Given the recent election crisis and continuing protests in Iran and in light of the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, The Platypus Affiliated Society on November 5, 2009 hosted a panel discussion at the University of Chicago entitled 30 Years of the Islamic Revolution: The Tragedy of the Left. Panel participants included Danny Postel, journalist and author of Reading Legitimation Crisis in Tehran: Iran and the Future of Liberalism; Kaveh Ehsani, editor of The Middle East Report (MERIP); Maziar Behrooz, historian and author of Rebels with a Cause: The Failure of the Left in Iran; and Chris Cutrone of Platypus. This supplement to issue #20 of the Platypus Review consists of an edited transcript of the discussion, beginning with the panelists’ prepared remarks, followed by their responses to each other, and ending with a series of questions and answers.
The Decline of the Left in the 20th Century Toward a Theory of Historical Regression Chris Cutrone THE YEAR 1917 is the most enigmatic and hence controversial date in the history of the Left. It is therefore necessarily the focal point for the Platypus philosophy of history of the Left, which seeks to grasp problems in the present as those that had already manifested in the past, but have not yet been overcome. Until we make historical sense of the problems associated with the events and self-conscious actors of 1917, we will be haunted by their legacy. Therefore, whether we are aware of this or not, we are tasked with grappling with 1917, a year marked by the most profound attempt to change the world that has ever taken place.
On April 18, 2009, the Platypus Affiliated Society conducted the following panel discussion at the Left Forum Conference at Pace University in New York City. The panel was organized around four significant moments in the progressive separation of theory and practice over the course of the 20th century: 2001 (Spencer A. Leonard), 1968 (Atiya Khan), 1933 (Richard Rubin), and 1917 (Chris Cutrone). The following is an edited transcript of the introduction to the panel by Benjamin Blumberg, the panelists’ prepared statements, and the Q&A session that followed.
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).