Day 2, Session 2: Looking at Class Consciousness, Class Struggle and Self-Organizing Using Image Theater

Presented by The Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory (TOPLAB)
Facilitated by Janet Gerson and Marie-Claire Picher

“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point is to change it.” —Karl Marx

In capitalist society, class is the hub from which other forms of oppression emanate; class is the foundation that gives rise to racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia and other modes of injustice, cruelty and systemic brutality. These various -isms function as bulwarks of hierarchical class society—they are necessities for perpetuating class division and the domination and control of society, social structures and people by capitalism and its ruling elites. Such bigotry divides people; instead of acting in a unified manner to defend their collective self-interests, sizable sectors of the populace fall prey to capital’s cynical use of prejudice, bias and hatred as mechanisms to separate people from each other and compromise societal cohesion and solidarity—and always based on superficial qualities and characteristics such as skin color, place of familial origin, sexual orientation or gender identity, etc. This dynamic maintains and enables class division, and allows the elites to continue to assert and legitimize their proprietary claims to social wealth and their control over society. Oppression, in the many forms it takes, causes people vs. people strife to keep going, unfettered, and gives the rulers of society potent tools to extract and claim for themselves unfathomable profits through the exploitation of people, the natural world and the social commons. Never before, in the history of the United States, have class divisions and polarity been as pronounced or extreme as they are today, in these first decades of the twenty-first century. This country is on a precipice. The ruling class is moving rightward at an accelerated pace, yet society is moving to the left. Class awareness is becoming increasingly heightened and socialism, once a dreaded bugaboo, is now a credible part of national political discourse, with more and more people seriously embracing socialism as a critically needed antidote to the systemic and ongoing crisis that has negatively impacted so much of the population.

This three-hour Theater of the Oppressed (TO) workshop is a shortened version of a full-day workshop on the same topic, which will be presented on Saturday, July 30 (for more details or registration information write to toplabnyc@gmail.com). This workshop will use Image Theater—a basic TO technique—to look at class, how it affects us collectively, and how awareness and consciousness of one’s place and role in class society can be used as a tool for mobilizing and organizing people and communities to fight for social justice, economic equality and a world where wealth is shared by all, for the benefit of all, and not owned by a small clique of capitalists who have appropriated it for their own use.

Drawing on the theories of popular education developed by his friend and colleague, Paulo Freire, Augusto Boal (1931-2009), who created and founded the methodology called Theater of the Oppressed, appropriated theater games and exercises for use as organizing tools by communities in struggle. These tools are designed to develop individual skills of observation and self-reflection, and cooperative group interactions. Image Theater is the ideal starting point for training in Theater of the Oppressed techniques. In Image Theater, leadership- and consensus-building games and techniques are used to explore relations of power and group solutions to concrete problems of oppression through “living body imagery”. Discussions begin to take place through the language of images, offering a fresh approach to power analysis and new opportunities for the exchange of ideas.

Suggested reading for this workshop: The Retreat from Class: A New “True” Socialism, by Ellen Meiksins Wood. London and New York: Verso, 1986, revised 1998, 202 pp. ISBN: 978-1-85984-270-6.

This three-hour workshop is open to people participating in the MEP’s Summer Marxist Intensive and there will be no extra tuition fee. People not enrolled in the Intensive are also invited to attend this workshop. The tuition is on a sliding scale, from $15 to $25. No prior theater experience is necessary to participate.

“I believe that all the truly revolutionary theatrical groups should transfer to the people the means of production in the theater so that the people themselves may utilize them. The theater is a weapon, and it is the people who should wield it. —Augusto Boal

Janet Gerson, has been a TOPLAB facilitator since 1997, and studied with Augusto Boal and TOPLAB facilitator Marie-Claire Picher. She is the Education Director of the International Institute on Peace Education. She won the Peace and Justice Studies Association 2014 Award for Public Deliberation on Global Justice for her work on the World Tribunal on Iraq. She was the Co-Director of the Peace Education Center at Teachers College in New York from 2001 to 2010, and was the Founder-Director of Dance Stream, a community-based organization that produced professional and children’s dance, outdoor arts festivals, and community television throughout New York City from 1981 to 2000.

Marie-Claire Picher, Ph.D, is a co-founder (1990) of the Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory (TOPLAB), the oldest group in the United States offering facilitation training in the techniques and methodology of the Theater of the Oppressed (TO). She has worked and collaborated closely with TO founder and creator Augusto Boal until his death in 2009. One of the most experienced Theater of the Oppressed practitioners in North America, she has presented thousands of hours of training workshops in New York and throughout the United States. She has worked in Cuba; in Quiche, Guatemala on several projects involving community rebuilding and healing following the 36-year-long civil war that resulted in the near-genocide of the Mayan people and the murders of more than 200,000 indigenous Guatemalans; in Mexico City with street children, and also with peace and social justice groups; in Tabasco, Mexico with a youth community; and in the Mexican state of Chiapas with the Diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas in the cities of Comitan and San Cristobal, and in autonomous Zapatista communities elsewhere in the state.

