Can the Working Class Change the World?

5 Sessions

Can the Working Class Change the World?
By Michael D. Yates
A new book from Monthly Review Press

Session 1
Thursday, February 7, 5:30 to 7:15
A discussion with author Michael D. Yates

Sessions 2-5
Mondays, February 11 through March 4
Analysis and discussion of the book

The first 10 registered participants in this group will receive a free copy of the book. Contributions to Monthly Review Press are appreciated.

From Monthly Review:

One of the horrors of the capitalist system is that slave labor, which was central to the formation and growth of capitalism itself, is still fully able to coexist alongside wage labor. But, as Karl Marx pointed out, it is the fact of being paid for one’s work that validates capitalism as a viable socio-economic structure. Beneath this veil of “free commerce”—where workers are paid only for a portion of their workday, and buyers and sellers in the marketplace face each other as “equals”—lies a foundation of immense inequality. Yet workers have always rebelled. They’ve organized unions, struck, picketed, boycotted, formed political organizations and parties—sometimes they have actually won and improved their lives. But, Marx argued, because capitalism is the apotheosis of class society, it must be the last class society: it must, therefore, be destroyed. And only the working class, said Marx, is capable of doing that.

In his timely and innovative book, Michael D. Yates asks if the working class can, indeed, change the world. Deftly factoring in such contemporary elements as sharp changes in the rise of identity politics and the nature of work, itself, Yates wonders if there can, in fact, be a thing called the working class. If so, how might it overcome inherent divisions of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, location—to become a cohesive and radical force for change? Forcefully and without illusions, Yates supports his arguments with relevant, clearly explained data, historical examples, and his own personal experiences. This book is a sophisticated and prescient understanding of the working class, and what all of us might do to change the world.

“Michael Yates’s passion and respect for the class he came out of delivers a book that is especially accessible without retreating from the complexities and internal contradictions of working class life and organization—a book committed not only to defending workers, but also to building on their potentials to transform society.”      —Sam Gindin, former chief economist, Canadian Auto Workers Union; Packer Visitor in Social Justice, Political Science, York University, Toronto

On Thursday, February 7, Michael Yates will teleconference with us for a preview and discussion of his important new book. On the four Mondays that follow, we will read, analyze and Michael’s book.

Michael D. Yates is Editorial Director of Monthly Review Press. For more than three decades, he was a labor educator, teaching working people across the United States. Among his books are The Great Inequality, Why Unions Matter, A Freedom Budget for All Americans (with Paul Le Blanc), and The ABCs of the Economic Crisis (with Fred Magdoff).

The Capital Studies Group has been meeting on Saturdays for nearly two years. We are a diverse group of students, activists and teachers who are now dedicating themselves to a chronological reading of all three volumes of Marx’s Capital.

 

The stated fees are sliding scale. No one is turned away for inability to pay., or

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Black Reconstruction

Black Reconstruction: An American Revolutionary Period
with the Revolutions Study Group

13-week session

Some have called the U.S. Civil War the “second American revolution” or the completion of the first American revolution. Others claim that the war of independence and Civil War were not revolutions, but had tremendous revolutionary potential. By whichever historical claim, the great social revolution of that momentous period following the Civil War was surely the “reconstruction” of social relations in the former slave states. In his groundbreaking study (1935), W.E.B. DuBois reveals that this social revolution was both initiated by slaves in the midst of the war and carried through by the emancipated Black population during and after the period when federal troops occupied the former Confederate states. DuBois is concerned to refute the multiple slanders imputed to “Reconstruction” during the counter-revolutionary “Jim Crow” period that followed and to record the real advancements of democracy and social reform made under Reconstruction and partly lost when it was defeated. We will read DuBois’ Black Reconstruction (Oxford University Press, 2007) in whole, and for more recent research, the middle part of Steven Hahn’s A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South (Harvard University Press, 2003). Both books are readily available new and used, as e-books, and in libraries. Email to info@marxedproject.org for a reading syllabus.

THE REVOLUTIONS STUDY GROUP (originally at the Brecht Forum) has been meeting for 10 years. 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, the German revolutionary period of 1918-1924, and the Chinese revolutionary process of the 20th Century.

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

 

TONIGHT, FEBRUARY 11 ONLY: The class will meet at The Brooklyn Commons, 388 Atlantic Avenue. A or G trains to Hoyt-Schermerhorn stop is a short walk from this venue.

