Victor Serge’s Notebooks: 1936-1947

A book release presentation with translator Mitch Abidor and Jacob Pittman

In 1936, Victor Serge—poet, novelist, and revolutionary—left the Soviet Union for Paris, the rare opponent of Stalin to escape the Terror. In 1940, after the Nazis marched into Paris, Serge fled France for Mexico, where he would spend he rest of his life. His years in Mexico were marked by isolation, poverty, peril, and grief; his Notebooks, however, brim with resilience, curiosity, outrage, a passionate love of life, and superb writing. Serge paints haunting portraits of Osip Mandelstam, Stefan Zweig “the Old Man” Trotsky; argues with André Breton; and, awaiting his wife’s delayed arrival from Europe, writes her passionate love letters. He describes the sweep of the Mexican landscape, visits an erupting volcano, and immerses himself in the country’s history and culture. He looks back on his life and the fate of the revolution. He broods on the course of the war and the world to come after. In the darkest of circumstances, he responds imaginatively, thinks critically, feels deeply, and finds reason to hope.

MITCH ABIDOR has published over a dozen volumes of translation, including a collection of Victor Serge’s anarchist writings, Anarchists Never Surrender. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The Paris Review, and Cineaste. Mitch has been translated into German and Turkish. He is currently writing a history of the Bisbee Depredation of 1917.

JACOB PITTMAN is the publisher of Jewish Currents, the magazine of the Jewish left.

 

This is a free event.

 

 

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Capitalism Discussion with Nancy Fraser

Join us for a conversation with Nancy Fraser, co-author with Rahel Jaeggi of Capitalism: A Conversation in Critical Theory. Fraser and Jaeggi show how capitalism relies on critical “background conditions” – institutional separations between economy and polity, production and social reproduction, and human and non-human nature. Capitalist crises periodically readjust the dividing lines among these domains. Such “boundary struggles” offer a key to understanding capitalism’s contradictions and the multiple forms of conflict to which it gives rise. This multidimensional critique of capitalism puts our present conjuncture into broader perspective, enabling diagnoses of the recent resurgence of right-wing populism and suggesting what is required of a viable Left alternative.s

Nancy Fraser is Henry A. and Louise Loeb Professor of Philosophy and Politics at the New School for Social Research. Her many books include Fortunes of Feminism, Redistribution or Recognition?, and Justice Interruptus.

Tickets are sliding scale. No one is denied admission for inability to pay.

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Can the Working Class Change the World?

5 Sessions

Can the Working Class Change the World?
By Michael D. Yates
A new book from Monthly Review Press

Session 1
Thursday, February 7, 5:30 to 7:15
A discussion with author Michael D. Yates

Sessions 2-5
Mondays, February 11 through March 4
Analysis and discussion of the book

The first 10 registered participants in this group will receive a free copy of the book. Contributions to Monthly Review Press are appreciated.

From Monthly Review:

One of the horrors of the capitalist system is that slave labor, which was central to the formation and growth of capitalism itself, is still fully able to coexist alongside wage labor. But, as Karl Marx pointed out, it is the fact of being paid for one’s work that validates capitalism as a viable socio-economic structure. Beneath this veil of “free commerce”—where workers are paid only for a portion of their workday, and buyers and sellers in the marketplace face each other as “equals”—lies a foundation of immense inequality. Yet workers have always rebelled. They’ve organized unions, struck, picketed, boycotted, formed political organizations and parties—sometimes they have actually won and improved their lives. But, Marx argued, because capitalism is the apotheosis of class society, it must be the last class society: it must, therefore, be destroyed. And only the working class, said Marx, is capable of doing that.

In his timely and innovative book, Michael D. Yates asks if the working class can, indeed, change the world. Deftly factoring in such contemporary elements as sharp changes in the rise of identity politics and the nature of work, itself, Yates wonders if there can, in fact, be a thing called the working class. If so, how might it overcome inherent divisions of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, location—to become a cohesive and radical force for change? Forcefully and without illusions, Yates supports his arguments with relevant, clearly explained data, historical examples, and his own personal experiences. This book is a sophisticated and prescient understanding of the working class, and what all of us might do to change the world.