“We must emphasize: What Brecht does not want is that the spectators continue to leave their brains with their hats upon entering the theater, as do bourgeois spectators.” —Augusto Boal

The Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory (TOPLAB), is an all-women facilitation-training collective. It was founded in 1990 and is the oldest group in the United States offering training in the techniques and methodology of the Theater of the Oppressed (TO). We have enjoyed a warm relationship with Augusto Boal, the founder of TO, and our facilitators have collaborated closely with him from our start until his death in 2009. TOPLAB offers monthly training workshops, open to the general public, and also creates and facilitates workshops for specific communities, organizations and constituencies designed to meet the needs of the people involved. Since our beginning, TOPLAB has been committed to making TO accessible to as many people as possible by keeping our fees and tuition rates low. We do not seek funding from foundations or government agencies, and we certainly do not seek money from corporations and for-profit enterprises—and we never will. Most of all, we are committed to being active players seeking to change the world by abolishing the unjust, exploitative capitalist economic system and transforming the world into a place where wealth is owned, shared and controlled by society as a whole, for the benefit of all.

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Marxist Summer Intensive: July 15-17

21st Century Class Struggles and the Generalized Proletariat:
Further Lessons towards Working Class Consciousness within our Social Movements

Thursday, July 14 through Sunday, July 17

Featuring: Mitch Abidor, Kazembe Balagun, Mark Bergfeld, Rebecca Boger, Dennis Broe, Charmaine Chua, Claude Copeland, Marika Diaz, Russell Dale, Walter Daum, Pete Dolack, Kate Doyle-Griffiths, Mark Dudzic, Anthony Galluzzo, Janet Gerson. Harmony Goldberg, Marcus Graetsch, Ursula Huws, Dan Karan, Lisa Maya Knauer, Kristin Lawler, Laurel Mei-Singh, Ras Moshe, Fred Murphy, Manny Ness, Stuart Newman, Marie-Claire Picher, David Schwartzman and Yuko Tonohira.

Writings to read if you have the time:

Susan Watkins from New Left Review, survey 2014

https://newleftreview.org/II/90/susan-watkins-the-political-state-of-the-union

Susan Watkins, 2016
https://newleftreview.org/II/98/susan-watkins-oppositions
Marc Dudzic and Adolf Reed Jr from Socialist Register on Crisis of Left and Labor in the US

http://www.commondreams.org/sites/default/files/dudzic_and_reed_the_crisis_of_labour_and_the_left_in_the_united_states_sr_2015.pdf

A Selection from the blog of Ursula Huws (if you have time read more of her postings, listed off to the side on her blog)

https://ursulahuws.wordpress.com/2016/06/25/the-unmaking-of-the-english-working-class/

https://ursulahuws.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/uber-and-under/

https://ursulahuws.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/a-workhouse-without-walls/

Mitch Abidor
On Paris, May ’68

http://insurgentnotes.com/2016/06/may-68-revisited/

Ian Birchall’s response to Mitch:

http://insurgentnotes.com/2016/06/response-to-may-68-revisited/

Kazembe Balagun
In The Guardian, 2011

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/mar/17/race-protest
on the Fanon Phenomenon in The Indypendent: https://indypendent.org/2014/12/16/fanon-phenomenon-documentary-unearths-africas-anti-colonial-struggles

Mark Bergfeld

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/05/the-next-portuguese-revolution/

About Mark in 2011 as activist:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/8440413/Student-protests-The-Marxist-revolutionary-aiming-to-lead-the-NUS.html

Dennis Broe
On the World Film Beat with recent Cannes reports:

http://politicalfilmcritics.blogspot.fr/p/world-film-beat.html?

The most most recent article of Dennis in Situations on Mediterranean Noir:

http://ojs.gc.cuny.edu/index.php/situations/article/view/1706/1614?

