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Platypus panel at the Left Forum 2010 in New York City, Pace University, March 20, 2010.

Rather than asking what the Left thinks of Iran, this panel will pose the question, what does Iran reveal about the Left, its limitations and failures? This panel will address the crisis of the Islamic Republic and the historical task of the Left to clarify its role regarding the current Green Movement today. The 1979 Islamic Revolution continues to weigh on the political imagination of the Left. Perspectives on the Left either focus on Green Movement’s electoral and civil rights struggle, ignoring its Islamist leadership by Mousavi and others, or, in some cases, tout Ahmadinejad as a progressive “anti-imperialist,” denying the discontents expressed in the Green Movement. The 1979 Islamic Revolution continues to haunt the present, in the form of an impoverished imagination of what is possible. We will look more deeply at the political question of Islamism and how the Left can best understand Iran’s revolutionary past. What deeper failure on the Left allowed Iran to develop as it has? Whatever claim the current movement has to being secular in form -- that is, popular in discontent, and pluralist in that it possesses no elaborate program -- the legacy of the Islamic Revolution in the current crisis represents the unresolved failure of the Left to achieve greater freedom that cannot be reached through religious or populist means.

Panelists:
Laura Lee Schmidt (Chair) – Platypus Affiliated Society; History, Theory, and Criticism of Art and Architecture, MIT
Siyaves Azeri – Worker-Communist Party of Iran
Hamid Dabashi – Columbia University
Christopher Cutrone – Platypus Affiliated Society; University of Chicago

Platypus panel at the Left Forum 2010 in New York City, Pace University, March 20, 2010.

The 2003 U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq was, like the 1990-91 Gulf War, a turning point for the international Left, though few recognized this. While the Iraq war has been a rallying point for anti-hegemonic and anti-“imperialist” sentiments around the world, it did not provide for either theoretical or practical convergence for reinvigorating the Left, but rather revealed its fragmented and confused state. Though activism has been largely united in opposing the war, it failed to articulate a greater vision for how opposition to the war contributes to a greater program of social emancipation for the Left internationally. Indeed, the Iraq war tends to figure only in terms of particular U.S. policy. Many in mainstream U.S. politics -- the Democratic Party -- argued against the war as a foolhardy project of trying to bring democracy to Iraq. Some on the Left, in recognition of this problem, supported the U.S. militarily overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s Baathist state in Iraq. But which position was in fact more conservative, that is, Right-wing? This panel is organized around the question, how has the Left responded to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq? Why has the Iraq war proven such a stumbling block for the Left developing an adequate response? Who is capable of standing up for the Iraqis now? For what the Left owes to Iraq is the same as it owes to any “nation” -- freedom.

Panelists:
Laura Lee Schmidt (Chair) – Platypus Affiliated Society; History, Theory and Criticism of Art and Architecture, MIT
Issam Shukri – Worker-Communist Party of Iran (WPI)
Ashley Smith - International Socialist Organization
Christopher Cutrone – Platypus Affiliated Society; University of Chicago