Introduction to Autonomist Marxism: From Its Roots to Cyber-Marx

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Introduction to Autonomist Marxism: From Its Roots to Cyber-Marx


Thursdays from 5:30 to 7:30PM
January 29 through April 16, 2015
@ The Brooklyn Commons

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Autonomist Marxism is an anti-authoritarian, democratic tradition whose roots go back to the early 20th century “Left”- and Council Communists. In The U.S., the tradition has come to be most often associated with Antonio Negri but in fact is far, far broader. Yet, Autonomist thought and analysis is often ignored or derided by other “brands” of Marxism. Why? Perhaps because “Autonomists”:

  • Don’t read Marx (or Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, etc.,) as divine gospel and undertake a rigorous reappraisal/critique without abandoning or becoming anti-Marx like so many “post-modernists” maintaining instead that Marx is still the essential starting point for understanding today’s capitalism and is still as relevant today as he was a century and a half ago;
  • Reject vanguard party Marxism (where the working class first needs to be educated by “outside intellectuals” in order to understand its “true” interests and then led by them in the revolution and ruled by them afterwards);
  • Don’t see Capitalism as the all powerful Oz, the “man behind the curtain” pulling the strings of a working class that rarely makes an on-stage appearance on its own terms;
  • Believe “struggle” is central to any analysis of capitalist class relations taking seriously Marx’s pronouncement in the Communist Manifesto that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle” and reject the idea that capital/capitalism is a set of abstract laws that exist absent and apart from working class struggle;
  • View race and gender along with class as fundamental to both the development of capitalism, as well as the ongoing forms of capitalist exploitation, oppression and reproduction; and,
  • See the working class as being more than the just industrial proletariat e.g., unwaged workers, students, housewives, etc.

The class will cover the historical roots of Autonomist thought, read some of the foundational Italian and American texts and conclude with more recent works such as Nick-Dyer Witheford’s “Cyber-Marx” and essays in “Beyond Marx.”

Dan Karan has worked for NYC housing and community development organizations for 25 years and studied Marxism for nearly 40.


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Spectres of the Dialectic from the Big Bang to the Multiverse: Explorations with Hegel, Marx & Engels on the Philosophy of Nature

Explorations with Hegel, Marx & Engels on the Philosophy of Nature

Through writings, videos, and other media we will engage in issues in modern physics and biology that get to the core of the current crisis in science and take us beyond the limitations of the mechanical picture of the world we have inherited.

This class will be a deep engagement in fundamental philosophical and scientific questions concerning space, time, matter, motion, entropy, evolution and origins. We will be engaged in readings and presentations in philosophy as well as biological and physical science. Debates in contemporary physics and biology will be highlighted for their implications for a dialectical philosophy of nature. No prior background is required.

Alex Steinberg taught Engels and the Dialectics of Nature at the Brecht Forum in the Spring of 2014. He has previously given classes on Hegel and Marxist philosophy and been a presenter at the Left Forum. He has also served on the local and national boards of radio station WBAI.

Suggested tuition: $95 / $125 • No one turned away for inability to pay

The Long French Revolution in Literature and Life: 1789-1871

For Marxist and democratic historians, France remains the ‘model’ country for the analysis of class struggles and political revolutions, which overthrew the established order in 1789, 1830, 1848 and 1871 (and profoundly threatened the bourgeois order again in 1968). We will examine these successive revolutions chronologically through the eyes of both radical historians and novelists.

When considering the Sans Culottes and the French Revolution we will look at this first great revolution from the point of view, not of the “great men” who led it, but of the popular classes that made it and tried to ensure that it met the needs of the French people. Their role on the great events — the taking of the Bastille, the September

Massacres among others — will be examined using Kropotkin’s The Great French Revolution as the source text, as well as excerpts from the soon to be published translation of Jean Jaures’ A Socialist History of the French Revolution. The French Revolution was the first popular uprising to run out of steam and regress, and we will read Anatole France’s novel The Gods are Thirsty to examine these phenomena.

We will then read novels by Stendhal, Balzac and others while concurrently reading Marx’s major writings on France, Class Struggles in France, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte and The Civil War in France. Other contemporary accounts of the revolutionary waves of France in the 19th century will be consulted.

MITCH ABIDOR is the translator of several books, including the forthcoming edition of Jean Jaures’ A Socialist History of the French Revolution and Emmanuel Bove’s novella A Raskolonikov and the author of Communards: The Paris Commune of 1871 as Told by Those Who Fought for It.

CRAIG CHISHOLM is a poet and editor at Gigantic Sequins. He has been a key participant in ongoing workshops on the relationship of literature to revolutionary movements and has just completed a summer of reviewing literary works as they related to World War I.

RICHARD GREEMAN is a Marxist scholar long active in environmental and labor struggles, splits his time between France and New York City. He is best known for his studies and translations of the novelist and revolutionary Victor Serge (1890–1947).

Suggested tuition: $95 / $125 • No one turned away for inability to pay

Capital: A Critique of Political Economy by Karl Marx Volume 1

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

On top of that, many (though not all) sections of Volume I are surprisingly accessible and beautifully written. The class will aim to cover major sections of Volume I by the holiday break, with its pace to be determined by participants’ needs, and may continue after that to finish Volume I. Along with our own intensive reading of the text, we’ll use new on-line and visual aids and current articles that illustrate capitalism’s developmental tendencies or what Marx calls its laws of motion. Participants will be encouraged to be as active as they desire through reports and presentations.

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

Suggested donation: $95 to $125
No one turned away for inability to pay