Covid-19 Capitalism: Big Farms Make Big Flu

8 Week Reading Group:

The year 2020 has brought together a devastating viral pandemic and what is shaping up as the deepest cyclical crisis of capitalism in history. Covid-19 is not the first such episode rooted in the risky practices of capitalist agribusiness, as detailed in Rob Wallace’s Big Farms Big Flu. We need to set ourselves to the task of how to respond that will have an impact on the causes of the circumstances we are facing as a species. To do this requires organizing and knowledge of the science that is behind the origins and spreading of Covid-19 so that our anti-capitalist activities and campaigns can be effective both in the short and long term.

Rob Wallace’s book is an indispensable handbook to the inevitable pandemics stemming from agribusiness. Monthly Review is making it available at a big discount until April 17. We at the MEP are hosting an online reading and discussion group to share the comprehensive research and writing that is contained in Wallace’s book. We will cover all seven sections, plus the two-part update being published in Monthly Review’s next two issues.

From the Introduction to Big Farms Make Big Flu:

“…humans have built physical and social environments on land and sea that have radically altered the pathways along which pathogens evolve and dispense.

“Pathogens, however, are no mere protagonists, buffered to and fro by the tides of human history. They also act of their own volition, if you will excuse the anthropomorphism. They display agency. And they have by their evolutionary changes forced agribusiness to the bargaining table, a place where that ilk, given their prior successes, think they excel.”

The book is offered by Monthly Review in paper at $10 or as an ebook at $5 until April 17:

Fees for the MEP zoom sessions are sliding scale; no one is turned away for inability to pay.

2008 Capitalist Crisis: McNally’s Global Slump

A 3 Session Mini-class

In the first paragraph of the Introduction to his book, The Global Slump, David McNally wrote as follows: “We find it difficult to view our current moment as profoundly historical. Yet, the present is invariably saturated with elements of the future, with possibilities that have not yet come to fruition, and may not do so—as the road to the future is always contested. That is why, if we wish to make history, we ‘must be able to comprehend the present as a becoming.’ [Georg Lukács, History and Class Consciousness]. One would think that it should be easier to see things this way during moments of profound crisis in our social and economic system, like that which broke out in 2008. As the tectonic plates of the global economy shifted, financial shocks rocked the world’s banks, leveling many of them. Panic gripped money markets, stocks plunged, factories shut down. Tens of millions of people were thrown out of work; millions lost their homes. An extraordinary uncertainty shook the world’s ruling class. The mood of the moment was captured in the confession by senior writers with the Financial Times that, “The world of the past three decades is gone. Within a year or so, however, candid statements like this disappeared from the mainstream press. The ruling class regrouped and regained its arrogance….

A decade has passed but the crisis is not over. Indeed we might even say that we are only beginning to see the effects of this greatest crisis of capitalism: the rise of anti neo-liberal populism of the right and left in Trump and Sanders, Brexit, extreme austerity, all the labor and social movements such as the teachers movement in the US and the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) in France and the deepening crisis in the Middle East. The ruling class has regrouped and regained its arrogance, continuing their political and economic assault imposing ever deeper social wage cuts while ideologically taking aim at hard won democratic and civil rights. It remains important for us to understand the underlying causes within this late stage of capitalist development that led to the 2008 crisis so that we of the working classes develop our capacity to effectively take on the political, ideological and economic challenges we are facing now and in the struggles ahead for a better life for all.

All of this to say that to become more effective it is reasonable to turn to a social theory that see crises as an inherent aspect of the capitalist mode of production, that is Marxist theory. McNally’s Global Slump is an impressive attempt to provide such a Marxist understanding for the crisis and a good example to see the explanatory power of Marx’s social theory as laid out in the three volumes of Capital.

The CAPITAL STUDIES GROUP has been meeting on Saturdays for more than two years. We are a group of workers, students, activists and teachers who have dedicated themselves to a chronological reading of all three volumes of Marx’s Capital. We begin a close reading Volume 2 on May 11. Newcomers are encouraged to join when your schedule permits.

