Reading Lists: Canadian Social Formation and the Crisis in Marxism

So in my last post, I uploaded a paper that I had written whilst I was a member of my previous organisation. I had said that in a following post I would talk more about the communism I was more in favour of and the theoretical bases for my shift away from Maoism. I, however, have not had an opportunity to write that post and think that I will not be writing that post for a while as I want to think through my arguments carefully and, in fact, want to do a lot more study before proffering a series of positions. So in this post, I am going to upload another document that I had written for a study group that we organised for students about the history of Canadian communism. The document is quite flawed in my assessment, but allows me to frame the reading lists I have copied below. So here is the document: The History of the Communist Movement in Canada 1920-2010. This is likely the only other document that I will release from this period of my political work.

Now given that this document is incredibly flawed, which in turn reflects my own admittedly relatively weak grasp of the concrete conditions in which I have been organising for the last 15 years, I have decided to engage in two studies: 1) the history and political economy of Canada and its real movement of history; and 2) the ‘crisis in Marxism’ that came to a head in the late 1970’s, which tried to arrive at a Marxist theory of the modern State and the appropriate strategy in relation to said modern State. The way in which I mean this crisis: 1) is the crisis of the revolutionary left, Maoist or Trotskyist, especially in Europe and North America with the retreat of the social movements; and 2) the crisis in the orthodox Communist movement caused due to the events in the late 1960’s in Eastern Europe (like the crushing of the Prague Spring) and the failure of Eurocommunism in Western Europe. These studies are meant to help me first understand the conjuncture better, which in turn hopefully will allow me to articulate what I think a Canadian communism ought to be in the 21st century. Indeed, I think, for example, the fact that Canada has a long liberal tradition of political thought, which has been reflected in its State institutions, which was not the case in Tsarist Russia or in semi-feudal semi-colonial China, will have a profound impact on the road to revolution in Canada.  Given that this will be in addition to my own academic work and family responsibilities, I do not have time to read more than two books in my spare time. That is why there is one book for the first topic per month, and another book for the second topic per month. In the coming months, my hope is to continuously update this blog with study notes and impressions on these books.

As background reading I have been reading the main texts of “Eurocommunism”, in both its rightist and leftist variations. So I just finished reading Fernando Claudin’s absolutely amazing book, The Communist Movement: From Comintern to Cominform (1975) and his left Eurocommunist work, Eurocommunism and Socialism. Claudin was a leading member of the Communist Party of Spain (PCE), fought in the Spanish civil war, and was kicked out of the PCE for his disagreements regarding the pro-Moscow line of the PCE and their endorsement of Moscow’s actions in the Eastern bloc pre-1968. Interestingly, the RCP,USA cites Claudin’s The Communist Movement repeatedly in their essays in Revolution about Spain and it seems like they cribbed a lot of their analysis of Stalin from him. However, whereas Claudin takes a turn, which I am in favour of, towards focusing on the national particularities and articulating national roads to communism, whilst advocating for an internationalism that de-emphasises the defense of one State (the USSR) and emphasises the revolutionary process as a whole through the prior focus on national revolutionary movements; the RCP,USA similarly de-emphasises the defense of one state, but then argues for a new world party that pivots on agitating for revolution in national countries from the worldwide level. Finally, I just started reading what is considered the paradigmatic Eurocommunist book by Santiago Carrillo, Eurocommunism and the State, which I hope to finish reading in the next 2-3 days, before turning formally to the syllabi below. Although I may read Hoxha’s “anti-revisionist” polemic as well before I do so. If people, would like to read along and discuss the books when I post about them, they are more than welcome.

