21st Century Class Struggles & the Generalized Proletariat

Subject to change

Thursday July 14

10:00 – Noon

Marx & Engels & Classical German Philosophy
Russell Dale

Our discussion will focus on the basic, immediate philosophical background in classical German philosophy represented primarily by Kant, Hegel, Fichte and Schelling that Marx and Engels inherited. Russell will also mention a number of the other philosophical, economic, and political background issues that came into being and mixed in for Marx and Engels with classical German philosophy in the creation of their unique revolutionary thought—for example, the newly emerging systematic study of political economy, the positivism of August Comte (which also arises in the 1830s), and the various “utopian” socialist projects of that period.

Russell Dale is an activist and a philosopher. He teaches philosophy at Lehman College, CUNY. He taught classes on Hegel and various other topics for the last six years. Russell is also on the Manuscript Collective and Editorial Board of the Marxist journal Science & Society, as well as on the Local Station Board of radio station WBAI, 99.5 FM (wbai.org).


Noon – 1:00



1:00 – 3:00

Live report from Paris
Dennis Broe

Dennis will report on the current wave of strikes, Nuit Debout, and the Labor Law, called the El-Kourmi Law, named for the Labor Minister, would have the effect of lowering wages. Strikes are now disrupting gas delivery, power, garbage pickup, airlines and train transport, all led by the most radical union, the CGT, and all part of a life and death struggle to force the cancellation of the work law which a few months ago passed the general assembly not by a vote but by an archaic decree which allows legislation that is too controversial to come to a vote to simply be passed. This decree, section 49.3 has now been invoked four times in the course of passing unfavorable, so called “reform”, legislation to “open up” the French labor market.

This year is also the 80th anniversary of the great strike month of June 1936 where workers occupied most of the major factories and which the female philosopher Simone Weil famously termed “un joie, un joie pur” a joy, a pure joy.

The show which I would be doing over SKYPE will consist of a short documentary including interviews with three key players in the events of the past months: Francois Ruffin, editor of the satiric journal Fakir and director of Merci Patron (Thanks Boss), a Roger and Me type film that inspired Nuit Debout; a member of the CGT, the union that is leading the strikes; and an academic who will provide a critical analysis of the labor law. I and my director Frederic Lean, an award-winning filmmaker whose Iraq: the Wind of Hope has one of highest ratings for any film on IMDB, will shoot the documentary in La Republique where Nuit Debout began and is headquartered and we will screen the documentary, which is mainly sound, at the top of the hour. I will then speak about what has been happening over the last few months and link it to the period of Strikes of 1936 as well as describing a film that has just been rereleased with a new print here, Jean Renoir’s La Vie Est Nous (Life is Ours), a recounting of the worker’s movement in 1936, which last week got a negative review in Le Monde, meaning that it is still controversial.

Dennis Broe is a critic and political correspondent on Prairie Millers Arts Express. He teaches film and television in Paris at the Sorbonne, and has written a number of books on the American and Global Working Class and Film Noir on Maverick and countering the myth of the American West and on how Abstract Expressionism helped cancel American social art. Every year he is a featured correspondent from the Cannes film festival and around Parisian cinema and European television, art and literature the year round.


3:30 – 5:30

May 1968 in France: Learning from the Participants
Mitch Abidor

In preparation for an oral history of the events of May 1968 in France, Mitch Abidor interviewed over thirty participants in the events from all political tendencies and from all over the country. He’ll discuss what he learned of the experiences of those who were there and what can be learned from them.

Mitchell Abidor’s translation work and studies include anthologies of Victor Serge, the Paris Commune, the left of the French Revolution, as well as the novella A Raskolnikoff by Emmanuel Bove. He lives in Brooklyn.


5:30 – 6:30

What Would Karl Marx be Listening to on Bastille Day in 2016
Ras Moshe

Ras Moshe hails from a musical and political family in Brooklyn. Ras has been playing music for 30 years and keeps the family tradition going as a life-long radical political activist. He was part of the Neues Kabarett series and founder of the Music Now series, which presented new revolutionary jazz at The New York Marxist School for 14 years, continuing today at The Brooklyn Commons. Ras believes strongly in the power of creativity involved with jazz as one of the main components of socio/poltical engagement.


7:30 – 9:30

Solidarity Without Borders
Kazembe Balagun, Mark Bergfeld & Marcus Graetsch — moderated by Marika Dias

Kazembe Balagun has been featured in Time Out New York, The Guardian, German Public Radio and The New York Times and contributed “We Be Reading Marx Where We From” to Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA. As a cultural activist he has sought to create intersections between Marxism, queer theory, feminism and Black liberation movements. He works as project manager at Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, New York Office.

