Louis Proyect is again “provoked by the platypus”; again fails to say anything meaningful in response

Louis Proyect (of the blog The Unrepentant Marxist) is upset over the publication of a translation of the Antideutsch article “Communism and Israel” in the Platypus Review.  This isn’t the first time Proyect has devoted a blog entry to discussing Platypus only to turn out to have nothing to say.  Back in April, he made a weak attempt to peg Platypus’ critical stance toward the existing Left as an American version of Eustonism.  A few months later, upon some reflection, he came to the profound conclusion that the Platypus group was nothing more than a bunch of eschatological leftists awaiting the final dispensation.  With characteristic banality, Proyect then ended his piece by dismissively conceding that “[i]f you think of the left in biological terms, the Platypus is something necessary for the healthy functioning of the body.”

Two days ago, he found himself again “provoked by the Platypus” — this time by the translated article mentioned above.  Proyect, though aware of the fact that the Platypus Review publishes views that do not necessarily match the views of its members, nevertheless assumed that Platypus tacitly agreed with the ISF position laid out in “Communism and Israel.”  According to him, Platypus simply lacked the “courage” to come out and say so.  Even then, instead of discussing the more substantive points raised by the article, Proyect chose to seize upon a rather ugly (and apparently Islamophobic) book cover published by the ISF’s press so that he could avoid taking on the organization’s position altogether.  He wrote off the ISF as a group of “fanatical anti-Muslim [sic] racists,” therefore unworthy of a critique.  I was unaware that the Muslims were now a “race,” but oh well.

Now there are certainly problems and limitations to the Antideutsch movement’s seemingly exclusive focus on anti-fascist politics and Marxist critiques of anti-Semitic undercurrents prevailing on the Left.  But to refuse to engage it at all, as if it had nothing to offer, is indicative of Proyect’s reluctance to face any challenge to the conventional wisdom of anti-Zionist, anti-imperialist leftism.  Proyect remains blind to the problematic tendency of leftists today to reduce all questions of Marxist anti-capitalist politics to the issue of opposition against U.S. imperialism and Israeli Zionism.

Though Proyect’s blog occasionally offers some insights and interesting perspective, it’s fairly clear to anyone who reads it that he’s unwilling to depart from the same shallow, predictable outlook that’s become so common on today’s Left.  But when he’s not just making vague appeals to common sense in order to justify his own dreary position, he claims the real reason he’d rather not seriously engage Platypus is that they’re “schmucks.”

Most normal people, like the subscribers to Doug Henwood’s mailing list, view Platypus and Chris Cutrone in particular as a bunch of schmucks.  Who wants to waste time debating schmucks?

For someone who talks a lot about Platypus’ supposed lack of “courage,” it seems that Proyect himself doesn’t have the chutzpah to try and actually respond to their criticisms.  Perhaps this is the better part of valor, though, since he would probably just wind up embarrassing himself anyway.

64 thoughts on “Louis Proyect is again “provoked by the platypus”; again fails to say anything meaningful in response

  1. Ross,

    Do you actually think the problem is that Platypus is publishing anti-Germans? You’re ignoring the real issue. There are plently of Anti-Germans who aren’t racists.

    The scandal is that ISF publishes vile racist filth by the likes of Thomas Maul with Stürmeresque cartoons on the cover.

    Seriously, if you don’t read German, than you don’t have the necessary discursive background to understand why publishing the likes of the ISF is inexcusable.

    • Perhaps it was a poor choice among the various representatives of the anti-German Left, but Proyect seems to have a problem with the movement as a whole (or at least as much of it as he understands from reading the wiki article, haha). As he writes:

      It is really not worth my time to offer a judgment on the article other than to say it is a disgusting bucket of shit that is typical of the “anti-German” left. For people curious about this pro-Israel current in Germany, the wiki is a good place to start

    • I think the actual problem is the perpetual slander. There is nothing racist or Islamophobic about that text. Arguably, there is nothing racist about that cartoon, given that it is supposed to be a depiction of a certain form of subjectivity not some kind of sociology in pictures of “Muslim societies.” Whatever that might mean…

      But more importantly, with your throwing around of Stürmer-accusations you are reducing anti-fascism to a pathetic joke. Perhaps you could (if you goal is to distract from the actual article) explain what the content of such a comparison would be.

      Seriously, if you proceed to claim that nobody who doesn’t read German can’t understand why the ISF should not be published, why don’t you enlighten people as to the racism in the ISF’s own writing instead of throwing around an out-of-context book cover and some random one-liners?

      Again, what the so-called “critiques” of the ISF publication have achieved so far amounts to slander. Nothing more.

      P.S.: The author of this comment reads German.

  2. I like Louis’s writing often. When he’s wrong he’s wrong.

    He hates the IMT’s Nicaragua position. The other thing is we had on Marxist.com a dialog about climate change. He mixed up an opposition essay for ours. He was invited to write a rebuttal on Marxist.com.

    I like Louis’s writing, more than not. His blog is quite good overall.

    • Yeah, he’s got some decent stuff on there. His movie reviews are usually pretty good. He’s got some great criticisms of the Democratic party and the Obama administration in particular. But you can get that from almost any leftist who knows what he’s talking about.

      I think what bothers me about Proyect is the predictable New Left-ish character of many of his positions and his constant recourse to common sense arguments whenever anybody challenges them. Half the time I see the topic that he’s blogging about and I know already what his take is going to be. That and his apologetics for Fidel & co., not to mention when he actually quotes Castro as a serious Marxist theorist, haha.

  3. He might have a problem with the movement as a whole, but that’s because 99.99% of leftists outside of Germany have no idea what the content is of the myriad (yes, myriad) political tendencies subsumed under the label “Anti-German”.

