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
Communist University took place August 13-20, 2011
Goldsmiths, University of London
63 Wickham Road
London SE4 1LX
Platypus Affiliated Society members presented as follows:
Friday, August 19, 10AM-12:30PM
â€¢ Spencer Leonard, "Marx's critique of political economy: proletarian socialism continuing the bourgeois revolution?"
Recommended background readings:
Background reading compiled from recent engagements between the CPGB and Platypus can be found at: /wp-content/uploads/2011/08/macnairmike_platypuscritique_may-august2011_081111.pdf or /wp-content/uploads/2011/08/cpgbcontraplatypus081111.pdf
Facebook invitation at:
June 20â€“24, 2011
Institute for the Humanities, University of Illinois at Chicago
Marxism and the bourgeois revolution
Spencer Leonard, "Marxâ€™s critique of political economy: Proletarian socialism continuing the bourgeois revolution?"
Pamela Nogales, "Marx on the U.S. Civil War as the 2nd American Revolution"
Jeremy Cohan, "LukÃ¡cs on Marxâ€™s Hegelianism and the dialectic of Marxism"
Moderator: Chris Cutrone
The "bourgeois revolutions" from the 16th through the 19th centuries -- extending into the 20th -- conformed humanity to modern city life, ending traditional, pastoral, religious custom in favor of social relations of the exchange of labor. AbbÃ© SieyÃ¨s wrote in 1789 that, in contradistinction to the clerical 1st Estate who "prayed" and the aristocratic 2nd Estate who "fought," the commoner 3rd Estate "worked:" "What has the 3rd Estate been? Nothing." "What is it? Everything." Kant warned that universal bourgeois society would be the mere midpoint in humanity's achievement of freedom. After the last bourgeois revolutions in Europe of 1848 failed, Marx wrote of the "constitution of capital," the ambivalent, indeed self-contradictory character of "free wage labor." In the late 20th century, the majority of humanity abandoned agriculture in favor of urban life -- however in "slum cities." How does the bourgeois revolution appear from a Marxian point of view? How did what Marx called the â€œproletarianizationâ€ of society circa 1848 signal not only the crisis and supersession, but the need to fulfill and â€œcompleteâ€ the bourgeois revolution, whose task now fell to the politics of â€œproletarianâ€ socialism, expressed by the workersâ€™ call for â€œsocial democracy?â€ How did this express the attempt, as Lenin put it, to overcome bourgeois society â€œon the basis of capitalismâ€ itself? How did subsequent Marxism lose sight of Marx on this, and how might Marxâ€™s perspective on the crisis of the bourgeois revolution in the 19th century still resonate today?
The Marxism of Second International radicalism: Lenin, Luxemburg, and Trotsky
Chris Cutrone, Lenin
Greg Gabrellas, Luxemburg
Ian Morrison, Trotsky
Moderator: Spencer Leonard
The legacy of revolution 1917-19 in Russia, Germany, Hungary and Italy is concentrated above all in the historical figures Vladimir Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky, leaders of the Left in the Second International (1889-1914) -- what they called â€œrevolutionary social democracyâ€ -- in the period preceding the crisis of war, revolution, counterrevolution and civil war in World War I and its aftermath. In 1920, Georg LukÃ¡cs summed up this experience as follows: â€œ[T]he crisis [of capital] remains permanent, it goes back to its starting-point, repeats the cycle until after infinite sufferings and terrible detours the school of history completes the education of the proletariat and confers upon it the leadership of mankind. .Â .Â . Of course this uncertainty and lack of clarity are themselves the symptoms of the crisis in bourgeois society. As the product of capitalism the proletariat must necessarily be subject to the modes of existence of its creator. .Â .Â . inhumanity and reification.â€ Nonetheless, these Marxists understood their politics as being â€œon the basis of capitalismâ€ itself (Lenin). How were the 2nd Intl. radicals, importantly, critics, and not merely advocates, of their own political movement? What is the legacy of these figures today, after the 20th century -- as Walter Benjamin said in his 1940 â€œTheses on the Philosophy of History,â€ â€œagainst the grainâ€ of their time, reaching beyond it? How did Lenin, Luxemburg, and Trotsky contribute to the potential advancement and transformation of Marxism, in and through the crisis of Marxism in the early 20th century? How can we return to these figures productively, today, to learn the lessons of their history?
Chris Cutrone, Platypus (School of the Art Institute of Chicago)
Andrew Feenberg (Simon Fraser University)
Richard Westerman (University of Chicago)
Respondent: Nicholas Brown (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Recently, theÂ New Left Review published a translated conversation between the critical theorists Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer causing more than a few murmurs and gasps. In the course of their conversation, Adorno comments that he had always wanted to â€œdevelop a theory that remains faithful to Marx, Engels and Lenin, while keeping up with culture at its most advanced.â€ Adorno, it seems, was a Leninist. As surprising as this evidence might have been to some, is it not more shocking that Adornoâ€™s politics, and the politics of Critical Theory, have remained taboo for so long? Was it really necessary to wait until Adorno and Horkheimer admitted their politics in print to understand that their primary preoccupation was with maintaining Marxismâ€™s relation to bourgeois critical philosophy (Kant and Hegel)? This panel proposes to state the question as directly as possible and to simply ask: How did the practice and theory of Marxism, from Marx to Lenin, make possible and necessary the politics of Critical Theory?
Co-sponsored by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago Departments of Art Education, Art History, Liberal Arts, and Visual and Critical Studies, and the SAIC Student Association.