Friday, July 15

10:00 -

Imperialism Today: Super-Exploitation & Marxist Theory

Walter Daum

Imperialism was first analyzed by Marxist theorists a century ago. Today it still dominates the world but has greatly changed: production, not just trade, is globalized; profits rely on the super-exploitation of hundreds of millions of proletarians in the Global South. This session will discuss the transformation of the imperialist-ruled world and what it means for Marxist theory.

Initial reading: John Smith, “Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century,” Monthly Review July-August 2015; online at http://monthlyreview.org/2015/07/01/imperialism-in-the-twenty-first-century/

Walter Daum taught mathematics at City College in New York for 37 years. He has been a revolutionary activist and Marxist theorist, affiliated with the League for the Revolutionary Party. He wrote a book, The Life and Death of Stalinism and is working on another, on the subject of imperialism. He is proud to have been denounced by the New York Post and  the CUNY Board of Trustees in 2001 for explaining at a teach-in that the 9/11 terrorist attack was “ultimately the responsibility of U.S. imperialism.


Noon – 1:00



1:00 – 4:00

Looking at Class Consciousness, Class Struggle and Self-Organizing Using Image Theater
Facilitated by Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory members Janet Gerson and Marie-Claire Picher

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: The Retreat from Class: A New "True" Socialism, by Ellen Meiksins Wood.

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).

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.

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).


4:00 – 5:30



5:30 – 7:30

Can Worker Owned Green Banks be Anti-Capitalist?
Dan Karan

In today’s context, what are issues and demands for banking reforms that would make a huge difference for the lives of millions. Can these reforms open up space to talk about transformative ways that go beyond banking but could then lead to transforming other institutions that impact daily lives such as housing authorities, food provisions and regulations, agencies of environmental regulation, etc.?

Dan Karan has worked for NYC housing and community development organizations for 25 years and studied Marxism for nearly 40.


7:30 – 9:00

Southern Insurgency: Mass movements Throughout the Global South
Manny Ness -- moderated by Lisa Maya Knauer

Even as labor in the developed world seems to be in retreat, industrial struggle continues elsewhere—and with particular force in the Global South. In Southern Insurgency, Immanuel Ness provides a thorough and expert perspective of three key countries where workers are fighting the spread of unchecked industrial capitalism: China, India, and South Africa. In each case, he considers the broader historical forces in play, such as the effects of imperialism, the decline of the international union movement, class struggle, and the growing reserve of available labor. He then narrows his focus in each case on the specifics of the current grassroots insurgency: the militancy of miners in South Africa, new labor organizations in India, and the rise of worker insurgencies in China.

Immanuel Ness is a political economist and professor of Political Science at City University of New York. He edits Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society and is the author of numerous works including Guest Workers and Resistance to U.S. Corporate Despotism. He has worked and organized in the food, maintenance, and publishing industries.

July 16

10:00 – Noon

Slackers, Sabotage & Syndicalism: American Labor History & the Refusal of Work
Kristin Lawler

In this session, we will consider the labor movement tactic most associated with the Industrial Workers of the World -- sabotage, or the collective withdrawal of efficiency -- engaging the history of the American "slacker" to think through possibilities for working-class freedom and power vis a vis capital today. The term "slacker” originated during WWI and disparaged those (primarily Irish) coded “lazy," “vagrant," and resistant to a proper Protestant work ethic; it also referred to those who would not fight on the side of the Americans (and of course, the British) during WWI. We can deploy this history to analyze the relationship between labor supply and worker power, and between anti-imperialist national liberation struggles (like Ireland's) and struggles at the point of production, drawing out these connections for a new generation of scholars taking a look at the militant radicalism of the IWW in the context of a resurgence in the US and Europe, since at least 1999, of an anarcho-syndicalist, direct action-oriented politics.

Kristin Lawler is Associate Professor and Chair of the Sociology Department at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in the Bronx. Her first book, The American Surfer: Radical Culture and Capitalism, was published by Routledge in 2011 and examined the politics of American surf culture during the twentieth century. She is a member of the editorial collective of the journal Situations: Project of the Radical Imagination; her work has been published there as well as in several edited collections, Z Magazine, and the digital forum of the Social Science Research Council. She is currently at work on her new book, Shanty Irish: the Roots of American Syndicalism.