    I mean, we’re talking about a term that encompassed everything from the post-structuralist 17 Grad Celsius, the traditional communist Konkret, and the Adorno fanboys at Bahamas. The term “Anti-German” as a general term says about as much as the terms “Maoist” or “Trotskyist.”

    Either way, it’s a movement that is long past its zenith. Hardly anyone self-applies the label anymore. There are a few groups out in the provinces, but in Berlin one finds at most post-anti-Germans, like the group T.O.P.

  4. The “passe” status of the anti-germans within Germany, the cartoon on the cover of a book specifically about jihadism and the endless accusations of anti-german racism, all avoid the article in question.

    Proyect, et al, don’t want to engage with the article because then they would have to deal with actually articulating the way they engage in ideology critique, openly and without any mystifications. That an article like this receives such a pathological response comes specifically from the fact that it champions a critical understanding of the antisemitic world view as the most powerful tool for ferreting out the rightist import into “left” politics. The articulations of this type of critical understanding of antisemitism are easily accessible public information, one could start with some of Adorno’s works, for example. As a defense mechanism this type of article requires burying or at least the maintenance of a certain pseudo-critical distance because it places the challenge on the reader to fully explicate and identify how they sort out rightist thought within the “left.”

    Do leftists just feel it out, with their gut?

    Of course, the pathology is probably deeper than that. Admitting to oneself that spending 10 years hurling Trotskyist rags was a complete waste of time is a difficult thing to do.

    Some of us, however, wish to die free of, at least, the most extreme forms of self-delusion.

    The process of removing those delusions begins by engaging thoughtfully with articles like Communism and Israel.

  5. Haha, I love the fact that a North American sect comprised of people who can’t read German really think this piece of shit text deserves thoughtful engagement.

    I can think of ten texts right off the top of my head from the various Anti-German traditions of the last 20 years that much more thoughtful and engaging. One of them I’ve already translated, and it’s available here:


    Others are text that the joyless compulsive masturbators at Platypus would never publish, since they fall out of the purview of Adornian orthdoxy. You Johnny-come-latelys are totally ignorant of the tendency of Anti-Germans informed by Althusser/Foucault and post-structuralist thought, a tendency whose existence has been occluded because American doofuses are only familiar with such intellectual “luminaries” as Bruhn, Grigat, and Scheit.

    Go hunt down a copy of the collective volume “Die freundliche Zivilgesellschaft” and check out the essays by Jost Müller. That’s when Anti-German truly mattered.

    Or, if you insist about Frankfurt orthodoxy, there’s Ulrich Enderwitz’s “Was ist Ideologie?”, good enough to get published in Bahamas back in the day, and Enderwitz had the courage of conviction to make a clean break with the racist fucktards at ISF and Bahamas after September 11th.

    • Thanks for the link. Also, I don’t think that Platypus would be averse to publishing non-Adornian texts from the anti-German movement. They aren’t really looking to endorse all of the views that they publish, from what I know. Often, they’re looking to include texts that they feel are “symptomatic” of the weak state of the Left today.

      I mean, they published a piece by Uli vom Hagan defending the German Left tradition of National Bolshevism, and a response by Jerzy Sobotta reaffirming his criticism of National Bolshevism. As far as I can tell, Platypus doesn’t necessarily favor one position over the other. The Platypus Review is more interested in providing an a medium for debate for topics on the Left.

      Again, you may be perfectly right that there are better representatives among the various tendencies that are commonly labeled as Antideutsch. I’d have to defer to you, because I don’t read German. I’m pretty sure that there are a few members of Platypus who do, though. I don’t know why that particular piece was selected; I didn’t really think the article was very good myself.

      Still, I wasn’t completely repelled by it and felt Proyect’s posting of that cartoon was an attempt to dismiss the piece out of hand. From his posts, it seems that he knows even less about the nuances of the anti-German movement than the people in Platypus.

      • I wonder why Negative Potential invests so much energy in distracting from a substantial discussion of the article and yet refuses to offer us any of the insights that would make us understand.

        First, the ISF is simply denounced as racist, although it hasn’t even be specified what the content of that accusation is. Now, he hides behind some kind of esoteric insider-knowledge and the fact that people don’t speak German. But this only serves some kind of supposed privileged position in a non-substantial debate. “I speak German so I am right.”

        Well, someone must be speaking German, because the article was selected and translated.

        Finally, while the post-structuralist post-anti-Germans and the Althusserian New Marx Reading people are interesting, they have nothing to offer in terms of the critique exhibited in “Communism and Israel.” They are quite explicitly rejecting critical theory and replace it with some obscure critical science.

  6. “First, the ISF is simply denounced as racist, although it hasn’t even be specified what the content of that accusation is.”

    Uh, in that case, you suffer from a severe reading disability. See the first post on Proyect’s blog.

    • There is a one-liner out of context from an edited volume. Then there is a book cover from a publisher that is affiliated but not identical with the ISF.

  7. P.S. one more reason “Aint Funny” is a twit: calling figures in the Neue Marx-Lektüre “Althusserian”.

    Elbe credits Althusser as an inspiration of sorts for the “reading capital” movement of the 60s and 70s, and Heinrich agrees with Althusser on some points concerning the “anthropological” young Marx, but otherwise NML isn’t Althusserian at all. Backhaus and Reichelt were Adorno students.

    There’s nothing wrong with not knowing much about the tendency, but then you shouldn’t agressively parade your ignorance.

    • I agree on Reichelt and Backhaus. However, as for Heinrich, there is more than agreement on “some points.” Heinrich’s critical appropriation of Althusser’s notion of Marx’s mature critique as scientific revolution is just that. A critical appropriation.

      Elbe’s so-called anti-mysticism is not only at odds with the ISF and the likes but also with a Postone’s or Adorno’s readings of Marx.

      I’m sorry if it came across as if I didn’t think they were interesting as such. But they are not really pertinent to the matters discussed in the ISF article.

