A very interesting, successful and useful NPI - transform!europe Conference, Athens, 18 and 19 December 2009.
When, some time ago, we discussed the idea of organizing the NPI - transform! Conference, in Athens, to commemorate Nicos Poulantzas thirty years after his death (see newsletter 1), we expected to have a rather medium-sized event, which could hopefully have been of interest to a limited number of people and could also be marginally useful in our common job. Our awareness of the fact that the work and especially the research methodology of Poulantzas, one of the most important post-war “classical” Western Marxists, according to Perry Anderson and Bob Jessop, has recently regained its respect and its timeliness in academic and political circles, had not changed our mediocre predictions. We proved wrong. “Poulantzas Today” was finally a big and well organized two full days (10 am to 10 pm ) Conference, with very good presentations from Alex Demirovic and James Martin, the two key-speakers , experts on Poulantzas and a large number of Greek academics, intellectuals and young political scientists. Each of the Conference’s ten sessions were followed by interesting discussions with people from a, mainly young, audience which at times packed the big auditorium of the Goethe Institute, in the centre of Athens.
At the same time, as noticed by Nicos Petralias, NPI president and Walter Baier, coordinator of Transform, the Conference dealt with issues directly related to the interests of both the various forces of the European Radical Left and social movements and Transform! Europe, especially its Project “Political and Strategic Perspectives of the European Left”: the state as “the condensation of a relationship of forces between classes and class fractions such as these express themselves in a necessarily specific form…” and its “relative autonomy”, Marxist theory in general, ideology, social classes, parties and movements, class and political alliances, globalization/ imperialism, European integration, the question of space, the articulation of representative and direct democracy, euro-communism, the democratic (but not necessarily peaceful) transition to socialism and the nature of socialism (which will be democratic or will not exist), etc.
In the roundtable, Makis Cavouriaris, Michael Lowy and Constantinos Tsoukalas, friends and/ or comrades of Poulantzas during the 1960s and 1970s, together with Alkis Rigos (chairman) and Stathis Couvelakis, a young Greek political scientist who now teaches at the University of London, had a very fruitful discussion on Nicos Poulantzas as an organic intellectual of the Left. The French philosopher Etienne Balibar, who was also invited to participate in the roundtable, sent an e-mail, where he expressed his regret for not being able to be present in Athens which was due to pre-arranged commitments and expressed his regret because, as he said “…time not only has not diminished my admiration for his work, but rather enhanced it over time”.
The Conference closed in an emotional way. Thanos Mikroutsikos, a well known Greek composer and ex Minister of Culture in a socialist government, performed in the piano and sang a piece composed by him on verses of a poem by Alkis Alkaios. This synthesis was devoted by both creators to Nicos Poulantzas, some days after his suicide in 1979. Before starting his performance, Mikroutsikos revealed to the public that during that time, as a member of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), he had received strong pressures from the then Secretary of the Athens Organisation of that Party, to withdraw his dedication to Poulantzas, since the later was a member of the “reformist group”, i.e. the Greek Communist Party of the Interior, who split from KKE in 1968. A reminder of the traumatic experiences and hard internal conflicts of the European Left during the past century. But this is another story.
The papers of the Conference will be published in Greek (and possibly in other languages too), before the end of the next year.