Platypus focuses on redeeming the problematic history of the Marxist Left, “against the grain” (Benjamin) of its more or less contingent or necessary outcomes, in order to discover and provoke conscious recognition of the historically obscured necessities for social-emancipatory political struggle in the present. Political organizations and parties and their programs need to be understood both as forms of action and as forms of memory.
Let us assume, for a moment, the identity of Alice, the child protagonist of Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass.” As we venture slowly through the mirror on the wall, we enter into a world that has been inverted. Yet when we glance back at the static and ordered room on the other side from whence we came, we notice cracks in the glass that serve as passage points between these two worlds. When we acknowledge these fractures in the mirror, our perceptions of what lies on either side suddenly shifts.
I just turned thirty. Fifteen years on the Left—that’s half my lifetime now and what it means to me has changed consistently over the years: from punk rock kid with a mohawk and tattoos on my ribs and shoulders to a union leader with a mortgage and kid and the responsibility of thousands of workers on my shoulders. I often find myself thinking back to when my politics were just forming and how simple those days and those politics were. Things were clear: America was bad, veganism was good, pacifism was good, hierarchy was bad, jobs were for suckers and school was for sellouts, squats were a pure form of existence and love was meant to be free.
I’m Not There is the most recent effort by American director Todd Haynes, who in his relatively short career has progressed from his notorious early effort, Superstar, through a celebrated period as an icon of the New Queer Cinema, and onto mainstream Hollywood success with the Oscar-nominated Far From Heaven and now I’m Not There. Having previously tackled David Bowie in Velvet Goldmine, with I’m Not There Haynes turns his lens on one of the most iconic American musicians of the 20th century, Bob Dylan.
Why do we need a “history of the Left?”— Platypus differs from other tendencies and organizations on the Left to the extent that we find it necessary and desirable to reexamine the history of the Left to help understand problems on the Left in the present. For focusing on the history of the Left and its problems, Platypus has been accused by a variety of Marxists of obscuring the “fundamental social divide” of the “class struggle” of the “proletariat” vs. the “bourgeoisie,” in favor of emphasizing the ideological and political difference between the Right and the Left.