The Canadian Social Formation

The History and Political Economy of Canada:
September: Stanley Ryerson – The Founding of Canada
October: Stanley Ryerson – Unequal Union
November: H. Clare Pentland – Labour and Capital in Canada, 1650-1860
December: William K. Carroll – Corporate Power and Canadian Capitalism
January: Jerome Klassen – Joining Empire
February: Ian McKay – Warrior Nation
The Real Movement of History in Canada:
March: Bryan Palmer – Working-Class Experience: Rethinking the History of Canadian Labour, 1800-1991
April: Peter Newell – The Impossibilists (200 pages)
May: Linda Kealey – Enlisting Women for the Cause: Women, Labour, and the Left in Canada 1890-1920
June: Norman Penner – Canadian Communism: The Stalin Years and Beyond
July: Stephen Endicott – Raising the Workers’ Flag: The Workers’ Unity League of Canada
August: Bryan Palmer: Canada’s 1960’s

The Crisis of Marxism

September: Galvano della Volpe – Rousseau and Marx (1964)
October: Nicos Poulantzas – Political Power and Social Classes (1968)
November: 1. Lucio Colletti – From Rousseau to Lenin (1969); 2. Lucio Colletti – Power and Democracy in Socialist Society (1969); 3) Lucio Colletti – The Question of Stalin (1970); 4) Lucio Colletti – Antonio Gramsci and the Italian Revolution (1971); 5). Lucio Magri – Problems of the Marxist Theory of the Revolutionary Party (1970); 6. Lucio Magri – Italian Communism in the Sixties (1971)
December: Louis Althusser – On the Reproduction of Capitalism (1969)
January: Ralph Miliband – The State in Capitalist Society (1969); Miliband – Poulantzas debate: A) Nicos Poulantzas – “The Problem of the Capitalist State”; B) Ralph Miliband – “The Capitalist State: Reply to N. Poulantzas”; C) Ralph Miliband – “Poulantzas and the Capitalist State”; D) Nicos Poulantzas – “The Capitalist State: A Reply to Miliband and Laclau”.
February: Nicos Poulantzas – Fascism and Dictatorship (1970)
March: Nicos Poulantzas – Classes in Contemporary Capitalism (1973)
April: Christine Buci-Glucksmann – Gramsci and the State (1975)
May: Nicos Poulantzas – The Crisis of the Dictatorships (1976)
June: Etienne Balibar – The Dictatorship of the Proletariat (1976)
July: 1. Louis Althusser – “On the Twenty-Second Congress of the French Communist Party (1976); 2. Louis Althusser –  “Some Questions Concerning the Crisis of Marxist Theory” (1976); 3. Louis Althusser – “The Crisis of Marxism” (1977); 4. Louis Althusser –  “What Must Change in the Party”(1978); 5. Louis Althusser – “Marxism Today” (1978); 6. Louis Althusser – “Marx in his Limits” (1978); 7. Louis Althusser – “On Marxist Thought” (1982); 8. Valentino Gerratana – Althusser and Stalinism (1977); 9. Valentino Gerratana – Stalin, Lenin and ‘Leninism’ (1977)
August: Nicos Poulantzas – State, Power, Socialism (1978)


2 thoughts on “Reading Lists: Canadian Social Formation and the Crisis in Marxism

  1. For studying history/political economy/revolutionary politics in Canada, seems like it should be necessary to include readings on colonialism and indigenous/First Nation stuff, no?

    1. Hi Arjun,
      Thanks for your question. Its an important one and the lack of texts is not an oversight. I would like to note that Ryerson’s first book, which is the first book on the syllabus, does discuss First Nations/indigenous history prior to and during contact, but agree that is insufficient in itself. I agree that it is vital to study for First Nations/indigenous history and political economy as well, however, think two things: 1) that to study First Nations/indigenous in a proper scientific way one has to create a syllabus similar to this one for Canada otherwise any single text will just be a tokenistic gesture. I am loathe to study the First Nations as some kind of appendage of the Canadian nation-state; and 2) given that the First Nations are semi-autonomous/autonomous from Canada, their histories, social movements and political economy needs to be understood as being related to, but not wholly determined in relation to, Canada and with its own dynamics. Hope that this clarifies why indigenous/First Nations stuff is not on this syllabus. Now you could argue that I should study the indigenous/First Nations stuff first? But given that I live and do political work in a predominately Canadian geographic locale, I felt that I should first study the Canadian nation-State.

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