Choke Points

Logistics Workers Disrupting the Global Supply Chain
A discussion with editors Jake Alimahomed-Wilson and Immanuel Ness

Presented by The Marxist Education Project with The Left Front

An important new book from Pluto Press (

Global capitalism is always a precarious system. Relying on the steady flow of goods across the world, trans-national companies such as Wal-Mart and Amazon depend on the work of millions in docks, warehouses and logistics centers to keep goods moving. This is the global supply chain. If the chain is broken, capitalism grinds to a halt. This talk concerns the book of the same name, looking at case studies across the world to uncover a network of resistance by these workers who, despite their importance, face extreme exploitation and economic violence.

Experiencing first hand wildcat strikes, organized blockades and boycotts, the authors have explored a diverse range of organizing and related activities, from South China dockworkers to the transformation of the port of Piraeus in Greece, and from the Southern California logistics sector, to dock and logistical workers in Chile and unions in Turkey.

Join us for an evening of discussion on the potential strength our class has the ability to utilize in facing capital dominance during our period where capital has of necessity created this points that really give us the means of “choking” their power.

“This phenomenal collection is a must-read for anyone interested in the dire state of the contemporary global economy. It offers an unprecedented analysis of supply chain capitalism through case studies from around the world that are beautifully written and carefully researched.”—Deborah Cowen, University of Toronto

“Beyond analyzing logistical choke points as abstract sites for capital to route around or locations in which workers acquire untimely power, this volume takes us straight into these crucial nodes of labor struggle. Choke points in global supply chains are revealed as spaces of hazard and calculation, violence and negotiation, victory and loss, passion and organization.” —Brett Neilson, Research Professor, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University

Jake Alimahomed-Wilson is Professor of Sociology at California State University, Long Beach. He is the author of Solidarity Forever? Race, Gender, and Unionism in the Ports of Southern California (Lexington Books, 2016) and co-author of Getting the Goods: Ports, Labor, and the Logistics Revolution (Cornell University Press, 2008).

Immanuel Ness is Professor of Political Science at City University of New York. He is author of Southern Insurgency (Pluto, 2015), Guest Workers and Resistance to U.S. Corporate Despotism (Univ. of Illinois Press, 2011), and numerous other works. He is editor of the International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society.

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Highlights of Marx’s Capital, Volume 1

In Manhattan, For Women Only

A 10 Session Class and Discussion with Juliet Ucelli
Wednesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 pm
February 21 through April 25
2067 Broadway, Manhattan

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.

In a continuing quest 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 the highlights class this February through April for women only. Everyone who identifies as a woman is welcome.

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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Organizing in the Era of The Gig Economy

Organizing in the Era of The Gig Economy
Peter Rugh

The gig economy has been called the future of work, but it’s really just plain 19th-century-style exploitation dressed up in techie garb, harkening back to ye auld days before the labor movement won things like the eight-hour work day, the right to unionize, pensions, health care benefits, workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits and job security.

Companies like Uber, Lyft, Taskrabbit and Handy are taking advantage of the 2008 recession that pushed workers off payrolls and into a precarious job market where there is less work to go around and wages aren’t close to what they used to be. In order to get by, today’s labor force has to take what it can get. More and more, they’re forced to turn to software platforms that hyper-exploit contingent labor. But while Silicon Valley is turning back the clock on workers rights and fracturing moments of class unity, workers all over the world are organizing and fighting back. Come to consider how we can become more organized as a class here in the New York City area.

About the speaker: Peter Rugh is Associate Editor at The Indypendent. He has previously conducted journalism for BBC, VICE and VICE News. In addition to reporting on the gig economy, Peter has also worked in it and will share his first-hand experiences along with those of other on-demand workers.

Suggested Reading:
Apped to be Screwed
Voices from the Gig Economy — Peter Rugh
What’s Yours Is Mine; Against the Sharing Economy— Tom Slee
Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus—Douglas Rushkoff

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Day 1, Session 5—Solidarity Without Borders

A panel with Kazembe Balagun, Mark Bergfeld, Harmony Goldberg and Marcus Grätsch — moderated by Marika Dias

War, ecological crisis, automation, blurring of the rural and urban, the global North and the global South, along with development of precarity for all of global generalized proletariat lays material basis for internationalist solidarity.

Kazembe Balagun has been featured in Time Out New York, The Guardian, German Public Radio and The New York Times and contributed “We Be Reading Marx Where We From” to Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA. As a cultural activist he has sought to create intersections between Marxism, queer theory, feminism and Black liberation movements. He works as project manager at Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, New York Office.

Mark Bergfeld is a writer and organizer. He has written for media outlets such as Al-Jazeera English, The Nation, New Statesman among others. He has been active in social movements in Europe and served on the Executive Council of the National Union of students in the UK. He currently is writing his PhD on the relationship between trade unions and immigrant workers at Queen Mary University of London.

