Verso’s Pocket Communism series seeks to reorient leftist discourse by taking the idea of “communism” as a shared point of departure. In this series of articles and interviews, the Platypus Affiliated Society seeks to host a critical dialogue on this subject in order to clarify the various positions and oppositions that are at work, situate them within the broader history of the Left, and evaluate their salience for the present.
‘Communism’ is still the name to be used to designate radical emancipatory projects. It is a name that can not only express the Idea which guides radical activity, but can also help expose the catastrophes of the twentieth century, including those of the Left.
— Slavoj Žižek and Costas Douzinas, The Idea of Communism (2010), pgs. viii-ix.
I am not in favour of raising any dogmatic banner. On the contrary, we must help the dogmatists to clarify their propositions for themselves. Thus communism in particular is a dogmatic abstraction.
— Karl Marx, “Letter to Arnold Ruge” (September 1843)
Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things.
— Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology (1845)
The Marxist hypothesis: A response to Badiou’s Communist Hypothesis
by Chris Cutrone
And yet a very different set of historical periodizations, and hence a very different history, focused on other developments, might be opposed to Badiou’s. Counter to Badiou’s “communist hypothesis,” which reaches back to the origins of the state in the birth of civilization millennia ago, a “Marxist hypothesis” would seek to grasp the history of the society of capital.
Traversing the heresies: An interview with Bruno Bosteels
by Alec Niedenthal and Ross Wolfe
On October 14th, 2012, Alec Niedenthal and Ross Wolfe both interviewed Bruno Bosteels, a Professor of Romance Studies at Cornell University and author of such books as Badiou and Politics (2011), Marx and Freud in Latin America (2012), and The Actuality of Communism (2011). Click to view an edited transcript of their conversation.
What is to be done with the actually-existing Marxist Left? An interview with Jodi Dean
by Ross Wolfe
On October 13th, 2012, Ross Wolfe of the Platypus Affiliated Society interviewed Jodi Dean, Professor of Political Science at Hobart and William Smith College, and author of Žižek’s Politics (2006) and The Communist Horizon (New York: Verso, 2012). Click to view an edited transcript of their conversation.
A remembrance of things past: An interview with Boris Groys
by Ross Wolfe
On December 15th, 2012, Ross Wolfe interviewed Boris Groys, the Global Distinguished Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies at New York University. His numerous published books include The Total Art of Stalinism (1986), Art Power (2008), and The Communist Postscript (2009). Click to view an edited transcript of their conversation.
- Chris Cutrone, “Chinoiserie: A critique of the Revolutionary Communist Party-USA’s ‘New Synthesis’.” A review of Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, a manifesto from the RCP-USA; and Raymond Lotta, Nayi Duniya, and K. J. A., “Alain Badiou’s ‘Politics of Emancipation’: A Communism Locked Within the Confines of the Bourgeois World” Demarcations 1 (Summer–Fall 2009).
- Bruno Bosteels (Historical Materialism), Chris Cutrone (Platypus), and Nayi Duniya (RCP-USA), “Debating Alain Badiou’s ‘politics of emancipation’: An exchange on communism and the historical moment.” Audio of discussion from the Left Forum, 2011. See also the text from Cutrone’s presentation, “Badiou’s ‘communism’ — a gerontic disorder.”
- Atiya Khan, “1968.” From Toward a Theory of Historical Regression: The Decline of the Left in the 20th Century.
- Chris Cutrone (Platypus), Ben Lewis (CPGB), and Tom Riley (IBT), “Lenin and the Marxist Left after #Occupy.”
- Doug La Rocca and Spencer Leonard, “These petrified relations must be forced to dance”: An interview with Dick Howard.”
- Benjamin Blumberg, “To the victor, the spoils: Review of Artforum’s May 2008 issue ‘May ’68’.”
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 once was 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.