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Eine Podiumsdiskussion, veranstaltet von der Platypus Affiliated Society im Amerlinghaus in Wien am 11. Juli 2018.

Podium:

Christian Hofmann (Bundesjugendsekretär in der GPA-djp)
Michael Fischer
Michael Märzen (Arbeiter*innenstandpunkt, Liga für die 5. Internationale)
Martin Gutlederer (Der Funke, Internationale Marxistische Tendenz)

Im Lichte der aktuellen öffentlichen Debatte über den 12-Stunden-Arbeitstag diskutieren wir über das Verhältnis der Linken zur Politik der Arbeit. Wie hat linke Politik der Arbeit in der Vergangenheit ausgesehen, welche politischen Ziele verfolgt Politik der Arbeit in der Gegenwart und welches Potential für die Linke steckt darin?

Held at the University of Chicago on April 6, 2018 as part of the 10th annual international convention of the Platypus Affiliated Society.

An edited transcript of the event was published in The Platypus Review.

Speakers:

Abdul Alkalimat (Professor of African-American Studies at UIC; author of Malcolm X for Beginners)
Mitchell Cohen (Author of An American in Revolutionary Nicaragua and Listen, Bookchin!)
Johnny Mercer (Socialist Party of Great Britain)
Joseph Estes (Platypus Affiliated Society)

Description:

For half a century, 1968 has represented a high-water mark of social and political transformation, a year of social upheaval that spanned the entire globe. Ushered in by a New Left that sought to distinguish itself from the Old Left that emerged in the 20s and 30s, the monumental events of 1968 set the tone for everything from protest politics to academic leftism.

Today, with the U.S. entangled in a seemingly endless war in Asia and people calling for the impeachment of an unpopular president, with activists fighting in the streets and calling for liberation along the lines of race, gender, and sexuality, the Left’s every attempt to discover new methods and new ideas seems to invoke a memory of the political horizons of 1968. We can perhaps more than ever feel the urgency of the question: what lessons are to be drawn from the New Left as another generation undertakes the project of building a Left for the 21st century?

On February 17, 2018, the white-nationalist Traditionalist Workers’ Party (TWP) held a rally on the campus of the University of Tennessee. The rally was led by Matthew Heimbach, a central organizer of the Unite the Right rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017 in opposition to the planned removal of a public statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The TWP’s February 2018 rally on the University of Tennessee (UT) campus drew about 45 white nationalists, about 250 protesters, and about 200 law enforcement officers. UT allowed the TWP to hold its rally on the university campus despite the fact that no UT students or faculty had invited the TWP to campus; furthermore, the TWP’s rally neither addressed students nor included students in the invitation-only guest list for its campus rally. In light of these events, the Platypus Affiliated Society hosted a conversation on March 21st, 2018, about the Left’s relation to racism and fascism on campus and in society at large. Speakers included Jordan Rogers, President of the UT chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA); Dr. Raja Swamy, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UT; and Chris Irwin of the Appalachian Anti-Racist Action Tea Party. The event was moderated by Spencer Leonard of Platypus. Speakers included Jordan Rogers, President of the UT chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA); Dr. Raja Swamy, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UT; and Chris Irwin of the Appalachian Anti-Racist Action Tea Party. The event was moderated by Spencer Leonard of Platypus.

Protestors from the anti-fascist demonstration on UT's campus in February.
Propaganda from local anti-fascist activists painted on "The Rock" on the UT campus while the event was ongoing, covering the paint in the previous image.

Anti-Platypus propaganda painted on "The Rock" on the UT campus while the event was ongoing.

On March 10, 2018, at Berkeley City College, the Berkeley chapter of the Platypus Affiliated Society hosted a panel titled "What is socialism?: International social democracy." The panelists were Grover Furr, professor of English literature at Montclair State University; James R. Martel, professor of political science at San Francisco State University; Ron Kelch, of News & Letters; and Gerald Smith, of the Peace & Freedom Party and the Oscar Grant Committee. The discussion was moderated by Audrey Crescenti.

Description:

This panel invites you to reflect on the history of social democracy from a leftist viewpoint. Such a perspective raises the specter of the Second International, the political organization that led the workers’ movement for socialism around the turn of the 20th century.

In the U.S., this politics found its expression in Eugene Debs, a radical labor leader converted to Marxism in prison by reading the German Marxist, Karl Kautsky. In Germany, in Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht’s Communist Party of Germany, inheritor of the Spartacus League’s opposition to joining the German state’s war effort during the First World War. And in Russia, most famously, in the capture of state power by the Bolshevik Party led by Lenin. Thus the Second International gave rise to what is arguably the greatest attempt to change the world in history: the revolutions of 1917–19 in Russia, Germany, Hungary, and Italy. In these revolutions, Communists split from Social Democrats, the latter of whom formed the bulwark of counterrevolution.

During much of the 20th century, a Marxist-Leninist approach to history prevailed on much of the hard left, according to which the Second International revolutionaries had effectively superseded the politics of more right-wing figures within social democracy, such as Kautsky. The Third International has in this respect been widely accepted as an advance upon the Second. In the 1930s, the rise of fascism seemed to sideline the Communist vs. Social Democrat controversy. A generation later, after World War II, these same Social Democratic parties in the West engaged in wide-ranging reforms, while still opposing Communism in the East. For a few decades of supposed “convergence” between East and West, it seemed that the earlier evolutionary view of achieving socialism, contra Communist revolution, might be proven correct.

But the New Left in the West emerged in opposition to such reformism, in search of a more radical politics. In the neoliberal era, however, the division between reform and revolution has been blurred if not erased. And today social democracy is on the defensive against neoliberalism, even as its memory is resuscitated by such phenomena as SYRIZA, Podemos, Jeremy Corbyn, and Bernie Sanders. But, do we in fact still need to reckon with the earlier history of Marxism—the split between Communists and Social Democrats—in order to understand the problem and project of social democracy today? How are the questions of social democracy and social revolution related today, in light of history? What has social democracy come to signify politically?

Teach-in by Boris Kagarlitzky (Author; Institute of Globalization and Social Movements) on the first year of Trump. Held February 18, 2018 from 13:00-14:30 in RHB 137a of Goldsmiths, University of London, as part of the fourth annual Platypus European Conference. The discussion was moderated by Jerzy Sobotta.