Left Forum 2014 is May 30, 31 and June 1; Come to MHI’s panels!


Marxist-Humanist Initiative is sponsoring three panels at Left Forum this year. The largest left academic conference in the U.S., Left Forum will take place in New York City on May 30, 31 and  June 1. Below are descriptions of our panels, which will all be held on Sunday June 1.  The  times and room number appear below. Note that the conference is at a new, midtown location.

Please also visit our book table in the Exhibits area and say hi.

The Economic Crisis and Crisis Theory, Panel I

Sun. June 1, 10:00 a.m.-11:50 a.m., Room 1.82

This panel integrates analysis of the latest economic crisis with explorations of theories of economic crisis. In keeping with the conference theme, panelists will address what different analyses and theories imply about the need and prospects for revolutionary change versus “mak[ing] the private-enterprise economy work better” (Paul Marlor Sweezy).

Brendan Cooney, a video blogger and musician, will survey contending theories of capitalist crisis, evaluating their strengths and weaknesses. Andrew Kliman, an economist from New York City, will discuss whether the persistent economic sluggishness we face is compatible with the view of Sam Gindin and Leo Panitch that the crisis was “primarily financial,” or whether it suggests that the crisis is rooted in capitalist production. W. Thom Workman, a political scientist from New Brunswick, will explore critiques of “positivist science,” such as those of Jürgen Habermas and Richard Rorty, and their ideological function regarding Marx’s law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall and broader political economy. Anne Jaclard, organizational secretary of Marxist-Humanist Initiative, will chair.

The Economic Crisis and Crisis Theory, Panel II

Sun. June 1, 12 noon-1:50 p.m., Room 1.82

The panel will explore causes of the Great Recession and the continuing economic sluggishness since the recession’s ended, as well as how the left can respond to this situation. In keeping with the conference theme, panelists will address what different analyses and theories imply about the kind of socioeconomic change that is called for.

Michael Hudson will speak on “The New Austerity: Feeding the FIRE sector overhead.” He will argue that the aim of Quantitative Easing is not to re-inflate wages and consumer prices, but to re-inflate asset prices to rescue Wall Street, not the economy. Thus, increased output is going to the FIRE sector, not into production and consumption. Alan Freeman will speak on “Consumption, Profit and Finance: why can’t the left get it right?” He will explore why so many academic left thinkers persistently avoid normal methods of enquiry after truth. Focusing on Marx’s theory of crisis, the share of wages in US income, and the relation between finance and profitability as examples, he will discuss how prejudice and the desire to find “evidence” to support a political line take first place over the use of logic and the study of evidence. Andrew Kliman will ask “Were Corporations–or Corporate Executives–Really Hogging a Bigger Share of the Income Workers Produce?” and explain why the answer is “no.” For this and other reasons, increased income inequality wasn’t a main cause of the Great Recession. Mike Dola will chair.

Roundtable on Reading Raya Dunayevskaya’s Marxism & Freedom Collectively

Sun. June 1, 3:40-5:40 p.m., Room 1.82

From February through April, MHI sponsored an international reading group via Skype on a foundational work of Raya Dunayevskaya’s Marxist-Humanism, Marxism and Freedom, From 1776 Until Today. First published in 1958, the book attempted to re-establish Marx’s humanist roots in the context of a new era which the author termed state-capitalism—and its opposite, workers’ revolts in Eastern Europe and strikes in the U.S. against automation and racism. Dunayevskaya’s book draws on the ideas and revolutions of the previous 200 years to ask: What relationships emerged between economic developments and new struggles for freedom; between theorists and masses? What happens after a revolution?—what ideas can arm the masses against counter-revolution from within it? What bases can be laid for an actually break with the capitalist mode of production and the start a new, human society?

The reading group participants were across the U.S. and in Canada, England and Russia. A varied group of people with varied familiarity with Marx and with the author, we explored Dunayevskaya’s work in a collective process aimed at clarifying the meaning in the 1950s and what it may mean for today. This roundtable will consist of six or more of the participants: activists, students, and teachers. We will evaluate how the reading group functioned and what conclusions we may draw about the continuing relevance of the book.

[Conference details added May 16, 2014]

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