At the 2011 Left Forum, held at Pace University in NYC between March 18–21, Platypus hosted a conversation on “Trotsky’s Marxism.” Panelists Ian Morrison (Platypus), Susan Williams (Freedom Socialist Party), and Jason Wright (International Bolshevik Tendency) were asked to address, “What was Trotsky’s contribution to revolutionary Marxism? At one level, the answer is clear. Above even his significance as organizer of the October insurrection and leader of the Red Army during the Russian Civil War, what makes Trotsky a major figure in the history of Marxism is his status as the leader of the Left Opposition and, later, his founding of the Fourth International. But this panel asks whether stating this fact is sufficient for understanding Trotsky’s Marxism, or whether this might not in fact merely beg the question. The issue remains: What was it in Trotsky’s evolution from the period of 1905 through the Russian Revolution of 1917 that allowed him to become the leader of the Left Opposition and the great Marxist critic of Stalinism in the 1920s and 1930s? What of Trotsky, rather than ‘Trotsky-ism’?” An earlier issue (PR #35) included Jason Wright’s opening remarks. What follows are Ian Morrison’s opening remarks.
In light of the recent economic crisis, Marxist theory has enjoyed a resurgence of interest. This most recent is the last of many returns to Marx’s work throughout the 20th century. Still, the question poses itself: Why return to Marx, yet again? What does this move tell us about our contemporary situation? Most important, what do previous returns to Marx tell us about capitalism and those who have self-consciously struggled against it? Why Marxism—and what must Marxism become? On February 19, 2010, Ian Morrison of Platypus spoke with Leo Panitch, author and professor of Political Science at York University, about these and other topics. Below is an edited transcript of their public interview and of the audience Q & A that followed.
Despite unrelenting state repression, there have been rumblings throughout the 2000s of renewed labor organizing inside the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). One result of this upsurge in labor organizing was the May 2005 re-founding of the Syndicate of Workers of the United Bus Company of Tehran and Suburbs, a union that has a long history, albeit one that was interrupted by the 1979 “Revolution,” after which the union was repressed. The unions’ leader, Mansour Osanloo, was severely beaten and thrown in the Rajaei prison where he remains in a state of deteriorating health. Osanloo is an Amnesty International “prisoner of conscience.”
THE PERIOD FROM THE FIRST WORLD WAR to the Cold War belies easy classification. Unlike the single decade associated with the New Left, this extensive and historically dense period, that of the “Old Left,” has to be broken up into decades. Indeed, this is done even in the popular imagination, in which the 1930s were a time of economic collapse and union radicalism; the 1940s, a time of “the common enemy,” fascism; and the 1950s, a time of refrigerators and consumerism, of complacency and automatic dishwashers. The 1920s are willfully neglected, or else acknowledged only with respect to the “Lost Generation,” an historical touchstone that, while important, draws us away from America, back to the Old World of Europe. But, as is often the case, actual history cuts against the grain of popular storytelling.
A response to David Harvey and James Heartfield Ian Morrison THE LAST FORTY YEARS have been conceptually bewildering for the Left. The withering of working class movements and the rise of the new social movements have coincided with a global shift away from national state-centric (or "Fordist") modes of accumulation towards a more "global," neo-liberal capitalism.
In March 2003, millions took to the streets worldwide to protest the impending invasion of Iraq. Despite their numbers, the efforts proved in vain. The war went on; the protests dwindled. But however attenuated, there are still protests. In Minneapolis/St. Paul this August, some 10,000 marched against the Republican National Convention. But as organized rallies gave way to irrational violence, the inadequacy of five years of failed Anti-War activism and Left opposition came into sharp relief.
Since the 1960s the saturation of brutality and violence in Iraq has caused considerable confusion among Leftists in regards to both its political meaning and causes. One cannot fully understand the character of Saddam Hussein’s Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party without taking into account that it achieved political power by systematically killing off the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) and quelling other political dissent with acts of extreme cruelty. The eight year battle of attrition instigated by Hussein, known as the Iran-Iraq War, caused over half a million Iraqi deaths, and the ethnic cleansing campaigns directed against the Kurds resulted in countless more. It is estimated that during the 1988 Anfal Campaign alone over 100,000 Kurds were massacred. In addition to the many catastrophic events that mark the history of Ba’athist society, it is perfectly clear that Hussein’s one-party-state was maintained through the use of relentless day-to-day violence directed against its citizens.