“Michael Yates’s passion and respect for the class he came out of delivers a book that is especially accessible without retreating from the complexities and internal contradictions of working class life and organization—a book committed not only to defending workers, but also to building on their potentials to transform society.”      —Sam Gindin, former chief economist, Canadian Auto Workers Union; Packer Visitor in Social Justice, Political Science, York University, Toronto

On Thursday, February 7, Michael Yates will teleconference with us for a preview and discussion of his important new book. On the four Mondays that follow, we will read, analyze and Michael’s book.

Michael D. Yates is Editorial Director of Monthly Review Press. For more than three decades, he was a labor educator, teaching working people across the United States. Among his books are The Great Inequality, Why Unions Matter, A Freedom Budget for All Americans (with Paul Le Blanc), and The ABCs of the Economic Crisis (with Fred Magdoff).

The Capital Studies Group has been meeting on Saturdays for nearly two years. We are a diverse group of students, activists and teachers who are now dedicating themselves to a chronological reading of all three volumes of Marx’s Capital.

 

The stated fees are sliding scale. No one is turned away for inability to pay., or

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Class, Race & Gender

Contemporary Capitalism and the Limits of Identity Politics
Six-week session with Dan Karan

The ongoing debate between those arguing for either a class- or identity-based politics has led to a tragic split between forces that ultimately need to come together if each is to realize its goals. But should this even be an “either or” question when considered from the vantage point of trying to build an effective anti-capitalist movement struggling for the liberation of those exploited and oppressed by capital?

What may be surprising to some is that this split is not new and in the U.S. has roots that go back to the nation’s founding if not before. And, in the 19th century, while the Civil War is often referred to as the “second American Revolution” it was really during Reconstruction, the period just after the Civil War, in which a “self-emancipatory” moment opened as former slaves, working class whites and women struggled to realize the promise of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” held out in Declaration of Independence. Yet divisions along class, race and gender lines sealed Reconstruction’s defeat. Why and how was this potentially revolutionary moment defeated and what should this history teach us about the strategies and tactics that the left needs to employ today?

To explore these issues of the intersection of class, race and gender in the US and the consequences of not being able to overcome the divisions that capitalism reinforces and exploits for its own purposes this class will read David Roediger’s recent book on Reconstruction: Seizing Freedom: Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All. This class will be the first in an ongoing series that explore questions of the relationship between class, race, gender and sexuality and how we overcome the divide between those exploited by capitalism and create a genuine anti-capitalist movement of liberation for all.

Dan Karan is a “red diaper baby” born into a communist household (his father worked as an organizer for the Communist Party and both his parents were members for roughly 25 years until leaving in 1956 along with many other comrades in response to Khrushchev’s “On the Cult of Personality and its Consequences” speech about Stalin). Dan’s political activism began at the age of 2 when his parents took him to the 1963 March on Washington. For the last 30 years he has worked for NYC nonprofit housing and community development organizations. He is a proud graduate school dropout who has been studying Marxist theory for more than 4 decades.

Dan Karan is a “red diaper baby” born into a communist household (his father worked as an organizer for the Communist Party and both his parents were members for roughly 25 years until leaving in 1956 along with many other comrades in response to Khrushchev’s “On the Cult of Personality and its Consequences” speech about Stalin). Dan’s political activism began at the age of 2 when his parents took him to the 1963 March on Washington. For the last 30 years he has worked for NYC nonprofit housing and community development organizations. He is a proud graduate school dropout who has been studying Marxist theory for more than 4 decades.

