From the financial crisis and the bank bail-outs to the question of “sovereign debt”; from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street; from the struggle for a unified European-wide policy to the elections in Greece and Egypt that seem to have threatened so much and promised so little—the need to go beyond mere “protest” has asserted itself: political revolution is in the air, again.
Time magazine nominated “the protester,” from the Arab Spring to the #Occupy movement, as “Person of the Year” for 2011. In addressing the culture of the #Occupy movement, Time listed some key books to be read, in a sidebar article, “How to stock a protest library.” Included were A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, The Prison Notebooks by Antonio Gramsci, Multitude by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, and Welcome to the Desert of the Real by Slavoj Žižek.
THE UPRISING IN EGYPT, which followed soon after the toppling of the old regime in Tunisia, succeeded in bringing down Hosni Mubarak on February 11, the 32nd anniversary to the day of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. Already, before this timely coincidence, comparisons between the Iranian Revolution and the revolts gripping the Arab world had started to be made. But other historical similarities offered themselves: the various “color revolutions” in Eastern Europe and former Soviet Central Asian states and Lebanon in recent years, and the collapse of Communism in the Soviet bloc and beyond (the former Yugoslavia) starting with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Behind these revolutions on the pattern of 1989 stood the event of which 1989 itself had been the bicentennial, the great French Revolution of 1789. The Bastille is to be stormed again, anew. Who would not welcome this?
Let’s begin with Peter Schjeldahl in the June issue of the New Yorker: “There is something nightmarish about Jeff Koons.” In a recent exhibition at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (MCA), Jeff Koons received a well-attended mid-career survey of his work. Surrounded by two-story high white walls, the twenty-eight years of Koons’s art surveyed in the exhibit didn’t present anything to disturb our peaceful slumber. Even the rather lurid 1991 photograph of Ilona’s asshole, does not give us much pause.
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