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Our probing into prejudice is devoted to subjective aspects. We are not analyzing objective social forces which produce and reproduce bigotry, such as economic and historical determinants. Even short-term factors like propaganda do not enter the picture per se, though a number of major hypotheses stem from propaganda analyses carried out by the Institute of Social Research. All the stimuli enhancing prejudice, and even the entire cultural climate—imbued with minority stereotypes as it is—are regarded as presuppositions. Their effect upon our subjects is not followed up; we remain, so to say, in the realm of “reactions,” not of stimuli.

The short article "Why not Trump?" by Chris Cutrone in Platypus Review #89 is both brilliant and deeply flawed. It is brilliant in its provocative polemic, starting with the title, forcing us to engage with the question in a fresh way. This undeniably is what Cutrone intended, a challenge starting with and finally culminating in "the obvious question that is avoided but must be asked by anyone not too frightened to think." Yes, we must ask the question. Yes, we need to think about it clearly. Cutrone is not just right; he is persuasive.

Max Horkheimers Reaktion von 1928/29 auf Lenins erkenntnistheoretische Streitschrift „Materialismus und Empiriokritizismus“, von Michael Jekel.

Am 11. November 2015 fand im Rahmen der zweiten europäischen Konferenz der Platypus Affiliated Society an der Goethe-Universität Frankfurt eine Podiumsdiskussion zum Thema „What is the European Union and should we be against it?“ statt. Teilgenommen haben Juan Roch von Podemos, Jens Wissel von der Assoziation für Kritische Gesellschaftsforschung, Nikos Nikisianis von Diktio und Martin Suchanek von der Gruppe Arbeitermacht. Es folgt eine editierte und ins Deutsche übersetzte Transkription der Veranstaltung.

Stalinism’s impact is difficult to see in the world today. North Korea and Cuba limp along, sponsored by a capitalist China and caudillo-ist Venezuela, respectively. The official Stalinist parties in the Western world remain, at least on paper, but tend to throw support behind Hillary Clinton or the local equivalent. In one way or another, any examination of Stalin is thus historical—not a critique of a living political movement, but of a movement situated in a time remote from our own. The object of investigation is a legacy whose practical effect in the present is deeply obscure.

Platypus as a project seeks to relate to the contemporary left by focusing on the Left in history. We do this because we think one’s understanding of history is in fact one’s theory of the present, of how the present came to be and what might become of it. We try to understand the left politics of the present in light of what the Left has been, so as to provoke critical reflection. Is the Left today living up to the legacy it inherits? Are we falling short of the aspirations of the past? Must we?

The recent Platypus panel on the “Death of Social Democracy” raised the prospect of a socialist left whose approach is not focused on taking power in capitalist national states, whether through the electoral reformism of traditional Social Democracy or a Bolshevik-style armed seizure, but on building a grassroots-democratic, confederal, and internationalist counterpower that can replace capitalist nation-states with a truly democratic socialism. This prospect was only broached in the critique of Social Democracy. I would like to suggest some perspectives to fill out this prospect.

Summer and Fall/Autumn 2016 – Winter 2017

Every Sunday, 3:00-6:00 pm

University of Houston, MD Anderson Library, RM 221j


I. What is the Left? -- What is Marxism?

required / + recommended reading

Marx and Engels readings pp. from Robert C. Tucker, ed., Marx-Engels Reader (Norton 2nd ed., 1978)

Week A. Radical bourgeois philosophy I. Rousseau: Crossroads of society | Aug. 6, 2016

Whoever dares undertake to establish a people’s institutions must feel himself capable of changing, as it were, human nature, of transforming each individual, who by himself is a complete and solitary whole, into a part of a larger whole, from which, in a sense, the individual receives his life and his being, of substituting a limited and mental existence for the physical and independent existence. He has to take from man his own powers, and give him in exchange alien powers which he cannot employ without the help of other men.

