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You are here: The Platypus Affiliated Society/London autumn 2022: primary Marxist reading group

London autumn 2022: primary Marxist reading group

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Join Platypus in London for our autumn 2022 reading group, "What is the Left?" and "What is Marxism?"

Location, room, and time TBC.

All are welcome, no prior knowledge required.

Click here for the London Platypus facebook group for updates and other activities.

I. What is the Left? – What is Marxism?


• required / + recommended reading


Marx and Engels readings pp. from Robert C. Tucker, ed., Marx-Engels Reader (Norton 2nd ed., 1978)


Week G. Radical bourgeois philosophy II. Adam Smith: On the wealth of nations (part 1) | Sep. 21, 2022

 Adam Smith, selections from The Wealth of Nations

Volume I [PDF]
Introduction and Plan of the Work
Book I: Of the Causes of Improvement…
I.1. Of the Division of Labor
I.2. Of the Principle which gives Occasion to the Division of Labour
I.3. That the Division of Labour is Limited by the Extent of the Market
I.4. Of the Origin and Use of Money
I.5 Of the Real and Nominal Price of Commodities
I.6. Of the Component Parts of the Price of Commodities
I.7. Of the Natural and Market Price of Commodities
I.8. Of the Wages of Labour
I.9. Of the Profits of Stock
Book III: Of the different Progress of Opulence in different Nations
III.1.
 Of the Natural Progress of Opulence
III.2. Of the Discouragement of Agriculture in the Ancient State of Europe after the Fall of the Roman Empire
III.3. Of the Rise and Progress of Cities and Towns, after the Fall of the Roman Empire
III.4. How the Commerce of the Towns Contributed to the Improvement of the Country


Week H. Radical bourgeois philosophy III. Adam Smith: On the wealth of nations (part 2) | Sep. 28, 2022

• Smith, selections from The Wealth of Nations

Volume II [PDF]
IV.7, Of Colonies
V.1. Of the Expences of the Sovereign or Commonwealth Article 2d and 3d and Part IV


Week I. Radical bourgeois philosophy IV. What is the Third Estate? | Oct. 5, 2022

• Abbé Emmanuel Joseph SieyèsWhat is the Third Estate? (1789) [full text]

+ Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees (1732)


Week J. Radical bourgeois philosophy V. Kant and Constant: Bourgeois society | Oct. 12, 2022

• Immanuel Kant"Idea for a universal history from a cosmopolitan point of view" and "What is Enlightenment?" (1784)

Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) chart of terms

+ Kant's 3 Critiques [PNG] and philosophy [PNG] charts of terms

• Benjamin Constant"The liberty of the ancients compared with that of the moderns" (1819)

+ Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the origin of inequality (1754)

+ Rousseau, selection from On the social contract (1762)


Week K. Radical bourgeois philosophy VI. Hegel: Freedom in history | Oct. 19, 2022

"When we look at this drama of human passions, and observe the consequences of their violence and of the unreason that is linked not only to them but also (and especially) to good intentions and rightful aims; when we see arising from them all the evil, the wickedness, the decline of the most flourishing nations mankind has produced, we can only be filled with grief for all that has come to nothing. And since this decline and fall is not merely the work of nature but of the will of men, we might well end with moral outrage over such a drama, and with a revolt of our good spirit (if there is a spirit of goodness in us). Without rhetorical exaggeration, we could paint the most fearful picture of the misfortunes suffered by the noblest of nations and states as well as by private virtues — and with that picture we could arouse feelings of the deepest and most helpless sadness, not to be outweighed by any consoling outcome. We can strengthen ourselves against this, or escape it, only by thinking that, well, so it was at one time; it is fate; there is nothing to be done about it now. And finally — in order to cast off the tediousness that this reflection of sadness could produce in us and to return to involvement in our own life, to the present of our own aims and interests — we return to the selfishness of standing on a quiet shore where we can be secure in enjoying the distant sight of confusion and wreckage… But as we contemplate history as this slaughter-bench, upon which the happiness of nations, the wisdom of states, and the virtues of individuals were sacrificed, the question necessarily comes to mind: What was the ultimate goal for which these monstrous sacrifices were made?… World history is the progress in the consciousness of freedom — a progress that we must come to know in its necessity… The Orientals knew only that one person is free; the Greeks and Romans that some are free; while we [moderns] know that all humans are implicitly free, qua human… The final goal of the world, we said, is Spirit’s consciousness of its freedom, and hence also the actualization of that very freedom… It is this final goal — freedom — toward which all the world’s history has been working. It is this goal to which all the sacrifices have been brought upon the broad altar of the earth in the long flow of time." 
— Hegel, Introduction to the Philosophy of History

