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The Emergence of a New Left
Tue, February 7, 2017 @ 7:30 PM - 9:30 PM$80.00 – $300.00
4 multi-week sessions begin February 7. Participants include Mitch Abidor, Noble Bratton, Jenny Brown, Dan Karan, Michael Lardner, Peter Marcuse and Michael Pelias
Sessions A: 9 more weeks, February 7 through April 4
Ginsberg’s Howl, C. Wright Mills’ The Power Elite, Civil Rights from Reform to Revolutionary Politics, Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man
Sessions B: Sartre’s Search for a Method, Anti-Psychiatry, R.D. Laing, Marat/Sade, 1968 Paris, Prague, Mexico City, The Revolution In Our Ears, Jeff Nuttall’s Bomb Culture, Che Guevara/Regis Debray, Revolution in the Revolution revisited
12 sessions starting April 11,
7:30 – 9:30 pm
Sessions C: Women’s Liberation Renewed,
History of SDS/Black Panther Party
11 sessions starting July 11,
7:30 – 9:30 pm
Sessions D: Lefebvre’s Critique of Everyday Life: An Overview
11 sessions begin October 3,
7:30 – 9:30 pm
All four sessions from February 7 through December 19 for a discounted advance price of $300 or pay what you are able
C. Wright Mills: The Power Elite
Tuesday, January 31, February 7, 14
We will begin on Tuesday January 31 reading Allen Ginsberg’s Howl together: Out loud. When we have said what we want to say we will move into a discussion of the work and influence of C. Wright Mills.
Mills’ The Power Elite was published in 1956, influencing generations of students and many others from that point forward. A main inspiration for the book was Franz Leopold Neumann’s book Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism in 1942, a study of how Nazism came into a position of power in a democratic state like Germany. Behemoth had a major impact on Mills and he claimed that Behemoth had given him the “tools to grasp and analyze the entire total structure and as a warning of what could happen in a modern capitalist democracy”.
According to Mills, the power elites of the USA, in other words, our haute bourgeois who control the three dominant institutions (military, economy and political system) can be generally grouped into one of six types:
• the Metropolitan 400 – members of historically notable local families in the principal American cities, generally represented on the Social Register
• Celebrities – prominent entertainers and media personalities
• the Chief Executives – presidents and CEOs of the most important companies within each industrial sector
• the Corporate Rich – major landowners and corporate shareholders
• the Warlords – senior military officers, most importantly the Joint Chiefs of Staff
the Political Directorate – “fifty-odd men of the executive branch” of the U.S. federal government, including the senior leadership in the Executive Office of the President, sometimes variously drawn from elected officials of the Democratic and Republican parties but usually professional government bureaucrats.
Mills’ biographer, Daniel Geary, writes that Mills’ writings had a “particularly significant impact on New Left social movements of the 1960s.”] It was Mills who popularized the term New Left in the U.S. in a 1960 open letter, Letter to the New Left.
Mills acknowledged a general influence of Marxism; he noted that Marxism had become an essential tool for sociologists and therefore all must naturally be educated on the subject; any Marxist influence was then a result of sufficient education. Neo-Freudianism also helped shape Mills’ work. Mills was an intense student of philosophy before he became a sociologist and his vision of radical, egalitarian democracy was a direct result of the influence of ideas from Thorstein Veblen, John Dewey, and George Herbert Mead. Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes dedicated his novel The Death of Artemio Cruz (1962) to Mills, “true voice of North America, friend and companion in the struggle of Latin America.” Fuentes was a fan of Mills’ writing on the Cuban Revolution called, Listen, Yankee. He appreciated Mills’ insight into what he believed Cubans were experiencing as citizens of a country undergoing revolutionary change.
Civil Rights: From Politics of Reform to Revolution
From CORE and SNCC to The Black Panther Party and other revolutionary organizations
February 21, 28, March 7, 14
Noble Bratton will conduct a 3-week history of the Civil Rights movement with CORE, SNCC and analyzing the growing militancy in African-American life that led to the revolutionary politics of The Black Panther Party as the 60s developed.
