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You are here: Platypus /Platypus primary Marxist reading group Winter–Spring 2020 | Manchester UK

Platypus primary Marxist reading group Winter–Spring 2020 | Manchester UK

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II. Introduction to revolutionary Marxism

Tuesdays 6-8 via Zoom. For meeting ID/URL, please RSVP at london@platypus1917.org

(Previously Wednesdays, 6-8pm, University of Manchester A213 Samuel Alexander Building M13 9PP)


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:

+ 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)
+ Sebastian Haffner, Failure of a Revolution: Germany 1918–19 (1968)
+ Tariq Ali and Phil Evans, Introducing Trotsky and Marxism / Trotsky for Beginners (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


Film screening | Jan. 15, 2020

Fall of Eagles episodes: #5 "The Last Tsar" and #6 "Absolute Beginners" on the origins of the Bolsheviks


Film screening | Jan. 22, 2020

Reds (1981) film on American anarchists, Socialists and Communists in WWI and the Russian Revolution


Winter–Spring 2020

II. Introduction to revolutionary Marxism

Week 11. Revolutionary leadership | Jan. 29, 2020

• Rosa Luxemburg, “The Crisis of German Social Democracy” 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 12. Reform or revolution? | Feb. 5, 2020

Luxemburg, Reform or Revolution? (1900/08)
+ Eugene Debs, "Competition versus Cooperation" (1900)


Week 13. Lenin and the vanguard party | Feb. 12, 2020

Spartacist League, Lenin and the Vanguard Party (1978)
+ Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate / A&Z, Introducing Lenin and the Russian Revolution / Lenin for Beginners (1977)


Week 14. What is to be done? | Feb. 19, 2020

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


Week 15. Mass strike and social democracy | Feb. 26, 2020

Luxemburg, The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions (1906)
+ Luxemburg, "Blanquism and Social Democracy" (1906)


Week 16. Permanent revolution | Mar. 4, 2020

• Leon Trotsky, Results and Prospects (1906)
+ Tariq Ali and Phil Evans, Introducing Trotsky and Marxism / Trotsky for Beginners (1980)


Week 17. State and revolution | Mar. 11, 2020

Lenin, The State and Revolution (1917)


Week 18. Imperialism | Mar. 18, 2020

Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916)
+ Lenin, Socialism and War Ch. 1 The principles of socialism and the War of 1914–15 (1915)


Week 19. Failure of the revolution | Mar. 25, 2020

Luxemburg, “What does the Spartacus League Want?” (1918)
Luxemburg, “On the Spartacus Programme” (1918)
+ Luxemburg, "German Bolshevism" (AKA "The Socialisation of Society") (1918)
+ Luxemburg, “The Russian Tragedy” (1918)
+ Luxemburg, “Order Reigns in Berlin” (1919)
+ Eugene Debs, “The Day of the People” (1919)
+ Sebastian Haffner, Failure of a Revolution: Germany 1918–19 (1968)


Week 20-21. Apr. 1/8 2020 - Easter break / Platypus International Convention, Chicago, April 3-5.


Week 22. Retreat after revolution | Apr. 15, 2020

Lenin, “Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder (1920)
+ Lenin, "Notes of a Publicist" (1922)


Week 23. Dialectic of reification | Apr. 21, 2020

Lukács, “The Standpoint of the Proletariat” (Part III of “Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat,” 1923). Available in three sections from marxists.org: section 1 section 2 section 3
+ Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms
+ Commodity form chart of terms
+ Capitalist contradiction chart of terms + Organic composition of capital chart of terms
+ Reification chart of terms
+ Lukács, “The phenomenon of reification” (Part I of “Reification and the consciousness of the proletariat,” History and Class Consciousness, 1923)


Week 24. Lessons of October | Apr. 28, 2020

Trotsky, The Lessons of October (1924) [PDF]
Trotsky, "Stalinism and Bolshevism" (1937)


Week 25. Trotskyism | May 5, 2020

+ Trotsky, "To build communist parties and an international anew" (1933)
+ Trotsky, "If America should go communist" (1934)
Trotsky, The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International (1938)
+ Trotsky, "Trade unions in the epoch of imperialist decay" (1940)
+ Trotsky, Letter to James Cannon (September 12, 1939)


Week 26. The authoritarian state | May 12, 2020

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


Week 27. On the concept of history | May 19, 2020

• epigraphs by Louis Menand (on Edmund Wilson) and Peter Preuss (on Nietzsche) on the modern concept of history
+ Charles Baudelaire, from Fusées [Rockets] (1867)
+ Bertolt Brecht, "To posterity" (1939)
+ Walter Benjamin, "To the planetarium" (from One-Way Street, 1928)
+ Benjamin, "Fire alarm" (from One-Way Street, 1928)
[JPG] [PDF]
+ Benjamin, "Experience and poverty" (1933)
+ Benjamin, Theologico-political fragment (1921/39?)
+ Benjamin on history chart of terms
Benjamin, "On the Concept of History" (AKA "Theses on the Philosophy of History") (1940) [PDF]
Benjamin, Paralipomena to "On the Concept of History" (1940)
+ Benjamin, Arcades Project Convolute N, "On the theory of knowledge, theory of progress" (see especially p. 471 [N8,1] on Horkheimer on unredeemablility of past suffering)
+ Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms


Week 28. Reflections on Marxism | May 26, 2020

+ Capital in history timeline and chart of terms
+ Benjamin on history chart of terms
• Theodor Adorno, “Reflections on Class Theory” (1942)
Adorno, “Imaginative Excesses” (1944–47)
+ Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms
+ 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 29. Theory and practice | June 2, 2020

+ Adorno, “On Subject and Object” (1969)
+ Commodity form chart of terms
+ Reification chart of terms
+ Capitalist contradiction chart of terms
+ Adorno's critique of actionism chart of terms
Adorno, “Marginalia to Theory and Praxis” (1969)
Adorno, “Resignation” (1969)
+ Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms
+ Adorno, “Late Capitalism or Industrial Society?” (AKA “Is Marx Obsolete?”) (1968)
+ Organic composition of capital chart of terms
+ Esther Leslie, Introduction to the 1969 Adorno-Marcuse correspondence (1999)
+ Adorno and Herbert Marcuse, correspondence on the German New Left (1969)
+ Adorno, Interview with Der Spiegel magazine (1969)

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