Held 17 February 2018 from 11:00-13:00 in RHB 137a of Goldsmiths, University of London, as part of the fourth annual Platypus European Conference, 50 Years After '68: Does Socialism Have a Future? The discussion was moderated by David Mountain.
Please note: The audio quality for the first few minutes is poor. This improves a couple of minutes into Simon's initial remarks.
Simon Elmer (Architects for Social Housing)
Matthew Lee (Stop the Elephant Development; UCL Cut the Rent)
Austin Williams (Future Cities Project; author, ‘China's Urban Revolution’)
In recent years, a significant current of Left activists and thinkers has sought to mobilise around issues relating to urban change, most notably housing provision. Much activity has involved resisting gentrification--the economic displacement of marginalised communities--and lobbying established political parties, such as Labour, for investment in social housing or for rent controls. Since Engels wrote about the housing condition of the English working class in the 1840s, political changes in capitalism have seen different forms of state management of the housing issue, yet it remains a symptom of the crisis of capitalism. How have these political struggles of the past--for better housing, more equitable planning, against neoliberalism and against gentrification--responded or related to the struggle for socialism and the pursuit of freedom? How could they advance the struggle for socialism and the pursuit of freedom in the present?
Questions for panelists:
- What is gentrification? How do you understand this term?
- What significance has it had and should it have for the Left?
- How do housing struggles in the present relate those of the past?
- Why does capitalism appear to produce a housing crisis? Can it be solved in capitalism?
- How has the housing problem changed in the history of capitalism? How has the left changed in relation this history?
- In what way was the post-war provision of social housing and urban renewal--planning issues of slum clearance etc.--considered socialist?
- How and why did the New Left in the '60s and '70s take up urban geography and housing?
- How do campaigns around housing relate to the struggle for socialism? How does this task the Left today?
Held 16 February 2018 from 19:00-21:00 in RHB 137a of Goldsmiths, University of London, as part of the fourth annual Platypus European Conference. The discussion was moderated by Nunzia Faes.
Robert Borba (Revolutionary Communist Party USA)
Judith Shapiro (London School of Economics)
Jack Conrad (Communist Party of Great Britain; Weekly Worker)
Hillel Ticktin (University of Glasgow; Founding Editor, Critique)
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?
Questions for the panelists
Please answer the following questions in two registers: 1. What did you think in the 1960's 2. what do you think is possible now?
- Why did separatist politics (according to, e.g., race, gender, and sexuality, Black Power, feminism, gay liberation, etc.) become so salient in the 60s? What was common to the “movement” that transcended these diverse struggles for self-determination?
- Why was a “new” Left needed? What were the tasks that the New Left inherited from the Old Left?
- What was the relationship between the labor and students’ movements? Is a labour-student alliance needed today?
- How was the U.S. role in the war in Vietnam understood in relation to other social and political issues? Did the shift from the Civil Rights Movement to the anti-war movement change the possibilities for progressive politics?
- It is said that those of you participating in the 1960s movement(s) thought you could have changed the world. How was this change imagined? How did the efforts in the 1960's fail or succeed?
Held on February 15, 2018 from 19:00-21:00 in RHB 137a of Goldsmiths, University of London, as part of the fourth annual Platypus European Conference, 50 Years After '68: Does Socialism Have a Future? The discussion was moderated by Sophia Freeman.
Mataio Austin Dean (Student Activist, UCL)
Gregor Baszak (Researcher, Black literature and politics, University of Illinois, Chicago; Platypus)
Robert Borba (Revolutionary Communist Party USA)
Beneath a consensus of avowed anti-racism, the Left remains conflicted about whether and how to politicise race, often placing its hopes in the Democratic and Labour Parties to vouch for better democratic representation of the underprivileged. How could the politics of anti-racism advanced the struggle for socialism and the pursuit of freedom given the recent political changes?
Panel discussion hosted by the Platypus Affiliated Society at Goldsmiths University of London on October 19, 2017.
Jack Conrad (Communist Party of Great Britain / Weekly Worker)
HaPe Breitman (International Bolshevik Tendency)
Lyndon White (Political education officer, East Finchley Labour Party)
Robert Liow (Student activist, Kings College London)
Labour lost the election. But Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran of the 1980’s Labour left, seems to have saved the party. Corbyn's tenure has raised old questions about the Left's relationship to the Labour Party. While some on the Left take the crisis within Labour to be an opportunity, in various ways, for its transformation, others reject Labour as a dead end.
For Ralph Miliband, the crisis of Stalinism and welfare-state social democracy in the 1950s raised the problem of the political party for socialism. He thought Labour’s defeat in the 1959 general election made apparent what would have otherwise been obscure: “the Labour Party is a sick party.” This “sickness” was taken as an opportunity for the Left to clarify the nature of the Labour Party and go beyond the “labourism” which had defined it up until that point. The New Left sought to leverage this moment to educate a new generation “into the promise and the conditions for socialism in the 1960’s.” However, by the early 1970’s Miliband felt this opportunity had passed. How should we understand Labour’s metaphorical “sickness”? Should we seek to save the patient or to learn from its death?