What is capitalism and why should we be against it? – panel discussion featuring Rory Dufficy, Arthur Dent and Rjurik Davidson, Melbourne 22 May 2021

On Saturday, May 22nd, 2021, the Melbourne chapter of the Platypus Affiliated Society hosted an in-person panel discussion at the Clyde Hotel in Carlton, Australia on the question: “What is Capitalism, and why should we be against it?”

The present is characterized not only by a political crisis of the global neoliberal order but also by differing interpretations of the cause of this crisis:

Capitalism. If we are to interpret capitalism, we must also know how to change it.

– What is capitalism? – Is capitalism contradictory? If so, what is this contradiction and how does it relate to Left politics?

– How has capitalism changed over time, and what have these changes meant politically for the Left?

– Does class struggle take place today? If so, how, and what role should it play for the Left?

– Is capitalism in crisis? If so, how? And how should the Left respond?

– If a new era of global capitalism is emerging, how do we envision the future of capitalism and what are the implications of this for the Left?

Panelists: – Rory Dufficy (Scholar of Avante-Garde politics and teaches Marx’s Capital at the Melbourne School Of Continental Philosophy) – Rjurik Davidson (Marxist writer, editor & speaker. Former Associate Editor of Overland magazine) – Arthur Dent (Unreconstructed Maoist and contributor at c21stleft.com)

[ Unfortunately 20 seconds of Dufficy’s opening remarks were lost due to an internet drop-out. However, his remarks are complete in the transcript expected to be published in an upcoming issue of The Platypus Review ]

20 thoughts on “What is capitalism and why should we be against it? – panel discussion featuring Rory Dufficy, Arthur Dent and Rjurik Davidson, Melbourne 22 May 2021

  1. My post of 21 May with updates includes extensive notes for my response to the panel prompt and related links:

    Platypus has a YouTube channel with many other discussions:

    I noted the following time marks for rough start of each segment of the video at:

    0 Convenor Ryan (15′ each)
    5:27 Rory
    23:04 Rurik
    40:30 Arthur
    58:35 Convenor (briefer responses from each)
    59:40 Rory
    1:06 Rurik
    1:11 Arthur
    1:14:50 Audience questions and panel replies
    1:45:51 end

    A comment at YouTube may be more accurate:
    intro 00:00; Rory 5:23; Rjurik 23:11; Arthur 40:33; Responses 50:33; Q&A 1:14:19

    There is a 20 page draft transcript for editing:
    What is Captialism Panel Transcript [Accepted RD][ Edits AD ].docx


    Below is my response to transcript editor.

    My proposals for changes to edited version are:

    1. p8 “… Occupy movement. I didn’t take part in that” –> “I did take part in that”.
    (Was at “Occupy Melbourne” every day!)

    2. p9 “Modulesky” –> “Modelewski” (twice) That’s my vague recollection of the spelling used at the time.

    3. p9 After “Modelewski Notes” please add “[AD clarification: This 1960s joke was not aimed at Karol Modzelewski or the Frankfurt School or any claim of a connection between them, but at Monash University student “marxians” who wrote footnotes about theorists from other times and places instead of studying, let alone participating in, the struggle around them.]”

    4. p11 “1882” –> “1888” (better to give correct date rather than whatever I actually said)

    5. p11 footnote 11: give the full direct reference corresponding to 1888 to save people from looking for it.

    https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/preface.htm –>


    6. p13 “[regression? inaudible]…Rosa was quoted by Lenin saying” –> (guessing what I would have said, not based on audio)
    “the expression “The Left is Dead” as applied to both the 1950s and 1970s and also the 1914 left. Rosa Luxemburg was quoted by Lenin saying”

    7. p13 “Jim Kins” –> “Jim Cairns”

    8. “the communists were virulently anti-Stalinist” –> “the revisionist Communist Party were virulently anti-Stalinist”
    (not checked audio but I would certainly not have intended to say “communists”, perhaps just said or intended to say “revisionists” but above correction would be more clear).

    9. p14 “there’s nbe al political overthrow” –> “there’s going to be a political overthrow”

    10 p15 “[refers to c21stleft.com, will link in introductions]” –> [refers to links from {footnote}]

    11. p17 “west-bank Palestinians” –> “west-bank and Gaza Palestinians”
    (the national unity of all three parts was the whole point I was making – point lost if Gaza inaudible)

    12 p20 “Am Anfang die Tat” –> “Im Anfang war die Tat” (to correspond to Goethe cited in footnote 14)

    13 p20 footnote 14
    “Genesis 1.1.” –> “Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:3 ‘And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.'”

    I have not attempted to improve loose verbal expression for more readable text, fix minor typos and paragraphing etc. Let me know if that is wanted.


