Europe

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In the aftermath of the 2019 European Elections, the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung will convene a panel of high-level European politicians and legislators from Die Linke, Podemos, and others.

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With the end of the Trump regime in sight, it is time to bring ideas into the Democratic primary for a sharp left turn in US foreign policy. Under Trump, support has been extended to fascists, dictators and oppressors, and this obviously must end. While undermining human rights at home, China has been able to pose as friends of the environment despite building more and more coal-fired electric plants. The Belt and Road program has resulted in crushing debt burdens and eroding sovereignty for developing countries in South Asia and the Indian Ocean areas. The next US administration must therefore be pressed to adopt a policy of debt relief and debt moratorium for less wealthy countries -- a policy that will in effect be paid for by Wall Street, China, and other big money powers. Needy people cannot be free, so comprehensive economic development is necessary. Marshall Plans are part of the answer. The Belt and Road is all high-interest loans, but the original Marshall Plan was 85% grants and gifts, and only 15% loans. A good place to start is by implementing the $30 billion Marshall Plan for central America proposed by Mexican President Lopez Obrador. Zero percent financing for such Marshall Plans should come from a special Federal Reserve window, not from tax increases or new borrowing.

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In this session we will explore the rising movement to dismantle “Francafrique,” a particularly destructive form of neocolonialism that affects 14 countries in Africa, and influences many more. Propelled into popular awareness by French activist and economist François-Xavier Verschave in his 1999 bestseller La Françafrique: le plus long scandale de la République, the critique of Francafrique has been popularized within the French left through various efforts including La France Insoumise movement and Jean Luc Melenchon’s 2017 presidential campaign. With leading strategists and organizers from throughout some of the most misunderstood parts of the continent, the panel puts modern-day resistance and decolonization struggles into historic contexts which gives hope for the future. With discussion of best-practice tactics, unity across borders, and collective visions of and end to all forms of colonialism — direct, economic, cultural, gendered, and otherwise we will explore new ways forward for solidarity and Pan-Africanism.

This panel will feature African diaspora activists from Benin, Cameroon, Gabon, DRC, Chad and Ambazonia who are working in close relationship with grassroots home-front movements against French neocolonialism. Questions we will seek to unpack include: What is happening on the ground in these countries? What is the historical context of these struggles? What is the role of Francafrique in the issues people are mobilizing around? What are the limits of the critique of Francafrique? How does the critique of Francafrique relate to critiques of other colonial and neocolonial influences, and other forms of oppression within the fabric of these societies? What coalitional work is going on to bring these voices together internationally? What forms of international solidarity are needed?

We are honored to dedicate this panel to the late Bill Sutherland, unofficial ambassador between Kwame Nkrumah’s pan-African movement and the African American civil rights movement, in this the year of his centenary. The panel will feature Matt Meyer, co-author with Sutherland of Guns and Gandhi in Africa: Pan-African Insights on Nonviolence, Armed Struggle and Liberation, one of the few texts which has sounded the alarm about Francafrique to the English-speaking world.

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Book launch: Presentation followed by discussion. The book being presented is Occult Features of Anarchism - With Attention to the Conspiracy of Kings and the Conspiracy of the Peoples: In the nineteenth century anarchists were accused of conspiracy by governments afraid of revolution, but in the current century various “conspiracy theories” suggest that anarchists are controlled by government itself. The Illuminati were a network of intellectuals who argued for self-government and against private property, yet the public is now often told that they were (and are) the very group that controls governments and defends private property around the world. Intervening in such misinformation, Lagalisse works with primary and secondary sources in multiple languages to set straight the history of the Left and illustrate the actual relationship between revolutionism, pantheistic occult philosophy, and the clandestine fraternity. Exploring hidden correspondences between anarchism, Renaissance magic, and New Age movements, Lagalisse also advances critical scholarship regarding leftist attachments to secular politics. Inspired by anthropological fieldwork within today’s anarchist movements, her essay challenges anarchist atheism insofar as it poses practical challenges for coalition politics in today’s world. Studying anarchism as a historical object, Occult Features of Anarchism also shows how the development of leftist theory and practice within clandestine masculine public spheres continues to inform contemporary anarchist understandings of the “political,” in which men’s oppression by the state becomes the prototype for power in general. Readers behold how gender and religion become privatized in radical counterculture, a historical process intimately linked to the privatization of gender and religion by the modern nation-state.

