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.
If it did not come to end in 1989, as conservative critic Francis Fukuyama expected, this is because, in Hegel's sense, as freedom's self-realization in time, History had already ceased. Long before the new geopolitical configurations and institutional forms of the post-Soviet world, a new and unprecedented, though scarcely recognized, political situation had taken shape: The last threads of continuity connecting the present with the long epoch of political emancipation were severed. In the second half of the 20th century the history that stretched back through modern socialism and the labor movement to the Enlightenment and the bourgeois revolutions that came before, became bunk. Yet, unlike Stalinism's well-publicized (if exaggerated) collapse, the passing of History and the death of the long-ailing Left in our time has passed almost wholly unnoticed and unmourned.
However sincere its backers or belligerent its enemies, the “War on Terror” is not and cannot become anti-Islamist. This is not because, as some think, there is no Islamist or Taliban-style fascism on the receiving end of America’s War on Terror. Far from it. The reason is that the prosecutors of the war are only half committed to the selective elimination of certain religious reactionaries.
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