    • That is besides the point. Ça-Ira is not the ISF. You can be upset with their editorial policy and yet say nothing about the ISF or their work. And that is exactly what you have been doing all along.

      The only substantive criticism you have provided over at contested terrain is evidence for a gross misreading (and cherry-picking) of the text. As if the claim was really that Israel is a class-less society.

      I suspect you know better. But for some reason you are trying to stifle engagement with the ISF altogether, instead of using the opportunity to offer a useful critique.

  8. Why not write a “serious response” to an article alleging the genetic inferiority of Africans?

    Honestly, are you really a stranger to the notion that some “ideas” are beneath contempt and not worthy of engagement?

    Things like Postone’s critique of the reactionary anti-imperialism of the contemporary left, or Werner Bonefeld’s text on anti-Semitism, or Andrei Markovits analysis of European Anti-Americanism are all serious and thoughtful and any critical left worth its name would be forced to deal with the issues raised.

    But Joachim fuckin’ Bruhn? Dude, it’s not even a caricature of his argument to summarize it as “Marx critiqued the fetishistic mediation of social life through the commodity form, and therefore, solidarity with Israel!” In other words, it’s a giant theoretical non sequitur, the intellectual equivalent of zapping through different television channels in rapid succession.

    Add to that some creepy inverse Anti-Semitism about how Israel is so much more special and different than other states and thus escapes a class analysis, and voila, you have an ISF programmatic statement!

    I love this idea that even the shittiest of ideas demands engagement and counter-argument, rather than ridicule. And the irony is, even Joachim Bruhn would agree with me on that! After all, he’s the guy who openly declares his hostility to theory and his preference for “denunciation” and “polemic”.

    • Well, yeah. Except for the part where the article doesn’t allege the genetic inferiority of Africans. Or anybody else for that matter. You haven’t pointed to a single line in this piece that would be racist.

      It’s hard to imagine somebody who claims to understand the political landscape of the anti-Germans so well and yet cannot come to terms with the negativity of this text. Surely it is not a carricature of the argument to say that Israel is a class-less society. But that is not because you have in any way grasped the argument. It is because it ain’t funny.

  9. I’m sorry, but if you can take statements like the following seriously, then I’m never going to convince you how stupid this text is anyway:

    “however, the common patterns of bourgeois role allocations—the monopoly on violence held by the bourgeois state and carried out by the people tasked with its governance—do not apply to the state of Israel”

  10. The point is not to convince anyone that the ISF article is bad (we in Platypus were fully aware that the article was problematic, to say the least), but to engage the critique of the German “Left’s” “Palestinian solidarity” that they are attempting, in however problematic ways. The point is what leads “Leftists” to take such a stance, as they do on the basis of Marx and Adorno. If you think it’s racism that’s motivating them, rather than an ideology, then you’re ignoring the obvious — also, that the positions of more mainstream “Leftists” such as Die Linke and Tariq Ali et al. are ultimately no less ideological — delusional.

    But I suppose what you’re saying is that you don’t have a critique of the argument of the ISF article at all, only an ad hominem dismissal of the ISF. Still, if you had something substantial to say on the occasion of the ISF article, we’d be happy to publish it, because the ISF article was meant to open debate (about the Anti-Deutsch “Left” in Germany, as a symptom of recent history).

  11. “but to engage the critique of the German “Left’s” “Palestinian solidarity” that they are attempting, in however problematic ways.”

    But they aren’t doing that. Look on a calendar: the year is 2010. “Hardcore” Anti-Germans like ISF and Bahamas have nothing to do with “the left” anymore. By their own admission they are no longer interested in showing leftist the purported errors of their ways. Bahamas have become for all intents and purposes realpolitik conducting neo-conservatives, who even reject the label “Anti-German” and “Communist”, while ISF has drifted into apolitical nirvana.

    I know you have this self-conception of Platypus as being a sort of provocative presence in the American left, but believe me when I say that ISF and Bahamas do not play that role here, and haven’t for almost ten years, and by their own admission are no longer interested in doing so.

    When I say you’re Johnny-Come-Latelys, I’m not doing it to show what a cool person I am (though of course I’m that as well), but rather to point out that the discussion you think is going on in Germany doesn’t exist anymore. It’s over. Finished. Stick a fork in it. The ISF, back when it was part of the left, first started trying to engage the rest of the left about Israel back in 1988, one year before the fall of the fall, during the so-called “Freiburg Anti-Semitism Dispute”. The last time the Bahamas/ISF had any presence in the left, even if only as an antagonistic presence, was in the span of time between Sept. 11 2001 and the third Gulf War. The debate around anti-Semitism, war, etc. managed to split a lot of Antifa groups at the time. Since then? Nothing. The “Anti-German” position in its hardcore variant went where it logically had to: neo-conservatism. The “softcores” have returned to a sort of big tent anti-nationalism.

    “But I suppose what you’re saying is that you don’t have a critique of the argument of the ISF article at all”

    Cutrone, if you can’t see how obviously retarded statements like “the monopoly on violence held by the bourgeois state does not apply to Israel” are, then you are beyond help. That isn’t critique worthy, that’s crazy stupid.

  12. The text that was translated is evidently from what you call the ISF’s last political phase. As for the contemporary ISF, either they are racists, or they are in an apolitical nirvana. Make your pick.

  13. Right, because being racists *and* being in political nirvana are mutually exclusive.

    Then again, coming from a tendency that thinks the commodity is a really existing contradiction, your grasp of logic is not surprising.

  14. neg. pot.,

    We in Platypus were fully aware of the dated character of the ISF article we translated and published. Have you ever heard of Benjamin and Adorno’s idea that something releases its truth content only in the process of its disintegration?

    Well, the truth content of the Anti-Deutsch was not racism/neoconservatism but something else — the contradiction of 1960s-70s New Leftism.

