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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.
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.
Hungarian literary critic and political theorist Georg Lukács is generally recognized, along with thinkers such as Antonio Gramsci and Rosa Luxemburg, as one of the most influential intellectual figures of twentieth century Marxism. And while Lukács’ reading of Marx is possibly the most sophisticated and intellectually rigorous to be found in the century and a half long trajectory of historical materialism, his legacy suffers from the “misfortune” that, unlike Gramsci and Luxemburg, he survived what is known as the heroic period of Third International Marxism: the late teens and early twenties.