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A panel on the politics of work held at the University of Houston, December 4, 2016 by Platypus Houston.

Panelists:

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.

Hosted By Platypus Affiliated Society

Alvaro Rodriguez - Communist Party, USA
Henry Cooper - Proyecto Latino Americano
Liam Wright - student, veteran of Occupy Seattle and other social movements

Panel Description:

Neo-liberalism, as the current organization of capitalism, promised to overcome the crisis of the Keynesian-Fordist states through the attainment of a free, cosmopolitan society. Yet, the weight of national borders continues to be felt.
While capital can easily move to a home where it is profitable, workers find their movement more stifled. From Brexit to the US presidential elections, immigration has become unavoidable in political discourse: some politicians have promised comprehensive immigration reform, while others have considered the undocumented culpable for the decline of the nation's economy and sovereignty. In each case, a crisis of Neo-liberalism is registered - but what is the meaning of the question to the Left and its attempts to change the world?

Famously, the Communist Manifesto says "the working men have no country." The incessant drive to realize profit sends capital all over the world, uprooting established relations and dynamizing the global economy. Workers are forced to consider themselves internationally in the fight against capital. Further, immigration might even centralize the gravediggers of capitalism.

However, if this process is not grasped by the workers, it offers an opportunity for the capitalists to secure their reign. The precarity of immigrants can be exploited by the ruling class to split the proletariat and contain their political struggle - that is, unless there is a Left to lead.

We ask the panelists to consider the following questions:

How has the Left approached the question of immigration historically? What opportunities exist in the immigrant rights movement today for an emancipatory politics?

How has immigration related to other demands made by the Left?

What role can Left organizations - civil and/or political - play in immigration politics?