Political Writings of Marx and Engels

Lessons for Today’s Politics
A reading group convened by Lisa Maya Knauer
Saturdays from 3:30-5:30 p.m.
October 7-December 9 (no meeting November 25)
9 Session class

“It was the first time that the bourgeoisie showed to what insane cruelties of revenge it will be goaded the moment the proletariat dares to take its stand against them as a separate class, with its own interests and demands.”

This sentence was written by Karl Marx in 1871, just weeks after the French bourgeoisie crushed the Paris Commune, but it is just as applicable to today’s political situation in the U.S. and elsewhere. This reading group will delve into a selection of Marx and Engels’ political writings to gain both a better understanding of the history of working-class and socialist struggles of their times, and explore lessons for our political organizing now. This tasks takes on a special urgency in light of the events in Charlottesville and the increased visibility of racist, anti-Semitic and white supremacist ideologies.

The reading group offers a very accessible entry-point into the works of Marx and Engels, so no previous study of Marxism is necessary. But it is also a good complement to the study of Capital and other more complex theoretical works.

We will start with Marx and Engels’ writings about the Paris Commune and its aftermath, and collectively decide which other works to explore in our 10-week session.

Lisa Maya Knauer has been involved with Marxist education in New York for her entire adult life, and has taught a variety of classes at the MEP and its predecessors. Her current activist work focuses on immigrant workers’ rights and indigenous struggles for land and water. In her day job, she is a tenured radical at a public university.

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The Life and Thought of Louis-Auguste Blanqui

A talk and discussion with Doug “Enaa” Greene

In the revolutionary tradition, the name of the nineteenth-century French communist Louis-Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881) is remembered either with derision or—at best—as a noble failure. Yet during his lifetime, Blanqui was a towering figure of revolutionary courage and commitment as he organized nearly a half-dozen failed revolutionary conspiracies and spent half of his life in jail. His first street fight was in 1827. Blanqui inspired an uprising in 1839 by the League of the Just, a forerunner of the Communist League of which Marx was a member in Paris. He was imprisoned for his role in the revolutionary wave of activity in 1848. During the Commune of 1871, his ability to inspire was felt to be so strong that Thiers would not exchange him for the captured archbishop of Paris. He is known well for his phrase that we have inherited as “No Gods, No Masters”. Blanqui’s perspective was diametrically opposed to the reformers and utopians who abhorred revolution. Rather, he thought earnestly and without illusions about what it would take to actually make a revolution. In a time like today, when the old formulas of following the lesser evil, social democracy, and other such schemes are falling short, it is worthwhile to take a fresh look at Blanqui.

Doug “Enaa” Greene is a Marxist writer and historian living in the greater Boston area. He is the author of Specters of Communism: Blanqui and Marx, forthcoming from Haymarket Books.

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