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You are here: Platypus /Archive for category What is Socialism?

Held October 4, 2018 at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Panelists:

John Abbott, Senior lecturer of history at UIC
John Bachtell, Chairman of the Communist Party USA
Fred Mecklenburg, News and Letters
David Faes, Platypus / Campaign for a Socialist Party

Panel Description:

The term ‘socialism’ appears to be enjoying a resurgence of public interest - both favorably where it is self-prescribed and pejoratively where it is meant to degrade the respectability of public figures. From early 2016 at the height of Bernie Sanders's campaign for the Democratic Party nomination to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory over Joe Crowley in June, the term ‘socialism’ appears to be gaining some level of purchase and a whole lot of press. In many instances, ‘socialism’ is commingled with terms as varied as ‘social democratic’, ‘communist’, ‘marxist’, ‘anarchist’, etc. As such, we view this is as an opportune moment to ask, “what is socialism after all?” What do public figures mean when they identify as socialists or any one of its varied strains? What do their opponents think it means? What does it mean and what can it mean? And perhaps, most important of all, what did it mean in the past?

Held September 27, 2018 at Oregon State University. Moderated by Andony Melathopoulos.

Speakers (in order):

- Mika Goodwin - Democratic Socialists of America (Corvallis)
- Paige Kreisman - Communist Party of Oregon (CPUSA)
- Douglas Lain - publishing manager Zero Books, author of Bash Bash Revolution 
- Christopher Nichols - History Department, OSU, author of Promise and Peril: America at the Dawn of a Global Age

Panel Description:

The term ‘socialism’ appears to be enjoying a resurgence of public interest - both favorably where it is self-prescribed and pejoratively where it is meant to degrade the respectability of public figures. From early 2016 at the height of Bernie Sanders's campaign for the Democratic Party nomination to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory over Joe Crowley in June, the term ‘socialism’ appears to be gaining some level of purchase and a whole lot of press. In many instances, ‘socialism’ is commingled with terms as varied as ‘social democratic’, ‘communist’, ‘marxist’, ‘anarchist’, etc. As such, we view this is as an opportune moment to ask, “what is socialism after all?” What do public figures mean when they identify as socialists or any one of its varied strains? What do their opponents think it means? What does it mean and what can it mean? And perhaps, most important of all, what did it mean in the past?

Held on September 8, 2018 at New York University. Moderated by Wentai Xiao.

Panelists:

- A.M. Gittlitz, contributor to the New Inquiry and co-host of the Antifada Podcast
- John Garvey, Editor of Insurgent Notes
- Richard Wolin, Professor of History at the CUNY Graduate Center

Description:

The term ‘socialism’ appears to be enjoying a resurgence of public interest - both favorably where it is self-prescribed and pejoratively where it is meant to degrade the respectability of public figures. From early 2016 at the height of Bernie Sanders's campaign for the Democratic Party nomination to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory over Joe Crowley in June, the term ‘socialism’ appears to be gaining some level of purchase and a whole lot of press. In many instances, ‘socialism’ is commingled with terms as varied as ‘social democratic’, ‘communist’, ‘marxist’, ‘anarchist’, etc. As such, we view this is as an opportune moment to ask, “what is socialism after all?” What do public figures mean when they identify as socialists or any one of its varied strains? What do their opponents think it means? What does it mean and what can it mean? And perhaps, most important of all, what did it mean in the past?

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?

Hier findet ihr einen Audiomitschnitt zur Podiumsdiskussion "Was ist Sozialismus" vom 07.12.2017 in Frankfurt am Main.

Was ist Sozialismus? Internationale Sozialdemokratie

Diese Podiumsdiskussion will die Teilnehmenden dazu einladen, über die Geschichte der Sozialdemokratie aus linker Perspektive zu reflektieren. Nicht zuletzt richtet sich der Blick damit auf die sozialistische (Zweite) Internationale — als von Marxisten geführte politische Organisation der sozialistischen Arbeiterbewegung zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts. In den Vereinigten Staaten fand dies Ausdruck durch Eugene Debs, einem radikalen Gewerkschaftsführer, der während seiner Gefängnishaft durch die Schriften des deutschen Marxisten Karl Kautsky zum Marxisten wurde. In Deutschland war dies Rosa Luxemburgs und Karl Liebknechts KPD, die aus dem Widerstand des Spartakusbunds gegen die Kriegsbeteiligung des Deutschen Kaiserreichs im Ersten Weltkrieg hervorging und in Russland ergriff bekanntermaßen die bolschewistische Partei unter Lenins Führung die Staatsmacht. Demnach ermöglichte die Zweite Internationale, den wahrscheinlich größten Versuch in unserer Geschichte die Welt zu verändern: die Revolutionen 1917-1919 in Russland, Deutschland, Ungarn und Italien. In diesen Revolutionen spalteten sich Kommunisten von Sozialdemokraten, während letztere das Bollwerk der Konterrevolution errichteten.

Im Verlauf des 20. Jahrhunderts setzte sich innerhalb der „radikalen Linken“ ein „Marxistisch-Leninistischer“ Geschichtsnarrativ durch, welcher vom Fortschritt der Dritten gegenüber der Zweiten Internationale ausging. Demnach hatten sich die „Radikalen“ der Zweiten Internationale gegen die politisch weiter rechts agierenden Sozialdemokraten (wie Kautsky) durchgesetzt.

Unter dem Siegeszug des Faschismus in den 1930er Jahren aber schien die Spaltung zwischen Kommunismus und Sozialdemokratie zur Nebensache geworden. Erst eine Generation später, nach dem 2. Weltkrieg, setzten sich die gleichen Sozialdemokratischen Parteien im Westen für weitreichende Reformen ein — nach wie vor in Opposition zum Kommunismus im Osten. Während einiger Jahrzehnte der „Annäherung“ zwischen Ost und West, schien die frühere revisionistische Geschichtsauffassung des evolutionären Hinübergleitens in den Sozialismus — im Gegensatz zur kommunistischen Revolution — sich als richtig erwiesen zu haben.

Die „Neue Linke“ der 60er und 70er Jahre entstand aber gegen solch einen Reformismus, auf der Suche nach radikaleren Politikansätzen. Sie wähnte sich in der früheren revolutionären Tradition stehend, wenngleich sie signifikante Veränderungen anzubieten hatte. Im Zeitalter des Neoliberalismus wurde diese Unterscheidung zwischen „Reform“ und „Revolution“ jedoch verwischt, wenn nicht sogar gänzlich unkenntlich gemacht. So befindet sich die Sozialdemokratie heute nicht mehr als in der Defensive gegen den Neoliberalismus, selbst wenn Phänomene wie SYRIZA, Podemos, Jeremy Corbyn und Bernie Sanders Versuche ihrer Wiederbelebung darstell(t)en.

Müssen wir uns also mit der früheren Geschichte des Marxismus — vor der Spaltung von Kommunismus und Sozialdemokratie— auseinandersetzen, um das Problem und das Projekt der Sozialdemokratie heute verstehen zu können? Wie sind die Fragen zwischen Sozialdemokratie und sozialer Revolution heute, in Anbetracht der Geschichte, noch verbunden? Wofür steht die Sozialdemokratie politisch?

Mit:

Christoph Spehr (Die Linke)
André Leisewitz (Zeitschrift Marxistische Erneuerung)
Martin Veith (Institut für Syndikalismusforschung)
Hans-Gerd Öfinger (International Marxist Tedency)
Lukas Schneider (Jusos Frankfurt)