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Platypus UCA Introduction to the History of Marxism

16-week reading group from Marx to Lenin to Adorno  


• required / + recommended [ / ++ supplemental ] readings

Essential background reading:

• Leszek Kolakowski, “The Concept of the Left

• Cutrone“Capital in history: The need for a Marxian philosophy of history of the Left”

Week 1. What is the Left? Kant and Constant: Bourgeois society | Jan 22

• Kant, “Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View” (1784)
• Benjamin Constant, “The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns” (1819)

After the Election, What's Left? LSE Platypus Panel  | Jan 29 

Break Feb 5

Week 2. What is Marxism? Socialism | Feb 12

• MarxFor the ruthless criticism of everything existing (letter to Arnold Ruge, September 1843), pp. 12–15

• Marxselections from Economic and philosophic manuscripts (1844), pp. 70–101

Commodity form chart of terms

Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 

• Marx and Friedrich Engelsselections from the Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848), pp. 469-500

Week 3. What is Marxism? Revolution in 1848 | Feb 19

• MarxAddress to the Central Committee of the Communist League (1850), pp. 501–511 and Class struggle and mode of production (letter to Weydemeyer, 1852), pp. 218-220

• EngelsThe tactics of social democracy (Engels's 1895 introduction to Marx, The Class Struggles in France), pp. 556–573

• Marxselections from The Class Struggles in France 1848–50 (1850), pp. 586–593

• Marxselections from The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852), pp. 594–617

Week 4. Revolutionary Leadership I | Feb 26

• Screening: Margarethe von Trotta, dir., Rosa Luxemburg (1986 film)
• Rosa Luxemburg, “The Crisis of German Social Democracy” Part 1 (1915), and “Order Reigns in Berlin” (1919)
• J. P. Nettl“The German Social Democratic Party 1890-1914 as a Political Model” (1965)
[ ++ James Joll, The Second International 1889-1914 (1966) ]

Week 5. Revolutionary Leadership II | Mar 4

• Cliff Slaughter, “What is Revolutionary Leadership?” (1960)

Week 6. Reform or revolution? | Mar 11

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

Week 7. Lenin and the Vanguard Party | Mar 18

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

Week 8. State and Revolution | Mar 25• 

LeninThe State and Revolution (1917)

Two week break for Easter/Platypus Convention

Week 9. Failure of the Revolution | Apr 15

• Luxemburg“The Russian Tragedy” (1918), “Order Reigns in Berlin” (1919)+ Luxemburg“On the Spartacus Programme” (1918)[ ++ Sebastian Haffner, Failure of a Revolution: Germany 1918-19 (1968) ]

Week 10. Retreat After Revolution | Apr 22

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

Week 11 (Week 24 on main syllabus). Lessons of October | Apr 29

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

Week 12. Trotskyism | May 6

+ Trotsky, "To build communist parties and an international anew" (1933)
+ Trotsky, "If America should go communist" (1934)
• TrotskyThe 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 13. The authoritarian state | May 13

• 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 14. On the concept of history | May 20

• 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]
• BenjaminParalipomena 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 15. Reflections on Marxism | May 27

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 16. Theory and practice | Jun 3

+ 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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