• G.W.F. HegelIntroduction to the Philosophy of History (1831) [HTML] [PDF pp. 14-128] [Audiobook]

Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) chart of terms


Week 1. What is the Left? I. Capital in history | Oct. 26, 2022

• Max Horkheimer"The little man and the philosophy of freedom" (1926–31)

• epigraphs on modern history and freedom by Louis Menand (on Marx and Engels), Karl Marxon "becoming" (from the Grundrisse, 1857–58), and Peter Preuss (on history)

Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) chart of terms

• Chris Cutrone"Capital in history" (2008)

Capital in history timeline and chart of terms

video of Communist University 2011 London presentation

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 

• Cutrone"The Marxist hypothesis" (2010)

• Cutrone“Class consciousness (from a Marxist perspective) today” (2012)

+ G.M. Tamas, "Telling the truth about class" [HTML] (2007)

+ Robert Pippin, "On Critical Theory" (2004)

+ Rainer Maria Rilke, "Archaic Torso of Apollo" (1908)


Week 2. What is the Left? II. Utopia and critique | Nov. 2, 2022

• Max Horkheimerselections from Dämmerung (1926–31)

• Adorno“Imaginative Excesses” (1944–47)

• Leszek Kolakowski“The concept of the Left” (1958)

• Herbert Marcuse"Note on dialectic" (1960)

• 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

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 

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


Week 3. What is Marxism? I. Socialism | Nov. 9, 2022

• 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

• Marx, The coming upheaval (from The Poverty of Philosophy, 1847), pp. 218–19


Week 4. What is Marxism? II. Revolution in 1848 | Nov. 16, 2022

• 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 5. What is Marxism? III. Bonapartism | Nov. 23, 2022

+ Karl Korsch, "The Marxism of the First International" (1924)

• MarxInaugural address to the First International (1864), pp. 512–519

• Marxselections from The Civil War in France (1871, including Engels's 1891 Introduction), pp. 618–652

+ Korsch, Introduction to Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme (1922)

• MarxCritique of the Gotha Programme, pp. 525–541

• MarxProgramme of the Parti Ouvrier (1880)


Week 6. What is Marxism? IV. Critique of political economy | Nov. 30, 2022

The fetish character of the commodity is not a fact of consciousness; rather it is dialectical, in the eminent sense that it produces consciousness. . . . [P]erfection of the commodity character in a Hegelian self-consciousness inaugurates the explosion of its phantasmagoria.
— Theodor W. Adorno, letter to Walter Benjamin, August 2, 1935

Commodity form chart of terms

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 

Organic composition of capital chart of terms 

Marx on surplus-value chart of terms

• Marxselections from the Grundrisse (1857–61), pp. 222–226, 236–244, 247–250, 276–293 ME Reader pp. 276–281

• MarxCapital Vol. I, Ch. 1 Sec. 4 "The fetishism of commodities" (1867), pp. 319–329

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


Week 7. What is Marxism? V. Reification | Dec. 7, 2022

• Georg Lukács“The phenomenon of reification” (Part I of “Reification and the consciousness of the proletariat,” History and Class Consciousness, 1923)
Commodity form chart of terms
Reification chart of terms
Capitalist contradiction chart of terms
Organic composition of capital chart of terms
Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms


Week 9. What is Marxism? VI. Class consciousness | Dec. 14, 2022

• Lukács“Class Consciousness” (1920), Original Preface (1922), “What is Orthodox Marxism?” (1919), History and Class Consciousness (1923)
Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 
Reification chart of terms
Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms
+ Herbert Marcuse, "Note on dialectic" (1960)
+ Marx, Preface to the First German Edition and Afterword to the Second German Edition (1873) of Capital (1867), pp. 294–298, 299–302


Week 10. What is Marxism? VII. Ends of philosophy | Dec. 21, 2022

• 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 break readings

+ 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


Winter–Spring 2023

II. Introduction to revolutionary Marxism