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Leipzig: C. L. Hirschfeld, 1923

August Thalheimer

Platypus Review 48 | July–August 2012

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The first English translation of August Thalheimer's 1924 review of Karl Korsch's seminal work, Marxism and Philosophy, appears below. The review originally appeared in the Soviet journal Under the Banner of Marxism (Pod Znamenem Marksizma, 4-5 [1924]: 367–373). For an earlier discussion of Korsch’s book, see Chris Cutrone’s review of the 2008 reprint of Marxism and Philosophy released by Monthly Review Press, in Platypus Review 15 (September 2009), and the original translation of Karl Kautsky's review of Korsch that was published in Platypus Review 43 (February 2012).

 

THE TASK THAT KARL KORSCH SETS HIMSELF  in the article that comprises the first part of his "Historical-logical Studies on the Question of the Materialist Dialectic," boils down to the elucidation of the problem of the interrelation of Marxism and philosophy.[1] The article begins by pointing out that the importance of this question has not been recognized until the present day, and that this ignorance characterizes the bourgeois school of philosophy as well as circles of Marxist academics. "For professors of philosophy, Marxism was at best a rather minor sub-section within the history of nineteenth-century philosophy, dismissed as 'The Decay of Hegelianism'" (52).

As for the Marxist theoreticians, including also the orthodox ones, they too failed to grasp the importance of the "philosophical side" of their own theory. True, they proceeded from different considerations than the professors of bourgeois philosophy, and even assumed that in this they followed exactly the footsteps of Marx and Engels, because ultimately the latter two would sooner "abolish" than create philosophy. But this attitude of the Marxist theoreticians—the leaders of the Second International—to the problem of philosophy can be considered satisfactory from the viewpoint of Marxism precisely insofar as Feuerbach's attitude to Hegel's philosophy satisfied Marx and Engels. Shoving philosophy unceremoniously aside, the cultivation of a negative attitude toward its problems did not occur without impunity and resulted in such curiosities as the confession of faith by some Marxists in Schopenhauer's philosophy.

In any event, the visible agreement of bourgeois professors and orthodox Marxists of the Second International on this question is a fact. From this viewpoint, in essence, it was no different for either current  which flavor of philosophy was used to "round out" Marxism—Kantianism, Machism, and so on. The latter circumstance permits the author to concentrate all his attention exclusively on the first two perspectives.

In comrade Korsch's presentation of the matter, it is rather easy to show that the purely negative conception of the relation between Marxism and philosophy detected by him in bourgeois scholars as well as in orthodox Marxists, is explained by the "superficial and incomplete analysis of historical and logical development" (57). Because both sides come to similar solutions of the question, starting from different points of departure, the author does not consider it possible to present both points of view at once, preferring to set them out separately. Nevertheless, he declares, and promises further on to demonstrate, that regardless of all differences, they both coincide in one crucial point: precisely in the question of the relation to dialectics. Just as bourgeois philosophy threw dialectics overboard together with Hegel's philosophy, likewise Marxists of the second half of the 19th century no longer understood the original meaning of the dialectical principle, which Marx and Engels brought along from the arsenal of philosophy of their teacher, transferring it to the path of materialism.

To begin with, the author wants to speak "briefly" about the grounds that caused bourgeois philosophy in the second half of the 19th century to increasingly abandon the dialectical perspective, and that rendered them unable to adequately grasp of the original substance of Marxist philosophy and its meaning in the wider course of development of this philosophical idea over a century. It could certainly be said that this misunderstanding of Marxism from the side of bourgeois professors is a product of their class interests, but the author imagines such an interpretation to be slightly simplified; he tries to find another way, by revealing the underlying socio-historical condition that forced the representative bourgeois philosophy to reject the dialectical method. With this incomprehension of Marxist philosophy by the philosophical department of the bourgeoisie, quite eloquently evidenced by the hole in understanding, the blackout of history recorded for the whole period from the beginning of the decay of the Hegelian charm until the epoch named "back to Kant," clearly illustrates the "limitedness" of bourgeois philosophy. This "limitedness" is expressed in three forms, two of which were noted even earlier within the boundaries of bourgeois philosophy itself, and only the third one, which by its very nature could not be overcome by bourgeois-philosophers, being left for the plate of our author. The first must be denoted as the limitation of philosophical arrogance, that is, philosophy overlooks how the ideal content of philosophy can rather easily have its substance also beyond the limits of the latter, in different kinds of science that also have a place in relation precisely to Hegelian philosophy. The second limitation, which reduces even the best German researchers to patriotic myopia, resulted in the fact that they coated over the later history of philosophy in the 19th century, accommodating it within the walls of the walls of the Vaterland, losing sight of the fact that in the 1840-60s, philosophy lived in other countries. And finally, the third limitation ascribed by the same author to bourgeois-philosophy is class shortsightedness, hindering bourgeois science's ability to correctly evaluate its hostility to society and the ability to correctly determine its reflection in theory. If the first two could still be overcome by bourgeois thought (by Dilthey and his school), then the last represents its limit, which already cannot be crossed: Scientific socialism, new revolutionary movement, could be properly understood only by those who stand on the principled new position. The fact is that philosophy cannot stand in judgment of the world as long as it views the world through "ideal-historical development." Philosophy cannot be torn from the general picture of its time because it is not separate from it: Its development runs side by side with the development of society itself. Hegelian philosophy, as also all classical philosophy of German idealism, is none other than the translation of the French Revolution into the language of German speculation. Up until the day that the bourgeois were still revolutionary a class, 1848, they understood this philosophy. "But through the course of historical development, as the bourgeoisie is put in the a position of a class, playing a counter-revolutionary role, it throws away this instrument—the Hegelian dialectic—and with it loses the ability to comprehend in thought the true dialectical interrelation of ideas and real historical developments, above all of philosophy and revolution" (66). But the further inability for the bourgeoisie to play a revolutionary role did not at all mean that in this historical situation there are no more actors in that role, but that every actor still entering the stage of his future is the first act following the first performance of the previous actor. Such was our case as well: Bourgeois revolutionary turned into bourgeois counter-revolutionary, and stepped aside for the revolutionary proletarian. This also provides the key to understanding also those philosophical reversals that shaped the bourgeoisie in the middle of the past century: Counter-revolutionary practice could hardly correspond with a philosophical algebra of revolution and the bourgeoisie fell back to Kant from Hegel.

"This dialectical approach enables us to grasp the four different trends we have mentioned—the revolutionary movement of the bourgeoisie, the idealist philosophy from Kant to Hegel, the revolutionary class movement of the proletariat, and the materialist philosophy of Marxism—as four moments of a single historical process. This allows us to understand the real nature of the new science, theoretically formulated by Marx and Engels, which forms the general expression of the independent revolutionary movement of the proletariat" (68). Now bourgeois thought’s misunderstanding of the philosophy of Marxism becomes entirely understandable: As it cannot realize the practical-revolutionary value of the class movement of the proletariat inside bourgeois society, so it also cannot grasp in the thought of this society the essence of the positions in which this movement finds its theoretical expression in the thought of this society.

Believing that these considerations are enough for elucidating the position of bourgeois philosophy, the author turns to the analysis of positions on the matter in the camp of the Marxists. He begins again by indicating the importance of the problems, drawing a clear analogy between these problems with the problem of Marxism and the State. Marxism "abolishes" the state, and not only in bourgeois form, but every state in general; nevertheless this does not imply the disparaging relation of Marxists to the latter. Similarly, Marx and Engels do not force us to consider the denial by philosophy of scientific socialism to be fictitious. Such solutions to the question would be a "vulgarization" of Marxism. The materialist-dialectical point of view demands the most thorough study of the problem of this "abolition." What might this "abolition" mean? How and when? And for whom is this “abolition”—for all humanity, for the entire proletariat, or only for Marxists? Will philosophy be abolished as a whole, or is it similar to the abolition of the state, seemingly as a sort of period folded in with the phase of the revolutionary process. With such a formulation of the problem, in Korsch's opinion, not only does it raise the problem to its highest meaning, like the problems of state and revolution, but also allows us to understand the neglect of it by the theoreticians of the Second International: After all, in relation to opportunists, not only do they stand being accused by Lenin of forgetting the problem of the state, but also of questions of revolution in general.

