M.A.D. Lit 101: American Fiction and the Cold War

There is still time to read and discuss two major novels that explore the context of the anti-communism that permeated American life in the 1950s and remains alive in US culture today.

The year 1953 was like most of the years following the end of the slaughter of World War II. It was another year of the baby boom that filled maternity wards in the United States, a generation that ironically couldn’t wait to leave these suburbs. The Cold War was well under way, and anti-communism in the U.S. was at its peak. Politicians pontificated that it was “better to be dead than Red.” In the East and the West, the military apparatus stockpiled nuclear weapons capable of ending life on this planet thousands of times over — Mutually Assured Destruction.

We began this reading group with Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” followed by a shared reading of Allen Ginsburg’s Howl. We are near to completing our discussion of Ring Lardner, Jr.’s The Ecstasy of Owen Muir, and will then move on to two books that characterize the culture and politics of the time: The Public Burning by Robert Coover, and Richard Wright’s The Outsider.

What can we learn from these literary renderings and how do they help us understand the perilous period in history that we now find ourselves living?

The MEP LITERATURE GROUP has been meeting to discuss literature since the first days of The Marxist Education Project following a presentation by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz on her Indigenous Peoples History of the United States and her recommendation that we take up literature with Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of The Dead. The group has rcompleted readings of Victor Serge’s Unforgiving Years which was followed by Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. Other studies have included novels related to World War I, the depression of the 1930s, and novels on migration,border politics and labor organizing and our most recent session on Women Who Wrote Against Fascism, and this summer will the group will host a 5th consecutive Noir Summer.

Black Marxism

Black Marxism: The Making of The Black Radical Tradition
Nicholas Power

Eight more sessions beginning October 18 through December 6, 7:30-9:30 pm

As always, capitalism has crises. Again, a new generation turns toward Marxism. How do we apply this wide ranging and controversial revolutionary tradition to our current times? Writer and professor, Cedric Robinson╒s magnum opus, Black Marxism will be our lodestar for this class. We will discuss Robinson’s critique of Marx’s Eurocentric frame of reference and explore how and if Marxism has value for today’s multi-cultural left which at times turns much to anarchism, whether conscious or not of the Marxist tradition. We will also cover the Marxist legacy of C.L.R. James, Langston Hughes and Richard Wright on their own and as Robinson studied their relationships to Marxism.

Nicholas Power is a poet, journalist and Associate Professor of Literature at SUNY Old Westbury. His second book The Ground Below Zero: 911 to Burning Man, New Orleans to Darfur, Haiti to Occupy Wall Street was published by Upset Press in 2013. His writings have appeared in The Indypendent, The Village Voice, Truth-Out and Alternet.

Admissions are sliding scale. We do not turn anyone away if all they can pay is less or are without the ability to pay. $10 per session.

Fanon Black Skin, White Masks with Kazembe Balagun

A Reading and Writing Group on the Seminal Work of Frantz Fanon

With deft analysis and radical fervor, Frantz Fanon (1925-1961) was the patron saint of the revolutionary movements of the global south. As a psychiatrist and writer he played a key part in the liberation of Algeria. His seminal work Wretched of the Earth is still considered “The Handbook of Black Revolution” and influenced everyone from the Black Panthers to cultural workers like film maker Gillo Pontecorvo, Marlon Riggs and bell hooks.

This group will focus on Fanon’s first published work Black Skin, White Masks. Mixing and remixing the colonized experience with critical readings of Marx, Hegel and Lacan, Black Skin, White Masks prefigured many contemporary conversations on race, gender and sexuality.

We will read Black Skin, White Masks along with the works of Richard Wright, Karl Marx, bell hooks, G.W.F Hegel and Amiri Baraka. In addition to our reading, this group will be charged with producing their own written reflections and will present at a public symposium to take place in late 2014 or early 2015.

Kazembe Balagun has a BA in Philosophy and Black Studies from Hunter College/CUNY and a MS in Education from Pace University. He has been featured in Time Out New York, The UK Guardian, German Public Radio and the New York Times and contributed “We Be Reading Marx Where We From” to the critically acclaimed anthology Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA. As a cultural activist he has continually sought to create intersections between Marxism, queer theory, feminism and Black liberation movements. He works as Project Manager at the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, New York Office.