A talk held on November 17th, 2010 at the University of Illinois.
In the years immediately following World War II French intellectuals Jean-Paul Sartre and Frantz Fanon turned their attention to racism, anti-semitism and anti-black racism. Both men were engaged with both. Neither wrote from identity, but rather both sought to link their reflections to Marxism, to its failure and possible reconstitution.
The texts Sartre and Fanon wrote during the years 1945-1952 primarily Anti-Semite and Jew and Black Orpheus by one and Black Skin, White Masks by the other remain enigmatic, resisting assimilation to the canons of identity politics. Unlike later writings taken up by the New Left in the 1960s, above all Fanon's Wretched of the Earth with Sartre's notorious preface, the writings from the immediate post-war years are rarely revisited today and, insofar as they cannot be rendered mere precursors to the later works, they are ignored.
This talk seeks to recover the concerns of Sartre and Fanon regarding racism in the post-war years and, if possible, to estrange these writings in the process. That is, it seeks to raise as a question what has since become falsely naturalized: How did Sartre and Fanon intend their writings on racism not as contributions to the dismantling of Marxism, but to its reconstitution?
A roundtable discussion between Alan Goodman from The Revolutionary Communist Party USA, and Richard Rubin from Platypus entitled “Marxism and Israel: Left Perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” at Hunter College in New York City. Panelists were asked to speak on the role the Left has played in the development of Israel, the Left’s analysis of the role of American intervention in the Middle East, and what a critical Marxian approach to the conflict currently looks like, compared to what it might look like.
Questions for the panelists:
1. Historically, what role has the Marxist Left played in the development of Israel? What would a critical Marxist perspective on Israel, the ideology of Zionism and the Palestinian conflict look like? Has a Left critique historically been applied?
2. What is the relationship between American political hegemony and Israel? How has this traditionally been understood by the "Left", and how is it now portrayed? Has this understanding obscured attempts at political and theoretical analysis? How has it affected the international "Left's" approach to the actual political opposition among Palestinians?
3. Why have leftist approaches to the conflict emphasized a politics of resistance over cogent political visions? Do measures, such as BDS campaigns and the Flotilla effort, that seek to delegitimize Israel and the ideology of Zionism through resistance to its immediate means and policies ameliorate immediate social conditions or clarify political conditions? If not, what sort of approach should be emphasized?
A panel discussion held on November 9th, 2010, at the University of Chicago.
The memory of the 1960s, which has long kindled contestation and debate on the means and ends of freedom politics, is rapidly fading into the political unconscious. The election of Barack Obama and the collapse of the anti-war movement mark the end of a period that has now come full circle. After a half-century of rebellion, many old New Left-ists now call for a “new New Deal” to return to welfare-statist and authoritarian society against which the New Left rebelled. History threatens to repeat itself, this time in an even more dimly recognized and ferocious form. “In the United States today there is no Left,” C. Wright Mills declaimed in the waning months of the 1950s, making him one of the most beloved intellectuals of his generation, âpolitical activities are monopolized by an irresponsible two-party system; cultural activities — though formally quite free, tend to become nationalistic or commercial — or merely private. If Mills continues to speak to us, it is as a reminder of tasks long deferred, memories long repressed.
This panel attempts to address the current moment, in which many who participated in the moment of the New Left’s beginnings have survived a full cycle of history. Rather than a rehash of old debates or yet another nostalgia- ridden recap of the era, interventions which have ceased to offer critical perspective on the present, this panel seeks to ask the simple but fundamental question: What, if any, is significant for us today in the thwarted attempt by 1960s radicals to re-found emancipatory politics?
Spencer A. Leonard
The Platypus Affiliated Society hosted a panel discussion on the Politics of the Contemporary Student Left at the U.S. Social Forum (USSF) in Detroit on June 26, 2010. Moderated by Laurie Rojas, assistant editor for the Platypus Review, the panel consisted of Will Klatt, member of the new Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and organizer for Service Employees International Union (SEIU); Luis Brennan, a student organizer at University of Chicago and former member of the new SDS; Aaron Petcov, formerly of the new SDS and currently a member of the Organization for a Free Society (OFS); and Ashley Weger, an organizer for Platypus and a former organizer for UNITE HERE.