Noble Bratton is a graduate of Cornell University and is on the editorial board of Working USA/Labor and Society. He taught a class on the US Presidency at The Brecht Forum. He has participated with the Leo Downes Harlem Y Study Group. He is also a former member of District Council 65 of the UAW, UNITE Local 169.
Herbert Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man
With one discussion with Peter Marcuse
March 21, 28, April 4
“The free election of masters does not abolish the masters or the slaves.”
― Herbert Marcuse
As UK theorist Andrew Robinson states: “Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man was written in 1962, but much of it reads as if it could have been written today: the flattening of discourse, the pervasive repression behind a veil of ‘consensus’, the lack of recognition for perspectives and alternatives beyond the dominant frame, the closure of the dominant universe of meaning, the corrosion of established liberties and lines of escape, total mobilization against a permanent Enemy built into the system as a basis for conformity and effort… It was product of a previous period of downturn and decomposition, similar in many ways to our own.”
We will read through Marcuse’s work and have a discussion with his son Peter regarding the importance of One-Dimensional Man during the sixties, considered one of the most influential works on the left and in the student movements the world over, and look at how the book resonates today, following fifty years of the march of capitalist globalization and the repressive aspects of consumerist culture, far more pervasive than could have been imagined in the early 60s when One-Dimensional Man was written.
Sessions B: April 11 through June 26
12 week session
Sartre’s Search for a Method
April 11, 18, 25, May 2
John Paul Sartre was one of the most important radical intellectuals of the 20th century yet he is largely forgotten or ignored by most Marxists and others on “the left.” This, despite the fact that as a philosopher, playwright, novelist, essayist and political activist Sartre’s primary concerns surrounded questions of individual freedom, choice and action (in his early career) and the relationship between individual freedom and collective good (in his later career) and developing a method for understanding history, the structure of class struggle and the fate of mass movements and popular revolt. Ronald Hayman, one of Sartre’s biographers, summarizes Sartre’s intellectual project as follows:
“As a Marxist he wanted to believe that dialectical materialism offered a complete interpretation of history – that all the contradictions, conflicts, heterogeneities, anomalies could be subsumed in a single totalization. Sartre is simultaneously concerned to provide Marxism with an adequate theory of knowledge, both Marx and Lenin had worked without one – and to combat the Heideggarian existentialism which consistently makes Being its point of departure. Sartre insists that history is the history of human initiatives. What emerges as the crucial problem is how to map the jungle of obscure connections between historical movements and individual actions.”
This 4 to 5 week section of the sessions will focus on Sartre’s 1957 text, Search For A Method, which reflects his growth from existentialist philosopher concerned with individual freedom to an anti-authoritarian existential Marxist who believed that individual freedom can only come about via one’s commitment to the collective good. Search for a Method consists of three major parts: The first part discusses Marxist and existentialist views of the world; the second, how the individual relates to structures; and, the third develops a methodology for understanding the individual, history and structures.
Dan Karan has been studying Marxism for 40 years and was a student of John Gerassi, Sartre’s official biographer.
The Anti-Psychiatry Movement
Behind the anti-psychiatry movement that came to life in the 1960s and blossomed during the 1970s was the fundamental post-Freudian work of Jean-Paul Sartre’s existential psychoanalysis. This highly creative approach by Sartre was named “existential psychoanalysis” and was first articulated at the end of the classic , Being and Nothingness (1943). We will read a selection of this new approach to psychic individuation alongside the Laing/Cooper nexus that sprung the anti-psychiatry movement and resulted in open psychiatric institutions, mental health liberation activity, and a ongoing critique of “bourgeois” psychiatry and contemporary behaviorism, cognitive and psycho-pharmacological approaches to the question of what is mental health. We will also look at Laing’s famous proposition that schizophrenia is the sanest reaction to capitalism and engage the schizoid- analysis of Deleuze and Guattari alongside the anti-psychiatry moment of Basaglia and Radio Alice in Italy.
