2016-17 first meeting

4 Oct

The first meeting of CSE Midlands this academic year will take place on Monday 10th October at 12.30 in room 429 in the Muirhead Tower.

This meeting will be to discuss the texts we wish to read this year and any other events we may want to hold. Suggested texts so far include:

We are open to other book suggestions, so please bring them with you to the meeting or send them through email. If you have any suggestions regarding speakers to invite or events to host, please feel free to let us know. We will also be discussing viable meeting times for this year, so please inform us if you have preferences.

All welcome


Against the commercialisation of the university: strikes, protests and/or Jeremy Corbyn?

16 May

Against the commercialisation of the university: strikes, protests and/or Jeremy Corbyn?

A solidarity event hosted by CSE Midlands in support of the UCU pay dispute

25 May 2016, University of Birmingham Chaplaincy (i.e. on the “right” side of the picket line)

Over-paid managers are taking over our universities. Our wages continue to decline in real terms, whilst the managers who introduce “5-year plans” and “departmental restructures” see their bloated salaries continue to escalate. The University of Birmingham’s Vice-Chancellor, Sir David Eastwood, earns £416,000 per year, one of the highest in the country. Its Chancellor, Lord Bilimoria, was recently exposed by international press coverage of the Panama Papers, as having earned £3.2 million in dividends at the same time as his company, Cobra Beer, was about to go bankrupt. Should the university be run according to ‘market logic’?

This event, replacing a planned launch event for the current special issue of the journal Capital & Class, on Left Convergence, will see authors from that special issue discuss the various ways in which we can and should learn from past and present discussions and experiences of social struggle, so that we might (re)discover how to end the neoliberal logic that is taking over our universities. The special issue can be found here: http://cnc.sagepub.com/content/current


12.00 Welcome, strike rally and update, Roland Brandstaetter, University of Birmingham UCU Branch President

12.10 Student Support for the Modern Languages campaign

12.20 Elio Di Muccio, University of Birmingham UCU anti-casualisation campaign, “You cannot have your cake and eat it: employers, casualisation and the proletarianisation of the workforce”

12.30 LUNCH (provided)

1.00 Introduction and the case for left convergence, Alex Prichard and Owen Worth

1.30 On representation and prefiguration, Teivo Teivainen

1.45 Lessons from horizontal politics, Nick Kiersey

2.00 Different context, same questions? the Kurdish struggle and the Rojava revolution, Yagmur Savran

2.15 Open discussion: maximising impact and gaining stronger leverage in our campaigns

3.30 END – Drinks (provided)

Location: St Francis Hall, “O2” in this map: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/university/edgbaston-campus-map.pdf

Hosted by CSE Midlands

Open to all picketers, those on strike, and supporters – children welcome


Left-Wing Convergence?

3 May




Special Issue launch event

Left-Wing Convergence?
Capital and Class, 40(1)

Wednesday 25 May 2016, 1.15 – 5.15pm
University of Birmingham, Muirhead Tower 415

Confirmed speakers: Alex Prichard, Owen Worth, Yagmur Savran, Simon Choat, Nicholas Kiersey, Teivo Teivainen.

The current issue of Capital and Class is a Special Issue: Left-wing convergence. The aim of the special issue is to consider the prospects for convergence between different strands of left thought and practice, and especially that between anarchism and Marxism. As the editors of the special issue, Alex Prichard and Owen Worth, argue, “in the current context, convergence between the two has not merely become a possibility but, one might suggest, a necessity.”

The special issue includes contributions from Alex Prichard and Owen Worth, Teivo Teivainen, Bice Maiguashca, Jonathan Dean, and Dan Keith, Judith Vey, Nicholas Kiersey and Wanda Vrasti, Simon Choat, Stuart Ingham, and Angela Wigger. It can be found here: http://cnc.sagepub.com/content/current

This Special Issue launch event will feature discussion and presentations around the core issues raised.


1.15 Welcome

1.30: Introduction: Left-wing convergence, Alex Prichard (University of Exeter) and Owen Worth (University of Limerick and managing editor of Capital and Class)

2.00: The Rojava Revolution: An experiment in left convergence?, Yagmur Savran (UNRISD/University of Bradford)

3.00-3.15: tea/coffee

3.30: Panel/papers

Simon Choat (Kingston University), Marxism and anarchism in an age of neoliberal crisis

Nicholas Kiersey (presenting) (Ohio University) and Wanda Vrasti (Humboldt University), A convergent genealogy? Space, time and the promise of horizontal politics today

Teivo Teivainen (University of Helsinki), Occupy representation and democratise prefiguration: Speaking for others in global justice movements

4.30: Appraising the possibility for left-wing convergence: a discussion led by David Bailey (University of Birmingham)

5.15 End, followed by drinks

Attendance is free. Hosted by CSE Midlands. Please register by emailing: d.j.bailey@bham.ac.uk

More details: https://csemidlands.wordpress.com

CSE Midlands Winter reading schedule

16 Nov

This is the reading schedule for the winter and into spring 2016.

