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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:

  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.”

16.12.18 - Frankfurt am Main


Florian (Kritik & Praxis)
Manuel Kellner (ISO)
Lino Leudesdorff (Jusos Frankfurt)

Im Jahr 1918, vier Jahre nach Beginn des ersten Weltkriegs und ein Jahr nach der russischen Revolution, brach die deutsche Revolution aus. Was bedeutet diese Revolution in der Geschichte des Kampfes für den Sozialismus? War sie eine Niederlage oder ein Erfolg? Wie ist sie im Hinblick auf das 19. Jahrhundert einzuordnen und wie hat sie das 20. Jahrhundert geprägt?

Seit einem halben Jahrhundert kennzeichnet 1968 einen Meilenstein sozialer und politischer Umbrüche – ein Jahr sozialer Aufstände, die die ganze Welt umspannten. Eingeleitet von einer Neuen Linken, welche sich von der Alten Linken der 20er und 30er abzugrenzen suchte, legten die Ereignisse von 1968 den Grundstein für alles Folgende: von Protestpolitik bis hin zur akademischen Linken.

Heute, da die Vereinigten Staaten in einem scheinbar endlosen Krieg in Asien verwickelt sind, der Aufruf zur Amtsenthebung eines unbeliebten Präsidenten laut wird, und sich auf den Straßen Aktivisten um Forderungen nach Befreiung hinsichtlich Herkunft, Gender und Sexualität zum Kampf erheben, treten Ansprüche, in denen sich der politische Horizont von 1968 widerspiegelt, in Erinnerung. Mit möglicherweise nie dagewesener Dringlichkeit müssen wir die Frage stellen: Welche Lehren sind aus der Neuen Linken zu ziehen, wenn eine andere Generation an den Aufbau einer Linken des 21. Jahrhunderts herantreten soll?

Es diskutieren:
Helmut Dahmer, Soziologe und Publizist (
Michael Genner, langjähriger Aktivist und Organisator von politischem Wiederstand. Aktiv bei „Asyl in Not”
Gáspár Miklós Tamás, Philosoph, vielseitiges politisches Engagement in Ungarn

Sebastian Vetter, Platypus Affiliated Society

Gußhausstraße 14, 1040 Wien, Österreich
Wir danken der KPÖ herzlich für die Bereitstellung der Räume.

Wann? 29.10.2018, 19:00


Es wird einen breiten Rahmen für Publikumsfragen geben. Die Veranstaltung wird aufgezeichnet und später online gestellt.

On October 24, 2018, the Platypus Affiliated Society hosted a discussion on 50 years of 1968 at Berkeley City Community College. The discussion was moderated by Audrey Crescenti.


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 1920s 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?


  • Bobby Seale (Black Panther Party)
  • Max Elbaum (Students for a Democratic Society)
  • Watson Ladd (Platypus Affiliated Society)

Held October 4, 2018 at the University of Illinois at Chicago.


John Abbott, Senior lecturer of history at UIC
John Bachtell, Chairman of the Communist Party USA
Fred Mecklenburg, News and Letters
David Faes, Platypus / Campaign for a Socialist Party

Panel Description:

The term ‘socialism’ appears to be enjoying a resurgence of public interest - both favorably where it is self-prescribed and pejoratively where it is meant to degrade the respectability of public figures. From early 2016 at the height of Bernie Sanders's campaign for the Democratic Party nomination to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory over Joe Crowley in June, the term ‘socialism’ appears to be gaining some level of purchase and a whole lot of press. In many instances, ‘socialism’ is commingled with terms as varied as ‘social democratic’, ‘communist’, ‘marxist’, ‘anarchist’, etc. As such, we view this is as an opportune moment to ask, “what is socialism after all?” What do public figures mean when they identify as socialists or any one of its varied strains? What do their opponents think it means? What does it mean and what can it mean? And perhaps, most important of all, what did it mean in the past?