Salar Mohandesi

is an editor of Viewpoint and a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania.

Between the Ivory Tower and the Assembly Line

Between the Ivory Tower and the Assembly Line

As aca­d­e­mics began to debate Nicholas Kristof’s recent attack on their pro­fes­sion, I was inter­view­ing a few of the lit­er­ally thou­sands of Amer­i­can rad­i­cals who left the uni­ver­sity for the fac­tory in the 1970s.

Workers' Inquiry: A Genealogy

Workers’ Inquiry: A Genealogy

In 1880, La Revue social­iste asked an aging Karl Marx to draft a ques­tion­naire to be cir­cu­lated among the French work­ing class. Called “A Work­ers’ Inquiry,” it was a list of exactly 101 detailed ques­tions, inquir­ing about every­thing from meal times to wages to lodging.

Dead Generations and Unknown Continents: Reflections on Left Unity

Dead Generations and Unknown Continents: Reflections on Left Unity

In his pro­gram­matic piece in Jacobin, Bhaskar Sunkara describes the shape of con­tem­po­rary Left Unity: “the con­ver­gence of Amer­i­can social­ists com­mit­ted to non-sectarian orga­ni­za­tion under the aus­pices of an over­ar­ch­ing demo­c­ra­tic struc­ture.” It would be glib to just dis­miss this out of hand – along­side increased expo­sure of the Left in the main­stream media, such a struc­ture could be a good sign. But the way this strat­egy is being pur­sued leaves many fun­da­men­tal ques­tions unanswered.

Underground Currents: Louis Althusser’s “On Marxist Thought”

Underground Currents: Louis Althusser’s “On Marxist Thought”

When Perry Ander­son wrote in 1976 that “West­ern Marx­ism” could be con­sid­ered a “prod­uct of defeat,” he was refer­ring to the cat­a­stro­phes and betray­als that framed the period from 1924 to 1968. In ret­ro­spect, this seems like fore­shad­ow­ing. The inter­ven­ing decades have seen not sim­ply a defeat for the work­ers’ move­ment but its total dis­so­lu­tion – the col­lapse of the insti­tu­tions that once made it an unde­ni­able social force, and the roll­back of the reforms it had won from the state. In our sit­u­a­tion it has become dif­fi­cult to say what “Marx­ism” really is, what dis­tin­guishes it as a the­ory, and why it mat­ters. But this is by no means a new ques­tion. And of all the def­i­n­i­tions and rede­f­i­n­i­tions of Marx­ism, Louis Althusser’s were per­haps the most con­tro­ver­sial. In 1982, just before François Mitterrand’s turn to aus­ter­ity, Althusser began to draft a “the­o­ret­i­cal bal­ance sheet.” He wrote “Defin­i­tive” on the man­u­script, and never pub­lished it.

All Tomorrow's Parties: A Reply to Critics

All Tomorrow’s Parties: A Reply to Critics

Though my arti­cle “The Actu­al­ity of the Rev­o­lu­tion” cen­tered on Lenin and 1917, it was really about the present. I think this became clearer as the debate on the arti­cle pro­gressed, encom­pass­ing ques­tions within the Occupy move­ment. For this rea­son, I’ve decided not to quib­ble over details, but rather to review the his­tory in a way that more clearly shows how this debate, and the role the Bol­she­viks played in 1917, speaks to our cur­rent his­tor­i­cal con­junc­ture. Since the press­ing ques­tion, the one that tied all these arti­cles together, was actu­ally the ques­tion of the party, I will try to clar­ify and elab­o­rate my analy­sis of the func­tion of the party form, respond­ing to the three cri­tiques of my orig­i­nal argument.