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This year marks the 50th anniversary of May 68. As such, we would like to invite you to participate in the 12-week reading group covering the New Left.

The same amount of time has passed between our moment and 1968 as between the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the events 1968. Ushered in by a New Left that sought to distinguish itself from the Old Left that emerged in the 20s and 30s, the monumental events of 1968 set the tone for everything from protest politics to academic leftism that we know today. We can perhaps feel the urgency of the question: what lessons are to be drawn from the New Left as another generation undertakes the project of building a Left for the 21st century?

 

Starting Feb 20th, 2018

Tuesdays 7–10pm

Zossener Str. 56, 10961 Berlin 

(Eingang A. 4. Stock. Buzzer: Zizoo)

Call 017680637663 if you cant find us!

Facebook event and discussion here.


 

General recommended background readings:

 

Week 1: Feb 20th
Introducing the New Left
New forms of discontent?

"It is with [the] problem of agency in mind that I have been studying the intellectuals. . . . [I]f we try to be realistic in our utopianism — not fruitless contradiction — a writer on the Left today must begin there. For that is what we are, that is where we stand." (Mills 1960)

"The concept of the Left remains unclear to this day." (Kolakowski 1968)


 

Week 2: Feb 27th
Theory and Practice I
Frankfurt School and the New Left: the 1930s and the '60s

"In socialism, freedom is to become a reality. But because the present system is called 'free' and considered liberal, it is not terribly clear what this might mean. . . . Not only [the Little Man's] lack of freedom but that of [his betters] as well spells his doom. His interest lies in the Marxist clarification of the concept of freedom. . . . The socialist order of society is not prevented by world history; it is historically possible. But it will not be realized by a logic that is immanent to history but by men trained in theory and determined to make things better. Otherwise, it will not be realized at all."
(Horkheimer 1926-31)

"Praxis appears necessarily as a blind spot, as an obsession with what is being criticized. . . . This admixture of delusion, however, warns of the excesses in which it incessantly grows." (Adorno 1969)

Recommended background reading:


 

Week 3: March 6th
Theory and Practice II

Adorno-Marcuse correspondence


 

Week 4: March 13th
Crisis on the Left: is revolution justified by history?

"For, after all, are we not always in exceptional situations? The failure of the [1848 revolution in France and the] 1849 revolution in Germany [were] exception[s], the failure in Paris in 1871 was an exception, the German Social-Democratic failure of the beginning of the 20th Century in producing the chauvinism of 1914 was an exception, the success of 1917 was an exception — exceptions, but with respect to what? Nothing but the abstract idea, which is nonetheless comforting and reassuring, of a pure, simple, dialectical schema, which in its very simplicity seems to have retained the memory (or rediscovered the allure) of the Hegelian model and its faith in the resolving power of the abstract contradiction as such: particularly the beautiful contradiction between Capital and Labor." (Althusser 1962)

 

Supplemental Reading:


 

Week 5: March 20th
"What is revolutionary leadership?"

"The historical crisis of mankind is reduced to the crisis of revolutionary leadership."
(Leon Trotsky 1938)

" 'Revisionism' is the view that every new development requires the abandonment in
practice of basic aspects of previously held theory. Ultimately this drift from the dialectical
materialist method leads to a drift from the working class itself. Marxism, on the contrary,
develops through the continual integration of new elements, new realities, into its
theoretical structure. . . . Particularly in the present period, when the working class seems
to the empiricist to be under the complete and everlasting domination of reformist
bureaucracies, this ideological pressure is the result of a terribly strong social pressure.
The Trotskyist groups feel small and isolated at the very moment that significant leftist
forces are clearly in motion throughout the world. These forces, however, are under the
leadership of non-proletarian tendencies: 'left' social democrats, Stalinists of one or another variety, and 'revolutionary' bourgeois or petty-bourgeois groups in the colonial countries." (RT of the SWP-USA 1962)

Supplemental reading:

Recommended Background Reading:

  • Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate, Introducing Lenin and the Russian Revolution(1977)
  • Tariq Ali and Phil Evans, Introducing Trotsky and Marxism (1980)
  • Spartacist League, Lenin and the Vanguard Party (pamphlet 1978)

 

Week 6: March 27th
Re-organizing the Left?


