KARL KORSCH'S SEMINAL ESSAY “Marxism and Philosophy” (1923) was first published in English, translated by Fred Halliday, in 1970 by Monthly Review Press. In 2008, they reprinted the volume, which also contains some important shorter essays, as part of their new “Classics” series.
The nature of the present crisis in Iran Chris Cutrone Confusion on the Left around the 2009 electoral crisis in Iran has been expressed both in defense of President Ahmadinejad's claim to victory as well as by support of Iranian dissidents and protesters. Slavoj Žižek has weighed in, questioning prevailing understandings of the nature of the Iranian regime and its Islamist character. Responses to the current crisis have recapitulated problems on the Left in understanding the Islamic Revolution since 1979. All share in attributing to Iran an autonomous historical rhythm or logic of its own, rather than as a symptomatic effect of a greater history. Žižek has come closest to addressing this issue of greater context, but even he has failed to address the history of the Left.
Historical transformations in social-political context Chris Cutrone We in Platypus have anticipated, since our inception in 2006, the possibility of a "return to Marx," and have sought to inform the terms in which this might take place. We have sought the re-opening of historical issues on the Left with the intention of their fundamental reconsideration, taking nothing for granted, so that we could definitively close the books on stale "debates" in which the "Left" has remained stuck for more than a generation, since at least the 1960s. Given the confusion reigning on the "Left" today, the urgency for this is evident.
On December 6, 2008, a panel discussion titled Progress or Regress? Considering the Future of Leftist Politics Under Obama was held in New York City. The Panelists were: Chris Cutrone of Platypus; Stephen Duncombe, a professor at the Gallatin School at New York University and author of Dream: Re-imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy (2007); Pat Korte of the new Students for a Democratic Society (SDS); Charles Post of the Detroit-based organization Solidarity; and Paul Street, author of Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (2008).
For the “Left” that is critical of him, the most common comparison made of Obama is to Bill Clinton. This critique of Obama, as of Clinton, denounces his “Centrism,” the trajectory he appears to continue from the “new” Democratic Party of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) expressed by Clinton and Gore’s election in 1992. Clinton’s election was seen as part of the triumph of “Third Way” politics that contemporaneously found expression in Tony Blair’s “New” Labour Party in Britain.
Historical consciousness articulates the problem of what “ought” to be with what “is.” The question is how the necessities of emancipatory struggles in the present relate to those of the past. The tasks revealed by historical Marxism have not been superseded but only obscured and forgotten, at the expense of emancipatory social politics in the present.
In previous articles I have addressed the Presidential campaign of Barack Obama in terms of the historical precedents of MLK, Jr. and JFK. Now I wish to address the final and perhaps most important but problematic comparison that might be available, FDR. MLK, Jr., JFK and FDR span the political imagination of the preceding generation, the “baby-boomers” who came of age in the 1960s, the time of the “New Left.”
I want to speak about the meaning of history for any purportedly Marxian Left. We in Platypus focus on the history of the Left because we think that the narrative one tells about this history is in fact one’s theory of the present. Implicitly or explicitly, in one’s conception of the history of the Left, is an account of how the present came to be. By focusing on the history of the Left, or, by adopting a Left-centric view of history, we hypothesize that the most important determinations of the present are the result of what th