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Capital’s 21st Century Endgame

Capital’s 21st Century Endgame: Building a Planet-Wide Opposition
A Reading and Discussion Group with
The Capital Studies Organizing Task Force

THIS CLASS IS POSTPONED UNTIL LATER IN THE 2018/2019 SEASON

The conditions capital is making for all life on earth is playing out like a science fiction endgame. An international movement with profound social force that absolutely brings an end to this game is imperative. This critical reading/study is a beginning. Other related sessions will happen over the next few years. We will begin by studying two relatively recent works that trace the history of capitalist/imperialist development leading to where we are currently positioned as the world approaches having a population of eight billion: an updated Planet of Slums by Mike Davis and Samir Amin’s The World We Wish to See. In the fall we will take up Ernest Screpanti’s Global Imperialism and the Great Crisis: The Uncertain Future of Capitalism and more.

Right now, a handful of individuals control as much wealth as half of the world’s population – an accumulation of capital made possible by the labor of the global working classes, past and present, and accompanied by rollbacks of democratic rights, increasing precarity of labor through
automation and multiple other factors, and never-ending imperial wars. Our aim is to better understand the dynamics that have led to the global spread of capitalism, while also analyzing the successes and failures of global opposition to capitalism and imperialism, so we can become conscious political actors and help shape strong enough social movements worldwide that can overcome capitalist exploitation, permanent wars, and the destruction of our planet.

The World We Wish to See
Samir Amin
The World We Wish to See presents a sweeping view of 20th century political history and a stirring appeal to take political culture seriously. Amin assesses the potential and limitations of the many movements to confront global capitalism in the 21st century. Amin explains that effective opposition must be based on a “convergence in diversity” of oppressed and exploited people—whether workers, peasants, students, or any other opponent of capitalism and imperialism. What is needed is a new “international” that has an open and flexible organizational structure to coordinate opposition movements around the world.

Planet of Slums
Mike Davis
Davis presents an account of the rapid rise of the world’s slums. According to the United Nations, more than one billion people now live in the slums of the cities of the Global South. In Planet of Slums, Davis explores the future of a radically unequal and explosively unstable urban world. From the sprawling barricadas of Lima to the garbage hills of Manila, urbanization has been disconnected from industrialization, and even from economic growth. Davis portrays a vast humanity warehoused in shantytowns and exiled from the formal world economy. He argues that the rise of this informal urban proletariat is a wholly unforeseen development, and asks whether the great slums, as a terrified Victorian middle class once imagined, are volcanoes waiting to erupt.

The Capital Studies Organizing Task Force are workers and allies who gather frequently to study the three volumes of Marx’s Capital, in order to be concrete in our analysis of capital and to better inform the class struggles against capitalists and their collaborators.

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Capital’s 21st Century Endgame

Capital’s 21st Century Endgame: Building a Planet-Wide Opposition
A Reading and Discussion Group with
The Capital Studies Organizing Task Force

The conditions capital is making for all life on earth is playing out like a science fiction endgame. An international movement with profound social force that absolutely brings an end to this game is imperative. This critical reading/study is a beginning. Other related sessions will happen over the next few years. We will begin by studying two relatively recent works that trace the history of capitalist/imperialist development leading to where we are currently positioned as the world approaches having a population of eight billion: an updated Planet of Slums by Mike Davis and Samir Amin’s The World We Wish to See. In the fall we will take up Ernest Screpanti’s Global Imperialism and the Great Crisis: The Uncertain Future of Capitalism and more.

Right now, a handful of individuals control as much wealth as half of the world’s population – an accumulation of capital made possible by the labor of the global working classes, past and present, and accompanied by rollbacks of democratic rights, increasing precarity of labor through
automation and multiple other factors, and never-ending imperial wars. Our aim is to better understand the dynamics that have led to the global spread of capitalism, while also analyzing the successes and failures of global opposition to capitalism and imperialism, so we can become conscious political actors and help shape strong enough social movements worldwide that can overcome capitalist exploitation, permanent wars, and the destruction of our planet.

The World We Wish to See
Samir Amin
The World We Wish to See presents a sweeping view of 20th century political history and a stirring appeal to take political culture seriously. Amin assesses the potential and limitations of the many movements to confront global capitalism in the 21st century. Amin explains that effective opposition must be based on a “convergence in diversity” of oppressed and exploited people—whether workers, peasants, students, or any other opponent of capitalism and imperialism. What is needed is a new “international” that has an open and flexible organizational structure to coordinate opposition movements around the world.

