Salar Mohandesi

is a founding editor of Viewpoint and a doctoral candidate in History 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.

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.