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


General Law of Capitalist Forms of Accumulation

A talk and discussion with Daniel Campos

Daniel’s book The End of the Corporations traces the crisis of capitalism since August 2007, first in the U.S. with the fall of Bear Sterns, AIG, Lehman Brothers, and then with the crisis spreading out to affect the whole world. This book examines the political changes brought to the U.S., Europe and the Middle East. It also draws a comparison between the current crisis and the one in 1929, analyzes the subsequent evolution of capitalism in the twentieth century, the post-war “boom”, the rise of multinational corporations, and the crisis of the ’70s. Globalization, the emergence of multinational corporations, the evolution of financial capital, and the Investment Banks are also evaluated. Finally, the book shows an analysis of capitalism throughout history, which suffered major crises and its link to the social and political phenomena. Following the guidelines of Marx, The End of the Corporations follows the history of capitalism, from its birth, in order to examine the facts and laws that explain how it came about and where the current crisis will go. In the face of the magnitude of the historic character of capitalism’s current crisis, it may be well worthwhile to stop and ask ourselves: Has capitalism ever been through crises of similar importance? In what way have these crises been overcome? What political and social phenomena spawned the crisis? And on the other hand: what political and social phenomena did the crises produce?

This presentation will look at the General Law of Capitalist Forms of Accumulation and their relevance to the underlying global economic crisis that took place in 2007 and what tendencies there are for a similar or more profound crisis than that of 11 years ago.

Daniel Campos was born in Argentina. Previously he was the congressional representative of the United Left Block for the Province of Buenos Aires. Daniel has more than 35 years of uninterrupted militancy as a Marxist and the Argentinian left, along with a long background of trade union and political struggle, In addition, he has written a number of Marxist economic books including The End of the Corporations, Toward Theory of Crisis and The Imperialism Today. His next book The 21st Century American Revolution will soon be published, and is also author of diverse articles on politics, economy and history. Had given lectures and courses in the World Social Forum in Florence (Italy), the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre (Brazil), and different workshops in England, Scotland, Argentina, Italy, Chile, and Brazil. Currently is member of leadership of Reagrupamiento Hacia el PST de Argentina, and the Committee for Revolutionary International Regroupment (CRIR).

“Multinationals are a higher form of accumulation, containing and outperforming monopolies. With multinationals, capitalism went from a lower form of accumulation and concentration of capital to a higher one, but as we saw in Chapter I, this process was not peaceful. To move from one form of accumulation and concentration of capital to another, it took 30 years and 2 world wars, with the balance of millions dead, razed cities, and nations and infrastructure destroyed.” (The End of the Corporations, Chapter V: Forms)

Red/Green Revolution

The Politics and Technology of Ecosocialism
with author Victor Wallis

Red-Green Revolution is an impassioned and informed confrontation with the planetary emergency brought about by accelerated ecological devastation in the last half-century. Victor Wallis argues that sound ecological policy requires a socialist framework, based on democratic participation and drawing on the historical lessons of earlier efforts.

In the age of Trump and with a lack of sound U.S. ecological policies, Wallis’s book could not come at a better time. Red-Green Revolution confronts the emergency produced by the accelerated devastation of the last half-century. The human species is in a race against time to salvage and restore what it can of the environmental conditions that make a healthy existence possible. This task requires us to reconsider not only the type of energy that we use, but also the institutions, the technology, and the social relationships that determine what is produced, in what quantities, by what methods, and to what ends.

At the heart of Wallis’s call to action is the ever-vital debate of capitalism vs. socialism and their relationships to protecting ecological order. Arguing that proper ecological policy requires a socialist framework, based on democratic participation and drawing on the historical lessons of earlier efforts, Wallis writes about how the task of establishing such a framework may evolve through the convergence of popular struggles – against all forms of oppression – as these have emerged under conditions of crisis.

Victor Wallis is a professor of Liberal Arts at the Berklee College of Music. For twenty years he was the managing editor of Socialism and Democracy and has been writing on ecological issues since the early 1990s. His writings have appeared in journals such as Monthly Review and New Political Science, and have been translated into thirteen languages.

Capital, Volume I

Class & Discussion with Capital Studies Group

Karl Marx’s Capital remains the fundamental text for understanding how capitalism works. By unraveling the commoditized forms of our interactions with nature and each other, it provides tools to understand capitalism’s astounding innovativeness and productivity, intertwined with growing inequality and misery, alienation, stunting of human potential, and ecological destruction all over the globe. In this way, Capital offers the reader a methodology for doing our own analysis of current developments.

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.