 

Week 7: April 3rd
New "vanguards" for revolution? (1): anti-authoritarianism

  • Rudi Dutschke, "On Anti-Authoritarianism" (1968) [in Oglesby, ed., New Left Reader, 243-253]
  • Daniel and Gabriel Cohn-Bendit, "The Battle for the Streets" — C'est Pour Toi Que Tu Fais La Révolution" [from Obsolete Communism: A Left-Wing Alternative (1968)] [in Oglesby, ed., New Left Reader, 254-266]

Supplemental Readings:


 

Week 8: April 10th
Identity Politics

Supplemental Readings:

Suggested Viewing: Finally Got the News (film 1970, 55 min.: dir. Bird, Lichtman and Gessner with LRBW


 

Week 9: April 17th
Neo-Marxism?

 

Mondays 7–10pm

Zossener Str. 56, 10961 Berlin (Eingang A. 4. Stock. Buzzer: Zizoo)


required / + recommended reading


Lenin readings available in Robert C. Tucker, ed., The Lenin Anthology (Norton, 1977), except (*) on marxists.org


Recommended background readings

+ Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate / A&Z, Introducing Lenin and the Russian Revolution / Lenin for Beginners (1977)
+ John Reed, Ten Days that Shook the World (1919)


Week 1 | Aug 14

• Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution (1905)
• Lenin, On the Two Lines in the Revolution (1915) *


Week 2 | Aug 21

Lenin, Lecture on the 1905 Revolution (1917)
Lenin, Letters from Afar (1917) *
Lenin, April Theses (1917)


Week 3 | Aug 28

Lenin, The Dual Power (1917)
Lenin, The Enemies of the People (1917)
Lenin, The Beginning of Bonapartism (1917)


Week 4 | Sep 5

Lenin, Can the Bolsheviks Retain State Power? (1917)
Lenin, Marxism and Insurrection (1917)
Lenin, Advice of an Onlooker (1917)


Week 5 | Sep 12

Lenin, To the Citizens of Russia! (1917)
Lenin, Theses on the Constituent Assembly (1917)
Lenin, The Chief Task of Our Day (1918)
Lenin, The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government (1918)


Week 6 | Sep 19

Lenin, The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky (1918)

Part II. Introduction to revolutionary Marxism

March 13 – July 17

Mondays 7–10pm

Zossener Str. 56, 10961 Berlin (Eingang A. 4. Stock. Buzzer: Zizoo)

Join us as we embark on our 4-month-long reading group.

We will discuss key texts from the high period of the history of Marxism in the 2nd International and the crisis of Marxism in the early 20th century. We will address the problem of consciousness of this history and its potential political implications in the present. Readings include Luxemburg, Lenin, Trotsky, the philosophical reflections on Marxism by Lukacs and Korsch, and their ramifications in the Frankfurt School Critical Theory of Walter Benjamin, Horkheimer, and Adorno.

The discussion will be in English but texts are available in German below.


  • required/ + recommended reading

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


Recommended winter break preliminary readings:

• Sebastian HaffnerFailure of a Revolution: Germany 1918–19(1968)
+ 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)
+ Tariq Ali and Phil Evans, Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. (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


Recommended viewing: March and April 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)


Spring-Summer 2017 syllabus

Introduction to revolutionary Marxism 

Week 13. Revolutionary leadership | March 13, 2017

•  Rosa Luxemburg, “The Crisis of German Social Democracy” Part I / “Die ‘Junius-Broschüre’ / Krise der Sozialdemokratie”Teil I Part 1 (1915)
•  J. P. Nettl“The German Social Democratic Party 1890–1914 as a Political Model”(1965)
•  Cliff Slaughter, “What is Revolutionary Leadership?” (1960)