    The Anti-Deutsch didn’t just spring on the scene out of Zeus’s forehead but are themselves a product of the disintegration of the New Left (in Germany, but conditioned by problems on the “Left” internationally). The Anti-Deutsch were themselves not a new but a late phenomenon.

    The point is that the truth of the problems of the New Left were only realizable in certain respects belatedly. The fact that the Anti-Deutsch have become less interesting does not mean that they are of no interest as a historical phenomenon.

    Also, the degree to which younger people were influenced by the Anti-Deutsch, their original points of departure have retreated into the background and become a kind of common sense or doxa even if they have lost their critical edge and become denatured and degenerate in their further development.

    So, there was a point to resurrecting recent history, as we did in publishing the ISF article from 2002. But I suppose you can’t understand stand, transfixed as you are in the immediacy of the present, in which history just becomes “old news.”

  15. No, it’s a question of intellectual honesty.

    Yet one more reason I have a hard time taking Platypus declarations at face value:

    if it were truly about the historical significance of the tendency, you would’ve published the article with some sort of introduction or commentary. And I don’t even necessarily mean a distancing or thorough critique, but something to situate the article in its context.

    Publishing “just so” looks like advocacy, whatever your intentions.

    As I stated during the discussion over at Contested Terrain, so much of the discussion makes absolutely no sense to outsiders when divorced from the original discursive context. I’m not trying to be a show off when I say that I can’t possibly imagine what use anyone has from a programmatic statement like that without being told about Wolfgang Pohrt’s highly influential critique of the 1980s anti-nuclear movement, Eike Geisel’s polemics against “reconciliation kitsch”, the “Nie wieder Deutschland” campaign of the network “Radikale Linke”, the Freiburg anti-semitism conflict, etc. etc.

    I’m willing to bet whoever translated the article for you is somebody who already agrees with the ISF to a substantial extent. Otherwise, there are three rather good historical texts on the movement the person could have translated.

  16. To wit:

    Jörg Später, “Kein Frieden um Israel, Zur Rezeptionsgeschichte des Nahostkonflikts durch die deutsche Linke”, available in this book: http://www.assoziation-a.de/gesamt/radikal_global.htm

    Or Patrick Hagen’s master’s thesis, available here: http://www.assoziation-a.de/gesamt/radikal_global.htm

    Or Bernhard Schmid (one of the founding members of the Gruppe K that issued Bahamas, now a member of the NPA in France): “Urlaub von den bahamas. Vom Produkt der Linken zur antitotalitären Sekte”, available in this book: http://www.unrast-verlag.de/unrast,2,187,5.html

    The fact that your translator saw fit to translate none of these informative historical texts suggests that it was somebody who really wanted to get a de-contextualized programmatic statement out.

    So much for “resurrecting recent history”.

  17. Yes, the translator is sympathetic to the ISF article — and not a Platypus member. He was afraid we were publishing the article as a set up, to make the Anti-Deutsch look ridiculous. But the article was recommended for translation and publication by yet another person who has since become a Platypus member and come to be even more critical of the article’s positions. So, the point is, that these young Germans in and around Platypus are very much influenced by this stuff, and so it needs to be engaged.

    We decided against publishing a qualifying statement because we didn’t want to seem in bad faith in publishing the article.

    Our other articles on the German “Left,” such as “Rosa Luxemburg’s Corpse” and “Why is it that nobody understands me yet everybody likes me?,” and the exchange of articles on German nationalism and Marxism, “Rosa Luxemburg’s Legacy [reply to ‘Rosa Luxemburg’s Corpse’]” and “On Nationalism: An Anti-Fascist Intervention,” show that our perspective on the lineages of the current German “Left” are not so limited — or blinkered. We already have a response to the ISF article in the works written by a former ISF member who has since become critical. But if you, neg. pot., want to provide an interpretation of the history of the Anti-Deutsch critical of the ISF/Bahamas, and upholding the interest in other, what you consider to be more worthwhile tendencies, we are inviting you to do so. Otherwise, it’s your pot-shots that are in fact “intellectually dishonest,” or at least not serving any educational function.

  18. You all are “communists.” While I am an actual communist.

    Reason: While you dither about softly portraying the correct position to an anglophone audience unversed in the history of Anti-German thought, I’ve made the mythical Bahamas a reality. You want to visit? Head to Kurdistan. As for the rest of you, the real reason you don’t understand communism is because your “communism” is just about recruitment. More members. More readers. More fans. Sounds more like a church to me.

    Every serious neo-conservative knows that churches only house two things: Delusions and Pathologies. Just like every “communist” party to ever exist. The cat is out of the bag, so to speak. Minima Moralia morons, look it up.


    Donald Rumsfeld
    Fmr. Secretary of Defense of the United States of America


    “I’m not into this detail stuff. I’m more concepty.”

  19. “So, the point is, that these young Germans in and around Platypus are very much influenced by this stuff, and so it needs to be engaged.”

    Let me make sure I understand you: because two people around Platypus are into this stuff, it deserves engagement?

    I mean, the left is a tiny micro-fraction of the population of the world as a whole, and the German-language left is an even tinier fraction of the global left, and the anti-national left in Germany is an even tinier fraction of that, and the anti-Germans were an even tinier fraction of that, and the “Wertkritik” fraction around Bahamas and ISF (the former is basically just an editorial board, the latter a couple of guys in Freiburg) is an even tinier fraction of that…

    …so in other words, we’re talking about — not even a micro-sect, but more like just a couple of cranks. But because two Germans around Platypus are into this, it deserves a response? Why?

    Now I’m genuinely curious about your motivation. Given that the debate around this stuff in Germany has been definitively settled by history itself (in this case, the wars in Lebanon and Gaza, the course of the U.S. war in Iraq), and nobody in Germany is conducting the discussion, not out of reluctance, but because the debate is *concluded*, what possible interest could a U.S. audience have in this stuff, where the discursive context is entirely different, and the whole ensemble of historical referents is missing that is required for anyone to make any sense of the discussion?

