Zones of Liberation

Global Capital and the Fight to End It

Panel Discussion with Salonee Bhaman, George Caffentzis, Silvia Federici, Gabriel Rockhill and others. with workshops on developing and defending areas of opposition to and transition from capital.

At this late and moribund stage of capitalist development nothing is sacred to profit making as the capitalists deforest the Amazon and exploit the deepest marine life of the Marianna Trench. Meanwhile, the working classes the world over are engaged of necessity in an array of movements in opposition to these life-destroying practices. Nonetheless, workers deliver through their labors—which they must sell in order to survive, losing control over the use of their labor power in this act of selling—the means by which capital is digitally speeding us towards a metabolic endgame. Each decade going forward will lead to the demise of ever more species from the microbial to fully sentient beings like ourselves, all the result of the insatiable proliferation of the capitalists pursuit for ever greater profit and continuous expanding accumulation of their money capital even if to do so requires the end of life on this planet as we know it.

In response to this, The Marxist Education Project is closing this summer and revving up to meet the challenges of 2020 with an inaugural event on Global Capital and the Fight to End It. We will begin on August 24 with an afternoon panel with Salonee Bhaman, George Caffentzis, Silvia Federici, Gabriel Rockhill and others, followed by evening workshop discussions.

The focus of the workshop discussions is to identify what needs to be done to support, build, develop and defend the developing arenas of working class and dispossessed peoples resistance, towards nurturing a unified counter-capitalist force that can be sustained locally, nationally, and in solidarity with the struggles of our brothers and sisters throughout the world.

The various workshops will be meeting grounds to identify areas where working classes the world over are organizing resistance and the new left re/formations as collectives, parties, and political spaces are forming. To do this, in the workshops we will explore the array of struggles around such concerns as education, housing, healthcare, jobs, libraries, preservation of natural resources and species, climate, poverty and hunger, return of epidemics like measles, the needs of the aging and physically or emotionally disabled, and the continued divisions and discriminations within our class be it sexism, race, ethic/national/religious origins, gender identity, that only serve to enable increasing exploitation of the class as a whole.

We will also identify the existing and developing meeting spaces for collectives, parties, and political discussion and organizing like the many that are growing in New York City such as Verso Space, Flux Factory, The People’s Forum, MayDay Space, Woodbine, Starr Bar, Bluestockings, The Base, Interference Archive, The Marxist Education Project, Rosa Luxemburg Institute, Brooklyn Institute, Jacobin and Nation reading groups, The Institute for the Radical Imagination, Red Bloom, Democracy at Work, DSA, the self-identified cadre political parties and other locales and organizations.

To counter this stage of a rapacious dying capitalism that requires ever-deeper exploitation of workers and nature, we propose to explore where our class has been staking out, claiming and defending zones of liberation. We look to movements such as our own Occupy movement to the current Yellow Vest movement in France, the long-standing Zapatista opposition in Mexico that has secured liberated zones, the ZAD in France, and our own zones that we are staking out in our daily lives here, and other instances that panelists and attendess/participants will bring attention to.

Salonee Bhaman is a PhD candidate in History at Yale University. Her research focuses on punitive welfare, housing, and austerity politics with particular attention towards questions of race, gender, migration, and care. Her dissertation in progress explores the first years of the AIDS epidemic with regards to the American welfare state—thinking through issues of  care work, immigration policy, and intimate space. She has also done significant work on the struggles of women who are brought to the US for marriage, very often to extra-exploitative and isolated situations with little or no community to turn to for support.

George Caffentzis is a political philosopher and autonomist Marxist. He was a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern Maine and a founding member of the Midnight Notes Collective. He is the author of Clipped Coins, Abused Words, and Civil Government: John Locke’s Philosophy of Money, In Letters of Blood and Fire: Work, Machines, and the Crisis of Capitalism and the coeditor of A Thousand Flowers: Social Struggles Against Structural Adjustment in African Universities. George’s most recent book is No Blood For Oil! Essays on Energy, Class Struggle and War 1998–2016, published by Autonomedia.

Silvia Federici is a long-time feminist, writer, and teacher living in Brooklyn, NY. Her most recent book is Re-enchanting the World. Feminism and the Politics of the Commons (PM Press 2019). Other works include Caliban and the Witch Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation (Autonomedia 2004),  Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle (Common Notions/PM Press, 2012), The New York Wages For Housework Committee : History, Theory, Documents. 1972-1977. (Autonomedia, 2017), and Witch-hunting Witches and Women, (PM Press, 2018). Born in Italy, Federici has lectured and taught widely in Europe, Latin America, Africa, and the U.S. She has participated in numerous international movements and social struggles, including feminist, education, anti-death penalty, as well as anti-nuclear and anti-globalization movements.

Gabriel Rockhill is a philosopher, cultural critic and political theorist. He is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University and Founding Director of the Critical Theory Workshop. His recent books include La guerre intellectuelle de la CIA (forthcoming), Counter-History of the Present: Untimely Interrogations into Globalization, Technology, Democracy (2017), Interventions in Contemporary Thought: History, Politics, Aesthetics (2016) and Radical History & the Politics of Art  (2014). In addition to his scholarly work, he has been actively engaged in extra-academic activities in the art and activist worlds, as well as a regular contributor to public intellectual debate. For more information: https://gabrielrockhill.com. For some time Gabriel has been active with the Yellow Vests movement. You can listen to his take on the Yellow Vest movement on KPFA in an interview and read his coverage on the Counterpunch website.

