On January 8 and 9 of this year, 150 million workers went on a general strike in India, the biggest work stoppage in history. This strike marked another first when agricultural workers and small farmers calling for a solidarity shutdown of rural India joined the striking workers from many sectors including manufacturing, mining, energy, transportation, banking, public services, construction, and many more. These 150 million striking Indian workers corresponds roughly to the total working population of the United States. Here in the U.S. during 2018 a record number of workers went on strike or stopped working because of labor disputes—485,000 workers from major sectors were involved over that year. This was the largest number of workers on strike or work stoppages since 1986, when flight attendants, garbage collectors, and steelworkers walked off the job. Although the international rumblings of a wakening proletariat are of greater or smaller magnitude they indicate the possibility of the workers of all lands to unite on a scale like never before, and in numbers Marx and Engels could only dream of when they wrote these closing words to The Communist Manifesto in 1848. “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to gain. Working Men of All Countries, Unite!”
During their lives working together, Marx and Engels kept abreast of all working class movements and developments within all societies that they could get news from. Their work in doing so predates their partnership as anti-capitalist revolutionaries, but flourished especially upon meeting and thereafter. As Engels stated at the grave of Marx in 1883:
“…Marx was before all else a revolutionist. His real mission in life was to contribute, in one way or another, to the overthrow of capitalist society and of the state institutions which it had brought into being, to contribute to the liberation of the modern proletariat, which he was the first to make conscious of its own position and its needs, conscious of the conditions of its emancipation. Fighting was his element. And he fought with a passion, a tenacity and a success such as few could rival. His work on the first Rheinische Zeitung (1842), the Paris Vorwarts (1844), the Deutsche Brusseler Zeitung (1847), the Neue Rheinische Zeitung (1848-49), the New York Tribune (1852-61), and, in addition to these, a host of militant pamphlets, work in organizations in Paris, Brussels and London, and finally, crowning all, the formation of the great International Working Men’s Association — this was indeed an achievement of which its founder might well have been proud even if he had done nothing else.
“And, consequently, Marx was the best hated and most calumniated man of his time. Governments, both absolutist and republican, deported him from their territories. Bourgeois, whether conservative or ultra-democratic, vied with one another in heaping slanders upon him. All this he brushed aside as though it were a cobweb, ignoring it, answering only when extreme necessity compelled him. And he died beloved, revered and mourned by millions of revolutionary fellow workers….”
This term we begin the careful reading of the investigative journalism, political works, and organizational correspondence within the revolutionary movements by both Marx and Engels. We will begin with early works. As we begin, we shall read Frederich Engels’ The Condition of the Working Class in England which as Eric Hobsbawm stated “is the first book in Britain or any other country which dealt with the working class as a whole and not merely with particular sections and industries. Secondly, and more important, it was not merely a survey of working class conditions, but a general analysis of the evolution of industrial capitalism, of the social impact of industrialization and its political and social consequences — including the rise of the labor movement. In fact, it was the first large-scale attempt to apply the Marxist method to the concrete study of society, and probably the first work by either Marx or Engels which the founders of Marxism regarded as sufficiently valuable to merit permanent preservation.
As a guide to our readings over several terms of study, we shall read from the Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution series written over many years by Hal Draper. As Draper states in his introduction to the work:
“…the answer to pseudodemocracy is real democracy; the abuses of “scientism” can be countered only by a genuinely scientific attitude; and the obfuscations of various contemporary ‘Marxisms’ can be understood only with the help of Marx’s Marxism…”
Between this May and through our spring and summer terms of this study the plan is the read The Condition of the English Working Class, The German Ideology, and selections of works by the young Marx and Engels leading up to the revolutions of 1848. We will begin the fall term continuing with the works of Draper and a careful reading of The Communist Manifesto, followed by Class Struggles in France and The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, along with selections from Marx and Engels journalism and reports of various activities throughout the world at the time of this revolutionary wave, including their beginning assessments of anarchism, utopian socialists and more.
All fees are sliding scale. No one is denied participation for inability to pay.