Discussion about the significance of democracy for the Left, held at the University of Pennsylvania on March 21, 2019. The discussion was moderated by Austin Carder.
An edited transcript of the event was published in the Platypus Review Issue #117.
Adolph Reed (Professor of Political Science, UPenn)
Jon Bekken (Editor of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review)
Warren Breckman (Professor of History, UPenn)
Erin Hagood (Platypus Affiliated Society, NYC)
What is the history informing the demands for greater democracy today, and how does the Left adequately promote—or not—the cause of popular empowerment? What does democracy mean for the Left? What are the potential futures for “democratic” revolution, especially as understood by the Left?
Questions for panelists:
- What is the relationship between democracy and the working class today? Do you consider historical struggles for democracy by workers as the medium by which they got “assimilated” to the system, or the only path to emancipation that they couldn’t avoid trying to take?
- Do you consider it as necessary to eschew established forms of mass politics in favour of new forms in order to build a democratic movement? Or are current mass form of politics adequate for a democratic society?
- Why has democracy emerged as the primary demand of spontaneous forms of discontent? Do you also consider it necessary, or adequate, to deal with the pathologies of our era?
- Engels wrote that “A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is”. Do you agree? Can this conception be compatible with the struggle for democracy?
- Is democracy oppressive, or can it be such? How would you judge Lenin’s formulation that: “…democracy is also a state and that, consequently, democracy will also disappear when the state disappears.”
Held October 20th, 2018, at the Univesity of Chicago. Hosted by the Platypus Affiliated Society; funded, in part, by the University of Chicago Student Government.
This teach-in by Dr Abdul Alkalimat—UIUC professor of African American Studies emeritus and noted civil rights activist—took place on October 20th, 2018, and began with an account his involvement in the campaign of Harold Washington, Chicago's first black mayor. Additional topics discussed included the movement for black liberation, the relationship of radical and mainstream politics, and the possible implications of this history for us today.
From the Zero Books website (August 2, 2018):
Chris Cutrone is a member of the Platypus Affiliated Society, a professor at The School of Art Institute of Chicago, and a returning guest to the Zero Books podcast. He is the author of a controversial essay entitled “Why Not Trump.” The piece was a half-hearted endorsement of Trump as the better adversary for the left, an opinion that is not at all self-evident today under Trump. However, this week we discuss the late Moishe Postone as well as Adolph Reed in the context of the death of politics."
Panel hosted by the Marxist Humanist Initiative at the Left Forum in New York City. The discussion was moderated by MHI member Ravi Bali.
Daphne Lawless, Fightback
Brendan Cooney, MHI
Chris Cutrone, Platypus Affiliated Society
Anne Jaclard, MHI
Bill Weinberg, CounterVortex
Tens of millions of Americans and people around the world, including some of “the left,” have regarded Trump and Trumpism as exceptional threats to our well-being that must be resisted tooth-and-nail. But others have argued that anti-Trumpism is a problem, that concerns about Trumpism are a distraction from struggles against neo-liberalism and U.S. state power, and/or that the left should reach out to Trump’s anti-establishment and populist base. This debate featured speakers with different positions on these and related questions. Among the issues considered was whether or not the positions one opposes are genuinely “of the left.”
Held June 6, 2018 at the Left Forum at John Jay College in New York City. The panel was moderated by Platypus member Allison Hewitt Ward.
Jack Devine, Democratic Socialists of America
Jim Creegan, Weekly Worker
Erin Hagood, Platypus Affiliated Society