      • Sorry should have mentioned. (Both links to same DropBox, tinyurl and direct).
        Will be replaced soon by final edit for Platypus Review. Editor requested removal of preliminary draft “It’s just that other panellists haven’t agreed to have the unedited version made public”.
        Nothing secret. The DropBox was used to send it to me for my edits via Dave McMullen. Ask him if you want it emailed to you now (not for publication).
        Will add a comment with link here when it is eventually online.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Arthur I enjoyed the discussion and thought it excellent that you drew a line between revolutionary Marxism and academic Marxism. I just wanted to comment on Modern Monetary Theory. This theory arose because of an obvious deficit in standard economic theory represented by Milton Freedman’s position that inflation is always and every where a monetary phenomenon. This was shown to be untrue with the massive expansion of money supply post 2008 without significant inflation.
    We have now returned to the Keynesian idea that inflation is a demand induced issue.
    Governments around the world have adopted MMT despite being unable to acknowledge that they have. The crisis of 2008 and of 2020 required a stimulatory response as opposed to those who argued for austerity. I do have a position on austerity and that is Fuck austerity.
    I guess the issue is about the theory of money. The Austrian school has one this being that money needs the backing of some physical value or the Keynesian one where money is a form of credit not relying on value but of trust. Is there a current Marxist view on money? I dont know, is there a go to person on this?


    • Just noticed this. Been busy on mRNA manufacture. The go to for current Marxist view on money is of course Karl. I cited his “Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” as essential preliminary reading ignored by all Marxians. It explains his theory of money and refutes the Ricardian theory that “inflation” is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon (long before Freedman and Keynes). A few pages before the end, passave begins “The most common and conspicuous phenomenon accompanying commercial crises is a sudden fall in the general level of commodity-prices occurring after a prolonged general rise…” He points out that calling the rise in prices a fall in the value of money (“inflation”) is as useless an explanation as switching the terms from German into English.

      His description of (convertible) credit money does not come until volume 3. The same passage is repeated there (or perhaps it was in vol 4).

      The regular business cycle with prices rising and the detailed monetary statistics recorded by Tooke refuted Ricardo’s theory. As Marx and everybody who refutes Freedman since points out, the “velocity” of money is not constant but chances with the business cycle – credit etc.

      Since the Great Depression we have not had the same crises with periodic sudden falls in price levels. Keynesian “inflation” is explained in terms of “demand”.

      They are currently once again facing “deflation” (ie crisis with falling prices) and desperately trying to avoid it by further extensions of credit even going to negative interest rates. I am not aware of any current author who deals with it propertly. Maksakovsky is an absolutely essential starting point for doing so (after Marx).


  3. This guy does a great routine on the relationship between the stock market and the real economy. He was fund managements gain and comedies loss.


  4. I think that we should thank Stalin for everything, honestly after defeating fascism he put his efforts into technology and in 1957 the USSR launched Sputnik. Now I know that Khrushchev was in charge at the time but really can we credit that rat with anything? Im sure that Sputnik was in the pipeline well before he took control. Any how Edward Teller described Sputnik as a “technology Pearl Harbour” When Kennedy came to power in 1961 he ramped up government spending on technology and research to 10% of Federal funding equating to 2% of GDP. The spinoffs were amazing, Silicon Valley, the internet, computers and mobile phones.
    Reagan came in and said stop all this government spending and the USA currently spends 0.6% of GDP on technology and research. (thanks Ron)
    Biden promotes his multi trillion dollar spending plan as a second new deal but Im more hopeful that it will be a second Kennedy moment. Can you imagine what a return to 10% funding for technology will bring? No neither can I but its bound to be awesome, jet packs maybe. (we are long overdue for jet packs)


  5. For more information about the Platypus Affiliated Society, please visit our website at http://www.platypus1917.org

    Our Melbourne chapter is more active on facebook/instagram at https://www.facebook.com/platypusmelbourne

    Our founding documents can be found here: https://platypus1917.org/about/

    Out statment of purpose:

    Arthur references this article during the panel:

    One of the focal points in our pedagogy is the grasping of the role of capital in history.


      • Just noticed this. Thanks for all links. Have downloaded and will start with “…Need for a Marxian philosophy of history of the left” but am still too busy on mRNA vaccine manufacture etc.

        Did read about debate with Sparts. Not the occasion I remembered and I actually don’t recall this one at all, although the phrase “Stalinists without a country” stuck in my mind as interesting later and it looks like it came from this event. Seems to have been a big deal for the Sparts. I wonder whether they still believe Russia must be socialist since there was no civil war? Genuine (mild) curiosity but I expect that whatever they currently believe they are just as fanatically dogmatically certain about it. Style seems to be a sort of parody of the popular understanding of “Stalinist” ranting.


      • Platypus Melbourne has announced our second panel discussion, on the topic of “The Australian Labor Party and the Left”.


        The Australian Labor Party (ALP) constituted the first national Labour government in the world, emerging from the various Labour parties founded prior to Australia’s federation. Since that time, groups on the Left have held different views of the ALP, and at particular historical junctures they have opposed or supported the ALP for distinct reasons.

        In what way does the Left today inherit tasks and problems from the history of those various positions, from the 1960s-70s New Left, the 1920s-30s Old Left, and socialist politics before and after Federation?