As always, all are welcome!

  • 6th November Critical Pedagogy and the Academy I: the politics of academic work

Frederick Moten and Stefano Harney – “The Academic Speed-up” in Workplace: the Journal for Academic Labour. Abstract: http://ices.library.ubc.ca/index.php/workplace/article/view/184003

Stefano Harney and Frederick Moten – “Doing Academic Work” in Chalk Lines: The Politics of Work in the Managed University. Description: https://www.dukeupress.edu/Chalk-Lines

  • Friday 27th November Dialectical Materialism


Muirhead 431

Ernst Bloch – Commentary on ‘Theses on Feuerbach’

Following on from last session’s reading and discussion, Ernst Bloch provides an extended commentary of this piece by Karl Marx.

Herbert Marcuse – “The History of Dialectics” in Herbert Marcuse: Marxism, Revolution and Utopia (Collected Papers of Herbert Marcuse, Volume 6)

Marcuse recounts the history of dialectics in an accessible way.

  • Friday 11th December Critical Pedagogy and the Academy II: the political economy of academic work

12.30 – 1.30

Muirhead 431

Ian Pirie – “The Political Economy of Academic Publishing” in Historical Materialism. Abstract: HERE

Massimo De Angelis and David Harvie – “Cognitive Capital and the Rat-Race: How Capital Measures Immaterial Labour in British Universities” in Historical Materialism. Abstract: HERE

Reading over the break: David Lodge – Nice Work (single chapter)

A novel based on campus and in the city of Birmingham by notable English Literature professor David Lodge. This novel follows an English literature academic who is forced to take part in an exchange programme which puts her at the heart of declining local British industry.

  • Friday 15th January Marxism and Value

12.30 – 1.30

Muirhead 431

Karl Marx – “Fragment on Machines” in Grundrisse

This short section of the Grundrisse sees Marx analysing the role of technology in capitalist development. The arguments featured in these pages have notably served as the theoretical basis of developments in autonomous Marxism.

Robert Kurz – The Substance of Capital (single chapter)

This book, from which we would like to select a chapter, is an important contribution to Marxism from the German Wertkritik, or value-form critique. It has recently been translated and is about to be published in English.

  • Friday 5th February Critical Pedagogy and the Academy III: the abolition of academia and independent working class education


Muirhead 431

Richard Hall – “On the Abolition of Academic Labour: The Relationship Between Intellectual Workers and Mass Intellectuality” in Triple C. Abstract: HERE

Colin Waugh – PLEBS (pamphlet)

This pamphlet is a strong account of how public education was mobilised in Britain to undermine autonomous working class education. It also tells a tale of how the British working class proceeded to resist and defeat this attempt at co-optation.

  • Friday 26th February The Local State and the Management of Public Money


Muirhead 431

CSE State Group – Struggle Over the State (pamphlet)

This is a rare pamphlet by the CSE State Group – featuring a Marxist examination of changes in the British state in the midst of capitalist crisis in the 1970s.

Cynthia Cockburn – The Local State

This is a short but very good book from which we would like to select a chapter. In it, Cockburn theorises the local state from a Marxist perspective on the basis of empirical studies of working class communities in Britain.

Simon Clarke – “State, Class Struggle, and the Reproduction of Capital” in The State Debate

This book chapter is arguably the best contribution of a seminal collection of open Marxist and Marxist-inspired writings on the state. It surveys all preceding literature and summarises the findings of Marxist state theory to date.

  • Friday 18th March – Ways of Seeing


Muirhead 431

Boaventura de Sousa-Santos – Epistemologies of the South (single chapter). Description: HERE

John Holloway – “Read Capital: The First Sentence” in Historical Materialism. Abstract: “Contrary to received opinion, Marx’s analysis in Capital does not start from the commodity, it starts from wealth. This has enormous theoretical and political implications”. SEE HERE

  • Friday 25th March – Spring and Summer Group organisational meeting


Muirhead 431

All welcome!

CSE Midlands Summer Reading schedule

18 May

Following our recent launch, we have agreed on the following for our summer reading schedule. We also intend to hold a number of seminars and research events over the coming months – watch this space!

Schedule below – all welcome!

Monday JUNE 1 – Marxism and the Philosophy Internal Relations – University of Birmingham, Muirhead 415, 12.00 noon

Monday June 22 – The State – University of Birmingham, Muirhead 431, 12.00 noon

Monday July 13 – Operaismo (Workerism), University of Birmingham, Muirhead 415, 12.00 noon

Monday 14 SEPTEMBER Workers’ Inquiry, University of Birmingham, Muirhead 431, 12.00 noon

OCTOBER 5 – Autumn organising meeting & readings, University of Birmingham, Muirhead 431, 12.00 noon

CSE Midlands launch event: What is to be done in the age of austerity and autonomy?

