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You are here: Platypus /Archive for category Democracy and the Left

Held at the University of Sheffield on April 12, 2019.

Description:

From Brexit and the French yellow-vests to the AfD in Germany, the present centre of political attention is the crisis being expressed through democratic politics both within the nation-state and at the level of the EU. How should the Left understand and relate to this crisis? More broadly speaking, 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?

Speakers:

Anton Jäger (PhD History student, University of Cambridge)
Patrick Finan (Alliance for Workers' Liberty)
Isaac Stovell (Independent researcher, activist, ecclesial ecologist)

Moderated by Rory Hannigan

Questions for panelists:

  1. 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 were “assimilated” to the system, or the only path to emancipation that they couldn’t avoid trying to take?
  2. Do you consider it as necessary to eschew established forms of mass politics in favour of new forms in order to build a democratic movement? Or are current mass form of politics adequate for a democratic society?
  3. Why has democracy emerged as the primary demand of spontaneous forms of discontent? Do you consider it necessary, or adequate, to deal with the pathologies of our era?
  4. 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?
  5. 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 discussion on Democracy and the Left held at Goldsmiths, University of London, on March 28, 2019.

Speakers:

Benjamin Studebaker (Cambridge University, What's Left podcast)
Marjorie Mayo (Emeritus Professor, Goldsmiths University)
James Heartfield (Independent author, Spiked!)
Adam Buick (Socialist Party of Great Britain)

Description

Corbyn, Sanders, Trump, Brexit, and the gilet jaunes among others have all claimed the mantle of democracy, but what does it mean for the Left? Our panel will be held on the eve of the planned (at the moment!) date for the UK to leave the EU.

This panel will be part of an international series put on by Platypus on the same theme, addressing the democratic movements which have been taken up by both the left and right in recent years.

Questions for panelists:

  1. 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?
  2. Do you consider it as necessary to eschew established forms of mass politics in favour of new forms in order to build a democratic movement? Or are current mass form of politics adequate for a democratic society?
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. 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.”

Discussion about the significance of democracy for the Left, held at the University of Pennsylvania on March 21, 2019. The discussion was moderated by Austin Carder.

An edited transcript of the event was published in the Platypus Review Issue #117.

Speakers:

Adolph Reed (Professor of Political Science, UPenn)
Jon Bekken (Editor of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review)
Warren Breckman (Professor of History, UPenn)
Erin Hagood (Platypus Affiliated Society, NYC)

Description:

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 does democracy mean for the Left? What are the potential futures for “democratic” revolution, especially as understood by the Left?

Questions for panelists:

  1. 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?
  2. Do you consider it as necessary to eschew established forms of mass politics in favour of new forms in order to build a democratic movement? Or are current mass form of politics adequate for a democratic society?
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. 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 panel event held at the School for Visual Arts on February 25th, 2014.

Panelists:

Alan Akrivos (Socialist Alternative)
Dick Howard (Stony Brook)
Alan Milchman (Internationalist Perspective)
Joseph Schwartz (DSA)

Panel Description:

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 elections in US and recently in Germany, 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:

1. 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)?

2. 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?

3. 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?

4. 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?

5. 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?

6. How is democracy related with the issue of possibly overcoming capital?

7. 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?

8. Is democracy oppressive, or can it be such? How you judge Lenin’s formulation that: “…democracy is also a state and that, consequently, democracy will also disappear when the state disappears.”