All sciences think through their own concepts. History, as a science, which examines the laws of motion of society, also has its own concepts. Anyone who wants to understand the motion of society is primarily required to learn the concepts of history and comprehend the societal laws by thinking in accordance with these concepts and explain the facts via these concepts. Hence, this necessitates a methodology of learning history as it does of every science. This method, by the force of its dialectical construct, follows a course from the knowledge of the laws of the movement of the present day society to the knowledge of the laws of the past social forms, in which more backward relations of production prevail. Thus, the past becomes meaningful in the present time. This is the first aspect that determines the composition and the form of our reading program.
Secondly, as is known to all, Marx’s analysis of capitalist economy involves the subjects of capital, wage labour, land rent, capitalist state, foreign trade and the world market. Although there are different debates on this issue, the broadly claimed opinion is that the former three subjects were tackled in the three volumes of Capital, while the latters were not be able to be written, as Marx’s lifetime was not long enough to continue his works. We believe that as well as explaining the present facts of society by the laws of history, the path to the improvement of the science of history can be achieved through completing the three subjects which could not be written by Marx.
Therefore, our reading program aims at developing Marxist science in the scopes of capitalist state, foreign trade and the world market.
Our reading program is designed and implemented as a three-stage process, based upon these concerns.
First stage; Basic Reading:
We only read the three volumes of Capital (-chronologically- 1867; 1885; 1894) at this stage. As a rule, while we are reading the last chapter of the first volume, “Primitive Accumulation”, we include the chapter titled “Pre-Capitalist Forms of Production” in Grundrisse (1857) into our reading process. Our aims, in this process, is (1) to internalize the concepts presented in Capital; (2) to succeed in thinking through these concepts; (3) to comprehend the laws explained in the three volumes; (4) to analyse historical meanings of the economic categories in the society we live in; (5) to gain ability to explain the current phenomena that we witness today through the laws revealed in Capital.
In this process, we do not refer to any secondary sources or readers for an easier understanding of Capital, because science cannot be learned from summaries. In the basic reading, we first learn Capital in order to learn via Capital. In other words, first we learn the laws to explain social facts through laws.
Our reading method is dividing the three volumes of Capital into 30- to 70-page parts considering the integrity of the subjects. We expect from all participants to read the relevant part before the weekly-organized meetings. During these meetings one of the participants who has been assigned to give a speech for the following meeting summarizes the subject discussed in the previous week. Then another priorly assigned participant is expected to present the subject of the current week based on how s/he understands the relevant reading material. The parts which were not understood or were misunderstood are discussed by all the participants. A moderator who has gone through preceding reading processes moderates the discussion and helps the others to understand the subject as it is presented in the books. At the very beginning the moderator takes on the task of lecturing, not summarizing, till the chapter of “Machinery and Modern Industry” and of ensuring that the basic concepts are learned by the participants. In this process, our expectation from the participants is that they gain the ability to transfer the reading materials in the way, as they understand besides the ability to think and discuss through the concepts of Capital.
Second Stage; Symptomatic Reading:
In this process, we read texts written in reference to Capital, which focus on certain issues under the titles of capital accumulation, crisis and imperialism. We read each book by dividing it into a maximum of 200-page parts; for instance if a book has 300 pages, we try to read it in two weeks. Additionally, we meet every week to discuss the priorly read section based on the following questions. Our assessment questions are listed below:
Every participant reads and takes notes within context of the questions above. In weekly meetings, each participant presents her/his evaluation about every chapter (which is supposed to be priorly read) and the whole book (after they complete the reading process). In this process, the moderator also notes the presenters’ questions down. After the first round of the evaluation meeting is completed in this way, second round starts discussing different evaluations and questions suggested in the first round. There is not a quest for a consensus or reconciliation on any account. Differences in opinions continue to exist throughout the entire symptomatic reading process as the subjects of the persuasion process. Each participant has the right and the duty to convince other participants who think differently from herself/himself; therefore, one of the parties can be convinced of the other, in the following stages of the reading process. If this is not achieved, as the reading process at different levels proceeds, it is hoped that one of the conflicting thoughts will prevail since the subject is to be examined in further contexts as well, which is what has happened so far.
The list of the books we have included in the symptomatic reading process is given below. This reading list was initially more limited; however it was extended in the following periods due to deepening of our debates on relevant issues. The existing list is also open to change and extend in future
A- Accumulation/ Crisis/Imperialism
The process of capital accumulation, the crisis of capitalism and the theories of imperialism are examined regarding this headline. The following texts, which are significant sources in Marxism in historical terms, are read for the discussions within these scopes.
Rather than examining the general theory of history, we examine the history with regard to the transition process from feudalism to capitalism.
The subject of state is discussed under the titles of state in general, types of state and forms of state. The subject of capitalist state is not examined following the forms of Marx’s plan
After each moment of symptomatic reading has been accomplished, the participants are asked to write an article on a specific subject. The participant is expected to select the subject; however, if the subject of state has been read, for instance, the selected subject for article should be limited to the issues studied during the relevant reading process. After the articles are finalised, each participant sends her/his piece (via e-mail) to the group members in advance and reads it at the assessment meeting. After all participants have finished reading their work, the group members start evaluating them. In the symptomatic reading process, the participants are generally expected to shape an opinion concerning the following issues on (1) the differences between the texts written in reference to Marxism and related texts of Marxism and the reasons of these differences; (2) the nature of the relationship between the prevailing theories in present socialist movement and Marxism or the texts written referring to Marxism, the theoretical grounds of socialist movement; (3) whether Capital is sufficient to explain present-day capitalism or today is more accurately described by the texts written in reference to Capital. The aim of this reading process is (4) to enable the participants to distinguish Marxism from the bourgeois understandings seeping into Marxism.
Third Stage; Analytical Reading:
Our reading process at this stage is basically a writing process being more focused on the reproduction of the theory. This process has also two contexts. Firstly we try revealing the laws behind the phenomena of present-day capitalism through identifying them. In this sense, we seek answers of some questions like how the 21st century capitalism and capitalist state are defined; how the law of value in foreign trade works; how the division of labour in the world market is formed and how the consequences of it is depicted. The second context is the study on the problematic of the possibilities of socialism. We have read and written a lot concerning the peculiarity of the 21st century capitalism, the form taken by the law of value in foreign trade and the form of division of labour in the world market, but the process still goes on. In the process of analytical reading, rather than selecting books to read, we design the process by selecting reading materials based on the subjects in context of our writing process. Therefore we try to read, notably Marx’s, Engels’ And Lenin’s texts, all the texts we can access on relevant subject whether they are Marxist or not. In this process, the participants are expected to write what they read, which are evaluated and discussed during the meetings. Subjects to be read are re-determined and theory production process is conducted as a result of these discussions. At this stage, the participants are expected to inspect whether the present phenomena can be explained by the laws discovered by Marx or not and to develop theories capable of enlightening facts using Marx’s methodology (dialectic and historical Materialism) and to produce policies and political strategies based on these theories otherwise.