NOTE: A post-conference article containing recordings of the panels appears at http://www.marxisthumanistinitiative.org/philosophy-organization/video-mhi-sponsored-panels-at-left-forum-2013.html
MHI is pleased to announce four events, featuring a variety of speakers, that we will present at Left Forum this year. The conference will be held June 7-9 at Pace University in lower Manhattan, New York City. Our panels will take place on Sat. and Sun., June 8 and 9.
Session 1, Sat. 10 – 11:50 am, Rm. W 617
Is it True that People Need their “Consciousness Raised”? The Implications for Left Mobilization
This year’s conference theme demands that we first address the questions, “Who needs to be mobilized, and mobilized to do what?” This panel will begin the discussion through an examination of the fundamental attitudinal question: are the masses of people “backward” and in need of having their “consciousness raised”? That traditional view implies that the left must teach people to want to transform the world and take them along step by step. If, however, the impediment is not workers’ consciousness, but rather the left’s presuppositions and elitism, then the left needs to re-think and re-organize its theory and practice.
Our panel has diverse views. One presenter will discuss Lukacs’ formulation of Marxism as the consciousness of the working class. Another will challenge the prevalent leftist view of consumerism as a simply a product of capitalism. One will discuss why the left’s indifference to mass psychology has created an opening for the Right. Some may argue that the left’s role is to lead, with a resultant focus on methods of spreading left ideas and building organizations. At least one will argue that it is the left which needs to be transformed so it can build a new relationship to mass movements, creating an interchange of ideas and information without elitism and presuppositions, and stressing the need to develop ideas with the workers.
Speakers: Alex Steinberg, independent Marx scholar; Ishay Landa, The Open University of Israel; Pam C. Nogales, Platypus Affiliated Society; Anne Jaclard, Marxist-Humanist Initiative
Session 4, Sat. 5:30-7:10 pm, Rm. W 601
A New Documentary Film: “Raya Dunayevskaya: Biography of an Idea”
British artist Alex Fletcher produced this film during his association with the prestigious Independent Study Program of the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2012. Major ideas of the philosopher, activist and feminist Raya Dunayevskaya (1910-1987) are brought to life in the film, which illustrates her development, over much of the last century, of the philosophy she called Marxist-Humanism. Fletcher has constructed a broad and multi-layered film that delivers complex ideas in ways that are both clear and visually entertaining. It brings out Dunayevskaya’s contemporary importance at a time when her writings are gaining renewed attention, as economic crisis and seemingly permanent recession, war, sexism, and racism spur people to question and to challenge the future of capitalism.
Featuring video footage from her talks, photos, and news clippings, her life and works are also presented through her writings and by interviews of colleagues who worked with her in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. A trailer is at http://youtu.be/gSafxbRgIhY More information here.
Comments: Ray McKay, Marxist-Humanist Initiative, and others interviewed in film
Session 5, Sun. 10-11:50 am, Rm. E 320
Roundtable on “More Misused Wage Data from Monthly Review: The Overaccumulation of a Surplus of Errors”
This roundtable will discuss Andrew Kliman’s just-published article, which exposes multiple errors in Fred Magdoff and John Bellamy Foster’s “Class War and Labor’s Declining Share,” the cover-story article in the March 2013 issue of Monthly Review.
Kliman’s article, which elaborates on the critique of Foster and Magdoff contained in his book, The Failure of Capitalist Production, argues that these errors fatally undermine the authors’ attempt to explain the underlying causes of the Great Recession. In keeping with the conference theme of mobilization, Marxist-Humanist Initiative is sponsoring this panel in an effort to help mobilize the left to rethink its presuppositions.
The views of the authors of the Monthly Review article will need to be defended in discussion from the floor, since they and possible other representatives of their position declined repeated invitations to participate as panelists.
Comments: Andrew Kliman, Pace University; Alan Freeman, London Metropolitan University; Brendan Cooney, kapitalism101.wordpress.com; Bryan Philip, independent scholar; Mike Dola (chair)
Session 7, Sun. 3-4:50 pm, Rm. E 320
Marx’s Humanism: Folly, Peripheral, or Integral to his Philosophy?
The debates that raged throughout the twentieth century over Marx’s humanism have not ended. Some prominent writers still claim that humanism was just a stage that Marx grew out of when he became “fully Marxist,” or at best was a subset of his economic work. The continuing popularity of Louis Althusser and other anti-humanist philosophers in fact serves to discourage study of Marx’s philosophy as a totality. Other Marx interpreters, such as Herbert Marcuse and Raya Dunayevskaya, emphasized Marx’s humanism. We will discuss whether humanism is predominant not only in his works denominated as such, but throughout his writings, from the earliest to the last. Our panel will update the issues by looking at recent critical Marx scholarship to see what is new and what is not in this debate, as well as discussing recent positive attention to Marx’s vision engendered by the economic crisis. One presenter will investigate how Marx’s early humanist writings relate to contemporary “green” discourse and the anti-humanist stance which it sometimes adopts.
Speakers: Aaron Jaffe, PhD candidate, The New School; Ishay Landa, The Open University of Israel; Anne Jaclard, Marxist-Humanist Initiative; Andrew Kliman, Pace University; Ray McKay (chair)
Be sure to visit MHI’s book table in the Exhibitors’ space.
Note: MHI is sponsoring these events; other panels and tables may sound similar, but we are not associated with them. Accept no substitute! For more information, see “Why a New Organization?” http://www. marxisthumanistinitiative.org/news/why-a-new-organization.html