A founding member of SOUL: School of Unity & Liberation in Oakland, Harmony Goldberg has run left political education programs for grassroots organizations in the Bay Area and New York City for more than a decade. Recently completed her PhD in Cultural Anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center, and she continues to support grassroots organizations and the broader left as a popular educator, writer and facilitator.

Marcus Grätsch is a political scientist and activist. He currently works as Program Coordinator for Left Forum in New York. He is member of the large post-autonomous group “Interventionist Left” in Germany (introduction to this group: ” in Berlin, he took part in the euromayday movement which fought against precarity and for the freedom of movement between 2004 and 2008 for more see here . In 2009 he co-founded the “Meuterei” bar and social space operated as worker cooperative/collective in Berlin-Kreuzberg. In 2012 he took part in initiating the transnational “Blockupy” coalition which is a major actor of the European resistance against austerity. For more of this coalition see here:

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21st Century Struggles: Precarity, Repression, and Organizing Resistance

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21st Century Struggles: Precarity, Repression, and Organizing Resistance


Mondays from 7:30 to 9:30PM
February 9 through May 18, 2015
at The Commons Brooklyn

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Suggested donation: $75 to $100 each multi-week session or $10 per evening
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Part 1: International Capital and Labor Today
6-week session
February 9 to March 16

Special Session with Bill Henning on the Fight for Contracts for Workers Today
March 23

Part 2: National and International Proposals and Strategies
8-week session
March 30 to May 18

Current capitalism is characterized by instability and contingency on a global scale accompanied by the political imposition of austerity and the undoing of the social wage in developed economies. At the same time, the capitalist class has accumulated immense wealth. By 2016 one percent of the world’s people will possess more than half of the world’s wealth. This trend has intensified every year for the last two decades.

Many theorists emphasize the rise of precariousness (or precarity) in many sectors as a hallmark of neoliberal, globalized capitalism. Most of us are experiencing this in an existential way. We and/or our families and friends can no longer count on a job with a living wage and benefits or on keeping a roof over our heads. We are living through a relentless, systematic marginalization of productive people who at one time could expect a relatively secure existence in the capitalist economy. Now, skilled factory and clerical workers take the jobs of unskilled workers. Unskilled workers become day laborers and fast-food vendors. The petite bourgeoisie of small owners, managers, and professionals scrape by with livings as free-lancers, adjuncts, and consultants.

The Precarity Task Force is exploring these conditions in a two-part class this spring. In the first part, we read Ursula Huws’ Labor in the Global Digital Economy and Samir Amin’s The Implosion of Contemporary Capitalism. The second part focuses on ideas from a spectrum of the Left about ways of confronting these realities, with readings of Guy Standing’s A Precariat Charter and Stanley Aronowitz’s just published The Death and Life of American Labor, and concludes with readings about new forms of struggle and organizing around the world in the anthology New Forms of Worker Organization, edited by Immanuel Ness.

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Precarious Labor, Precarious Lives Reading Group

Late capitalism has been characterized by rupture, instability, and contingency. Since the 1990s, scholars and activists have written about the impact of practices like “flexible accumulation” on workers and communities. These processes have intensified in the last two decades, and especially so since the recent global financial crisis. Concurrently, a number of cultural and social theorists have highlighted precariousness (or precarity) as a hallmark of this particular phase of neoliberal globalized capitalism.

We experience this in a very empirical and existential way, as so many of us can no longer count upon having (or keeping) a stable, secure job with benefits, or maintaining a roof over our heads. “Contingent labor” is not an abstraction but a harsh reality.

We are witnessing the systematic and seemingly permanent marginalization of a substantial portion of the global working class—from day laborers and street vendors to adjunct professors and other professionals. Neoliberal urban regimes, gentrication, rezoning, and the foreclosure crisis have all contributed to residential precarity. Precarity does not, of course, affect all of us equally—-how we live through precarity is shaped by age, race, gender, citizenship status, able-ness, geographical location and other factors. This collaboratively-run reading group is exploring precariousness both theoretically and empirically. In this six-week session, we will read selections from A Precariat Charter, and Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s The Second Machine Age, and then discuss directions for future readings.

For the first meeting, please read Chapter 1, and if possible Chapter 2 of A Precariat Charter.

Lisa Maya Knauer has been involved in Marxist education in New York since 1977. She was a founder of the NY Marxist School, and taught classes on a variety of topics from Marx’s Capital to radical women’s fiction. Currently she is a tenured radical at a public university. In addition to her participation in the Marxist Education Project, she works on immigrant workers’ rights and indigenous resistance movements in Guatemala.

David Worley, a retired college administrator, has been a socialist since the 1960s, when he was active in the civil rights and anti-war movements. He was subsequently active in labor union work. He served for several years on the board of directors of the Brecht Forum. He is currently a co-convener of the Revolutions Study Group with the Marxist Education Project and is a supporter of Health Care Now!, a group agitating for universal single-payer medical insurance in the U.S.

Suggested tuition: $65 / $85
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