Held May 11, 2018 at the University of California Santa Cruz.
Evan Hetland - Platypus Affiliated Society
Mike Rotkin - former editor of Socialist Review, former mayor of Santa Cruz
Bruce Thompson - Professor of History at UCSC
Dave Andrews - Redneck Revolt
Jasmine - Redneck Revolt
Recent school shootings and the ever-recurring instances of police brutality pose acutely the question of gun control today. Should the Left take up the demand for gun control, and if so, how? If not, why not? How is gun control related to the struggle for socialism?
As a part of the 10th annual Platypus International Convention, we hosted a panel on the history of Platypus and its engagement with the Left. Held April 7th, 2018 at the School of the Art Institute Chicago. The discussion was moderated by Erin Hagood.
Ian Morrison (1st Phase: Anti-war Movement / Anti-Imperialism)
Spencer Leonard (2nd Phase: The "Marxist Turn" / IBT, CPGB Engagement)
Tom Carey (3rd Phase: #Occupy / Marxism and Anarchism)
Ed Remus (Protracted 4th Phase: Syriza, Podemos / What is Political Party for the Left?)
Omair H (4 ½ Phase: The "Socialist Turn" / Millennial Left)
Draining the swamp, psychoanalyst of the Left, and training the next generation of revolutionaries, are all more or less problematic formulations which we have used to describe what motivates the Platypus project. That given, these formulations all betray a peculiar attachment to that which Platypus wishes to forget: the dead Left. Perhaps they express a secret and difficult desire: that the object of critique might also be saved from the swamp, be receptive to the analysis, or indeed might learn better from our pedagogy. And yet we admit that this will not be the case.
The task of this panel is not so much to inoculate such formulations, rather it aims to dissect them, to observe the motivations of our activity within Platypus, especially where we encounter the greatest difficulty for reflection—that is, when we mean to regard our activity as Platypus itself. With these thoughts in mind, we propose to ask ourselves: Who is Platypus for? How do we assess our progress—as a membership? as an organization? How do we identify our audience?—and how do we become a Platypus for them?
The history of the Platypus Critique begins with a judgment issued on the dead-end course of the 20th century, indeed on the situation arrived at by all history preceding: that the Left has lived and died; that the ‘progress of freedom’ continues to exhaust itself in chimerical forms—a Platypus among others. But this judgment was not passed in condemnation, with the same breath it cried also: Long Live the Left! The very unnaturalness of the historical chimera, it was thought, might mask—and hence disclose—the purpose of its true nature. At least for those still learning how to look upon its monstrous features, illumined by the thought that “the new does not add itself to the old but remains the old in distress, in its hour of need...”
But today, this problematic has itself matured. We have now a ‘first decade’ of the Platypus Critique—this has consequences for the continuing possibility of such a critique. Today, perhaps, the swamp of the dead Left drains itself—in fact, this was already the case even before the first moments of the Platypus Critique. We must admit: our glance is retrospective, our pronouncements made post-festum. But they, like capital, accumulate. It is left for us to reason through this process, and so reflect on our reflection of the past which is the present.
On February 17, 2018, the white-nationalist Traditionalist Workers’ Party (TWP) held a rally on the campus of the University of Tennessee. The rally was led by Matthew Heimbach, a central organizer of the Unite the Right rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017 in opposition to the planned removal of a public statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The TWP’s February 2018 rally on the University of Tennessee (UT) campus drew about 45 white nationalists, about 250 protesters, and about 200 law enforcement officers. UT allowed the TWP to hold its rally on the university campus despite the fact that no UT students or faculty had invited the TWP to campus; furthermore, the TWP’s rally neither addressed students nor included students in the invitation-only guest list for its campus rally. In light of these events, the Platypus Affiliated Society hosted a conversation on March 21st, 2018, about the Left’s relation to racism and fascism on campus and in society at large. Speakers included Jordan Rogers, President of the UT chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA); Dr. Raja Swamy, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UT; and Chris Irwin of the Appalachian Anti-Racist Action Tea Party. The event was moderated by Spencer Leonard of Platypus. Speakers included Jordan Rogers, President of the UT chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA); Dr. Raja Swamy, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UT; and Chris Irwin of the Appalachian Anti-Racist Action Tea Party. The event was moderated by Spencer Leonard of Platypus.
Held November 15, 2017 at the University of California Santa Cruz.
Mike Rotkin, former editor of Socialist Review
Larry Cafiero, Democratic Socialists of America
Keith McHenry, Food Not Bombs
Bruce Thompson, Professor of History at UCSC
Since the Nazi seizure of power eighty years ago anti-fascism has been integral to left-wing politics. The struggle against fascists and Nazis is morally self-evident, so that political anti-fascism seems to be similarly self-evident. Yet in past periods of history, the politics of anti-fascism was completely different, as was the understanding of what it contributed to leftist politics more generally. Still certain continuity can be discerned in anti-fascism’s retention of anti-capitalist claims. Where does this come from? What was anti-fascism and how has it changed? How do the category and concept of anti-fascism help us to understand both historical and contemporary political realities? What does anti-fascism mean today in the absence of fascism as a mass movement?
Hosted by the Platypus Affiliated Society at the University of Tennessee (Knoxville) on April 26, 2017.
• Travis Donoho, Co-chair of the Knox area Democratic Socialists of America
• Barbara Bridges, Chair of the Green Party (US) of Knoxville
• Jason Dawsey, Lecturer of History at the University of Tennessee
Moderated by Matt Cavagrotti
Electoral politics are a longstanding problem for the U.S. left. In recent decades, a number of parties have formed as an alternative to the Democratic Party: the Labor Party, the Green Party, and now, the Justice Party. However, these parties risk becoming little more than networks of activists or pressure groups on the Democratic Party, and it still remains unclear whether a serious electoral challenge to the Democratic Party is possible.
Many progressives blame the “first-past-the-post” structure of U.S. elections, contra labour-friendly parliamentary systems; yet others insist that this procedural focus is misplaced. Leninists charge some quarters of the Left with misunderstanding the proper relationship of the party to the state; but for many, it remains unclear how State and Revolution bears upon the present. Most activists grant the desirability of a viable party to the left of the Democrats, but why exactly such a party is desirable-- to win reforms? to spread emancipatory consciousness?-- is contested as well.
These are old questions for the American left-- as old as Henry George, Daniel De Leon, and the 1930s American Labor Party, perhaps the high point of independent electoral politics in the U.S. This panel will investigate several contemporary approaches to electoral politics to draw out the theories that motivate Leftist third parties; it will also ask how the historical achievements and failures of third parties bear upon the present.
1. How does the present election represent an opportunity for the development of a third party?In what ways have Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Jill Stein, and Gary Johnson each helped develop a window of opportunity for a third party?
2. In what ways might these figures be responsible for miseducating, depoliticizing, or simply misdirecting potential allies?
3. What conditions would a Clinton or Trump administration produce for the left? How would each represent a challenge to the Left?
4. How might a third party avoid simply becoming either an instrument for pressuring the Democratic Party to the Left or a mere recruiting tool for activist and sectarian organizations? In other words: what are the practical and theoretical obstacles to the development of the Left beyond the default form of activity that have characterized it since the mid-20th century?
5. While we take for granted that a third party would have to distinguish itself from the two major parties, how could a third party attempt to draw from voters from both the Democrats and the Republicans?
6. The rise of progressivism and socialism in the late 19th/early 20th century defined every attempt at the development of a third party in the 20th century. How are progressive and socialist politics distinct and/or related? What role would each play in the development of a mass third party for the 21st century?