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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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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Challenging Militarism, Climate Change, and Human Nature

Challenging Militarism, Climate Change, and Human Nature: Revolutionary Mothering and A Politics of Responsibility
Judith Deutsch

Our ability to address urgent threats to our existence like climate change and nuclear weapons is hampered and undermined by questionable assumptions about “human nature” that underlie much political thought and action. In the book Revolutionary Mothering an anthology by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, Mai’a Williams, and Loretta J. Ross, women of color start from the interdependence of the child and the mothering person to propose a very different perspective on human experience, and the interface between individuals and institutions. Mothering and revolution are messy – there are no pat formulas or fixed paradigms. They propose a politics of necessity and responsibility, emphasizing needs rather than rights: “There will be no liberation without us knowing how to depend on each other, how to be encumbered with and responsible for each other.”

Judith Deutsch is a columnist for Canadian Dimension Magazine, former president of Science for Peace, and a psychoanalyst by profession. For reading prior to this presentation, please refer to Judith’s March 1 article in The Bullet: http://socialistproject.ca/bullet/1376.php

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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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