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Last fall, editor Spencer A. Leonard interviewed Michael Dawson, Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture at the University of Chicago. The interview, which centered around a discussion of Manning Marable's new biography of Malcolm X, was broadcast on September 30, 2011 on the radio show Radical Minds on WHPK–FM Chicago. What follows is a revised and edited transcript of the interview.
On May 19, 2011, Platypus invited Carl Davidson, formerly of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Guardian Weekly, Tom Riley of the International Bolshevik Tendency, and Mel Rothenberg, formerly of the Sojourner Truth Organization, to reflect on “The Marxist turn: The New Left in the 1970s.”
On November 9, 2010, Platypus hosted the public forum, “Rethinking the New Left,” moderated by Spencer A. Leonard. The panel consisted of Osha Neumann, a former member of the New York anarchist group in the 1960s, Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers; Mark Rudd, former member and national secretary of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and later a member of the Weather Underground; Tim Wohlforth, founder and national secretary of the Young Socialist Alliance in 1959; and Alan Spector, a full-time organizer for SDS for more than five years in the 1960s.

http://www.archive.org/details/RethinkingTheNewLeftchicago11910

Public forum of the Platypus Affiliated Society

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 9TH 6:00 PM

UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
INTERNATIONAL HOUSE ASSEMBLY HALL
1414 EAST 59TH STREET

SPEAKERS:
Mark Rudd
Alan Spector
Osha Neumann
Tim Wohlforth

MODERATOR:
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 “new New Deal” 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.

“In the United States today there is no Left,” C. Wright Mills declaimed in the waning months of the 1950s, making him one of the most beloved intellectuals of his generation, “political activities are monopolized by an irresponsible two-party system; cultural activities -- though formally quite free, tend to become nationalistic or commercial -- or merely private.” 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 Left’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?

Co-sponsored by:
The Global Voices Lecture Program of International House, with the support of the University of Chicago Student Activities Fund

WHAT WERE THE 1960S? The Left is still a bit confused. Activist and lawyer Osha Neumann, in his memoir Up Against the Wall, Motherf**ker, suggests that the 1960s not be thought of as a single coherent movement, but rather as a collection of movements gathered under the umbrella of “liberation.” The civil rights movement overlapped with the anti-war movement, but they were not fully aligned. Similarly, the politically earnest Students for a Democratic Society often came head-to-head with the counterculture and the seemingly more radical tactics of Neumann’s own group, the Motherfuckers.

A panel discussion held on May 29, 2010 at the second Platypus International Convention at SAIC.

Panelists: Greg Gabrellas, Pam C. Nogales C., Spencer Leonard

The late 1960s and early 1970s witnessed the rise of a new militancy and sectarianism on the Left. Whether in the case of the Black Panthers, the Weather Underground, the Gay Liberation Front, or many other currents on the Left, developments from that time did much to shape the New Left's legacy as it comes down to the present. This panel seeks to move beyond the usual antinomies of unity versus fragmentation and idealism versus sectarianism that typically shape the discussion of the political trajectories of the period. Instead, it will attempt to grasp these turn of the decade developments as the results of long-standing problems inherited and confronted, yet ultimately abandoned and left unresolved by the New Left.

The ominously titled 2007 PBS documentary Silence of the Bees begins with a montage of the streets of a major U.S. city that had grown silent because its inhabitants vanished. The empty city, we are told, is not unlike the beehives afflicted by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a commercial honey bee syndrome that has resulted in massive apian losses. A few minutes into the documentary, however, we are informed that the metaphor should be considered more literally, as “the bees’ disappearance could have colossal repercussions for humans.”

A talk given by Platypus member Chris Cutrone at Loyola University, on April 21st, 2010.

The German Marxist critical theorist Theodor W. Adorno (1903-69) is known, along with his friend and mentor Walter Benjamin, for the critique of mid-20th century art and culture. What is less well understood is the specific character of Adorno's Marxism, how his political perspective related to his philosophical concerns. This workshop will address several aspects of Adorno's Marxism that relate to his critique of Leftist politics, in both periods of his early and late life, in the Old Left (1920s-40s) and New Left (1960s), and how Adorno remains relevant to issues and problems of Leftist politics today.

Recommended background readings:

Max Horkheimer, "The Little Man and the Philosophy of Freedom" (1926)

Adorno, "Imaginative Excesses" (1944)

Adorno, "Marginalia to Theory and Praxis" (1969)

Adorno, "Resignation" (1969)

Adorno and Herbert Marcuse, correspondence on the German New Left (1969)

Cosponsored by Pi Sigma Tau, STAND, and SAF.

Transcript in Platypus Review #37:

On Thursday November 19, 2009, Platypus Review Editor-in-Chief Spencer A. Leonard discussed with author George Scialabba a new volume of essays entitled What are Intellectuals Good For? (Boston: Pressed Wafer Press, 2009). Their discussion was conducted live on “Radical Minds,” a radio show Leonard conducts weekly with co-host Greg Gabrellas on WHPK 88.5 FM in Chicago. Leonard and Scialabba’s discussion focused chiefly on a single theme of the book, the connections and disconnects between the intellectuals of the anti-Stalinist Old Left forged in America in the 1930s and the New Left that emerged decades later in the early 1960s. What follows is an edited transcript of their discussion.
The Decline of the Left in the 20th Century Toward a Theory of Historical Regression THE ABANDONMENT OF EMANCIPATORY POLITICS in our time has not been, as past revolutionary thinkers may have feared, an abandonment of revolution in favor of reformism. Rather, because the revolutionary overcoming of capital is no longer imagined, reformism too is dead. As the task of achieving human society beyond capital has been abandoned, nothing worthy of the name of politics takes its place, nor could it. The project of freedom has now altogether receded from view. For, while bourgeois thinkers like Hegel were no doubt mistaken in their identification of capital with freedom, they nevertheless grasped that the question of freedom only poses itself with reference to the capital problematic.