Crises and Uprisings in Latin America Today

Four Thursdays with Gerardo Rénique and Fred Murphy

Join us for a closer look at the political and economic background to dramatic recent events in Latin America, where a tremendous struggle is taking place between popular movements opposed to neoliberalism and authoritarianism, and capitalist elites determined to defend their profits and privileges. Recent months have seen enormous uprisings by popular movements in Ecuador and Chile, a violent right-wing coup in Bolivia, the rise of a massive feminist movement in Argentina, and in Haiti prolonged protests against President Jovenel Moïse. These developments come in the wake of crises and setbacks experienced by so-called “pink tide” governments that had sought to redistribute wealth and challenge decades of domination by US imperialism, the IMF, and local elites.

Gerardo Rénique teaches history at the City College of the City University of New York. He is a frequent contributor to Socialism and Democracy and NACLA: Report on the Americas. His research interests include the political traditions of popular movements in Latin America, and race, national identity and state formation in Mexico.

Fred Murphy has led numerous study groups at the Marxist Education Project since 2015. He studied and taught Latin American history at the New School for Social Research. In the 1980s he traveled in Latin America as a journalist for several socialist publications.

All fees are sliding scale. No one is turned away for inability to pay

The People’s Uprising in Chile

Fighting Austerity, Demanding Democracy
with J. Patrice McSherry and David Duhalde

Taking to the streets by the millions and withstanding brutal police assaults, the working people of Chile have beaten back austerity measures and forced the right-wing Piñera regime to accede to a new constitution to replace the restrictive one imposed by the Pinochet dictatorship. The struggle continues to assure that the new charter be drafted by a democratic process and contain safeguards to civil liberties and social welfare provisions. Join us to hear direct reports from Santiago.

J. Patrice McSherry, professor of political science emerita at Long Island University and currently resident in Santiago as a researcher collaborating with the Instituto de Estudios Avanzados (IDEA). She is the author of Predatory States: Operation Condor and Covert War in Latin America, and her most recent book is Chilean New Song: The Political Power of Music, 1960s-1973.

David Duhalde is a NYC-based activist involved with the international work of Democratic Socialists of America. He previously held roles at Our Revolution, the Bernie Sanders-inspired grassroots organization, and as DSA’s deputy director. David’s father came to the United States as a political exile following the 1973 overthrow of Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity government, and his American mother toured the country telling of her experiences in living through the coup.

No one turned away for inability to pay admittance.
There is a one drink minimum from The Commons Cafe.

Nicaragua in Crisis

A Forum with Father Octavio Altamirano • Jorge Blass •
Dan La Botz • Lisa Maya Knauer • Nicaraguan Students

co-sponsored with Haymarket Books, NACLA, New Politics and Democratic Socialists of America, NYC Chapter
Since late April the Nicaraguan Sandinista government of President Daniel Ortega has been challenged first by a popular uprising in which dozens were killed by the government and then by mass demonstrations demanding peace and justice. Now the Catholic Church is attempting to mediate between the Ortega government and the movement, but so far without success. What is the source of Nicaragua’s crisis today? And what are the roots of the problem in the experience of the last forty years? How does it affect Nicaraguan immigrants to the United States? What stand should progressive Americans take on the Nicaraguan crisis?


Whose Cities? Our Cities!

10 sessions
Organized with the Urban Class Struggles group by Thomas Wensing
October 3 to December 12—no session November 21

In New York City, the self-proclaimed ‘real estate capital of the world’, working class housing has become either unaffordable or as cramped as 19th century conditions. The class that built, and continues to build New York and metropolises around the globe can no longer afford to live near where they work, while an international bourgeoisie of hyper-capital accumulation perch themselves in luxurious, multi-roomed occasional real estate. Whether it be New York, Tokyo, Paris, London, Rome or Lagos, the pattern repeats itself worldwide. Interconnectedness of global markets, deregulation of capital and mortgage markets, increased financialization of society, have all led to real estate in the metro centers serving as a prime instrument in the accumulation of global capital. Joining the mobile elite of hedge fund investors, Russian and Chinese oligarchs, oil sheiks, and billionaires are their criminal partners engaged in laundering, smuggling and multiple other illicit activities, all united hiding their identities and the source of their wealth through shell companies. These market forces that push the working classes out of the city and some into the ultimate austerity of homelessness are being met with growing resistance.

