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An introduction to Marxism

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Marx Memorial Library & Workers' School

37A Clerkenwell Green

London

EC1R 0DU

United Kingdom

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With a focus on the fundamentals of Marxism and its relevance to understanding and action, this course of four classes will cover an introduction to Marxist theory, applying it to a discussion of relevant issues today, such as: the changing nature of work and exploitation, austerity and the gig economy, racism, women’s oppression, class society, revolution and climate change.

Tutors:

Mary Davis and Richard Clarke

Registration

Fee £20/12 unwaged for all classes.

We recommend you sign up to all four sessions.

Resources

Course reader: We’ll be using a classic text, Emile Burns’ ‘What Is Marxism?’ It’s on the web and you should try to read the relevant sections (below) before each class.

Other resources: including copies of the Morning Star’s fortnightly ‘Full Marx’ series can be found on the Marx Memorial Library’s website and the Marxists Internet Archive provides a gateway to a rich variety of original texts.

25 June: Marxism and history

Historical materialism is probably the most fundamental ‘discovery’ of Marx, providing a tool for analysing the whole of human development and especially the ‘laws of motion’ governing all forms of class society and capitalism today. Why is it so important and how does it help us challenge conventional accounts – of class, technology, racism, gender roles and religious belief today?

Reading: Burns Chapter II: ‘The Laws of Social Development’.

Talking points (examples): How do Marxists view class struggle? What is religion? Where does women’s oppression come from? What is fascism? What are race and racism?

2 July: Marxism and philosophy

Dialectical materialism provides an analytical alternative to academic ‘idealist’ philosophy as well as to commonplace views of human nature and our relationship to the natural world. What’s its relevance today to understanding ourselves as human animals, and to the future of the planet on which we live?

Reading: Burns Chapter I: ‘A Scientific View of the World’ and VII ‘The Marxist View of Nature’.

Talking points (examples): Are Humans natural? Is the answer ‘in our genes’? What is materialism? What is dialectics? Is the environment a ‘second contradiction’ of capitalism?

9 July: Marxism and economics

A Marxist understanding of value, price and profit explains the dynamics of capital and class, the irreconcilability of class interests and the role of the State in legitimising capitalism. It also explains the nature of commodity production and why workers appear to ‘consent’ to their exploitation. It examines the changing nature of exploitation of people as workers and consumers.

Reading: Burns Chapter III: ‘Capitalist Society’ and IV ‘The Imperialist Stage of Capitalism’

Talking points (examples): What is ‘surplus value’? Does capitalism depend on credit? Is there such a thing as ‘fair pay’? Why do people like shopping? What is ‘class struggle’? Why ‘austerity’?

16 July: Marxism, the state and revolution

A Marxist perspective is central to understanding the role of the state and how the ruling class retains power. But how can we secure a society ‘for the many’? Can capitalism be reformed or must it be overthrown, if so what should replace it? Can we learn from the experience of socialist countries past and present and what are the prospects for a classless, communist society?

Reading: Burns Chapter V: ‘Class Struggles in Modern Times’ ; VI ‘Socialist Society’ and VIII: ‘A Guide to Action’.

Talking points (examples): Can trades unions build a better world? Is the environment a ‘second contradiction’ of capitalism? What is the ‘withering away’ of the state? What do Marxists say about parliamentary elections? What do we mean by ‘revolution’?

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Location

Marx Memorial Library & Workers' School

37A Clerkenwell Green

London

EC1R 0DU

United Kingdom

View Map

Refund Policy

No Refunds

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