sociale établie lors de la Révolution tranquille des années 60. Mais pour d'autres, la grève signale la possibilité d'aller au delà du passé. Ce point de vue a été exprimé par le désir de prendre la relève de la démocratie sociale des années 70 à travers des demandes comme celle de l'abolition totale des frais de scolarité. Encore d'autres grévistes voient le passé social-démocrate du Québec comme faisant partie du problème. Ceux-ci jugent que l'approche parlementaire est devenue désuète face à une démocratie directe qui a porté la grève pendant 5 mois, en dépit d'une massive réaction policière.
La Platypus Affiliated Society présente cette table ronde dans le but d'explorer ces différentes visions politiques de l'avenir de la Gauche québécoise. Nous encourageons le désaccord politique parmi les participants, dans l'esprit de pouvoir clarifier les directions et développements possibles au sein du mouvement étudiant. Nous affirmons que nous ne pourrions imaginer une politique de gauche, adéquate aux possibilités historiques de notre moment, que lors d'avoir créé une culture de débat et de pensée active au sein de la Gauche elle-même. Il se peut que nous n'avons pas encore pris conscience de ces possibilités de transformation. Voici pourquoi nous croyons en l'impératif de créer des forums de délibération qui soutiendront ces efforts de prise de conscience.