Sessions

Our first eight sessions (Thursdays 7pm) were designed to give an overview of the ‘building blocks of Marxism’. From March 26 2023, we delved further into these issues raised and investigated various issues around Marxism, for example ‘Marxism and the state’, ‘Marxism and democracy’ etc. In September 2023, we started a sub-series on ‘Marx and party building’. Our latest sub-series ‘History of Israel-Palestine’, co-sponsored with the Labour Left Alliance, starts on November 23. Please scroll further down to see the reading recommendations for each subject. Our sessions are democratic and we believe discussion and debate are extremely important.

Current sub-series: History of Israel Palestine

co-sponsored by Why Marx? and the LLA

November 23: Introduction to sub-series and roundtable: How can the current crisis be solved?
With an introduction by Tony Greenstein

November 30: Was Karl Marx an antisemite? What is antisemitism?
Ian Spencer will be looking at Marx’ text ‘On the Jewish Question
Other reading recommendations:
– Hal Draper: Marx and the Economic-Jew Stereotype
– John Rose: Karl Marx, Abram Leon and the Jewish Question – a reappraisal

December 7: Freedom fighters or terrorists: where does Hamas come from
Yassamine Mather (Hands Off the People of Iran)

December 14: The bloody history of British imperialism in the Middle East
Mike Macnair, author of ‘Revolutionary Strategy

December 21: The Ottoman Empire, the Balfour Declaration and Zionism before Israel’s foundation in 1948
Tony Greenstein (author of Zionism during the Holocaust) and Thomas Suárez (author of Palestine Hijacked: How Zionism Forged an Apartheid State from River to Sea)

January 11: The Holocaust Industry 
Ian Spencer discusses the lessons from Norman Finkelstein’s seminal book ‘The Holocaust Industry

January 18: Zionism during the Holocaust and after Israel’s foundation in 1948
Tony Greenstein (author of Zionism during the Holocaust) and Thomas Suárez (author of Palestine Hijacked: How Zionism Forged an Apartheid State from River to Sea)

January 25: Anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism
Jewish Voice for Labour (tbc), Thomas Suárez (author of Palestine Hijacked: How Zionism Forged an Apartheid State from River to Sea)

February 1: Nasser and the Arab Revolutions
Yassamine Mather (Hands Off the People of Iran)

February 8: US/UK imperialism and Israel – who is wagging the dog?
Roger Silverman

February 15: The deception of the Oslo Accords – one state, two states or something different entirely?
Ghada Karmi, author of ‘One State


Sub-series: Marx and party-building

September 7 2023: Introduction to series
Speakers: Ian Spencer and Nick Wrack

September 14: Marx, Engels and the party question: from the Communist League to the First International
Speaker: Kevin Bean

Recommended readings:

September 21: Debating party and programme: Marx and Engels versus Bakunin and the anarchists 1868-72
Speaker: Ian Spencer

Recommended reading:

September 28: Developing a Social Democratic party and programme: Eisenachers, Lassallians and Erfurt 1864-1875
Speaker: Kevin Bean

Recommended reading:

October 5: Developing revolutionary socialist consciousness: the programme of the French Workers  Party and the origins of the Second International
Speaker: Ian Spencer

Recommended reading:

October 12: Party and programme in Britain: Marx and Engels and the Labour movement in Britain 1844-1895
Speaker: Ian Spencer

October 19: German social democracy, the minimum-maximum programme and the fusion formula: Engels and Erfurt
Speaker: Ben Lewis

Recommended reading:

October 26: Party life and discipline: ‘democratic centralism’ in the SPD 1870s-1890s
Speaker: Kevin Bean

November 2: Marx and Engels and the Russian Marxists 1840-1890s
Speaker: Ian Spencer

November 9: Party, programme and trade union struggles; politics, mass struggles and strikes; Marxism and ‘syndicalism’ 1840s-1890s
Speakers: Ian Spencer

November 16: Conclusion and discussion of themes
Speakers: Kevin Bean, Ian Spencer, Ben Lewis


Earlier sessions

January 26: Introduction to the series

In this first session, we discussed the role that Marx and Engels played in revolutionising ideas around how capitalism works; why it needs to end and how that could be achieved. We also discussed if capitalism has changed too much for those ideas to still be relevant today.


Opening statements:

Ian Spencer: Capitalism has fulfilled its world-historical mission to develop the forces of production to the point where there is abundance. It now only exists as an impediment to the realisation of humanity’s potential to create a world society without classes, borders and the degradation of the natural environment. Communism is a human need.

Nick Wrack (Talking About Socialism): The working class must be organised in its own party with the clear programmatic aim of ending capitalism and establishing socialism. Socialists must popularise the ideas of Marxism, rescuing them from Stalinism and the Academy and turning them again into the essential practical tools of working-class struggle.

Recommended reading:
The series’ mission statement
Karl Marx: Critique of the Gotha Program
Karl Marx: Theses on Feuerbach
Frederick Engels: Socialism: Utopian and Scientific 

February 2: What did Marx and Engels mean by ‘socialism’?

Speakers:
Luke Pickrell
(Marxist Unity Group US), Nick Wrack (Talking About Socialism), John Holliday (Socialist Theory Study Group)

Opening statements:

Nick Wrack: “For Marx and Engels, Socialism emerges as the necessary next step of society, arising out of the real, material conditions of capitalist production. Capitalism creates its own gravedigger, the proletariat, which comes into conflict with, and must overcome, the private ownership of the means of production and its own exploitation by the wages system. Socialism is the antithesis of capitalism. It means a society in which the means of production are owned in common; a classless, stateless society in which the wages system is abolished.”

