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Teach-In by Eduardo Silveyra for Platypus Affiliated Society (University of Houston), October 4, 2019

On September 27, 2019, at the University of Houston, the Platypus Affiliated Society hosted a teach-in led by Platypus member Michael Woodson on capital in history.

What is the development of freedom in human history from the Platypus perspective?

In the mid-19th century, Marx and Engels famously observed that a "specter was haunting Europe: the specter of Communism". 170 years later, it is Marxism itself that haunts us, while capitalism remains.

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 concerning radical possibilities for freedom that might still speak to the present?

Is Marxism still relevant?

Held April 19, 2019 at the University of Houston.

Speakers:

Bernard Sampson (CPUSA)
Ryan Booker (Socialist Alternative)
Duy Nguyen (Assistant Professor of World Cultures and Literatures, UH)
Danny Jacobs (Platypus Affiliated Society, Houston)

Panel Description:

“The conquest of the governmental power by an hitherto oppressed class, in other words, a political revolution, is accordingly the essential characteristic of social revolution in this narrow sense, in contrast with social reform.” - Karl Kautsky, member of the First Marxist International (“On the Social Revolution”, 1902)

In 1918, a revolutionary moment gave rise to an opportunity for seizure of state power in Germany. This task was put on the table for a divided German Left that sought to bring about in political form the change that the masses were already demanding in practice. This posed the question of leadership directly—what does it mean to take power? What would revolution in a highly industrialized country entail, especially in relation to the Russian experience that polarized the German Left, and how might the Left of today be a legacy of such an unresolved moment in Left-centric history?

How can we politically understand the relationship between reformism, reformists, and opportunism, alongside the ideas of Revolution: when we think of Russia 1917, Germany 1918, and the failed world socialist revolution on our present? How does the history of the German Revolution inform the 20th century and today about what is considered a ‘social’ revolution and what is considered a ‘political’ revolution?

Held April 1, 2019, at the University of Houston. Moderated by Danny Jacobs.

Panelists:

David Barsamian (Alternative Radio)
Secunda Joseph (Host of Imagine A World on All Real Radio + Smart Media Director)
Egberto Willies (Politics Done Right)
Michael Woodson (LivingArt)

Description:

"Fake news" and "alternative facts" became popular terms during the 2016 press. Snopes and PolitiFact notwithstanding, 2016 was not the first time in history that the news media has been criticized for playing a part in distracting, distorting, and misdirecting public political opinion. The Left has historically played a role in both agitating for political change and educating the oppressed classes about the ideology of dominant classes. The danger, however, is that in in opposing the current state of affairs, the Left may serve as an ideological screen for the next stage of capitalism.

Questions:

  1. What is the role of agitation and propaganda for the Left today? How does it differ from the historical Left's use of agitation and propaganda?
  2. How should the Left approach free speech? How, if at all, does this differ from past Leftists?
  3. How has the Left's understanding of social responsibility and individual liberty been clarified or distorted?
  4. What new social media models, if any, hold promise for educating the Left and its movement at large, and how can these forms be seen as better and/or worse than forms found in the legacy media (newsprint, radio, and TV).

Teach-in given by Danny Jacobs on the German Revolution at the University of Houston, March 28, 2019.