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Radical Minds is a show that airs every Thursday at 2 PM on WHPK 88.5 FM Chicago. Aired October 19th, 2017, this episode features excerpts of an interview conducted by Efraim Carlebach and Sophia Freeman of the Platypus Affiliated Society with Ian Birchall.

Ian Birchall is a British Marxist historian and translator, a former member of the Socialist Workers Party and author of numerous articles and books, particularly relating to the French Left. Formerly Senior Lecturer in French at Middlesex University, his research interests include the Comintern, the International Working Class, Communism and Trotskyism, France and Syndicalism, Babeuf, Sartre, Victor Serge and Alfred Rosmer. He is on the editorial board of Revolutionary History, a member of the London Socialist Historians Group and has completed a biography of Tony Cliff.

Held October 2nd, 2018 at the University of Chicago.


Elijah Wolter, member of UChciago Student Action (formerly known as the IIRON Student Network)
Jesse Pace, member of the Black Rose Anarchist Federation
Ted Sirota, co-initiator of Refuse Fascism and founder of Degenerative Artists Against Fascism


Since the Nazi seizure of power eighty years ago anti-fascism has been a component of left-wing politics. In response to the Trump presidency, the politics of anti-fascism, reminiscent of the Popular Front of the 1930s or the Black Bloc politics of the 1990s, have -- once again -- been resurrected by the Left. How is anti-fascism the same or different today? Why anti-fascism now?

Loyola University
Tuesdays 6-9 PM
Metropolis Cafe
1039 W Granville Ave

School of the Art Institute at Chicago
Thursdays 6-9 PM
MacLean Center
112 S Michigan Ave
Room 517

University of Chicago
Saturdays 12:30-3:30 PM
Harper Memorial Library
1116 E 59th St
Room 151

 required / + recommended reading

Week 1. What is the Left? I. Capital in history | Sep 30 (UChicago) Oct 3 (Loyola) Oct 5 (SAIC), 2017

• 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) and Karl Marx, on "becoming" (from the Grundrisse, 1857–58)

• Chris Cutrone, "Capital in history" (2008)

+ Capital in history timeline and chart of terms

+ Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) chart of terms

+ video of Communist University 2011 London presentation

 Cutrone, "The Marxist hypothesis" (2010)

 Cutrone, “Class consciousness (from a Marxist persective) today”

Week 2. What is the Left? II. Bourgeois society | Oct 7 (UChicago) Oct 10 (Loyola) Oct 12 (SAIC), 2017

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

• 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 3. What is the Left? III. Failure of Marxism | Oct 14 (UChicago) Oct 17 (Loyola) Oct 19 (SAIC) , 2017

• Max Horkheimer, selections from Dämmerung (1926–31)

 Adorno, “Imaginative Excesses” (1944–47)

Week 4. What is the Left? IV. Utopia and critique | Oct 21 (UChicago) Oct 24 (Loyola) Oct 26 (SAIC), 2017

• Leszek Kolakowski, “The concept of the Left” (1968)

 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

From the Second International to the Frankfurt School

Loyola University
Tuesdays, 7-9:30 PM
6738 N Sheridan Ave
at Starbucks

School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC)
Tuesdays, 6-9 PM
112 S Michigan Ave
MacLean Center, Room TBA

University of Chicago
Tuesdays, 6:30-9 PM
1116 E 59th St
Harper Memorial Library, Room 102

University of Illinois at Chicago
Tuesdays, 6-9 PM
701 S Morgan St
Stevenson Hall, Room 101


  • required reading / + recommended reading


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)
+ 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: January 2017

  • 37 Days(2014) [Episode 1] [Episode 2] [Episode 3]
    • Fall of Eagles (1974) episodes: "Absolute Beginners," "The Secret War," and "End Game"
    • Rosa Luxemburg (1986)
    • Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States (2012) Episodes A (1900-20) and B (1920-40)
    • Reds (1981)


