A good approach to the topic of Milton Friedman and his legacy today can be made indirectly, by reference to Friedman’s intellectual predecessor and mentor, Friedrich Hayek. It has been our point of departure in Platypus to regard the present as being conditioned by the undigested, and therefore problematic, legacies of at least two generations of failure on the “Left”: the 1960s-70s “New” Left, and the “Old” Left of the 1920s-30s. We have critiqued the assumptions inherited from the 1960s not least because of problematic legacies they contain undigested from the 1930s, which have not been properly thought through even toda
WITH THE PRESENT FINANCIAL MELT-DOWN in the U.S. throwing the global economy into question, many on the “Left” are wondering again about the nature of capitalism. While many will be tempted to jump on the bandwagon of the “bailout” being floated by the Bush administration and the Congressional Democrats (including Obama), others will protest the “bailing out” of Wall Street.
What does it mean to say, as Platypus does, that “the Left is Dead?” It represents the desire for a tabula rasa, for a start from scratch. It is the admission that there is no living tradition, no movement to join in the Marxist Left; That it has been defeated and that it has self-destructed. It means that the Maoisms and Trotskyisms that today stumble around like zombies in the form of tiny sectarian groups have either given themselves to dishonestly cheerleading for the Green and Democratic parties or simply have become antiquarian societies reciting old revolutionary pieties with the mechanical enthusiasm of Hare-Krishna monks; While at the same time the “radicals” and “anarchists” that prescribe dropping out of society by building “alternative communities” “outside of capitalism” have rationalized their powerlessness into a lifestyle that poses as politics.
The Platypus Affiliated Society in Chicago, in coordination with several chapters of the new Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in Chicago (at the University of Chicago, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Columbia College, Chicago) organized a public forum on “40 years of 1968: the problematic drama of the past in the present,” scheduled for the evening of Thursday, May 8 downtown at the School of the Art Institute. Invited panelists included Bill Ayers and Mike Klonsky, of the historic SDS and its Revolutionary Youth Movement, and currently active in the Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS). But these two panelists withdrew and the forum was canceled, as we will explain.
The contours of the present day Middle East have been shaped by a mid -20th century triptych of genocide and ethnic cleansing. The first panel in this triptych is the “Holocaust” (“Shoah” in Hebrew, “Khurbn” in Yiddish) the systematic murder of approximately two-thirds of European Jewry by the Nazis in 1941–1945. The second panel is the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by the Zionists in 1947–1949, the “Nakba,” and the third panel which does not have a commonly accepted name is the forced exodus of hundreds of thousands of Mizrachi Jews from Arab countries, most of whom ended up in Israel where they strengthened the Zionist state in crucial ways even though frequently they encountered racial discrimination there at the hands of Ashkenazi Jews. Each of these catastrophes was both a product of the failure of the Left and paved the way for further defeats.
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.
The present-day crisis in Pakistan resists adequate historicisation in pithy news headlines. Yet its concrete expressions include the autocratic state-of-emergency imposed by General Musharraf; the violent rise of Islamic fundamentalism, first in the anarchic north-west, but increasingly also in the cities; the over-dependence on economic as well as military assistance from the U.S.; the massive expansion of the army into civilian sectors, especially commerce; and the ever growing socioeconomic disparities—in short: the failure of Pakistan.