It would be superficial to explain this phenomenon through the personal qualities of individual Marxists: The dialectical method allows for the explanation of such facts from the foundation, lying in society itself. In order to illustrate this, the author gives a short essay on the history of Marxism. According to the author, the whole period of Marxism from its beginnings in the year of the "Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right" (1843) down to our own day is divisible into three parts, under the natural boundaries of history of European society of that time. The 1848 revolution is the first such watershed, and as such the first part of the Marxist epoch. The second part deals with the July Proletariat in 1848 until the beginning of our own time, the new conditions of the capitalist society, ending with the re-awakening of the revolutionary movement. The final third of this history of Marxism begins with the 20th century, our day. The first Marxist period coincided with the revolutionary storm of the 1840s, and in its essence reflected the state of this society. Marxism of this period, despite all of its rejections of philosophy, illustrates "theory permeated through and through with philosophical thought of social development seen and comprehended as a living totality; or, more precisely, it is a theory of social revolution, comprehended and practiced as a living totality" (79­–80). The best expression of this first form of Marxist theory appears in the "Communist Manifesto." The second period, in the years of European reaction of the second half of the 19th century, necessarily had to reflect the features of this period of social calm: After all, arguing that a theory could lead an independent existence outside of the actual movement of life meant departing from the dialectical-materialist point of view and stepping into idealism. So it could be stated a priori that the new conditions would be reflected in Marxism, changing its physiognomy, which is exactly what happened, in reality. Even the very theory of Marx and Engels, which "remains a comprehensive integrated theory of social revolution," began changing its forms, switching the focus of attention to its components, the economic, political and other aspects of the whole. Thanks to this, philosophy takes a back seat to the specialist science, political economy. Whereas Marx and Engels allowed political economy in reasonable doses, this did not cause the degeneration of their theory, but their epigones have brought to its extreme in the "unified theory of social revolution turned into a critique of the bourgeois economic system, government, education, religion, art, science and modern culture in general-criticism, without yet taking the next step in its essential revolutionary practice (although it could easily take the step) and mostly changing into reformist tendencies, that do not move away from the grounds of bourgeois state and society” (86). Thus, thanks to this specific historical situation the question of revolution completely lost substance for the reformist-Marxists, and for the orthodox Marxists it represented an “otherworldly” phenomenon, hindering their ability to master the new, revolutionary epoch that commenced at the beginning of the new century. This era has put on the agenda issues of revolution, and thus opened the third period of Marxism, which becomes known, on the initiative of the main instigators of this period—the Russian Bolsheviks—under the name of the period of "Restoration of Marxism." In the third period, restoration of Marxism restores the question of social revolution, and in line with the problem of Marxism and the state stands the problem of Marxism and philosophy. The latter not only has purely theoretical meaning, but implications for full, deep, practical thought, because the question of the philosophy and revolution raises the question of the relationship between revolution and ideology: the question which, when it will rise in its entirety on the day of the social revolution, the proletariat cannot sidestep.

In the last part of his article the author also gives an analysis of the question of the relation of Marxism to philosophy and ideology in general. What is the position of Marxism in relation to philosophy? The widespread opinion claiming this is a nonsensical question, like the question of the relationship of two incomparable, qualitatively different things, is the answer given by the vulgar Marxists. But this solution in no way corresponds to the actual state of affairs. Neither Marx nor Engels ever saw philosophy as nonsense that had no place in their revolutionary practice. On the contrary, they both have always recognized in its character a certain reality, and demanded the accurate accounting of its value as such in the revolutionary practice, not to mention the form of Marxism. Which is why , the theses on Feuerbach, "should be characterized as philosophy, specifically revolutionary philosophy." Thus the "abolition" of philosophy must be understood in the sense that it leaves the scene of human history in that moment when the material conditions collapse, which are one or another form of social conditions. From this it follows that the abstract route, the route of pure scientific critique outside revolutionary struggle for this abolition, does not and cannot exist: "Philosophy cannot be abolished without being realized," the author concludes with Marx's own words.

That is, if I succeeded in reporting correctly, is the content of the article of comrade Korsch. Its particularity, as an individual chapter of a whole work, excludes the possibility of forming a conclusive opinion about the author's views. Nevertheless, an interest in the question raised by it does not allow one to pass over some of the positions, advanced by the author that are deserving of praise in every way for the thoroughness with which the themes are treated, and to a certain extent, justifies my resolve in—perhaps somewhat prematurely—speaking out about them.

First of all, one cannot avoid to calling attention to the fact that comrade Korsch admits a certain—if such an expression be permitted—liberty in handling the term philosophy. It is impossible to say precisely what content is invested in this concept. But it is also difficult to indicate what sort of concept would carry the same character of conventionality, and this would depend to an extent on the person using it, as that which is understood by by the concept of philosophy? Does not philosophy to this day continue to search for its subject? Has it not since olden times wandered through the kingdom of knowledge,  here haughtily laying claim to the royal purple robe as the queen of all sciences, there modestly taking on the job of salesman of any science? And between these two opposed roles of philosophy is their not arranged for her a series of intermediate trades? True, comrade Korsch allows one to understand what he has in mind by philosophy, as the expression of the revolutionary movement or as the comprehensive theory of social revolution. But, after all, one cannot ignore that this is only a figurative expression, and in its precise parts it can escape even the author himself, which, in my opinion, happens in this case. Comrade Korsch asserts that the classical philosophy of German idealism from Kant to Hegel is an expression of the bourgeois revolutionary movement. The year 1848 brought to an end the revolutionary attitudes of the bourgeoisie; the latter outlived them, renounced the philosophical sins of its youth and Hegel's fearless dialectic, whose charm dispersed like smoke, and fell back to Kant. But the philosophy of Kant, according to the author’s own assertion, is a reflection of the revolutionary condition that found its reflection in Hegel as well. Moreover, in fact, the bourgeoisie in the days of its revolutionary youth also took to other forms of philosophy, besides the philosophy of Kant and Hegel. These were not only not idealism, but were also innocent of the field of dialectics. Indeed, French materialism—and it is certainly the form of the philosophy of the revolutionary bourgeoisie—was still sufficiently metaphysical to smooth out the impression or the glimpse of dialectics in Diderot, the dialectics of the brilliant [Claude Adrien] Helvétius, and the still more sketchy dialectics not yet visible in [Léger Marie] Deschamps. I imagine that the explanation of this from the point of view of comrade Korsch will not be very easy, and the difficulty in explaining this is not accidental. The reason for it is the idiosyncratic conception of philosophy (in passing we remark, additionally, that here the conception of dialectics cannot be without fault: The article offers us the possibility of observing the author striving not to lead the latter over the limit of society, showing in this a relation with the point of view of comrade Lukács, finding its expression in the book History and Class Consciousness, which is characterized by a complete rejection of dialectics in nature).

The second thing, which I would not want to overlook in silence, is the somewhat—if one can put it this way—cautious relation to science from the side of comrade Korsch. The opportunists misconstrued Marxism as a scientific critique of the various parts of bourgeois society and thereby took from Marxism its "living spirit" of revolutionary doctrine. Hence the "revolutionary" Marxist lives in fear of science, since the latter can lead to a rupture with revolutionary practice. Because of this, the author does not consider it possible to think the "abolition" of philosophy by Marxism by means of the rejection of philosophy as the singular domain of absolute knowledge, recognizing its ordinary character as the relative knowledge of the sciences. And yet, a different formulation of the question of "abolition" removes the possibility of  understanding the interrelation of Marxism and philosophy completely. Contrariwise, any different conception of philosophy, the recognition of its specificity, which is unknown to science, means a step back to the viewpoint of the—so to speak—pre-Marxist period. After all, what constitutes the conception of philosophy on which Marxism in the end depends? Once we hold for philosophy a specific character of understanding, we recognize for it a specific method of searching truth, a method, unknown to science, providing not comparative scientific knowledge, but the very absolute philosophical truth. And it was exactly against such a conception of philosophy, as a sort of super-science presenting an absolute human truth, that Marxism directed its blows. Marxism "abolished" the philosophy of the all-encompassing, “eliminating every contradiction of metaphysical systems. With such philosophy, as a science of sciences, soaring above all branches of knowledge and connecting them together,”[2] were finished once and for all by Marxism, for  all those who do not want to recognize the mystical ways of knowledge. But by denying the royal throne of philosophy, Marxism likewise excludes the necessity for it to take on the role of hawker of truth manufactured by another, ensuring it an independent place among different sciences. The question about the possibility of a special science is best solved in its procedure of studying a specific object, in its subject. It is precisely in learning the nature of that subject, "the further elaboration in all its details," this science is the task of Marxism in the domain of philosophy. And there is no need to fear the revolutionary purity of Marxism. In this sense philosophy, as nothing but a "guide to activity" cannot be, and therefore its meaning and very possibility are only conceivable through an actual connection to activity. Of course, this guidance is more "pleasant" and useful in its execution, than, let us say, its writing, but this is only in the case where its plan is already at hand. Rejection of action from the revolutionary's side, of course, must be seen as betrayal of revolution, but also the rejection of science of action—and philosophy is that, as well—must also be recognized as disarmament of the revolution.

Finally, I will allow myself to stop before one more specific standpoint of comrade Korsch, his understanding of philosophy as the expression of the revolutionary action. By adhering to his standpoint, he must conclude that the period of social standstill, bringing a corresponding modification in the domain of theory, must inevitably cause the rejection of philosophy, denying it a right to count as something real. That, from his standpoint, conjointly finds its expression in opportunism. Actually, he is not even averse to declaring that the most authentic Marxism also undergoes new transformations that are contingent on changes in the social conditions. The opposite could not be, he concludes, because in the opposite case it would turn out that theory breaks from its own basis and hangs in the air. Therefore he is not inclined to understand Russian Bolshevism as one of the forms of restored revolutionary Marxism. That every practical step brings something new to theory, this is not subject to doubt, because knowledge is always given only in practice; but that every new step forces a review of theory—that is not true. Indeed the value of theory boils down to the fact that, viewing the tendency of development of reality, it anticipates the latter, providing the possibility for error-free activity itself. In this sense Marxism is not at all a reflecting mirror of that reality from which it grew. It only thoroughly and exactly notes the direction of development of this reality, reflects reality in conception, and so itself insures everyone, by seriously grasping it, against the possibility of remaining fools because of ignorance, existing amidst the development of the same reality. Therefore Marxism remains a scientific and practical resource to this day so far as, and as long as, the realization of it by the indicated road of development of reality has not become a fact. And, in this sense, opportunism cannot be understood as a new type of Marxism: for it envisions action as meaning what the word appears to signify rather than the essence of what the expression means itself. From this point of view, furthermore, why opportunism usually begins with a critique of the philosophical part of the Marxist worldview becomes clear. For the activity of this social class, for whom the representative ideology of which is opportunism, needs an entirely different guide than dialectical materialism. This is why the fragile boat of opportunism prefers the quiet backwater of Kantianism to the stormy course of dialectics. |P

Translated from Russian by Alex Gonopolsky and Ross Wolfe.


