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Held April 5th at the University of Chicago, as part of the 11th Annual Platypus International Convention.

Speakers:

Victor Cova, Aarhus University (Aarhus)
Andreas Wintersperger, University of Vienna (Vienna)
Jan Schroeder, Goethe University (Frankfurt)
Panos Didachos, Panteion University (Athens)
Padraig Maguire, Goldsmiths University (London)

Description:

What is the mean EU for the Left today? Does the Left believe the EU should be overcome on the basis of the EU itself, or against the EU? How can the Left address the current crisis of the EU, with the aim of overcoming capitalism and achieving socialism, when the political expression of its crisis has largely come from the Right? The clarification of the EU’s nature and appropriate responses seem to be one of the most pressing issues for the Left on the continent and beyond.

Audio recording of the closing plenary discussion with Chris Cutrone and Richard Rubin at the 11th annual Platypus Affiliated Society international convention, hosted at SAIC on April 5, 2019.

Held April 4th, 2019 at the University of Chicago, as part of the 11th Annual International Conference of the Platypus Affiliated Society.

Speakers:

  • John Abbott, Professor of History, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Robert Bird, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature, University of Chicago
  • John Bachtell, Chairman of the Communist Party USA
  • Patrick M. Quinn, founding member of Solidarity
  • Earl Silbar, Students for a Democratic Society (Chicago 1968), member of Fox Valley Citizens for Peace and Justice

Description:

1989 is largely remembered as a decisive close to the Cold War contest between communism and capitalism—with the victory of the latter casting a seemingly damning verdict against Marxism as a form of politics. The planned economies based on collectivized property of these states wereindicted as failures, and their totalitarian regimes called into question the very notion of working class rule. The fall of communism thus profoundly affected the Left’s ability to imagine the overcoming of capitalism, and the possibility of a classless society beyond it. But in passing into history, the meaning of 1989 can also be reconsidered. The Platypus Affiliated Society wants to use this anniversary to reassess the question of how 1989 weighs on the present. What is the significance of 1989 in its historical context, and what is its relevance for Left politics today?

Held April 1, 2019, at the University of Houston. Moderated by Danny Jacobs.

Panelists:

David Barsamian (Alternative Radio)
Secunda Joseph (Host of Imagine A World on All Real Radio + Smart Media Director)
Egberto Willies (Politics Done Right)
Michael Woodson (LivingArt)

Description:

"Fake news" and "alternative facts" became popular terms during the 2016 press. Snopes and PolitiFact notwithstanding, 2016 was not the first time in history that the news media has been criticized for playing a part in distracting, distorting, and misdirecting public political opinion. The Left has historically played a role in both agitating for political change and educating the oppressed classes about the ideology of dominant classes. The danger, however, is that in in opposing the current state of affairs, the Left may serve as an ideological screen for the next stage of capitalism.

Questions:

  1. What is the role of agitation and propaganda for the Left today? How does it differ from the historical Left's use of agitation and propaganda?
  2. How should the Left approach free speech? How, if at all, does this differ from past Leftists?
  3. How has the Left's understanding of social responsibility and individual liberty been clarified or distorted?
  4. What new social media models, if any, hold promise for educating the Left and its movement at large, and how can these forms be seen as better and/or worse than forms found in the legacy media (newsprint, radio, and TV).

A discussion on Democracy and the Left held at Goldsmiths, University of London, on March 28, 2019.

Speakers:

Benjamin Studebaker (Cambridge University, What's Left podcast)
Marjorie Mayo (Emeritus Professor, Goldsmiths University)
James Heartfield (Independent author, Spiked!)
Adam Buick (Socialist Party of Great Britain)

Description

Corbyn, Sanders, Trump, Brexit, and the gilet jaunes among others have all claimed the mantle of democracy, but what does it mean for the Left? Our panel will be held on the eve of the planned (at the moment!) date for the UK to leave the EU.

This panel will be part of an international series put on by Platypus on the same theme, addressing the democratic movements which have been taken up by both the left and right in recent years.

Questions for panelists:

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. 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.”