        The Platypus Affiliated Soceity asks: Given that long history, what is the meaning of socialist politics in the present, and what does it have to do with the ALP?


        We have four esteemed panellests from the Left who have deep insights and experience from years engaging within, alongside, or against the ALP:

        Max Ogden – Former member of the Communist Party of Australia, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), Socialist Forum and ALP.

        Verity Burgmann – Member of the Socialist Workers Party (UK, 1970s), Australian Inernational Socialists (early 1980s), continuing eco-Marxist activist intellectual with syndicalist sympathies. Adjunct Professor of Politics at Monash University.

        Shirley Winton – Long time unionist, community and anti-war activist. Member of the Spirit of Eureka Movement, and the Communist Party of Australia [Marxist-Leninist].

        Kevin Healy – Former member of the ALP Socialist Left (SL), Radio host on 3CR

        Depending on lockdown restrictions, we’ll be meeting in person at the New International Bookstore, with a zoom livestream for those who cant be in attendance. Otherwise, is the lockdown remains, the event will be held solely on zoom at the same time

        Zoom: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/85913432472

        We hope to see you there on August 28th, or online.


  6. Hello Arthur, and C21st Left readers.

    I’m pleased to report that issue #139 of the Platypus Review has just been published featuring the full transcript from the above panel event, and a response to the panel from William Briggs of Deakin University.




    This issue also contains an article by Chris Cutrone on Afghanistan that might be of some interest.


  7. Boy Chris Cutrone wouldnt be an academic by any chance? Whats with Maoism as part of the new left. I never met a Maoist who thought that they were part of the new left. The Millennial left could you get any more vague?


    • I thought of myself as a part of the broad New Left back then, as someone who identified with Maoism. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this in some early writings. The identification was due to rejection of the old bureaucratic socialism from above and embrace of cultural revolution.


      • Hi Barry Im sure that you have met way more Maoists than me so I will bow to your better judgement. I had a couple of close friends in the CPAML and I remember that they didnt think much of the New Left at all. They saw themselves comfortably as part of the Old Left. I had a friend Pat who was on the fringe of the CPAML and I certainly wouldnt consider him as New Left. New Left to me has a fuzzy quality where as Old left was more black and white. BTW my old friends never told me at the time that they were CPAML they just argued the CPAML line and if I asked them about being members they would just change the subject. Years latter they confirmed my suspicions.


      • It is murky because so many of us who identified as Maoists were not necessarily Maoists. It was more a case of identifying with, and supporting, those who were. To an extent, I see myself in that category (but only ‘to an extent’). I thought there was something New Left and Maoist about young people challenging the dominant culture of society, its assumptions and habits, and wanting a new society based on new values and assumptions. Oh yes, and we all rejected the ‘Soviet model’; though Maoists had a very different (sympathetic and critical) understanding of Stalin. At La Trobe Uni, where I was active, we had support from New Left types who identified with our cultural rebellion, I suppose, as well as the Vietnam and apartheid issues, and the campus demands for ‘student power’. We were not identical but, as Chuck Berry once said about rock music, it was “all meat on the same bone”.


  8. Hi Barry I think that the divide comes with who were the influential thinkers. With the old left it was Marx Engels Lenin Trotsky Stalin. They all unite around the question of how does the working class seize the means of production.
    The influential thinkers of the new left were “E. P. Thompson, Ronald Dworkin, Michel Foucault, R. D. Laing, Raymond Williams, Rudolf Bahro, Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser, Immanuel Wallerstein, Jürgen Habermas, Perry Anderson, György Lukács, John Kenneth Galbraith and Jean-Paul Sartre”. All these thinkers unite around er well they dont unite around anything that I can see. (some of the names I dont recognise like who was Perry Anderson?) My impression was that the new left was a movement against authority rather than a movement to conquer the world.
    I guess that Maoists could fit into both groups. The Maoist I knew didnt.


    • I don’t htink Bahro was influential at thta time – but was later in the 1980s with the ‘green Marxism’ delusion. Ditto Foucault and Habermas – much later as an influence. Not sure who Dworkin was. The others – yes. The anti-authoritarian outlook was apparent, yes, and it was communists who frequently asked what did people want to replace the current authority with? I should add, of course, that while the “all meat’ metaphor had validity, the internal differences, conflicts and struggles, were one of the definitive characteristics that moved things forward.


  9. Just back to Capitalism I dont like capitalism I love it, heres a very quick very good explanation of the housing crisis.

    This all happens and capitalism picks itself up and dusts itself off and starts running again honestly you cant keep these guys down.

    Michael Burry is now predicting that the indexed funds are a bubble the biggest ever. No one else seems to take much notice.

    Just a quick note on Covid. The funny side is pre covid WA had some GST related funding issues. WA asked the other states for relief and they all said sorry your issue not ours. Now the whole country is being held together by WA iron ore exports and other states are pleading with WA to open borders. Fat chance I say.


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