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You are here: Platypus /Berlin Spring-Summer 2017 Marxist reading group

Berlin Spring-Summer 2017 Marxist reading group

Part II. Introduction to revolutionary Marxism

March 13 – July 17

Mondays 7–10pm

Zossener Str. 56, 10961 Berlin (Eingang A. 4. Stock. Buzzer: Zizoo)

Join us as we embark on our 4-month-long reading group.

We will discuss key texts from the high period of the history of Marxism in the 2nd International and the crisis of Marxism in the early 20th century. We will address the problem of consciousness of this history and its potential political implications in the present. Readings include Luxemburg, Lenin, Trotsky, the philosophical reflections on Marxism by Lukacs and Korsch, and their ramifications in the Frankfurt School Critical Theory of Walter Benjamin, Horkheimer, and Adorno.

The discussion will be in English but texts are available in German below.


  • required/ + recommended reading

Marx and Engels readings pp. from Robert C. Tucker, ed., Marx-Engels Reader (Norton 2nd ed., 1978)


Recommended winter break preliminary readings:

• Sebastian HaffnerFailure of a Revolution: Germany 1918–19(1968)
+ Leszek Kolakowski, “The concept of the Left” (1968)
+ Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate / A&Z, Introducing Lenin and the Russian Revolution / Lenin for Beginners (1977)
+ Tariq Ali and Phil Evans, Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. (1980)
+ James Joll, The Second International 1889–1914 (1966)
+ Edmund Wilson, To the Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting of History (1940), Part II. Ch. (1–4,) 5–10, 12–16; Part III. Ch. 1–6


Recommended viewing: March and April 2017

• 37 Days(2014) [Episode 1] [Episode 2] [Episode 3]
• Fall of Eagles (1974) episodes: "Absolute Beginners," "The Secret War," and "End Game"
• Rosa Luxemburg (1986)
• Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States (2012) Episodes A (1900-20) and B (1920-40)
• Reds (1981)


Spring-Summer 2017 syllabus

Introduction to revolutionary Marxism 

Week 13. Revolutionary leadership | March 13, 2017

•  Rosa Luxemburg, “The Crisis of German Social Democracy” Part I / “Die ‘Junius-Broschüre’ / Krise der Sozialdemokratie”Teil I Part 1 (1915)
•  J. P. Nettl“The German Social Democratic Party 1890–1914 as a Political Model”(1965)
•  Cliff Slaughter, “What is Revolutionary Leadership?” (1960)


Week 14. Reform or revolution? | March 20

•  LuxemburgReform or Revolution?/ "Sozialreform oder Revolution"


(1900/08)

Week 15. Lenin and the vanguard party | March 27

•  Spartacist LeagueLenin and the Vanguard Party/ “Lenin und die Avantgardepartei” (1978)


Week 16. What is to be done? | April 3

•  V. I. LeninWhat is to be Done?/ "Was tun?" (1902)
+ Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate / A&Z, Introducing Lenin and the Russian Revolution /Lenin for Beginners (1977)


Break: April 10, 2017 [Platypus international convention] 


Week 17. Mass strike and social democracy | April 17

•  LuxemburgThe Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions/  „Massenstreik, Partei und Gewerkschaften“  (1906)
+ Luxemburg, "Blanquism and Social Democracy" / „Blanquismus und Sozialdemokratie"  (1906)


Week 18. Permanent revolution | April 24

•  Leon TrotskyResults and Prospects/ "Ergebnisse und Perspektiven" (1906)
+ Tariq Ali and Phil Evans, Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.(1980)


Week 19. State and revolution | May 1

•  LeninThe State and Revolution/ "Staat und Revolution"  (1917)


Week 22. Failure of the revolution | May 8

•  Luxemburg“What does the Spartacus League Want?”/  "Was will der Spartakusbund?" (1918)
•  Luxemburg“On the Spartacus Programme” / "Unser Programm und die politische Situation" (1918)
+ Luxemburg, 
"German Bolshevism" (AKA "The Socialisation of Society") (1918)
+ Luxemburg, “The Russian Tragedy” / "Die Sozialisierung der Gesellschaft" (1918)
+ Luxemburg, 
“Order Reigns in Berlin” / "Die Sozialisierung der Gesellschaft" (1919)
+ Sebastian Haffner, 
Failure of a Revolution: Germany 1918–19 / "Die deutsche Revolution 1918/19" (1968)


Week 23. Retreat after revolution | May 15

•  Lenin“Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder/ "Der „Linke Radikalismus“, die Kinderkrankheit im Kommunismus"(1920)
+ Lenin, 
"Notes of a Publicist" / "Notizen eines Publizisten" (1922)


Week 24. Dialectic of reification | May 22

•  Lukács“The Standpoint of the Proletariat”(Part III of “Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat,” 1923). Available in three sections from marxists.orgsection 1 section 2 section 3 / “Der Standpunkt des Proletariats” (= Teil III. des Kapitels “Die Verdinglichung und das Bewußtsein des Proletariats”) In: Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein


Week 25. Lessons of October | May 29

•  TrotskyThe Lessons of October(1924) [PDF] "Die Lehren des Oktobers"
+ Trotsky, "Stalinism and Bolshevism" /  "Bolschewismus und Stalinismus" (1937)


Week 26. Trotskyism | June 5

• TrotskyThe Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International / "Der Todeskampf des Kapitalismus und die Aufgaben der 4. Internationale" (Das Übergangsprogramm) (1938)
+ Trotsky, "To build communist parties and an international anew" (1933)
+ Trotsky, "Trade unions in the epoch of imperialist decay" (1940)
+ Trotsky, Letter to James Cannon (September 12, 1939)


Week 27. The authoritarian state | June 12,

•  Friedrich Pollock"State Capitalism: Its Possibilities and Limitations"(1941) (note 32 on USSR)
•  Max Horkheimer, "The Authoritarian State" (1942)


Week 28. On the concept of history | June 19

•  Epigraphs by Louis Menand(on Edmund Wilson) and Peter Preuss(on Nietzsche) on the modern concept of history
• Benjamin"On the Concept of History" (AKA "Theses on the Philosophy of History") (1940) [PDF] • BenjaminParalipomena to "On the Concept of History"(1940)
+ Charles Baudelaire, from Fusées [Rockets] (1867)
+ Bertolt Brecht, "To posterity" (1939)
+ Walter Benjamin, "To the planetarium" (from One-Way Street, 1928)
+ Benjamin, "Experience and poverty" (1933)
+ Benjamin, Theologico-political fragment (1921/39?)


Week 29. Reflections on Marxism | June 26

•  Theodor Adorno“Reflections on Class Theory”(1942)
•  Adorno“Imaginative Excesses”(1944–47)
+ Adorno, Dedication"Bequest""Warning: Not to be Misused" and "Finale"Minima Moralia (1944–47)
+ Horkheimer and Adorno, "Discussion about Theory and Praxis" (AKA "Towards a New Manifesto?") [Deutsch] (1956)


Week 30. Theory and practice | July 3

• Adorno“Marginalia to Theory and Praxis” (1969)
• Adorno“Resignation” (1969)
+ Adorno, “On Subject and Object” (1969)
+ Adorno, “Late Capitalism or Industrial Society?” (AKA “Is Marx Obsolete?”) (1968)
+ Esther Leslie, Introduction to the 1969 Adorno-Marcuse correspondence (1999)
+ Adorno and Herbert Marcuse, correspondence on the German New Left (1969)

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