[Added June 1o, 2015: Videos of the three panels are now posted here.]
Marxist-Humanist Initiative will sponsor three panels at the Left Forum, all to take place on Sunday, May 31. See the full conference schedule on Left Forum’s website. Also be sure to visit our table in the exhibit area during the conference (don’t confuse MHI with others!) Our panels will be
Sun. at 10:00 a.m. (Session 5) in Rm. 1.71:
Marx’s “Critique of the Gotha Program”: new direction for revolutionary organization
Karl Marx’s “Critique of the Gotha Program,” one of his last writings, addresses ideas about a future non-capitalist society and the proper “program” for a revolutionary organization. Although much has been written about the “Critique” over the years, its implications for organization were all but ignored until Raya Dunayevskaya argued that it provides us with a new foundation for working out the role of a Marxist organization and its relationship to movements outside it. A recent international class series focused on this aspect of the “Critique.” This roundtable will continue the investigation, challenging certain deeply entrenched left ideas—which are not in Marx—especially the belief that revolutionary intellectuals’ task is to “raise people’s consciousness.”
Roundtable: Bryan Philip, Mike Dola, Anne Jaclard, and other class participants, including two by Skype from the U.K.
Sun. at 12:00 noon (Session 6) in Rm. 1.71:
Anti-Neoliberalism vs. Anti-Capitalism
There is much less opposition to capitalism out there than meets the eye; what passes for “anti-capitalism” is frequently just “anti-neoliberalism.” This panel will explore the differences between them and the dangers of conflating them. It will focus in particular (but not exclusively) on events in Greece. Questions will include: Can we blame austerity, recession, and exploitation on neoliberalism, or are they products of capitalism? Will replacing neoliberal regimes––while keeping capitalism intact—solve our problems? Does it constitute a “transition” to socialism?
Two Greek activist/theorists will participate via Skype. They represent TPTG (Children of the Gallery), a political group affiliated with the movement against wage (or unwaged) slavery in Greece. Their paper is entitled “Syriza is not an anti-capitalist party, but is it really against neo-liberalism?”
Speakers: Kostas Demetriou, Alex Papadopoulos, Andrew Kliman, Doug Lain, Anne Jaclard
Sun. at 3:40 p.m. (Session 7) in Rm. 1.121:
Harvey vs. Marx: on capitalist crisis and “Marxist entertainment”
This panel will discuss the on-going debate between David Harvey and Andrew Kliman on capitalist crises, carried on New Left Project, after Harvey critiqued Karl Marx’s theory of capitalist economic crisis, which is rooted in his “law of the tendential fall in the rate of profit.” While Marx repeatedly stressed that this is the “most important law” of political economy, Harvey questioned whether it can help us understand the Great Recession and whether it is really even a law at all.
Topics will include Andrew Kliman’s response to Harvey, Doug Lain’s category of “Marxist entertainment,” formulated by him in a podcast discussion with Kliman (Zero Squared #11: Marxist Entertainment), Harvey’s response to Kliman (New Left Project, March 30), and Kliman’s rejoinder. The category “Marxist entertainment” highlights the problematic atmosphere in which Marxist discussion occurs, which helps to explain why egregious errors (such as those contained in Harvey’s critique) keep recurring and go unchecked.
Speakers: Brendan Cooney, Andrew Kliman, Doug Lain
I appreciate the way Doug articulates the LARP (live-action role play) aspect of the left here:
“Again, here’s what I think can be fairly concluded from Harvey’s reaction to Kliman: Harvey doesn’t believe in Marx’s critique of Capitalism and he doesn’t believe in the possibility of a world after Capitalism. What he believes in instead is the spirit of Marx’s critique and some fantastic vision of a world after Capitalism. Its the fantasy of Marxism, the fantasy of an escape from Capitalism that Harvey is involved in. And let’s face it, most of us are like Harvey. The hope is that recognizing our fantasies for what they are might help us get past this temptation to role play.
“This probably sounds like I’m slamming David Harvey, but I’m not. …”
“Harvey vs. Marx: on capitalist crisis and “Marxist entertainment”
A part from Philosophy and Revolution came to my mind, that ‘theory, original Marxist theory, is a hard taskmaster’ (better in context: https://books.google.com/books?id=m8HUGw7baEsC&pg=PA129&lpg=PA129&dq=theory,+original+marxist+theory,+is+a+hard+taskmaster+raya&source=bl&ots=PYFl2dVXs_&sig=mQcPSchFI4NmxHr5WQVJyHNqVCQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ioFoVZ-SC4idygTx7oOIAg&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=theory%2C%20original%20marxist%20theory%2C%20is%20a%20hard%20taskmaster%20raya&f=false). Dunayevskaya quotes Hegel at the end of that paragraph, on what he called “the labor, the patience, the seriousness, and suffering of the negative.” I don’t read it as some kind of call to just put in long hours reading and writing like some theory version of voluntarism because obviously people like Harvey have put in plenty of time and work, and do generate insight. It seems instead that the task is to honestly think though where the unfolding of concepts go, whether that be the “theory of permanent revolution without self-developing Subject” for Trotsky, “long before” the transformation into opposite of statified property, or Big Movement Ideas like oxidizable currency schemes (briefly?) proposed by Harvey. My suspicion is that the suffering of the negative may be too much to ask for those with real academic (or online) brands. See papers from an earlier MHI panel on the subject:
I also found this portion of one of Harvey’s classes on Capital (the end of Volume II) to be helpful for seeing where he’s coming from on the LTRPF issue:
“Just in terms of what the texts are doing. There is this teleological push in Volume I which reappears in Volume III particularly around the idea of the falling rate of profit and issues of that kind. But the teleology really disappears [in Volume II], but what you do get here is of course multiple places of potentialities for breakdown or disruptions of some kind so what it seems to me is there is a theory of crisis generation in here including in the reproduction schemas that they can’t possibly work therefore we’re gonna get disproportionalities and we’re gonna get crises.
“Which presumably then would provide – he doesn’t say this – but presumably would provide many opportunities for agitation to say this system needs to be replaced. And many times in Volume II he kinda says ‘well if you’re in a socialist system … we wouldn’t have all of this disruption and pain and heartache that goes with these disruptions. So there is a plea if you’d like in Volume II for an alternative system, but it’s not embedded in the idea that somehow or another history is moving inevitably in that direction. It says there’s multiple opportunities here of breakdown and then I assume he’s saying, ‘look it depends a little bit on when people get fed up with all of these breakdowns and disruptions and kinda say ‘hey let’s do something different.’ But that then depends very much on the social force which is going to make that happen. Because I don’t see in Volume II any inevitable move, he’s making a plea saying a socialist system would be much more rational and sensible than this stuff. But there’s no kind of inevitability about the system itself will drive you towards socialism here whereas the end of Volume I you do get that notion, yeah it’s coming and certainly in the first part of Volume III you get the idea that something’s coming though he hedges his bets a lot in Volume III by kinda saying ‘well there’s a lot of counteracting forces that could in fact off-set this.”