Usually I am encouraged to steer clear of sectarianism like a rabid carcass due to just the awfully toxic, personal, and petty nature it usually presents itself these days amongst a pretty small left in the U.S. However, every blue moon, after academic pissing matches or just whenever I come across something to visceral for me to ignore, I decide to tap into the crass intellectual cock slapping fights. Yet, today I am providing an interior bulletin of a group I feel is not sectarian for me to mud sling towards, the Platypus Affiliated Society, for it to be sectarian it would require this group to be in the same tradition as I. I say they are outside the left tradition, although contradicting where they originated from (a group of “Critical Theory” Marxists coming from a Trotskyite background including founder Chris Cutrones past workings with the Sparticist League, along with “synthesizing” this with the Frankfurt School) because, with this bulletin emphasizing it, their key interest is waging war and destroying the left. This problematic stance amongst it’s various views, such as racist ideas on the Palestinian struggle along with disturbing left events with criticizing them heavily , they provide a space as one of the more hated left groups in the U.S. (at least on college campus’ and “intellectual circles”, pretty sure Sparticist League has it covered in other realms) which halters actual material work the left seeks to pursue with assisting the oppressed. Regardless, after coming across this bulletin on Facebook via former Platypode, I feel it is worth sharing for those who still hold to the idea that Platypus is a credible “left” group of intellectually productive conversations. We should encourage the left to kick Platypus down every time it rears its head due to their intent on attempting eradicate the left from inside out. Check it for yourself, it’s an oddly iconoclastic and “so ultra left it might as well be coming from the right” kinda of intellectual postering.
Platypus wages “war” on the Left — Chris Cutrone’s 2010 presidential report
Especially for those new members of the organization, i.e., those who have joined since last year’s 1st annual convention, but also for long-standing members, it is important to lay out (and reiterate) the purpose and structure of our organization.
Platypus is a combat organization. It exists to make war on the existing (“dead,” fake/pseudo-) “Left” and to overcome it. In this we are no different from any political organization, whose goal to exert power over the course of human events. How we do so and why we do so the ways we do, i.e., how we justify our activity to ourselves, is an integral part of how we understand our own project.
First, it is necessary to dispel any illusions about Platypus as an organization. It is not a group of people, but an activity in which people participate. Platypus is a project, and like any project, it is defined by its on-going activity. The transformations of Platypus as a project are to be found in the transformations of its activity. Platypus is only Platypus the degree to which it is doing Platypus activity or Platypus work. Because Platypus exists in a changing (set of) historical circumstance(s), to do what it will and must do it must necessarily change its activities over time, both as a function of changing situation, and the development of itself as a set of activities.
So, we are not defined by the people in the organization, but rather by what these people are doing. When people (especially the most active members) change what they are doing, the project necessarily changes. The issue is how is our project going to control and guide rather than fall victim to such inevitable changes in members’ activity in and around Platypus?
I emphasize that we are a combat organization waging war on the “Left” because it is helpful and instructive to regard Platypus not as an entity or fixed structure but rather a campaign. The issue is not maintaining structure so much as maintaining mission. We are on a mission. Members’ individual activities and personal orientation towards this mission can and should change, but the mission needs to be preserved. This is a matter of organization. We are not a group of people who need to be structured as a community, but an activity that needs to be organized in order to achieve its goals.
What are our goals? The destruction of the existing “Left.” How are we trying to do this? By attacking the “Left” at its weak point, which also happens to comprise its defining point, its historical consciousness.
As I pointed out in my talk on the legacy of the 1970s Left today, existing organizations and tendencies on the “Left” are not distinguished in properly political terms, i.e., they do not separate and oppose people (in their activity) at the level of different goals and differences over how to achieve them, but rather at the level of how they understand their activity in social-historical context, how they differ regarding how they imagine the world, and how they imagine the ways the world has come to be how it is, and thus how and why it might (be) change(d).
We orient our activity around the refounding of what we call a “Marxian” Left, because we think that key aspects of Marx’s own insights (shared by his best followers) into the course of human history, how “capital” is situated in this history, and how it might be changed in an emancipatory direction, have been lost. This means that “Marxism” has in fact become the most virulent species of anti-Marx-ism.
But we don’t think (as, e.g., the Spartacists, or even Moishe Postone, the Marxist-Humanists, et al., do) that this is primarily because of or has taken shape in the ways that people may have come to take different “positions” than Marx and the best Marxists had, which could be easily (naively) chalked up to necessary historical changes and hence innovations, but rather more obscurely, in the ways that self-understandings and the very meanings of categories, and what we may call the “social imagination” and “historical consciousness” have changed, subtly — and regressively — to the detriment of consciousness and agency.
So we wage our war in a very peculiar way, and necessarily quite differently than any of our ostensible predecessors/precursors may have done so. We wage it, not deceptively or stealthily, but rather indirectly. We try to hasten the disintegration and dissolution of the “Left,” by constantly raising the question of the (Marxian) Left (i.e., emancipatory politics within and beyond capital), and thus provoking reactions that inevitably throw off-kilter and degrade our interlocutors into ever more untenable positions, until, finally, we hope, they abandon any self-conscious commitment to the Left. We try to hasten the abandonment of Leftist and Marxist politics in favor of something else. This will leave the field to us alone. That is how we will win.
But we need to carry on this fight in a myriad of various ways and in different fields/on different fronts. For this we need an ever-wider diversification of activities. For this we need new members, and new opportunities for participation from existing members, drawing upon the (changing) interests and resources among our membership.
We also need to carry on this fight in a variety and increasing scope of domains, hence we need geographic diffusion, and thus more members/participants.
These are the “only” reasons why we need to grow as an organization in terms of membership. We need to permeate, in terms of locations and existing conversations, the global “Left” as much as possible, with the radical interrogation of the question of the “Left” for our time — and from the most radical possible, hence from a specifically Marxian perspective on capital.
Our ability to do this is conditioned by the historical moment in which we emerged as a project, i.e., as an organized activity. We need to recruit people not to an intellectual community so much as to a project — a war on the existing “Left,” in which we will build the theoretical and practical resources to refound a Marxist politics.
Because we think that the existing “Left” as an *activity* is “dead,” this means we must intersect it rather than replace it. We don’t want to be doing what they are doing, at all. We want to be doing not something better, but rather something different. What this will look like down the road of our project in terms of actual practical politics we cannot say for certain. But we can say what it will not be: what the existing “Left” does. So we only need experience on/with the existing “Left” to learn negative lessons, of what not to do.
We do, in fact, want existing “activists” to stop doing what they are doing. But how can we achieve this? Not directly, but rather indirectly. (And perhaps, therefore, not to “stop” them so much as transform their activity.) We want to affect people at various levels of remove. Some activists we want to stop being activists and join our project directly as members of our organization. Other we merely want to affect, however slightly, in their existing activity. This is less a matter of principle regarding species of activism (i.e., we don’t want to stop ant-war protesters, but only modify the activities of labor organizers), and is really more case-by-case, with individuals. We don’t need everyone to join Platypus, but we need as many as possible to pay attention to our project.