WHY THIS CONFERENCE
Over the last two decades, each wave of emancipatory politics around the globe has encountered significant reversals and setbacks when faced with the structural power and logic of capital and the state. And while the radical left has enjoyed moments of electoral and ideological resurgence in parts of the world, the main beneficiaries of the crisis of neoliberalism have been populist and authoritarian right forces. There is a great deal to be learned from investigating the fortunes of the left in electoral processes over the last two decades. In particular, it is important to analyze the strategic dilemmas faced by progressive parties and movements, along with an analysis of the possibilities, limitations, challenges and opportunities for a left transformative project in the 21st century.
The New Politics Conference 2021 will contribute to developing a theoretically informed analysis of the long-term challenges, prospects, promises and pitfalls of the left within a variety of national contexts. The conference will facilitate a dialogue between activists and scholars in the Americas and other regions of the world, with the goal of publishing a book and a series of related materials (short videos, podcasts, academic and journalistic articles, a dedicated website, etc.) that will be of long-term use to both activists and analysts.
The most important of the questions to be discussed are those that have long preoccupied the left, but which remain very much at the center of debate – most fundamentally, the content of the project or vision of a future society that it seeks to advance, and the kinds of state transformations, social bases, alliances, and organized collective capacities and political formations needed to bring it about.
GOALS AND VISION
Contributions will address how activists and public intellectuals define the goals of new left political projects, and how they differ from those of the past. Comparative papers will analyze what democratic socialism, eco-socialism, left populism, and social democracy mean in this century and how left projects and their articulations vary geographically.
Among the questions that have long energized left debates over the transition to socialism, few have been of more central importance than the question of the state and its transformation. What insights into these long-standing debates can be gleaned from recent developments and experiences of the left in government?
After four decades of neoliberal assault, many societies have witnessed a steady deterioration in the strength of organized labor, along with fluctuating fortunes of the racial justice, women’s, environmental, and LGBT movements. These developments raise fundamental questions regarding the social bases and alliances underpinning left political projects and the models of collective action necessary to bring them to fruition.
Along with trade unions, the party has long been the preeminent form of collective organization championed by the left. It has been exceedingly rare for even social democratic or labor parties to attain, much less maintain, an electoral majority, and where they have gained power, they have typically abandoned the pursuit of socialism. What, then, can recent experiences tell us about these challenges?
We are shocked and saddened that Leo Panitch passed away on 19th December. He was a giant of the socialist movement, and his incredible intellect was matched only by his warmth and generosity. Leo’s passing is a huge loss to the left globally. He was the first person we spoke to when we started organizing this conference, knowing that the depth and clarity of his analysis would be indispensable. We are overwhelmed with sadness that he will not be with us in January.