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You are here: The Platypus Affiliated Society/Archive for category Panels

Ursula Jensen (IBT)
Paul Demarty (CPGB)
Moderator: Richard Rubin

In the late nineteenth century, working people’s response to capital was expressed in the political demand for Socialism. This demand galvanized the formation of European Social Democratic parties guided by the ideology of Marxism. Among the most influential members of the German Social Democratic Party, the political leaders of the Second International, agreed that the primary task of Social Democratic parties was bringing about the dictatorship of the proletariat, that is, the decisive political struggle between capital and labor. And while some of these leftist ultimately found the revolution too risky in the decisive decades of the 1910s and 1920s, even their political judgment is far to the left to those Social Democratic party members who, after World War II, openly espoused the integration of workers into a more just and thus more democratic capitalist order.

Once a global movement for the self-emancipation of the working class, today’s social democratic parties have fully substituted the task of educating workers in order to overthrow capitalism, with the task of creating and maintaining the conditions for a more just market economy. The present standpoint of social democracy is society as such, bound by national economies and mediated by the state. Social Democracy today promises to fight social injustice in the name of the people, but it no longer promises to realize socialism.

Yet what remains is the name, and with it the promise and the problem of Social Democracy.
In this panel we would like to investigate this transformation by looking at the history, the birth and decline, of Social Democracy. How can we understand the historical crisis of social democracy for the Left today? How, if at all, could the trajectory of social democracy shed light on problems yet to be superseded on the Left today?

Panellists in order:

Hannah Fair, climate justice activist, doctoral student, Red Pepper writer

James Heartfield, author of "Green Capitalism"

Ru Raynor, anti-aviation activist at Grow Heathrow

Wood Roberdeau, Lecturer in Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths

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 antiausterity, 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 the prospects 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 (i.e., in a manner that generates greater consciousness of what capitalism is and how to potentially overcome it). What would a Left response to climate change look like? How does this differ from the Right?


Halifax, NS:

Shirley Tillotson (Department of History, Dalhousie University)
Herb Gamberg (Author of "Marxism After Marx" (forthcoming))
Madelaine (Parti communiste révolutionnaire-Revolutionary Communist Party (supporter))


During the 19th century, suffrage rights were widened in the heart of capital, confronting political radicals with the question of whether and how elective offices could be used to achieve revolutionary aims. Since that time, differences of opinion on how to approach electoral politics have been at issue throughout the Left’s most fundamental splits: the break between Marxism and anarchism; the apparent capitulation of international social democracy to world war; the struggle for the legacy of the Russian Revolution; to capitalist stabilization and the apparent apathy to politics that would characterize our time.

Since the early 20th century such splits have attended the decline of the Left rather than its ascendancy, forcing recent generations of marginalized radicals to grapple with an impossible choice: either a "realistic" electoral compromise with the status quo, often couched in the logic of “lesser evilism,” or a "sectarian" electoral purism doomed to irrelevance, often inspired by fidelity to once-revolutionary “correct positions.” This impasse guarantees a hearing for those who, like many Occupy movement activists, advocate a principled abstention from electoral politics.

In the present moment there seems to be a shift back from popular mobilization and movement building, to electoral strategies and parliamentary representation. Although previously social movements severely criticized existing parliamentary democracy, the idea of facilitating radical causes through electoral politics and campaigns has recently gained prominence. So in Canada there has been the growth of the NDP (not only federally, but with a victory in Alberta); the European crisis has seen the rise of Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain in and the victory of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party in the U.K.; in the U.S. an avowedly social democratic Bernie Saunders appears to be having some success in the race for the Democratic leadership.

This panel tries to bring into question the significance of electoral politics in a moment when party representation has been largely delegitimized and disapproved. What are the uses, limits, promises, and perils of electoral campaigns and elective offices for Leftist politics?

