A panel discussion held on May 29, 2010 at the second Platypus International Convention at SAIC.
The late 1960s and early 1970s witnessed the rise of a new militancy and sectarianism on the Left. Whether in the case of the Black Panthers, the Weather Underground, the Gay Liberation Front, or many other currents on the Left, developments from that time did much to shape the New Left's legacy as it comes down to the present. This panel seeks to move beyond the usual antinomies of unity versus fragmentation and idealism versus sectarianism that typically shape the discussion of the political trajectories of the period. Instead, it will attempt to grasp these turn of the decade developments as the results of long-standing problems inherited and confronted, yet ultimately abandoned and left unresolved by the New Left.
A panel discussion event held on May 28th, 2010, at the 2010 Platypus International Convention held at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
To many on the Left today, opposition to imperialism has become a political litmus test of sorts, but historically anti-imperialism was by no means an exclusively leftist political projectâwhether we are speaking of right-wing anti-colonialism in the metropole or in the colonies. In light of these confusions, this panel seeks to clarify the character of the imperialism question on the Left from the Second International to the contemporary anti-war movement, in three interrelated papers. The first will begin at the end of this trajectory by examining anti-anti-imperialist discourse on the Left from the debate Bill Warrenâs Imperialism through Bosnian solidarity in the 1990s and the writings of anti-anti-imperialist leftists such as Fred Halliday, Christopher Hitchens, and Moishe Postone after 9/11. It will address centrally the question of the status and strategic significance of left anti-imperialism in the context of a moribund world revolution as well as in light of the 19th century Marxist legacy respecting the National Question. The second paper will revisit the foundational debates on "imperialism" in the Second International and the early Comintern. By returning to this locus classicus the aim is to examine the impetus given to the âcolonial questionâ by the Bolshevik Revolution and the formation of the Third International. The interconnection for Lenin and Third International radicals between the national and the colonial questions with world revolutionary strategy came to be unhinged for later apologists of Third World nationalism. The third will consist a close consideration of the Stalinization of the imperialism question with special reference to the Communist parties of India and Pakistan from 1928-1968. This is a particularly appropriate test case given the centrality of the subcontinentâs centrality in the history of decolonization and the fact that the Marxist Left in India emerged only after the Stalinization of the international Left.
Platypus panel at the Left Forum 2010 in New York City, Pace University, March 20, 2010.
Rather than asking what the Left thinks of Iran, this panel will pose the question, what does Iran reveal about the Left, its limitations and failures? This panel will address the crisis of the Islamic Republic and the historical task of the Left to clarify its role regarding the current Green Movement today. The 1979 Islamic Revolution continues to weigh on the political imagination of the Left. Perspectives on the Left either focus on Green Movement’s electoral and civil rights struggle, ignoring its Islamist leadership by Mousavi and others, or, in some cases, tout Ahmadinejad as a progressive “anti-imperialist,” denying the discontents expressed in the Green Movement. The 1979 Islamic Revolution continues to haunt the present, in the form of an impoverished imagination of what is possible. We will look more deeply at the political question of Islamism and how the Left can best understand Iran’s revolutionary past. What deeper failure on the Left allowed Iran to develop as it has? Whatever claim the current movement has to being secular in form -- that is, popular in discontent, and pluralist in that it possesses no elaborate program -- the legacy of the Islamic Revolution in the current crisis represents the unresolved failure of the Left to achieve greater freedom that cannot be reached through religious or populist means.
Laura Lee Schmidt (Chair) – Platypus Affiliated Society; History, Theory, and Criticism of Art and Architecture, MIT
Siyaves Azeri – Worker-Communist Party of Iran
Hamid Dabashi – Columbia University
Christopher Cutrone – Platypus Affiliated Society; University of Chicago
Platypus panel held at Left Forum 2010 in New York City, Pace University, March 20, 2010
Pat Korte, New School Students for a Democratic Society and Radical Student Union, Organization for a Free Society
Hannah Rappleye, CUNY School of Journalism, freelance journalist for Mott Haven Herald in the South Bronx, New School alumnus, former Senior Editor, New School Free Press
Easton Smith, Sarah Lawrence College, UNITE-HERE organizer
Ashley Weger, DePaul University, UNITE-HERE organizer, Platypus Affiliated Society
Moderator: Pamela Nogales, Platypus Affiliated Society
Within both historical and contemporary imaginations, university students are posed as playing an indispensable part in progressive and radical Left political movements. This legacy is imbued with and reproduces a sort of mythological nostalgia of the dissident student exemplified in early groups of the New Left such as SDS, whose name and politics found themselves recycled in the American anti-war movement surrounding the Afghan and Iraq wars. However, the twenty-first century student Left is hardly monolithic in its inclinations, ideologies and impulses. Rather, the current state of student politics is one exemplified both by autonomous actions and alliances, converging and diverging in the anti-war movement, labor solidarity campaigns, school occupations, new attempts toward intellectual discourse and theoretical engagement. Such a multifaceted scene requires adequate address. This panel seeks to host a variety of perspectives amongst actors and organizers of the contemporary student Left, engaging their experiences in dialogue with a multitude of questions that remain incompletely addressed as to the future of the university within the realm of emancipatory politics. Particular attention will be paid to the panelists' perspective on the importance of protest as political act, the prevalence and relevance of identity politics, and the current direction of student intellectualism and activism.
Platypus panel held at Left Forum 2010 in New York City, Pace University, March 20, 2010.
One catch-phrase that has flown in the wake of the successful election of Barack Obama is "post-racial," raising the question of the degree to which America has overcome racism. But perhaps the matter is not one of our historical moment being post-"racial" but rather post-racist. This panel will pose the question of how racism has changed since the historical racism that plagued the U.S., from the failure of the post-Civil War Reconstruction era through Jim Crow until the overcoming of legal racial segregation with the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s-60s. If today this historical form of racism is over it has not meant the meaningful improvement of conditions of life for the vast majority of black people in America, but rather has accompanied worsening conditions, as part of the broader greater stratification and brutalization of American society in the general downturn since the late 1960s - early '70s. This situation demands a strident refutation of the pseudo-problem of "class versus race" and rather requires today's Left to seriously consider the implications of the political scientist Adolph Reed's formulation that racism is a class issue. This panel will address this issue by approaching racism as a historical social problem that was surpassed but not fundamentally overcome, thus allowing the structural conditions that shaped racism historically to continue if in increasingly unrecognized, and thus de-politicized forms. This panel will address how the resolution to the "black question" was not the result of the emancipatory outcome of the Civil Right / Black Power movements of the 1960s, but was rather a part of the general de-politicization of American society in our era. Panelists will assess the historical depths of the present post-political situation by examining how the American Left failed to adequately politicize the social issue of racism in three significant periods of the history of the American Left, the pre-World War One Socialist Party, the early years of the Communist Party, and the decade of the New Left.
Tim Barker, Columbia University
Benjamin Blumberg, Platypus Affiliated Society
Pamela Nogales, Platypus Affiliated Society
Chris Cutrone, Platypus Affiliated Society, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, University of Chicago