-- Jean-Jacques Rousseau, On the Social Contract (1762)

• epigraphs on modern history and freedom by James Miller (on Jean-Jacques Rousseau), Louis Menand (on Edmund Wilson), Karl Marx, on "becoming" (from the Grundrisse, 1857–58), and Peter Preuss (on Nietzsche)

+ Rainer Maria Rilke, "Archaic Torso of Apollo" (1908)

+ Robert Pippin, "On Critical Theory" (2004)

• Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (1754) PDFs of preferred translation (5 parts): [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

Rousseau, selection from On the Social Contract (1762)

Week B. Radical bourgeois philosophy II. Hegel: Freedom in history | Aug. 13, 2016

• G.W.F. Hegel, Introduction to the Philosophy of History (1831) [HTML] [PDF pp. 14-128] [Audiobook]

Week C. Radical bourgeois philosophy III. Nietzsche (1): Life in history | Aug. 20, 2016

• Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Use and Abuse of History for Life (1874) [translator's introduction by Peter Preuss]

+ Nietzsche on history chart of terms

Week D. Radical bourgeois philosophy IV. Nietzsche (2): Asceticism of moderns | Aug. 27, 2016

+ Human, All Too Human: Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil (1999)

Nietzsche, selection from On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense (1873)

Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals: A Polemic (1887)

Week E. 1960s New Left I. Neo-Marxism | Sep. 3, 2016 U.S. Labor Day weekend

• Martin Nicolaus, “The unknown Marx” (1968)

+ Commodity form chart of terms

• Moishe Postone, “Necessity, labor, and time” (1978)

+ Postone, “History and helplessness: Mass mobilization and contemporary forms of anticapitalism” (2006)

+ Postone, “Theorizing the contemporary world: Brenner, Arrighi, Harvey” (2006)

Week F. 1960s New Left II. Gender and sexuality | Sep. 10, 2016

• Juliet Mitchell, “Women: The longest revolution” (1966)

• Clara Zetkin and Vladimir Lenin, “An interview on the woman question” (1920)

• Theodor W. Adorno, “Sexual taboos and the law today” (1963)

• John D’Emilio, “Capitalism and gay identity” (1983)

Week G. 1960s New Left III. Anti-black racism in the U.S. | Sep. 17, 2016

• Richard Fraser, “Two lectures on the black question in America and revolutionary integrationism” (1953)

• James Robertson and Shirley Stoute, “For black Trotskyism” (1963)

+ Spartacist League, “Black and red: Class struggle road to Negro freedom” (1966)

+ Bayard Rustin, “The failure of black separatism” (1970)

• Adolph Reed, “Black particularity reconsidered” (1979)

+ Reed, “Paths to Critical Theory” (1984)

Week H. Frankfurt School precursors | Sep. 24, 2016

• Wilhelm Reich, “Ideology as material power” (1933/46)

• Siegfried Kracauer, “The mass ornament” (1927)

+ Kracauer, “Photography” (1927)

Week 1. What is the Left? I. Capital in history | Oct. 1, 2016

• epigraphs on modern history and freedom by Louis Menand (on Marx and Engels) and Karl Marx, on "becoming" (from the Grundrisse, 1857–58)

• Chris Cutrone, "Capital in history" (2008)

+ Capital in history timeline and chart of terms

+ video of Communist University 2011 London presentation

Cutrone, "The Marxist hypothesis" (2010)

Week 2. What is the Left? II. Bourgeois society | Oct. 8, 2016

• Immanuel Kant, "Idea for a universal history from a cosmopolitan point of view" and "What is Enlightenment?" (1784)

• Benjamin Constant, "The liberty of the ancients compared with that of the moderns" (1819)

+ Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the origin of inequality (1754)

+ Rousseau, selection from On the social contract (1762)

Week 3. What is the Left? III. Failure of Marxism | Oct. 15, 2016

• Max Horkheimer, selections from Dämmerung (1926–31)

Adorno, “Imaginative Excesses” (1944–47)

Week 4. What is the Left? IV. Utopia and critique | Oct. 22, 2016

• Leszek Kolakowski, “The concept of the Left” (1968)

Marx, To make the world philosophical (from Marx's dissertation, 1839–41), pp. 9–11

Marx, For the ruthless criticism of everything existing (letter to Arnold Ruge, September 1843), pp. 12–15

Week 5. What is Marxism? I. Socialism | Oct. 29, 2016

Marx, selections from Economic and philosophic manuscripts (1844), pp. 70–101

+ Commodity form chart of terms

Marx and Friedrich Engels, selections from the Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848), pp. 469-500

Marx, Address to the Central Committee of the Communist League (1850), pp. 501–511

Week 6. What is Marxism? II. Revolution in 1848 | Nov. 5, 2016

Marx, The coming upheaval (from The Poverty of Philosophy, 1847) and Class struggle and mode of production (letter to Weydemeyer, 1852), pp. 218-220

