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

Chuck Grimes cgrimes at rawbw.com
Fri Apr 9 16:04:54 PDT 2010

`A strategic priority must be made of building a Left in the core countries of global capital, i.e., in the U.S., Europe, Japan, et al.

More than 50 years of "Third World" so-called "revolutionary" movements have failed to produce any emancipatory results whatsoever...''

Christopher Cutrone


(Written before I read much of the east coast reaction to CC. Sorry there is still a concrete time delay...so apologies for what appears to be a long and repeating post.)

I am not sure quite how to go at the above quote. It's smug, arrogant, hostile, unsupported, misguided, and generally has that lecture from the Central Committee sound to it. Talk like that generally persuades no one, gains no support, and is quite hostile to building any solidarity even on the conceptual and discursive plane. There is a lot of holier than thou rattling around in the Platypus head.

I did a few reads of what Platypus has up. I spent some time on an essay called, `1968'. It took the Adorno line about the student movements as fascist and authoritarian. This odd characterization was common back then. It was the kind of thing the `thinking' press came up. If anybody wants to research it, they could probably find something by William Buckley taking this position.

Getting back to the above quote. To echo James Heartfield (which I rarely do) and Doug, just what the fuck does `emancipatory' mean? There is another line somewhere in the 1968 essay about how there has been no `progress' since 1917. That statement suffers all the same wind bag vagueness and shares the attitude of pronouncements from on high.

So what's up here? I don't mind some shit stirring. LBO could use some stir now and again. But this ain't the kind of bullshit I intend to argue.

``My point is not to vilify Ali but to point out that all sides of the so-called "Left" are playing problematic role, "pedagogically," regarding the realities of the world we face. There's a lot of posturing, but nothing of political substance.'' CC

Excuse me? It is you who are playing a problematic role, you who are posturing and you who seem to have nothing of political substance to say. It is a familiar role. It's typical of a sectarian style. When I used to hear this kind crap in the long ago, I'd talk it over with my roommate. So Mike, what did think about what X said? Do you think that guy was cop? Mike would usually answer, no he's probably not a cop. He's probably some wacked out Trot from Chicago.

I am listening to the Ali interview CC conducted:


What do I think? Ali comes off as an intellectual treasure of an actually existing left, an articulate, and literate spokesman. How does CC come off? You come off mostly as a baiting interviewer. That is not an entirely a bad position, since it gets Ali to answer the kinds of questions coming from a neconservative perspective. That is an important thing to do, because it is the type of perspective that seems to drive US foreign analysis in the Pentagon, State Dept, and intelligence services. Some enemies are not stupid. So Ali has to answer those sorts of questions. And he does that brilliantly. The reason he does well, I suspect is because he is used to being grilled and baited by a more articulate right wing and reactionary crowd over in the UK. He is also smarter and more knowledgeable than most of the US crowd on any side.

However, there comes a point, when a question has been asked and answered. When the same question done up in different modes is repeated over and over, then asking questions becomes what is called hostile cross-examination. Then people like Cutrone and organizations like Platypus demand answers to questions that have already been asked over and over, then CC and Platypus do not function as positive critics.

Now I read Doug's response which sums it all up much better:

``You seem so intent on proving the left to be fucked that you give a very tendentious summary..of something that one of the smartest and most articulate public figures we have. That's not really fair controversializing.''

Bhaskar Sunkara writes to Eric Beck:

``...you should go back to his 2nd message [Cutrone's] on this list, where he mentions that Platypus is about asking questions rather than taking positions. All these questions are asked with the sobriety to realize that there isn't a revolutionary left anymore...''

Sobriety? Asking questions rather than taking positions? Are those really the only binaries you can come up with? This is really starting to sound like Leo Strauss tactics. That is not a good sign. That is why I am getting neocon vibes off Cutrone.

``...[Cutrone'] attacks on the Left ("so-called Left" if you prefer), particularly the latest on Tariq Ali, are concerned with depicting anti-imperialists and the Left in general as apologists for "Islamist terrorism". This is what all the red herrings are about, esp. the deliberate confusion of matters by inserting not only the Taliban but also Hamas, Hezbollah and the Islamic Republic of Iran on top of it all into this narrative of "conspiracy". This is what the smearing of Tariq Ali is about.'' Richard Seymour

What RS said. Now my question for Cutrone and Platypus. Do you see how you are coming across? Your questions appear purpose driven to divide, obfuscate, entangle, discredit, and generally make left discourse, reading and writing impossible.

So, after reading some more of the thread... Julio Huato asks:

``...Sure, there's ambivalence in every damn thing that happens-- but which side are you guys on?''

That is the 64,000 dollar question. I think the answer is Platypus and Cutrone are on the wrong side. The next question in my mind is which wrong side? I don't know yet.

This crap about the death of the left and reinventing the left is merely annoying so far, and denies what I think is an obvious fact. I've read more Marxism and Marxist inspired work, listened to more articulate Marxists, than I ever did in 1960s, or since then. That means to me, a highly literate, clear minded, and solidarity building potential exists more so today than at any time I've been alive (67 years, thanks for asking). Judging from Ali, some of the Latin American, African, and Indian voices and work I've read, I'd say `we' have something new, international, and very promising going on, despite our dislocation from each other and vastly different contexts, battles, and concerns---and despite our no doubt small comparative numbers.

At this point I have zero interest in reinventing the Left. Or drudging up old histories and slapping them around for rhetorical exercise. We already have a global Left that is reinventing itself at the discursive level at any rate. Let's work with that potential.


More information about the lbo-talk mailing list