Marxism and Politics Lecture Series

Dan Lutz

Dan Lutz joined the socialist movement when he was 15 and answered a classified ad on the back page of The Nation.* He has been involved in the labor movement for the last 20 years, first as a student-labor activist, then a telephone operator, then a staffer at Teamsters for a Democratic Union. He is currently a database administrator and software developer at the New York State Nurses Association.

He spoke to the group about Socialist Planning. The Marxism and Politics Reading Group met two weeks beforehand to discuss Oskar Lange's “On the Economic Theory of Socialism” (Parts 1 & 2).

* It was for a group that had split away from Daniel DeLeon's Socialist Labor Party for straying from the teachings of Daniel DeLeon. 


Matt Karp

"Millions of Abolitionists: The Early Republican Party and the Political War Against Slavery"

The abolition of slavery and the tragically short-lived democratic experiment of Reconstruction was the only social revolution in American history. The central institution of Southern society was destroyed virtually overnight, and by the 1870s, black elected officials (many former slaves) filled Southern state legislatures. The leading political force in both these events was the Republican Party, founded just over a decade before. How was the anti-slavery cause, which had struggled for decades on the political margins, able to triumph and destroy the “Slave Oligarchy”? Join historian and Jacobin contributing editor Matt Karp for a talk on anti-slavery politics and the early Republican Party.

Background Readings

Philip Foner, History of the Labor Movement, Vol I, "Northern Labor and Slavery"

William Gienapp, "The Republican Party and the Slave Power"


Mass Incarceration

The United States, once seen as a model of rehabilitation and humane punishment, today incarcerates a greater percentage of its population than any other nation on earth. How did this happen? Popular critiques see the War on Drugs, the privatized “prison-industrial complex”, or post-civil rights racist backlash as driving the growth of mass incarceration. Yet, there are good reasons to challenge many of the assumptions now fashionable among the academic and activist left.


Anton Jäger

The 2016 U.S. presidential election witnessed the widespread proliferation of the term "populism." The American mainstream media labeled both Donald Trump—a xenophobic billionaire—and Bernie Sanders—a self-identified democratic socialist—populists because of their opposition to economic elites. A similar trend became visible in Europe, where liberal commentators sorted both left- and right-wing parties into the "populist" basket, mainly in the aftermath of the continent’s Eurocrisis. This usage is symptomatic of the now confused meaning of the term, which has altered considerably since its first American use in 1891. "Populism" no longer refers to a style of class-based politics anchored in mass parties that characterized the late 19th century. In fact, today, “populism” is not about class or party democracy at all. In his lecture, Anton Jäger will map out the ever changing meanings of the term, describe its new form as an “antiparticularist identity politics” hostile to party formation, and offer a way forward for a populism beyond identity.


Jared Abbot & Dustin Guastella

For this lecture, Jared Abbott (PhD candidate in Government at Harvard) and Dustin Guastella (Director of Operations for Teamsters Local 623), discuss their recently published piece in Catalyst Journal "A Socialist Party in Our Time?"

For the first time in several decades, the US left has the unique opportunity to marshal widespread political and economic disillusionment into a political movement capable of gaining and exercising power. As more people seem open to the idea of democratic socialism, the left must channel this widespread discontent and newfound receptivity into a coherent and effective strategy. This Marxism and Politics Lecture will take up a set of strategic issues, specifically around the relationship between elections and the broader left pursuit of power. US socialists have struggled with two primary questions in their debates around electoral strategy: First, what type of organization is best suited to the left's goals? Second, how does a responsible and effective left relate to the Democratic Party? Through considered analysis of the innumerable barriers imposed by existing institutions — the electoral system, the Democratic Party, and big-money donors—Abbott and Guastella propose a solution of a "party surrogate" model capable of mobilizing working-class voters disillusioned with the Democratic Party.


The Case for a Job Guarantee with Pavlina Tcherneva

One of the most enduring ideas in economics is that unemployment is both unavoidable and necessary for the smooth functioning of the economy. This assumption has provided cover for the devastating social and economic costs of job insecurity. It is also false.

In The Case for a Job Guarantee, leading expert Pavlina R. Tcherneva challenges us to imagine a world where the phantom of unemployment is banished and anyone who seeks decent, living-wage work can find it - guaranteed. This is the aim of the Job Guarantee proposal: to provide a voluntary employment opportunity in public service to anyone who needs it. Given the rapid rise in unemployment since the beginning of COVID-19, Pavlina’s call for universal, voluntary employment is all the more timely and important.

Talk co-hosted by Philly DSA and the Lower Manhattan Political Education Working Group. Pavlina is joined by Paul Prescod from Philly DSA’s Labor Commission. Recorded on June 25, 2020.

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