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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Marxist Summer Intensive: July 15-17

21st Century Class Struggles and the Generalized Proletariat:
Further Lessons towards Working Class Consciousness within our Social Movements

Thursday, July 14 through Sunday, July 17

Featuring: Mitch Abidor, Kazembe Balagun, Mark Bergfeld, Rebecca Boger, Dennis Broe, Charmaine Chua, Claude Copeland, Marika Diaz, Russell Dale, Walter Daum, Pete Dolack, Kate Doyle-Griffiths, Mark Dudzic, Anthony Galluzzo, Janet Gerson. Harmony Goldberg, Marcus Graetsch, Ursula Huws, Dan Karan, Lisa Maya Knauer, Kristin Lawler, Laurel Mei-Singh, Ras Moshe, Fred Murphy, Manny Ness, Stuart Newman, Marie-Claire Picher, David Schwartzman and Yuko Tonohira.

Writings to read if you have the time:

Susan Watkins from New Left Review, survey 2014

https://newleftreview.org/II/90/susan-watkins-the-political-state-of-the-union

Susan Watkins, 2016
https://newleftreview.org/II/98/susan-watkins-oppositions
Marc Dudzic and Adolf Reed Jr from Socialist Register on Crisis of Left and Labor in the US

http://www.commondreams.org/sites/default/files/dudzic_and_reed_the_crisis_of_labour_and_the_left_in_the_united_states_sr_2015.pdf

A Selection from the blog of Ursula Huws (if you have time read more of her postings, listed off to the side on her blog)

https://ursulahuws.wordpress.com/2016/06/25/the-unmaking-of-the-english-working-class/

https://ursulahuws.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/uber-and-under/

https://ursulahuws.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/a-workhouse-without-walls/

Mitch Abidor
On Paris, May ’68

http://insurgentnotes.com/2016/06/may-68-revisited/

Ian Birchall’s response to Mitch:

http://insurgentnotes.com/2016/06/response-to-may-68-revisited/

Kazembe Balagun
In The Guardian, 2011

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/mar/17/race-protest
on the Fanon Phenomenon in The Indypendent: https://indypendent.org/2014/12/16/fanon-phenomenon-documentary-unearths-africas-anti-colonial-struggles

Mark Bergfeld

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/05/the-next-portuguese-revolution/

About Mark in 2011 as activist:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/8440413/Student-protests-The-Marxist-revolutionary-aiming-to-lead-the-NUS.html

Dennis Broe
On the World Film Beat with recent Cannes reports:

http://politicalfilmcritics.blogspot.fr/p/world-film-beat.html?

The most most recent article of Dennis in Situations on Mediterranean Noir:

http://ojs.gc.cuny.edu/index.php/situations/article/view/1706/1614?

Russell Dale from Situtations:

http://ojs.gc.cuny.edu/index.php/situations/article/view/1631/1581

Charmaine Chua:

https://thedisorderofthings.com/2014/09/09/logistics-capitalist-circulation-chokepoints/

https://thedisorderofthings.com/author/charmchua/

https://thedisorderofthings.com/2015/02/07/the-chinese-logistical-sublime-and-its-wasted-remains/

https://thedisorderofthings.com/2015/01/27/landlessness-and-the-life-of-seamen/

Harmony Goldberg
On McDonald’s

http://www.salon.com/2014/04/06/how_mcdonalds_gets_away_with_rampant_wage_theft_partner/

Ras Moshe
An interview from Jazz Right Now:

https://jazzrightnow.com/2014/03/10/interview-ras-moshe/

Walter Daum
Exchange in NY Review of Books:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2014/04/03/imperialism-and-world-war-i-exchange/

Stuart Newman
all –

https://legacy.nymc.edu/sanewman/social.htm

especially

https://legacy.nymc.edu/sanewman/PDFs/CNS_GM_foods_09.pdf

https://legacy.nymc.edu/sanewman/PDFs/CNS%20Synbio_12.pdf

David Schwartzman

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/12/cop-21-paris-climate-change-global-warming-fossil-fuels/

http://tratarde.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Schwartzman-Saul-CNS-2015.pdf

http://www.redandgreen.org/Documents/Solar_Communism.htm

As capitalist relations penetrate every nook and cranny of our planet and the most intimate realms of our lives, a growing proportion of the world’s population is incorporated into the global proletariat—paid and unpaid workers and our families, the unemployed and underemployed, and the growing numbers who will never work. The laboring part of today’s global proletariat is greater than the world’s entire population 40 years ago. Now there are workers from all parts of the globe working for the same set of bosses.