Planet of Slums
Mike Davis
Davis presents an account of the rapid rise of the world’s slums. According to the United Nations, more than one billion people now live in the slums of the cities of the Global South. In Planet of Slums, Davis explores the future of a radically unequal and explosively unstable urban world. From the sprawling barricadas of Lima to the garbage hills of Manila, urbanization has been disconnected from industrialization, and even from economic growth. Davis portrays a vast humanity warehoused in shantytowns and exiled from the formal world economy. He argues that the rise of this informal urban proletariat is a wholly unforeseen development, and asks whether the great slums, as a terrified Victorian middle class once imagined, are volcanoes waiting to erupt.

The Capital Studies Organizing Task Force are workers and allies who gather frequently to study the three volumes of Marx’s Capital, in order to be concrete in our analysis of capital and to better inform the class struggles against capitalists and their collaborators.

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Paris, May 1968

Mitch Abidor
Tuesday, May 30, 7:30 to 9:30 pm

This second talk will investigate the events May 1968 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. Mitch recently translated Jean Jáurès’ Socialist History of the French Revolution and A Raskolnikoff by Emmanuel Bove and is currently working on translations of further unpublished works by Victor Serge and Daniel Guérin.

Those enrolled in the New Left history course are already registered for these to sessions.

Fees listed below are sliding scale. No one is turned away for inability to pay.

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Anthropocene or Capitalocene?: Nature, History, & the Crisis of Capitalism

Jason W. Moore
and Christian Parenti
Jason W. Moore and Christian Parenti introduce a new essay collection, Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism. The book challenges the theory and history offered by proponents of the “Anthropocene” and stresses how climate change and related crises are rooted in the rise and domination of capital.The book challenges the theory and history offered by proponents of the “Anthropocene” and stresses how climate change and related crises are rooted in the rise and domination of capital – hence the “Capitalocene.” This work offers a more nuanced and dialectical view of human environment-making, joined at every step with and within the biosphere.

Jason W. Moore is a historical geographer and world historian at Binghamton University, where he is Associate Professor of Sociology and Research Fellow at the Fernand Braudel Center. He is author of Capitalism in the Web of Life (Verso, 2015) and editor of Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism (PM Press, 2016). He writes frequently on the history of capitalism, environmental history, and social theory. Moore is presently completing Ecology and the Rise of Capitalism, an environmental history of the rise of capitalism, and with Raj Patel, Seven Cheap Things: A World-Ecological Manifesto – both with the University of California Press. He is coordinator of the World-Ecology Research Network.

Christian Parenti is a professor in the Global Liberal Studies Program at New York University. His latest book, Tropic of Chaos, explores how climate change is already causing violence as it interacts with the legacies of economic neoliberalism and cold-war militarism. Previous works analyzed the US occupation of Iraq and surveillance, police, and prisons in the United States. His contribution to Anthropocene or Capitalocene? focuses on the role of national states as environment-making institutions.

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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).

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Marxism, Science and The Anthropocene

A Study Group convened by Fred Murphy and Steve Knight
September 21 – November 23

This ongoing study group considers how Marxists and other critical thinkers address the nexus of capitalism, science, threats to human existence on planet Earth, and the fight for climate justice and ecosocialism. For the Fall 2016 session we will take up works by Andreas Malm (Fossil Capital), Jason Moore et al. (Anthropocene or Capitalocene?), and Ian Angus (Facing the Anthropocene).

Steve Knight is involved in eco-advocacy as a member of 350NYC, a GreenFaith Fellow working with faith communities, and a certified energy efficiency auditor for multifamily buildings. He has been interested in Marxian analysis and ecosocialism since 2004, when he studied Capital with David Harvey.

Fred Murphy studied and taught historical sociology at The New School and has co-led several MEP courses. His adolescent dream of a career as a research chemist was diverted by the sixties radicalization, but he has never lost interest in the sciences

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