San Jose, California. On February 1, 2020 around forty people attended a social science workshop for activists organized by the Ambedkar-King Study Circle, California. 15 women and 5 individuals self-identified as gender non-conforming attended the event. Most of the participants were either volunteers or members of various social, philanthropic or cultural organizations in the California area and a few were academics and students. The workshop was divided into four sessions with topics covering Dialectical Materialism, Historical Materialism, Capitalism, the State, and Philanthropy and Neoliberalism, Fascism & Imperialism.
Mx. Jazmín Delgado from the Center for Political Education gave a detailed introduction on dialectical materialism and historical materialism. They covered the three laws of dialectical materialism: the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa; the interpenetration of opposites; and the negation of the negation with examples. Mx. Delgado emphasized the difference between subjective idealism and objective materialism and advocated for the use of historical materialism with the application of three laws of dialectical materialism in order to understand social change. The need for revolutionary theory to organize people was also discussed. Some historical background on how the contradictions in the old feudal societies were resolved with bourgeois revolution was provided. The session concluded with ideas on how to organize the working class to advance to a society.
Mx. Jazmin Delgado conducted a group discussion among the members on questions such as why do ideas matter? What contradictions exist in the organizations you are part of? After this discussion participants shared their discussion points to the whole group. Mx. Jazmín identifies as gender non-conforming.
Mr. Sandy Perry, from the organization Affordable Housing Network, took a class on Capitalism, the State and Philanthropy. He started his talk by explaining the need to develop and apply Marxism to current social problems. Mr. Perry then elaborated on how tech companies in the California Bay Area are responsible for raising home prices by moving to downtown and in turn this resulted in more homelessness. He emphasized that housing questions cannot be solved by philanthropic contributions from tech companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook in the Bay Area. He quoted US Presidential candidate Mr. Bernie Sanders who said that Apple as a company that doesn’t pay its fair share in taxes, and therefore contributes to the California housing crisis. Mr. Perry referred to Dr. Carl Benedikt Frey’s work on automation and labor and noted that 47% of jobs in the U.S are at risk in the next two decades thanks to automation.
In the context of his critique of philanthropy a question was asked by a participant about what is a better alternative for a working class person in the middle income range rather than contributing to philanthropy. Mr. Perry responded that one option is to fund the full time revolutionary political organizations.
Dr. Sharat Lin, board member of San Jose Peace and Justice Center, took a session on Neoliberalism, Fascism and Imperialism. He defined neoliberalism as the outcome of capitalism’s obsession for incessant growth and increasing profits in the face of periodic crises, competition, and the tendency of the rate of profit to decline. He walked through the different phases of capitalism such as primitive, consolidated, monopoly, finance and platform capitalism with respect to mobility of capital, mobility of labor, reproduction of capital, and knowledge as commodity. He quoted Clara Zetkin that fascism is the concentrated expression of the general offensive undertaken by the world bourgeoisie against the proletariat.
Dr. Lin explained the different stages of imperialism as tributary, capitalist, postcolonial and superpower imperialism. Monopoly export of capital, import of cheap manufactured goods and extra-economic enforcement of world order are the features of superpower capitalism. He concluded that capitalism can be transformed into either fascism or neoliberalism or social democracy or socialism based on the balance of class forces and revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces.
Mr. Jacob Hinton of Tech Workers Coalition (TWC)-San Jose introduced the TWC to the audience and talked about how the TWC is organizing the workers from tech companies in the South Bay. Tech workers who attended the workshop expressed their interests to participate in TWC activities in future.
The workshop was interactive throughout with interesting questions and discussions. Some questions included: are people rewarded according to their proportion of work in capitalism? Are innovations possible under socialism? How nature and society are interconnected and can work together? What is a better thing to do than philanthropic contribution by the working class? How to quantify the value of intellectual and manual labor? Are there are not dictators under both capitalism and socialism? There was a good exchange of ideas and opinions.
The aim of the workshop was to introduce and develop class consciousness among the participants and encourage them to be part of class organizations too besides social and cultural organizations. The organizers felt the workshop to be successful in this regard. The participants provided positive feedback to organize more workshops on each subject including detailed sessions on dialectics, neoliberalism, fascism and on more contemporary topics such as Marxism and the Caste Question, and Marxism and the Race Question. Women expressed their interest to organize a workshop on Marxism and feminism.
The workshop was concluded by reading America socialist Eugene V. Debs’ quote, “Ten thousand times has the labor movement stumbled and fallen and bruised itself, and risen again; been seized by the throat and choked and clubbed into insensibility; enjoined by courts, assaulted by thugs, charged by the militia, shot down by regulars, traduced by the press, frowned upon by public opinion, deceived by politicians, threatened by priests, repudiated by renegades, preyed upon by grafters, infested by spies, deserted by cowards, betrayed by traitors, bled by leeches, and sold out by leaders, but notwithstanding all this, and all these, it is today the most vital and potential power this planet has ever known, and its historic mission of emancipating the workers of the world from the thralldom of the ages is as certain of ultimate realization as is the setting of the sun.”