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Platypus Virginia reading group

Sundays at 5:00 p.m. ET via Zoom (recurring link here: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88341966622)

( • required / + recommended readings)

Required background reading:
• six readings by Chris Cutrone"Revolution without Marx? Rousseau, Kant and Hegel" (2013); Review of Andrew Feenberg, The Philosophy of Praxis (2015); "Why still read Lukacs? The place of 'philosophical' questions in Marxism" (2014); "Ends of philosophy" (2018); "On philosophy and Marxism" (2020); and “The negative dialectic of Marxism” (2021)

Recommended supplemental reading:
+ Adorno, Lectures on Negative Dialectics
+ Adorno, History and Freedom
+ Adorno, Introduction to Dialectics
+ Adorno, Ontology and Dialectics
+ Adorno, Metaphysics: Concepts and Problems

Primary sources:
• Theodor AdornoNegative Dialectics (1966, trans. E.B. Ashton, 1973)
Alternate translation by Dennis Redmond (2001/2021) [2021 updated PDF]

Charts of terms:
Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms
+ Kant's 3 Critiques [PNG] and philosophy [PNG] chart of terms
Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 
Commodity form chart of terms
Reification chart of terms
+ Adorno's critique of actionism chart of terms

Week 1: June 6, 2021

• Gillian RoseReview of Adorno's Negative Dialectics (1976)
• Theodor W. Adorno"Why still philosophy?"
• Chris Cutrone, "Ends of philosophy" (2018); "On philosophy and Marxism" (2020); and “The negative dialectic of Marxism” (2021)

Week 2: June 13, 2021

• AdornoNegative Dialectics, Prologue (Preface and Introduction) 

Week 3: June 20, 2021

• AdornoNegative Dialectics, Part One: Relation to Ontology: I. The Ontological Need

Week 4: June 27, 2021

• AdornoNegative Dialectics, Part One: Relation to Ontology: II. Being and Existence

Week 5: July 4, 2021

• AdornoNegative Dialectics, Part Two: Negative Dialectics: Concepts and Categories

Week 6: July 11, 2021

• AdornoNegative Dialectics, Part Three: Models: I. Freedom

Week 7: July 18, 2021

• AdornoNegative Dialectics, Part Three: Models: II. World Spirit and Natural History

Week 8: July 25, 2021

• AdornoNegative Dialectics, Part Three: Models: III. Meditations on Metaphysics
+ Cutrone, "Ends of philosophy" (2018); "On philosophy and Marxism" (2020); and “The negative dialectic of Marxism” (2021)

Platypus Summer 2021: Adorno's Negative Dialectics - Platypus (platypus1917.org)


II. Introduction to revolutionary Marxism

brodsky_leninsmolnypalace

Every Sunday

5:00pm to 7:00pm

Online via Zoom; recurring link (https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89913198002)

Find us on social media! Facebook (group), Facebook (page), and Twitter

Find us on Mason360!

Contact us with platypus.metrodc@gmail.com


Recommended winter break preliminary readings:

+ James Joll, The Second International 1889–1914 (1966)

+ Sebastian Haffner, Failure of a Revolution: Germany 1918–19 (1968)

+ Edmund Wilson, To the Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting of History (1940)

+ J.P. Nettl, Rosa Luxemburg (1966) [Vol. 1] [Vol. 2]

+ Georg Lukacs, Lenin: A Study on the Unity of his Thought (1924)

+ Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate , Introducing Lenin and the Russian Revolution / Lenin for Beginners (1977)
+ Tariq Ali and Phil Evans, Introducing Trotsky and Marxism / Trotsky for Beginners (1980) [ask for PDF]


Film screenings: spring 2021

• Fall of Eagles (1974) episodes: "The Last Tsar," "Absolute Beginners," "Dearest Nicky," "The Appointment," "The Secret War," and "End Game"

• 37 Days (2014) ([Episode 1] [Episode 2][Episode 3]

• Rosa Luxemburg (1986)