Russell Dale from Situtations:

http://ojs.gc.cuny.edu/index.php/situations/article/view/1631/1581

Charmaine Chua:

https://thedisorderofthings.com/2014/09/09/logistics-capitalist-circulation-chokepoints/

https://thedisorderofthings.com/author/charmchua/

https://thedisorderofthings.com/2015/02/07/the-chinese-logistical-sublime-and-its-wasted-remains/

https://thedisorderofthings.com/2015/01/27/landlessness-and-the-life-of-seamen/

Harmony Goldberg
On McDonald’s

http://www.salon.com/2014/04/06/how_mcdonalds_gets_away_with_rampant_wage_theft_partner/

Ras Moshe
An interview from Jazz Right Now:

https://jazzrightnow.com/2014/03/10/interview-ras-moshe/

Walter Daum
Exchange in NY Review of Books:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2014/04/03/imperialism-and-world-war-i-exchange/

Stuart Newman
all –

https://legacy.nymc.edu/sanewman/social.htm

especially

https://legacy.nymc.edu/sanewman/PDFs/CNS_GM_foods_09.pdf

https://legacy.nymc.edu/sanewman/PDFs/CNS%20Synbio_12.pdf

David Schwartzman

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/12/cop-21-paris-climate-change-global-warming-fossil-fuels/

http://tratarde.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Schwartzman-Saul-CNS-2015.pdf

http://www.redandgreen.org/Documents/Solar_Communism.htm

As capitalist relations penetrate every nook and cranny of our planet and the most intimate realms of our lives, a growing proportion of the world’s population is incorporated into the global proletariat—paid and unpaid workers and our families, the unemployed and underemployed, and the growing numbers who will never work. The laboring part of today’s global proletariat is greater than the world’s entire population 40 years ago. Now there are workers from all parts of the globe working for the same set of bosses.

Capitalists continually seek new avenues to expand their capital and commodify all that exists. The digital revolution has sped all this up, quickening accumulation which lays the basis for more frequent crises. Capital continues in ever new forms the process of enclosures that began with the forcible removal of the peasantry from the land in medieval Europe. Throughout the global south, displaced peasants are forced to migrate to cities or internationally, working in factories or informal economies. Many others are conscripted into comprador armies to protect the extractive industries ravaging their regions. There is also outright robbery: the Panama Papers reveal the extent to which capital has fleeced the global proletariat. After more than three decades of assault on organized labor, privatization, austerity and structural adjustment have gutted hard-won social programs. Automation, digitization and strategic relocation of work, combined with just-in-time assembly, make millions “redundant”. At the same time Walmartization, Uberization, Amazonification exemplify our marginalization and precarity.

As we plan this intensive, workers and students are in motion throughout France, from Nuit Debout gatherings to general strikes against austerity. Greek workers, hit harder still by austerity, are reaching out to support the tide of refugees. The contract just won by the Verizon workers in the U.S. after a nation-wide strike represents a major victory. The Sanders campaign has helped normalize the concept of socialism, but the Left and social movements have not figured out how to articulate a viable socialist alternative and build a corresponding movement.

Over the four days of this Intensive, we will study the causes behind these developments, learn about some obstacles to organizing and the challenges facing workers at work and in their communities, and consider various left analyses about social realities and the prospects for organizing. We will assess the lessons of workers’ movements globally and historically, with emphasis on prospects in the US and the global south. Through collaborative study and discussion, we aim to provide a challenging learning environment so each participant can develop his/her own theoretical and analytic tools to advance our organizing and movement building work in order to broaden opposition to capital locally, nationally and internationally.

FRIDAY, JULY 15 / 10:00 am • Imperialism Today: Super-Exploitation & Marxist Theory • WALTER DAUM • 1:00- 4:00 pm • Class Consciousness, Class Struggle & Self-Organizing Using Image Theater • presented by The Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory (TOPLAB) • facilitated by JANET GERSON • MARIE-CLAIRE PICHER • 5:30 pm • Public Banking: A Marxist Response to Finance Capital • DAN KARAN • 7:30 pm • Southern Insurgency: Mass Movements Throughout the Global South • LISA MAYA KNAUER

SATURDAY, JULY 16 / 10:00 am • Slackers, Sabotage, & Syndicalism: American Labor History & The Refusal of Work • KRISTIN LAWLER • 1:00 pm • Beyond Bernie: The Crisis of Labor & The Left in the United States • MARK DUDZIC • 3:30 pm • Prometheus in Ruins?: Uses & Abuses of the Hero Who Stole Fire • ANTHONY GALLUZZO • 5:30 pm • Logistics, Capitalist Circulation, Chokepoints • CHARMAINE CHUA • 7:30 pm • Devils & Dust: Resisting War in New York, the Pacific, & the Middle East • CLAUDE COPELAND • LAUREL MEI-SINGH • YUKO TONOHIRA

SUNDAY, JULY 17 / 11:00 am • It’s Not Over: Lessons for Socialists from the October Revolution, Prague Spring and the Sandinistas • PETE DOLACK • 1:00 pm • Labor in the Global Digital Economy • URSULA HUWS • 3:30 pm • Sexuality, Gender & Neoliberal Capitalism • KATE DOYLE-GRIFFITHS • LISA MAYA KNAUER • 5:30 pm • Approaching Science from the Left: Uses & Abuses of Knowledge in the Planetary Crisis • REBECCA BOGER • STUART NEWMAN • DAVE SCHWARTZMAN • moderated by FRED MURPHY

As capitalist relations penetrate every nook and cranny of our planet and the most intimate realms of our lives, a growing proportion of the world’s population is incorporated into the global proletariat—paid and unpaid workers and our families, the unemployed and underemployed, and the growing numbers who will never work. The laboring part of today’s global proletariat is greater than the world’s entire population 40 years ago. Now there are workers from all parts of the globe working for the same set of bosses.

