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 1, 2018 at the Left Forum at John Jay College in New York.
Spencer Leonard - Platypus Affiliated Society
Terrell Carver - Professor of Political Theory at the University of Bristol
Christoph Lichtenberg - International Bolshevik Tendency
This year marked the 200th birthday of Karl Marx, than whom, as even his ideological opponent Isaiah Berlin had to admit, "no thinker in the nineteenth century has had so direct, deliberate and powerful an influence upon mankind." This panel seeks to bring together intellectuals committed to exploring Marx’s legacy in this post-Marxist age, those who, once more, seek somehow to bring that legacy to bear upon the world. Accordingly, we want to raise the question: What is the legacy of Marx’s life as a revolutionary intellectual -- that is, the legacy of the political writings and activities he contributed to the workers’ movement for socialism?
Teach-in by Allison Hewitt Ward held at New York University on March 23, 2017.
If the commodity-structure has been the defining feature of modern capitalism, it stands to reason that the development of art has followed its logic as well. Art, however, seems to be deeply ambivalent about its commodity status and bourgeois development. How might an examination of the emergence of "art" as we know it alongside the emergence of bourgeois society and the dominance of the commodity structure help us understand its present confusion?
A Platypus panel at NYU, Kimmel Center, room 808
Panelists (in speaking order):
R.L. Stephens (Labor organizer and editor of The Orchestrated Pulse)
Benjamin Serby (volunteer-organizer, Team Bernie NY and PhD Candidate in US History, Columbia)
Howie Hawkins (Green Party, USA)
Karl Belin (Socialist worker from Pittsburgh, labor organizer
Moderated by Tana Forrester (Platypus).
The Left has for over a generation -- for more than 40 years, since the crisis of 1973 -- placed its hopes in the Democratic and Labour Parties to reverse or slow neoliberal capitalism -- the move to trans-national trade agreements, the movement of capital and labor, and austerity. The post-2008 crisis of neoliberalism, despite phenomena such as SYRIZA, Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring and anti-austerity protests more generally, Bernie Sanders's candidacy, and Jeremy Corbyn's Labour leadership, has found expression on the avowed Right, through UKIP, Brexit, the U.K. Conservatives' move to "Red Toryism" and now Donald Trump's election. The old neoliberal consensus is falling apart, and change is palpably in the air. Margaret Thatcher's infamous phrase "There Is No Alternative" has been proven wrong. What can the Left do to advance the struggle for socialism under such circumstances?
Recent generations of marginalized radicals have been forced to grapple with an impossible choice: they must either submit to a “realistic” electoral compromise with the status quo, often in the form of “lesser evilism,” or they must vote for a third-party candidate, hoping that by making their platform public the winning party could be pushed leftward. Alternatively, out of exhaustion with this impasse, they may choose not to vote, advocating instead a principled abstention from electoral politics.
What lessons can the Left draw from the history of mass electoral parties for socialism to create more emancipatory choices in the future? How do we reimagine the role of electoral campaigns for Leftist politics today? Given that a significant number of working people in America have left the Democratic Party, what is possible?
This event is free and open to the public. All are welcome.
The Platypus Affiliated Society, established in December 2006, organizes reading groups, public fora, research and journalism focused on problems and tasks inherited from the “Old” (1920s-30s), “New” (1960s-70s) and post-political (1980s-90s) Left for the possibilities of emancipatory politics today.
What Does Climate Change?
80 Years of Environmental Politics - Left and Right
Cora Bergantiños PhD., Socialist Alternative NYC, Postdoctoral Research Scientist at Columbia University
Joel Kovel, founder of Ecosocialist Horizons, Author of The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World?
Andrew Needham, History NYU, Author of Power Lines: Phoenix and the Making of the Modern Southwest
Christian Parenti, Liberal Studies NYU, Author of Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence
The awareness of a growing planetary climate crisis in the 1990s appeared to coincide with a change: the final collapse of the traditional forces of the Old Left (communism and social democracy) and the consolidation of what many characterize as neoliberalism. For many green thinkers and activists, the political strength of the Right in the 1990s stymied any meaningful attempt to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But the global reach of climate change also generated sustained international resistance, which appears unified in its opposition to fossil fuel extraction. For Klein and climate justice activists, the combined weight of this resistance could “change everything” when coupled with the “erosion” of neoliberalism’s credibility, particularly in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and the assessment that climate change is inextricably bound up with capitalism (i.e., that climate change cannot be regulated or solved using “greener” forms of capitalism, but would require a “system change”).
Yet amidst the proliferation of activity--from blocking pipelines, to campus fossil fuel divestment campaigns, to blockades to stop hydraulic fracking and mountaintop removal coal mining projects and protests at international climate talks--it remains unclear how climate activism might lead to something different. U.S. Democrats, for example, appear poised to benefit from discontents around inaction on climate change regulation (in spite of advancing neoliberal reforms in the 1990s under Bill Clinton). In the E.U., climate activism has taken a back seat to anti-austerity, as governments responsible for the strictest austerity are largely credited with leadership in decarbonizing their economies. In fact, while an agreement overhauling the Kyoto Protocol seems increasingly likely at the Paris Conference of Parties (COP 21), the same cannot be said about theprospects for “system change.”
The focus of this panel is to consider what remains unchanged by the climate crisis. For there seems to be a continued problem of how discontents under capitalism become readily integrated into new forms of capitalism; a process whereby we unwittingly contribute to the perpetuation of capitalism without intending to. We ask panelists to consider how we might arrive at a post-carbon future from the Left. What would a Left response to climate change look like? How does this differ from the Right?