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Steve Bannon counseled Bolsonaro’s campaign. Germany’s AfD cooperates with US climate change deniers. Italy’s Salvini and Hungary’s Orban are preparing a far right cooperation to be elected European Parliament. Obviously, there is a far Right international arising. What do we know about their cooperation and what can progressives do to confront them? This panel will bring perspectives from Germany, Europe, the US, and Brazil to understand right wing internationalism and their networks.

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The Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung New York Office welcomes Victor Grossman for a discussion of his new memoir A Socialist Defector: From Harvard to Karl-Marx-Allee. The circumstances that impelled Victor Grossman, a U.S. Army draftee stationed in Europe, to flee a military prison sentence were the icy pressures of the McCarthy Era. Grossman—a.k.a. Steve Wechsler, a committed leftist since his years at Harvard and, briefly, as a factory worker—left his barracks in Bavaria one August day in 1952, and, in a panic, swam across the Danube River from the Austrian U.S. Zone to the Soviet Zone. Fate—i.e., the Soviets—landed him in East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic. There he remained, observer and participant, husband and father, as he watched the rise and successes, the travails, and the eventual demise of the GDR socialist experiment. A Socialist Defector is the story, told in rare, personal detail, of an activist and writer who grew up in the U.S. free-market economy; spent thirty-eight years in the GDR’s nationally owned, centrally administered economy; and continues to survive, given whatever the market can bear in today’s united Germany. Having been a freelance journalist and traveling lecturer—and the only person in the world to hold diplomas from both Harvard and the Karl Marx University—Grossman is able to offer insightful, often ironic, reflections and reminiscences, comparing the good and bad sides of life in all three of the societies he has known. His account focuses especially on the socialism he saw and lived—the GDR’s goals and achievements, its repressive measures and stupidities—which, he argues, offers lessons now in our search for solutions to the grave problems facing our world. This is a fascinating and unique historical narrative; political analysis told with jokes, personal anecdotes, and without bombast.

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When the yellow vests movement began in November 2018 following the Macron government’s decision to raise the tax on diesel, it was characterized by many, including those on the far left, as being a movement of the extreme right - anti-immigrant and anti-ecological. It was a movement that existed outside the major urban centers. And it was outside the unions and political parties that would usually be associated with any significant mobilization. But far from being a minority movement, it is made up of a significant portion of the French population: the poorer sections of the working class, retirees and women. The movement gained widespread support as it demonstrated on the exclusive Champs de Elysees in Paris and battled the police for the right to put forward its grievances. It was made up of hundreds of local “headquarters” with people meeting on the “roundabouts.” Recently General Assemblies, grouping members or representatives into broader regional bodies have been formed to discuss the direction of their movement. This panel will discuss the political developments within this movement and how the extreme left can engage this new movement that has the possibility to challenge the mechanisms of power.

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The German revolution of 1918-19 attempted to overthrow capitalism and establish a Socialist Republic. Unlike the Russian revolution a year earlier the German uprising ended in defeat. Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, leading members of the young Communist Party of Germany, were murdered by reactionaries. What can we learn from this defeat in our struggle against capitalism? Come and discuss the way forward!

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In this presentation, we will explore the philosophical and political affinities between the composer Richard Wagner and the militant philosopher Mikhail Bakunin, beginning with their joint action on the barricades of revolutionary Dresden in 1849. We consider Wagner’s Ring cycle as depicting the Proudhonian idea of theft and the figures of Siegfried and Brünnhilde as Bakuninist-Feuerbachian heroes. By examining Wagner and Bakunin’s common anti-Semitism, feminism and anti-feminism, and revolutionism, we discuss how anarchism and anti-theism influenced the creation of The Ring as an epic opera that depicts the rise and fall of capitalism.

Nevertheless, in light of the anti-Semitism that drives The Ring, we cannot overlook the undeniable Aryanist, national-anarchist, and proto-fascist aspects of Wagner’s approach, which represent disturbing lines that connect typically left-wing notions of anti-statist and anti-capitalist upheaval with ultranationalist myth. To delve into these matters, we will consider how the fascist creep applies to Wagner and Bakunin and compare the “dangerous minds” of Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger to those of the pair in question.