Donnerstag 6. August 2015, 18:30 Uhr

Campus Bockenheim, Studierendenhaus, Festsaal


  • Max & Markus (Antifa Kritik und Klassenkampf)
  • Daniel Beruhzi (SAV - Sozialistische Alternative)
  • Thomas Seibert (Interventionistische Linke)
  • Mathias (Gruppe Arbeitermacht - Liga zum Aufbau der 5. Internationale)


Was ist eine linke, politische Organisation?

Trotz der vielen unterschiedlichen Strömungen und Tendenzen, ist der vielleicht wichtigste Streitpunkt der heutigen „Linken“ die Frage der Organisation. Nach der Wirtschaftskrise von 2008 und ihren Nachwirkungen formierten sich, anschlieĂźend an den „Arabischen FrĂĽhling“ und Occupy Wallstreet,  verschiedene Projekte fĂĽr eine „Linke Einheit“ und post-politische Tendenzen, die in der Tradition der 1980er und 1990er Jahre stehen (diese Perspektiven fanden Ausdruck in Hardts und Negris Theorie des Empire, John Holloways „Die Welt verändern, ohne die  Macht zu ĂĽbernehmen“, das „Manifest des kommenden Aufstands“ des Unsichtbaren Kommitees und das „Communique from an absent future“ der kalifornischen Studierendenproteste). Zur selben Zeit formierte sich in Griechenland SYRIZA und in Spanien die neue Partei Podemos (welche die „Marxistische Linke“ ebenso wie die etablierten Gewerkschaften als Teil der „politischen Kaste“ ablehnt), während die Partei DIE LINKE sich scheinbar selbstsicher an Koalitionsregierungen beteiligt.

Parallel dazu wuchs die Krise der „orthodox marxistischen“ Organisationen in den englischsprachigen und westeuropäischen Ländern, die charakterisiert wurde als die „Krise des (real-existierenden) Leninismus“ in den weit entwickelten kapitalistischen Ländern.

Neue Publikationen wie das „Jacobin magazine“, „n+1“ und das „Endnotes journal“ traten unter dem Label „millenial Marxism“ in Erscheinung. Damit in Beziehung stehend entwickelte sich eine Diskussion über das Vermächtnis der marxistischen Prinzipien politischer Organisation, zurückreichend in die Zeit der II. Internationalen 1889-1914 („Neo-Kautskyianismus“), beispielsweise in Lars Lihs „Revisionist History of Lenin“ und dem Buch von Mike Macnair, Mitglied der Communist Party of Great Britain, mit dem Titel „Revolutionary Strategy“ (2008).

Die vielleicht wichtigste Frage der sich eine internationale „Linke“ heute gegenüber sieht, reicht zurück bis zu Marx Streit mit den Anarchisten in der I. Internationale: Was würde es für die Linke heute bedeuten, politisch in Aktion zu treten?

Dennoch scheint die „Organisationsfrage“ fĂĽr die Linke mehr Probleme zu erzeugen, als sie löst. Politische Organisierung erscheint unerlässlich fĂĽr jede längerfristige Perspektive ĂĽber das Auf-und Abebben von Bewegungen hinaus. Dennoch haben Organisationen und Parteien als Aggregat politischer Aktion und Unzufriedenheit, die auf die Revolution hinarbeiteten, in der Geschichte ein ambivalentes Erbe: Sie haben gleichwohl die Rationalisierung politisch ineffektiver Strategien wie auch die Schaffung eines Nährbodens fĂĽr Opportunismus (Reformismus, Karrierismus etc.) ermöglicht. Heutzutage ist die Idee einer Organisation oder Partei als Mittel (und nicht als Selbstzweck), wodurch die Notwendigkeit zur Transformation der Gesellschaft vorangetrieben wird, theoretisch und praktisch schwer vorstellbar. Aus diesem Grundzustand - der Politik ohne Organisation - scheint gegenwärtig nur eine Affirmation der Unbeständigkeiten des fortwährend existierenden Kapitalismus' zu folgen.