The Lefty Book Club is an international network of book clubs focused on understanding the world as members of the working class; building friendships and connections across geographical boundaries. We are currently offering five different book clubs a week, with more on the way, meeting virtually via Zoom and absolutely free of charge. All are welcome, even non-lefties and especially the left-curious.
Current Reading Groups:
Book: The Modern World System Vol. 1 by Immanuel Wallerstein
Assignment: pp. 165-193
Sundays @ 10:00am ET (15:00 UTC)
The Essential Wallerstein by Immanuel Wallerstein
In one of our other clubs, the question of how post-revolutionary socialist states establish domestic and foreign policy was brought up. In particular, how should these states, short of a sudden worldwide revolution, relate to international affairs? The study of international relations more often than not presupposes the nation state as its sine qua non, but within the last half-century there has emerged an international relations theory that focuses on the global flow of capital, and which attempts to integrate theories of the nation state while also ensuring that capital is treated as operating independently of national boundaries. This is world-systems theory. Its architect was Immanuel Wallerstein (1930-2019), who incorporated the contemporary research and research methods of historians, sociologists, and political economists, into a comprehensive theory of international capital.
Wallerstein’s magnum opus, The Modern-World Systems series, comprises three volumes of his world-systems analysis, and reading it is to be the summation towards which the reading group progresses.
A Deep Dive into Pre-Capitalist History and Social Relations
Book: Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior by Christopher Boehm
Current Assignment: On Hiatus
Sundays @ 12:00pm ET (17:00 UTC)
Ecosocialism, Climate Change and the System That Scorches Our Earth
Book: Climate Change and Class War by Matt T. Huber
Assignment: Finish “Electrifying the Climate Movement…” (pp 243-256)
On the Fifth Day by Jane Hirshfield https://poets.org/poem/fifth-day
Sundays @ 2:00pm ET (19:00 UTC)
Climate change, global boiling, environmental disaster, dying forests, poisoned waters, collapsing ecosystems, ecocide, climate anxiety, climate depression, the deliberate and negligent destruction of our home planet. Humans are part of the environment yet we find ourselves in dominion of our world’s ecosystem by capitalists and not as curators of it. You feel it, we feel it.
This reading group of LBC seeks to discuss Capitalism and the forces it fuels to destroy the environment and the lives within it. Together we can challenge nihilism and doomerism by expanding our knowledge of our natural world, how it’s paying the price of the actions and decisions of the bourgeoisie, and what actions we can take as the working class in the face of the ongoing crisis.
How Otherizations Mediate Class
Book: The Right To Maim by Jasbir K. Puar
Assignment: Chapter 1: “Bodies with New Organs…” up to mid-chapter section “Becoming Trans?…” (pp 33 – 50)
Sundays @ 4:00pm ET (21:00 UTC)
Queerness as a concept has morphed from a general association of ‘otherness’ into what is contemporaneously bound by partitioned limits of gender/sexuality. While this certainly is important, this effectively pushes out other ‘otherizations’ outside of ‘queerness’ and segments them into their own, isolated conceptions. In practice, different axes of otherness affect and inform each other and the resultant class experience in ways that cannot be explained under just their constituents (independently or additively); what is required is a holistic perspective of their queerness in its entirety to examine how their class experience emerges and is mediated.
As an additional point, queerness as understood as just gender/sexuality is particularly susceptible to homo-nationalism under neoliberal capitalism’s ever-expanding crusade to appropriate: all that is anti-capitalist melts into capitalism. This then transforms even just conceptions of gender/sexuality (itself a partitioning of gender-sexuality) towards a white, colonial ontology (binarism, cissexism, transmisogyny, etc.) which erases indigenous/pre-colonial understandings and histories of gender-sexuality. A goal of this reading group is not to simply expand the notion of queerness outside of gender/sexuality but to let those other otherizations double-back and expand notions of gender-sexuality.
Marx, Engels, and Others: Foundational Left Theory
Just Starting: The Right to be Lazy by Paul Lafargue
Assignment: Finish the text!
