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Held April 8th, 2017 at the 9th Annual International Convention of the Platypus Affiliated Society in Chicago.


Erek Slater (International Marxist Humanist Organization; Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241)
Yasmin Nair (Against Equality; Freelance journalist)
Mel Rothenberg (Chicago Political Economy Group)
Leo Panitch (York University)


In her seminal 1900 pamphlet, Reform or Revolution?, Rosa Luxemburg
stated that if the socialist movement lost sight of its final goal,
there would be nothing to distinguish it from liberal politics. Yet she
also claimed that the desiderata of liberalism could only be fulfilled
through the struggle for socialism. Though still widely read,
Luxemburg’s critique has only grown more enigmatic as the relationship
of these two competing ideologies blurred in the 20th century.

The 1930’s Popular Front alliance of Communist Parties and liberals,
initially conceived as a temporary strategy to defeat Fascism, proved to
be a lasting reformist coalition. Socialism regressed from a politics
of social revolution to a seemingly more radical version of the liberal
protest against exploitation and oppression. When the working-class and
its trade-union leadership began to lose their radical veneer, the
1960’s New Left sought new revolutionary subjects in the social
movements coalescing around race, gender, and sexuality, seemed to offer
a radicalism surpassing the liberal-labor alliance of the time. Yet
the 70’s saw the integration of the New Left into the political
establishment by way of the Democratic Party, paralleling the fate of
the Communists. Now, liberals champion the new social movements, to
which socialists ostensibly oppose a “class-first” perspective.

In the recent election, Clinton represented the neoliberal
establishment which opposed identity politics to the “working class”
concerns voiced by Sanders. For Clinton supporters, the Sandernistas
were “Brocialists” who reduced the problems of society to economics,
neglecting other forms of oppression.

How do both camps fall short of the fulfillment of all liberal
desiderata? What would it take for a Left to define itself beyond
liberal politics? In what ways is the contemporary Left’s relation to
the Democratic Party a legacy of previous capitulations to liberalism?
How has the lack of a self-conscious Left opened the way for regressive
movements to fill the void of emancipatory politics? How can the Left
oppose the establishment parties without simply replacing them?

Held February 3, 2015 at the University of California Santa Cruz. Moderated by Daniel Rudin.


Mike Rotkin - Lecturer in Community Studies at the UCSC
Allison Cabrera - SEIU, National Labor College
Steve Early - Labor Notes


Recently, campus-based unions have been organizing under the concept of "social movement unionism", and so we seek to ask the question - what does "social movement unionism" actually mean? The panel seeks to discuss this as a concept for campus-based organizing and situate the theory and practice of social movement unionism in relation to both the broader labor movement as well as to politics.

Panel Questions:

  1. Does the “movement” aspect of “social movement unionism” stand for the same thing as politics? If not what is the difference between movements and politics? How do you view the sectional demands of students relating to the demands of other sections of society - and how do they do so in a way that is better or worse than any other workplaces? 
  2. What kind of issues can be addressed through university unions?  Do you see university unions in any way as a “vanguard” or a strategy to revitalize left politics? As a way to restart the labor movement?
  3. How should public university unions relate to the local and national Democratic Parties?  Is a relationship necessary to preserve collective bargaining rights for state unions?  What can be said about the current frustration with fee increases?
  4. Is there something ‘politically formative' about the experience of striking, occupying, etc. that is necessary for building Left politics?  For rebuilding the labor movement?
  5. The International UAW administration prides itself on its partnership with the Big 3 and have used this as the primary message for organizing the foreign owned auto plants.  Are labor-management partnerships an organizing tool or liquidation of the labor movement?  What kind of relationship should university unions have with the administration?  What role should university unions play in directing the ‘work’ of the university?  Is this compatible with transforming the ‘work’ of the university, or with overcoming capitalism?

