1968 and After

The Revolutionary Aspirations of the New Left
Revolutions Study Group

Fifty years ago, the political-military blocs of the Cold War had ossified, social democracy and labor unions in the West were tamed, and struggles for change in Eastern Europe and Latin America seemed to have been controlled by combinations of sticks and carrots. Then, in the year 1968, in France, Italy, the United States, Czechoslovakia, Mexico, etc. there were immense uprisings against the status quo. This fall, we will study this watershed period (1968-1974) considering the achievements and failures of the Left in the 1960s. We will read Chris Harman’s The Fire Last Time (2nd revised ed. 1998), linking the events of 1968 and what carried these events forward.

The Revolutions Study Group (started at the Brecht Forum) has met since 2009. Participants have come and gone, however the group has held together, studying in depth a wide range of history including the French Revolution, the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, the Mau-Mau Revolt in Kenya, the Haitian Revolution, the 1848 European Revolutions, the May 68 movement in France and the Hot Autumn of Italy and much more.

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Revolution in China: 1911-1949

The Revolutions Study Group
10 weeks

Of 20th-century revolutions, the upheaval in China that culminated in the declaration in 1949 of the People’s Republic was arguably just as significant as the Russian Revolution of 1917. Beginning this January, the Revolutions Reading Group undertakes an in-depth study of that 40-year struggle, from the overthrow of the monarchy in 1911 to the victory of the Communist Party after World War II. Readings to include Lucien Bianco, Origins of the Chinese Revolution, Harold Isaacs, Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution, and Edgar Snow, Red Star over China.

“On the fringes of big Chinese cities the shadows of lofty factory chimneys fall across fields still tilled with wooden ploughs. On the wharves of seaports modern liners unload goods carried away on the backs of men or shipped inland on primitive barges. In the streets great trucks and jangling trams roar past carts drawn by men harnessed like animals to their loads. Sleek automobiles toot angrily at man-drawn rickshaws and barrows which thread their way through the lanes of traffic. Streets, lined with shops where men and women still fashion their wares with bare hands and simple tools, lead to huge mills run by humming dynamos. Aeroplanes and railways cut across vast regions linked otherwise only by footpaths and canals a thousand years old. Modern steamers ply the coasts and rivers, churning past junks of ancient design. Throughout the towns and villages, and on the tired land of the vast river valleys that stretch from the sea to the heart of Asia, these contradictions and contrasts multiply. They embody the struggle of nearly half a billion people for existence and survival.”
—opening paragraph of Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution, Harold Isaacs, 1938

THE REVOLUTIONS STUDY GROUP (originally at the Brecht Forum) has been meeting since 2009. Individual participants have come and gone, however the group has held together, studying in depth a wide range of history including the French Revolution, the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, the Mau-Mau Revolt in Kenya, the Haitian Revolution, the European Revolutions of 1848, the May movement in France of 1968 and the Hot Autumn of Italy the following year, the Spanish Civil War, the Mexican Revolution, the Socialist (2nd) International, and Russian Social Democracy prior to World War I. The RSG has just completed a year-long examination of the German Revolutionary period of 1918-1924.

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Day 2, Session 4—Southern Insurgency: Mass Movements Throughout the Global South

A presentation and discussion with Manny Ness and Lisa Maya Knauer
Manny Ness provides an expert perspective of three key countries where workers are fighting the spread of unchecked industrial capitalism: China, India, and South Africa. He considers the broader historical forces in play, such as the effects of imperialism, the decline of the international union movement, class struggle, and the growing reserve of available labor. Lisa Maya Knauer will look at other responses to neoliberal capitalism focusing on the Americas: resistance to anti-extractivist projects, refugee/migrant flows to the U.S., and organizing efforts by Central American workers in the U.S.

Lisa Maya Knauer is a founding member of the MEP and its predecessor, the Brecht Forum. She has taught a variety of classes on feminism and Marxism, and gender and capitalism. She is currently working with indigenous resistance movements in Guatemala, and with immigrant women workers in the U.S. In her day job, she is the chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. (you don’t need to include the academic affiliation if you don’t want)

Immanuel Ness is a political economist and professor of Political Science at City University of New York. He edits Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society and is the author of numerous works including Guest Workers and Resistance to U.S. Corporate Despotism. He has worked and organized in the food, maintenance, and publishing industries.

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