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You are here: Platypus /Platypus Cambridge: Primary Marxist Reading Group Spring 2021

Platypus Cambridge: Primary Marxist Reading Group Spring 2021

Fridays, 1:00 – 3:30 p.m.

Zoom only

Join Zoom Meeting
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Meeting ID: 952 6231 5794

Passcode: 769079

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II. Introduction to revolutionary Marxism


• 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)
+ Carl Schorske, The SPD 1905-17: The Development of the Great Schism (1955)
+ J.P. Nettl, Rosa Luxemburg (1966) [Vol. 1] [Vol. 2]
+ 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 2021 (hosted by Boston College)

4 screenings, each ~2 hours of film: 7:00 p.m. on Zoom (https://bccte.zoom.us/j/95435677220)

Jan. 20, 2021

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


Feb. 3, 2021

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. 17, 2021

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 


Mar. 3, 2021

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 


Spring 2021

II. Introduction to revolutionary Marxism

Week 11. Revolutionary leadership | January 22

• 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? | January 29

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


Week 13. Lenin and the vanguard party | February 5

• 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? | February 12

• 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. Mass strike and social democracy | February 19

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


Week 16. Permanent revolution | February 26

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


Week 17. State and revolution | March 5

• LeninThe State and Revolution (1917)


Week 18. Imperialism | March 12

“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 19. March 19 [Spring Break]

Week 20. Failure of the revolution | March 26

• 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. April 5 [Platypus international convention]


Week 22. Retreat after revolution | April 9

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


Week 23. Dialectic of reification | April 16

• 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 | April 23

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


Week 25. Trotskyism | April 30

+ 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 7

• 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 14

• 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 21

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 | May 28

+ 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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