The introductory lecture of David Harvey’s online course Reading Marx’s Capital was nothing short of excellent. It was a clear exposition of how you must approach Capital if you want to read it seriously. Here is the second class as promised. This lecture covers Chapters One: The Commodity and Chapter Two: The Process of Exchange. For those wondering which edition of Capital Harvey is using, they are the Vintage and Penguin Classic editions.
Also, since nothing is free in the world of capital, Harvey is asking for donations to keep the course online.
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- By Sean — 11 years ago
Sometimes you have to feel sorry for the Russian liberal opposition. Not only do they seem to be out of touch with the sentiments of the population, or seem to offer any alternative to Putinism, they also appear prone to something I call historical transfiguration.
Take for example, what “parallels” Grigory Yavlinsky of Yabloko, Leonid Gozman of SPS, and Garry Kasparov of Other Russia see between the Russia of 1917 and Russia of 2007. Yavlinsky said that some of those parallels are “the dominance of corruption and bureaucracy, the absence of inner mechanisms for modernization, the absence of economic and political competition, the absence of a mechanism for the government’s renewal, and the absence of the chance to form a responsible and efficient opposition.” Gozman thinks that like in 1917, today’s rulers have an “absolute feeling of stability, and the tsar also had it. In addition, the opposition is being ousted toward revolution, and the tsar did not want to discuss anything as well. He had his own truth, and this was quite enough for him.” And never to be outdone, Kasparov claims that the “analogies with 1916-1917 are quite explicit.” “The Objective tensions are rising in society,” he explained, “and this is exactly what serves as the main engine of revolutionary processes. For instance, a gap between the rich and the poor has reached an unimaginable size.”
I don’t know what history books these three are reading. Because they leave out one crucial factor: World War I. The war was the number one issue in 1917. All of the instabilities that the above three speak of were exacerbated by it. Russia’s failure at the front is what made the difference between revolution and protest. The Revolution would have gone nowhere without soldiers willingly, and often happily, turning their guns on their officers. Take for example these Okhrana reports from 26 February 1917:
“In the vicinity of the Church of Christ the Saviour, the 4th company met a mounted patrol of 10 policemen; the soldiers abused the policemen, calling them “pharaohs,” and firing several volleys at them, killing one police man and one horse, and wounding one policeman and one horse. Then the soldiers returned to the barracks, where they staged a mutiny. Colonel Eksten came to put it down and was wounded by one of the soldiers; his hand was cut off.”
That same day, Okhrana agents also reported:
“As the military unites did not oppose the crowds, and in certain cases even took measures tending to paralyze the initiative of police officials, as for two days the mobs wandered unhindered about the streets, and as the revolutionary circles advanced slogans: “Down with the war” and “Down with the Government”–the people became convinced that the revolution had started, that success was on the side of the mobs, that the Government was powerless to suppress the movement because the military units were on the side of the latter, that a decisive victory was in sight because in the very near future the military units would opening join the revolutionary forces.”
It was actions like these, not just in Petrograd, but also at the front which made the Russia Revolution, as one scholar argued, essentially a mass soldiers’ revolt.
Moreover, it is no secret that the key to the Bolshevik’s taking power in November 1917 stemmed from the fact that they controlled almost the entire Petrograd garrison and had solid support among soldiers at the front. This why 66.9% of soldiers at the Western front cast their Constituent Assembly votes for the Bolsheviks.
Russian oppositionists might remember these historical facts before they try to draw “parallels” between Russian in 1917 and Russia now. After all, believing in their own analysis of 1917 might end them up on the wrong side of the gun.
- By Sean — 7 years ago
I recently published a review of Igal Halfin‘s Red Autobiographies: Initiating the Bolshevik Self in the journal NEP Era: Soviet Russia, 1921-1928 (vol. 5, 2011). For those who want a taste of my academic work, here’s the review’s opening paragraph:
For more than fifteen years, Igal Halfin has been a master craftsman in the academic cottage industry of “Soviet subjectivity.” His work is essential reading, and his texts provide both historical and methodological inroads for the ways discourse enveloped Soviet citizens’ self-representation. While his arguments remain controversial, their influence on our understanding of Soviet subject formation cannot be denied. It was Halfin along with Jochen Hellbeck who turned Michel Foucault into a permanent fixture in Soviet Studies. Halfin has urged us to take language, narrative structure and their deployment seriously. He even introduced a distinct Halfinian lexicon: “the self,” “brotherhood of the elect,” “the soul,” “towards the light,” “subjectivity,” “conversion,” “poetics,” and “eschatology.” Whatever one thinks of his methods and conclusions, one cannot pose questions about the Soviet subject without engaging Igal Halfin’s work.
You can download a pdf of the review here.
- By Sean — 10 years ago
It appears that some of Medvedev’s liberal posturing is producing concrete results. Or at least someone is getting the signals. Finally, fi-nal-ly Memorial has gotten its materials back from the St. Petersburg prosecutor. Twelve computer hard disks, or “Winchesters” as one report calls them, about 1000 business cards belonging to A. D. Margolis (the general director of St. Petersburg Rescue Fund and editor of the St. Petersburg Encyclopedia, and heаd of several Memorial projects), and seven CDs and DVDs were returned to the human rights organization on Thursday.
The return of Memorial’s property followed another ruling in its favor by the Dzerzhinsky court that deemed the December raid by the police as unlawful. The case’s lead investigator Mikhail Kalganov decided to not press the issue further. “Yes, this is our victory,” Memorial’s lawyer Ivan Pavlov told Kommersant. “And we think that in this case the Russian legal system managed itself [well]. The court has shown that it is on the right side.” It also didn’t hurt, the advocate said, that Russia’s representative to the OSCE spoke out on Memorial’s behalf. So the question is did the legal system work or did Memorial have an influential patron? Or better yet, is this another, albeit small, sign of a Medvedevian “thaw” in the forecast?
A thorough inspection of the “Winchesters” will be done on May 13 to make sure the authorities didn’t erase anything or damage any of the files.
Thus ends an almost six month ordeal. It’s nice to see a happy ending to an incident that generated cries about the return of Stalinism. As I said in my last post on the Memorial Saga, I expect this victory to get as much press as the initial raid.
Still, despite the positive outcome, Memorial still had to jump through several hoops for a victory that they never should have been forced to fight for in the first place. Which leaves one crucial question unanswered. Why was Memorial raided exactly? I guess we’ll never really know. I don’t expect Chief Investigator Kalganov to shed any light on this any time soon. For the time being, he’s got some wounds to lick.