Engels, The tactics of social democracy (Engels's 1895 introduction to Marx, The Class Struggles in France), pp. 556–573

Marx, selections from The Class Struggles in France 1848–50 (1850), pp. 586–593

Marx, selections from The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852), pp. 594–617

Week 7. What is Marxism? III. Bonapartism | Nov. 12, 2016

+ Karl Korsch, "The Marxism of the First International" (1924)

Marx, Inaugural address to the First International (1864), pp. 512–519

Marx, selections from The Civil War in France (1871, including Engels's 1891 Introduction), pp. 618–652

+ Korsch, Introduction to Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme (1922)

Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme, pp. 525–541

Marx, Programme of the Parti Ouvrier (1880)

Week 8. What is Marxism? IV. Critique of political economy | Nov. 19, 2016

+ Commodity form chart of terms

Marx, selections from the Grundrisse (1857–61), pp. 222–226, 236–244, 247–250, 276–293 ME Reader pp. 276-281

Marx, Capital Vol. I, Ch. 1 Sec. 4 "The fetishism of commodities" (1867), pp. 319–329

Week 9. Nov. 26, 2016 U.S. Thanksgiving break

Week 10. What is Marxism? V. Reification | Dec. 3, 2016 / Jan. 7, 2017

• Georg Lukács, “The phenomenon of reification” (Part I of “Reification and the consciousness of the proletariat,” History and Class Consciousness, 1923)

+ Commodity form chart of terms

Winter break readings

+ Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate / A&Z, Introducing Lenin and the Russian Revolution / Lenin for Beginners (1977)

+ Sebastian Haffner, Failure of a Revolution: Germany 1918–19 (1968)

+ Edmund Wilson, To the Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting of History (1940), Part II. Ch. (1–4,) 5–10, 12–16; Part III. Ch. 1–6

+ Tariq Ali and Phil Evans, Introducing Trotsky and Marxism / Trotsky for Beginners (1980)

+ James Joll, The Second International 1889–1914 (1966)

Week 11. What is Marxism? VI. Class consciousness | Dec. 10, 2016 / Jan. 14, 2017

Lukács, Original Preface (1922), “What is Orthodox Marxism?” (1919), “Class Consciousness” (1920), History and Class Consciousness (1923)

+ Marx, Preface to the First German Edition and Afterword to the Second German Edition (1873) of Capital (1867), pp. 294–298, 299–302

Week 12. What is Marxism? VII. Ends of philosophy | Dec. 17, 2016 / Jan. 21, 2017

Korsch, “Marxism and philosophy” (1923)

+ Marx, To make the world philosophical (from Marx's dissertation, 1839–41), pp. 9–11

+ Marx, For the ruthless criticism of everything existing (letter to Arnold Ruge, September 1843), pp. 12–15

+ Marx, "Theses on Feuerbach" (1845), pp. 143–145

Winter–Spring 2017

II. Introduction to revolutionary Marxism

One November 7th, 2015, at its Second Annual European Conference in Frankfurt, Germany, the Platypus Affiliated Society hosted a panel addressing the topic “What is the European Union and should we be against it?” The discussion was moderated by Thodoris Velissaris and included the following panelists: Juan Roch, a member of the Spanish political party Podemos; Jens Wissel, a founding member of the Assoziation für Kritische Gesellschaftsforschung and author of Staatsprojekt EUropa: Grundzüge einer materialistischen Theorie der Europäischen Union; Nikos Nikisianis, a member of DIKTYO (Network for Political and Social Rights) in Greece, an affiliate of SYRIZA until July 2015; and Martin Suchanek, a member of Gruppe Arbeitermacht, the German section of the League for the Fifth International, and the editor of its theoretical journal Revolutionärer Marxismus. What follows is an edited transcript of their conversation.

The U.S. Democratic Party Convention in Philadelphia ended with a big schism that divides not only the supporters of Hillary Clinton from her opponents, but also Bernie Sanders from the movement he led until not very long ago.

The senator from Vermont who attracted thousands across America to his rallies and ignited them with his speeches looked helpless—even ridiculous—in Philadelphia. In a matter of seconds, his speech endorsing Hillary turned a charismatic leader who embodied the hopes of millions into a pathetic old man who does not understand what is happening around him.