• Reds (1981)

• Lenin: The Train (1988)

• Doctor Zhivago (1965)

• Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States (2012) Episodes A (1900-20) and B (1920-40)


Winter–Spring 2021

II. Introduction to revolutionary Marxism


• required / + recommended reading


Week 12. Revolutionary Leadership | Jan. 17, 2021

• Rosa Luxemburg, “The Crisis of German Social Democracy” (1915)
• J. P. Nettl“The German Social Democratic Party 1890–1914 as a Political Model” (1965)
• Cliff Slaughter, “What is Revolutionary Leadership?” (1960)


Week 13. Reform or Revolution? | Jan. 24, 2021

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


Week 14. Lenin and the Vanguard Party | Jan. 31, 2021

• Spartacist LeagueLenin and the Vanguard Party (1978)

+ Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate , Introducing Lenin and the Russian Revolution / Lenin for Beginners (1977)

+ Georg Lukacs, Lenin: A Study on the Unity of his Thought (1924)


Week 15. What is to be done? | Feb. 7, 2021

• V. I. LeninWhat is to be Done? (1902)

+ Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate , Introducing Lenin and the Russian Revolution / Lenin for Beginners (1977)


Week 16. Mass Strike and Social Democracy | Feb. 14, 2021

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


Week 17. Permanent Revolution | Feb. 21, 2021

• Leon TrotskyResults and Prospects (1906)

+ Trotsky, 1905 (1907)

+ Tariq Ali and Phil Evans, Introducing Trotsky and Marxism / Trotsky for Beginners (1980)


Week 18. State and Revolution | Feb. 28, 2021

• LeninThe State and Revolution (1917)


Week 19. Imperialism | Mar. 7, 2021

• LeninImperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1915-17)

+ Lenin, Socialism and War, Ch. 1 The principles of socialism and the War of 1914–15 (1915)


Week 20. Failure of the Revolution | Mar. 14, 2021

• Luxemburg“What does the Spartacus League Want?” (1918)
• Luxemburg“On the Spartacus Programme” (1918)

+ Luxemburg, "German Bolshevism" (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. Retreat after Revolution | Mar. 21, 2021

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


Week 22. Dialectic of Reification | Mar. 28, 2021

• Lukács“The Standpoint of the Proletariat” (Part III of “Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat,” 1923). Also available on Marxists.org

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)


early April, 2021 [Platypus international convention] --- all are invited


Week 24. Lessons of October | Apr. 18, 2021

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


Week 25. Trotskyism and the 4th International| Apr. 25, 2021

+ 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 (1938)

+ Trotsky, "Trade unions in the epoch of imperialist decay" (1940)
+ Trotsky, Letter to James Cannon (September 12, 1939)

+ Platypus Historians Group, "The Dead Left: Trotskyism" (2008)


Week 26. The Authoritarian State | May 2, 2021

• Friedrich Pollock"State Capitalism: Its Possibilities and Limitations" (1941)

• Max Horkheimer, "The Authoritarian State" (1942)

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 


Week 27. On the Concept of History | May 9, 2021

• two epigraphs, Louis Menand (on Marx and Engels, 2003) and Peter Preuss (on Nietzsche, 1980)

• Benjamin"Theses on the Philosophy of History" (1940) [PDF]
• BenjaminParalipomena to "On the Concept of History" (1940)

+ 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, 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)

+ Charles Baudelaire, from Fusées [Rockets] (1867)
+ Bertolt Brecht, "To posterity" (1939)

Benjamin on history chart of terms

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


Week 28. Reflections on Marxism | May 16, 2021

• Theodor Adorno“Reflections on Class Theory” (1942)
• Adorno“Imaginative Excesses” (1944–47)

+ Adorno, four selections from Minima Moralia (1944–47)  Dedication"Bequest""Warning: Not to be Misused", and "Finale"

+ Horkheimer and Adorno, "Discussion about Theory and Praxis" (a.k.a "Towards a New Manifesto?") (1956)

