In its May 2008 issue, the most commercially successful art criticism publication, Artforum, dedicated its pages to the commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of May 1968. The publication presented contributions by many of the leading figures in contemporary critical theory, all of whom have a distinctive sense of indebtedness to that brief period four decades ago, dubbed by Herbert Marcuse as the “Great Refusal.”
ACCORDING TO LENIN, the greatest contribution of the German Marxist radical Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) to the fight for socialism was the statement that her Social Democratic Party of Germany had become a “stinking corpse” as a result of voting for war credits on August 4, 1914. Lenin wrote this about Luxemburg in 1922, at the close of the period of war, revolution, counterrevolution and reaction in which Luxemburg was murdered.
In subsequent issues Platypus will serialize a “History of the Left”. The phrase has a strange ring to it! A human being has a history, a nation, a people have a history. One is not the “same person” one was twenty years ago perhaps, yet one can not make sense of who one is now without a sense of who one “was” even if that person has come to seem as alien as a stranger. A people too may “remember” its past, its becoming, its suffering, its ancient glories and yet no living member of that people may have experienced any of these. Such remembering and rethinking what has been whether personal and collective is obvious to us. But “the Left”?