Our group will read Friedrich Engels’ “The Housing Question”, David Harvey’s Rebel Cities, David Madden and Peter Marcuse’s In Defense of Housing, Fear City by Kim Phillips-Fein and conclude with Zoned Out, edited by Tom Angotti and Sylvia Morse.

Our aim is to gain the historical and theoretical understanding that can inform our fight to wrest control of our cities from the capitalist class, and to discuss how cities can be reorganized to meet our human needs with a sustainable urban ecology.

Thomas Wensing works on residential and commercial projects at Morris Adjmi Architects. He holds licenses as an architect in both the UK and the Netherlands. He grew up in Den Helder, The Netherlands, and graduated from Delft University and Columbia University. His teaching experience includes the AA in London, Eindhoven University, and the University of Kent, in Canterbury. Thomas is a regular contributor to Blueprint Magazine and other publications.

Syriza Wave with Helena Sheehan

Helena Sheehan, author of the new book The Syriza Wave: Surging and Crashing with the Greek Left will speak. She will be joined by Nantina Vgontzas, Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology, NYU; Member, GSOC-UAW 2110 and AKNY-Greece Solidarity Movement. Welcome: Molly Nolan, Professor of History, NYU, and Brooklyn for Peace; Chair: Thomas Harrison, Co-Director, Campaign for Peace and Democracy. Sponsored by the NYU Department of History, co-sponsored by Campaign for Peace and Democracy, AKNY-Greece Solidarity Movement, Monthly Review Press, and The Marxist Education Project.

A seasoned activist and participant-observer, Helena Sheehan adroitly places us at the center of the whirlwind beginnings of Syriza, its jubilant victory at the polls, and finally at Syriza’s surrender to the very austerity measures it once vowed to annihilate. Along the way, she takes time to meet many Greeks in tavernas, on the street, and in government offices, engage in debates, and compare Greece to her own economically blighted country, Ireland. Beginning as a strong Syriza supporter, Sheehan sees Syriza transformed from a horizon of hope to a vortex of despair. But out of the dust of defeat, she draws questions radiating optimism. Just how did what was possibly the most intelligent, effective instrument of the Greek left self-destruct? And what are the consequences for the Greek people, for the international left, for all of us driven to work for a better world? The Syriza Wave is a page-turning blend of political reportage, personal reflection, and astute analysis.

Helena Sheehan is Professor Emerita at Dublin City University, where she taught history of ideas and media studies. She is also the author of several books, including Marxism and the Philosophy of Science: A Critical History and Irish Television Drama: A Society and Its Stories, as well as magazine articles on politics, culture, and philosophy.

Reading “Finally Got The News”: 3rd Sessions, Part 4

The 3rd Four-Week Session
A reading group facilitated by Lisa Maya Knauer of The Marxist Education Project and members of Interference Archive

All are welcome to join at any session!

The 70s were a turbulent decade for the left, both in the U.S. and worldwide – from the student protests against the U.S. invasion of Cambodia in 1970, through the Nicaraguan and Iranian revolutions.

This reading group, designed to accompany Interference Archives’ exhibit Finally Got The News will explore some of the key liberation movements of the 1970s U.S. through the lens of written documents included in the exhibition, as well as excerpts from publications by the activists and intellectuals who led, chronicled and theorized about them. This is not a nostalgia trip, but an opportunity to critically examine some important and often-overlooked threads of our collective history in order to inform our own politics of liberation in the 21st century.

Our reading will be divided into three four-week sessions, using key protest events as entry points into the larger issues that they embodied.In each session, we will try to put the social movements we examine into dialogue with each other — as they generally were at the time. Often, individuals became politicized through one specific protest or movement, which then opened up an array of questions and issues, so there were a lot of flows of people and ideas between and among movements. Reading sessions will take place at Interference Archive on the Saturdays listed below, from 3-5pm. Please email if you would like to participate, so that we can provide access to reading material. All who pre-register will receive reading materials for the first session in advance.

The reading group is a collective undertaking, and we welcome those whose entry in radical politics came long after the events we are studying as well as veterans of those movements.

Part One: (February 25 remaining session—come join in at any time!)

We’ll start with the Detroit Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM), the role of race in the formation of the U.S. working class, and trade union radicalism as an alternative to business unionism. We will then read about the prisoners’ revolt and brutal put-down at Attica, looking at the naked exercise of militarized state power and the growth of the prison-industrial complex. Saturday, February 25 will be a discussion of the politics, writings and assassination of George Jackson and the aftermath.