Capitalists continually seek new avenues to expand their capital and commodify all that exists. The digital revolution has sped all this up, quickening accumulation which lays the basis for more frequent crises. Capital continues in ever new forms the process of enclosures that began with the forcible removal of the peasantry from the land in medieval Europe. Throughout the global south, displaced peasants are forced to migrate to cities or internationally, working in factories or informal economies. Many others are conscripted into comprador armies to protect the extractive industries ravaging their regions. There is also outright robbery: the Panama Papers reveal the extent to which capital has fleeced the global proletariat. After more than three decades of assault on organized labor, privatization, austerity and structural adjustment have gutted hard-won social programs. Automation, digitization and strategic relocation of work, combined with just-in-time assembly, make millions “redundant”. At the same time Walmartization, Uberization, Amazonification exemplify our marginalization and precarity.

As we plan this intensive, workers and students are in motion throughout France, from Nuit Debout gatherings to general strikes against austerity. Greek workers, hit harder still by austerity, are reaching out to support the tide of refugees. The contract just won by the Verizon workers in the U.S. after a nation-wide strike represents a major victory. The Sanders campaign has helped normalize the concept of socialism, but the Left and social movements have not figured out how to articulate a viable socialist alternative and build a corresponding movement.

Over the four days of this Intensive, we will study the causes behind these developments, learn about some obstacles to organizing and the challenges facing workers at work and in their communities, and consider various left analyses about social realities and the prospects for organizing. We will assess the lessons of workers’ movements globally and historically, with emphasis on prospects in the US and the global south. Through collaborative study and discussion, we aim to provide a challenging learning environment so each participant can develop his/her own theoretical and analytic tools to advance our organizing and movement building work in order to broaden opposition to capital locally, nationally and internationally.

FRIDAY, JULY 15 / 10:00 am • Imperialism Today: Super-Exploitation & Marxist Theory • WALTER DAUM • 1:00- 4:00 pm • Class Consciousness, Class Struggle & Self-Organizing Using Image Theater • presented by The Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory (TOPLAB) • facilitated by JANET GERSON • MARIE-CLAIRE PICHER • 5:30 pm • Public Banking: A Marxist Response to Finance Capital • DAN KARAN • 7:30 pm • Southern Insurgency: Mass Movements Throughout the Global South • LISA MAYA KNAUER

SATURDAY, JULY 16 / 10:00 am • Slackers, Sabotage, & Syndicalism: American Labor History & The Refusal of Work • KRISTIN LAWLER • 1:00 pm • Beyond Bernie: The Crisis of Labor & The Left in the United States • MARK DUDZIC • 3:30 pm • Prometheus in Ruins?: Uses & Abuses of the Hero Who Stole Fire • ANTHONY GALLUZZO • 5:30 pm • Logistics, Capitalist Circulation, Chokepoints • CHARMAINE CHUA • 7:30 pm • Devils & Dust: Resisting War in New York, the Pacific, & the Middle East • CLAUDE COPELAND • LAUREL MEI-SINGH • YUKO TONOHIRA

SUNDAY, JULY 17 / 11:00 am • It’s Not Over: Lessons for Socialists from the October Revolution, Prague Spring and the Sandinistas • PETE DOLACK • 1:00 pm • Labor in the Global Digital Economy • URSULA HUWS • 3:30 pm • Sexuality, Gender & Neoliberal Capitalism • KATE DOYLE-GRIFFITHS • LISA MAYA KNAUER • 5:30 pm • Approaching Science from the Left: Uses & Abuses of Knowledge in the Planetary Crisis • REBECCA BOGER • STUART NEWMAN • DAVE SCHWARTZMAN • moderated by FRED MURPHY

As capitalist relations penetrate every nook and cranny of our planet and the most intimate realms of our lives, a growing proportion of the world’s population is incorporated into the global proletariat—paid and unpaid workers and our families, the unemployed and underemployed, and the growing numbers who will never work. The laboring part of today’s global proletariat is greater than the world’s entire population 40 years ago. Now there are workers from all parts of the globe working for the same set of bosses.