Capital in history timeline and chart of terms

Benjamin on history chart of terms

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


Week 29. Theory and Practice | May 23, 2021

• Adorno“Marginalia to Theory and Praxis” (1969)
• Adorno“Resignation” (1969)

+ Adorno, “Late Capitalism or Industrial Society?” (a.k.a. “Is Marx Obsolete?”) (1968)

+ Adorno and Herbert Marcuse, correspondence on the German New Left (1969)

+ Adorno, Interview with Der Spiegel magazine (1969)

+ Esther Leslie, Introduction to the 1969 Adorno-Marcuse correspondence (1999)

+ Adorno, “On Subject and Object” (1969)

Adorno's critique of actionism chart of terms

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

Every Sunday

5:00pm to 7:00pm

Online via Zoom

Find us on Facebook! facebook.com/groups/PAS.GMU/

Find us on Twitter! @Platypus_GMU

Find us on Mason360! mason360.gmu.edu/pas/home/

Contact us with platypus.metrodc@gmail.com


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

• required / + recommended reading


Find a copy of the Marx and Engels readings from Robert C. Tucker, ed., Marx-Engels Reader (Norton 2nd ed., 1978)


Week A. Introduction: Capital in History | Aug. 2, 2020

Whoever dares undertake to establish a people’s institutions must feel himself capable of changing, as it were, human nature, of transforming each individual, who by himself is a complete and solitary whole, into a part of a larger whole, from which, in a sense, the individual receives his life and his being, of substituting a limited and mental existence for the physical and independent existence. He has to take from man his own powers, and give him in exchange alien powers which he cannot employ without the help of other men.

-- Jean-Jacques Rousseau, On the Social Contract (1762)

• Max Horkheimer"The Little Man and the Philosophy of Freedom" (1926–31)

• four epigraphs on modern history and freedom by James Miller (on Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 2000), Louis Menand (on Marx and Engels, 2003), Karl Marx (on "becoming", from the Grundrisse, 1857–58), and Peter Preuss (on Nietzsche, 1980)

• Chris Cutrone"Capital in History" (2008)

• Cutrone"The Marxist Hypothesis" (2010)

• Cutrone“Class Consciousness (from a Marxist Persective) Today”

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

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

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

Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) chart of terms

Capital in history timeline and chart of terms

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 


Week B. 1960s New Left I. Neo-Marxism | Aug. 9, 2020

• Martin Nicolaus“The Unknown Marx” (1968)

• Moishe Postone“Necessity, Labor, and Time” (1978)

• Theodor Adorno“Late Capitalism or Industrial Society?” (a.k.a. “Is Marx Obsolete?”) (1968)

Commodity form chart of terms

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 

Organic composition of capital chart of terms

+ Postone, “Interview: Marx after Marxism” (2008)

+ Postone, “History and Helplessness: Mass Mobilization and Contemporary Forms of Anticapitalism” (2006)

+ Postone, “Theorizing the Contemporary World: Brenner, Arrighi, Harvey” (2006)


Week C. 1960s New Left II: Gender and Sexuality | Aug. 16, 2020

The situation of women is different from that of any other social group. This is because they are not one of a number of isolable units, but half a totality: the human species. Women are essential and irreplaceable; they cannot therefore be exploited in the same way as other social groups can. They are fundamental to the human condition, yet in their economic, social and political roles, they are marginal. It is precisely this combination — fundamental and marginal at one and the same time — that has been fatal to them. — Juliet Mitchell, "Women: The longest revolution" (1966)

• Juliet Mitchell“Women: The Longest Revolution” (1966)

• Clara Zetkin and Vladimir Lenin“An interview on the woman question” (1920)

• Theodor Adorno“Sexual taboos and the law today” (1963)

• John D’Emilio“Capitalism and gay identity” (1983)

