A panel held on April 6, 2013, at the 2013 Platypus International Convention at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
The emergence of modernity was accompanied by the emergence of labour, its discontents, and the expression of these discontents. From the late 18th century to the present, these expressions have assumed many and often opposing forms, and these in turn have been absorbed by many and often opposing interpretations. The transformations of these discontents and of labor conditions throughout this, from the Chartist movement of the early 19th century through the socialist movements under Owen, Proudhon, and Bellamy at the end of the same century, to the mass strikes of the early 20th century, the emergence of the formally recognised and contractualised unionism of the mid to late 20th century, and the later periods of deindustrialization and neoliberalism, have in turn produced manifold interpretations of the role of the working class in society, as well as of the destiny of the labour struggle among other struggles in history. These interpretations differ most critically in their consideration of the relation of the labour struggle to the struggle for an emancipatory politics, that is, the constitution of the Left, and to the struggle for emancipation ultimately, that is, the pursuit of Utopia.
This panel will consider the development of these interpretations throughout history by exploring interpretations of labour on the Left in the present. We seek to interrogate both the relation of labor to other struggles on the Left and its once-Utopian visions of a world fundamentally transformed. We ask our speakers to engage not just with the labor movement, its limitations and prospects as they are today, and with the experience they have of it, but with the labor movement as it once was and as it could be again.
Panel held on March 31st, 2012 at the Fourth Annual Platypus International Convention, School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
The two decades of the 1990s-2000s form a cycle containing certain common as well as differing concerns. The second decade of the 21st century has begun under the mixed legacy of recent history, presenting important problems needing to be worked through, moving forward.
For Platypus's 2012 international convention, two plenary panels will ask speakers from various perspectives to bring their experience of the Left"s recent history to bear on today's political possibilities and challenges.
The '90s Left Today
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and collapse of the Soviet Union soon after, a new political era opened, in which Marxism was discredited and anarchism became predominant on the radical Left. The most pressing challenges of post-Cold War neo-liberal globalization came amid an era of prosperity at the supposed "end of history." Postmodernist disenchantment with "grand narratives" of emancipation meant a turn against "ideology." Social "justice" rather than freedom became the watchword for a better world. "Resistance" and "horizontal" or "rhizomatic" politics provided a model for "changing the world without taking power" (as John Holloway, inspired by the Zapatistas, put it). Information technology -- the rise of the internet -- matched the new cosmopolitanism. The global order of "empire" confronted by the "multitude" demanded access to the "commonwealth" (Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri). The "death of communism" challenged the Left's imagination of an emancipated future. "Black bloc" protest and "communisation" theory replaced traditional socialism, as the 20th century came to an uncertain close.
The '00s Left Today
As a result of the 9/11 attacks, the War on Terror rekindled anti-imperialist protest, even while it seemed to deliver a grave blow to the newly emergent World Social Forum, "alterglobalisation" movement. Neo-conservatism in the U.S. presented the specter of growing divisions in the global order, to which the world's most vulnerable might fall victim. Religious fundamentalism appeared to surge. Disenchantment with capitalist development accompanied the social imagination of ecological crisis and economic downturn: the desire for a "green economy" and apparent need for decreased consumption. At the same time, new intensification of global migration of workers presented challenges for political integration. The U.S. and allied wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond, were met by an anti-war movement and a new generation of radicalization. But the wars were eclipsed by financial crisis and Obamaâs election, bringing anti-austerity protests (setting the stage later for #Occupy), as the first decade of the 21st century ended with the economic crisis lingering and even deepening, scotching hopes for a reversal of neoliberalism and return to "Keynesian" social investment policies. Neoliberalism and neoconservatism both stood discredited, but without presenting a clear alternative for the future.
Daniel Dulce (Crimthinc)
Thodoris Velissaris (Platypus)
Nick Kreitman (Platypus, Formerly new SDS)
Mike Ely (Kasama)
Joshua Moufawad-Paul (Supporter, Parti communiste revolutionnaire - Revolutionary Communist Party (Canada)
“However difficult the task of grasping and confronting global capital might be, it is crucially important that a global internationalism be recovered and reformulated. . . .
The Left should be very careful about constituting a form of politics that, from the standpoint of human emancipation, would be questionable, at the very best, however many people it may rouse.”
— Moishe Postone, “History and Helplessness” (2006)
A moderated panel discussion and audience Q&A on issues of global capital, imperialism and war, possibilities for progressive political opposition, and the problems and tasks for the Left in the post-Cold War and post-9/11 world raised by the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Held on January 30th, 2007, in Chicago.
Panelists: Kevin Anderson (News and Letters), Chris Cutrone (Platypus), Nick Kreitman (new Students for a Democratic Society), Danny Postel (OpenDemocracy.net), and Adam Turl (International Socialist Organization).