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Proposal for a Network for the Circulation of Theoretical Struggles

Capitalism’s most severe financial crisis since the 1930s and the Great Recession have left us with an especially uncertain future. “The new normal” may prove to be very difficult, economically and politically.
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In order for the Left to be prepared for what may happen and prepared to respond effectively, more and more activity and organization will not be enough. We also need the organization of thought. Wide-ranging dialogue is key, not only so that all views can be heard, but, above all, so that we can test different ideas in debate and work out answers to the questions we face.

We are encouraged by the relatively large number of Capital reading groups (study groups) that have sprouted up in the U.S., the UK, Germany, and elsewhere, largely in response to the crisis and slump. Nothing like this has been seen since the economic crisis of the 1970s. We are also encouraged by the seriousness with which the causes and consequences of the recent crisis has begun to be discussed.

To help facilitate and bring together these and similar initiatives, we propose an international Network for the Circulation of Theoretical Struggles (NCTS) and are taking the initial steps needed to establish it. We invite everyone who is interested in this project to participate in it. NCTS will bring together individuals in reading groups and related projects, and all other interested people, so that we can engage in dialogue, provide mutual assistance, and share information. The network will supplement, not replace, the activity that is already taking place.

The term “theoretical struggles” combines two seeming opposites, theory and practice, that NCTS will try to help unify. It is for people who recognize that activity and organization, without theory, will not be sufficient, and who are deepening their grasp of theory not simply for the sake of knowledge, but so it can serve as a guide to action.

What is needed, in our view, is not a theory, but the doing of theory. The point is to work out answers to the questions we face on a rational basis, and this requires critical examination of all ideas, taking nothing for granted. So we envision NCTS, not as a project that will select some particular theory from among the existing alternatives, and certainly not as an opportunity for adherents of different positions to fight to have their position adopted as the “correct” one, but as an ongoing, collaborative process in which we engage with one another, explore and test ideas, and develop our thinking in order to respond in a rational and effective manner to the new challenges of our times.

The doing of theory does not mean adopting political positions, but rather digging deeply into the ideas that underlie differing views of the crisis. In order to contribute to the fight against capitalism, we need to examine the theories that are contending and what their ramifications may be.

NCTS will therefore not have a political or theoretical “line.” We expect that the network will be an area of activity of many of MHI’s members and supporters, but it will be open to all who share its goals, participate in it, and abide by the procedures and rules it sets for itself. All participants will have equal voice and vote.

One of the first projects of NCTS will be to establish a website that will provide a forum for dialogue as well as an archive of articles, readings, and links. Because we want the network to facilitate dialogue and mutual assistance, not just be a source of information, use of the website will be limited to active participants in NCTS. Our working definition of “active participant” is someone who engages with what others say and write. (Those who just express their own views or publicize what they’ve written are not actively participating in the project we’ve outlined above.)

In order to facilitate dialogue, the website’s moderator(s) will ensure that posts do not divert, engage in ad hominem critique, or contain remarks that are racist, sexist, heterosexist, or that demean members of any nation, nationality, or ethnic group.

To be a founding participant of NCTS and help guide it, write to us NOW. There is a good deal still to be worked out, and we’re looking for people with good ideas for the formation of NCTS as well as people who can help with the work.

We’re also looking for some financial contributions that are needed in order to make the network a success. Please go to our website to donate, and note that the contribution is for NCTS. All such contributions will be used only for that purpose, and any unused funds will be returned.

The members of Marxist-Humanist Initiative
November 1, 2010