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Clarifying the struggle for socialism: Webinar on Marx’s “Capital”

Apr 6, 2022

Editor’s introduction: The following webinar, originally held on March 26, 2022, features several Liberation School comrades who were involved with our Reading Capital with Comrades podcast and other activities. The webinar was organized by the International Manifesto Group, the Geopolitical Economy Research Group, and the Critical Theory Workshop and was co-sponsored by the Radical Education Department, Peace, Land, and Bread, and the Hampton Institute.

Background

Confronted with multiple foundational crises—from historic mass inequality and climate change to permanent imperialist war and global apartheid—increasing numbers of people know that capitalism can’t solve these problems because capitalism creates them. Even in the U.S., the heartland of imperialism, the majority of young people view capitalism negatively and increasingly have a favorable view of socialism.

Given the rising popularity of socialism, one of our central tasks today is to give more definition to socialism and capitalism, as both are used loosely and in divergent ways in the movement today. In the West, socialism generally means little more than social democracy, capitalism stands in for inequality, and the issue of power is generally absent from discussions about the struggle for a socialist future.

This international webinar intervenes in this decisive debate by returning to Marx’s most developed analysis of capital, an analysis that was framed by the need for the revolutionary socialist struggle. We’ll focus on both the historical and contemporary burdens of misreadings of Capital and, just as importantly, the inspiring revolutionary applications of the text. Join us as we work to reclaim Capital as a weapon for the working and oppressed classes!

Webinar

Speeches

Radhika Desai: “History in Capital and Capital in history:” This talk focuses on the centrality of contradiction in Marx’s analysis in Capital and how it’s ignored by “Marxist economics,” which has been trying to fit Marx into the anti-theatrical methodological and theoretical assumptions of neoclassical economics.

Gabriel Rockhill: “Anti-communism & western Marxism: The case of the Frankfurt School:” This talk examines the historical relationship between one of the hottest commodities of the global theory industry, which presents itself as “Marxist,” namely the Frankfurt School, and actually-existing socialism. By critically juxtaposing the work of figures like Adorno and Horkheimer to the Eastern Marxism manifest in the orientation of the Third International, Rockhill situates the Frankfurt School’s overt anti-communism more broadly, within the international world war of ideas and the political economy undergirding it.

Derek R. Ford: “The complexity of time, history, revolution, and the future in Marx’s Capital:” Ford’s speech focuses on those who misread Marx’s Capital as a Eurocentric work that universalizes and totalizes history into a linear and progressive narrative. They demonstrate how colonialism was central to Capital and how Capital and Marx’s works not only articulated the intimate connections between workers movements and the struggles against slavery and colonialism, but also how it never assumed that history was linear or progressive or stageist, nor did it universalize any English story onto the whole world.

Megha Summer Pappachen: “Did Marx forget about the woman? Housework and reproduction in Marx’s Capital:” Pappachen’s talk addresses the (invisible) role that housework plays in the capitalist system. She brings to the fore the many ways in which Capital offers a framework to carefully theorize reproductive work (raising children, cleaning bathrooms, cooking dinner, emotional labor, sexual labor etc), work which is overwhelmingly performed by working women, all around the world. She adopts an internationalist perspective when imagining “the woman,” and argues that Marx helped us understand the full scale of women’s (a category that needs complicating, certainly) economic contributions to capitalism. Not only that, he also enabled generations of women to understand our contribution to the revolution which will ultimately overthrow capital, the very source of our double exploitation.

Alan Freeman: “Marx, the falling rate of profit, and the critics: New evidence:” This talk presents a mass of new evidence on the course of the rate of profit since the last war. It assesses what this means both for our understanding of capitalism and the causes of its multiple current acute and chronic economic and political crises and for our evaluation of Marx’s theory. It will comment on the light this sheds on the multiple criticisms of Marx’s theory which still dominate Marx scholarship to this day, above all that interpretation of Marx which TSSI scholars term “Marxism without Marx.”

Speaker biographies

Patricia Gorky is a social justice activist and technology worker based in San Francisco. She organizes against racism and for immigrant and workers rights, including against ICE software provider Palantir. She co-hosted the podcast series Reading Capital with Comrades, and writes and speaks on the socialist history and present of Eastern Europe. Patricia also contributes to Sputnik News on topics of technology and security analysis.

Radhika Desai is a Professor at the Department of Political Studies, and Director of the Geopolitical Economy Research Group, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada. She is the author of Geopolitical Economy: After US Hegemony, Globalization and Empire (2013), Slouching Towards Ayodhya: From Congress to Hindutva in Indian Politics (2nd rev ed, 2004) and Intellectuals and Socialism: ‘Social Democrats’ and the Labour Party (1994), a New Statesman and Society Book of the Month, and editor or co-editor of Russia, Ukraine and Contemporary Imperialism, a special issue of International Critical Thought (2016), Theoretical Engagements in Geopolitical Economy (2015), Analytical Gains from Geopolitical Economy (2015), Revitalizing Marxist Theory for Today’s Capitalism (2010) and Developmental and Cultural Nationalisms (2009).

Gabriel Rockhill is a philosopher, cultural critic and activist. He is the Founding Director of the Critical Theory Workshop / Atelier de Théorie Critique and Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University. He has published nine books, as well as numerous scholarly and journalistic articles, including most recently Contre-histoire du temps present (2017; available in English as Counter-History of the Present (2016), and Radical History & the Politics of Art  (2014).

Derek R. Ford is an Assistant Professor of Education Studies at DePauw University, USA and an instructor with The People’s Forum. They teach and research about how pedagogical theory can advance political struggles. Ford is the author of seven monographs, the latest of which are Encountering Education: Elements for a Marxist Pedagogy (2022), Marxism, Pedagogy, and the General Intellect: Beyond the Knowledge Economy (2021), and Education and the Production of Space: Political Pedagogy, Geography, and Urban Revolution (2017). Their popular writing has appeared in outlets such as Monthly Review and Black Agenda Report. Ford is the editor of Liberation School and the education department chair at the Hampton Institute, a working-class think tank. He recently led and narrated the podcast series, Reading Capital with Comrades, available on all streaming platforms.

Megha Summer Pappachen is a Ph.D. student of comparative politics and political theory at Northwestern University. She is an organizer in Chicago with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and is engaged in struggles around police brutality, gentrification, and anti-imperialism. Her research is grounded in marxist and feminist theory, social reproduction theory, postcolonial/queer theory, and the history of the global south. She has written for Liberation School and Breaking the Chains magazine.

Alan Freeman is co-director, with Radhika Desai, of the Geopolitical Economy Research Group (GERG) at the University of Manitoba. He was an economist at the Greater London Authority between 2000 and 2011, where he held the brief for the Creative Industries and the Living Wage. He wrote The Benn Heresy, a biography of British politician Tony Benn, and co-edited three books on value theory. He is honorary life vice-president of the UK-based Association for Heterodox Economics and a Vice-Chair of the World Association for Political Economy. He’s also on the coordinating committee of the International Manifesto Group.

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