Salar Mohandesi

is an editor of Viewpoint and a doctoral candidate in History at the University of Pennsylvania.

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.

On the Black Bloc

On the Black Bloc

The “internecine ultra-left argu­ment of the moment,” says the Wall Street Jour­nal, is the debate over the “black bloc.” And if this debate has led the WSJ to talk about “ultra-left­ism,” it’s clearly a debate we have to address.

Occupy Philly is Dead! Long Live Occupy Philly!

Occupy Philly is Dead! Long Live Occupy Philly!

The emer­gency ses­sion of the Occupy Philly Gen­eral Assem­bly this past Thurs­day decided, at around 10PM, to imme­di­ately move from Dil­worth Plaza, where Occupy Philly is cur­rently grounded, to Thomas Paine Plaza. When the pro­posal passed, every­one broke into smaller groups, rushed to grab what­ever was around, and began mov­ing to the other side of the street. Soon after, the police arrived, con­fu­sion descended, and, not hav­ing decided on any plan ahead of time, we spon­ta­neously broke into three groups: the first regrouped back at Dil­worth, the sec­ond was left at Thomas Paine, and the third decided to storm City Hall. At the end of it all, we were forced to aban­don our objec­tive, with­draw back to the orig­i­nal encamp­ment, and rethink the whole affair.

The Night in Which All Cows Are White

The Night in Which All Cows Are White

Philadel­phia has a large pop­u­la­tion of black, dis­af­fected youth. It also has a black mayor. But when some of these young peo­ple began to spon­ta­neously protest the obscene level of urban seg­re­ga­tion and sys­tem­atic poverty of the city with “flash mobs,” it was Mayor Michael Nut­ter who launched the coun­ter-attack, impos­ing the dis­ci­pli­nary mea­sure of an ear­lier cur­few in wealthy white areas. Cur­fews, as George Cic­cariello-Maher points out, “have his­tor­i­cally served as a racist weapon for the con­tain­ment of Black bod­ies” – but Nut­ter him­self made the point by accom­pa­ny­ing this mea­sure with an ide­o­log­i­cal assault on black Philadel­phi­ans in gen­eral.

Two, Three, Many Oaklands?

Two, Three, Many Oaklands?

All eyes are on Oak­land. And right­fully so. Oak­land has shown the other occu­pa­tions how the move­ment can be suc­cess­fully esca­lated. By trans­form­ing the occu­pa­tion of a park into a gen­eral strike, Oak­land has indis­putably emerged as the most mil­i­tant sec­tion of the national occu­pa­tion move­ment. All the other occu­pa­tions across the county are ask­ing them­selves how they can fol­low in its foot­steps. But, as strange as it may sound, the best way to repro­duce the level of mil­i­tancy that has erupted in Oak­land may actu­ally be to not fol­low in that city’s foot­steps.

Critical Refusals: Angela Davis at Occupy Philadelphia

Critical Refusals: Angela Davis at Occupy Philadelphia

The Inter­na­tional Her­bert Mar­cuse Soci­ety held its fourth bien­nial con­fer­ence at the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia. A mix of aca­d­e­mics and activists, the con­fer­ence rep­re­sented yet another attempt to con­nect the two worlds. What bet­ter way than to have Angela Davis her­self – renowned intel­lec­tual, renowned com­mu­nist – share her thoughts with us on a chilly Fri­day night.