A panel event on held on Tuesday, 28 January, at Hart House, University of Toronto
Sponsored by the Hart House Social Justice Committee
L. Susan Brown - Author of Does Work Really Work
Dave Bush - Rankandfile.ca
Neil Fischer - Internationalist Perspective
Sam Gindin - Greater Toronto Worker’s Assembly, coauthor of The Making of Global Capitalism
It is generally assumed that Marxists and other Leftists have the political responsibility to support reforms for the improvement of the welfare of workers. Yet, leading figures from the Marxist tradition-- such as Lenin, Luxemburg and Trotsky-- also understood that such reforms would broaden the crisis of capitalism and potentially intensify contradictions that could adversely impact the immediate conditions of workers. For instance, full employment, while being a natural demand from the standpoint of all workers’ interests, also threatens the conditions of capitalist production (which rely on a surplus of available labor), thereby potentially jeopardizing the system of employment altogether. In light of such apparent paradoxes, this panel seeks to investigate the politics of work from Leftist perspectives. It will attempt to provoke reflection on and discussion of the ambiguities and dilemmas of the politics of work by including speakers from divergent perspectives, some of whom seek after the immediate abolition of labor and others of whom seek to increase the availability of employment opportunities. It is hoped that this conversation will deepen the understanding of the contemporary problems faced by the Left in its struggles to construct a politics adequate to the self-emancipation of the working class.
A moderated panel discussion hosted by the Platypus Affiliated Society on the interrelation of capital, history and ecology, held at York University on January 15, 2014.
The Dutch atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen recently characterized the period marked by the start of the industrial revolution in the 18th Century to the present as a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. This periodization is meant to capture a change in the history of the planet, namely that for the first time in history its course will be determined by the question of what humanity will become.
This event will focus on different interpretations of why the Left has failed to deal with the deepening crisis of the Anthropocene through the 19th and 20th Centuries and how and if this problem is interrelated with the growing problems associated with ecological systems across the earth. While Karl Marx would note that the problem of freedom shifted with the industrial revolution and the emergence of the working class - the crisis of bourgeois society that Marx would term capital - the idea of freedom seemed not to survive the collapse of Marxist politics in the 20th Century. We seem to live in a world in which the fate of ecological systems seem foreclosed, where attempts at eco-modernization seem to emerge many steps behind the rate of ecological degradation. For many, degradation of the environment appears a permanent feature of modern society, something which can only be resisted but never transformed.
This panel will consider the relationship between the history of capital and the Left—and thus the issue of history and freedom - and how it may be linked to our present inability to render environmental threats and degradation visible and comprehensible, and by extension, subject to its conscious and free overcoming by society.
A moderated panel discussion and audience Q&A on problems of strategies and tactics on the Left today.
Baolinh Dang (Proletarian Revolutionary Action Committee- Revolutionary Students Movement),
Cam Hardy (Platypus),
Megan Kinch (#Occupy, Toronto Media Co-Op), and
Jim Stanford (Canadian Auto Workers).
"After the failure of the 1960s New Left, the underlying despair with regard to the real efficacy of political will, of political agency, in a historical situation of heightened helplessness, became a self-constitution as outsider, as other, rather than an instrument of transformation. Focused on the bureaucratic stasis of the Fordist, late 20th Century world, the Left echoed the destruction of that world by the dynamics of capital: neoliberalism and globalization.
The idea of a fundamental transformation became bracketed and, instead, was replaced by the more ambiguous notion of 'resistance.' The notion of resistance, however, says little about the nature of that which is being resisted, or of the politics of the resistance involved.
'Resistance' is rarely based on a reflexive analysis of possibilities for fundamental change that are both generated and suppressed by the dynamic heteronomous order of capital. 'Resistance' is an undialectical category that does not grasp its own conditions of possibility; it fails to grasp the dynamic historical context of capital and its reconstitution of possibilities for both domination and emancipation, of which the 'resisters' do not recognize that that they are a part."
- Moishe Postone, "History and Helplessness: Mass mobilization and contemporary forms of anticapitalism" (2006)
A teach-in with Sam Gindin, Packer Chair in Social Justice, York University, held in Toronto on November 29, 2010.
Austerity measures stemming from the global financial crisis threaten to undermine public sector unions and the services they provide. The unions, however, have failed to politicize the crisis along class lines, and by extension, to the Left. This is leading to situations like the Toronto mayoral election where union activity was stigmatized opportunistically to motivate a rightward populism.
If anything, this crisis reveals that the connection between public sector unionism and the Left has become unclear. This is a problem that cannot be solved by simply reconsidering union strategy pragmatically; its solution depends on working through and clarifying the history, ideology and politics that underlie how public sector unions and the Left have come to relate.
This teach-in with leading Canadian labour analyst Sam Gindin explores the present crisis, its meaning and how we might get beyond it. His recent piece with Michael Hurley, titled “The Public Sector: Search for a Focus” considers how union activity could be changed not only to meet the challenge of austerity but also to reignite the Canadian Left.
Co-hosted with OPIRG York. Thanks to Socialist Project for the video recording.
The economic crisis, as many commentators and critics are quick to point out, has rekindled interest in—and anxieties over—Marxism. Although many on the Left hope this renewed curiosity marks the beginning of a radical turn, similar revivals of anti-capitalist politics in the 1930s, 1960s, and 1990s failed to achieve the revolutionary transformations they sought.
Has Marxism returned as a significant political force? How might this translate into the possibility for a revitalized Left? Will the resurgence of Marxist theory provide opportunities for social change—or merely the opportunity to fail again?
An interview with Dr. Leo Panitch conducted on February 19th, 2010, at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Leo Panitch is Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy and Distinguished Research Professor of Political Science at York University in Toronto, and coeditor of the annual Socialist Register.