[1]. "Diese Abhandlung bildet die erste Abteilung einer größeren Schrift: Historisch-logischen Untersuchungen zur Frage der materialistischen Dialektik." Korsch, quoted in Haug (1984).

[2]. Frederick Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, trans. Paul Taylor (Moscow: Progress Publishers 1946 [1886]). Available online at: <http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1886/ludwig-feuerbach>

Leon Trotsky

Platypus Review 34 | April 2011

[Article PDF]  [Review PDF]

On the occasion of the launch of a new theoretical journal in 1922, Under the Banner of Marxism (Pod Znamenem Marksizma), Lenin singled out the open letter that Trotsky had written to the editors in the first issue, while expressing the hope that the venture would take the shape of a “society of materialist friends of Hegelian dialectics.” Trotsky himself underscored the importance of the letter in The Stalin School of Falsification (1937), which, in pointing to the difference between the changed conditions of education of the younger members of the party from that of their older comrades, outlined the necessity of a new theoretical approach in order to safeguard the theoretical and political experience accumulated within the party. Despite the importance attributed to the letter by Lenin and Trotsky, Leszek Kolakowski, in his Main Currents of Marxism, considered the letter unexceptional.

As the first in an experimental new series of original translations, the Platypus Review is delighted to be publishing the first English translation of this important letter by Trotsky.

Trotsky-1918-300x178

Leon Trotsky at his desk, circa 1918.

Dear comrades!

The idea of publishing a magazine that would introduce advanced proletarian youth into the circle of materialist ideology seems to me highly valuable and fruitful.

The older generation of worker-communists that is now playing a leading role in the party and the country, awoke to conscious political life 10, 15, 20, or more years ago. That generation’s thought began its critical work with the policeman, the timekeeper, and the foreman, then rose to tsarism and capitalism, and then, most often in prison and exile, proceeded onto questions of the philosophy of history and scientific understanding of the world. Therefore, before the revolutionary proletarian reached the critical questions of the materialist explanation of historical development, it managed to accumulate a certain amount of ever-widening generalizations, from the particular to the general, based on its own life's combat experience. The current young worker wakes up in the atmosphere of the soviet state, which itself is a living critique of the old world. Those general conclusions, that the older generation of workers acquired in battle and were fixed in consciousness by strong nails of personal experience, are now received by the younger generation of workers in finished form, directly from the state in which they live and from the party that governs that state. This means, of course, a giant step forward in terms of creating conditions for further political and theoretical education of the workers. But at the same time that this incomparably higher historical level is achieved by the work of older generations, new problems and challenges appear for young generations.

The soviet state is a living negation of the old world, its social order, personal relationships, views, and beliefs. But, at the same time, the soviet state itself is still full of contradictions, holes, inconsistencies, vague fermentation—in short, the phenomena in which the legacy of the past intertwines with the germs of the future. In such a deeply fractured, critical, and unstable era as ours, education of the proletarian vanguard requires serious and reliable theoretical foundations. It is necessary to arm a young worker’s thought and will with the method of the materialist worldview so that the greatest events, the powerful tides, rapidly changing tasks, and methods of the party and state do not disorganize his consciousness and do not break down his will before the threshold of his independent responsible work.

Arm the will and not only the thought, we say, because, in the era of great world upheavals, now more then ever before our will cannot break, but must harden only if it rests against the scientific understanding of the conditions and causes of historical development

On the other hand, it is precisely in such a critical era as ours, especially if it drags on—i.e., if the pace of revolutionary events in the West proves slower than hoped for—that attempts of various idealist and semi-idealist philosophical schools and sects will likely possess the consciousness of young workers. Captured unaware by the events—without prior extensive experience of practical class struggle—the thought of young workers could be defenseless against various doctrines of idealism, which are essentially translations of religious dogma into the language of pseudo-philosophy. All of these schools, despite the diversity of their idealist, Kantian, empirio-critical, and other designations, in the end agree that consciousness, thought, knowledge prefaces matter, and not vice versa.

The task of materialist education of worker youth is to reveal the fundamental laws of historical development. And the most important and primary of these foundations is the law which states that human consciousness represents not a free and independent psychological process, but a function of material economic foundation, i.e., is determined by it and serves it.

The dependence of consciousness on class interests and relations, and the latter on economic organization, is manifested most brightly, openly, but crudely in the revolutionary era. On its irreplaceable experience, we must help young workers fasten in their minds the foundations of the Marxist method. But this is not enough. Human society itself has both its historical roots and its current economy in the natural-historical world. One must see in the man of today a link in the entire development, which begins with the emergence of the first organic cell from the laboratory of nature, where the physical and chemical properties of matter act. One who has learned to look back with such clarity on the past of the entire world, including the human society, animal and vegetable kingdom, the solar system and the surrounding infinity, will not search for keys to understanding the secrets of the universe in dilapidated "sacred" books, these philosophical fairy tales of primitive childishness. And one who does not recognize the existence of heavenly mystical powers, capable of arbitrary invasion into the personal or social life and its direction in one way or another, one who does not believe that the misery and suffering will find some higher reward in other worlds, will stand firmer and stronger on the ground, and will be more confident and courageous in looking to the material conditions of the society for foundations of his creative work. Materialist ideology not only opens wide a window to the entire universe, but it also strengthens the will. It alone makes modern man human. It is true that he still depends on grave material conditions, but he already knows how to overcome them and consciously participates in building a new society, based simultaneously on the highest technology and the highest solidarity.

Giving the proletarian youth a materialist education—this is the greatest challenge. To your magazine, which wants to participate in this educational work, I heartily wish success.

Leon Trotsky
February 27, 1922


Translated with the assistance of Yevgeniy Garmize and Alex Gonopolskiy

Saturday, October 3 - 7:30pm @ Union Docs [ 322 Union Ave, Brooklyn NY ]

Platypus NY Chapter head, Chris Mansour, will be introducing the film. Discussion with Filmmaker and Stephen Duncombe to follow the screening.

In EXAMINED LIFE (2008, 87 minutes, Canada, DVD), filmmaker Astra Taylor accompanies some of today’s most influential thinkers on a series of unique excursions through places and spaces that hold particular resonance for them and their ideas.

This event is presented in association with the Platypus Affiliated Society, New York chapter. Platypus organizes reading groups, public fora, research and journalism focused on problems and tasks inherited from the “Old” (1920s-30s), “New” (1960s-70s) and post-political (1980s-90s) Left for the possibilities of emancipatory politics today.

http://www.uniondocs.org/examined-life-with-astra-taylor/

" '[Humanity] always sets itself only such problems as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely it will always be found that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or are at least understood to be in the process of emergence' [Marx, Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859)]. This dictum is not affected by the fact that a problem which supersedes present relations may have been formulated in an anterior epoch."

"As scientific socialism, the Marxism of Marx and Engels remains the inclusive whole of a theory of social revolution . . . a materialism whose theory comprehended the totality of society and history, and whose practice overthrew it. . . . The difference [now] is that the various components of [what for Marx and Engels was] the unbreakable interconnection of theory and practice are further separated out. . . . The umbilical cord has been broken."

-- Karl Korsch, "Marxism and Philosophy" (1923)

http://www.marxists.org/archive/korsch/1923/marxism-philosophy.htm

This work by Karl Korsch, published in the same year as Lukacs's book History and Class Consciousness, similarly takes up the theme of the neglected Hegelian dimensions of Marx's thought.

Ironically, while Lukacs's work uses history in its title and Korsch's essay invokes the theme of philosophy, Korsch's treatment is more historical and Lukacs's more philosophical.

I'd like to call attention in particular to one extended passage from early in Korsch's text to illustrate this:

"In the normal presentations of the history of the nineteenth-century philosophy which emanate from bourgeois authors, there is a gap at a specific point which can only be overcome in a highly artificial manner, if at all. These historians want to present the development of philosophical thought in a totally ideological and hopelessly undialectical way, as a pure process of the 'history of ideas'. It is therefore impossible to see how they can find a rational explanation for the fact that by the 1850s Hegel's grandiose philosophy had virtually no followers left in Germany and was totally misunderstood soon afterwards, whereas as late as the 1830s even its greatest enemies (Schopenhauer or Herbart) were unable to escape its overpowering intellectual influence. Most of them did not even try to provide such an explanation, but were instead content to note in their annals the disputes following Hegel's death under the utterly negative rubric of 'The Decay of Hegelianism'. Yet the content of these disputes was very significant and they were also, by today's standards, of an extremely high formal philosophical level. They took place between the various tendencies of Hegel's school, the Right, the Centre and the different tendencies of the Left, especially Strauss, Bauer, Feuerbach, Marx and Engels. To close this period, these historians of philosophy simply set a kind of absolute 'end' to the Hegelian philosophic movement. They then begin the 1860s with the return to Kant (Helmholtz, Zeller, Liebmann, Lange) which appears as a new epoch of philosophical development, without any direct connection to anything else. This kind of history of philosophy has three great limitations, two of which can be revealed by a critical revision that itself remains more or less completely within the realm of the history of ideas. Indeed, in recent years more thorough philosophers, especially Dilthey and his school, have considerably expanded the limited perspective of normal histories of philosophy in these two respects. These two limits can therefore be regarded as having been overcome in principle, although in practice they have survived to this day and will presumably continue to do so for a very long time. The third limit, however, cannot in any way be surpassed from within the realm of the history of ideas; consequently it has not yet been overcome even in principle by contemporary bourgeois historians of philosophy.