Samstag, 22.11.2014 19Uhr

Campus Bockenheim, Jügelhaus, HI


  • Felix (Interventionistische Linke)
  • Stefan Engel (Parteivorsitzender MLPD)
  • Paul B. Kleiser (internationale sozialistische Linke)
  • Die Linke (Sprecher/in TBA)


Die Geschichte der Linken besteht zu einem großen Teil aus Zusammenschlüssen und Spaltungen linker Organisationen und Parteien, gemeinsamen politischen Aktionen und Splittergruppen, Aufforderungen zum gemeinsamen Kampf und Bestrebungen für eine „klare“ politische Position. Verfechter beider Seiten betonen die Bedeutung ihres Gesichtspunktes für die Überwindung des Kapitalismus durch soziale Revolution oder schrittweise Reformen. Die berühmte Idee „eine Klasse, eine Partei“, die Spaltungen innerhalb der Ersten, Zweiten und Dritten Internationale, die Forderungen für Einheits- und Volksfronten, die heutige Fragmentierung der Linken und schließlich die Existenz zahlreicher Organisationen und Parteien wie der LINKEN und Blockupy in Deutschland, Syriza in Griechenland, der Communist Party of Great Britain und Left Unity in Großbritannien, der Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste in Frankreich, der Izquerda Unida in Spanien und dem Bloco de Esquerda in Portugal sind trotz all ihrer Unterschiede Beispiele für die Frage nach Einheit innerhalb der Linken.

Doch die Forderung nach linker Einheit bleibt bis heute opak. Rufe nach Einheit oder die Ablehnung von Einheit werden nicht nur von der Linken ins Feld geführt. So widerspricht die Losung einer nationalen Einheit häufig einer linken Perspektive. Entwicklungen innerhalb supranationaler Verbände wie der EU und der NATO erschweren oft vereinte Aktionen. Die Forderung nach linker Einheit, wie sie sich beispielsweise in Occupys „wir sind die 99%“ manifestiert, führt auch bei Bewegungen „von unten“ zu widersprüchlichen Ergebnissen, etwa der Wiederwahl von Obama. Auch Zerwürfnisse innerhalb linker Parteien weisen auf den widersprüchlichen Charakter linker Einheit hin.

Die Diskussion will die Frage nach der Notwendigkeit einer linken Einheit heute zur Debatte stellen und zu einer Klärung beitragen. Was ist ihre Aktualität, wo liegen ihre Wurzeln und welches sind ihre Perspektiven?

Hosted by the Platypus Affiliated Society at the University of Tennessee (Knoxville) on March 25, 2014.


Dr. Allen Dunn, University of Tennessee English Department Head

Chris Irwin, United Mountain Defense

Jon Phoenix, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth

Moderated by Grady Lowery.

Panel Description

It seems that there are still only two radical ideologies: Anarchism and Marxism. They emerged out of the same crucible - the Industrial Revolution, the unsuccessful revolutions of 1848 and 1871, a weak liberalism, the centralization of state power, the rise of the workers movement, and the promise of socialism. They are the revolutionary heritage, and all significant radical upsurges of the last 150 years have returned to mine their meaning for the current situation. In this respect, our moment seems no different.

There are a few different ways these ideologies have been taken up. Recent worldwide square occupations reflect one pattern: a version of Marxist theory — understood as a political-economic critique of capitalism — is used to comprehend the world, while anarchist practice — understood as an anti-hierarchical principle that insists revolution must begin now — is used to organize, in order to change it. Some resist this combination, claiming that Marxism rejects anti-statist adventurism, and call for a strategic reorganization of the working class to resist austerity, and perhaps push forward a “New New Deal”. This view remains wedded to a supposedly practical welfarist social democracy, which strengthens the state and manages capital. There is a good deal of hand waving in both these orientations with regard to politics, tactics, and the end goal. Finally, there have been attempts to leave the grounds of these theories entirely — but these often seem either to land right back in one of the camps or to remain marginal.

To act today we seek to draw up the balance sheet of the 20th century. The historical experience concentrated in these ideas must be unfurled if they are to serve as compass points. To see in what ways the return of these ideologies represent an authentic engagement and in what ways the return of a ghost. Where have the battles left us? What forms do we have for meeting, theoretically and practically, the problems of our present?