Platypus at the Marxist Literary Group summer 2011 Institute on Culture and Society
June 20â€“24, 2011
Institute for the Humanities, University of Illinois at Chicago
Marxism and the bourgeois revolution
Spencer Leonard, "Marxâ€™s critique of political economy: Proletarian socialism continuing the bourgeois revolution?"
Pamela Nogales, "Marx on the U.S. Civil War as the 2nd American Revolution"
Jeremy Cohan, "LukÃ¡cs on Marxâ€™s Hegelianism and the dialectic of Marxism"
Moderator: Chris Cutrone
The "bourgeois revolutions" from the 16th through the 19th centuries -- extending into the 20th -- conformed humanity to modern city life, ending traditional, pastoral, religious custom in favor of social relations of the exchange of labor. AbbÃ© SieyÃ¨s wrote in 1789 that, in contradistinction to the clerical 1st Estate who "prayed" and the aristocratic 2nd Estate who "fought," the commoner 3rd Estate "worked:" "What has the 3rd Estate been? Nothing." "What is it? Everything." Kant warned that universal bourgeois society would be the mere midpoint in humanity's achievement of freedom. After the last bourgeois revolutions in Europe of 1848 failed, Marx wrote of the "constitution of capital," the ambivalent, indeed self-contradictory character of "free wage labor." In the late 20th century, the majority of humanity abandoned agriculture in favor of urban life -- however in "slum cities." How does the bourgeois revolution appear from a Marxian point of view? How did what Marx called the â€œproletarianizationâ€ of society circa 1848 signal not only the crisis and supersession, but the need to fulfill and â€œcompleteâ€ the bourgeois revolution, whose task now fell to the politics of â€œproletarianâ€ socialism, expressed by the workersâ€™ call for â€œsocial democracy?â€ How did this express the attempt, as Lenin put it, to overcome bourgeois society â€œon the basis of capitalismâ€ itself? How did subsequent Marxism lose sight of Marx on this, and how might Marxâ€™s perspective on the crisis of the bourgeois revolution in the 19th century still resonate today?
The Marxism of Second International radicalism: Lenin, Luxemburg, and Trotsky
Chris Cutrone, Lenin
Greg Gabrellas, Luxemburg
Ian Morrison, Trotsky
Moderator: Spencer Leonard
The legacy of revolution 1917-19 in Russia, Germany, Hungary and Italy is concentrated above all in the historical figures Vladimir Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky, leaders of the Left in the Second International (1889-1914) -- what they called â€œrevolutionary social democracyâ€ -- in the period preceding the crisis of war, revolution, counterrevolution and civil war in World War I and its aftermath. In 1920, Georg LukÃ¡cs summed up this experience as follows: â€œ[T]he crisis [of capital] remains permanent, it goes back to its starting-point, repeats the cycle until after infinite sufferings and terrible detours the school of history completes the education of the proletariat and confers upon it the leadership of mankind. .Â .Â . Of course this uncertainty and lack of clarity are themselves the symptoms of the crisis in bourgeois society. As the product of capitalism the proletariat must necessarily be subject to the modes of existence of its creator. .Â .Â . inhumanity and reification.â€ Nonetheless, these Marxists understood their politics as being â€œon the basis of capitalismâ€ itself (Lenin). How were the 2nd Intl. radicals, importantly, critics, and not merely advocates, of their own political movement? What is the legacy of these figures today, after the 20th century -- as Walter Benjamin said in his 1940 â€œTheses on the Philosophy of History,â€ â€œagainst the grainâ€ of their time, reaching beyond it? How did Lenin, Luxemburg, and Trotsky contribute to the potential advancement and transformation of Marxism, in and through the crisis of Marxism in the early 20th century? How can we return to these figures productively, today, to learn the lessons of their history?