A teach-in by Chris Cutrone
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
4:30 - 6:00 PM
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
112 S. Michigan Ave. room 601
Alain Badiouâ€™s recent book (2010) is titled with the phrase promoted by his and Slavoj Zizekâ€™s work for the last few years, â€œthe communist hypothesis.â€ Zizek has spoken of â€œthe Badiou eventâ€ as opening new horizons for both philosophy and communism. Badiou and Zizek share a background in Lacanian and Althusserian â€œpost-structuralistâ€ French thought, in common with other prominent post-New Left thinkers â€” and former students of Louis Althusser â€” such as Etienne Balibar and Jacques RanciÃ¨re. Althusser found, in the Russian and Chinese Revolutions, a salutary challenge to the notion of the Hegelian â€œlogic of history,â€ that revolutionary change could and indeed did happen as a matter of contingency. For Badiou, this means that emancipation must be conceived of as an â€œevent,â€ which involves a fundamental reconsideration of ontology.
Suggested background readings:
Cutrone, â€œThe Marxist Hypothesis: A Response to Badiou's 'Communist Hypothesis'â€ (2010)
Badiou, â€œThe Communist Hypothesisâ€ (2008)
Cutrone, â€œChinoiserie: A Critique of the RCP, USA on Badiouâ€ (2010)
Badiou, â€œTunisia, Egypt: The Universal Reach of Popular Uprisingsâ€ (2011)
Wal Suchting, "Althusser's Late Thinking about Materialism" (2004)
Below are links to download the audio of all the Platypus panels at the Left Forum. (Nota bene: Several of the files begin after the panel was already underway, and others end before the panel concluded.)
The Bourgeois Revolution:
Aesthetics in Protests:
On the Politics of Alain Badiou:
Marx and Engelsâ€™s Marxism:
Public forum of the Platypus Affiliated Society
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 9TH 6:00 PM
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
INTERNATIONAL HOUSE ASSEMBLY HALL
1414 EAST 59TH STREET
Spencer A. Leonard
The memory of the 1960s, which has long kindled contestation and debate on the means and ends of freedom politics, is rapidly fading into the political unconscious. The election of Barack Obama and the collapse of the anti-war movement mark the end of a period that has now come full circle. After a half-century of rebellion, many old New Left-ists now call for a â€œnew New Dealâ€ to return to welfare-statist and authoritarian society against which the New Left rebelled. History threatens to repeat itself, this time in an even more dimly recognized and ferocious form.
â€œIn the United States today there is no Left,â€ C. Wright Mills declaimed in the waning months of the 1950s, making him one of the most beloved intellectuals of his generation, â€œpolitical activities are monopolized by an irresponsible two-party system; cultural activities -- though formally quite free, tend to become nationalistic or commercial -- or merely private.â€ If Mills continues to speak to us, it is as a reminder of tasks long deferred, memories long repressed.
This panel attempts to address the current moment, in which many who participated in the moment of the New Leftâ€™s beginnings have survived a full cycle of history. Rather than a rehash of old debates or yet another nostalgia- ridden recap of the era, interventions which have ceased to offer critical perspective on the present, this panel seeks to ask the simple but fundamental question: What, if any, is significant for us today in the thwarted attempt by 1960s radicals to re-found emancipatory politics?
The Global Voices Lecture Program of International House, with the support of the University of Chicago Student Activities Fund
A roundtable discussion hosted by Platypus NYU
Kenyon Farrow, Queers for Economic Justice
Greg Gabrellas, Platypus
Gary Mucciaroni, Political Science, Temple University
Sherry Wolf, International Socialist Organization
This event was hosted by Platypus NYU on Monday, November 8th, 2010
With roots in earlier radical traditions, movements that sought to radically redefine the relationship of sex, politics, and freedom erupted onto the historical stage in the 60s. Yet while much has radically changed in the US and elsewhere in the world, humans are still far too limited in determining their sexual and erotic lives. This roundtable will reflect on the meaning and future of sexual politics today on the Left, with some emphasis on examining and contextualizing the contemporary struggle for gay marriage. What are the potentials and limits of present politics and organization around gay marriage? What successes and limitations has it met? What relationship is there between gay politics today and the Left overall? What frontiers of sexual liberation ought to be at the center of the Left's political agenda?
"The only decent marriage would be one allowing each partner to lead an independent life, in which, instead of a fusion derived from an enforced community of economic interests, both freely accepted mutual responsibility."
-- Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia (1944)
"The fundamental characteristic of the present system of marriage and family is in our society its monolithism: there is only one institutionalized form of inter-sexual or inter-generational relationship possible. It is that or nothing. This is why it is essentially a denial of life. For all human experience shows that intersexual and intergenerational relationships are infinitely various -- indeed, much of our creative literature is a celebration of the fact -- while the institutionalized expression of them in our capitalist society is utterly simple and rigid. It is the poverty and simplicity of the institutions in this area of life which are such an oppression. Any society will require some institutionalized and social recognition of personal relationships. But there is absolutely no reason why there should be only one legitimized form -- and a multitude of unlegitimized experience. Socialism should properly mean not the abolition of the family, but the diversification of the socially acknowledged relationships which are today forcibly and rigidly compressed into it. This would mean a plural range of institutions -- where the family is only one, and its abolition implies none. Couples living together or not living together, long-term unions with children, single parents bringing up children, children socialized by conventional rather than biological parents, extended kin groups, etc. -- all these could be encompassed in a range of institutions which matched the free invention and variety of men and women."
-- Juliet Mitchell, "Women: the Longest Revolution" (1966)