"The first of these three limits in the bourgeois history of philosophy during the second half of the nineteenth century can be characterised as a 'purely philosophical' one. The ideologues of the time did not see that the ideas contained in a philosophy can live on not only in philosophies, but equally well in positive sciences and social practice, and that this process precisely began on a large scale with Hegel's philosophy. The second limit is a 'local' one, and was most typical of German professors of philosophy in the second half of the last century: these worthy Germans ignored the fact that there were other philosophers beyond the boundaries of Germany. Hence, with a few exceptions, they quite failed to see that the Hegelian system, although pronounced dead in Germany for decades, had continued to flourish in several foreign countries, not only in its content but also as a system and a method. In the development of the history of philosophy over recent decades, these first two limits to its perspective have in principle been overcome, and the picture painted above of the standard histories of philosophy since 1850 has of late undergone considerable improvement. However, bourgeois philosophers and historians are quite unable to overcome a third limitation on their historical outlook, because this would entail these 'bourgeois' philosophers and historians of philosophy abandoning the bourgeois class standpoint which constitutes the most essential a priori of their entire historical and philosophical science. For what appears as the purely 'ideal' development of philosophy in the nineteenth century can in fact only be fully and essentially grasped by relating it to the concrete historical development of bourgeois society as a whole. It is precisely this relation that bourgeois historians of philosophy, at their present stage of development, are incapable of studying scrupulously and impartially.

"This explains why right up to the present day certain phases of the general development of philosophy in the nineteenth century have had to remain 'transcendent' for these bourgeois historians of philosophy. It also explains why there are still certain curious 'blank patches' on the maps of contemporary bourgeois histories of philosophy (already described in connection with the 'end' of the Hegelian movement in the 1840s and the empty space after it, before the 'reawakening' of philosophy in the 1860s). It also becomes intelligible why bourgeois histories of philosophy today no longer have any coherent grasp even of a period of German philosophy whose concrete essence they previously had succeeded in understanding. In other words, neither the development of philosophical thought after Hegel, nor the preceding evolution of philosophy from Kant to Hegel, can be understood as a mere chain of ideas. Any attempt to understand the full nature and meaning of this whole later period -- normally referred to in history books as the epoch of 'German idealism' -- will fail hopelessly so long as certain connections that are vital for its whole form and course are not registered, or are registered only superficially or belatedly. These are the connections between the 'intellectual movement' of the period and the 'revolutionary movement' that was contemporary with it."

Korsch then goes on to describe in detail the various vicissitudes of the problem of "philosophy" in the history of Marxism, in Marx and Engels's own works, and then in 2nd Intl. Marxism up to his time, and how they relate to the changing relationship of theory and practice in the political history of Marxism, its purchase in practical politics.

Please note, that, unlike various "New Left" Romantic approaches, the goal is not overcoming the separation or distinction between theory and practice, but rather a matter of grasping how they are related (hence, Korsch's "umbilical cord" metaphor in the epigraph above). The theory-practice distinction/separation was grasped by Korsch (like Lukacs) as indicative of the problem Marx (and Marxism) had sought to address. Marx et al. did not resolve the theory/practice problem but grasped it as symptomatic.

Likewise, Korsch characterizes Marxism as emergent from the ideology of the revolt of the Third Estate, the liberal bourgeois-democratic revolutions, rather than as a break with this.

This is important because it means that the immanent relationship of Marxist socialism to liberalism is akin to the immanent relationship of the proletariat to capitalism, and the problem of philosophy is liked to that of the state: philosophy is not to be "abolished" once and for all, but qualitatively transformed, and the theory-practice problem is not to be overcome all at once but to "wither away." (This is very like Lukacs's understanding of proletarian socialism "completing reification" in order to get beyond it, through it.)

For Korsch, Marx and Engels look forward to the "overcoming" of philosophy, but as a long term qualitative transformation of subjectivity, a transcending of the need to reflect "philosophically." -- This relates to Korsch's note on Dilthey's discovery that "philosophical" categories are not only ones of conscious thought, but also of social and cultural practice.

As Korsch writes in conclusion:

"Just as political action is not rendered unnecessary by the economic action of a revolutionary class, so intellectual action is not rendered unnecessary by either political or economic action. On the contrary it must be carried through to the end in theory and practice, as revolutionary scientific criticism and agitational work before the seizure of state power by the working class, and as scientific organisation and ideological dictatorship after the seizure of state power. If this is valid for intellectual action against the forms of consciousness which define bourgeois society in general, it is especially true of philosophical action. Bourgeois consciousness necessarily sees itself as apart from the world and independent of it, as pure critical philosophy and impartial science, just as the bourgeois State and bourgeois Law appear to be above society. This consciousness must be philosophically fought by the revolutionary materialistic dialectic, which is the philosophy of the working class. This struggle will only end when the whole of existing society and its economic basis have been totally overthrown in practice, and this consciousness has been totally surpassed and abolished in theory. -- 'Philosophy cannot be abolished without being realised.' "

So the problem and important role of consciousness is thus brought to the fore by Korsch, through a rich treatment of the issue of ideology that should follow from our prior discussion of Luxemburg -- and lines up with Lukacs, and Kolakowski and Slaughter -- the long ramifications of the "revisionist debate," for which Ian compiled the quotations for use at the last reading group meeting, on Luxemburg's Reform or Revolution?, and that informed Lenin and Trotsky's point of departure, which we will begin addressing in subsequent meetings, starting with Lenin's What is to be done?, and the issue of "tailism," etc.

The reading of Korsch should be related to Platypus, at the level of what Korsch calls "intellectual action" -- this is our mandate, and it should thus be demystified. But because of the historical juncture at which we find ourselves, it is not the matter of what Korsch calls the "dialectical materialist philosophy of the revolutionary working class," but of the philosophy of the Left, and more specifically the philosophy of the history of the Left, whether we can adequately specify the present problem of consciousness and the relation of theory and practice as it has been given to us by history.

* * *

Another important point in Korsch, regarding Platypus:

"[T]he coincidence of consciousness and reality characterises every dialectic, including Marx's dialectical materialism. Its consequence is that the material relations of production of the capitalist epoch only are what they are in combination with the forms in which they are reflected in the pre-scientific and bourgeois-scientific consciousness of the period; and they could not subsist in reality without these forms of consciousness. Setting aside any philosophical considerations, it is therefore clear that without this coincidence of consciousness and reality, a critique of political economy could never have become the major component of a theory of social revolution. The converse follows. Those Marxist theoreticians for whom Marxism was no longer essentially a theory of social revolution could see no need for this dialectical conception of the coincidence of reality and consciousness: it was bound to appear to them as theoretically false and unscientific."

The latter "Marxist theoreticians" to which Korsch refers are of course the "revisionists," Bernstein (and Kautsky), et al., but could just as easily refer to others -- such as Moishe Postone. For Postone (and certainly for his students) any striving for a Marxian politics will always remain "ungrounded," "voluntaristic," etc.

(Instead, Postone leaves the problem of a Marxian politics vague and unworked-out, and makes the outrageous claim that Marx never elaborated a politics from his insights in Capital, as if Marx's actual politics didn't really count, and as if the latter can be separated from the former!)

The problem with the 1960s-era recovery of Marxian critical theory, by Postone, Adolph Reed, Fred Halliday (who translated Korsch in 1970) et al. is that they were never able to transcend the problem of how their theoretical "reflection" related to their political action and its self-understanding. They could never see how their intellectual work was itself a political action, but rather always regarded it as "beside" this.

(The only one of the three, Reed, who did attempt political practice, only did so in a cynically opportunist way -- attempting to split/reform the Democratic Party! -- Another character we have read in Platypus, Martin Nicolaus [translator of Marx's Grundrisse], went back on his own realizations in "The Unknown Marx" [1968], where he harshly criticized Baran and Sweezy for their conclusion that the proletariat had ceased to be a potentially revolutionary force, and later joined New Left Maoism! -- Yet another, Juliet Mitchell, whose "Women: the Longest Revolution" [1966] we read, divorced New Left Review's Perry Anderson and retreated into psychoanalysis. I found a very good recent [2006] interview with Mitchell that ought to give us pause, especially as it ends on a very provocative note about the possibility of a "critique of the normative psychosis of the political social world:"

http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2006-04-12-mitchell-en.html

Precisely because these potential recoverers of Marx of the 1960s generation did not seek to do what Marx and the revolutionary Marxists (Luxemburg, Lenin, Trotsky, et al.) did, change the world, they could not help but remain politically aporetic. Politics became for them the great, inapproachable question. In this sense, they fell under the same criticism Luxemburg had made of Bernstein in 1900: they recoiled in fear from the task of trying to change the world. They could never -- they never really tried to -- recognize their own thinking and attempts to influence others as either potentially changing or failing to change the world in the ways they may have (vainly) wished.