John Holliday: “Marx’s ideas of socialism/communism developed from the philosophical basis in his early writings, through his political ideas and critique of capital’s mode of production and the associated political economy. Socialism entails the abolition of capitalist mode of production, its commodity structure and social relations  of wage labour, money, and nation state. We need to integrate a vision of an alternative society into class struggle. The end needs to be integrated with the means – social revolution.” 

Luke Pickrell: “Socialism is the period of workers’ political rule during the transition from capitalism to communism: the dictatorship of the proletariat. A radical republican and insightful critic of the labour movement, including the Paris Commune, Marx explained why the dictatorship of the proletariat would take the form of a social republic. In essence, Marx understood socialism as the fullest extension of democracy.”

Recommended Reading: 
Nick Wrack: “What is Socialism?”
Karl Marx: Letter to J Weydemeyer
Karl Marx: Letter to Ruge
Karl Marx: Address to the Communist League
Karl Marx: Value, Price and Profit (section)
Bertell Ollman: Marx’ vision of communism
Karl Marx: Critique of the Gotha Program

February 9: Is the Communist Manifesto still relevant today?

Speakers:
Rob Gould (Socialist Theory Study Group), Lawrence Parker (Marxist historian)

Recommended Reading:
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Manifesto of the Communist Party
Leon Trotsky: 90 Years of the Communist Manifesto

February 16: Is ‘Capital’ still relevant today? What’s the main message?

Speakers:
– Ian Spencer will briefly explain the background to Marx’s seminal work
– John Holliday (Socialist Theory Study Group) will outline the key points and sessions of the books
– Rob Gould (Socialist Theory Study Group) discusses the relevance for today

Recommended Reading:
Karl Marx: Capital chapter 1: Opening chapters
Karl Marx: Part 4 of Chapter 1 on Fetishism of Commodities
Karl Marx: Preface to the First German edition
Karl Marx: Afterward to the Second German edition
Fredy Perlman: Commodity fetishism (and why it is important to read Marx)
Karl Marx: Value, Price and Profit
David Harvey (introductory session)

February 23: Is there still a working class?

Speakers:
Luke Pickrell (Marxist Unity Group US), Matthew Jones (Labour Left Alliance), Ian Spencer

Recommended reading:
Karl Marx: Programme of the French Workers’ Party
V.I. Lenin: What is to be done? Chapter three, section A
Marc Mulholland: The enigma of Kautsky

March 2: Does human nature make socialism impossible?

Speakers:
Ian Spencer, John Holliday (Socialist Theory Study Group)

Recommended Reading:
Karl Marx: Grundrisse. Chapter 1 (Production)
Karl Marx: Thesis on Feuerbach
Karl Marx: Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (section on ‘Estranged Labour’)
Bertell Ollman: Marx’ Concept of Man in Capitalism, part III: The Theory of Alienation
István Mészáros: Marx’ Theory of Alienation

March 9: What Urkommunismus (‘primitive communism’) can tell us about a future socialist society

Speakers:
Tina Werkmann (Labour Left Alliance), Rob Gould (Socialist Theory Study Group)

Recommended Reading:
Frederick Engels: The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State
Rosa Luxemburg: Introduction to Political Economy, Chapter 3 (from page 146 in this PDF file)

March 16: USSR, China, Cuba – capitalist, workers’ states or something different altogether?

Speakers: 
Ian Spencer, Kevin Bean (Labour Party Marxists), Matthew Jones (Labour Left Alliance), John Holliday (Socialist Theory Study Group)

Recommended Reading:
Hillel Ticktin: Towards a Political Economy of the USSR
Hillel Ticktin: Perception, pretence and reality: The old system did not collapse: the elite decided to kill it off
Discussion articles:


Marx and Democracy – 3 sessions

March 23: Marx, democracy, and communism before 1848

Intro speakers: Luke Pickrell (Marxist Unity Group US), and Steve Freeman (Republican Labour Working Group)

Recommended reading:

March 30: The 1848 Revolution
Intro speakers: Kevin Bean (Labour Party Marxists) and Steve Freeman (Republican Labour Working Group)

Recommended reading:

April 13: The Paris Commune and after
Intro speakers: Luke Pickrell (Marxist Unity Group US), and Steve Freeman (Republican Labour Working Group)

Recommended reading:


April 20: Marxism and the women’s question
Speaker: Anne McShane

Recommended readings:


April 27: Marx and the First Internationale 

May 4: Marxists and the Second Internationale

May 11: Marxists and the Third Internationale
Speaker for all three sessions: Roger Silverman

May 18: Marxists and the Second Internationale with Mike Taber


May 25: Marx and the monarchy
Speakers: Ian Spencer and Kevin Bean

Recommended reading:

June 1 2023: Marx and Ideology

Speaker: Ian Spencer

June 8 2023: Marx and money

Speakers: John Holliday and Rob Gould (Socialist Theory Study Group)

Recommended reading:

June 15 2023: Marx and the political economy of transition

Speaker: Peter Kennedy

Recommended reading:

June 22 2023: Marx and religion

Speaker: Jack Conrad, author of ‘Fantastic Reality’

Recommended Reading:

June 29 2023: Marx and class consciousness

Speakers: Luke Pickrell and Ian Spencer

Recommended reading:

July 20 2023: Marx and law

Speaker: Mike Macnai

Recommended reading:

July 27 2023: Marx and nature

Speakers: Rob Gould and Tina Werkmann

Reading recommendation: