Recommended Left Forum Panels

April 11, 2009 by  

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The following are descriptions of four panels that the Marxist-Humanist Initiative recommends at the Left Forum next weekend. The Left Forum will be held April 17-19 at Pace University (near City Hall).

More Information at leftforum.org

We recommend:

Marx’s Capital and the Economic Crisis
Saturday, April 18, 10 AM-12 PM

Politics of the Contemporary Student Left: Hopes and Failures
Saturday, April 18, 12-2 PM

Building Solidarity with Iraq’s Civil Resistance
Sunday, April 19, 10 AM-12 PM

Concretizing Marx’s Alternative to Capitalism: A Marxist-Humanist Perspective
Sunday, April 19 at 3-5 PM
(This panel is co-sponsored by the Marxist-Humanist Initiative)

Marx’s Capital and the Economic Crisis
Saturday, April 18 at 10 AM-12 PM

Radhika Desai (chair)
Brendan Cooney
Michael Egoavil
Alan Freeman
Andrew Kliman

Sponsored by Critique of Political Economy & The New SPACE (The New School for Pluralistic Anti-Capitalist Education)

This panel brings together academics and non-academics, and younger and older thinkers, in order to explore, from a variety of angles, the relevance of Karl Marx’s Capital to the current economic crisis.

Brendan Cooney will discuss the difference between bourgeois and Marxian value-theoretic understandings of economic crisis. The former locate the causes of economic crisis in external factors– the state, unions, and human nature. Value theory embraces the entirety of capitalist social relations, bringing these “external factors” into one unified theory. This is because capital is pervasive and all-consuming, infecting everything around it, bringing all social institutions into its field. Value theory thus allows us to see the contradictions of capitalist social relations stamped upon the state and human nature. This is the only way of truly understanding crisis.

Michael Egoavil will use Marx’s theory of value and money to analyze the monetary policies currently being pursued by the Federal Reserve in order to combat the current financial crisis. He will give special attention to the question of whether or not the Federal Reserve can maintain overvalued asset prices, and if so, what the consequences of this may be. He will use Marx’s writings on money to show similarities and differences between monetary policy today and in the 19th century.

Alan Freeman will explore the relevance of the profit rate to our understanding of the current economic crisis, and indicate the range of work needed to restore the profit rate as a central explanatory variable. There are widely divergent conclusions about the causal role of profitability in the present crisis, even among professed Marxists. Freeman will argue that this results from: (1) confusion about the value-price relationship; (2) post-Sraffian interpretations of Marx that employ an “physical” profit rate that prevents connections between the value and price rates of profit from being undertsood; (3) different decisions about how to apply theory to measurement; and (4) a lack of knowledge of the decisively important “world” profit rate.

Andrew Kliman will argue that the return to Marx during the economic crisis of the 1970s was met with the re-emergent myth that his theories of value and crisis are inconsistent. This hinders a second return to Marx. For instance, radical theorists deny that his theories help explain the current crisis. But they do help explain it, Kliman will argue, once Marx is understood in a manner that eliminates “his” inconsistencies. Owing to the falling tendency of the profit rate and insufficient destruction of capital, no sustainable boom followed the crisis of the 1970s. Instead, authorities encourage excessive debt expansion. This boosts profitability and growth, but in an unsustainable way, leading to repeated debt crises. The latest crisis is the most severe of these.

Politics of the Contemporary Student Left: Hopes and Failures
Saturday, April 18 at 12-2:00 PM

What are the current politics of youth and student organizations? How can the mobilization of youth and students be expanded and deepened? This panel aims to explore these questions by critically reflecting upon the politics of two of the largest and most successful Left student organizations of recent times: the new Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS).

Alexander L. Hanna: former organizer for United Students Against Sweatshops (chair)
Atlee McFellin: former member of Students for a Democratic Society, New School Radical Student Union (SEAC & UFPJ)
Pam Nogales: Platypus
C. J. Pereira Di Salvo: former organizer for United Students Against Sweatshops
Laurie Rojas: Platypus, former member of Students for a Democratic Society

Concretizing Marx’s Alternative to Capitalism: A Marxist-Humanist Perspective
Sunday, April 19 at 3-5 PM

Ray McKay (chair)
Joshua Howard
Seth G. Weiss
Anne Jaclard
Andrew Kliman (discussant)

Sponsored by the Marxist-Humanist Initiative (MHI) & The New SPACE (The New School for Pluralistic Anti-Capitalist Education)

The current economic crisis will undoubtedly increase the demand from working people as well as youth to know if there can be a viable alternative to capitalism. This panel will situate the problem within current Left thinking. It will also explore what Marx’s body of work implies about what must be changed-economically and socially, as well as politically-in order for another world to become possible, and will highlight areas of his work that may give us direction for working out answers. Basing themselves in Marx’s own writings and that of other philosophers such as Raya Dunayevksaya, the panelists will explore and debate some recent Left attempts to concretize socialist theory of a new society.

Seth Weiss: “Silicon Valley Socialism: A Critical Examination of Richard Wolff and Stephen Resnick’s Conception of Post-capitalist Society.” Weiss holds that Wolff and Resnick’s effort to theorize post-capitalist society is bold and ambitious. However, he will argue, their focus on the production, appropriation, and distribution of surplus labor leaves them ill-equipped to critique state-capitalist societies, like the Soviet Union, and leads them to mistake worker-run cooperatives, like those found in Silicon Valley’s high-tech industry, for an alternative to capital. Weiss will argue that transcending capital demands more than the kind of popular control over the surplus that Wolff and Resnick envision – a real alternative demands a break with what Marx called the law of value.

Anne Jaclard: “Two Moments in One System.” Jaclard will theorize the content of the dual rhythm of revolution, that is, the two moments that lay the basis for socialism: the overthrow of capitalism and the creation of a new mode of production. The concept of revolution contained in these two moments as they emerge out of mass movements for self-liberation will be contrasted to theories which rely principally upon political change or reversal of power relations. For example, the 30-year old “dual systems” theory that continues to dominate socialist-feminism will be contrasted to a more comprehensive understanding of Marxism and liberation.

Joshua Howard: “Commodity Fetishism and Today’s Economic Crisis.” Joshua Howard will argue that Marx’s concept of commodity fetishism helps shed light on today’s
economic crisis. Viewing the commodity fetish as a social relation between things that arises out of the organizational structure of the process of capitalist production, he will argue that this concept helps explain why the capitalist economy lies out of the control of banks and government regulators, and why elimination of commodity production is needed in order to solve the problem of endemic and recurring crises.

Building Solidarity with Iraq’s Civil Resistance
Sunday April 19, 10 AM-12 PM

Houzan Mahmoud
Bill Weinberg
Michael Zweig

Sponsored by the National Organization for the Iraqi Freedom Struggles (NO-IFS)

Although eclipsed from the headlines by the ongoing carnage in Iraq, there is an active civil resistance in the country that opposes the occupation, the regime it protects, and the jihadist and Baathist “resistance” alike. This besieged opposition – under threat of repression and assassination – is fighting to keep alive and extend elementary freedoms for women, leading labor struggles against Halliburton and other U.S. contractors as well as Iraqi businesses, calling for relief for the masses thrown out of work since the U.S. invasion, opposing privatization of the country’s oil and other natural resources, and demanding a secular future for Iraq. They note that what they call “political Islam” dominates both sides in the Iraq war – the collaborationist regime and the armed “resistance.”

The panel will discuss the various civil resistance initiatives in Iraq, and efforts here in the United States and elsewhere around the world to build solidarity with this movement. Active solidarity with Iraq’s secular and democratic freedom struggles – labor unions, student groups, women’s rights organizations, and other grassroots movements – offers unique promise for regenerating the anti-war movement and initiating a new kind of revolutionary internationalism.


2 Comments on “Recommended Left Forum Panels”

  1. 1Gregory A. Butler said at 7:00 pm on April 17th, 2009:On this whole “Iraqi civil resistance” business – it’s the worst kind of “ugly American” mentality for Americans of any political stripe (ESPECIALLY supposed leftists) to tell folks in a third world country that is under the guns of US imperialism what kind of resistance they should or shouldn’t have!Look, it’s their country and if they want to have an Islamic republic, that’s their business!

    We – as citizens of a country that has, to date MURDERED IN EXCESS OF 3 MILLION IRAQIS and driven another 5 million into exile should support those Iraqis who unconditionally resist the depridations that US imperialism carries out in our names.

    That’s REAL revolutionary internationalism!

    We shouldn’t cram American ‘secularism’ down Iraqi throats – they had a ‘secular socialist’ regime for 35 years (ever heard of Saddam Hussein?) and if they want to give political Islam a shot, we shouldn’t be the ones to tell them not to.

    After all, haven’t Iraqis had enough of Americans telling them how to run their country?

  2. 2Andrew Kliman said at 7:35 pm on April 22nd, 2009:To Gregory A. Butler:No one is “telling” anyone in Iraq what they should or shouldn’t have, or “cramming” anything down their throats.

    We are supporting *Iraqis* who tell us that they want freedom and don’t want politicized Islam crammed down *their* throats.

    So there are *different* positions among people in Iraq. Therefore, your comment that “if they want to have an Islamic republic, that’s their business” misrepresents the situation drastically. Some do want an Islamic republic, but others don’t. So if you want to “support those Iraqis who unconditionally resist the depridations that US imperialism carries out in our names,” you have to decide WHICH ONES to support.

    That’s not a matter of telling or cramming; it’s a matter of supporting people who are CALLING ON US for support!

    I suspect that you do not favor their freedom (from both the U.S. occupation and from those who would impose an undemocratic Islamic “republic” on them), and that you are disguising your opposition to their freedom by cloaking yourself in “let them choose for themselves” and “anti-imperialist” rhetoric.

    I’m all for letting people in Iraq choose for themselves what direction they want to take their country in. That requires an end to the occupation AND an end to the terror perpetrated by militarized Islamists (especially against women-see, e.g., http://www.equalityiniraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=78:end-the-genocide-on-women-of-iraq&catid=38:press-release&Itemid=57), and a SECULAR DEMOCRACY so that the people of Iraq can indeed choose for themselves what direction they want to take their country in.

    So I hope you see that your position-we should let them choose for themselves, but we shouldn’t favor the Iraqis fighting for a secular democracy-makes no sense. It’s self-contradictory.

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