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 


Week D. 1960s New Left III. Anti-black Racism in the U.S. | Aug. 23, 2020

As a social party we receive the Negro and all other races upon absolutely equal terms. We are the party of the working class, the whole working class, and we will not suffer ourselves to be divided by any specious appeal to race prejudice; and if we should be coaxed or driven from the straight road we will be lost in the wilderness and ought to perish there, for we shall no longer be a Socialist party. — Eugene Debs, "The Negro in the Class Struggle" (1903)

• Richard Fraser“Two Lectures on the Black Question in America and Revolutionary Integrationism” (1953)

• James Robertson and Shirley Stoute“For Black Trotskyism” (1963)

• Adolph Reed“Black Particularity Reconsidered” (1979)

+ Eugene Debs, "The Negro in the Class Struggle" (1903) 

+ Debs, "The Negro and His Nemesis" (1904)

+ Spartacist League, “Black and Red: Class Struggle Road to Negro Freedom” (1966)

+ Bayard Rustin, “The Failure of Black Separatism” (1970)

+ Reed, “Paths to Critical Theory” (1984)

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 


Week E. Frankfurt School precursors | Aug. 30, 2020

• Wilhelm Reich“Ideology as Material Power” (1933/46)

• Siegfried Kracauer“The Mass Ornament” (1927)

+ Kracauer, “Photography” (1927)

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 


six weeks on radical bourgeois thought...

"The genius of Marx consists precisely in his having furnished answers to questions already raised by the foremost minds of mankind. His teachings emerged as the direct and immediate continuation of the teachings of the greatest representatives of philosophy, political economy, and socialism...[Marxism] is the legitimate successor to the best that man produced [in] German philosophy, English political economy, and French socialism." --- Vladimir Lenin, "Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism" (1913)

Week F. radical bourgeois philosophy I. Rousseau: Crossroads of Society | Sep. 6, 2020

"To be radical is to go to the root of the matter. For man, however, the root is man himself."

— Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (1843)

"Whoever dares undertake to establish a people’s institutions must feel himself capable of changing, as it were, human nature, of transforming each individual, who by himself is a complete and solitary whole, into a part of a larger whole, from which, in a sense, the individual receives his life and his being, of substituting a limited and mental existence for the physical and independent existence. He has to take from man his own powers, and give him in exchange alien powers which he cannot employ without the help of other men."

— Jean-Jacques Rousseau, On the Social Contract (1762)

• Max Horkheimer"The Little Man and the Philosophy of Freedom" (1926–31)

• four epigraphs on modern history and freedom by James Miller (on Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 2000), Louis Menand (on Marx and Engels, 2003), Karl Marx (on "becoming", from the Grundrisse, 1857–58), and Peter Preuss (on Nietzsche, 1980)

• Jean-Jacques RousseauDiscourse on the Origin of Inequality (1754) PDFs of preferred translation (5 parts): [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

• Rousseauselection from On the Social Contract (1762)

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

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

Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) chart of terms


Week G. radical bourgeois philosophy II. Adam Smith: On the Wealth of Nations| Sep. 12, 2020

 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 II. Adam Smith: On the Wealth of Nations| Sep. 20, 2020

 Adam Smith, selections from The Wealth of Nations

Volume II [PDF]
IV.7, Of Colonies
V.1. Of the Expenses of the Sovereign or Commonwealth


Week I. radical bourgeois philosophy IV. What is the Third Estate? | Sep. 27, 2020

• Abbé Emmanuel Joseph SieyèsWhat is the Third Estate? (1789)

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


Week J. radical bourgeois philosophy V. Kant and Constant: Bourgeois Society | Oct. 3, 2020

• Immanuel Kant"Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View" (1784)

Kant,  "What is Enlightenment?" (1784)

• Benjamin Constant"The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with That of the Moderns" (1819)

Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) chart of terms


Week K. radical bourgeois philosophy VI. Hegel: Freedom in History | Oct. 11, 2020

• 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


Ten weeks on Marx's Marxism...