    It seems to me you are giving two entirely different reasons for publishing this. On the one hand you say it’s a historical significant aspect of recent German left history. With that I would somewhat agree, but then I stand by my original contention that if your motivation is genuinely to satisfy some historical curiosity, your audience would have been better served by some deep history (and those articles you named are frankly crap. Far too recent and far too superficial to really be of use to anyone actually trying to *understand* the reality of the contemporary left in Germany).

    But then you backtrack and say the real reason you publish it is because it is worthy of “engagement”. But given that nobody in the U.S. really knows anything about the Anti-Germans, except as a bizarre curiosity, you are simply reinforcing the element of freakshow novelty by publishing a de-contextualized programmatic statement. And you certainly aren’t contributing to any engagement within the German left itself, because as I said, the debate is really finished, with both sides concluding not even in mutual antagonism, but basically inhabiting completely separate political worlds. ISF and Bahamas aren’t even interested in scandalizing and provoking “the left” any more, they inhabit their own political microcosmos. The left, in turn, has long finished engaging the anti-Germans.

    So again, who or what is being engaged? To what end?

    • Sorry, but the debate is not concluded. Your vicious response shows that quite clearly. More importantly, however, your response strikes me as profoundly dishonest. On the one hand you seem to be attributing some sort of merit to the anti-German debate, on the other you exhibit vicious resistance to the publication of a piece for the sake of exhibition.

      If you do think the debate had merit, wouldn’t the reasonable thing be to engage the positions when they are encountered outside the German context? Certainly you are not arguing that the problems of certain rightist tendencies to permeate the left under the umbrella of anti-imperialism is a purely German problem. So what’s with that cultural relativism?

      But it seems to me that you are ultimately simply hostile to the debate as such. If the debate was concluded in Germany, why not talk about what has been learned from it, instead of just denouncing the “hard-core” anti-Germans, whose role in this debate is indisputable?

      Certainly the claim that some superficial ex-Trotzkyite Hitchens has the same political value as a bunch of Hegelian Marxists is taking it a little bit far. Unless the hostility is to Hegelian Marxism as such, then just say so. This, of course, is not in line with people like Heinrich, Backhaus, Elbe, who all (critically) engage that tradition.

      The statement that the ISF is not interested in the left (if understood as an emancipatory political force) is surely ideological. If only because it posits some kind of real existing Left in the first place.

      And please, stop with that a priori cultural relativism. I agree with your assessment that the white-skin privilege is not easily transposable onto the German or even European contexts. However, that assessment comes after the fact. Surely, many of the problems with post-1960s anti-imperialism sans emancipatory ambitions are a problem that goes beyond the German context and have been addressed as such.

      Looking at how other Leftist currents have grappled with that problem is certainly not a futile undertaking.

  20. “Sorry, but the debate is not concluded.”

    Sorry, but it is. Maybe in a few backwater towns like Leipzig a handful of Anti-Germans are able to muster enough influence to publish their declarations at the back of concert announcement newsletter for a youth club in Connewitz that nobody reads anyway, but otherwise the debate is finished at a national level. That’s not to say that Anti-Germans don’t exist, but they’re a marginal sect.

    “On the one hand you seem to be attributing some sort of merit to the anti-German debate”

    As it existed 20 years ago, maybe, and only in the broadest sense, i.e. when it included groups and individuals outside of the narrow orbit of ISF and Bahamas. In other words, people who don’t call themselves Anti-Germans anymore, because the term has been so degraded by Anti-Muslim racists.

    “Certainly you are not arguing that the problems of certain rightist tendencies to permeate the left under the umbrella of anti-imperialism”

    And the solution is to support the permeation of the left by rightist tendencies under the umbrella of racism against Muslims?

    “Certainly the claim that some superficial ex-Trotzkyite Hitchens has the same political value as a bunch of Hegelian Marxists is taking it a little bit far.”

    Which Hegelian Marxists? You mean people like Bruhn, Scheit, and Uli Krug? In that case, yes, I do think they are just as valuable as Hitchens, which is to say they are absolutely worthless.

    It’s shameful of you to throw them in the same pot with serious Marx scholars.

    “If only because it posits some kind of real existing Left in the first place.”

    Yeah, yeah, I know the Platypus cranks have some Platonic ideal of a “left” that is purported not to exist.

    But down here on Planet Earth, the “left” usually means the loose assemblage of reformists, trade unionists, Marxist sects, “new social movements”, globalization critics, anti-fascists, third world solidarity groups, etc. engaged in political activity.

    Generally, the notion that “the Left” = Spartacist League + Bastardized Frankfurt School Ideology is a formula only posited by Platypus.

    “And please, stop with that a priori cultural relativism.”

    It’s not a priori cultural relativism, you dimwit. I’m saying you can’t tear out programmatic statements from a broader discursive context and expect it to make sense to people without some explanation. It’s like publishing internal debate documents of the Russian Social Democracy for people who haven’t read a history of the Russian Revolution.

    • Negative Potential, I was glad to see this on the Marxmail blog:

      After the Platypus people offered me the opportunity to respond to that god-awful ISF piece they published, I threw down the gauntlet and told them they should run my translation of Bernhard Schmid’s history of the Anti-German movement (which appeared in a volume edited by the above-mentioned Hanloser). Schmid is a former member of the Gruppe K that founded the magazine “Bahamas” (today a wreteched anti-Muslim racist Neo-Con rag), but broke with them in the mid-1990s, later become a member of the French LCR, and is now in the NPA. He has written the definitive insider history of the movement. Publishing it would give the Platypussies an opportunity to prove that they did not publish the ISF text out of agreement.

