Held June 1, 2018 at the Left Forum at John Jay College in New York.
Spencer Leonard - Platypus Affiliated Society
Terrell Carver - Professor of Political Theory at the University of Bristol
Christoph Lichtenberg - International Bolshevik Tendency
This year marked the 200th birthday of Karl Marx, than whom, as even his ideological opponent Isaiah Berlin had to admit, "no thinker in the nineteenth century has had so direct, deliberate and powerful an influence upon mankind." This panel seeks to bring together intellectuals committed to exploring Marx’s legacy in this post-Marxist age, those who, once more, seek somehow to bring that legacy to bear upon the world. Accordingly, we want to raise the question: What is the legacy of Marx’s life as a revolutionary intellectual -- that is, the legacy of the political writings and activities he contributed to the workers’ movement for socialism?
As a part of the 10th annual Platypus International Convention, we hosted a panel on the history of Platypus and its engagement with the Left. Held April 7th, 2018 at the School of the Art Institute Chicago. The discussion was moderated by Erin Hagood.
Ian Morrison (1st Phase: Anti-war Movement / Anti-Imperialism)
Spencer Leonard (2nd Phase: The "Marxist Turn" / IBT, CPGB Engagement)
Tom Carey (3rd Phase: #Occupy / Marxism and Anarchism)
Ed Remus (Protracted 4th Phase: Syriza, Podemos / What is Political Party for the Left?)
Omair H (4 ½ Phase: The "Socialist Turn" / Millennial Left)
Draining the swamp, psychoanalyst of the Left, and training the next generation of revolutionaries, are all more or less problematic formulations which we have used to describe what motivates the Platypus project. That given, these formulations all betray a peculiar attachment to that which Platypus wishes to forget: the dead Left. Perhaps they express a secret and difficult desire: that the object of critique might also be saved from the swamp, be receptive to the analysis, or indeed might learn better from our pedagogy. And yet we admit that this will not be the case.
The task of this panel is not so much to inoculate such formulations, rather it aims to dissect them, to observe the motivations of our activity within Platypus, especially where we encounter the greatest difficulty for reflection—that is, when we mean to regard our activity as Platypus itself. With these thoughts in mind, we propose to ask ourselves: Who is Platypus for? How do we assess our progress—as a membership? as an organization? How do we identify our audience?—and how do we become a Platypus for them?
The history of the Platypus Critique begins with a judgment issued on the dead-end course of the 20th century, indeed on the situation arrived at by all history preceding: that the Left has lived and died; that the ‘progress of freedom’ continues to exhaust itself in chimerical forms—a Platypus among others. But this judgment was not passed in condemnation, with the same breath it cried also: Long Live the Left! The very unnaturalness of the historical chimera, it was thought, might mask—and hence disclose—the purpose of its true nature. At least for those still learning how to look upon its monstrous features, illumined by the thought that “the new does not add itself to the old but remains the old in distress, in its hour of need...”
But today, this problematic has itself matured. We have now a ‘first decade’ of the Platypus Critique—this has consequences for the continuing possibility of such a critique. Today, perhaps, the swamp of the dead Left drains itself—in fact, this was already the case even before the first moments of the Platypus Critique. We must admit: our glance is retrospective, our pronouncements made post-festum. But they, like capital, accumulate. It is left for us to reason through this process, and so reflect on our reflection of the past which is the present.
A panel discussion held at Left Forum 2013, at Pace University, on June 9, 2013.
This panel was transcripted in Platypus Review #61 (Click on banner below to see):
Bourgeois society came into full recognition with Rousseau, who in the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and On the Social Contract, opened its radical critique. Hegel wrote: "The principle of freedom dawned on the world in Rousseau." Marx quoted Rousseau favorably that "Whoever dares undertake to establish a people’s institutions must feel himself capable of changing, as it were, human nature... to take from man his own powers, and give him in exchange alien powers which he cannot employ without the help of other men." Rousseau posed the question of society, which Adorno wrote is a "concept of the Third Estate." Marx recognized the crisis of bourgeois society in the Industrial Revolution and workers' call for socialism. But proletarian socialism is no longer the rising force it was in Marx's time. So what remains of thinking the unrealized radicalism of bourgeois society without Marx? Kant stated that if the potential of bourgeois society was not fully achieved as the “mid-point” of freedom then Rousseau may have been right to prefer savagery against civilization’s “glittering misery.” Nietzsche warned that we might continue to be "living at the expense of the future:" "Perhaps more comfortably, less dangerously, but at the same time in a meaner style, more basely." How have thinkers of the revolutionary epoch after Rousseau, Adam Smith, Kant, Hegel, Benjamin Constant, and Nietzsche himself, contributed to the possibility of emancipation in a world after Marxism?