All fees are sliding scale. No one is denied admission for inability to pay.

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Globalization and Writing

Exploration: Exploitation/Domination • Discovery/Liberation
4 Works • 11 Weeks

The MEP Literature Group

In this eleven-week session we will read one memoir and three novels that study the scope of empire. Written between 1899 and 2000, the authors, two sailors (Polish and American), a Jamaican social theorist, and a British Jamaican immigrant are denied privilege because of their citizenship (or lack of it), class, or color. Unwilling, or unable to conform and accept lesser positions in their societies, they remain within their marginality and write their unease in novels which give readers an alternative report of the results of colonization both abroad where the EuroAmerican capitalists have colonized and what consequences that colonization has made for life in the home countries.

Heart of Darkness
Joseph Conrad
The story, written at the height of the British Empire, reflects the physical and psychological shock Conrad himself experienced in 1890 when he worked briefly in the Belgian Congo. The experience left him disillusioned, questioning what it meant to be civilized in the age of colonialism

This novella is astonishingly powerful and equally enigmatic. Its condemnation of Western imperialism—of the greed, violence, and exploitation that so often accompanies ventures to bring “light” and civilization to the “dark” and needy areas of the world—and its poignant look at the destructive influence of colonization on the colonized and colonizer alike, have been widely praised. However, some postcolonial African writers, most notably Chinua Achebe, deemed the book racist for its portrayal of native African cultures.

Familiar Stranger: A Life Between Two Islands
Stuart Hall
Familiar Stranger takes us only as far as the mid-1960s, after a decade during which, for Hall, “normal” life was suspended in favour of non-stop political agitation. The book touches on his role in the New Left; his critical involvement with CND; his early exposition of the “formal” and “unwitting” variants of British racism; and the importance of Catherine, with whom he relocated to Birmingham at the start of his lifelong embrace of cultural studies. These recollections of a busy life in Britain nonetheless remain haunted by the ghostly presence of his earlier years in Jamaica. With its resonant subtitle, A Life Between Two Islands, it encourages the reader to draw such parallels as that between Jamaica’s 1938 rebellion and the Brixton riots of 1981. It was Hall’s belief that the British had never fully come to terms with colonialism and decolonization.

Dog Soldiers
Robert Stone
Dog Soldiers deals with the fall of the counterculture in America, the rise of mass cynicism and the end of the optimism of the 1960s. California has moved on from the Summer of Love to post-Manson paranoia. Converse, a once-promising writer now unable to do more than observe, waits for artistic inspiration as a correspondent in Vietnam. Symbolic of his moral corruption is his decision to traffic in heroin, which the 1960s counterculture never embraced as they did marijuana and LSD.

White Teeth
Zadie Smith
This may be the first novel ever written that truly feels at home in our borderless, globalized, intermarried, post-colonial age, populated by “children with first and last names on a direct collision course.” Published when Smith was just 24, White Teeth follows the friendship of two Londoners, a pub-going working-class bloke named Archie and a Muslim from Bangladesh named Samad. Archie marries a Jamaican; Samad has twin sons, one of whom becomes a religious militant, the other a rabid Anglophile. The overlapping fates of Smith’s characters seem to trace the new structures of 21st-century life and test their sturdiness as framework for peace and happiness. Both deeply Dickensian and playfully post-modern, White Teeth doesn’t quail before the rampantly ramifying novelistic complexities of a multicultural world. It revels in them.

The MEP LITERATURE GROUP has been meeting to discuss literature since the first days of The Marxist Education Project following a presentation by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz on her Indigenous Peoples History of the United States and her recommendation that we take up literature with Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of The Dead. The group has recently completed readings of Victor Serge’s Unforgiving Years following by Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. Our second summer of noir, considered works by Hammett, Chandler, Manchette, and others. Other studies have included novels related to World War I, the global depression of the 1930s, and novels on border politics, migrations and labor organizing.

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The Emancipation of Labor

The Civil War and the Making of the American Working Class
A talk and discussion with author Mark Lause

Mark A. Lause will provide an overview of his widely acclaimed book Free Labor: The Civil War and the Making of the American Working Class (2016) and discuss his current project on the origins of American socialism, taking up little-known aspects of the emergence of a class-struggle perspective on the American left. He will consider why those dimensions have thus far received little attention from historians and socialists. Northern workers “took up arms because they understood the importance of the conflict in shaping the future value of ‘free labor,’” and a “rolling strike of the slaves” in the South became “the great incontrovertible and irreversible fact of the war”.

Mark A. Lause is a professor of history at the University of Cincinnati who focuses on U.S. labor movements in the nineteenth century. A lifelong radical, his Free Labor: The Civil War and the Making of the American Working Class (2016) is the most recent in a series of works on the Civil War era. Others include studies of land reform, spiritualism, secret societies, and bohemianism, and Race & Radicalism in the Union Army, on the tri-racial experience of the Federal Army of the Frontier. A forthcoming book will address The Great Cowboy Strike and western labor struggles in the 1880s. His reviews and essays on contemporary politics have appeared in Against the Current, Counterpunch, Jacobin, and The North Star, where he serves on the editorial board. A veteran of SDS and the radicalization of the 1960s, Lause has joined various socialist organizations over the last half century – most expelled him and all disappointed him. Long interested in environmental issues, he has been identified with the Green Party since the 1990s and served on the state committee of the Ohio party.

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