      I personally think that this would be an excellent piece to include in one of the upcoming issues of the Platypus Review. If it’s an insider history, as you describe, it would offer some much-needed background to the whole anti-German discourse. This is something that I (as well as other readers of PR who don’t read German) would find really helpful.

      And if it’s a scathing criticism of the anti-Islamicism he claims is exhibited by anti-German groups like the ISF and Bahamas, all the better. It would provide a good counterweight to those who might have mistakenly felt that the ISF piece was representative of the whole movement.

      I’m only speaking for myself, as a former member of Platypus who is still generally sympathetic to their project, but I really didn’t much care for the article “Communism and Israel.” Also, I doubt that many (if any) of the other members of Platypus actually agree with the views it expresses. Part of what the Platypus Review looks to do — which I don’t think it explains well enough — is to look for texts which they feel offer interesting perspective, but which are ultimately problematic.

      Anyway, I for one would definitely like to see your translation of Schmid’s history of the anti-German movement appear in the PR.

  21. I think Negative Potential has a strong argument that the anti-german debates can not be understood without a historical contextualization. With the publication of this ISF text, as a representative for the anti-german (and anti-national) debates, Platypus is probably contributing to this dynamic already existent in the anglophone left, of simply ridiculing a debate that raised critical issues, only — and in the case of this ISF text, it is very clear (to those who are familiar with the debate beyond the caricatures) — to bury it in terrible nonsense.
    I hope you, Angelus Novus, do translate the text from Bernhard Schmid. I just got around to reading some of it and found it very thoughtful. He does a great job at explaining what was both valuable about the anti-national positions of the period immediately following the collapse of the GDR, what is still relevant today, and also what was flat and ideological. (I am thinking specifically of the section “Mein Blick Zurück”, pp. 28-33).
    I think Schmid contributes something towards an intelligent left critique of nationalism. His essay (from what I´ve read so far!) offers something that is uncommon, a non-polemical critique — that is not a knee-jerk reaction from anti-imperialists (such as Three Way Fight´s text here: http://sojournertruth.blogsome.com/2007/03/13/the-three-way-fight) — nor a polemic from “moderate anti-nationalists” that offer little substance other than saying “hey! Saddam Hussein is not Hitler”, but rather Schmid grounds his arguments well, and pushes beyond the easy answers of those who went in a neoconservative direction.

    Additonally, I would say that if people are interested in developing a left critique of nationalism, anti-imperialism and anti-zionism, then why not start with Postone´s essay, “History and Helplessness: Mass Mobilization and Contemporary Forms of Anticapitalism” (http://contested-terrain.net/postone-massmoblization/), and try to push his analysis forward, contextualize it for the US, UK or other contexts?
    I don´t see those two options (contextualized texts of the anti-german debates, and Postone´s critique of “fetischized anticapitalism,” as he calls it) as mutually exclusive. Why not do both?
    If Platypus can ring some cash out of the University to fund Angelus Novus to translate Schmid´s text, that would be a great start!

  22. Ross Wolfe, you defend the ISF piece by saying it is impossible to be racist against Muslims because they’re not actually a race. What is a real race? Can you list the true races of the world, against which it is possible to be racist?

    On Proyect’s blog, the Platypus fellows defended publishing the ISF article (with no introduction or explanation) by comparing it to Verso’s anthology of heavily annotated communiques from Osama bin Laden. With self-defenses like these, who needs critiques?

    By the way, is the article’s translator the same Tony Smith who wrote “Dialectical Social Theory and its Critics”? I like that book.

    • I wasn’t really defending the piece on the grounds that Muslims aren’t a race. Even though the cartoon on the cover of that book is only connected to the article “Communism and Israel” indirectly (it was published by the same people, but had different authors), I think most would agree that it is offensive and clearly Islamophobic. Sure, it might be dealing specifically with Islamic jihadists, but some of the things it depicts so offensively belong to Islamic societies more generally. It’s rather crude.

      Still, I was just pointing out that it was strange that Muslims were considered a “race,” as would seem to be implied by the phrase “anti-Muslim racists.” Race as a modern concept originated several centuries ago, and though nearly all of the claims about universal “racial characteristics” or inherent racial behavioral patterns have no basis in genetic reality and have been thoroughly discredited, the concept has lingered on. Most even self-identify as belonging to one race or another. The difference is, though, despite race being for the most part an ideological construct, according to its concept it’s something you’re born with, which cannot be renounced. Islam is a religion, not a race, and someone may become a Muslim through conversion or cease to be a Muslim through renunciation.

      The major ethnic groups for which Islam is the predominant religion are of course the Arabs, Persians, and Turks. Discrimination on the basis of one’s belonging to one of these ethnicities would more properly be termed “racism.” Though I’d say that all religion is ultimately irrational, Islamophobia is an abhorrent phenomenon.

  23. Ross,

    We’ll see if they actually concede to publish it. I sent the offer two days ago and haven’t heard from them since. Perhaps their bluff has been called?

    I can imagine that as Spartacists with members who harbor ISF sympathies, Platypus has a double investment in not publishing a critique of the Anti-Germans by an LCR member.

  24. @ schalom libertad,

    Thanks for the STO TWF reference: a good article, which parallels the Platypus approach to the antinomy of anti-fascist and anti-imperialist disintegration on the “Left” in many respects, especially the focus on the problems of the legacy of Stalinism in the 1930s.

    @ neg. pot.,

    We in Platypus would be very interested in publishing the Schmid article you mention; there is no “bluff” on our part to call, we’re sincere in publishing an open-submission journal, and of course would publish an LCR member (we’ve previously published an article by Michael Loewy on Benjamin).