Our project, on the other hand, tries precisely to do this; we seek to instill the profound recognition that what we do or don't do (try or fail) will have real consequences -- hence all the (genuine) anxiety and fear that attend our efforts.

* * *

Korsch wrote on what he called (in 1923) "the decisive crisis of Marxism in which we still find ourselves today:"

"[O]ften described by its major representatives as a 'restoration' of Marxism[,] [t]his transformation and development of Marxist theory has been effected under the peculiar ideological guise of a return to the pure teaching of original or true Marxism. Yet it is easy to understand both the reasons for this guise and the real character of the process which is concealed by it. What theoreticians like Rosa Luxemburg in Germany and Lenin in Russia have done, and are doing, in the field of Marxist theory is to liberate it from the inhibiting traditions of the Social Democracy of the second period. They thereby answer the practical needs of the new revolutionary stage of proletarian class struggle, for these traditions weighed 'like a nightmare' on the brain of the working masses whose objectively revolutionary socioeconomic position no longer corresponded to these evolutionary doctrines. The apparent revival of original Marxist theory in the Third International is simply a result of the fact that in a new revolutionary period not only the workers' movement itself, but the theoretical conceptions of communists which express it, must assume an explicitly revolutionary form. This is why large sections of the Marxist system, which seemed virtually forgotten in the final decades of the nineteenth century, have now come to life again."

Our problem in Platypus is that we are living in an entirely inverted historical period to that of the revolutions of 1917-19 and the "decisive crisis of Marxism" of the late 19th-early 20th Century time of the emergence of the revolutionary-radicals from the tutelage of the "orthodox"-"epigones."

This is something Richard will refer to as the "paradox of orthodoxy," that Platypus might be considered "honestly revisionist."

For just as Luxemburg, Lenin and Trotsky actually revised and developed "Marxism" (against the authoritative "Marxists") in the name of orthodoxy and a "return to Marx," we are also seeking to overcome the limitations of the best of historical Marxism in our remembrance of it.

Korsch wrote of the "fragmented" and "disintegrated" character that the "Marxism" of the epigones exhibited in its "long decay." -- This is similar to how we find Marxism as a historical legacy today.

The difference is that whereas 2nd Intl. Marxism had deteriorated under the dual pressures of the decline of revolutionary possibilities (after 1848, with a slight return in the 1860s culminating with the Paris Commune, as noted by Korsch in the supplemental reading "The Marxism of the 1st International" [1924]) and the rise of reformist ones, today we are facing the results of the far more profound decay and disintegration of the decline of both revolutionary and reformist practical possibilities. We are not in the position of trying to transform a reformist relation of the working class to the society of capital into a revolutionary one, but of trying to provide the intellectual-ideological ground for instigating simultaneously possibilities for reform and revolution.

Recently, I had a discussion with some Platypi in which I said that by the time a reinvigorated workers' movement rebuilt itself to its former relative historical power for achieving reforms it would be necessary to struggle for revolution. -- Well, this is precisely what had occurred by WWI with 2nd Intl. Marxist socialism: the growth of its reformist possibilities is what had in fact produced the development and crisis of imperialism and hence the need for revolution.

The problem is whether the "decisive crisis" has already come and gone, whether the crisis of Marxism of the early 20th Century manifested the highest development, in a practical-political sense, of the crisis of capitalism, and we have been doomed by that history to never again be able to achieve socialism and the potential transition beyond capital. Or does the possibility of our own consciousness express, in however obscure form, a revolutionary possibility that still subsists, "despite everything." Are we (can we become) proof of our own hypothesis that the Marxian departure that points beyond capital yet still remains pertinent and viable? If so, what about the particular characterization of our memory of revolutionary Marxism speaks to the present, what is the relation expressed by our "coincidence of consciousness and reality?" Why has that "which seemed virtually forgotten . . . come to life again" with our project? -- Or has it?

For we are trying to become a factor in history that could be productive of and not merely respond to the crisis of capital. We are trying to turn the permanent crisis of capital that exists latently into a manifest crisis, and the potential resistance we face comes precisely from the unconscious sense that avoiding such a crisis is what humanity seeks to buy at the price of increasing barbarism.

" '[Humanity] always sets itself only such problems as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely it will always be found that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or are at least understood to be in the process of emergence' [Marx, Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859)]. This dictum is not affected by the fact that a problem which supersedes present relations may have been formulated in an anterior epoch."

"As scientific socialism, the Marxism of Marx and Engels remains the inclusive whole of a theory of social revolution . . . a materialism whose theory comprehended the totality of society and history, and whose practice overthrew it. . . . The difference [now] is that the various components of [what for Marx and Engels was] the unbreakable interconnection of theory and practice are further separated out. . . . The umbilical cord has been broken."

-- Karl Korsch, "Marxism and Philosophy" (1923)

http://www.marxists.org/archive/korsch/1923/marxism-philosophy.htm

This work by Karl Korsch, published in the same year as Lukacs's book History and Class Consciousness, similarly takes up the theme of the neglected Hegelian dimensions of Marx's thought.

Ironically, while Lukacs's work uses history in its title and Korsch's essay invokes the theme of philosophy, Korsch's treatment is more historical and Lukacs's more philosophical.

I'd like to call attention in particular to one extended passage from early in Korsch's text to illustrate this:

"In the normal presentations of the history of the nineteenth-century philosophy which emanate from bourgeois authors, there is a gap at a specific point which can only be overcome in a highly artificial manner, if at all. These historians want to present the development of philosophical thought in a totally ideological and hopelessly undialectical way, as a pure process of the 'history of ideas'. It is therefore impossible to see how they can find a rational explanation for the fact that by the 1850s Hegel's grandiose philosophy had virtually no followers left in Germany and was totally misunderstood soon afterwards, whereas as late as the 1830s even its greatest enemies (Schopenhauer or Herbart) were unable to escape its overpowering intellectual influence. Most of them did not even try to provide such an explanation, but were instead content to note in their annals the disputes following Hegel's death under the utterly negative rubric of 'The Decay of Hegelianism'. Yet the content of these disputes was very significant and they were also, by today's standards, of an extremely high formal philosophical level. They took place between the various tendencies of Hegel's school, the Right, the Centre and the different tendencies of the Left, especially Strauss, Bauer, Feuerbach, Marx and Engels. To close this period, these historians of philosophy simply set a kind of absolute 'end' to the Hegelian philosophic movement. They then begin the 1860s with the return to Kant (Helmholtz, Zeller, Liebmann, Lange) which appears as a new epoch of philosophical development, without any direct connection to anything else. This kind of history of philosophy has three great limitations, two of which can be revealed by a critical revision that itself remains more or less completely within the realm of the history of ideas. Indeed, in recent years more thorough philosophers, especially Dilthey and his school, have considerably expanded the limited perspective of normal histories of philosophy in these two respects. These two limits can therefore be regarded as having been overcome in principle, although in practice they have survived to this day and will presumably continue to do so for a very long time. The third limit, however, cannot in any way be surpassed from within the realm of the history of ideas; consequently it has not yet been overcome even in principle by contemporary bourgeois historians of philosophy.

"The first of these three limits in the bourgeois history of philosophy during the second half of the nineteenth century can be characterised as a 'purely philosophical' one. The ideologues of the time did not see that the ideas contained in a philosophy can live on not only in philosophies, but equally well in positive sciences and social practice, and that this process precisely began on a large scale with Hegel's philosophy. The second limit is a 'local' one, and was most typical of German professors of philosophy in the second half of the last century: these worthy Germans ignored the fact that there were other philosophers beyond the boundaries of Germany. Hence, with a few exceptions, they quite failed to see that the Hegelian system, although pronounced dead in Germany for decades, had continued to flourish in several foreign countries, not only in its content but also as a system and a method. In the development of the history of philosophy over recent decades, these first two limits to its perspective have in principle been overcome, and the picture painted above of the standard histories of philosophy since 1850 has of late undergone considerable improvement. However, bourgeois philosophers and historians are quite unable to overcome a third limitation on their historical outlook, because this would entail these 'bourgeois' philosophers and historians of philosophy abandoning the bourgeois class standpoint which constitutes the most essential a priori of their entire historical and philosophical science. For what appears as the purely 'ideal' development of philosophy in the nineteenth century can in fact only be fully and essentially grasped by relating it to the concrete historical development of bourgeois society as a whole. It is precisely this relation that bourgeois historians of philosophy, at their present stage of development, are incapable of studying scrupulously and impartially.

"This explains why right up to the present day certain phases of the general development of philosophy in the nineteenth century have had to remain 'transcendent' for these bourgeois historians of philosophy. It also explains why there are still certain curious 'blank patches' on the maps of contemporary bourgeois histories of philosophy (already described in connection with the 'end' of the Hegelian movement in the 1840s and the empty space after it, before the 'reawakening' of philosophy in the 1860s). It also becomes intelligible why bourgeois histories of philosophy today no longer have any coherent grasp even of a period of German philosophy whose concrete essence they previously had succeeded in understanding. In other words, neither the development of philosophical thought after Hegel, nor the preceding evolution of philosophy from Kant to Hegel, can be understood as a mere chain of ideas. Any attempt to understand the full nature and meaning of this whole later period -- normally referred to in history books as the epoch of 'German idealism' -- will fail hopelessly so long as certain connections that are vital for its whole form and course are not registered, or are registered only superficially or belatedly. These are the connections between the 'intellectual movement' of the period and the 'revolutionary movement' that was contemporary with it."