Week 14. Reform or revolution? | March 20

•  LuxemburgReform or Revolution?/ "Sozialreform oder Revolution"


(1900/08)

Week 15. Lenin and the vanguard party | March 27

•  Spartacist LeagueLenin and the Vanguard Party/ “Lenin und die Avantgardepartei” (1978)


Week 16. What is to be done? | April 3

•  V. I. LeninWhat is to be Done?/ "Was tun?" (1902)
+ Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate / A&Z, Introducing Lenin and the Russian Revolution /Lenin for Beginners (1977)


Break: April 10, 2017 [Platypus international convention] 


Week 17. Mass strike and social democracy | April 17

•  LuxemburgThe Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions/  „Massenstreik, Partei und Gewerkschaften“  (1906)
+ Luxemburg, "Blanquism and Social Democracy" / „Blanquismus und Sozialdemokratie"  (1906)


Week 18. Permanent revolution | April 24

•  Leon TrotskyResults and Prospects/ "Ergebnisse und Perspektiven" (1906)
+ Tariq Ali and Phil Evans, Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.(1980)


Week 19. State and revolution | May 1

•  LeninThe State and Revolution/ "Staat und Revolution"  (1917)


Week 22. Failure of the revolution | May 8

•  Luxemburg“What does the Spartacus League Want?”/  "Was will der Spartakusbund?" (1918)
•  Luxemburg“On the Spartacus Programme” / "Unser Programm und die politische Situation" (1918)
+ Luxemburg, 
"German Bolshevism" (AKA "The Socialisation of Society") (1918)
+ Luxemburg, “The Russian Tragedy” / "Die Sozialisierung der Gesellschaft" (1918)
+ Luxemburg, 
“Order Reigns in Berlin” / "Die Sozialisierung der Gesellschaft" (1919)
+ Sebastian Haffner, 
Failure of a Revolution: Germany 1918–19 / "Die deutsche Revolution 1918/19" (1968)


Week 23. Retreat after revolution | May 15

•  Lenin“Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder/ "Der „Linke Radikalismus“, die Kinderkrankheit im Kommunismus"(1920)
+ Lenin, 
"Notes of a Publicist" / "Notizen eines Publizisten" (1922)


Week 24. Dialectic of reification | May 22

•  Lukács“The Standpoint of the Proletariat”(Part III of “Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat,” 1923). Available in three sections from marxists.orgsection 1 section 2 section 3 / “Der Standpunkt des Proletariats” (= Teil III. des Kapitels “Die Verdinglichung und das Bewußtsein des Proletariats”) In: Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein


Week 25. Lessons of October | May 29

•  TrotskyThe Lessons of October(1924) [PDF] "Die Lehren des Oktobers"
+ Trotsky, "Stalinism and Bolshevism" /  "Bolschewismus und Stalinismus" (1937)


Week 26. Trotskyism | June 5

• TrotskyThe Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International / "Der Todeskampf des Kapitalismus und die Aufgaben der 4. Internationale" (Das Übergangsprogramm) (1938)
+ Trotsky, "To build communist parties and an international anew" (1933)
+ Trotsky, "Trade unions in the epoch of imperialist decay" (1940)
+ Trotsky, Letter to James Cannon (September 12, 1939)


Week 27. The authoritarian state | June 12,

•  Friedrich Pollock"State Capitalism: Its Possibilities and Limitations"(1941) (note 32 on USSR)
•  Max Horkheimer, "The Authoritarian State" (1942)


Week 28. On the concept of history | June 19

•  Epigraphs by Louis Menand(on Edmund Wilson) and Peter Preuss(on Nietzsche) on the modern concept of history
• Benjamin"On the Concept of History" (AKA "Theses on the Philosophy of History") (1940) [PDF] • BenjaminParalipomena to "On the Concept of History"(1940)
+ Charles Baudelaire, from Fusées [Rockets] (1867)
+ Bertolt Brecht, "To posterity" (1939)
+ Walter Benjamin, "To the planetarium" (from One-Way Street, 1928)
+ Benjamin, "Experience and poverty" (1933)
+ Benjamin, Theologico-political fragment (1921/39?)