Capitalists continually seek new avenues to expand their capital and commodify all that exists. The digital revolution has sped all this up, quickening accumulation which lays the basis for more frequent crises. Capital continues in ever new forms the process of enclosures that began with the forcible removal of the peasantry from the land in medieval Europe. Throughout the global south, displaced peasants are forced to migrate to cities or internationally, working in factories or informal economies. Many others are conscripted into comprador armies to protect the extractive industries ravaging their regions. There is also outright robbery: the Panama Papers reveal the extent to which capital has fleeced the global proletariat. After more than three decades of assault on organized labor, privatization, austerity and structural adjustment have gutted hard-won social programs. Automation, digitization and strategic relocation of work, combined with just-in-time assembly, make millions “redundant”. At the same time Walmartization, Uberization, Amazonification exemplify our marginalization and precarity.

As we plan this intensive, workers and students are in motion throughout France, from Nuit Debout gatherings to general strikes against austerity. Greek workers, hit harder still by austerity, are reaching out to support the tide of refugees. The contract just won by the Verizon workers in the U.S. after a nation-wide strike represents a major victory. The Sanders campaign has helped normalize the concept of socialism, but the Left and social movements have not figured out how to articulate a viable socialist alternative and build a corresponding movement.

Over the four days of this Intensive, we will study the causes behind these developments, learn about some obstacles to organizing and the challenges facing workers at work and in their communities, and consider various left analyses about social realities and the prospects for organizing. We will assess the lessons of workers’ movements globally and historically, with emphasis on prospects in the US and the global south. Through collaborative study and discussion, we aim to provide a challenging learning environment so each participant can develop his/her own theoretical and analytic tools to advance our organizing and movement building work in order to broaden opposition to capital locally, nationally and internationally.

THURSDAY, JULY 14 / 10:00 am • Marx and Engels & Classical German Philosophy • RUSSELL DALE • 1:00 pm • Anti-Austerity in France: Live Report from Paris on Bastille Day • DENNIS BROE • 3:30 pm • May ’68 in France: Revisited • MITCH ABIDOR • 5:30 pm • What Jazz Would Karl Marx Listen to in 2016 • RAS MOSHE • 7:30 pm • Solidarity Without Borders • KAZEMBE BALAGUN • MARK BERGFELD • HARMONY GOLDBERG • MARCUS GRAETSCH • moderated by MARIKA DIAS

FRIDAY, JULY 15 / 10:00 am • Imperialism Today: Super-Exploitation & Marxist Theory • WALTER DAUM • 1:00- 4:00 pm • Class Consciousness, Class Struggle & Self-Organizing Using Image Theater • presented by The Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory (TOPLAB) • facilitated by JANET GERSON • MARIE-CLAIRE PICHER • 5:30 pm • Public Banking: A Marxist Response to Finance Capital • DAN KARAN • 7:30 pm • Southern Insurgency: Mass Movements Throughout the Global South • MANNY NESS • LISA MAYA KNAUER

SATURDAY, JULY 16 / 10:00 am • Slackers, Sabotage, & Syndicalism: American Labor History & The Refusal of Work • KRISTIN LAWLER • 1:00 pm • Beyond Bernie: The Crisis of Labor & The Left in the United States • MARK DUDZIC • 3:30 pm • Prometheus in Ruins?: Uses & Abuses of the Hero Who Stole Fire • ANTHONY GALLUZZO • 5:30 pm • Logistics, Capitalist Circulation, Chokepoints • CHARMAINE CHUA • 7:30 pm • Devils & Dust: Resisting War in New York, the Pacific, & the Middle East • CLAUDE COPELAND • LAUREL MEI-SINGH • YUKO TONOHIRA

SUNDAY, JULY 17 / 11:00 am • It’s Not Over: Lessons for Socialists from the October Revolution, Prague Spring and the Sandinistas • PETE DOLACK • 1:00 pm • Labor in the Global Digital Economy • URSULA HUWS • 3:30 pm • Sexuality, Gender & Neoliberal Capitalism • KATE DOYLE-GRIFFITHS • LISA MAYA KNAUER • 5:30 pm • Approaching Science from the Left: Uses & Abuses of Knowledge in the Planetary Crisis • REBECCA BOGER • STUART NEWMAN • DAVE SCHWARTZMAN • moderated by FRED MURPHY

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