[lbo-talk] Platypus: what we are, what we do, and why

Joanne Landy joanne.landy at igc.org
Tue Apr 6 20:49:35 PDT 2010

I've been told that Platypus people support the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Is that true? --Joanne Landy

At 02:22 PM 4/6/2010 -0700, you wrote:
>I'm writing in response to the request made by Doug Henwood via Bhaskar
>Sunkara, regarding the thread on the recent interview on "Steal This
>Radio" with Platypus organizers Chris Mansour and Ian Morrison.
>A "two-sentence" description of what we're about was requested. I think
>Bhaskar has done a good job describing our project.
>We consider ourselves an organized political project but not a political
>party. Our project has two dimensions, the public work we do and the
>self-understanding we try to cultivate among our own members as to why we
>are doing what we are doing. These are not necessarily the same thing,
>what we are doing and the reasons for this, and in fact I would consider
>it a matter of relating "theory and practice."
>We organize public fora on various topics of relevance to the Left, and an
>open-submission forum-in-print, The Platypus Review, a free monthly
>broadsheet publication funded and distributed mainly on college/university
>campuses in Chicago, NYC, Boston, Toronto and elsewhere (Yale, Princeton,
>UWisconsin Madison, Purdue, UC Santa Cruz, etc.). We have about 40
>dues-paying members and several additional regular collaborators, in the
>U.S., Canada, Germany and the U.K.
>We started as a reading group in Chicago in 2006 and formally constituted
>ourselves as an organization, starting to hold our fora and publish our
>paper in 2007. We've had the following panelists or published writings by:
>Ernesto Laclau, Moishe Postone, T. J. Clark, Hal Foster, David Harvey,
>Stephen Duncombe, Danny Postel, Michael Lowy, Peter Hudis, Kevin Anderson,
>Andrew Kliman, James Heartfield, David Black, Michael Albert, Paul Street,
>Ervand Abrahamian, Hamid Dabashi, Leo Panitch, members of the ISO,
>Solidarity and the RCP, and worked closely with the new SDS, the (various)
>Marxist-Humanists, the immigration rights movement, and others. We have
>included various student activists on our public forum panels, and have
>the plurality of our published writings have been by undergraduate
>students. Most of our published articles in The Platypus Review have been
>written by non-members of Platypus and hence do not reflect our
>organization's "positions" on
> anything. The closest our publications have reflected our organization's
> perspectives, this has been in the form of my articles, but even these do
> not express any solid consensus of formulation. Our own articulations aim
> to raise questions and to provoke discussion and debate rather than offer
> analysis, let alone programmatic or properly political positions.
>As an organized membership, we have consisted mostly of undergraduate or
>recently graduated students, with a few graduate students (Chris Mansour
>is an MFA student at Parsons; Ian Morrison is not a student, but a recent
>college graduate), and a couple of professional academics/teachers. We
>have only 2 members over 40 y.o. (and only 6 over 30 y.o.).
>A few of us are current or former students of Moishe Postone; a couple of
>us have also been mentored by Adolph Reed. These are our two single most
>influential living figures for our thinking, but a couple of us are also
>former members of the Spartacist Youth Club when we were in college almost
>20 years ago. My personal academic specialization is Frankfurt School
>Critical Theory, Adorno and Benjamin in particular. The group started with
>several of my students asking for an extra-curricular reading group on the
>contemporary relevance of F.S. critical theory for politics. One of our
>very first readings was Featherstone/Henwood/Parenti's "Action Will Be
>Taken" critique of the "anti-war" movement (2002).
>We've offered, for our own self-understanding, what we call a "synthesis"
>of the "2nd International radicals" Lenin, Luxemburg, and Trotsky with
>F.S. critical theory, especially by Benjamin and Adorno, but also by the
>early Lukacs and Korsch, considering all of these to be the most
>interesting developments of Marx's work in theory and practice. We think
>that what Korsch termed the "crisis of Marxism" 1914-23, was never
>adequately resolved but rather Marxism disintegrated and degenerated, with
>negative consequences for the Left, "Marxist" or otherwise.
>After Benjamin and Adorno, we consider post-1917-19 history to be
>"regressive" regarding emancipatory politics. We think the 1960s-70s "New
>Left" did not rectify this in any way, even though there were some (very
>few) promising (but aborted) starts in this direction. We have a rather
>polemical attitude towards the legacy of the New Left, which we think
>muddied matters more than clarifying them, contributing to the regression.
>We think that the "Left is dead" and that, as a result, some important
>emancipatory thought has migrated to the "Right" (i.e., migrated to
>aspects of neoconservative and neoliberal thought), and hence we think
>that classical liberalism needs to be reappropriated by any purported
>Left, including any ostensible Marxist socialist politics. E.g., we think
>that Christopher Hitchens is as much a member of the "Left" worthy of
>(critical) consideration as is Tariq Ali, et al. We think that nothing can
>be taken for granted about the Left, and that "all bets are off" with
>regard to past, historical positions and programs of the Left, Marxist or
>otherwise. We think it necessary to cultivate debate on the very meaning
>of the Left at its most radically fundamental levels in order for the Left
>to be reformulated as an effective political force.
>We find Kolakowski's 1968 essay on "The Concept of the Left" an extremely
>useful discussion of the Left as defined politically
>intellectually/ideologically, and not sociologically, i.e., that the Left
>is defined by its utopianism and negation of the status quo, not by its
>constitution by social groups (e.g., socioeconomic "classes," or oppressed
>minorities, et al.):
>I hope this clarifies.
>-- Chris

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list