Part Two: (March 11, 18, 25, and April 1)

Next, we turn to the American Indian Movement and the 1973 stand-off at Wounded Knee, echoes of which resonated through the encampments at Standing Rock. We’ll then continue to talk about the interaction of social movements and the state while looking at the New York City fiscal crisis, the politics of austerity, grassroots responses, and anti-authoritarianism. The role of finance capital in imposing deep cuts on working people’s lives in 1975 will begin in the second part of the discussion on March 25.

Part Three: (April 15, 22, 29, and May 6)

Thinking broadly about decolonization, we’ll look at how the 1975 Portuguese revolution and the independence struggle Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau provide an opportunity to explore the relationship between colonialism and national liberation. The 1979 Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua opens a window into Latin American revolutionary struggles and the challenges to U.S. imperialism in former client-states. We will then delve into radical feminism and its sometimes uneasy relationship with Marxism and socialism, and we’ll continue our discussion of sexual politics in the gay and lesbian movements.

Lisa Maya Knauer is a lifelong radical who came of age politically in the 1960s and 1970s. She was active in the anti-war, civil rights, women’s, farmworkers support, anti-apartheid and other movements. She moved to New York in 1977 and quickly immersed herself in the New York left. She found the School for Marxist Education in the phone book and joined the Marxist Education Collective, and has been involved with this educational undertaking through its various incarnations, including the Marxist Education Project. In her day job, she is a tenured radical at a public university and does research on indigenous resistance in Guatemala and immigrant worker organizing in the U.S.

The Marxist Education Project (MEP) has been formed as a place to study, and to work to consciously identify what questions we must address and together answer, each bringing to the discussion our diverse locations and experiences within society as a whole. We are confronting great possibilities and great challenges which require that we socially and politically find common ground while embracing not only our own but also each others different needs as our own into one organized emancipatory voice that represents the needs and aspirations of all humanity with social and political programs to begin the remediation of ourselves and our relations to each other and the ecology of our planet. In this first quarter of the 21st Century it has become clear that we as a species have a great challenge and responsibility—to bring together all our different needs and knowledge into an organized and diverse political force that can not only impede the prerogatives of an imperialist capitalism but also start to put in place means for transitioning to different ways of producing while in doing so we take into account all the needs of nature. In the next year we will begin offering classes and events in other boroughs and neighboring cities including Saturday morning sessions in Newark.

Interference Archive: The mission of Interference Archive is to explore the relationship between cultural production and social movements. This work manifests in an open stacks archival collection, publications, a study center, and public programs, all of which encourage critical and creative engagement with the rich history of social movements.

The archive contains many kinds of objects that are created as part of social movements by the participants themselves: posters, flyers, publications, photographs, books, tee shirts and buttons, moving images, audio recordings, and other materials.

Through our programming, we use this cultural ephemera to animate histories of people mobilizing for social transformation. We consider the use of our collection to be a way of preserving and honoring histories and material culture that is often marginalized in mainstream institutions.

As an all-volunteer organization, all members of our community are welcome and encouraged to shape our collection and programming; we are a space for all volunteers to learn from each other and develop new skills. We work in collaboration with like-minded projects, and encourage critical as well as creative engagement with our own histories and current struggles.

As an archive from below, we are a collectively run space that is people powered, with open stacks and accessibility for all. We are supported by the community that believes in what we’re doing.

Admission to the reading group is free to all. Contributions are accepted.

Popular Struggles in South Africa

Popular Struggles in South Africa:
Urban Revolt: State Power and the Rise of People’s Movements in the Global South
and The Spirit of Marikana: The Rise of Insurgent Trade Unionism in South Africa

A report on current and future liberation movements in South Africa with
Trevor Ngwane, Luke Sinwell and Manny Ness

On 16th August 2012, thirty-four black mineworkers were gunned down by the police under the auspices of South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) in what has become known as the Marikana massacre. Luke Sinwell’s The Spirit of Marikana tells the story of the uncelebrated leaders at the world’s three largest platinum mining companies who survived the barrage of state violence, intimidation, torture and murder which was being perpetrated during this tumultuous period. What began as a discussion about wage increases between two workers in the changing rooms at one mine became a rallying cry for economic freedom and basic dignity. This gripping ethnographic account is the first comprehensive study of this movement, revealing how seemingly ordinary people became heroic figures who transformed their workplace and their country.

