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Summer 2017 readings: Lenin and the 1917 Russian Revolution

  • required/ + recommended reading
  • Lenin readings available in Robert C. Tucker, ed., The Lenin Anthology (Norton, 1977), except (*) on

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 | June 19

Week 2 | June 26

Week 4 | July 10

Week 5 | July 17

Week 6 | July 24

Week 7 | July 31


Teach-in by Allison Hewitt Ward held at New York University on March 23, 2017.

If the commodity-structure has been the defining feature of modern capitalism, it stands to reason that the development of art has followed its logic as well. Art, however, seems to be deeply ambivalent about its commodity status and bourgeois development. How might an examination of the emergence of "art" as we know it alongside the emergence of bourgeois society and the dominance of the commodity structure help us understand its present confusion?

Join us for discussion on contemporary political issues, and articles from the Platypus Reviews.

Mondays 6pm, Think Coffee 248 Mercer St, New York (by NYU)

Reading Group, Tuesdays 7pm, 19 University Place Room 337


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

Week 13. Revolutionary leadership | Jan. 30, 2017

Week 14. Reform or revolution? | Feb. 6, 2017

Week 15. Lenin and the vanguard party | Feb. 13, 2017

Week 16. What is to be done? | Feb. 20, 2017

Week 17. Mass strike and social democracy | Feb. 27, 2017

Week 18. Permanent revolution | Mar. 6, 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. 13, 2017

Week 20. Imperialism | Mar. 20, 2017

Week 21. Mar. 27, 2017 (spring break)

Week 22. Failure of the revolution | Apr. 3, 2017

Week 23. Apr. 10, 2017 [Platypus international convention]

Week 24. Retreat after revolution | Apr. 17, 2017

Week 25. Dialectic of reification | Apr. 24, 2017

Week 26. Lessons of October | Apr. 29, 2017

Week 27. Trotskyism | May 1, 2017

Week 28. The authoritarian state | May 8, 2017

Week 29. On the concept of history | May 15, 2017

Week 30. Reflections on Marxism | May 22, 2017

Week 31. Theory and practice | Jun. 29, 2017

A Platypus panel at NYU, Kimmel Center, room 808

Panelists (in speaking order):

R.L. Stephens (Labor organizer and editor of The Orchestrated Pulse)
Benjamin Serby (volunteer-organizer, Team Bernie NY and PhD Candidate in US History, Columbia)
Howie Hawkins (Green Party, USA)
Karl Belin (Socialist worker from Pittsburgh, labor organizer

Moderated by Tana Forrester (Platypus).

The Left has for over a generation -- for more than 40 years, since the crisis of 1973 -- placed its hopes in the Democratic and Labour Parties to reverse or slow neoliberal capitalism -- the move to trans-national trade agreements, the movement of capital and labor, and austerity. The post-2008 crisis of neoliberalism, despite phenomena such as SYRIZA, Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring and anti-austerity protests more generally, Bernie Sanders's candidacy, and Jeremy Corbyn's Labour leadership, has found expression on the avowed Right, through UKIP, Brexit, the U.K. Conservatives' move to "Red Toryism" and now Donald Trump's election. The old neoliberal consensus is falling apart, and change is palpably in the air. Margaret Thatcher's infamous phrase "There Is No Alternative" has been proven wrong. What can the Left do to advance the struggle for socialism under such circumstances?

Recent generations of marginalized radicals have been forced to grapple with an impossible choice: they must either submit to a “realistic” electoral compromise with the status quo, often in the form of “lesser evilism,” or they must vote for a third-party candidate, hoping that by making their platform public the winning party could be pushed leftward. Alternatively, out of exhaustion with this impasse, they may choose not to vote, advocating instead a principled abstention from electoral politics.

What lessons can the Left draw from the history of mass electoral parties for socialism to create more emancipatory choices in the future? How do we reimagine the role of electoral campaigns for Leftist politics today? Given that a significant number of working people in America have left the Democratic Party, what is possible?


This event is free and open to the public. All are welcome.


The Platypus Affiliated Society, established in December 2006, organizes reading groups, public fora, research and journalism focused on problems and tasks inherited from the “Old” (1920s-30s), “New” (1960s-70s) and post-political (1980s-90s) Left for the possibilities of emancipatory politics today.