Monday @ 8:00pm ET (01:00 UTC)
The Mass Strike by Rosa Luxemburg
Capital Vol. 1 by Karl Marx (up to Part 4)
The Origins of the Family by Frederick Engels
Critique of the Gotha Program by Karl Marx
The Civil War in France by Karl Marx
Wage Labor and Capital / Value, Price, and Profit by Karl Marx
State and Revolution by Vladimir Lenin
The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte by Karl Marx
Socialism: Utopian and Scientific by Frederick Engels
Socialists grouping together and talking about ideas has a long tradition. Marx and Engels were immersed in the socialist intellectual milieu that extended across France, England and much of Europe. Rosa Luxemburg led socialist reading groups and classes in Germany and Poland in the early 19th century. Vladimir Lenin strongly believed that “We must make books accessible to the masses as soon as possible.”
There is precious little space in our society for political reflection and political development. Reading together provides us with the opportunity to do so on a collective basis, and reading foundational leftist theory is a way to provide us with ideas and tools from the long rich socialist tradition that better equip us to take on the struggles of today. By reading and discussing the seminal works of the socialist tradition together we can better forge links between history and the present and connect the sometimes disparate struggles we are engaged in.
Marx, Engels, Lenin, and the other foundational authors we read in this group offer powerful theories of political economy. Despite the differences our historical distance from their time creates, understanding these writings gives us analytical tools that still resonate in our current world.
Although Marx wrote in another country, at another time and under different conditions affecting the struggling working class, we can still use Marx’s writings on economic and political theory to understand the specific practical problems of the ongoing struggle against the depredations of capitalism.
As Lenin wrote, “Three keys to success: read, read, read.”
Mental Illness, Addiction, and Disability Under Capitalism
Just Starting: A Thousand Plateaus; Capitalism and Schizophrenia by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari
Current Assignment: First half of 10,000 BC: The Geology of Morals, up to the words “creating relative fields of reterritorialization” on page 55
Wednesdays @ 7:00 ET (0:00 UTC)
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Health Communism by Beatrice Adler
Ghosts of My Past by Mark Fisher
Burnout Society by Byung Chul-Han
Capitalism and Disability:Selected Writings by Marta Russell
24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep by Jonathan Crary
Lost Connections by Johann Hari
Capitalist Realism by Mark Fisher
This club aims to read, discuss and learn from books that apply critiques of capitalist society to how it creates, worsens, and perpetuates mental illness, addiction, and disability (MIAD), and how it creates a class character among the people with such conditions. Especially under US cultural norms and capitalism, these conditions are attributed to individualized causes, such as moral failings, dysfunctional interpersonal relationships, or a poorly understood disease model of the human brain’s neurochemistry. The readings should aim to understand the underclass/lumpen MIAD in terms of broader, external societal level issues manufactured by capitalism, globalization, propaganda technology, and imperialism, and trace how it connects to MIAD conditions. Within this scope is also critique of the profit motives driving the psychological, psychiatric, medical, and addiction treatment establishments, and exploration of methods of true liberation that addresses the internal and external causes of MIAD conditions.
The Russian Revolution by Sheila Fitzpatrick
Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict by Norman Finkelstein
Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano
Mao’s China and After by Maurice Meisner
The Darker Nations by Vijay Prashad
Prisoners of the American Dream by Mike Davis
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
Soviet/Russian History, Economics, and Foreign Policy
Book: Farm to Factory; A Reinterpretation of the Soviet Industrial Revolution by Robert C. Allen
Saturdays @ 11:00pm ET (16:00 UTC)
A History of the Soviet Union from the Beginning to End by Peter Kenez
Russia has been an enormously influential country throughout its history, but especially since the early 18th century when it joined the great power ranks. The one event Russia is most famous (or infamous, depending on one’s political views) for is undoubtedly the Russian Revolution, given its effects not only on the subsequent Russia’s history but also the whole 20th century’s history. Russia carried out the first socialist revolution in world history and built (or at least tried to) the first socialist state. Even though Russia’s socialism later degenerated into Stalinism and ultimately collapsed, it is still extremely important to pay attention to this experience and learn from its mistakes. There is also a lesson to be learned from comparing the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia, especially with a focus on economics and society. Arguably, Soviet and post-Soviet Russia present an excellent historical case for comparing socialism and capitalism as different economic systems, with both their advantages and disadvantages.
Take your political education into your own hands