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You are here: Platypus /Platypus Goldsmiths primary Marxist reading group Winter–Spring 2020

Platypus Goldsmiths primary Marxist reading group Winter–Spring 2020

Tuesdays, 7:00 - 9:00 pm

Richard Hoggart Building, first floor above the canteen

II. Introduction to revolutionary Marxism

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

Film screenings: Winter 2020

Fall of Eagles (1974) episodes: ("The Last Tsar,") "Absolute Beginners," ("Dearest Nicky," "The Appointment,") "The Secret War," and "End Game"

37 Days (2014) ([Episode 1] [Episode 2]) [Episode 3]

( • 37 Days (2014) [Episode 3] and Fall of Eagles (1974) episode "The Secret War" )

Rosa Luxemburg (1986)

• Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States (2012) Prequel Episodes A (1900-20) and B (1920-40)

Reds (1981)

4 screenings, each ~2 hours of film: 

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

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 

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 

4.) Rosa Luxemburg film 

additional recommended screenings:

+ 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

II. Introduction to revolutionary Marxism

Week 11. Revolutionary leadership | Jan. 28, 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. 4, 2020

Luxemburg, Reform or Revolution? (1900/08)

+ Eugene Debs, "Competition versus Cooperation" (1900)


Week 13. Lenin and the vanguard party | Feb. 11, 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. Goldsmiths Reading Week | Feb. 17 - 21, 2020


Week 15. What is to be done? | Feb. 25, 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 16. Mass strike and social democracy | Mar. 3, 2020

Luxemburg, The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions (1906)

+ Luxemburg, "Blanquism and Social Democracy" (1906)


Week 17. Permanent revolution | Mar. 10, 2020

• Leon Trotsky, Results and Prospects (1906)

+ Tariq Ali and Phil Evans, Introducing Trotsky and Marxism / Trotsky for Beginners (1980)


Week 18. State and revolution | Mar. 17, 2020

Lenin, The State and Revolution (1917)


Week 19. Imperialism | Mar. 24, 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 20. Failure of the revolution | Mar. 31, 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 21. Apr. 4, 2020 [Platypus international convention]


Week 22. Retreat after revolution | Apr. 28, 2020

Lenin, “Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder (1920)

+ Lenin, "Notes of a Publicist" (1922)


Week 23. Dialectic of reification | May 5, 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 | May 12, 2020

Trotsky, The Lessons of October (1924) [PDF]

Trotsky, "Stalinism and Bolshevism" (1937)


Week 25. Trotskyism | May 19, 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 26, 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 | June 2, 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 | June 9, 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 16, 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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