Capitalists continually seek new avenues to expand their capital and commodify all that exists. The digital revolution has sped all this up, quickening accumulation which lays the basis for more frequent crises. Capital continues in ever new forms the process of enclosures that began with the forcible removal of the peasantry from the land in medieval Europe. Throughout the global south, displaced peasants are forced to migrate to cities or internationally, working in factories or informal economies. Many others are conscripted into comprador armies to protect the extractive industries ravaging their regions. There is also outright robbery: the Panama Papers reveal the extent to which capital has fleeced the global proletariat. After more than three decades of assault on organized labor, privatization, austerity and structural adjustment have gutted hard-won social programs. Automation, digitization and strategic relocation of work, combined with just-in-time assembly, make millions “redundant”. At the same time Walmartization, Uberization, Amazonification exemplify our marginalization and precarity.

As we plan this intensive, workers and students are in motion throughout France, from Nuit Debout gatherings to general strikes against austerity. Greek workers, hit harder still by austerity, are reaching out to support the tide of refugees. The contract just won by the Verizon workers in the U.S. after a nation-wide strike represents a major victory. The Sanders campaign has helped normalize the concept of socialism, but the Left and social movements have not figured out how to articulate a viable socialist alternative and build a corresponding movement.

Over the four days of this Intensive, we will study the causes behind these developments, learn about some obstacles to organizing and the challenges facing workers at work and in their communities, and consider various left analyses about social realities and the prospects for organizing. We will assess the lessons of workers’ movements globally and historically, with emphasis on prospects in the US and the global south. Through collaborative study and discussion, we aim to provide a challenging learning environment so each participant can develop his/her own theoretical and analytic tools to advance our organizing and movement building work in order to broaden opposition to capital locally, nationally and internationally.

THURSDAY, JULY 14 / 10:00 am • Marx and Engels & Classical German Philosophy • RUSSELL DALE • 1:00 pm • Anti-Austerity in France: Live Report from Paris on Bastille Day • DENNIS BROE • 3:30 pm • May ’68 in France: Revisited • MITCH ABIDOR • 5:30 pm • What Jazz Would Karl Marx Listen to in 2016 • RAS MOSHE • 7:30 pm • Solidarity Without Borders • KAZEMBE BALAGUN • MARK BERGFELD • HARMONY GOLDBERG • MARCUS GRAETSCH • moderated by MARIKA DIAS

FRIDAY, JULY 15 / 10:00 am • Imperialism Today: Super-Exploitation & Marxist Theory • WALTER DAUM • 1:00- 4:00 pm • Class Consciousness, Class Struggle & Self-Organizing Using Image Theater • presented by The Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory (TOPLAB) • facilitated by JANET GERSON • MARIE-CLAIRE PICHER • 5:30 pm • Public Banking: A Marxist Response to Finance Capital • DAN KARAN • 7:30 pm • Southern Insurgency: Mass Movements Throughout the Global South • MANNY NESS • LISA MAYA KNAUER

SATURDAY, JULY 16 / 10:00 am • Slackers, Sabotage, & Syndicalism: American Labor History & The Refusal of Work • KRISTIN LAWLER • 1:00 pm • Beyond Bernie: The Crisis of Labor & The Left in the United States • MARK DUDZIC • 3:30 pm • Prometheus in Ruins?: Uses & Abuses of the Hero Who Stole Fire • ANTHONY GALLUZZO • 5:30 pm • Logistics, Capitalist Circulation, Chokepoints • CHARMAINE CHUA • 7:30 pm • Devils & Dust: Resisting War in New York, the Pacific, & the Middle East • CLAUDE COPELAND • LAUREL MEI-SINGH • YUKO TONOHIRA

SUNDAY, JULY 17 / 11:00 am • It’s Not Over: Lessons for Socialists from the October Revolution, Prague Spring and the Sandinistas • PETE DOLACK • 1:00 pm • Labor in the Global Digital Economy • URSULA HUWS • 3:30 pm • Sexuality, Gender & Neoliberal Capitalism • KATE DOYLE-GRIFFITHS • LISA MAYA KNAUER • 5:30 pm • Approaching Science from the Left: Uses & Abuses of Knowledge in the Planetary Crisis • REBECCA BOGER • STUART NEWMAN • DAVE SCHWARTZMAN • moderated by FRED MURPHY

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