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An interview with Lawrence Parker, the author of Communists and Labour: The National Left-Wing Movement, 1925-1929, conducted by Efraim Carlebach of the Platypus Affiliated Society on July 21, 2018.

An edited transcript of the interview was published in the Platypus Review Issue #111.

Between us we can change this rotten society. Now, put on your coat and make for the nearest cinema. Look at their deadly love-making on the screen. Isn’t it better in real life? Make up your mind to learn to love. Then, during the interval, when the first advertisements come on, pick up your tomatoes or, if you prefer, your eggs, and chuck them. Then get out into the street, and peel off all the latest government proclamations until underneath you discover the message of the days of May and June.

Stay awhile in the street. Look at the passers-by and remind yourself: the last word has not yet been said. Then act. Act with others, not for them. Make the revolution here and now. It is your own. C’est pour toi que tu fais la révolution.

— Daniel and Gabriel Cohn-Bendit, Obsolete Communism: The Left-Wing Alternative


Recommended films for screening

+ Brother Outsider: The Bayard Rustin Story
+ Rebels with a Cause: The SDS
+ Medium Cool
+ Columbia Revolt
+ The Weather Underground
+ Finally Got the News


Recommended background readings

+ Students for a Democratic Society, Port Huron Statement (1962)
+ Irwin Unger, The Movement (1974); see also Unger’s retrospective of 1968

Further background readings

+ Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS (1973)
+ Massimo Teodori, The New Left (1969)
+ Harold Jacobs, Weatherman (1970)


required / + recommended reading


Primary book source *

• Carl Oglesby, ed. The New Left Reader (1968)


Week 1 | June 13

• Stuart Hall, "Introducing New Left Review"
• C. Wright Mills, "Letter to the New Left" and "The politics of responsibility" *
• Leszek Kolakowski, "The concept of the Left" *
• Herbert Marcuse, "Conclusion to One-Dimensional Man" *


Week 2 | June 20

• Carl Oglesby, "The idea of the New Left" *
• Louis Althusser, "Contradiction and over-determination" *
+ Althusser, "Marxism and humanism"


Week 3 | June 27

• Cliff Slaughter, "What is revolutionary leadership?"
Revolutionary Tendency of the Socialist Workers Party/U.S., "In defense of a revolutionary perspective"
Spartacist League, "Genesis of Pabloism"


Week 4 | July 4

• Malcolm X, "I don't mean bananas" *
• Huey Newton, "A prison interview" *
Spartacist League, "Soul power or workers' power? The rise and fall of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers"
+ Harold Cruse, from The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual Part 1 Part 2


Week 5 | July 11

• Andre Gorz, from Strategy for Labor *
Stuart Hall, Raymond Williams, E.P. Thompson, from The May Day Manifesto *


Week 6 | July 18

• Daniel and Gabriel Cohn-Bendit, "The battle of the streets," from Obsolete Communism: The Left-Wing Alternative *
• Rudi Dutschke, "On anti-authoritarianism" *
• Mark Rudd, "Columbia: Notes on the Spring rebellion" *
Sorbonne students' open assembly of June 13-14, 1968, "The appeal from the Sorbonne" *
Tom Fawthorpe, Tom Nairn, David Triesman, "Three student risings" *


Week 7 | July 25

Marcuse, "The question of revolution" (1967)
+ Theodor Adorno, “Late Capitalism or Industrial Society?” (AKA “Is Marx Obsolete?”) (1968)
+ Esther Leslie, Introduction to the 1969 Adorno-Marcuse correspondence (1999)
+ Adorno and Herbert Marcuse, correspondence on the German New Left (1969)
Adorno, “Marginalia to Theory and Praxis” (1969)
Adorno, “Resignation” (1969)
+ Adorno, Interview with Der Spiegel magazine (1969)

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.

Held on February 18, 2018 from 18:00-20:00 in RHB 137a at Goldsmiths, University of London, as part of the fourth annual Platypus European Conference. The discussion was moderated by Pam Nogales.

Speakers:

Boris Kagarlitsky (Author; Institute of Globalization and Social Movements)
Alex Demirovic (University of Frankfurt; Rosa Luxemburg Foundation)
Mark Osbourn (Alliance for Workers Liberty)
Hillel Ticktin (University of Glasgow; Founding Editor, Critique)

Chris Cutrone (School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Platypus)

Description:

The recent polarisation of politics, in the UK manifested around Corbyn and Brexit, has led some commentators to herald the end of neoliberalism. This undetermined moment has been welcomed variously as a potential opening for emancipatory politics, political engagement and a renewed imagination of 'socialism'. For others, it has been received with belligerence, as a turn toward a new, populist right. This panel discussion aims to clarify the range of Left perspectives on the question of the future of socialism today.

Questions:

  1. Are we in a moment of stability or instability? How so? Can we talk, as CNN notes, of an upset equilibrium in the world? (CNN: “The Trump effect could be all the more pronounced because the political
    equilibrium of much of the world has been upset, straining institutions and assumptions in international relations that have endured for decades. To judge how much has changed, and why the prospects of 2017 look so uncertain, it's worth looking back a year.”)
  2. Is there a “re-politicisation of public life … reviving a culture of political participation and democratic debate”? If so, what kind of politics are emerging in this moment?
  3. Does the success of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders constitute a resurgence of socialists politics today? What is the character of these socialist politics?
  4. Do you see a future for socialist politics? In what way would this be a break from the history of previous attempts at socialism, for example the anti-war movement and the New Left? What are the political tasks socialists must face today?
  5. Do we still need the dictatorship of the proletariat? Why or why not?

Held 17 February 2018 from 14:00 -16:00 in RHB 137a of Goldsmiths, University of London, as part of the fourth annual Platypus European Conference. The discussion was moderated by Erin Hagood.

Speakers:

Roxanne Baker (International Bolshevik Tendency)
Judith Shapiro (London School of Economics)
Sarah McDonald (Communist Party of Great Britain; Weekly Worker)

Event Description

Feminism and the women's question has continually played an important role in the history of the Left. This workshop seeks to bring together feminists of different generations to discuss the changing meaning of the relationship between feminism and socialism, in order to begin to talk about what the struggle for women’s liberation might mean politically in the future.

Questions for panelists

  1. What is feminism? What is the struggle for women's emancipation?
  2. How should we interpret the greater separation of mainstream feminism from socialist politics and from Marxist politics over the 20th century?
  3. What is the relationship between the fight for women's freedom and the project of human emancipation?
  4. What do the seeming advancements and successes of feminism in recent decades tell us when considered in relation to the failure of the proletarian struggle?