Week 29. Reflections on Marxism | June 26

•  Theodor Adorno“Reflections on Class Theory”(1942)
•  Adorno“Imaginative Excesses”(1944–47)
+ Adorno, Dedication"Bequest""Warning: Not to be Misused" and "Finale"Minima Moralia (1944–47)
+ Horkheimer and Adorno, "Discussion about Theory and Praxis" (AKA "Towards a New Manifesto?") [Deutsch] (1956)


Week 30. Theory and practice | July 3

• Adorno“Marginalia to Theory and Praxis” (1969)
• Adorno“Resignation” (1969)
+ Adorno, “On Subject and Object” (1969)
+ Adorno, “Late Capitalism or Industrial Society?” (AKA “Is Marx Obsolete?”) (1968)
+ Esther Leslie, Introduction to the 1969 Adorno-Marcuse correspondence (1999)
+ Adorno and Herbert Marcuse, correspondence on the German New Left (1969)

What is the "Left" what is "Marxism"?

Was ist die "Linke"? - Was ist "Marxismus"?

 

Join us as we embark on our 11-week reading group series on the philosophical, historical, and political significance of Marxism. 

The discussion will be in English but texts are available in German below.

Runs every Monday evening between 7 November and 19 December 2016 (we resume in January after Holiday break).

Zossener Str. 56, 10961 Berlin (Eigang A. 4 stuck. Buzzer: Zizoo)

 


Call 017680637663 if you have problems finding us.

Join facebook group for regular updates.

Email berlin@platypus1917.org if you have any questions.


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

required / + recommended reading


Week 1. What is the Left? I. Capital in history | 07.11.2016

• James Miller On Jean-Jacques Rousseau [ENG]
Louis Menand (über Edmund Wilson) Meaning in History [ENG]
Chris 
Cutrone“Capital in history” (2008) [ENG] [DEU]
Chris 
Cutrone, “The Marxist hypothesis” (2010) [ENG]


Week 2. What is the Left? III. Failure of Marxism | 14.11.2016

• Max Horkheimer, Selections from Dämmerung (1926–31) [ENG] [DEU]
Theodor 
Adorno, “Imaginative Excesses” (1944–47)  [ENG] [DEU] (“Ausschweifung” GS4:297-300, Anhang in Minima Moralia, letzter Abschnitt)


Week 3. What is the Left? IV. Utopia and critique | 21.11.2016

• Leszek Kolakowski, “The concept of the Left” (1968) [ENG] [DEU]
Karl 
Marx, To make the world philosophical (1839–41)  [ENG] [DEU] (MEW 40, S. 325 - 331)
Karl 
Marx, For the ruthless criticism of everything existing (Letter to Arnold Ruge, September 1843) [ENG] [DEU]


Week 4. What is Marxism? I. Socialism | 28.11.2016

Karl Marx, Selections from Economic and philosophic manuscripts  (1844) [ENG] [DEU] (Auszüge aus Ökonomisch-philosophische Manuskripte  Die entfremdete Arbeit;Privateigentum und KommunismusBedürfnis, Produktion und Arbeitsteilung (bis |XXI||, MEW 40:556 [exclusiv ||XXXIV|| Die Grundrente])

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, selections from the Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848) [ENG] [DEU]

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

+ Commodity form chart of terms


Week 5. What is Marxism? II. Revolution in 1848 | 5.12.2016

Marx, The coming upheaval (from The Poverty of Philosophy, 1847) and Class struggle and mode of production (letter to Weydemeyer, 1852), pp. 218-220

