In the mid-19th century, Marx and Engels famously observed in the Communist Manifesto that a 'specter' was haunting Europe—the specter of Communism. 160 years later, it is 'Marxism' itself that haunts us.
In the 21st century, it seems that the Left abandoned Marxism as a path to freedom. But Marx critically intervened in his own moment and emboldened Leftists to challenge society; is the Left not tasked with this today? Has the Left resolved the problems posed by Marx, and thus moved on? Does Marxism even matter?
Come share your thoughts Saturday, 12 March 2011 at 745 Commonwealth Ave, 5th floor, room 525. No prior knowledge of Marx is necessary, but you can find the Communist Manifesto beforehand here.
Join the Platypus Affiliated Society for a special screening of Margarethe Von Trotta's 1986 Rosa Luxemburg. The screening will be onTuesday,22 February 2011, from 5:30- 8:00 pm, at MIT 4-415. A discussion will follow the film (very possibly at the Muddy Charles.)
"The leadership has failed. Even so, the leadership can and must be recreated from the masses and out of the masses. The masses are the decisive element, they are the rock on which the final victory of the revolution will be built. The masses were on the heights; they have developed this 'defeat' into one of the historical defeats which are the pride and strength of international socialism. And that is why the future victory will bloom from this 'defeat'.
'Order reigns in Berlin!' You stupid henchmen! Your 'order' is built on sand. Tomorrow the revolution will already 'raise itself with a rattle' and announce with fanfare, to your terror:
I was, I am, I shall be!"
Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) was a Marxist radical at the turn ofthe 20th Century. Luxemburg was active in the German Social Democratic Party, the most powerful Marxist party in the world at the time of WWI (1914-19).
During WWI the German socialists abandoned revolutionary Marxism and supported the nationalist war effort. Luxemburg was killed by the Right during the suppression of the revolution that began in 1917 in Russia and spread to Germany in 1918-19.
Luxemburg wrote a scathing critique of this betrayal of the international socialist movement -- whose aftermath led to Nazism and Stalinism, and from which the Left has still not yet recovered to this day.
Yesterday, with everyone all back in Boston for the first time since December (Laura literally got in from India an hour before the start of the meeting), we spent a good deal of our time doing organizational planning for the spring session. We were able, however, to spend some time with the Slaughter reading.
Our discussion covered several aspects of the piece, but focused mainly on the relationship of politics and organization. We addressed the interdependence of the two, acknowledging that any revolutionary organization cannot grow in size or strength without an increasingly rigorous and refined politics, and that the formation of sophisticated revolutionary politics cannot come to pass without a corresponding development of effective organization. To emphasize the necessary bond between the two, one could say that organizing *is* political and that politics *is* the practice of organization. But this fact must be recognized--must be brought to consciousness (and rigorously maintained there)--in order for the dialectical relationship to bear revolutionary fruit; unrecognized it will lead to degeneration.
The question was then posed: if Platypus considers itself a "pre-political" project, what is the nature of its relation to and engagement with organizational practices? This is a complex question, but I would venture to start out by saying that the role of Platypus, through its pedagogical mandate, is to cultivate a situation in which politics and organization, like theory and practice, can be made to develop into a mutually generative relationship. And this means loosening it from the catch-22 paralysis in which it remains stuck. The interdependent nature of the relationship between political consciousness and revolutionary organization can lead either to their total stagnation, in which they become mutually exclusive, or to their mutual propulsion, in which each relies on and makes possible the other. It is for the latter that we must lay the groundwork.
A final note: though Platypus seeks to politicize, we are not a body of political leadership. It is our mission to bring to bear a situation in which revolutionary political leadership is needed, and when that happens Platypus as it now stands will have fulfilled its task, and can be closed as a chapter. Our task, then, is to render our particular project no longer necessary.
-Soren W. (Boston)