Ecology, Capital and History

Convened by Fred Murphy and Steve Knight

The MEP’s Ecosocialism Study Group will devote the spring 2019 term to a close reading of Jason W. Moore’s Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital and selected essays applying Moore’s world-ecology framework. Moore argues that the sources of today’s global turbulence have a common cause: capitalism as a way of organizing nature, including human nature.

FRED MURPHY and STEVE KNIGHT have co-led the Ecosocialism Study Group since 2016. Both are active in DSA’s climate justice work. Fred studied and taught historical sociology at The New School for Social Research. Steve reviews books for Marx & Philosophy and is active in faith-centered environmental groups.

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Capital, Energy and Power

A 10-week Study Group with Fred Murphy and Steve Knight

Throughout the history of capitalism, energy sources and especially fossil fuels—coal, oil and natural gas—have been critical to the system’s economic viability. The crises associated with climate change are rooted in capital’s insatiable need to burn fuels in order to accumulate wealth and maximize profits. Competition and greed for readily extractable energy resources have fueled wars and evoked popular resistance, especially in the Middle East. This study group will explore the history and political economy of oil, energy and capitalism. We will read George Caffentzis’s recently published No Blood for Oil! and related work by Michael Klare, Andreas Malm, Timothy Mitchell, and others.

FRED MURPHY has co-led several MEP study groups on Marxism, science, nature, and ecosocialism. He studied and taught historical sociology at the New School for Social Research.

STEVE KNIGHT has been a co-leader of MEP eco-socialist study groups since 2015. He is also a climate activist with the DSA and faith-centered groups, and reviews books on eco-socialism for Marx & Philosophy

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Capital, Volume One

with Capital Studies Group

Class & Discussion (12 week session)

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, Marx’s Capital offers the reader a methodology for doing our own analysis of current developments.

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

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Marx, Capital, and the Madness of Economic Reason, Part 2

Capital Studies Group

We are extending our study of David Harvey’s recent Marx, Capital, and the Madness of Economic Reason. Those who convened starting on January 6 have decided to continue reading the book at a slower pace to allow for a full discussion of all that is contained in the chapters. We will finish reading this book and then begin reading Marx’s Volume 1 of Capital beginning Saturday, March 3.

We will begin chapter three on January 20.
$10 per session for January 20 and 27, no one turned away for paying less or the inability to pay. Registrations for Part 2 allow for attendance on January 20 and 27.

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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 info@marxedproject.org
sliding scale: $30 / $45 / $60
no one turned away for inability to pay

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The German Revolution: False Hope or Missed Chance

Postscript, 1924-1933
Revolutions Study Group
Four more Mondays, 7:30-9:30 p.m., Brooklyn Commons, May 29–June 19
(sliding scale: no one is turned away for an inability to pay)

In November 1923, with the Weimar Republic reeling from the French occupation of the Rhineland and the destruction of its economy by the Great Inflation, the Communist Party of Germany failed in its third attempt since 1919 to lead a workers revolution. Over the next nine years, while the German Left became more bitterly divided than ever, the extreme nationalist and revanchist element in Germany was coalescing around a new mass party, the Nazis, who found increasing numbers of powerful supporters in the army and among the capitalists. When the next potentially revolutionary moment occurred with the Great Depression of 1929, it was fascism that was poised to seize power. Taking off from our readings this past winter, the group will explore why and how this looming tragedy took over Germany, and looks for lessons for our own world.

Readings will include: Richard Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich (1st two chapters; book is readily available in public libraries and reasonably priced as a paperback). Daniel Guerin, Fascism and Big Business (2 chapters; also readily available). L. Trotsky, The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany (Introduction by Ernest Mandel and essays 7,8, 10, and 19; can be purchased online; may be in some public libraries)

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.

Image: combo of two works by John Heartfield

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The Grundrisse, The Chapter on Capital

Saturday sessions on essential works of Marx
Reading and discussion sessions with Sam Salour and others
This group will meet on Saturdays until June 17

“Forces of production and social relations — two different sides of the development of the social individual — appear to capital as mere means, and are merely means for it to produce on its limited foundation. In fact, however, they are the material conditions to blow this foundation sky-high…” —Karl Marx, The Grundrisse

Perhaps the most curious and least understood aspect of Marx’s work is his method of analysis. Marx viewed all his economic laws as tendencies and it is hard to deny that those tendencies are becoming more and more the realities of today’s capitalism. However, to understand our society we need to do more than reading and accepting his concepts, we must critically analyze them and look for the way of thinking that produced them. It is with this goal in my mind that we should embark on a journey through the long and complex sentences of The German Ideology and the Grundrisse. These works are perhaps the best representation of the process of thinking that found its culmination in Capital and we will be engaging with it during our study. Without a doubt, this will be a long and arduous process but we should always keep in mind that “there is no royal road to science and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits. Starting April 1 we will read from The Chapter on Capital from the Penguin edition of Marx’s Grundrisse. These three-hour sessions will have a 30 minute break at 12:30

No one turned away for inability to pay. $10 per session suggested fee.

