One of the plenary sessions held at the third annual Platypus Affiliated Society international convention, hosted by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago between April 29–May 1, 2011, set about exploring the legacy of Trotsky’s Marxism.
Speakers Mike Macnair of the Communist Party of Great Britain, Bryan Palmer of Trent University, Richard Rubin of Platypus, and Jason Wright of the International Bolshevik Tendency were asked to consider:
“What is the relevance of Trotskyism for the Left today? On the one hand, there is a simple answer: The mantle of Trotskyism is claimed by many of today’s most prominent and numerous leftist parties in America and Europe (and beyond). The International Socialist Organization in America, the Socialist Workers Party in Britain, and the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste in France all have their origins in Trotskyism. Evidently, the collapse of Stalinism in 1989 left Trotskyism’s bona fides, as anti-Stalinist Marxism, intact. On the other hand, Trotskyism has been infamously associated on the Left with sectarianism. Certainly, the ISO, SWP and NPA long ago made their peace in crucial ways with the politics of the post-Marxist New Left — a revisionism that their sectarian brethren (for instance, Trotskyism’s bête noire, the Spartacist League) have proudly and doggedly opposed. However, despite their differences, all varieties of Trotskyism today evince the conditions of the New Left’s ‘return to Marxism’ in the 1970s, for which the legacy of Trotsky provided one significant vehicle (the other being Maoism). For instance Trotsky’s biographer, Isaac Deutscher, strongly influenced the journal New Left Review. And yet there is something peculiar about this legacy. As one Platypus writer has suggested, Trotsky is as out of place in the post-World War II world as Voltaire or Rousseau would have been in the world after the French Revolution. Trotsky, unlike Trotskyism, exemplifies the classical Marxism of the early 20th century, and that tradition certainly died with him. Thus, before we can understand how Trotskyism’s legacy has influenced the Marxism of our time, we must first answer the question: What has Trotskyism made of Trotsky’s Marxism?”
Mike Macnair, Communist Party of Great Britain (Oxford Univ. St. Hugh College)
Bryan Palmer (Trent University)
Richard Rubin, Platypus
Jason Wright, representative of the International Bolshevik Tendency
Representative of the International Socialist Organization (Declined to attend)
Mike Macnair of the Communist Party of Great Britain introduces his party's politics and project to an audience at the Third Annual Platypus International Convention in Chicago in 2011.
The opening plenary of the 3rd annual Platypus Affiliated Society international convention, held at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, on April 29, 2011.
Recently, the New Left Review published a translated conversation between the critical theorists Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer causing more than a few murmurs and gasps. In the course of their conversation, Adorno comments that he had always wanted to “develop a theory that remains faithful to Marx, Engels and Lenin, while keeping up with culture at its most advanced.” Adorno, it seems, was a Leninist. As surprising as this evidence might have been to some, is it not more shocking that Adorno’s politics, and the politics of Critical Theory, have remained taboo for so long? Was it really necessary to wait until Adorno and Horkheimer admitted their politics in print to understand that their primary preoccupation was with maintaining Marxism’s relation to bourgeois critical philosophy (Kant and Hegel)? This panel proposes to state the question as directly as possible and to simply ask: How did the practice and theory of Marxism, from Marx to Lenin, make possible and necessary the politics of Critical Theory?
Co-sponsored by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago Departments of Art Education, Art History, Liberal Arts, and Visual and Critical Studies, and the SAIC Student Association.
Chris Cutrone, Platypus (School of the Art Institute of Chicago)
Andrew Feenberg (Simon Fraser University)
Richard Westerman (University of Chicago)
Respondent: Nicholas Brown (University of Illinois at Chicago)
A teach-in with Sam Gindin, Packer Chair in Social Justice, York University, held in Toronto on November 29, 2010.
Austerity measures stemming from the global financial crisis threaten to undermine public sector unions and the services they provide. The unions, however, have failed to politicize the crisis along class lines, and by extension, to the Left. This is leading to situations like the Toronto mayoral election where union activity was stigmatized opportunistically to motivate a rightward populism.
If anything, this crisis reveals that the connection between public sector unionism and the Left has become unclear. This is a problem that cannot be solved by simply reconsidering union strategy pragmatically; its solution depends on working through and clarifying the history, ideology and politics that underlie how public sector unions and the Left have come to relate.
This teach-in with leading Canadian labour analyst Sam Gindin explores the present crisis, its meaning and how we might get beyond it. His recent piece with Michael Hurley, titled “The Public Sector: Search for a Focus” considers how union activity could be changed not only to meet the challenge of austerity but also to reignite the Canadian Left.
Co-hosted with OPIRG York. Thanks to Socialist Project for the video recording.