FRIDAY NOV 6
14:00 – 16:30: Panel: What is a political Party for the Left?
Moderator: Lucy Parker
In spite of many different political currents and tendencies, perhaps the most significant question informing the „Left“ today is the issue of „political party.” Various „Left unity“ initiatives have been taking place in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis and subsequent downturn, following Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring, alongside continuing „post-political“ tendencies inherited from the 1980s-90s (perspectives such as expressed by Hardt and Negri’s Empire, Multitude, and Commonwealth, John Holloway’s Change the World without Taking Power, the Invisible Committee’s The Coming Insurrection, the California student protestors‘ Communique from an Absent Future), the formation of SYRIZA in Greece, and the new party Podemos in Spain (who reject the organized „Marxist Left“ as well as the established labor unions as part of the existing „political caste“). In Germany, Die Linke appears poised to break into high political office. At the same time, there has been a growing crisis of the largest „orthodox Marxist“ („Trotskyist“) political organizations in the Anglophone and Western European countries, which has been characterized as the „crisis of (‚actually existing‘) Leninism“ in the developed capitalist countries. New publications have emerged such as Jacobin magazine, N+1 and Endnotes journals, as a new „millennial Marxism.“ And there has emerged a related discussion of the legacy of Marxism in principles ofpolitical organization going back to the Second International 1889-1914 („neo-Kautskyism“), for instance in Lars Lih’s revisionist history of Lenin and Bolshevism and the Communist Party of Great Britain’s member Mike Macnair’s book Revolutionary Strategy (2008), the latter occasioned by the formations of the Respect Party in the U.K. and the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste in France. Today, perhaps the most significant question facing the „Left“ internationally is goes all the way back to Marx’s dispute with the anarchists in the First International: What would it mean for the Left to take „political action“ today?
However, the issue of “political party” seems to generate more problems for the Left than it solves. Formalized political organization would appear indispensable for a long term perspectives beyond the ebb and flow of movements. Yet the role of a party in sustaining activity and discontents over time — of building towards a revolution — has had, at best an ambivalent legacy, leading as much to rationalizing politically ineffective strategies or giving cover for various forms of opportunism (e.g. reformism, careerism, etc.). Today the idea of political parties as a means for the Left — through which the necessity for social transformation could be developed within society — as opposed to an end in itself, is difficult to envision both theoretically and practically. Yet the existing default --politics without parties — seems unable to do more than give sanction to the vicissitudes through which capitalism changes, but invariably persists. Worse still, without parties of its own, the Left is forced to either passively or actively support or at least place hopes in other parties. There appears no escaping the question of Political Party for the Left.
18:00: OPENING PLENARY: What is the European Union and should we be against it?
- Jens Wissel (Assoziation für Kritische Gesellschaftsforschung)
- Nikos Nikisianis (DIKTIO [1, 2, 3])
- Adrian Zandberg (Partia Razem)
Moderator: Thodoris Velissaris
A united and peaceful Europe seemed to be a distant dream for a generation which went through the experience of war and destruction. Today, this hope gained shape in the new realities of the European Union. Despite its official proclamation of peace, social well being and an “alternative to capitalism and communism” the project finds itself in a prolonged crisis with uncertain expectations. The Euro-crisis, massive austerity and the increasing interference into democratic principles, a growing division between powerful and weak economies, Germany’s new hegemony and the growing influence of financial capital appear in stark contrast to the official slogans of “European values and solidarity”.
The desperate struggle of SYRIZA demonstrated the necessity and seeming impossibility of the Left across Europe to answer with a politics that would be truly international and go beyond “resisting austerity.” Despite growing social unrest, the deep ambivalence towards the EU expresses itself in the inability of the Left to formulate a coherent vision of a political alternative. At the same time the rejection of the EU is ceded to a growing Right. What is the EU for the Left today? Should it be overcome on the basis of the EU itself, or against the EU? The clarification of its nature and appropriate responses seem to be one of the most pressing issues for the Left on the continent and beyond.
SATURDAY NOV 7
11:00 – 13:00: PANEL: Electoral Politics and the Left: Problems and Prospects
- Thomas Seibert (IL)
- Nikos Nikisianis (DIKTIO [1, 2, 3])
- Marcelo Armendáriz (PODEMOS)
- Paul Demarty (CPGB)1
- Cengiz Kulaç (Gruene Jugend AT)
Moderator: Laurie Rojas (mehr…)