Introduction to Marxism for Women Only

with Juliet Ucelli

co-sponsored with Left Focus

We’ll explore some key concepts about human beings, society and history, and our relationship to the rest of nature. Readings will be short and accessible excerpts from writings by Marx and Engels or later Marxists. I believe that this theory can help us analyze the social and economic realities and structures we live in–who holds power and how–and fight more effectively for liberation.

Some of the central questions that we’ll address are:
• How did the oppression of women, and the division of societies into people who work and others who exploit them, originate and develop historically?
• What are the driving dynamics of capitalism that make it make it so productive, innovative, brutal and ecologically destructive?
• What intellectual tools can help us understand industry’s complex impacts on our bodies, our psyches and the nature around us—impacts that capitalists, and people who think like them, don’t want to see or cannot see?
• What did Marx understand—and not understand—about white supremacy and Eurocentrism, and how has that analysis been deepened and modified by later Marxists?

In a continuing attempt to increase access for those who have been historically excluded, turned off or silenced by the way this theory is often taught and discussed, we are offering an intro class this October through December for women only. Everyone who identifies as a woman is welcome.

Juliet Ucelli has taught labor economics and class/race/gender for unions and activists, and writes on Eurocentrism in Marxist theory, and Marxist understandings of human development. She also teaches Marx’s Capital, Volume One with The Marxist Education Project.

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We Make Our Own History: On Marxism and Social Movements

We Make Our Own History: On Marxism and Social Movements in the Twilight of Neoliberalism
Talk and Discussion with Alf Gunvald Nilsen

We live in the twilight of neoliberalism: the ruling classes can no longer rule as before, and ordinary people are no longer willing to be ruled in the old way. Pursued by global elites since the 1970s, neoliberalism is defined by dispossession and ever-increasing inequality. The refusal to continue to be ruled like this — “ya basta!” — appears in an arc of resistance stretching from rural India to the cities of the global North.

We Make Our Own History — a book co-written by Laurence Cox and Alf Gunvald Nilsen — investigates this scenario through an exploration of how social movements are forging new visions of a future beyond neoliberalism and by reclaiming Marxism as a theory born from activist experience and practice. In this talk, Alf Gunvald Nilsen will discuss some of the main arguments and ideas put forward in the book with reference to changing movement landscapes in different parts of the world-system.

Alf Gunvald Nilsen is associate professor of sociology at the University of Bergen (Norway) and Visiting Senior Researcher at the Society, Work and Development Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa). He is the author of Dispossession and Resistance in India: The River and the Rage (Routledge, 2010) and the co-editor of numerous books on social movement theory and research, including Marxism and Social Movements (Brill/Haymarket, 2013) and New Subaltern Politics: Reconceptualizing Hegemony and Resistance in Contemporary India (Oxford University Press, 2015).

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Day 2, Session 1: Imperialism Today: Super-Exploitation and Marxist Theory

Presentation and discussion with Walter Daum

Imperialism was first analyzed by Marxist theorists a century ago. Today it still dominates the world but has greatly changed: production, not just trade, is globalized; profits rely on the super-exploitation of hundreds of millions of proletarians in the Global South. This session will discuss the transformation of the imperialist-ruled world and what it means for Marxist theory.

Initial reading: John Smith, “Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century,” Monthly Review July-August 2015; online at http://monthlyreview.org/2015/07/01/imperialism-in-the-twenty-first-century/

Walter Daum taught mathematics at City College in New York for 37 years. He has been a revolutionary activist and Marxist theorist, affiliated with the League for the Revolutionary Party. He wrote a book, The Life and Death of Stalinism and is working on another, on the subject of imperialism. He is proud to have been denounced by the New York Post and the CUNY Board of Trustees in 2001 for explaining at a teach-in that the 9/11 terrorist attack was “ultimately the responsibility of U.S. imperialism.

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István Mészáros’ The Challenge & Burden of Historical Time

10 Sessions:Wednesdays, February 17 – April 20

21st Century Socialism Study Group

Capital cannot tolerate any limitations to its own mode of social metabolic reproduction. Accordingly, considerations of time are totally inadmissable to it if they call for restraining its uncontrollable imperative for capital expansion. There can be no exemption from that imperative. Not even when the devastating consequences are already glaringly obvious both in the field of production and on the terrain of the ecology. The only modality of time in which capital can be interested is exploitable labor time.
—István Mészáros, from the Introduction to The Challenge and Burden of Historical Time

Over ten weeks, we will read through this important book by Iztvan Mézáros.

From a recent interview with Mézáros
Eleonora de Lucena: What are your expectations about socialism or communism in the future?
Will it happen? Is it simply an unattainable goal? How about the risk of barbarism?
István Mészáros: I wrote in a book [The 21st Century: socialism or barbarism] published also in Brazil that if I had to modify today Rosa Luxemburg’s famous words about “socialism or barbarism” I would have to add: “Barbarism if we are lucky.” Because the extermination of humanity is the unfolding menace. For as long as we fail to solve our grave problems, which extend over all dimensions of our existence and relationship to nature, that danger will remain on our horizon.

The 21st Century Socialism Study Group will begin this term and continue with a range of works that pose essential questions for developing a critique of the capitalist world order and prospects for building a movement towards socialism in our time, now 150 years since Karl Marx published Volume I of Capital and one century since the first socialist revolution took place in Russia near the end of the capitalist bloodbath of World War I.

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