    The only matter might be the length of the Schmid article; as a broadsheet publication we have limited space and so our very longest articles can only be about 4,000 words, which is already a huge commitment (almost half of a single issue of our paper). That’s one reason why we don’t publish historiography but prefer shorter political statements; the PR is not a history journal, which doesn’t mean we don’t address history, but we do so in a pithy and straightforwardly political manner, as bearing on the ideological issues of the present.

    Please refer to the Platypus Review editorial statement of purpose and submission guidelines, which we print prominently on the back cover of every issue of the Platypus Review (and also on our web site):

    “Statement of purpose:

    “Taking stock of the universe of positions and goals that constitutes leftist politics today, we are left with the disquieting suspicion that a deep commonality underlies the apparent variety: What exists today is built upon the desiccated remains of what was once possible.

    “In order to make sense of the present, we find it necessary to disentangle the vast accumulation of positions on the Left and to evaluate their saliency for the possible reconstitution of emancipatory politics in the present. Doing this implies a reconsideration of what is meant by the Left.

    “Our task begins from what we see as the general disenchantment with the present state of progressive politics. We feel that this disenchantment cannot be cast off by sheer will, by simply “carrying on the fight,” but must be addressed and itself made an object of critique. Thus we begin with what immediately confronts us.

    “The Platypus Review is motivated by its sense that the Left is disoriented. We seek to be a forum among a variety of tendencies and approaches on the Left—not out of a concern with inclusion for its own sake, but rather to provoke disagreement and to open shared goals as sites of contestation. In this way, the recriminations and accusations arising from political disputes of the past may be harnessed to the project of clarifying the object of leftist critique.

    “The Platypus Review hopes to create and sustain a space for interrogating and clarifying positions and orientations currently represented on the Left, a space in which questions may be raised and discussions pursued that would not otherwise take place. As long as submissions exhibit a genuine commitment to this project, all kinds of content will be considered for publication.

    “Submission guidelines:

    “Articles in the Platypus Review will typically range in length from 750–2,500 words, but longer pieces will also be considered. Please send article submissions and inquiries about the project to: review_editor@platypus1917.org. All submissions should conform to the Chicago Manual of Style.”


    • c. c.,
      Funny that you found the 3WF text similar to the platypus view. that’s not a good sign. the 3WF’s own anti-imperialism leads them into “critical defense of Hezbollah”. Does platypus also support them? And 3WF’s kind of anti-fascism enables them to justify their support for Hezbollah on the grounds that the latter is not fascist in the traditional meaning of the term (As 3WF’s Matthew Lyons writes, Hezbollah “is not continuing Hitler’s work and does not exist in order to kill Jews.”) This seems to be a terrible combination of dogmatic anti-imperialism (supporting those “fighters [who are] tying down U.S. imperialism and its allies in several countries,”) and a reductionistic anti-fascism whose only right-wing enemy are neo-Nazis.
      The 3WF tried to break out of the polarized worldview only to move from a bi-polar one to a tri-polar one. It is an example maybe, of a right step in the wrong direction.

      • I doubt that anyone in Platypus would be willing to defend Hezbollah, even “critically.” Chris has written in before that he (rightly) considers Hezbollah to be a proxy of Iran, a regime against which he’s been extremely critical. They are agents of Shi’ite fundamentalism, a disgusting and reactionary ideology.

      • Hezbollah is not of the Left but the Right. Rami El-Amine of the ex-Trotskyist journal Left Turn wrote against the STO-TWF perspective in defense of Islamism, saying “Islamism is not fascism” ( http://www.leftturn.org/?q=node/845 ). I disagree with the general thrust of apologetics (in this case, for Islamist politics) by Rami El-Amine et al. (and evidently by the STO-TWF themselves). The point is that a critique of the *Left* is more productive because of the claims to an emancipatory perspective the Right lacks. Not least in engaging in apologia, the “Left” becomes in fact the Right.

    • Chris, maybe the Platypus Review could publish an abbreviated version in the print edition, and publish the full translation on the website? I’ve suggested this to Spencer before, but he seemed hesitant. I agree with him that publishing the full transcripts of panel discussions isn’t necessary, because of the long and off-topic digressions they sometimes slide into, but with an article like this I think it might be appropriate.

      • Ross, it’s not up to me (I’m not part of the Platypus Review editorial board), but in general we in Platypus have thought that publishing different versions in print and on-line is confusing. Also, the author would have to consent to the abbreviation. It’s not an insurmountable obstacle, but a consideration. In any case, we’re aiming to open up discussion of the Anti-Deutsch, the very point of our translating and publishing the ISF article to begin with.

  25. I found the *thinking* of the STO-TWF article interesting and worthwhile, especially the tracing back of the problem to 1930s Stalinism and anti-fascism and anti-imperialism.

    But there’s a difference between thinking in certain ways and the (political) conclusions one might draw from such thinking. This is why Platypus doesn’t take positions, because we want to foster and open up thinking and want to overcome obstacles to this.

    One obstacle is believing that thinking a certain way necessarily leads one to certain political conclusions. But it doesn’t. There isn’t a “logic” to thinking and politics. As Adorno put it, we need to overcome “dogmatization and thought-taboos.” The taboo on thinking is found precisely in the idea that certain thoughts are off-limits or must necessarily entail other thoughts or certain conclusions. This is less a matter of logical thought than it is a matter of psychology — fear. This is why Adorno describes emancipation as freedom from fear. But the “Left” has long since shrunk back in fear from its tasks. As Adorno put it, thinking preserves the promise of freedom. But this is why the “Left” has ceased to think.

  26. Well, I still haven’t gotten any response from the Platypus Review editorial board.

    As I actually get paid for translations these days, I basically offered to do the Review a **favor** by doing it free of charge on the understanding that it would be published in the Review.

    I stated clearly in the email that I would not start work on it without some sort of confirmation that it would appear.

    I made a good faith attempt, on the off chance that Platypus really was serious when it claimed that it wants to advance the state of debate on the left.

