Historical consciousness articulates the problem of what “ought” to be with what “is.” The question is how the necessities of emancipatory struggles in the present relate to those of the past. The tasks revealed by historical Marxism have not been superseded but only obscured and forgotten, at the expense of emancipatory social politics in the present.
It may seem ironic that a moment so typified by the crisis of capital calls for a serious critique of the crisis on the Left; however, in the present moment it has become impossible to take on the crisis of existing society without facing the limitations found in prevailing leftist responses to it.
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.”
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
A prefatory statement from Retort: Having talked over your questions at length, we find that they can be answered best by grouping together several of them and trying to spell out the key issues and assumptions we see underlying them. That way, we hope, the common ground between Retort and Platypus will be clear—as well as the nature of our disagreements.