Platypus as a project seeks to relate to the contemporary left by focusing on the Left in history. We do this because we think one’s understanding of history is in fact one’s theory of the present, of how the present came to be and what might become of it. We try to understand the left politics of the present in light of what the Left has been, so as to provoke critical reflection. Is the Left today living up to the legacy it inherits? Are we falling short of the aspirations of the past? Must we?
The recent Platypus panel on the “Death of Social Democracy” raised the prospect of a socialist left whose approach is not focused on taking power in capitalist national states, whether through the electoral reformism of traditional Social Democracy or a Bolshevik-style armed seizure, but on building a grassroots-democratic, confederal, and internationalist counterpower that can replace capitalist nation-states with a truly democratic socialism. This prospect was only broached in the critique of Social Democracy. I would like to suggest some perspectives to fill out this prospect.
One November 7th, 2015, at its Second Annual European Conference in Frankfurt, Germany, the Platypus Affiliated Society hosted a panel addressing the topic “What is the European Union and should we be against it?” The discussion was moderated by Thodoris Velissaris and included the following panelists: Juan Roch, a member of the Spanish political party Podemos; Jens Wissel, a founding member of the Assoziation für Kritische Gesellschaftsforschung and author of Staatsprojekt EUropa: Grundzüge einer materialistischen Theorie der Europäischen Union; Nikos Nikisianis, a member of DIKTYO (Network for Political and Social Rights) in Greece, an affiliate of SYRIZA until July 2015; and Martin Suchanek, a member of Gruppe Arbeitermacht, the German section of the League for the Fifth International, and the editor of its theoretical journal Revolutionärer Marxismus. What follows is an edited transcript of their conversation.
The U.S. Democratic Party Convention in Philadelphia ended with a big schism that divides not only the supporters of Hillary Clinton from her opponents, but also Bernie Sanders from the movement he led until not very long ago. The senator from Vermont who attracted thousands across America to his rallies and ignited them with his speeches looked helpless—even ridiculous—in Philadelphia. In a matter of seconds, his speech endorsing Hillary turned a charismatic leader who embodied the hopes of millions into a pathetic old man who does not understand what is happening around him.
If one blows all the smoke away, one is left with the obvious question: Why not Trump? Trump is opposed by virtually the entire mainstream political establishment, Republican and Democrat, and by the entire mainstream news media, conservative and liberal alike. And yet he could win. That says something. It says that there is something there.
Against the backdrop of the numerous discussions of the political agenda, appearance, and vocabulary of the candidates running in the American presidential election, there is almost no demand for one subject: What is the class nature and mass social base of each politician?
On June 8, the London chapter of the Platypus Affiliated Society hosted a panel on the topic“Left Exit or No Brexit?” at the London School of Economics. The panel brought together Neil Davenport , Mike Macnair, and Gerry Downing , and was moderated by Ninad Pandit of the Platypus Affiliated Society.