Week 1. What is the Left? I. Capital in History | Oct. 18, 2020

• Max Horkheimer"The Little Man and the Philosophy of Freedom" (1926–31)

• four epigraphs on modern history and freedom by James Miller (on Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 2000), Louis Menand (on Marx and Engels, 2003), Karl Marx (on "becoming", from the Grundrisse, 1857–58), and Peter Preuss (on Nietzsche, 1980)

• Chris Cutrone"Capital in History" (2008)

• Cutrone"The Marxist Hypothesis" (2010)

• Cutrone“Class Consciousness (from a Marxist Perspective) Today”

Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) chart of terms

Capital in history timeline and chart of terms

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 

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

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

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


Week 2. What is the Left? II. Utopia and Critique | Oct. 25, 2020

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

• 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

• Max Horkheimerselections from Dämmerung (1926–31)

Adorno, “Imaginative Excesses” (1944–47)

• Herbert Marcuse"Note on Dialectics" (1960) 

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 

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


Week 3. What is Marxism? I. What is Socialism?| Nov. 1, 2020

• Marxselections from Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (1844), pp. 70–101

• Marx, selection from The Poverty of Philosophy (1847)

• Marx and Friedrich Engelsselections from the Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848), pp. 469-500

Commodity form chart of terms

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

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 


Week 4. What is Marxism? II. Revolution in 1848 | Nov. 8, 2020

• MarxAddress to the Central Committee of the Communist League (1850), pp. 501–511

• Marx, "My Unique Contributions" (letter to J. 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. 15, 2020

+ 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. 22, 2020

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

• Marx, selections from the Grundrisse (1857–61), pp. 222–226, 236–244, 247–250, 276–293 --- sections A, C, D, and H (w/their numbered subsections) and sections F and G

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

Commodity form chart of terms

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 

Organic composition of capital chart of terms

+ Marx on surplus value chart of terms

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


Week 7. What is Marxism? V. Reification | Dec. 6, 2020

• 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

Organic composition of capital chart of terms

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms

Reification chart of terms

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


Week 8. What is Marxism? VI. Class Consciousness | Dec. 13, 2020

• LukácsOriginal Preface (1922)

• Lukács“What is Orthodox Marxism?” (1919)

• Lukács“Class Consciousness” (1920)

Note: all are chapters from Lukacs' History and Class Consciousness (1923)

+ Marx, Preface to the First German Edition and Afterword to the Second German Edition (1873) of Capital (1867), pp. 294–298, 299–302

+ Capitalist contradiction chart of terms
Reification chart of terms
Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms


Week 10. What is Marxism? VII. Ends of Philosophy | Dec. 20, 2020

• Korsch, Marxism and Philosophy (1923)

+ 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

Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 

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


Winter break recommended readings

+ James Joll, The Second International 1889–1914 (1966)

+ Sebastian Haffner, Failure of a Revolution: Germany 1918–19 (1968)

+ Georg Lukacs, Lenin: A Study in the Unity of His Thought (1924)

+ Edmund Wilson, To the Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting of History (1940)

+ Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate / A&Z, Introducing Lenin and the Russian Revolution / Lenin for Beginners (1977)

+ Tariq Ali and Phil Evans, Introducing Trotsky and Marxism / Trotsky for Beginners (1980)

+ J.P. Nettl, Rosa Luxemburg: A Biography (1962)


Spring 2021 Marxist reading syllabus

II. Introduction to Revolutionary Marxism

Weeks 11 through 28 of the syllabus on What is Revolutionary Marxism?


"How well Kautsky wrote [when he was still a Marxist]!"
— Lenin, "Left-Wing" Communism — An Infantile Disorder (1920)

[archiveorg freedomintheanthropocene2019platypusaffiliatedsociety width=640 height=480 frameborder=0 webkitallowfullscreen=true mozallowfullscreen=true]

A moderated panel discussion hosted by the Platypus Affiliated Society on the interrelation of capital, history, and ecology.

