2013 Platypus International Convention Utopia and Program

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“Program” and “Utopia” have for well over a century now sat in uneasy tension within the politics of the Left, in tension both with each other and with themselves. Political programs tend to be presented in the sober light of practicability — straightforward, realistic, matter-of-fact. Social utopias, by contrast, appear quite oppositely as the virtue of aspiring ambition — involved, unrealistic, exhilarating. Historically, then, the two would appear to be antithetical. In either case, one usually offers itself up as a corrective to the other: the programmatic as a harsh “reality check” to pipe-dream idealism; utopianism as an alternative to dreary, cynical Realpolitik.Today, however, it is unavoidable that both program and utopia are in profound crisis. For those Leftists who still hold out some hope for the possibility of extra-electoral politics, an impasse has arisen. Despite the effusive political outbursts of 2011-12 in the Arab Spring and #Occupy — with their emphasis on the identity of means and ends, anti-hierarchical modes of organization, and utopian prefiguration — the Left still seems to have run aground. Traces may remain in the form of various issue-based affinity groups, but the more ambitious projects of achieving sweeping social transformation have been quietly put to rest, consoled with the mere memory of possibility.Meanwhile, longstanding Left organizations, having temporarily reverted to the usual waiting game of patiently tailing popular discontents with the status quo, until the masses finally come around and decide to “get with the program” (i.e., their program), have experienced a crisis of their own: slowly disintegrating, with occasional spectacular implosions, many of their dedicated cadre call it quits amid demoralization and recriminations. What possibilities might remain for a Left whose goal is no longer utopian, and whose path toward it is no longer programmatically defined?

Text of 2013 Platypus International Convention Utopia and Program

UTOPIA AND PROGRAMFifth Annual International Convention

The Platypus Afliated Societyplatypus1917.org

ContentsStatement of Purpose Convention Theme SAIC Map Convention Program Itinerary Friday Saturday Sunday Speaker Biographies Acknowledgements 8 10 15 16 18 4 5 6 7

The Platypus Affiliated SocietyThe Platypus Afliated Society, established in December 2006, organizes reading groups, public fora, research and journalism focused on problems and tasks inherited from the "Old " (1920s-30s), "New" (1960s-70s) and post-political (1980s-90s) Left for the possibilities of emancipatory politics today.

Statement of PurposePlatypus is a project for the self-criticism, self-education, and, ultimately, the practical reconstitution of a Marxian Left. At present the Marxist Left appears as a historical ruin. The received wisdom of today dictates that past, failed attempts at emancipation stand not as moments full of potential yet to be redeemed, but rather as what was utopianism that was bound to end in tragedy. As critical inheritors of a vanquished tradition, Platypus contends that after the failure of the 1960s New Left, and the dismantlement of the welfare state and the destruction of the Soviet Union in the 1980s-90s the present disorientation of the Left means we can hardly claim to know the tasks and goals of social emancipation better than the utopians of the past did. Our task is critique and education towards the reconstitution of a Marxian Left. Platypus contends that the ruin of the Marxist Left as it stands today is of a tradition whose defeat was largely self-inicted, hence at present the Marxist Left is historical, and in such a grave state of decomposition that it has become exceedingly difcult to draft coherently programmatic social-political demands. In the face of the catastrophic past and present, the rst task for the reconstitution of a Marxian Left as an emancipatory force is to recognize the reasons for the historical failure of Marxism and to clarify the necessity of a Marxian Left for the present and future. If the Left is to change the world, it must rst transform itself! The improbable but not impossible reconstitution of an emancipatory Left is an urgent task; we believe that the future of humanity depends on it. While the devastating forces unleashed by modern society capitalism remain, the unfullled promise of social emancipation still calls for redemption. To abdicate this or to obscure the gravity of past defeats and failures by looking to resistance from outside the dynamics of modern society is to afrm its present and guarantee its future destructive reality. Platypus asks the questions: How is the thought of critical theorists of modern society such as Marx, Lukcs, Benjamin and Adorno relevant for the struggle for social emancipation today? How can we make sense of the long history of impoverished politics on the Left leading to the present after the international Marxist Left of Lenin, Luxemburg and Trotsky, to the barrenness of today without being terrorized or discouraged by this history? How might the answers to such questions help the urgent task of reconstituting the Left at its most fundamental levels of theory and practice? How might we help effect escape from the dead-end the Left has become? We hope to re-invigorate a conversation on the Left that has long since fallen into senility or silence, in order to help found anew an emancipatory political practice that is presently absent. What has the Left been, and what can it yet become? Platypus exists because the answer to such a question, even its basic formulation, has long ceased to be self-evident.

platypus1917.org

April 2007

4

Utopia and ProgramWhat possibilities might remain for a Left whose goal is no longer utopian, and whose path is no longer programmatically dened?

