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You are here: Platypus /Boston College reading group Winter–Spring 2020

Boston College reading group Winter–Spring 2020

Mondays, 7:30 – 10:00 p.m.
Stokes Hall Room S363


• required / + recommended reading


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


Wednesday Film screenings: Winter 2020

4 screenings, 7:30–9:30 p.m., Stokes (building) S363 (room), *Pizza and soda provided*

Jan. 15, 2020

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

Jan. 29, 2020

2.) 37 Days [Episode 3] "One Long Weekend" (uncut BBC version including the Socialists) on the start of WWI; and Fall of Eagles episode #12 "The Secret War" on WWI and the Russian Revolution 

Feb. 12, 2020

3.) Fall of Eagles episode #13 "End Game" on the German Revolution 1918-19; and Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States Prequel Episode A. 1900-20, on imperialism, WWI and the Russian Revolution 


Feb. 26, 2020

4.) Rosa Luxemburg film 


additional recommended viewings:
Fall of Eagles episodes #s 7-8 "Dearest Nicky" and "The Appointment" on the Russo-Japanese War and Russian Revolution of 1905 and modernization, the Narodniks and Socialist Revolutionaries 
Reds film on American anarchists, Socialists and Communists in WWI and the Russian Revolution 
Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States Prequel Episode B. 1920-40 on counterrevolution, fascism, the Great Depression, Stalinism and Nazism 


Winter–Spring 2020 Readings

II. Introduction to revolutionary Marxism

Week 11. On the concept of history | Jan. 20, 2020

• 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)

• Theodor Adorno“Reflections on Class Theory” (1942)

Capital in history timeline and chart of terms 

+ 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, 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 12. Revolutionary leadership | Jan. 27, 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 13. Reform or revolution? | Feb. 3, 2020

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


Week 14. Lenin and the vanguard party | Feb. 10, 2020

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


Week 15. What is to be done? | Feb. 17, 2020

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


Week 16. Mass strike and social democracy | Feb. 24, 2020

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


Week 17. Mar. 2, 2020 (spring break)


Week 18. Permanent revolution | March 9, 2020

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


Week 19. State and revolution | Mar. 16, 2020

• LeninThe State and Revolution (1917)


Week 20. Imperialism | Mar. 23, 2020

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


Week 21. Failure of the revolution | Mar. 30, 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 22. Theory and practice | Apr. 6, 2020 

• Adorno“Imaginative Excesses” (1944–47)

• Adorno“Marginalia to Theory and Praxis” (1969) 

• Adorno“Resignation” (1969)

+ 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

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)
+ 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 23. Retreat after revolution | Apr. 13, 2020

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


Week 24. Dialectic of reification | Apr. 20, 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 25. Lessons of October | Apr. 27, 2020

• TrotskyThe Lessons of October (1924) [PDF]
• Trotsky"Stalinism and Bolshevism" (1937)


Week 26. Trotskyism | May 4, 2020

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


Week 27. The authoritarian state | May 11, 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 


2 comments

  • Posted 1 month ago

    Hello! I’d love to join this group, but (though I am a college student) I don’t attend Boston College. Is this group exclusive to Boston College students, or is it open to anyone?

    by Dominic Mears on January 14, 2020 8:52 pm
  • Posted 1 month ago

    Hi Dominic. Yes, it is open to everyone. We’d love for you to join us. Email me at wistratford@gmail.com if you have any more questions.

    by Will Stratford on January 15, 2020 8:55 am

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