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Highlights of Marx’s Capital, Volume I

A 9 Session Class and Discussion with Juliet Ucelli
Thursdays, 5:30 to 7:30 pm

Over the past 40 years, many of us have needed to work longer and longer hours—and often more than one job—in order to survive. This longer working day has also become more intense and saps more of our energy. These trends, which Marx predicted and analyzed in Capital, also make it harder for workers and activists to read Capital all the way through. Therefore, we are trying a new approach and highlighting the main sections and concepts of Volume I in a 10-week course.

Key topics that we will cover include: use-value, value and commodity fetishism; the labor process, the working day and surplus value; competition, innovation, productivity growth and the concentration of capital; the sources of ecological destruction; capital’s need for unemployed people and a reserve army of labor; and the bloody origins of capitalism and white supremacy in expropriation and enslavement.

The course will provide a basic grounding for participants to pursue further study on their own or collectively. We’ll refer to new resources such as on-line and visual aids and current articles that illustrate capitalism’s developmental tendencies, which Marx calls its laws of motion.

Juliet Ucelli has taught Capital at the New York Marxist School and labor economics for labor unions, as well as adult basic education and GED preparation. Currently a high school social worker, she has written on Eurocentrism in Marxist theory, the politics of inner city public schooling and other topics. Her “Introduction to Capital, Volume I” can be accessed at http://thecommonsbrooklyn.org/intensive-readings-2014.

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Day 4, Session 4—Approaching Science from the Left

Approaching Science from the Left: Uses and Abuses of Knowledge in the Planetary Crisis
Rebecca Boger, Stuart Newman, Dave Schwartzman, moderated by Fred Murphy

As awareness has grown – among both working people and the global capitalist class – about the scope and complexity of the multiple crises facing the planet and its biosphere, a wide gamut of solutions and palliatives have been put forward across the physical and biological sciences. These range from dystopian geoengineering projects to genetic modification schemes to renewable and sustainable forms of energy use and agriculture. With this closing panel we aim to open a conversation among scholars and activists about how scientific knowledge and practice can help point the way forward, as well as about how science is abused in efforts to preserve and extend capitalist power over labor and resources.

Rebecca Boger has a background in geospatial technologies, marine science, and science education. Before coming to Brooklyn College, she worked for an international science and education program, GLOBE, where she worked with teams of scientists and educators to develop classroom materials, conduct workshops, and facilitate international collaborations. She continues to work with GLOBE to develop online training materials and a citizen science network. At Brooklyn College, CUNY, she teaches geospatial technologies and works with anthropologists and archaeologists in Barbuda on socio-ecological resilience research, community based mapping, and environmental modeling. In the NYC area, she works with NYC Parks and Gateway National Recreation on historical mapping and trends analysis of marshes and shoreline. She continues her education work with a greater emphasis on sustainability, resilience, and climate change topics where she is helping to build an urban sustainability program and online materials.

Stuart Newman is a professor of cell biology and anatomy at New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York. He has contributed to several scientific fields, including biophysical chemistry, developmental biology, and evolutionary theory. He has been a critic of genetic determinism in biology and an opponent of eugenic applications of biotechnology since his student days in the 1960s. Newman was a founding member of the Council for Responsible Genetics and is a columnist for Capitalism Nature Socialism.

David Schwartzman is Professor Emeritus, Howard University (biogeochemist, environmental scientist, PhD, Brown University). An active member of the DC Statehood Green Party/Green Party of the United States. Website with his older son Peter Schwartzman is www.solarUtopia.org. Publications include: Life, Temperature and the Earth (2002), several recent papers in Capitalism Nature Socialism (CNS). Member of the following Advisory Boards: Science & Society, Capitalism Nature Socialism, Institute for Policy Research & Development.

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Day 3, Session 4—Logistics, Capitalist Circulation, Chokepoints with Charmaine Chua

Since the 1970s, capital’s encounters with the crisis of profitability has led it to seek out new strategies of accumulation, notably, in shifting its focus from sites of production to the conduits of circulation. No longer able to generate substantial profit from the mechanized and labor-saving technologies of factory manufacturing, firms began to experiment with increasing the speed and efficiency through which commodities could circulate across the globe. Thus the rise of business logistics: the management of complex networks that coordinate the stocking, distribution, and transportation of services and commodities in international space. In the process, logistics has led to a profound reorganization of the global working class, fragmenting sites of production far from their sites of consumption, and stretching the industrial working class far across the globe. Yet, in anti-capitalist and anti-colonial struggle across the deindustrialized North, activists and organizers have repeatedly found ways to interrupt these intensifying circuits of distribution, responding to the rapid spatial expansion of logistics with their own strategic seizures of the chokepoints of capital flow. Chokepoints – the concentration of the circulation of commodities at certain key sites along the supply chain – might thus present the possibility for resistance to be waged not only symbolically but also materially, by literally grounding capitalist circulation to a halt. Can we understand the highway takeover, the port blockade, and the storefront die-in as connected instances of disruption, revealing an arena of struggle that capital’s turn to accumulation through logistical circulation has made available? What do they teach us about the possibilities of disrupting capital’s circuits as a whole? In short, why occupy chokepoints, and why now?

Charmaine Chua is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of Minnesota and visiting instructor at Macalester College. She works on the rise of logistics capitalism in the context of labor along the U.S.-China supply chain, and is part of the Empire Logistics collective.

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

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