A panel held on August 28, 2011 in Frankfurt, Germany.
Poduimsdiskussion: Hosting the conversation on the death of the Left.
The panel will present on the recent history of the Left in the U.S. through the history of the emergence and activities of our new student organization, the Platypus Affiliated Society. Platypus was established in 2006 in response to the failure of the Iraq anti-war movement. We formed an organization dedicated to âhosting the conversationâ on the death of the Left internationally, seeking to present more directly questions and problems from the history of Marxism, as guide to why and how the world has arrived at its present state. We find the most interesting and deepest questions and problems of modern history to be raised by Marxism, but not exclusively so. We hope to help clear or at least call critical attention to the present and historical ideological obstacles to the potential for forming a cosmopolitan Left as a truly progressive-emancipatory force.
The panel will include speakers from New York, Chicago, Boston/Maastricht and Frankfurt.
Poduimsdiskussion: Hosting the conversation on the death of the Left.
Die Veranstaltung wird die neuere Geschichte der Linken in den USA anhand der Entstehung und den Aktivitäten der neuen studentischen Organisation, the Platypus Affiliated Society, zum Gegenstand haben. Platypus wurde 2006 als Antwort auf die Niederlage der Anti-Irakkrieg-Bewegung gegründet. Wir haben eine Organisation geschaffen, welche es sich zum Hauptanliegen gemacht hat, die Diskussion über den Tod der Linken zu anzustoßen und so direkter die Fragen und Probleme aus der Geschichte des Marxismus aufzuwerfen, um zu verstehen, wie und warum die Welt zu ihrem gegenwärtigem Zustand gelangt ist. Wir glauben, dass die interessantesten und tiefsten Probleme moderner Geschichte, nicht ausschließlich aber vor allem durch den Marxismus angesprochen wurden. Wir hoffen, gegenwärtige und historische ideologische Hindernisse für eine potentielle Entstehung einer kosmopolitischen Linken – als einer tatsächlich progressiv-emanzipatorischen Kraft – aus dem Weg zu räumen, oder zumindest kritisch ins Bewusstsein zu rufen. Der Panel besteht aus Sprecherinnen und Sprechern aus New York, Chicago, Boston/Maastricht und Frankfurt. (Die Veranstaltung findet auf englisch statt.) IVI (Bockenheim) • Kettenhofweg 130 • Frankfurt am Main
Sonntag, 28. August 2011, 18:00 (IVI)
Radikaler Anarchismus, Schwulenrechtsbewegung, Anti-Vietnam-Kriegs-Mobilisierung – vor einigen Jahrzehnten war die radikale Linke in den USA ein Impulsgeber für weltweite soziale Bewegungen. Doch nicht erst seit dem 11. September und Obama ist es um die Situation der Linken schlecht bestellt. Neben geringer Beteiligung und mangelndem Einfluss sind es dabei auch innerlinke Fehler, die das Projekt der Emanzipation behindern: Aktionismus, staatsappellative Kampagnen, kruder Antiimperialismus und Forderungen nach systemimmanenten Reformen sind dominant in linken Bewegungen, eine umfassende Kritik an der bürgerlichen Gesellschaft, an Kapital und Nation, finden sich hingegen selten.
Im kosmopolitischen Kamingespräch wollen wir einen Überblick über den gegenwärtigen Zustand der radikalen Linken in den USA bieten, ihn historisch einbetten, und den Versuch einer Organisation dokumentieren, die der gegenwärtigen Misere etwas entgegensetzen will. Dabei sollen auch das Verhältnis von Theorie und Praxis, Reaktionen auf die Finanzkrise und das bisherige Ausbleiben der ‚wirklichen Bewegung‘ zur Sprache kommen.
Die »Platypus Affiliated Society« gründete sich 2006 als Reaktion auf die Niederlage der Anti-Irakkrieg-Bewegung. Ihr Hauptanliegen ist es innerlinke Diskussionen anzustoßen. Ausgehend von Marx und der Kritischen Theorie will die Organisation ideologische Hindernisse für die Entstehung einer kosmopolitischen Linken aus dem Weg räumen.
(Die Veranstaltung findet auf englisch statt)
MONARCH • U-Bhf Kottbusser Tor • Skalitzer Straße 134 • Berlin-Kreuzberg In Zusammenarbeit mit TOP-Berlin
Panel organized by the Platypus Affiliated Society presented at the 2011 Naturfreundejugend (Friends of Nature) Berlin Herrschaftskritisches Sommercamp, held in August 2011.
Introducing Platypus: Hosting the conversation on the death of the Left
What is Platypus?
We will present on the recent history of the Left in the U.S. through the history of the emergence and activities of our new student organization, the Platypus Affiliated Society. Platypus was established in 2006 in response to the failure of the Iraq anti-war movement. We formed an organization dedicated to "hosting the conversation" on the death of the Left. In particular, Adorno's critique of the 1960s New Left resonated powerfully, and led us to explore Adorno's assumptions from the history of Marxism. We find the most interesting and deepest questions and problems of modern history to be raised by Marxism, but not exclusively so. We hope to help clear or at least call critical attention to the present and historical ideological obstacles to the potential for forming a cosmopolitan Left as a truly progressive-emancipatory force.