Noon - 1:00



1:00 – 3:00

Beyond Bernie: The Crisis of Labor & The Left in the United States
Mark Dudzic


3:00 – 3:30



3:30 – 5:30

Prometheus in Ruins? Uses and Abuses of the Hero Who Stole Fire
Anthony Galluzzo

“Mechanical Prometheanism” was for long the signature myth of Western modernization. Both capitalists and socialists embraced the Greek myth of Prometheus's theft of fire from the gods as shorthand for Progress — technological determinism and human domination of the natural world — while neglecting the ethico-political dimensions of the myth. Prometheanism achieved its apotheosis during the twentieth century, when futurism and productivism shaped capitalism and state socialism alike. Today the taste for such techno-scientific drive to mastery has waned, at least among many Marxists and ecosocialists coming to grips with the environmental costs of industrial modernization. But as planetary civilization and the planet itself confront ecological collapse, techno-utopianism is making a come-back, from the cyber-libertarian solutionists of Silicon Valley to the ostensibly left accelerationists who seek to revive Prometheus — without ever asking which Prometheus they want to revive. This talk will trace the history of Promethean ideology, beginning with the Godwin/Malthus debates of the 1790s, through its current revival within certain precincts of the left, particularly as it intersects with the ecological crisis and Anthropocene theory today. We will contrast this to alternative Prometheanisms, from the Shelleys through Marx to present-day ecosocialist currents.

Anthony Galluzzo is a lecturer at NYU. He studies radical transatlantic literary culture of the 1790s and its afterlives in socialism, utopian fiction, and the gothic novel. He has contributed several articles to Jacobin and other journals. His home base is in Brooklyn, where he grew up.


5:30 – 7:15

Logistics, Circulation, Chokepoints
Charmaine Chua

Since the 1970s, capital’s encounters with the crisis of profitability has led it to seek out new strategies of accumulation, notably, in shifting its focus from sites of production to the conduits of circulation. No longer able to generate substantial profit from the mechanized and labor-saving technologies of factory manufacturing, firms began to experiment with increasing the speed and efficiency through which commodities could circulate across the globe. Thus the rise of business logistics: the management of complex networks that coordinate the stocking, distribution, and transportation of services and commodities in international space. In the process, logistics has led to a profound reorganization of the global working class, fragmenting sites of production far from their sites of consumption, and stretching the industrial working class far across the globe. Yet, in anti-capitalist and anti-colonial struggle across the deindustrialized North, activists and organizers have repeatedly found ways to interrupt these intensifying circuits of distribution, responding to the rapid spatial expansion of logistics with their own strategic seizures of the chokepoints of capital flow. Chokepoints – the concentration of the circulation of commodities at certain key sites along the supply chain – might thus present the possibility for resistance to be waged not only symbolically but also materially, by literally grounding capitalist circulation to a halt. Can we understand the highway takeover, the port blockade, and the storefront die-in as connected instances of disruption, revealing an arena of struggle that capital’s turn to accumulation through logistical circulation has made available? What do they teach us about the possibilities of disrupting capital’s circuits as a whole? In short, why occupy chokepoints, and why now?

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

Charmaine Chua is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of Minnesota and visiting instructor at Macalester College. She works on the rise of logistics capitalism in the context of labor along the U.S.-China supply chain, and is part of the Empire Logistics collective. 


7:30 – 9:30

Resistance to Pacific Ocean Occupations
Laurel Mei-Singh & Others from the Asia Pacific Islander People's Solidarity

Sunday, July 17

11:00 – 1:00

It’s Not Over: Lessons for Socialists from the October Revolution, Prague Spring & the Sandinistas
Pete Dolack


1:00 – 3:00

Labor in the Global Digital Economy
Ursula Huws


3:00 – 3:30



3:30 – 5:30

Sexuality, Gender and Globalization
Kate Doyle Griffiths & Lisa Maya Knauer

What do sexuality and gender have to do with the global economy? What role do sex and desire — some of the most intimate aspects of our lives — play in the emergence and evolution of capitalism, and how are they in turn shaped by capital? Why have women, particularly in the global South, often been at the forefront of resistance to neoliberal capitalism? How can Marxism(s) help us understand these issues, and formulate strategies for change? This workshop will explore these questions from multiple perspectives — spanning generations and different local, regional and national contexts.

Kate Doyle Griffiths is a doctoral candidate in Anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center, and teaches at Hunter College. She has conducted research in South Africa, on reproductive labor, health, gender and politics. 

Lisa Maya Knauer is a founding member of the MEP and its predecessor, the Brecht Forum. She has taught a variety of classes on feminism and Marxism, and gender and capitalism. She is currently working with indigenous resistance movements in Guatemala, and with immigrant women workers in the U.S. In her day job, she is the chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.