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On January 30th, 2007, Platypus hosted its first public forum, “Imperialism: What is it—Why should we be Against it?” The panel consisted of Adam Turl of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), Kevin Anderson of the Marxist-Humanist group News and Letters, Nick Kreitman of the new Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Danny Postel of Open Democracy, and Chris Cutrone of Platypus. What follows is an edited transcript of this event. The question of imperialism remains obscure on the Left. In light of the continued failure of the anti-war movement to end the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the decline of anti-war protest in the wake of Barack Obama’s election, it seems that the critique of imperialism has not been clarified, but only become more impotent in its opacity. Consequently, the Platypus Review believes that this panel retains its salience.
Given the recent election crisis and continuing protests in Iran and in light of the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, The Platypus Affiliated Society on November 5, 2009 hosted a panel discussion at the University of Chicago entitled 30 Years of the Islamic Revolution: The Tragedy of the Left. Panel participants included Danny Postel, journalist and author of Reading Legitimation Crisis in Tehran: Iran and the Future of Liberalism; Kaveh Ehsani, editor of The Middle East Report (MERIP); Maziar Behrooz, historian and author of Rebels with a Cause: The Failure of the Left in Iran; and Chris Cutrone of Platypus. This supplement to issue #20 of the Platypus Review consists of an edited transcript of the discussion, beginning with the panelists’ prepared remarks, followed by their responses to each other, and ending with a series of questions and answers.
The nature of the present crisis in Iran Chris Cutrone Confusion on the Left around the 2009 electoral crisis in Iran has been expressed both in defense of President Ahmadinejad's claim to victory as well as by support of Iranian dissidents and protesters. Slavoj Žižek has weighed in, questioning prevailing understandings of the nature of the Iranian regime and its Islamist character. Responses to the current crisis have recapitulated problems on the Left in understanding the Islamic Revolution since 1979. All share in attributing to Iran an autonomous historical rhythm or logic of its own, rather than as a symptomatic effect of a greater history. Žižek has come closest to addressing this issue of greater context, but even he has failed to address the history of the Left.
During his visit to New York this week to address the UN General Assembly, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is scheduled to go to Columbia University to address faculty members and also to meet with a group of American religious leaders. His arrival was preceded by weeks of commotion and dispute: should Ahmadinejad have been allowed to visit ground zero? Should Columbia have agreed to host him? Should he even have been granted a visa to enter at all? In a spasm of infantilism, Republican presidential hopefuls and the right-wing punditocracy have seized the occasion to demonstrate their toughness, decrying the Iranian leader's mere presence on US soil.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/41847102]

“However difficult the task of grasping and confronting global capital might be, it is crucially important that a global internationalism be recovered and reformulated. . . .

The Left should be very careful about constituting a form of politics that, from the standpoint of human emancipation, would be questionable, at the very best, however many people it may rouse.”
— Moishe Postone, “History and Helplessness” (2006)

A moderated panel discussion and audience Q&A on issues of global capital, imperialism and war, possibilities for progressive political opposition, and the problems and tasks for the Left in the post-Cold War and post-9/11 world raised by the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Held on January 30th, 2007, in Chicago.

Panelists: Kevin Anderson (News and Letters), Chris Cutrone (Platypus), Nick Kreitman (new Students for a Democratic Society), Danny Postel (OpenDemocracy.net), and Adam Turl (International Socialist Organization).

Transcript in Platypus Review #25 (Click below):