The history of Platypus
Our first two public fora were in 2007, on the questions of "imperialism" and the anti-war movement, and "resistance" and the problems of neo-anarchism originating in the 1960s. Since then, we have held many further public fora on different topics, such as: the relation between art, culture and politics; immigration; Iran; Israel-Palestine; the labor movement; philosophy and critical theory; and sexual liberation. Also in 2007 we began publishing the Platypus Review, as our forum-in-print for contending perspectives on the Left and its history, reviewing monthly Platypus's various public activities and engagements. Platypus participated in the newly refounded Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), for instance, in collaboration with U.S. Labor Against the War, presenting workshops on the Iraqi Left, and we helped to organize new chapters of the SDS. But with the historical shift of the collapse of the anti-war movement, the financial crisis and economic downturn, and the election of Obama as U.S. President in 2008, Platypus has turned to more independent activity in hosting the conversation on the absence of a true Left, seeking to present more directly questions and problems from the history of Marxism, as guide to why and how the world has arrived at its present state.
Platypus's organizational aims and goals -- an international conversation
We aim at primarily student audiences and participation, trying to intervene in the reproduction of the bad "Left" that takes place pedagogically through both the academic and activist environments to which students are exposed. Beginning in 2009, we began participating in and hosting panel discussions at the annual national conference of the American Left, the Left Forum in New York City, and holding our own annual international convention in Chicago. Beyond the U.S., we have expanded internationally in Canada, Germany, Greece and the U.K., bringing the conversation we seek to host onto a greater global stage. We seek to establish and coordinate as many chapters for doing this work of hosting the conversation on the death of the Left, in as many campus locations, internationally, as possible, in order to make palpable the present absence but continued urgent need for a real Left.
June 4, 2011 discussion of Mike Macnair's critique of Platypus for the Communist Party of Great Britain in The Weekly Worker (see links below to articles under discussion, especially the May 19 article by Macnair, "Theoretical dead end").
"Platypus: Is it a sect? Is it an academic grouping? Is it a theoretical dead end?"
The Communist Party of Great Britain's Mike Macnair's critique of Platypus in their paper The Weekly Worker is based on a conception of Marxism as practical politics that we don't share.
Macnair's critique provides an opportunity for clarifying and further developing the self-understanding of our organized project in Platypus.
While Macnair shares our priority of learning from the history of Marxism in the era of the 2nd International 1889-1914, Macnair challenges our philosophy of history, following Lukacs, Korsch, Benjamin and Adorno, of the "crisis of Marxism" 1914-19 and subsequent "regression."
The question is not whether Platypus has a political "line" or program, but rather whether Platypus is, like other "Marxist" organizations, a "propaganda group."
Macnair, for instance, divides political activity into 2 broad categories: 1.) propaganda ("many ideas to few people"); and 2.) agitation ("few ideas to many people"). In such a characterization of this distinction, Platypus would be more propagandistic than agitational. In either sense, however, there is the assumption of our project being *political* at all. -- Are we, as many on the "Left" suspect, evading matters in insisting that our project is "pre-political?" Macnair thinks that we are thus evading responsibility. Or, "to not have a line is to have a line" (of tacitly supporting the status quo, i.e., "imperialism").
In what way *is* Platypus a political project? And, if political, how "propagandistic?" For in either case, it is not a matter of *whether* (we are political and propagandistic), but *how* are we so? And why would we be political and propagandistic in ways different from the CPGB, RCP, ISO, Marxist-Humanists, Spartacist League, et al.? -- Not simply by avoiding taking a "line" or not formulating a "program."
Marxism could be considered (today, and perhaps also in the past) as either:
1.) a guide to action; or
2.) a guide to history
We would pose the latter, Marxism as a guide to history, against the typical sectarian "Left" rationale for (or, e.g., anarchist or liberal, *rejection of*) Marxism as a guide to action, due to both the nature and character of our project in our own, present historical moment.
There is possible disagreement or at least tension *within* Platypus between:
1.) treating our project (of "hosting the conversation") as being necessitated by our historical moment in a largely *negative* sense, as the lack of possibility for doing otherwise (what else *could* we do, now?); or
2.) treating the necessity, possibility, and (importantly) *desirability* of our project in a more "positive" sense, according to our sense that what we are trying to do was not only possible and necessary but also would have been desirable in previous historical moments. -- In other words, the nature and character of our project is not (merely) unfortunate.
We would, indeed, maintain (controversially) that Marxism has *always* been primarily a "guide to history" rather than a "guide to action," or, more precisely, that it has only been a guide to action through being a guide to history.
There are to be considered 2 different conceptions of what we do, either: 1.) "hosting the conversation" is a *means* towards the end of promulgating our own ideas; or, alternatively, 2.) there is the idea of "provoking and organizing the pathology [symptomology] of the Left" through hosting the conversation. In either case, Platypus serves an educative function.
The question is whether Platypus is primarily about teaching or learning. Teaching would be about the former, an essentially propagandistic task; learning would be about the latter, meaning providing the possibility for *our own* as well as others' learning how to grasp the present through engaging it symptomatically. -- How can the conversation we host be critically transformative? How could our project be made to advance beyond itself?
Hence, Macnair's critique of Platypus is a good occasion for us to clarify and deepen our sense of the raison d'etre of Platypus as an organized project.
* * *
May 12: "No need for party?" by Mike Macnair
May 19: "Theoretical dead end" by Mike Macnair
June 2: "The study of history and the Left's decline" by Mike Macnair
Platypus letters and article in response:
May 26: "Fish nor fowl" by Chris Cutrone
June 3: "The philosophy of history" by Chris Cutrone