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You are here: Platypus /Platypus LSE Reading Group: Introduction to Revolutionary Marxism (Winter - Spring 2021)

Platypus LSE Reading Group: Introduction to Revolutionary Marxism (Winter - Spring 2021)

Every Wednesday at 6-8pm. No previous experience required and all welcome!

Join Platypus LSE for our weekly Marxist reading group! This term we will be reading about the revolutionary Marxist politics of the early 20th Century including the Russian and German revolutions and their aftermath. We will be engaging with works from Rosa Luxemburg, Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Walter Benjamin, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno.

Reading group sessions will be held over ZOOM, and can be accessed by following the link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82756097236.

Required reading

+ Recommended reading


Week 10. What is Marxism? VII. Ends of philosophy | Jan. 20, 2021

• Korsch“Marxism and philosophy” (1923)
Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 
Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms
+ Herbert Marcuse, "Note on dialectic" (1960)
+ Marx, To make the world philosophical (from Marx's dissertation, 1839–41), pp. 9–11
+ Marx, For the ruthless criticism of everything existing (letter to Arnold Ruge, September 1843), pp. 12–15
+ Marx, "Theses on Feuerbach" (1845), pp. 143–145


Winter–Spring 2021

II. Introduction to revolutionary Marxism

Week 11. Revolutionary leadership | Jan. 27, 2021

• 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. 3, 2021

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


Week 13. Lenin and the vanguard party | Feb. 10, 2021

• 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 14. What is to be done? | Feb. 17, 2021

• 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 15. LSE Reading Week | Feb. 22 - 26, 2021


Week 16. Mass strike and social democracy | Mar. 3, 2021

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


Week 17. Permanent revolution | Mar. 10, 2021

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


Week 18. State and revolution | Mar. 17, 2021

• LeninThe State and Revolution (1917)


Week 19. Imperialism | Mar. 24, 2021

“The bourgeoisie makes it its business to promote trusts, drive women and children into the factories, subject them to corruption and suffering, condemn them to extreme poverty. We do not ‘demand’ such development, we do not ‘support’ it. We fight it. But how do we fight? We explain that trusts and the employment of women in industry are progressive. We do not want a return to the handicraft system, pre-monopoly capitalism, domestic drudgery for women. Forward through the trusts, etc., and beyond them to socialism!”
— Lenin, The Military Programme of the Proletarian Revolution (1916/17)

• 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 20. Failure of the revolution | Mar. 31, 2021

• 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. Platypus international convention| Apr. 3, 2021

Information forthcoming


Week 22. Retreat after revolution | Apr. 14, 2021

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


Week 23. Dialectic of reification | Apr. 21, 2021

• 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
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, 2021

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


Week 25. Trotskyism | May 5, 2021

+ 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 (AKA The Transitional Program and the Struggle for Socialism, 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, 2021

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


Week 27. On the concept of history | May 19, 2021

• 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 28. Reflections on Marxism | May 26, 2021

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 | Jun. 2, 2021

+ 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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