 

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Capital, Volume One

with Capital Studies Group

Class & Discussion (12 week session)

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

The CAPITAL STUDIES GROUP has been meeting on Saturdays for two years. We are a diverse group of students, activists and teachers who are have dedicated themselves to a chronological reading of all three volumes of Marx’s Capital. Newcomers are encouraged to join when your schedule permits.

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Capital, Volume I

Class & Discussion with Capital Studies Group

Karl 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.

The Capital Studies Group has been meeting on Saturdays for nearly two years. We are a diverse group of students, activists and teachers who are now dedicating themselves to a chronological reading of all three volumes of Marx’s Capital.

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The Political Economy of Money and Finance

Presented by the Capital Studies Organizing Task Force
10 sessions

There has been much talk in recent years about the “financialization” of capitalism and the increasingly dominant and totally destructive role of money and finance. But what exactly is “financialization” and is this something truly new for capitalism or simply the latest manifestation of a phenomenon and process that has earlier historical roots and is basic and fundamental to the way that capitalism functions? And, what is the role of money and finance in 21st century capitalism?

To understand “financialization” and the pronounced instability of the world economy since the 1970s, this reading group will undertake a close reading (over 10 weeks) of Costas Lapavitsas and Makoto Itoh’s book Political Economy of Money and Finance. The book attempts to offer a systematic theoretical examination of money and finance by re-examining the classical foundations of political economy and the creator of money and assessing all of the important theoretical schools since then, including Marxist, Keynesian, post-Keynesian and monetarist thinkers.

Lapavitsas and Itoh argue that monetary and financial instability has roots in capitalist production and trade, as well as in the defects of the mechanisms of money and finance. Thus, no mix of policies can fully establish monetary and financial harmony, though different policies can significantly ameliorate or worsen instability. To sustain its central claim, the book also re-examines the historical and logical origin of money, the creation of interest bearing capital, the spontaneous emergence of the capitalist credit system, the process of capitalist crisis, and the nature and function of the central banks. In addition, by presenting insights from Japanese political economy largely ignored in Anglo-Saxon economics, the authors contribute to a radical political economy based on a thorough historical analysis of capitalism.

The Capital Studies Organizing Task Force are workers and allies who gather frequently to study the three volumes of Marx’s Capital, in order to be concrete in our analysis of capital and to better inform the class struggles against capitalists and their collaborators.

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Marx, Capital, and the Madness of Economic Reason, Part 2

Capital Studies Group

We are extending our study of David Harvey’s recent Marx, Capital, and the Madness of Economic Reason. Those who convened starting on January 6 have decided to continue reading the book at a slower pace to allow for a full discussion of all that is contained in the chapters. We will finish reading this book and then begin reading Marx’s Volume 1 of Capital beginning Saturday, March 3.

We will begin chapter three on January 20.
$10 per session for January 20 and 27, no one turned away for paying less or the inability to pay. Registrations for Part 2 allow for attendance on January 20 and 27.

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Five Explicit and Implicit Notions of Revolution in Capital, Volume I

Five Explicit and Implicit Notions of Revolution in Capital, Volume I, as Seen from a Multilinear, Peripheral Angle

It is often said that Capital, Volume I is concerned with the enfoldment of the capital form, with many dialectical twists and turns, but not with revolution. However, such a picture severs Marx the revolutionary from Marx the social theorist. In fact, Capital I can be connected to five different notions of revolution: (1) a working class uprising that rises as a form of revolutionary negation of the centralized productive apparatus of modern industrial capitalism, but posed at a high level of abstraction; (2) four other notions of revolution that connect a class uprising to race, ethnicity, colonialism, and the need to abolish the state.

Kevin B. Anderson teaches at University of California, Santa Barbara. He has worked in social and political theory, especially Marx, Hegel, Lenin, Luxemburg, Marxist humanism, the Frankfurt School, Foucault, and the Orientalism debate. Among his books are Lenin, Hegel, and Western Marxism (1995), Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism (with Janet Afary, 2005), and Marx at the Margins: On Nationalism, Ethnicity and Non-Western Societies (2010/2016). He has also contributed to For Humanism: Explorations in Theory and Politics (ed. D. Alderson and R. Spencer, 2017) and the Transition from Capitalism (ed. S. Rahnema, 2017), and is the coeditor of the Rosa Luxemburg Reader (with Peter Hudis, 2004), Karl Marx (with Bertell Ollman, 2012), and the Dunayevskaya-Marcuse-Fromm Correspondence (2012, with Russell Rockwell). He is a member of the International Marxist-Humanist Organization.