    I can understand that Cutrone is not on the editorial board, but usually journals are considerate enought to answer with a “yes” or “no”.

    I think the editors may have cold feet. One of your German contacts, taking advantage of your group’s credulity, suckered you into publishing the ISF piece, and now you’re probably wary of putting out anything else sight unseen.

    Cutrone, here’s a tip for the future: as your group tends to construct an internal orthodox theoretical lineage of Lukacs-Korsch-Frankfurt School-Postone, by the nature of that heritage you are going to be a magnet for any Anti-Germans making a sojourn into the United States who still want to maintain the pretence of being communists. The more honest neo-conservative ones, like Matthias Küntzel, are going to go straight to their corresponding co-thinkers in the U.S., but the younger ones, inspired by romanticism and the notion that “communism” is an empty signifier to be applied as a badge of identity, will seek out Platypus.

    When encountering such young people, you’d do best to keep in mind that you are dealing with a current that is truly marginal these days, does not really exercise any discursive hegemony, and is not at all a reliable guide to the current state of discussions and debates on the German left.

    • I wonder, negative potential, what would communism look like if it wasn’t applied as an empty signifier or a badge of identity?

  27. neg. pot.,

    I don’t know why you haven’t heard back from the Platypus Review staff. Do you have an approximate word count on the Schmid article? If it may need abbreviation, would you approach Schmid for approval of this?

  28. When encountering such young people, you’d do best to keep in mind that you are dealing with a current that is truly marginal these days…

    Sounds like a marriage made in heaven for the Platypus.

    • Oh yes, Louis, I’ve been meaning to apologize for mistaking your cross-post of something Angelus Novus had written as something of your own. I didn’t know what “Angelus Novus” was, apart from the Benjamin/Klee reference, and it didn’t occur to me that it might be someone else’s handle. The other criticisms, however, regarding the banality of your previous two blog posts that dealt with Platypus, remain valid.

      But on your statements about the anti-Germans, there’s something I still don’t understand. In one of the comments you made on your entry “Platypus publishes racists,” you stated that

      It is really not worth my time to offer a judgment on the article other than to say it is a disgusting bucket of shit that is typical of the “anti-German” left. For people curious about this pro-Israel current in Germany, the wiki is a good place to start.

      Yet, on the Marxmail thread, you admitted:

      I am by no means an expert on Postone, “anti-German”, etc.

      So what I’m wondering is, if you’re by no means an expert on “anti-German” and so on, how would you even know what is or is not “typical” of the “anti-German” left?

  29. “I wonder, negative potential, what would communism look like if it wasn’t applied as an empty signifier or a badge of identity?”

    Reading Joachim Bruhn has truly damaged your brain. What communism would concretely “look like” has nothing do with whether the word actually **means something**.

    I’m going to help you out just this once, though, and refer you to Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communism

    “Communism is a sociopolitical movement that aims for a classless society structured upon communal ownership of the means of production and the end of wage labour and private property.”

    Anti-Germans of the ISF/Bahamas variety, having completely abandoned this goal, are content to merely apply it as a badge of honor without any concrete content. It isn’t even a concept for you, just a label.

    • I am neither a “member” of the ISF (whatever that means), nor do I subscribe to Bahamas. So perhaps we can finally leave out the ad-hominem attacks.

      My question took your invocation of communism as an empty signifier (in the case of “anti-Germans”). You argued that those people would be attracted to platypus. Which means that they would be reading all kinds of presumably “communist” history/theory or whatever it is platypus reads.

      Since that doesn’t mean anything, I take your comment to be some nonsense about how these people just read Marx, Korsch, Lukacs, maybe some Adorno but in the end that’s just some identity bullshit.

      So here is my question again, what does it mean to be a communist who doesn’t just attach that word as a badge of honor? Just saying you want a classless society is hardly it. Even the ISF claims that now and again.

  30. Pingback: ISF – Communism and Israel, some initial thoughts « Resonance

  31. might be of interest:

    Towards a critique of anti-German “communism”
    Raphael Schlembach
    Interface: a journal for and about social movements.
    Volume 2 Issue 2. November 2010. (pp. 199-219).

    The spectre of anti-Germans has easily become the Feindbild for activists of the Anglophone Left; yet rarely does this translate into fundamental or informed criticism of the anti-German premise. This article, then, offers an introductory description and a critical analysis of pro-Israeli, anti-German communism in its context within the post-war German Left and as a contemporary protest movement that sits oddly on the fringes of radical politics. Its origins and politics are examined to depict the radicalisation of a broad anti-nationalist campaign against German re-unification, and its evolution into a small but coherent anti-German movement, controversial for its pro-Israel polemics and provocations. Current debates within the anti-fascist German Left are reviewed to explore anti- German positions on the Holocaust, Israel, Islam, anti-imperialism and Germany’s foreign policy. Theoretical works that have heavily influenced anti-German communism are discussed to comprehend the movement’s intellectual inspirations. The purpose of the article is to introduce one of Germany’s most controversial protest movements to an English-speaking audience and to hint at the formulation of a critique that is more than a knee-jerk reaction to pro-Israeli agitation.

    About the author
    Raphael Schlembach recently graduated from the University of Manchester with a PhD in Sociology. His research is based in social movement studies and critical theory, with particular interests in anti-globalisation and environmental protest, nationalist movements, and the Frankfurt School. He is also an editor of the movement publication Shift Magazine. His email address is r_schlembach AT yahoo.com.

    Download article as PDF here: http://interfacejournal.nuim.ie/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Interface-2-2-pp.199-219-Schlembach.pdf

  32. Pingback: Communism and Israel « Anti-National Translation

  33. Pingback: Hysteria in Historical Materialism | The Charnel-House

  34. Pingback: Counterhegemonic apparatchiks: Sebastian Budgen and Alexander Locascio | The Charnel-House

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