Walter Benjamin occupies a unique place in the history of modern revolutionary thought: he is the first Marxist to break radically with the ideology of progress. His thinking has therefore a distinct critical quality, which sets him apart from the dominant and “official” forms of historical materialism, and gives him a formidable methodological superiority.
From their canonization in the 1960s through their appropriation by postmodernism in the 1980s, the writings of the Frankfurt School have had their Marxian dimension minimized, vulgarized and ultimately ignored.
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.
Persepolis is a film that does not take itself seriously enough. This is not a comment on the unadorned animation style. Nor am I referring to the narrative of the protagonist: a story of a girl raised in a left-wing milieu that succeeds in arousing quite a bit of empathy in the audience. It is the film’s treatment of depoliticization as a fait accompli and its persistent retreat to the safety of the personal that make it a fascinating symptom of politics today. Read politically, Persepolis is a trenchant, if unreflective, look into the fate of contemporary political life.
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.
A paradox confronts American environmentalists, according to James Gustave Speth, the Dean of Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies: “We now have a flourishing environmental movement, a proliferating number of organisations, more and more money going into this, decades now of environmental legislation and programs, at all levels of government, and the environment keeps going downhill.”
I would like to respond to Chris Cutrone’s article, "Review: Angela Davis 'How does change happen?'" from the March 2008 issue #3. I agree with Cutrone’s general sentiment that we as a country have failed to productively engage the problem of race, and that an honest critique of capitalism is pretty much absent from American politics. However, one does not necessarily follow the other. I disagree that a discussion of capitalism must necessarily displace a discussion of race, a term which Cutrone disrespectfully frames in quotation marks and describes as a “distraction” and “inadequate category.”
The new Mayday magazine (UK) and Platypus have been in dialogue on the issues of anarchism and Marxism and the state of the "Left" today in light of history. Principia Dialectica, another new British journal, also has taken note of Platypus, specifically with our interview of Moishe Postone on "Marx after Marxism". In their note of us, Principia Dialectica cites our interview with Postone to say that "Postone's reflections on Lukács are certainly bracing, and enough to challenge any cryogenically frozen leftoid stuck in 1917."