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The Grundrisse, The Chapter on Capital

Saturday sessions on essential works of Marx
Reading and discussion sessions with Sam Salour and others
This group will meet on Saturdays until June 17

“Forces of production and social relations — two different sides of the development of the social individual — appear to capital as mere means, and are merely means for it to produce on its limited foundation. In fact, however, they are the material conditions to blow this foundation sky-high…” —Karl Marx, The Grundrisse

Perhaps the most curious and least understood aspect of Marx’s work is his method of analysis. Marx viewed all his economic laws as tendencies and it is hard to deny that those tendencies are becoming more and more the realities of today’s capitalism. However, to understand our society we need to do more than reading and accepting his concepts, we must critically analyze them and look for the way of thinking that produced them. It is with this goal in my mind that we should embark on a journey through the long and complex sentences of The German Ideology and the Grundrisse. These works are perhaps the best representation of the process of thinking that found its culmination in Capital and we will be engaging with it during our study. Without a doubt, this will be a long and arduous process but we should always keep in mind that “there is no royal road to science and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits. Starting April 1 we will read from The Chapter on Capital from the Penguin edition of Marx’s Grundrisse. These three-hour sessions will have a 30 minute break at 12:30

No one turned away for inability to pay. $10 per session suggested fee.

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Money and Totality

MONEY AND TOTALITY:
A Macro-Monetary Interpretation of Marx’s Logic In Capital and the End of the “Transformation Problem”

a book discussion with author Fred Moseley
at Unnameable Books
600 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn, NY

Correcting a longstanding misinterpretation, Moseley argues that there is no ‘transformation problem’ in Marx’s economic theory. This ambitious book presents a comprehensive new ‘macro-monetary’ interpretation of Marx’s logical method in Capital which emphasizes two points: (1) Marx’s theory is primarily a macroeconomic theory of the total surplus-value produced in the economy as a whole; and (2) Marx’s theory is a monetary theory and the circuit of money capital, M-C-M, is its logical framework.

“The complete form of the process is therefore M-C-M’, where M =M + ∆M, i.e. the original sum advanced plus an increment. This increment or excess over the original value I call ‘surplus-value’.”
—Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 1

“The capitalists, like hostile brothers, divide among themselves the loot of other people’s labor, so that on an average one receives the same amount of unpaid labor as another.”
—Karl Marx, Theories of Surplus-Value, Volume 2

Fred Moseley is Professor of Economics at Mount Holyoke College. He is the author of The Falling Rate of Profit in the Postwar United States Economy and editor of Marx’s Logical Method: A Reappraisal, New Investigations of Marx’s Method, Heterodox Economic Theories: True or False?, and Marx’s Theory of Money: Modern Reappraisals.

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Highlights of Capital, Volume 1

A 10 Session Class and Discussion with Juliet Ucelli
Thursdays, 5:30 to 7:30 pm
February 9-April 6, 2017

Capital is the indispensable sourcebook on Marx’s method for analyzing the economy, politics and struggles. Many of us have less time to study it because, as Marx predicted, we have to work longer hours— and often more than one job—in order to survive. Fortunately, even a basic familiarity with the key concepts of Volume I offers many tools for understanding capitalism’s dynamics. With current conditions, we’ve been offering this highlights approach, breaking down key concepts and sections:

• use value, value and surplus value;
• why capitalism has needed conquest, enslavement and white supremacy;
• why capitalism drives technological innovation, overwork and unemployment and leads to ecological destruction;
• how working-class people (employed and unemployed) have historically won improvements in living and working conditions.

Participant reports and life experiences are welcome!

The course provides a basic grounding for participants to pursue further study on their own or collectively. We’ll refer to new resources such as on-line and visual aids and current articles that illustrate capitalism’s developmental tendencies, which Marx calls its laws of motion.

Juliet Ucelli has taught labor economics and class/race/gender for labor unions, and was a public high school social worker. She writes on Eurocentrism in Marxist theory, the politics of inner city public schooling and Marxist understandings of human development.

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