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On April 8, 2017, for the closing plenary of its 9th Annual International Convention, the Platypus Affiliated Society organized a panel discussion, 1917–2017, at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. Tasked with reflecting on the historical significance of 1917 for the Left, the panel brought together Bryan Palmer, Chair of the Canadian Studies Department at Trent University and author of numerous histories of the Left; Leo Panitch, Professor of Political Science at York University, author, and co-editor of the Socialist Register; and Chris Cutrone, President of the Platypus Affiliated Society. Pamela Nogales, of Platypus, moderated. What follows is an edited transcript of their discussion.
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.
A HISTORICALLY ADEQUATE INTERPRETATION of Lenin’s Marxism must begin with the recognition that Lenin’s legacy is essentially a political application of Marx’s theory of capital as a historically-specific social formation. It required further development in light of experiences under determinate historical circumstances, such as the development of capitalism in Russia, the Russian Revolution of 1905, the crisis of Marxism in 1914, the evolution of imperialism, the October Revolution of 1917, War Communism, and the New Economic Policy.
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?