The Communist Manifesto: A Teach-In
Wednesday, September 28 · 5:00pm
701 S Morgan St. UIC Stevenson Hall, Room 304
In the mid-19th century, Marx and Engels famously observed in the Communist Manifesto that a 'specter' was haunting Europe— the specter of Communism. 160 years later, it is 'Marxism' itself that haunts us.In the 21st century, it seems that the Left abandoned Marxism as a path to freedom. But Marx critically intervened in his own moment and emboldened leftists to challenge society; is the Left not tasked with this today? Has the Left resolved the problems posed by Marx, and thus moved on?Does Marxism even matter?Hosted by the Platypus Affiliated Society.For more information, please contact Joseph Estes: firstname.lastname@example.org
Panel held at the Marxist Literary Group Summer 2011 Institute on Culture and Society at the Institute for the Humanities, University of Illinois at Chicago on June 22, 2011
The legacy of revolution 1917-19 in Russia, Germany, Hungary and Italy is concentrated above all in the historical figures Vladimir Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky, leaders of the Left in the Second International (1889-1914) — what they called “revolutionary social democracy” — in the period preceding the crisis of war, revolution, counterrevolution and civil war in World War I and its aftermath. In 1920, Georg Lukács summed up this experience as follows: “[T]he crisis [of capital] remains permanent, it goes back to its starting-point, repeats the cycle until after infinite sufferings and terrible detours the school of history completes the education of the proletariat and confers upon it the leadership of mankind. . . . Of course this uncertainty and lack of clarity are themselves the symptoms of the crisis in bourgeois society. As the product of capitalism the proletariat must necessarily be subject to the modes of existence of its creator. . . . inhumanity and reification.” Nonetheless, these Marxists understood their politics as being “on the basis of capitalism” itself (Lenin). How were the 2nd Intl. radicals, importantly, critics, and not merely advocates, of their own political movement? What is the legacy of these figures today, after the 20th century — as Walter Benjamin said in his 1940 “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” “against the grain” of their time, reaching beyond it? How did Lenin, Luxemburg, and Trotsky contribute to the potential advancement and transformation of Marxism, in and through the crisis of Marxism in the early 20th century? How can we return to these figures productively, today, to learn the lessons of their history?
Panel held at the Marxist Literary Group Summer 2011 Institute on Culture and Society at the Institute for the Humanities, University of Illinois at Chicago on June 20, 2011
The “bourgeois revolutions” from the 16th through the 19th centuries — extending into the 20th — conformed humanity to modern city life, ending traditional, pastoral, religious custom in favor of social relations of the exchange of labor. Abbé Sieyès wrote in 1789 that, in contradistinction to the clerical 1st Estate who “prayed” and the aristocratic 2nd Estate who “fought,” the commoner 3rd Estate “worked:” “What has the 3rd Estate been? Nothing.” “What is it? Everything.” Kant warned that universal bourgeois society would be the mere midpoint in humanity’s achievement of freedom. After the last bourgeois revolutions in Europe of 1848 failed, Marx wrote of the “constitution of capital,” the ambivalent, indeed self-contradictory character of “free wage labor.” In the late 20th century, the majority of humanity abandoned agriculture in favor of urban life — however in “slum cities.” How does the bourgeois revolution appear from a Marxian point of view? How did what Marx called the “proletarianization” of society circa 1848 signal not only the crisis and supersession, but the need to fulfill and “complete” the bourgeois revolution, whose task now fell to the politics of “proletarian” socialism, expressed by the workers’ call for “social democracy?” How did this express the attempt, as Lenin put it, to overcome bourgeois society “on the basis of capitalism” itself? How did subsequent Marxism lose sight of Marx on this, and how might Marx’s perspective on the crisis of the bourgeois revolution in the 19th century still resonate today?
Spencer Leonard, “Marx’s critique of political economy: Proletarian socialism continuing the bourgeois revolution?”
Pamela Nogales, “Marx on the U.S. Civil War as the 2nd American Revolution”
Jeremy Cohan, “Lukács on Marx’s Hegelianism and the dialectic of Marxism”
Panel organized by the Platypus Affiliated Society given at the 2011 annual conference of the Cultural Studies Association in Chicago, IL on Thursday, March 24th, 2011, at Columbia College, Chicago.
Benjamin Shepard - Independent Scholar (Los Angeles), Platypus Affiliated Society
Jacob Cayia - University of Illinois - Chicago
Omair Hussain - School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Lucy Parker - School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Greg Gabrellas (chair) - University of Chicago, Platypus Affiliated Society
A talk held on November 17th, 2010 at the University of Illinois.
In the years immediately following World War II French intellectuals Jean-Paul Sartre and Frantz Fanon turned their attention to racism, anti-semitism and anti-black racism. Both men were engaged with both. Neither wrote from identity, but rather both sought to link their reflections to Marxism, to its failure and possible reconstitution.
The texts Sartre and Fanon wrote during the years 1945-1952 primarily Anti-Semite and Jew and Black Orpheus by one and Black Skin, White Masks by the other remain enigmatic, resisting assimilation to the canons of identity politics. Unlike later writings taken up by the New Left in the 1960s, above all Fanon's Wretched of the Earth with Sartre's notorious preface, the writings from the immediate post-war years are rarely revisited today and, insofar as they cannot be rendered mere precursors to the later works, they are ignored.
This talk seeks to recover the concerns of Sartre and Fanon regarding racism in the post-war years and, if possible, to estrange these writings in the process. That is, it seeks to raise as a question what has since become falsely naturalized: How did Sartre and Fanon intend their writings on racism not as contributions to the dismantling of Marxism, but to its reconstitution?