Nelson Peery was active in revolutionary politics for 76 years until his death on September 6, 2015. Peery’s death prompted members of the Platypus Affiliated Society to recover and transcribe the recordings of two interviews conducted some years earlier.
At the Marxist Literary Group’s Institute on Culture and Society 2011, held on June 20–24, 2011 at the Institute for the Humanities, University of Illinois at Chicago, Platypus members Chris Cutrone, Greg Gabrellas, and Ian Morrison organized a panel on "The Marxism of Second International Radicalism: Lenin, Luxemburg, and Trotsky." What follows is an edited version of Greg Gabrellas's opening remarks.
On November 8, 2010, Platypus hosted a forum entitled “Which Way Forward for Sexual Liberation?” moderated by Jeremy Cohan at New York University. The panel consisted of Gary Mucciaroni, professor of political science at Temple University; Sherry Wolf, author of Sexuality and Socialism and organizer for the International Socialist Organization; Kenyon Farrow, executive director of Queers for Economic Justice and author of the forthcoming Stand Up: The Politics of Racial Uplift; and Greg Gabrellas of Platypus. What follows is an edited transcript of the event.
YOU ARE SEVENTEEN, you enjoy sex with members of your gender, and you have a growing interest in radical politics. What should you believe, what should you do? The socialist position seems practically indistinguishable from mainstream liberalism: support for same-sex marriage, hate crime laws, and a trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). There seems to be a more radical option, however. Against the (allegedly) reformist, assimilationist, and legalistic orientation of actually existing gay politics, self-described “queers” demand a politics of radical sexual difference; a politics that seeks, somehow, to go beyond equality.
IN A 2005 COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS, Howard Zinn urged the graduates of Spelman College to look beyond conventional success and follow the tradition set by courageous rebels: “W.E.B. Dubois and Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and Marian Wright Edelman, and James Baldwin and Josephine Baker.” At first, Zinn’s lineage feels like an omnium-gatherum. Compare Malcolm X’s “by any means necessary” militarism to Marian Edelman’s milquetoast non-profit advocacy—“by any grant-writing or lobbying necessary”—and the incoherence stands out. But there is logic to Zinn’s cherry picking: namely, the flattening out of history to instill pride in one’s own identity. Du Bois and King may have belonged to radically divergent political tendencies, but what matters is their usefulness as role models, heroes in a continuous tradition of black resistance.
IF THE COLOR LINE WAS THE PROBLEM of the American 20th century, then the 20th century did not manage to solve it. De jure segregation ended some forty years ago, and American social norms mostly bar the public expression of racist sentiment or stereotype. Yet by any measure—access to quality healthcare and education, rate of incarceration, etc.—black Americans remain proportionally worse off than their white peers.
A new chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was formed in February at the University of Chicago (UChicago) in tandem with chapters forming throughout the city and across the country. The new SDS is a national student organization dedicated to progressive political change, whose name was borrowed from the famous New Left organization that helped to shape the social unrest of the 1960s.