• Friedrich Engels, The tactics of social democracy [ENG] [DEU] (1895)
Karl Marx, selections from The Class Struggles in France 1848–50 [ENG] [DEU] (1850) (nur Teil I, der verlinkt ist)
Karl 
Marx, selections from The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte  [ENG] [DEU]  (1852) [Teil I und VII]


Week 6. What is Marxism? III. Bonapartism |12.12.2016

Karl Marx, Inaugural address to the First International  [ENG] [DEU] (1864)
• Karl Marx, selections from The Civil War in France  [ENG] [DEU] [Teil III und IV] (1871, including Engels's 1891 Introduction [ENG] [DEU] )
• Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme [ENG] [DEU], pp. 525–541 (1875)

Marx, Programme of the Parti Ouvrier (1880)

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

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


Week 7. What is Marxism? IV. Critique of political economy | 19.12.2016

• Karl Marx selections from the Grundrisse (1857–61), pp. 222–226, 236–244, 247–250, 276–293  [ENG] [DEU] (1857–61) [MEW Bd. 13, S.615-641]
• Karl MarxCapital Vol. I, Ch. 1 Sec. 4 "The fetishism of commodities"  [ENG] [DEU] (1867) [MEW Bd. 23, S.85-98]

+ Commodity form chart of terms


Winter break: recommended 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)

+ 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

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

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


Week 9. What is Marxism? V. Reification | 23.01.2017

• Georg Lukács, “The phenomenon of reification” (Part I of “Reification and the consciousness of the proletariat,” History and Class Consciousness, 1923) [ENG] [DEU] 

+ Commodity form chart of terms


Week 10. What is Marxism? VI. Class consciousness |

30.01.2017

• Georg Lukács, Original Preface (1922), [ENG] [DEU]
• Georg Lukács, “What is Orthodox Marxism?” (1919) [ENG] [DEU]

• Georg Lukács, “Class Consciousness” (1920) [ENG] [DEU] 

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


Week 11. What is Marxism? VII. Ends of philosophy |

06.02.2017

• Karl Korsch “Marxism and philosophy” (1923) [ENG] [DEU] [in der verlinkten Ausgabe S.84-160]

+ 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–Spring 2017

II. Introduction to revolutionary Marxism

"Marx issued the call to all the workers of the globe, regardless of race, sex, creed or any other condition whatsoever. 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)

How have changes in social group identity affected the politics of capitalism and the Left's responses to it? While vulgar-propagandistic and economic-reformist Revisionist pseudo-"Marxism" appeared to reduce the problem of capitalism to exploitation -- to the neglect of other forms of social oppression -- there have been several important attempts to grasp the struggle for socialism in capitalism in broader and deeper ways, occasioned by crises that have transformed the concrete practices and lived experience of people -- for instance, as matters of gender roles, sexuality, and "racial" segregation and affinity -- as capitalism has developed and changed over the course of the past century. We will read from among the most sharply acute and incisively critical attempts by Marxists to articulate these crises of social identity as opportunities for finding how capitalism potentially points beyond itself in the struggle for socialism.

Wednesdays 8 June - 20 July, 2016, 19:00h 

Zossenerstrasse 56, eingang A, 4. Stock

Week 1: Women's Question - Wednesday 8 June

+ Quintin Hoare, "On Mitchell's 'Women: the longest revolution' " (1967)
+ Mitchell, reply to Quintin Hoare (1967)


Week 2: Women's Question and sexuality  - Wednesday 15 June


Week 3: Gay Identity and sexuality - Wednesday 22 June


Week 4: Race and the Black Question - Wednesday 29 June

Max ShachtmanCommunism and the Negro AKA Race and Revolution (1933)


Week 5: Race and the Black Question - Wednesday 6 July


Week 6: Race and the Black Question - Wednesday 13 July

Harold CruseThe Crisis of the Negro Intellectual (1967), [selections part 1, 3-10 and 11-63] [part 2, 451-475 and 544-565]


Week 7: Race and the Black Question - Wednesday 20 July