The urban poor and working class now make up the majority of the world’s population and this segment is growing dramatically as the global population expands to 10 billion by mid-century. Much of the population growth results from the displacement of rural peasants to the urban cores, resulting in the vast expansion of mega-cities with 10 to 20 million people in the global South. The proliferation of informal settlements and slums particularly in the global south have created the conditions in which urban areas have become the principal sites of social upheaval as people seek to improve their living conditions. Drawing from case studies in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, the various chapters in Urban Revolt: State Power and the Rise of People’s Movements in the Global South map and analyze the ways in which the majority of the world exists and struggles in the contemporary urban context.

Trevor Ngwane and Luke Sinwell will discuss the current situation in South Africa where trade union militancy has spread more broadly in the five years since Marikana, the anti-austerity student movement remains strong at most universities and other schools, and socialist parties are experiencing growth and are at times uniting to fight the neoliberalism of the post-apartheid state.

Mgcineni ‘Mambush’ Noki (imagined in the wall painting wearing a green blanket) was one of the 34 mineworkers killed by the South African police on August 2016 while on strike demanding a ‘living wage’ in the most potent episode of state violence against civilians in the post-apartheid period. Mambush and the others live on as the insurgency grows broader and deeper in South African society and beyond.

Through detailed case studies, Urban Revolt unravels the potential and limitations of urban social movements on an international level.

“A superb addition to the literature on the contemporary global crisis and its micro manifestations.” —Patrick Bond, BRICS: An Anticapitalist Critique

The urban poor and working class now make up the majority of the world’s population. Much of the population growth results from the displacement of rural peasants to mega-cities. The proliferation of informal settlements and slums, particularly in the Global South, have created conditions ripe for social upheaval as people seek to improve their living conditions and win basic human rights. Drawing from case studies in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, the chapters in this book map and analyze the ways in which the majority of the world exists and struggles in the contemporary urban context.
“What emerges from this collection is a complex picture of resistance, which nevertheless provides nuanced hope for a universalist project of social transformation…. The result is often a refreshing and accessible journey into urban revolts that the reader may have less familiarity.”
—Leo Zeilig, African Struggles Today: Social Movements Since Independence

“Capitalism itself is in crisis so it means, as Marx said, the CEOs of the world, government leaders, have now become personifications of capital. They no longer have any control. They speak for capital. They are just meant to trample on our rights willy nilly. They did that in Greece until a left party took over and then now they are turning the screws on that left party. It’s harder in countries such as the USA where socialism is a swear word as it is in Eastern Europe.”
—Trevor Ngwane, Counterfire, 2015

“Fanon somewhere quotes Marx on how the social revolution “cannot draw its poetry from the past, but only from the future.” The EFF, the student movement and the working class movement has to find a way forward without going back to nationalism as an ideology of struggle. The struggle against imperialism has to break out of the discourse of colonialism without denying this history and its legacy…at its heart will be proletarian internationalism rather than bourgeois nationalism.” —Trevor Ngwane, 2016

Trevor Ngwane is a scholar-activist who is active in the Socialist Group and the United Front, organizations that seek a pro–working class pro-poor future for South Africa and the world. His PhD thesis recently awarded by the University of Johannesburg is titled “Amakomiti as democracy on the margins: Popular committees in South Africa’s informal settlements.”

Luke Sinwell is a senior researcher with the South African Research Chair in Social Change, University of Johannesburg. He has published widely on social movements and popular protest. His latest book is an ethnography called, The Spirit of Marikana: The Rise of Insurgent Trade Unionism in South Africa (Pluto Press, 2016).

Immanuel Ness is a professor of political science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. He has authored and edited of many books including: Southern Insurgency: The Coming of the Global Working Class (Pluto Press, 2015) and Ours to Master and to Own: Worker Control from the Commune to the Present (Haymarket Books, 2011). Ness is co-editor of the third world political economy quarterly, Journal of Labor and Society.

Copies of Urban Revolt, The Spirit of Marikana and Southern Insurgency will be available for purchase.

We Make Our Own History: On Marxism and Social Movements

We Make Our Own History: On Marxism and Social Movements in the Twilight of Neoliberalism
Talk and Discussion with Alf Gunvald Nilsen

We live in the twilight of neoliberalism: the ruling classes can no longer rule as before, and ordinary people are no longer willing to be ruled in the old way. Pursued by global elites since the 1970s, neoliberalism is defined by dispossession and ever-increasing inequality. The refusal to continue to be ruled like this — “ya basta!” — appears in an arc of resistance stretching from rural India to the cities of the global North.

