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You are here: The Platypus Affiliated Society/Platypus Introduction to the History of Marxism Readings

Platypus Introduction to the History of Marxism Readings

A series of 8 sessions introducing Platypus’s approach to the history of Marxism.


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

Essential background reading:

• Leszek Kolakowski, “The Concept of the Left


+ 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
+ James Joll, The Second International 1889-1914 (1966)
+ Sebastian Haffner, Failure of a Revolution: Germany 1918-19 (1968)



Week 1

• Marx and Friedrich Engelsselections from the Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848), pp. 469-500
• MarxTo make the world philosophical (from Marx’s dissertation, 1839–41), pp. 9–11
• MarxFor the ruthless criticism of everything existing (letter to Arnold Ruge, September 1843), pp. 12–15


Week 2

• 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 3

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


Week 4

• Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate A&ZIntroducing Lenin and the Russian Revolution / Lenin for Beginners (1977)


Week 5

• Spartacist LeagueLenin and the Vanguard Party (1978)


Week 6

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


Week 7

• Tariq Ali and Phil EvansIntroducing Trotsky and Marxism / Trotsky for Beginners (1980)


Week 8

• 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