Korsch then goes on to describe in detail the various vicissitudes of the problem of "philosophy" in the history of Marxism, in Marx and Engels's own works, and then in 2nd Intl. Marxism up to his time, and how they relate to the changing relationship of theory and practice in the political history of Marxism, its purchase in practical politics.

Please note, that, unlike various "New Left" Romantic approaches, the goal is not overcoming the separation or distinction between theory and practice, but rather a matter of grasping how they are related (hence, Korsch's "umbilical cord" metaphor in the epigraph above). The theory-practice distinction/separation was grasped by Korsch (like Lukacs) as indicative of the problem Marx (and Marxism) had sought to address. Marx et al. did not resolve the theory/practice problem but grasped it as symptomatic.

Likewise, Korsch characterizes Marxism as emergent from the ideology of the revolt of the Third Estate, the liberal bourgeois-democratic revolutions, rather than as a break with this.

This is important because it means that the immanent relationship of Marxist socialism to liberalism is akin to the immanent relationship of the proletariat to capitalism, and the problem of philosophy is liked to that of the state: philosophy is not to be "abolished" once and for all, but qualitatively transformed, and the theory-practice problem is not to be overcome all at once but to "wither away." (This is very like Lukacs's understanding of proletarian socialism "completing reification" in order to get beyond it, through it.)

For Korsch, Marx and Engels look forward to the "overcoming" of philosophy, but as a long term qualitative transformation of subjectivity, a transcending of the need to reflect "philosophically." -- This relates to Korsch's note on Dilthey's discovery that "philosophical" categories are not only ones of conscious thought, but also of social and cultural practice.

As Korsch writes in conclusion:

"Just as political action is not rendered unnecessary by the economic action of a revolutionary class, so intellectual action is not rendered unnecessary by either political or economic action. On the contrary it must be carried through to the end in theory and practice, as revolutionary scientific criticism and agitational work before the seizure of state power by the working class, and as scientific organisation and ideological dictatorship after the seizure of state power. If this is valid for intellectual action against the forms of consciousness which define bourgeois society in general, it is especially true of philosophical action. Bourgeois consciousness necessarily sees itself as apart from the world and independent of it, as pure critical philosophy and impartial science, just as the bourgeois State and bourgeois Law appear to be above society. This consciousness must be philosophically fought by the revolutionary materialistic dialectic, which is the philosophy of the working class. This struggle will only end when the whole of existing society and its economic basis have been totally overthrown in practice, and this consciousness has been totally surpassed and abolished in theory. -- 'Philosophy cannot be abolished without being realised.' "

So the problem and important role of consciousness is thus brought to the fore by Korsch, through a rich treatment of the issue of ideology that should follow from our prior discussion of Luxemburg -- and lines up with Lukacs, and Kolakowski and Slaughter -- the long ramifications of the "revisionist debate," for which Ian compiled the quotations for use at the last reading group meeting, on Luxemburg's Reform or Revolution?, and that informed Lenin and Trotsky's point of departure, which we will begin addressing in subsequent meetings, starting with Lenin's What is to be done?, and the issue of "tailism," etc.

The reading of Korsch should be related to Platypus, at the level of what Korsch calls "intellectual action" -- this is our mandate, and it should thus be demystified. But because of the historical juncture at which we find ourselves, it is not the matter of what Korsch calls the "dialectical materialist philosophy of the revolutionary working class," but of the philosophy of the Left, and more specifically the philosophy of the history of the Left, whether we can adequately specify the present problem of consciousness and the relation of theory and practice as it has been given to us by history.

* * *

Another important point in Korsch, regarding Platypus:

"[T]he coincidence of consciousness and reality characterises every dialectic, including Marx's dialectical materialism. Its consequence is that the material relations of production of the capitalist epoch only are what they are in combination with the forms in which they are reflected in the pre-scientific and bourgeois-scientific consciousness of the period; and they could not subsist in reality without these forms of consciousness. Setting aside any philosophical considerations, it is therefore clear that without this coincidence of consciousness and reality, a critique of political economy could never have become the major component of a theory of social revolution. The converse follows. Those Marxist theoreticians for whom Marxism was no longer essentially a theory of social revolution could see no need for this dialectical conception of the coincidence of reality and consciousness: it was bound to appear to them as theoretically false and unscientific."

The latter "Marxist theoreticians" to which Korsch refers are of course the "revisionists," Bernstein (and Kautsky), et al., but could just as easily refer to others -- such as Moishe Postone. For Postone (and certainly for his students) any striving for a Marxian politics will always remain "ungrounded," "voluntaristic," etc.

(Instead, Postone leaves the problem of a Marxian politics vague and unworked-out, and makes the outrageous claim that Marx never elaborated a politics from his insights in Capital, as if Marx's actual politics didn't really count, and as if the latter can be separated from the former!)

The problem with the 1960s-era recovery of Marxian critical theory, by Postone, Adolph Reed, Fred Halliday (who translated Korsch in 1970) et al. is that they were never able to transcend the problem of how their theoretical "reflection" related to their political action and its self-understanding. They could never see how their intellectual work was itself a political action, but rather always regarded it as "beside" this.

(The only one of the three, Reed, who did attempt political practice, only did so in a cynically opportunist way -- attempting to split/reform the Democratic Party! -- Another character we have read in Platypus, Martin Nicolaus [translator of Marx's Grundrisse], went back on his own realizations in "The Unknown Marx" [1968], where he harshly criticized Baran and Sweezy for their conclusion that the proletariat had ceased to be a potentially revolutionary force, and later joined New Left Maoism! -- Yet another, Juliet Mitchell, whose "Women: the Longest Revolution" [1966] we read, divorced New Left Review's Perry Anderson and retreated into psychoanalysis. I found a very good recent [2006] interview with Mitchell that ought to give us pause, especially as it ends on a very provocative note about the possibility of a "critique of the normative psychosis of the political social world:"

http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2006-04-12-mitchell-en.html

Precisely because these potential recoverers of Marx of the 1960s generation did not seek to do what Marx and the revolutionary Marxists (Luxemburg, Lenin, Trotsky, et al.) did, change the world, they could not help but remain politically aporetic. Politics became for them the great, inapproachable question. In this sense, they fell under the same criticism Luxemburg had made of Bernstein in 1900: they recoiled in fear from the task of trying to change the world. They could never -- they never really tried to -- recognize their own thinking and attempts to influence others as either potentially changing or failing to change the world in the ways they may have (vainly) wished.

Our project, on the other hand, tries precisely to do this; we seek to instill the profound recognition that what we do or don't do (try or fail) will have real consequences -- hence all the (genuine) anxiety and fear that attend our efforts.

* * *

Korsch wrote on what he called (in 1923) "the decisive crisis of Marxism in which we still find ourselves today:"

"[O]ften described by its major representatives as a 'restoration' of Marxism[,] [t]his transformation and development of Marxist theory has been effected under the peculiar ideological guise of a return to the pure teaching of original or true Marxism. Yet it is easy to understand both the reasons for this guise and the real character of the process which is concealed by it. What theoreticians like Rosa Luxemburg in Germany and Lenin in Russia have done, and are doing, in the field of Marxist theory is to liberate it from the inhibiting traditions of the Social Democracy of the second period. They thereby answer the practical needs of the new revolutionary stage of proletarian class struggle, for these traditions weighed 'like a nightmare' on the brain of the working masses whose objectively revolutionary socioeconomic position no longer corresponded to these evolutionary doctrines. The apparent revival of original Marxist theory in the Third International is simply a result of the fact that in a new revolutionary period not only the workers' movement itself, but the theoretical conceptions of communists which express it, must assume an explicitly revolutionary form. This is why large sections of the Marxist system, which seemed virtually forgotten in the final decades of the nineteenth century, have now come to life again."

Our problem in Platypus is that we are living in an entirely inverted historical period to that of the revolutions of 1917-19 and the "decisive crisis of Marxism" of the late 19th-early 20th Century time of the emergence of the revolutionary-radicals from the tutelage of the "orthodox"-"epigones."

This is something Richard will refer to as the "paradox of orthodoxy," that Platypus might be considered "honestly revisionist."

For just as Luxemburg, Lenin and Trotsky actually revised and developed "Marxism" (against the authoritative "Marxists") in the name of orthodoxy and a "return to Marx," we are also seeking to overcome the limitations of the best of historical Marxism in our remembrance of it.

Korsch wrote of the "fragmented" and "disintegrated" character that the "Marxism" of the epigones exhibited in its "long decay." -- This is similar to how we find Marxism as a historical legacy today.

The difference is that whereas 2nd Intl. Marxism had deteriorated under the dual pressures of the decline of revolutionary possibilities (after 1848, with a slight return in the 1860s culminating with the Paris Commune, as noted by Korsch in the supplemental reading "The Marxism of the 1st International" [1924]) and the rise of reformist ones, today we are facing the results of the far more profound decay and disintegration of the decline of both revolutionary and reformist practical possibilities. We are not in the position of trying to transform a reformist relation of the working class to the society of capital into a revolutionary one, but of trying to provide the intellectual-ideological ground for instigating simultaneously possibilities for reform and revolution.