ThemeProgram and utopia have for well over a century now sat in uneasy tension within the politics of the Left, in tension both with each other and with themselves. Political programs tend to be presented in the sober light of practicability straightforward, realistic, matter-of-fact. Social utopias, by contrast, appear quite oppositely as the virtue of aspiring ambition involved, unrealistic, exhilarating. Historically, then, the two would appear to be antithetical. In either case, one usually offers itself up as a corrective to the other: the programmatic as a harsh reality check to pipe-dream idealism; utopianism as an alternative to dreary, cynical Realpolitik. Today, however, it is unavoidable that both program and utopia are in profound crisis. For those Leftists who still hold out some hope for the possibility of extra-electoral politics, an impasse has arisen. Despite the effusive political outbursts of 2011-12 in the Arab Spring and #Occupy with their emphasis on the identity of means and ends, anti-hierarchical modes of organization, and utopian preguration the Left still seems to have run aground. Traces may remain in the form of various issue-based afnity groups, but the more ambitious projects of achieving sweeping social transformation have been quietly put to rest, consoled with the mere memory of possibility. Meanwhile, longstanding Left organizations, having temporarily reverted to the usual waiting game of patiently tailing popular discontents with the status quo, until the masses nally come around and decide to get with the program (i.e., their program), have experienced a crisis of their own: slowly disintegrating, with occasional spectacular implosions, many of their dedicated cadre call it quits amid demoralization and recriminations. What possibilities might remain for a Left whose goal is no longer utopian, and whose path is no longer programmatically dened?

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SAIC MapNo rth >LA K E R A N D O LPH M IC H IG A N A V E N U E W A SH IN G T O N ST A T E

Millennium Park

D EA RBO RN

M A D ISO N

3MO NRO E W A B A SH

PC O LU M B U S

2

C LA R K

A D A MS

P

1JA C K SO N >

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Saturday, April 6Panel(continued)

(cont'd)

4:15pm 5:45pm

Capital, History and Environmental Politics

[...] Environmental politics remain situated in an uneasy relation to the Marxian Left. On the one hand, the rise of the environmental movement in the 1980s, particularly in Europe, marked the sharp migration of people drawn to Marxism in the 1970s to Green politics. On the other hand, a common theme of environmentalism is to impose limits to growth, sometimes expressed in conservative sentiments against technology, urbanization and cosmopolitanism, things that the Marxian left historically took to be signals of progress. One gets a sense that environmentalism is not motivated by the utopianism that Marx sought to clarify in his own time, but a dystopia to which the Marxian Left hopes to mobilize in the service of Marxism. However, if the linkage between capital and ecological despoliation is itself historically specific, then by extension, the possibility of overcoming capital (and hence, the current nature-society antithesis) must be historically specific as well. This panel invites you to consider the relationship between a) the history of capital and the Marxian Leftand thus the issue of history and freedom; and b) the entwinement of capital and biophysical nature in history in ways that challenge us to scrutinize the present and the contemporary ecological crisis in particular.

Eirik Eiglad (New Compass) Joseph Green (Communist Voice) Roger Rashi (Qubec solidaire)

Panel

4:15pm- 5:45pm

Marx and "Wertkritik"

Perhaps one of the most inuential developments in Marxist thought coming from Germany in the last decades has been the emergence of value critique. Building on Marxs later economical works, value critics stress the importance of abolishing value (the abstract side of the commodity), pointing out problems in traditional Marxisms emphasis on the dictatorship of the proletariat. The German value critical journal Krisis has famously attacked what they believed was a social democratic fetishization of labor in their 1999 Manifesto Against Labor. Such notions have drawn criticism from more orthodox Marxists who miss the political dimensions of value critique and the possibility of imminent transformation through engaging the realities of capitalist societies. Did the later Marx abandon his political convictions that he expressed in the Manifesto? What about his later political writings, such as his Critique of the Gotha Program in which he outlines the different phases of early communism? Is Marxism a scientic project as claims from value critics indicate? Was Marx trying to develop of a... continued>>

13

Saturday, April 6Panel(continued)

(cont'd)

4:15pm 5:45pm

Marx and "Wertkritik"Elmar Flatschart (EXIT) Jamie Merchant (Permanent Crisis) Alan Milchman (Internationalist Perspective)

[...] science of valuein his later works? What can value critique teach us after the defeat of the Left in 20th century? Did traditional Marxism necessarily have to lead to the defeat of the Left?

Light Snack Closing Plenary

6:00pm 7:00pm

7:00pm 9:00pm

Program and UtopiaEndnotes collective Stephen Eric Bronner (Rutgers University) Sam Gindin (Socialist Project) Roger Rashi (Qubec solidaire) Richard Rubin (Platypus)

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Sunday, April 7Platypus Plenary11:00am 12:30pm

Platypus President's Report

1:00pm 1:30pm

Platypus Internal Meeting

1:30pm 6:00pm

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BiographiesJack Ailey (Green Party) is a co-chair of the Platform Committee of the Green Party of the U.S. ; a long time peace and labor rights activist, and works to organize for the Green Party in Chicago. After the steel mill