Marx, Capital and the Madness of Economic Reason

A reading group of David Harvey’s Marx, Capital and the Madness of Economic Reason

The MEP’s Capital Studies Group will readand discuss David Harvey’s recently published Marx, Capital, and the Madness of Economic Reason over four weeks in January. Session one will cover the Prologue and the first two chapters. Arrangements can be made for purchasing the Oxford University Press book by contacting the MEP at
sliding scale: $30 / $45 / $60
no one turned away for inability to pay

Fascism: Then and Now

Fascism Then and Now: A Community Roundtable

Friends of the MEP and the Left community at large are invited to discuss the meaning and signficance of fascism and how to recognize it and struggle against it in world politics today. We hope to debate questions such as: What is the nature of fascism in relation to nationalism/racism, misogyny, social/community dissolution? Is or is not the Trump phenomenon an example or at least a precursor of fascism in the USA? Are there important political movements in other countries that could be called fascist? Is the social psychology of fascism the same today as it was in the 20th century? Are theAre there other forms of authoritarian capitalism that are not fascism, and why might it matter? Current facilitators are Peter Bratsis, Michael Pelias, Dan Karan, Alex Steinberg, David Worley (moderator).

Others are welcome to join as facilitators; each facilitator will offer a three minute (no longer) opening statement, after which the floor will be open for general discussion.

The image is from a deck of anti-fascist playing cards created during the Siege of Leningrad in 1943

The Three Worlds of Social Democracy

A book-launch and discussion with Ingo Schmidt (editor) and Mariano Féliz (contributor)

Capitalists’ permanent pressure on the working and living conditions of the popular classes guarantees an equally permanent demand for social protections. Curiously enough, around the same time capitalists turned from class compromise to an all-out offensive against Western European welfare states, until then the showcase of social democratic success, popular classes in a number of post-colonial and post-communist countries turned to social democracy. Though the 1990s are usually seen as nothing but an age of neoliberal globalization, it is more accurate to say that the same decade also saw the globalization of social democracy. With Third Worldism in retreat under the pressure of the international debt crises and counterinsurgency measures and Soviet communism finally collapsing after an extended period of stagnation, social democracy was the last remaining project of the 20th century left.

The ANC in South Africa, the Workers Party in Brazil, Communists in India and the former ruling parties in Eastern Europe eventually turned onto the social democratic road. But they did that at a time when social democracy in Western Europe was relabeled as a Third Way somewhere between the redistributive welfare state of the past and the present of unfettered global competition. However, the globalization of this Third Way turned out to be a dead-end. Wherever parties were elected on a moderately social democratic platform, soon after taking office the same parties would tell their voters that it was belt-tightening time. Ensuing anger, disappointment and frustrations opened the way for left- and right-wing alternatives to social democracy but also a quest for social democracy before the Third Way.

The Three Worlds of Social Democracy presents the experiences of parties and governments of social democracy from Western and Eastern Europe, Latin America, India, and South Africa. The book offers cutting-edge case studies to present a truly global exploration of the methods, meanings, and limits of social democracy. It also explores the potential for left alternatives to social democracy and the dangers of surging right-wing populism.

Mariano Féliz is an economist at the Instituto de Investigaciones en Humanidades y Ciencias Sociales and the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cient.ficas y Técnicas, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Argentina.

Ingo Schmidt is the coordinator of the Labour Studies Programme at Athabasca University, Canada.

Fiction from The Busted Boom

Summer Reading Series
America Between The Wars: Fiction From The Busted Boom
10 sessions with Craig Chisholm and Michael Lardner
Thursdays, July 14 to September 8, 7:30 PM
Fascism has overtaken Europe and the desperate, reeling Americans are being sold a dream through the New Deal in a broad attempt to mitigate empty dinner plates and joblessness for more than one in four. Nearly a million farms are foreclosed. Schools close, kids separate from their parents, migrating in all directions doing whatever it takes just to get by. The 30s were a time of turmoil for most and a decade shaping the terrain of the way life was to be lived on the edge—in shadow or in light. There is no shortage of literature that can provide insight into that era. This summer’s reading group will look at the following five works of fiction: The Ways of White Folks by Langston Hughes, Double Indemnity by James M. Cain, The Unpossessed by Tess Slesinger, In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck, and It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis. Poems and vignettes of the period will be shared, each participant is welcome to be part of the sharing.

Craig Chisholm is a writer and editor at Gigantic Sequins. For much of the past year Craig has been active with the Indigenous Peoples’ History Reading Group. Michael Lardner has spent years doing typography and during the summers help coordinate these literature sessions.