Recently, I had a discussion with some Platypi in which I said that by the time a reinvigorated workers' movement rebuilt itself to its former relative historical power for achieving reforms it would be necessary to struggle for revolution. -- Well, this is precisely what had occurred by WWI with 2nd Intl. Marxist socialism: the growth of its reformist possibilities is what had in fact produced the development and crisis of imperialism and hence the need for revolution.

The problem is whether the "decisive crisis" has already come and gone, whether the crisis of Marxism of the early 20th Century manifested the highest development, in a practical-political sense, of the crisis of capitalism, and we have been doomed by that history to never again be able to achieve socialism and the potential transition beyond capital. Or does the possibility of our own consciousness express, in however obscure form, a revolutionary possibility that still subsists, "despite everything." Are we (can we become) proof of our own hypothesis that the Marxian departure that points beyond capital yet still remains pertinent and viable? If so, what about the particular characterization of our memory of revolutionary Marxism speaks to the present, what is the relation expressed by our "coincidence of consciousness and reality?" Why has that "which seemed virtually forgotten . . . come to life again" with our project? -- Or has it?

For we are trying to become a factor in history that could be productive of and not merely respond to the crisis of capital. We are trying to turn the permanent crisis of capital that exists latently into a manifest crisis, and the potential resistance we face comes precisely from the unconscious sense that avoiding such a crisis is what humanity seeks to buy at the price of increasing barbarism.

Benjamin Blumberg

Platypus Review 6 | September 2008

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“We succeeded culturally. We succeeded socially. And we lost politically.… I always say: ‘thank God!’”
— Daniel Cohn-Bendit in interview on 1968, conducted by Yascha Mounk for
The Utopian (2008)

“[O]ne asks with whom the adherents of historicism actually empathize. The answer is inevitable: with the victor.… Whoever has emerged victorious participates to this day in the triumphal procession in which the present rulers step over those who are lying prostrate. According to traditional practice, the spoils are carried along in the procession. They are called cultural treasures, and a historical materialist views them with cautious detachment. For without exception the cultural treasures he surveys have an origin which he cannot contemplate without horror.… There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism. And just as such a document is not free of barbarism, barbarism taints also the manner in which it was transmitted from one owner to another. A historical materialist therefore dissociates himself from it as far as possible. He regards it as his task to brush history against the grain.”
— Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History” (1940)

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.” Included in the issue’s contents are the reflections of the art historian, Arthur C. Danto, who, while faculty at Columbia University in 1968, witnessed firsthand the student uprising and occupation of several campus buildings; the philosopher Antonio Negri, one of the paragons of postmodern anti-capitalist political theory who earned his stripes as an activist throughout the 1970s in Italy’s Autonomia movement; and Sylvère Lotringer, founder of the journal Semiotext(e) which is credited with bringing the lessons of the Parisian May ’68 into the currents of American intellectual life in the form of French postmodernist theory. In addition to these authors, the issue includes reflections provided by several others who claim varying degrees of notoriety and specialty within the web of postmodern critical theory: Ti-Grace Atkinson, Chris Kraus, Michelle Kuo, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Tom McDonough, Liam Gillick, Sally Shafto, Tom Holert and Gerald Raunig.

In the issue’s editorial statement, Tim Griffin explains that Artforum’s intention was to “[look] at May 1968 specifically in historical counterpoint…[in order to bring] the questions of ’68 to bear on today.” Such a “reflexive” approach, Griffin claims, is a corrective to the intellectual danger that “in approaching these events today, one is inevitably in jeopardy of addressing not the events of 1968 so much as the stories already spun about them; and…one is also in jeopardy of…either succumbing to vapid nostalgia or dismissing the time as the stuff of myth.” Against these reductive modes of interpretation, Griffin counterposes the underling approach taken by the issue’s contributors. He explains, “[f]or throughout these pages, essayists repeatedly underline the ways in which the very creative models and concepts that propelled ’68…are now threads in the vast fabric of commerce and industry. Regardless of whether these observations provide a measure of the success of May’s enragés or of their appeasement…lessons for today become apparent.”

What then are the lessons revealed by reflection on the persistence of 1968’s significance? Is it enough to simply point out that the modes of thought which activated consciousness in ’68 have now become integrated and co-opted? Or, despite the best efforts of the critical inheritors of 1968, do we still lack substantial critical reflection on why 1968 still “bears” on today?

A partial key to this shortcoming is found in the predilection toward the defining ideas, passions, and actions of 1968 exhibited by Artforum’s contributing essayists. For instance, in his column “Before the Revolution,” Arthur C. Danto nostalgically remembers the occupation of several of Columbia University’s buildings as “the great student uprising,” characterized by its “singular political inventiveness.” Chris Kraus, assessing the 1970s radical sex-publication Suck, gives the glib formulation: “Perhaps the greatest promise of May ’68 arose with an eruption of spontaneity that…suggested it might indeed be possible to live differently.”

Danto and Kraus’s banal phrases of admiration indicate one side of the underlying problem with the perspective offered by Artforum. Although willing to recognize that ’68’s inventions and awakenings have been subsumed by “commerce and industry” in today’s society, the essayists nevertheless assume that 1968 was a breakthrough in regards to its own moment. This assumption remains essentially unaltered, even though the essayists are canny enough to modify it by pointing to the inconclusiveness of their understanding of exactly what constitutes 1968’s progressive content. As Sylvère Lotringer claims in his essay chronicling the Parisian events of ’68, “[s]omething happened in the “joli Mai” of 1968—just what precisely remains subject to debate. Yet no one doubts that it was…one of the most seminal political events of the twentieth century.”

Lotringer’s essay and the interview he conducts with Antonio Negri enjoy the chief role of portraying for readers of Artforum the discernable features of 1968’s breakthrough. What is decisive for Lotringer is the sense that 1968’s progress corresponded to “profound [social] changes” in which, “[e]verything was breaking down and shifting around, as in a kaleidoscope.” Lotringer understands the events of 1968 as expressions of a newly emergent political consciousness, which, paraphrasing Herbert Marcuse, he explains was based on the notion that because “[a]dvanced industrial societies [have] successfully managed to integrate the working class…only radical minorities could be counted on… to practice the ‘great refusal.’” The implication is clear. The organized working class had ceased to be the revolutionary bulwark, and therefore it was incumbent upon anti-capitalist theoreticians and practitioners to reinvent politics.

Of course, Lotringer and the other essayists are not so one-sided as to completely cut the working class out of their conception of revolution. Instead, acknowledging the former Marxist theoretical system—or at least their idea of it—they offer rationalizations for what Lotringer calls their “tinkering.” In his conversation with Lontringer, Negri does not style his political theory as post-proletariat; instead he claims that the proletariat has been fundamentally transformed through the “rejection of Taylorist and Fordist organizations of labor” coupled with the rise in importance of “immaterial labor.” Such statements, while seemingly insightful, are in fact equivocations. Only vulgar Marxism is rendered obsolete by the recognition that postmodern capitalism may have transformed the proletariat and the concrete labor it does. In its best exemplars, Marxism theoretically explains why the proletariat—and the society determined by its existence— is necessarily subject to ceaseless transformations (which remain however out of its conscious control). The proletariat’s dynamism is equally decisive for Marxist politics, which sets itself the goal of bringing the dynamic under conscious control in order to initiate a process of global transformation into a new form of social “metabolism.” Despite Negri’s recognition that the proletariat is subject to change, he cannot see it as the actual element of continuity binding our moment to past arrangements of capitalism. Instead, he argues that 1968 “was a jump, a division in history, a rupture.” By basing their politics on the affirmation of this “rupture,” the so-called radicals of ’68 missed an opportunity to consciously shape their historical moment. Instead, their historical moment shaped them. They ended up accepting the ideological confusions and social degradation wrought by the breakdown of the welfare-state form of capitalism, and adjusted their politics accordingly.

This accounts for why the essayists cannot help but to portray the narrative of the actual practices of 1968 as reckless posturing and festive abandonment, despite their claim to have historically advanced political theory. In his reflections on the student revolt at Columbia, Danto recalls an incident when he tried to negotiate the release of Harry S. Coleman, a dean of the school held captive in his office by students occupying the building. When Danto attempted to argue that it was wrong to hold Coleman hostage, he was howled out of the scene. Before leaving a group of students told him that he “didn’t understand what was happening, that this was the revolution!”—an assertion repudiated within days, when the police cleared the building. Lotringer, also tells a story of the Parisian events countervailant to the achievements in theory. He writes that “They [the French students] stole France, took it for a joyride, and then just as suddenly, dropped it in a back alley with no more than a few scratches.” In other words, the actual events of 1968, whether in New York or Paris, were characterized by a complete lack of goals and a delusional sense of strength. Nevertheless, Lontringer assures us that “May ’68 left a lasting trace: From its ashes arose the most vital political theories to emerge in the West over the past half century, as if the political creativity of the French May, thwarted in every other way, found in philosophy its most potent outlet.” But this begs the question of the relation between theory and practice.