We Make Our Own History — a book co-written by Laurence Cox and Alf Gunvald Nilsen — investigates this scenario through an exploration of how social movements are forging new visions of a future beyond neoliberalism and by reclaiming Marxism as a theory born from activist experience and practice. In this talk, Alf Gunvald Nilsen will discuss some of the main arguments and ideas put forward in the book with reference to changing movement landscapes in different parts of the world-system.

Alf Gunvald Nilsen is associate professor of sociology at the University of Bergen (Norway) and Visiting Senior Researcher at the Society, Work and Development Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa). He is the author of Dispossession and Resistance in India: The River and the Rage (Routledge, 2010) and the co-editor of numerous books on social movement theory and research, including Marxism and Social Movements (Brill/Haymarket, 2013) and New Subaltern Politics: Reconceptualizing Hegemony and Resistance in Contemporary India (Oxford University Press, 2015).

It Spread Like Wildfire! A Celebration

A Teach-In and support meeting around capital’s new assault against university labor and how faculty and student actions secured a temporary victory.

Spread like Wildfire: Faculty Lockout, Student Walkout. An evening with Members of the LIUFF discussing their struggle and the most recent and egregious attack on Higher Education and how faculty with students have secured a temporary victory.

Join us in a discussion on the fight for academic freedom , equal pay for equal work, and the ongoing struggle of contingent faculty and the omnipresent student debt crisis.

Michael Pelias, LIU Brooklyn
Vidhya Swaminathan, LIU Brooklyn
Melissa Antinori, LIU Brooklyn
Manny Ness
and more to speak

Join The Institute for the Radical Imagination, The Marxist Education Project, Theater or The Oppressed, and other organizations and groups for a night of solidarity with the teaching faculty workers who were locked out of their jobs at Long Island University. Historically, this is the first time that capital has locked out an entire teaching body at a university.

There will be report backs from union members, students and members of the community.

Speakers and other organizational sponsors to add.

We have been one, we shall be all!

Day 1, Session 2: Live from Place de La Republique on Bastille Day

Live report from Paris with Dennis Broe
Dennis will report on the current wave of strikes, Nuit Debout, and the Labor Law, called the El-Kourmi Law, named for the Labor Minister, would have the effect of lowering wages. Strikes are now disrupting gas delivery, power, garbage pickup, airlines and train transport, all led by the most radical union, the CGT, and all part of a life and death struggle to force the cancellation of the work law which a few months ago passed the general assembly not by a vote but by an archaic decree which allows legislation that is too controversial to come to a vote to simply be passed. This decree, section 49.3 has now been invoked four times in the course of passing unfavorable, so called “reform”, legislation to “open up” the French labor market.
This year is also the 80th anniversary of the great strike month of June 1936 where workers occupied most of the major factories and which the female philosopher Simone Weil famously termed “un joie, un joie pur” a joy, a pure joy.
The show which I would be doing over SKYPE will consist of a short documentary including interviews with three key players in the events of the past months: Francois Ruffin, editor of the satiric journal Fakir and director of Merci Patron (Thanks Boss), a Roger and Me type film that inspired Nuit Debout; a member of the CGT, the union that is leading the strikes; and an academic who will provide a critical analysis of the labor law. I and my director Frederic Lean, an award-winning filmmaker whose Iraq: the Wind of Hope has one of highest ratings for any film on IMDB, will shoot the documentary in La Republique where Nuit Debout began and is headquartered and we will screen the documentary, which is mainly sound, at the top of the hour. I will then speak about what has been happening over the last few months and link it to the period of Strikes of 1936 as well as describing a film that has just been rereleased with a new print here, Jean Renoir’s La Vie Est Nous (Life is Ours), a recounting of the worker’s movement in 1936, which last week got a negative review in Le Monde, meaning that it is still controversial.

Dennis Broe is a critic and political correspondent on Prairie Millers Arts Express. He teaches film and television in Paris at the Sorbonne, and has written a number of books on the American and Global Working Class and Film Noir on Maverick and countering the myth of the American West and on how Abstract Expressionism helped cancel American social art. Every year he is a featured correspondent from the Cannes film festival and around Parisian cinema and European television, art and literature the year round.