Michael Pelias teaches both ancient and modern Philosophy at LIU Brooklyn and is one of the co-founders of the Institute for the Radical Imagination and co-managing editor of the journal Situations.
Peter Weiss’ Marat/Sade
From Brittanica: “Weiss was a Marxist and an exponent of the Theatre of Cruelty: his stated theatrical purpose was to shock his audiences into suffering and atoning for the violent insanity of modern society. The play is set in 1808 and concerns a performance by members of the asylum in which the Marquis de Sade was incarcerated from 1801 to 1814. At the warden’s suggestion, de Sade directs his fellow inmates in a dramatic re-creation of the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat in 1793. What follows is an intense dialectical contest between de Sade and Marat. According to Weiss, de Sade personifies anarchy, self-indulgence, and individualism, while Marat, a pre-Marxist revolutionary, believes that the end justifies the means, no matter how violent the means may be.”
We will read, watch and discuss.
Paris, May 1968
May 23, 30
These talks will investigate the events May 68 in France through an analysis of the writings of Daniel Cohn-Bendit, one of the most important and interesting of its leaders, as well as the experiences of rank and file militants interviewed by Mitch Abidor for his forthcoming oral history, May Made Me.
Mitchell Abidor is the principal French translator for the Marxists Internet Archive and has published several collections of his translations, among them Jean Jaurès’ Socialist History of the French Revolution and A Raskolnikoff by Emmanuel Bove, and previously untranslated works by Victor Serge and Daniel Guerin, as well as writings from the French Revolution, are forthcoming. His May Made Me will appear in time for the fiftieth anniversary of the May events in France.
A Night of 60s Music on D-Day
The Blues meet Hootenany/Stax Volt versus Motown/Brit Invasion/Psychedelic Revolutionary Flower Powered Invasion of Aural space the world over/Funk your Delic and Blast Your Moonbeams Surfin’ the Country East from the Dirty Charles River water to the Byrd fly over the Rio Grande: A Movement learns to get on the good foot
To all [un]fortunate daughters and sons: “bring your favorite 60s music moment”
Jeff Nuttall’s Bomb Culture
“Bomb Culture, Jeff Nuttall’s 1968 chronicle of the emergence of internationalist counter-culture in Britain, remains a primary source and manifesto for the post-Hiroshima generation.
“The vision of Jeff’s youth was grounded in “a faith that, given liberation, the human spirit would predominate. I imagined some kind of stone age village. People would build their own houses imaginatively and live there sophisticatedly and in a literate way and they would live with their hands and their minds and they would not be dictated to by anybody selling them anything. People would have the opportunity of coming into their true self, which was generous and creative and permissive”. —The Guardian
“Disaffiliation was deliberate, and conscious, even self-conscious, among the demonstrators who appreared in the fifties—unavoidably, disaffiliation is a prerequisite of protest.” —Jeffrey Nuttall, Bomb Culture
Che Guevara/Regis Debray
Revolution in the Revolution Revisited
June 20, 27
“In 1965 there appeared Debray’s article, “Latin America: the Long March,” which began his break with official Stalinism. (In 1967, there appeared an article, “Marxist Strategy in Latin America,” which was written in 1965 and rarely supplements the earlier article. Both appeared in New Left Review, Nos. 33 and 45.) Essentially he interprets the Cuban revolution to mean that the revolutionary “foco,” that is, guerrilla center, must be substituted for the vanguard party. He lists the many revolutionary experiences that were made in many South American countries, he describes the defeats and the victories, and he draws certain conclusions. In two years tha realities of the struggle destroyed his analysis and he proceeded to rewrite the analysis. This is what has appeared as Revolution In the Revolution? A comparison of the two works provides a valuable critique of Debray and an introduction to a theory of revolution for South America.”
—Martin Glaberman, Regis Debray: Revolution Without a Revolution, 1968