The underlying premise informing all of Artforum’s essayists is that 1968 represents an unprecedented and unique political event which, as Negri argues, ruptures historical continuity. Thus, they affirm the same false sense of “progression” that lead students in ’68 headlong into the streets to confront the human masks of unknown and unalterable forces; and who, upon being beaten back, nonetheless claimed victory for having elucidating the limits of the ability to change the world. To avoid this painful problem the enragés of May ’68, and their disciples today, reinvent politics along the edges of the shattered pieces of their smashed practice. Upholding this fractured arrangement to be a theoretical breakthrough they lose contact with a fundamental aspect of Marxian critical theory— the ability to recognize continuity in change and change in continuity. It is this blindness that accounts for their inability to see in the “sui generis” political event of ’68 the imprint of the ongoing destruction of theory (Stalinism and Cold-War Social Democracy), and it accounts for their blindness to the fact that in 1968’s inept revolutionary practices laid the seeds for the future (today’s) degradation of politics. Consequently the relation between consciousness and practice is obscured by contemporary theory, which has the effect of dissolving theory into aporia and accommodating practice to a degraded reality. Theory becomes affirmative of a reality it cannot consciously affect, and therefore cannot understand. Instead of considering this complicated and still growing problem, the authors opt for the introduction of abstruse categories to re-imagine the antecedent class-conscious theory; for example, “multitude” (Negri), “youth as a class” (Lontringer), “cognitive labor” (Raunig), “difference” (Gillick), “heterotopia” (McDonough). These categories are not difficult to concretely grasp because the political philosophy situating them is so advanced; instead, their conceptual fuzziness and lack of political specificity result from the failure to discern the actual depth and contours of the problem.

Thus to Griffin’s suggestion that we have lessons to learn from 1968’s continued significance, we say: the only lesson worth learning is how not to repeat the past. Artforum’s example shows us that remaining beholden to 1968 offers no way out of the mire it created through its political impetuousness and confused beliefs. Griffin may be correct in pointing out that a “pro” versus “con” framework for understanding 1968 is inadequate because it assumes an anachronistic condition of possibility—that one could somehow choose or reject what has already transpired. Yet we can still reject ’68 as our model of “progress,” whether in theory or practice. For the critic of today’s barbarism, this is an essential lesson in brushing history “against the grain.” |P

"The Left is Dead! — Long Live the Left!"

Chris Cutrone

Platypus Review 1 | November 2007

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[Ελληνικό]

“The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.”
— Karl Marx, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon (1852)

“The theorist who intervenes in practical controversies nowadays discovers on a regular basis and to his shame that whatever ideas he might contribute were expressed long ago — and usually better the first time around.”
— Theodor W. Adorno, “Sexual Taboos and the Law Today” (1963)

ACCORDING TO LENIN, the greatest contribution of the German Marxist radical Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) to the fight for socialism was the statement that her Social Democratic Party of Germany had become a “stinking corpse” as a result of voting for war credits on August 4, 1914. Lenin wrote this about Luxemburg in 1922, at the close of the period of war, revolution, counterrevolution and reaction in which Luxemburg was murdered. Lenin remarked that Luxemburg would be remembered well for her incisive critique at a crucial moment of crisis in the movement to which she had dedicated and ultimately gave her life. Instead, ironically, Luxemburg has been remembered — for her occasional criticisms of Lenin and the Bolsheviks!

Two lessons can be drawn from this story: that the Left suffers, as a result of the accumulated wreckage of intervening defeats and failures, from a very partial and distorted memory of its own history; and that at crucial moments the best work on the Left is its own critique, motivated by the attempt to escape this history and its outcomes. At certain times, the most necessary contribution one can make is to declare that the Left is dead.

Hence, Platypus makes the proclamation, for our time: “The Left is dead! — Long live the Left!” — We say this so that the future possibility of the Left might live.

Platypus began in December, 2004 as a project for an international journal of critical letters and emancipatory politics, envisioned by a core group of students of University of Chicago professor Moishe Postone, who has studied and written on Marx’s mature critical theory in the Grundrisse and Capital towards the imagination of postcapitalist society since the 1960s.

Platypus developed and grew in Spring 2006 into a reading group of our students interested in pursuing the continued purchase of Marxian critical theory. The Platypus Affiliated Society is a recently established (in December, 2006) political organization seeking to investigate possibilities for reconstituting a Marxian Left after the demise of the historical Marxist Left.

We take our namesake from the platypus, which suffered at its moment of zoological discovery from its unclassifiability according to prevailing science. We think that an authentic emancipatory Left today would suffer from a similar problem of (mis)recognition, in part because the tasks and project of social emancipation have disintegrated and so exist for us only in fragments and shards.

We have grown from at first about a dozen graduate students and teachers to over thirty undergraduate and graduate students and teachers and others from the greater Chicago community and beyond (for instance, developing corresponding members in New York and Toronto).

We have worked with various other groups on the Left in Chicago and beyond, for instance giving a workshop on the Iraqi Left for the new SDS conference on the Iraq occupation in Chicago in February. In January, we held the first of a series of Platypus public fora in Chicago, on the topic of “imperialism” and the Left, including panelists Kevin Anderson from News and Letters (Marxist Humanists), Nick Kreitman from the newly refounded Students for a Democratic Society, Danny Postel from OpenDemocracy.net, and Adam Turl from the International Socialist Organization.

We have organized our critical investigation of the history of the Left in order to help discern emancipatory social possibilities in the present, a present that has been determined by the history of defeat and failure on the Left. As seekers after a highly problematic legacy from which we are separated by a definite historical distance, we are dedicated to approaching the history of thought and action on the Left from which we must learn in a deliberately non-dogmatic manner, taking nothing as given.

Why Marx? Why now? We find Marx’s thought to be the focal point and vital nerve center for the fundamental critique of the modern world in which we still live that emerged in Marx’s time with the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century. We take Marx’s thought in relation both to the preceding history of critical social thought, including the philosophy of Kant and Hegel, as well as the work by those inspired later to follow Marx in the critique of social modernity, most prominently Georg Lukács, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno. Hence, Platypus is committed to the reconsideration of the entire critical theoretical tradition spanning the 19th and 20th Centuries. As Leszek Kolakowski put it (in his 1968 essay “The Concept of the Left”) the Left must be defined ideologically and not sociologically; thought, not society, is divided into Right and Left: the Left is defined by its utopianism, the Right by its opportunism. — Or, as Robert Pippin has put it, the problem with critical theory today is that it is not critical (Critical Inquiry, 2003).

Platypus is dedicated to re-opening various historical questions of the Left in order to read that history “against the grain” (as Benjamin put it, in his “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” 1940), attempting to grasp past moments of defeat and failure on the Left not as given but rather in their unfulfilled potential, regarding the present as the product not of historical necessity, but rather of what happened that need not have been. We struggle to escape the dead hand of at least two preceding generations of problematic action and thinking on the Left, the 1920s-30s and the 1960s-70s. More proximally, we suffer the effects of the depoliticization — the deliberate “postmodernist” abandonment of any “grand narratives” of social emancipation — on the Left in the 1980s-90s.

But the “tradition” of the “dead generation” that “weighs” most heavily as a “nightmare” on our minds is that of the 1960s New Left, especially in its history of anti-Bolshevism — expressed by both the complementary bad alternatives of Stalinophobic anti-Communism (of Cold War liberalism and social democracy) and Stalinophilic “militancy” (e.g., Maoism, Guevarism, etc.) — that led to the naturalization of the degeneration of the Left into resignation and abdication, originating in the inadequate response by the 1960s “New” Left to the problems of the post-1920s-30s “Old” Left. In our estimation, the 1960s New Left remained beholden to Stalinism — including the lie that Lenin led to Stalin — to the great detriment of possibilities for emancipatory politics up to today.

In attempting to read this history of the accelerated demise and self-liquidation of the Left after the 1960s “against the grain,” we face a problem discussed by Nietzsche in his essay “On the Use and Abuse of History for Life” (1873):

“A person must have the power and from time to time use it to break a past and to dissolve it, in order to be able to live. . . . People or ages serving life in this way, by judging and destroying a past, are always dangerous and in danger. . . . It is an attempt to give oneself, as it were, a past after the fact, out of which we may be descended in opposition to the one from which we are descended.” [Nietzsche translation by Ian Johnston at: http://www.mala.bc.ca/~johnstoi/Nietzsche/history.htm]

However, as Karl Korsch wrote, in “Marxism and Philosophy” (1923):

“[Marx wrote that] ‘[Humanity] always sets itself only such problems as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely it will always be found that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or are at least understood to be in the process of emergence’ [Marx, Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859)]. This dictum is not affected by the fact that a problem which supersedes present relations may have been formulated in an anterior epoch.” [Karl Korsch, “Marxism and Philosophy,” Marxism and Philosophy (NLB: New York and London, 1970), 58]

As Adorno wrote, in Negative Dialectics (1966):

“The liquidation of theory by dogmatization and thought taboos contributed to the bad practice. . . . The interrelation of both moments [of theory and practice] is not settled once and for all but fluctuates historically. . . . Those who chide theory [for being] anachronistic obey the topos of dismissing, as obsolete, what remains painful [because it was] thwarted. . . . The fact that history has rolled over certain positions will be respected as a verdict on their truth content only by those who agree with Schiller that ‘world history is the world tribunal’. What has been cast aside but not absorbed theoretically will often yield its truth content only later. It festers as a sore on the prevailing health; this will lead back to it in changed situations.”
[T. W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics (Continuum: New York, 1983), 143-144]

Platypus is concerned with exploring the improbable but not impossible tasks and project of the reemergence of a critical Left with emancipatory social intent. We look forward to making a critical but vital contribution towards a possible “return to Marx” for the potential reinvigoration of the Left in coming years. We invite and welcome those who wish to share in and contribute to this project. |P