Panelists:

- Ashik Siddique, Democratic Socialists of America
- Ethan Wright, Zero Hour
- Mike Golash, Progressive Labor Party
- Wyatt Verlen, Platypus Affiliated Society

Description:

The Dutch atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen has characterized the period marked by the start of the industrial revolution in the 18th Century to the present as a new geological epoch “the Anthropocene”. This periodization is meant to capture a change in the history of the planet, namely that for the first time in Earth’s history its course will be determined by the question of what humanity will become.

While the idea of an era of planetary history driven by humanity was viewed as a great accomplishment by Enlightenment thinkers, it has now come to be associated with the potential demise of all life on Earth. The legacy of the Industrial Revolution has not, after all, led to the opening of human capacities and the flourishing of vibrant ecosystems, but rather the diminishing of both. The onus on humanity to shape the course of history seems only to lead to increasingly unsuccessful attempts to avoid planetary disaster. This event will focus on different interpretations of why the Left has failed to deal with the deepening crisis of the Anthropocene through the 19th and 20th Centuries, and how and if this problem is interrelated with the growing problems associated with ecological systems across the earth.

While Karl Marx would note that the problem of freedom shifted with the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of the working class - the crisis of bourgeois society that Marx would term capital - the idea of freedom seemed not to survive the collapse of Marxist politics in the 20th Century. We seem to live in a world in which the fate of ecological systems seems foreclosed, where attempts at eco-modernization seem to emerge many steps behind the rate of ecological degradation. For many, degradation of the environment appears a permanent feature of modern society, something which can only be resisted or despaired but never transformed.

This panel will consider the relationship between capital and the Left – and thus the issue of history and freedom - and how it may be linked to our present inability to render environmental threats visible and comprehensible, and by extension, subject to their conscious and free overcoming by society.

Questions:

  1. Bourgeois society is typically marked as emerging in the 16th century, while the Anthropocene is dated later near the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. Why mark the Anthropocene and the emergence of bourgeois society as distinct periods of natural and human history? What are the stakes? How do you relate these two periods? If you consider these periods to mark a qualitative change in humanity/society/ecology, then what is characteristic of this change?
  2. A later phase of the Anthropocene is marked by the historically unprecedented economic growth following World War II (what Crutzen called “the Great Acceleration”). Contemporary environmentalism emerged in response to the subsequent destruction in the late 1960s. How do you understand the conditions of possibility of an environmental critique? What, in your view, is the nature of the link between the 1960s origins of environmentalism, the subsequent transformation of state-centric capitalism into neoliberalism, and today’s worldwide ecological crisis in the 21st century? What is the price we pay for neglecting the story of how we got here?
  3. The late 20th century saw the migration of people originally drawn to Marxism into alternative camps. For example, a figure like Murray Bookchin in the 1960s prefigures the flight from Marxism by people like Joschka Fischer and Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Green Party) in the 1980s. This, by all accounts, stems from their disappointment with the Marxism of the Old Left (1930s-40s) as well as the New Left (1960s-70s). Given this legacy, what, if anything, does Marxism have to contribute to advancing an environmental politics today?
  4. Early 20th century revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg characterized socialism as “the first popular movement in world history that has set itself the goal of bringing human consciousness, and thereby free will, into play in the social actions of mankind.” Today, by contrast, much of the Left appears to find the very notion of freedom hubristic, preferring to resist the dynamism of contemporary society rather than transform it. Many environmental scholars have reflected recently that environmental radicalism seems less-and-less located in the most advanced sections of capital formation, and more frequently among the displaced who understandably find recourse in resisting. How do you account for this change in focus? Is there a viable future within these movements? What is the meaning of the transition from freedom and transformation to resistance?
  5. There is a growing discourse of “de-growth”, which, like other aspects of contemporary environmentalism, presupposes concepts such as “limits” and “sustainability”. How do you regard the call for de-growth amid boundless accumulation? Does de-growth provide a promising path towards a reconciliation between ecology and society, or does it fall short of grasping the reasons why contemporary society constantly undermines limits, not only to destructive ends, but also towards generating previously unforeseen possibilities?