In its May 2008 issue, the most commercially successful art criticism publication, Artforum, dedicated its pages to the commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of May 1968. The publication presented contributions by many of the leading figures in contemporary critical theory, all of whom have a distinctive sense of indebtedness to that brief period four decades ago, dubbed by Herbert Marcuse as the “Great Refusal.”
From July 24th until July 28th 2008, the new Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) had its third annual national convention in College Park, Maryland. At the convention, national campaigns were presented and voted on by the attendees. A major campaign introduced at the convention was the Hundred Days campaign, which seeks to organize and engage newly politicized Americans in politics beyond the campaign season. During the first one hundred days of the next administration the campaign will organize two nationwide weeks of action to ensure that the people remain involved in politics after the election cycle. Laurie Rojas, member of Chicago SDS, collaborating author of the Hundred Days campaign and editor of The Platypus Review interviews Rachel Haut, labor researcher, member of the New York non-student SDS chapter, and collaborating author of the Hundred Days campaign.
What does it mean to say, as Platypus does, that “the Left is Dead?” It represents the desire for a tabula rasa, for a start from scratch. It is the admission that there is no living tradition, no movement to join in the Marxist Left; That it has been defeated and that it has self-destructed. It means that the Maoisms and Trotskyisms that today stumble around like zombies in the form of tiny sectarian groups have either given themselves to dishonestly cheerleading for the Green and Democratic parties or simply have become antiquarian societies reciting old revolutionary pieties with the mechanical enthusiasm of Hare-Krishna monks; While at the same time the “radicals” and “anarchists” that prescribe dropping out of society by building “alternative communities” “outside of capitalism” have rationalized their powerlessness into a lifestyle that poses as politics.
In 1969, SNCC member and Third World Women’s Alliance founder Francis Beal wrote The Black Women’s Manifesto; Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female. While Beal was certainly not the first woman to raise questions about the different ways differently raced women were impacted by sexist oppression, The Black Women’s Manifesto marks the birth of modern intersectional political thought.
The election of Barack Obama will be an event. But it has proven confusing for most on the “Left,” who claim to want to overcome anti-black racism and achieve social justice. Rejection of Obama on this basis has been as significant as the embrace of his candidacy. There is as much anxiety as hope stirred by Obama, especially regarding the significance of his blackness.