23 Mar

CSE Midlands launch event: What is to be done in the age of austerity and autonomy?

17 April 2015

University of Birmingham

Room: Muirhead 113

Confirmed participants include: Sarah Amsler (University of Lincoln), Malia Bouattia (National Union of Students), Craig Gent (University of Warwick/Plan C), Whyeda Gill-Mclure (University of Wolverhampton), Keir Milburn (University of Leicester), Doug Nicholls (General Federation of Trade Unions), Rob Johnston, Campaigns and Policy Officer for TUC Midlands

The ability, and desire, to mobilise, organise and associate, autonomously of traditional left institutions, has been widely noted of late. Much theorising on the left highlights the move towards a ‘politics of autonomy’; and the wave of anti-austerity movements that have challenged established institutions (in the form of the indignados, Occupy, Gezi Park, and UK Uncut) seem to chime with this theoretical agenda. This move towards an autonomous and vibrant left appears to be a source of hope especially as these new social movements add weight and renewed force to the continuing resistance from public service workers and their unions to years of austerity and public service reform.

Yet, this occurs at the same time as the so-called ‘age of austerity’, in which concessions that have in the past been made by the capitalist state are now being withdrawn; repression, rather than concessions, is increasingly becoming the response of the state to social mobilisation. This repressive neo-liberal reaction is evidence of the underlying contradictions of capitalism which traditional Keynesian-type state intervention leaves intact.

These underlying contradictory trends in contemporary capitalism raise crucial questions of strategy, tactics and analysis. The launch of this CSE Midlands group is an attempt to provide a forum for radical and anti-capitalist activists, critical scholars, and activist/critical scholars to come together to discuss ‘what is to be done’ in this apparently contradictory age of autonomy and austerity. This launch event will feature a panel focusing on some of the key contextual developments that contemporary radicals face; followed by a roundtable discussion on “what is to be done?” We intend the launch of CSE Midlands to be followed by similar events across the Midlands, including on contemporary industrial relations, the 2015 general election, contemporary social movements, and current trends in radical and Marxist theory.

CSE Midlands launch event: What is to be done in the age of austerity and autonomy?

17 April 2015

University of Birmingham

Room: Muirhead 113

2.00 Intro/opening

2.15 Session One: conceptualising the contemporary context

Sarah Amsler (University of Lincoln), Higher education for social justice

Whyeda Gill-Mclure (University of Wolverhampton), The politics of public service reform

Keir Milburn (University of Leicester), Austerity and contemporary capitalism

3.30 break

3.45  Session Two: what is to be done?

Rob Johnston, Campaigns and Policy Officer for TUC Midlands

Doug Nicholls, General Secretary, General Federation of Trade Unions

Malia Bouattia, National Union of Students Black Students’ Officer

Craig Gent, University of Warwick/Plan C

5.00 END – Followed by drinks

POLSIS Marxist and Radical Politics Study Group 2014-15

19 Aug

The POLSIS Marxist and Radical Politics Study Group returns for 2014-15.

For the second term, we will begin by reading:

Monday 26 January, 4pm, Muirhead 431: Kathi Weeks (2011) The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries, (Duke University Press). We will start with a discussion of the introduction and the core themes of the book.

Monday 23  February, 12-1pm, Muirhead 431, Chapters 1 and 2, https://libcom.org/files/the-problem-with-work_-feminism-marxism-kathi-weeks.pdf

Monday 9th March, 12-1pm, Muirhead 431, Chapters 3 and 4,  https://libcom.org/files/the-problem-with-work_-feminism-marxism-kathi-weeks.pdf
Monday 30th March, 12-1pm, JG Smith G21, Chapter 5 and Epilogue, https://libcom.org/files/the-problem-with-work_-feminism-marxism-kathi-weeks.pdf

For the first term we are intending to read Bertell Ollman’s Dance of the Dialectic: Steps in Marx’s Method. All welcome – and also if people want to suggest readings for next term, and/or to present papers – please do so.

Friday 26 Sep – 4.30, Muirhead 431: Ollman, Dance of the Dialectic, Intro, Step 1, and Step 2

Friday 17 Oct – 4.30, Muirhead 431: Ollman, Dance of the Dialectic, Step 3

Friday 7 Nov – 4.30, JG Smith G21: Ollman, Dance of the Dialectic, Step 4

Friday 28 Nov – 4.30, Muirhead 431: Ollman, Dance of the Dialectic, Step 5

All welcome!