Winter–Spring 2017


  1. Introduction to revolutionary Marxism

Week 13. Revolutionary leadership | Jan 31, 2017

Week 14. Reform or revolution? | Feb 7, 2017

Week 15. Lenin and the vanguard party | Feb 14, 2017

Week 16. What is to be done? | Feb 21, 2017

Week 17. Mass strike and social democracy | Feb 28, 2017

Week 18. Permanent revolution | Mar 7, 2017

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

Week 19. State and revolution | Mar 14, 2017

Week 20. Imperialism | Mar 21, 2017

Week 21. Mar 28, 2017 (spring break)

Week 22. Failure of the revolution | Apr 4, 2017

Week 23. March 31-April 2, 2017 [Platypus International Convention]

Week 24. Retreat after revolution | Apr 18, 2017

Week 25. Dialectic of reification | Apr 25, 2017

Week 26. Lessons of October | May 2, 2017

Week 27. Trotskyism | May 9, 2017

Week 28. The authoritarian state | May 16, 2017

Week 29. On the concept of history | May 23, 2017

Week 30. Reflections on Marxism | May 30, 2017

Week 31. Theory and practice | Jun 7, 2017

A Panel Discussion

26  January 2017 at 7 PM

University of Chicago
Reynolds Club (McCormick Lounge)
5706 S University Ave
Chicago IL 60637

Jerry Harris, socialist & activist
Representative from the Red Party (TBD)
and more!

Leftists today lament the strength of neoliberal hegemony. The use of the word “hegemony” underlines the ideological dimension of the neoliberal order. It suggests that mass ideological legitimacy -- and not the triumph of pure force or of back-door machinations -- have made neoliberalism a political possibility. What were the ideological shifts in political and social consciousness that provided the grounds for this neoliberal hegemony? What role did the Left play in this historical transformation of political consciousness? A consideration of the history of the New Left and its specific demands can help partially illuminate these issues.

The New Left pointed to the difference in standards of living between the ‘first’ and ‘third’ worlds and called for greater global equality; it showed how society’s institutions were dominated and led by straight white men and called for greater diversity; and it expressed widespread disenchantment with the key features of Fordism—a bureaucratic labor movement, conformist universities , alienated “company men” under full employment, etc.—and called for a transition away from this administered society. Neoliberalism has delivered on all three counts: there appears to be greater equality between the first and third worlds, greater diversity within society’s institutions, and seemingly more individuality and unpredictability in social life.

Freedom, once a rallying cry of the Left, is now the stated ideology of the neoliberal program of upward redistribution of wealth. Indeed, the past decades have seen stagnating wages and a widening income disparity, even though women, LGBT people, people of color, and others who once faced legally enforced, identity-based social exclusion now appear to be more “free” than they were during the pre-neoliberal period of high Fordism. These two aspects of neoliberalism—its identitarian inclusiveness and its anti-working class agenda—appear to go hand-in-hand. Today, discontentment with the neoliberal order are expressed in terms of identity-based political constituencies, e.g., “women,” “labor,” “the black community”, integrated “democratically” as objects of the state (in the US, primarily through the Democratic Party). This appeal however, remains no less authoritarian for all of its apparent liberalism.

Although the politics of the New Left has achieved a dubious, partial success in the neoliberal era, today we are perhaps further than ever from the goal of global socialism. In its passing from the 1960s and through the 1980s, the New Left became institutionalized into two semi-autonomous camps, the “academic left” and the “activist left” –– the devolution of the ‘Marxist left’ into activist organizations in the 1980s was part of this transformation. While these camps continue to express a discontent with the status quo, they lack the mass appeal and political opportunity of the 1960s. 2016 has manifested the crisis of Neoliberalism in an acute manner with such phenomena as Brexit and the US Elections. In the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, discontent with neoliberalism expressed itself in the dual form of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders’ candidacies. Trump ultimately emerged as the more successful of the two, challenging the neoliberal consensus of both parties in a way Sanders did not.

How can we make sense of the Left’s failure in our contemporary moment to lead in the crisis of Neoliberalism? How can we make sense of the success of the Right in its absence? How then, in light of this history, can we imagine a future for the Left? How can the Left rise above the expression of frustrated expectations within neoliberalism to generating the kind of theory and political practice required to challenge capitalism?