Video: MHI’s Left Forum 2015 Panels

Below are videos of the three panels sponsored by MHI at this year’s Left Forum in New York City on May 31. The presenters spoke in the order of the names listed below the description of each panel, and audience discussion followed the presentations.

Anti-Neoliberalism vs. Anti-Capitalism

There is much less opposition to capitalism out there than meets the eye; what passes for “anti-capitalism” is frequently just “anti-neoliberalism.” This panel will explore the differences between them and the dangers of conflating them. It will focus in particular (but not exclusively) on events in Greece. Questions will include: Can we blame austerity, recession, and exploitation on neoliberalism, or are they products of capitalism? Will replacing neoliberal regimes––while keeping capitalism intact—solve our problems? Does it constitute a “transition” to socialism? Two Greek activist/theorists participated via Skype. They represent TPTG (Children of the Gallery), a political group affiliated with the movement against wage (or unwaged) slavery in Greece. Their paper is entitled “Syriza is not an anti-capitalist party, but is it really against neo-liberalism?”

Speakers: Andrew Kliman, Anne Jaclard, Kostas Demetriou and Alex Papadopoulos (by Skype), Doug Lain.


  Harvey vs. Marx: on capitalist crisis and “Marxist entertainment”

This panel discussed the on-going debate between David Harvey and Andrew Kliman (and Marx!) on capitalist crises, carried on New Left Project, after Harvey critiqued Karl Marx’s theory of capitalist economic crisis, which is rooted in his “law of the tendential fall in the rate of profit.” While Marx repeatedly stressed that this is the “most important law” of political economy, Harvey questioned whether it can help us understand the Great Recession and whether it is really even a law at all.

Topics included Andrew Kliman’s response to Harvey, Doug Lain’s category of “Marxist entertainment,” formulated by him in a podcast discussion with Kliman (Zero Squared #11: Marxist Entertainment), Harvey’s response to Kliman (New Left Project, March 30), and Kliman’s rejoinder. The category “Marxist entertainment”  highlights the problematic atmosphere in which Marxist discussion occurs, which helps to explain why egregious errors (such as those contained in Harvey’s critique) keep recurring and go unchecked.

Speakers: Doug Lain, Brendan Cooney, Andrew Kliman.


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Marx’s “Critique of the Gotha Program”: new direction for revolutionary organization

Karl Marx’s “Critique of the Gotha Program,” one of his last writings, addresses ideas about a future non-capitalist society and the proper “program” for a revolutionary organization. Although much has been written about the “Critique” over the years, its implications for organization were all but ignored until Raya Dunayevskaya argued that it provides us with a new foundation for working out the role of a Marxist organization and its relationship to movements outside it. A recent international class series focused on this aspect of the “Critique.” This roundtable continued the investigation, challenging certain deeply entrenched left ideas—which are not in Marx—especially the belief that revolutionary intellectuals’ task is to “raise people’s consciousness.”

Roundtable of class participants: Anne Jaclard, Mike Dola, Ravi (by Skype), Andrew Kliman, Peter (by Skype), Brendan Cooney.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for posting these MHI Left Forum 2015 Panels.

    Concerning Andrew Kliman’s debate with David Harvey, I’ll reach for some low-hanging fruit.

    Once Harvey makes the issue a question of guiding or grounding metaphors,scientific explanation and reasoned argument give way to literary criticism.

    Literary criticism is intellectually serious and worthwhile, and since Volume One of CAPITAL is not only a scientific treatise but a great work of world literature, taking a literary-critical approach to the text can illuminate various aspects of its meaning and enrich our understanding. (For example, I once wrote an article called “Marx’s Use of Religious Metaphors.”)

    However, Kliman rightly points out that his critique of Harvey is not an affair of literary criticism and the study of metaphors. Rather, he employs a form of argument called “argument by analogy” (which would be reviewed in any entry-level course in “critical thinking” or logic).

    To the best of my knowledge, there’s no such thing as argument by metaphor.

    Arguments by analogy take the grammatical form, “Just as…so too.” Since the aptitude of any given analogy is always open to question, such arguments are not dispositive in the same way as modus ponens or the disjunctive syllogism. But Marx’s argumentation is pluriform (as we would expect from a “Hegelian”) and so the logic of CAPITAL does not principally consist in analogies (any more than it primarily consists in metaphors, “werewolf hunger,” “vampiric thirst,” “necrophilia”). It’s just that it’s an argument form in his repertoire that he deploys on occasion, especially (in CAPITAL) when he wants to address the sense in which CAPITAL is a scientific treatise. (Like the best philosophers, philosophers of his own rank in the canon, Marx is profoundly methodologically and pedagogically self-conscious.)

    Here’s a familiar example from v. 1, Ch. 12. It resembles Kliman’s appeal to the law of gravity when he explains why the LTFRP is not a “monocausal explanation” of capitalist crises:

    “While it is not our intention here to consider the way in which the immanent laws of capitalist production manifest themselves in the external movement of the individual capitals, assert themselves as the coercive laws of competition, and therefore enter into the consciousness of the individual capitalist as the motives which drive him forward, this much is clear: a scientific analysis of competition is possible only if wee can grasp the inner nature of capital, just as the apparent motions of the heavenly bodies are intelligible only to someone who is acquainted with their real motions, which are not perceptible to the senses” (Fowkes translation, p. 433).

    There’s a lot more going on here than I’m taking up now. The low-hanging fruit is the distinction between a metaphor and an analogy that could be taught as early as the first year of high school in a course on English composition.

    The minute one party asks another about what metaphors are guiding her thought, we’ve entered the zone of afterthoughts to argument and argumentation proper is over.

    Harvey’s turn to metaphors is a great way to get out of jail free. It’s the side door in the blind alley that makes for an emergency exit.

    Tom Jeannot

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