Are you a newly joined DSA member? Come learn about the different ways to get involved! This call is at 8:00pm Eastern Time, 7pm Central, 6pm Mountain, 5pm Pacific.
Antonio Gramsci was perhaps the leading Marxist theoretician/political activist of the 20th century. His writings covered topics ranging from the state to the party to the role of intellectuals – and of course the idea of hegemony and ideological struggle. Most importantly for us, he developed these ideas in the context of modern capitalist, not agrarian peasant, societies. Thus he speaks to us and to the political economy in which we find ourselves.
(1) The group is open to DSA members and friends.
(2) Signing up for the group means you plan to participate in all 5 sessions – this reading/discussion group is not designed nor intended for people to parachute in (and out) from session to session.
(3) We want the participants to represent the DSA membership with an emphasis on people who are just learning about Gramsci. This is not for people already very familiar with his work.
In particular, we want to insure gender diversity in this discussion/reading group. Women are encouraged to participate.
(4) Participants may speak if they have done the reading. If they have not, they may listen. We expect participants to listen actively and to engage respectfully with one another's ideas.
(5) Because of technology issues/limits, space is limited, so please sign up earlier rather than later. If you wait until the last minute we cannot assure you access.
Here is a short list of the topics that we’ll cover in this five part monthly series, beginning January 8, 2014:
1) Gramsci and the Russian Revolution: Against Marx's Capital
Gramsci began his writing and thinking under the immense influence of the Bolshevik Revolution. He saw this “revolution against Capital” as a break with established orthodoxy but also clearly recognized the fundamental differences between Tsarist Russia and the political and economic context of Western Europe and the U.S.
2) Gramsci on Political Strategy: War of Maneuver vs. War of Position
How should the fight for socialism be conducted in the West? Here Gramsci develops the ideas of two phases of political and economic struggles: a long period of what he called “War of Position” that must predate and establish the possibility of socialist power and a period of actual contestation for power, the “War of Maneuver.” In the course of a successful War of Position, a counter common sense – a “good sense” – begins to replace the ruling ideas of the capitalist class.
3) Hegemony and the Historic Bloc
While there remain, for Gramsci, two primary classes in the political economy of capitalism, politics and a leading political role cannot be equated simply with the activities and actions of the working class, much less the working class organized into trade unions. Hegemony – the leading role of a class aspiring to rule – requires an understanding of the need to go beyond the limits of particularistic class demands and to encompass the many popular struggles that often are not class-based but may be rooted in other forms of oppression and domination such as race, gender, etc.
4) Intellectuals: Traditional vs. Organic
One of the most profound challenges that faced socialists before, during and after Gramsci’s lifetime was the fact that socialist parties tended to be dominated by intellectuals with a different class background than the workers the party hoped to organization. Indeed, Gramsci himself had a middle-class upbringing and came to socialism largely through intellectual exploration. This disjunction between the class background of the party leadership and the mass of working people the party hoped to bring into the socialist fold often had disastrous consequences that left socialist and communist parties small and politically isolated. For Gramsci the only way to overcome this problem was to develop a party leadership from among the working class itself. Unlike detached, “traditional” intellectuals with an abstract sense of the labor-capital relationship, these “organic” intellectuals not only had practical knowledge of the reality of capitalist exploitation, but as a result of this organic relationship to the working class they were in a better position to serve the role “permanent persuader” of their fellow working-class brothers and sisters.
5) Gramsci's Concept of the Revolutionary Party and his Vision of Socialism
Gramsci broke with Lenin and followed in the footsteps of Rosa Luxemburg with his theory of socialism. He believed that a socialist society should be based on a radical-democratic vision in which basic economic decisions are made through workers’ councils at each point of production. Thus, as socialist society develops, the capitalist relations of production into which we enter, independent of our will or choice, are transformed into transparent, autonomous, self-governing relations.
He also argued that party leadership should not dominate the rank and file of the party who should retain a relatively autonomous position with respect to the party leadership. At the same time, however, Gramsci believed that the role of the party was of fundamental importance in shaping a new socialist vision for society. For Gramsci the party should serve the role of Machiavelli’s ruthless Prince in forging a collective will in favor of a socialist society
In each session we will provide, in advance, discussion questions on assigned readings. We ask that participants apply what we have learned from Gramsci’s work to our current political situation.
Because Gramsci did much of his writing and thinking under very difficult conditions – in one of Mussolini’s prisons where he faced continued censorship, his formulations are not always clear and may sometimes be, or at least seem, inconsistent. Thus we know there is room for debate and disagreement over what Gramsci meant or said – we welcome that in these sessions.
Readings will run about 30 – 50 pages per session. Most or what we read will be from The Gramsci Reader, ed D. Forgacs which can be found here: http://ouleft.org/wp-content/uploads/gramsci-reader.pdf
DATES & TIMES
Sessions will be held on the second Wednesday of each month from 8:00 – 9:00 PM Eastern Time (7-8pm Central, 6-7pm Mountain, 5-6pm Pacific). The first session will be on January 8, the next on Feb 12, etc.
TECHNOLOGY AND SIGN UP
We will use Google+ Hangouts for these sessions. We will work out technical details with participants in advance of the first session.
RSVP to receive further information.
Learn how to use the Drop Student Debt petition to educate the public about the student debt crisis and increase the visibility of your DSA chapter (or recruit people to help start a chapter) in the process. The webinar is also relevant to YDS chapters doing campus organizing.
This webinar takes places at 8pm Eastern Time, 7pm Central, 6pm Mountain, 5pm Pacific.
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