Conter vs Corona Lecture Series

Reading Time: 9 minutes

The coronavirus is generating a crisis in global capitalism that puts us in uncharted territory. The international lockdown is exposing the system, and revealing who the real wealth creators are: the working class.

It overlaps on to pre-existing geopolitical tensions between the major powers and within trade blocs like the EU. And it is possible that we are on the verge of a global depression deeper than the 1930s. Once again the powerful will seek to maintain their system by punishing millions of people through new rounds of austerity, authoritarianism and scapegoating.

Navigating this situation is not easy. And the left has been disarmed at an institutional level with the demise of Syriza, Corbyn and Sanders. But there is still the potential for a new society to emerge – one that puts people and planet ahead of the corporations and the banks.

This lecture series will look at the key issues the virus raises: the economy, globalisation, imperialism, class, oppression and organisation.



Tariq ali

Political activist, writer, journalist, historian, film maker and oublic intellectual. Tariq is a member of the editorial committee of the New Left Review.

He is the author of numerous books including Pakistan: Military Rule or People’s Power, Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity, Conversaitions with Edward Said, The Obama Syndrome, and The Extreme Center: A Warning.

Tariq Ali

The Crisis of Democracy and It’s Consequences

Capitalism used to legitimise itself as the democratic way of life. However, a generation of triumphant neoliberalism left a very different legacy: a scarring democratic deficit, economic decline and the rise of authoritarian populism. Donald Trump may be the most obvious sign of system failure, but no country has escaped, and leftist responses have been consistently confused, as illustrated by the Brexit debacle.

In this lecture, one of the world’s leading public intellectuals addresses the future of democracy under capitalism. Tariq Ali, a longstanding advocate of Scottish independence, will discuss the global context for our thinking about popular sovereignty.

Bio: Tariq Ali rose to global prominence with his role in resisting the Vietnam War. As a leader of the global New Left, he befriended the likes of Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Since the sixties, he has remained at the forefront of leftist thinking in a variety of capacities. He is an editor of New Left Review and the author of dozens of books, including The Extreme Centre: A Warning.

Earlier Lectures

Costas Lapavitsas

Neoliberalism and the Coronavirus

How will the coronavirus impact the economy? Will neoliberalism develop an authoritarian and punitive responses to the virus? In this first lecture, former Syriza MP Costas Lapavitsas will discuss the central fault-lines facing the system today, elite responses, and the role of the left.

Bio: Costas Lapavitsas is a professor of economics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He was elected as a member of the Greek parliament for Syriza in 2015. He is the author and editor of numerous books, including Crisis in the Eurozone, Political Economy of Money and Finance, and Beyond Market Driven Development.



Leo Panitch

Labour and the Left After Corbyn

What does Keir Starmer’s leadership of the Labour Party mean for the left? Is this the end of the road for “Corbynism’? Or is there still hope for the left in the Labour Party? In his new book Searching for Socialism, published this month, Professor Leo Panitch examines Corbyn in the context of the Bennite left’s long struggle to transcend the limits of “parliamentary socialism” and democratise the party, as a precondition for democratising the state. He will discuss this, and the possibilities of the left today, with activists in Scotland

Bio: Leo Panitch is a Distinguished Research Professor of Political Science and Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy at York University. Since 1985, he has served as co-editor of the Socialist Register. Panitch, considered the protege of the late Ralph Miliband, is the author of more than 100 scholarly articles and nine books including The End of Parliamentary Socialism: from New Left to New Labour (2001), Renewing Socialism: Transforming Democracy, Strategy and Imagination (2008), and The Making of Global Capitalism (2012).



Deepa Kumar

Racism, Capitalism, Imperialism

What is the relationship between racism and capitalism? How does Western imperialism impact racism, at the levels of the state and in everyday life? The left often talk about racism as a tool to divide a multiethnic working class. But can this explain the sheer pervasiveness and depth of racism in society? Professor Deepa Kumar discusses the dynamics of contemporary racism, offering tools for activists to understand how it works, and how to fight it.

Bio: Deepa Kumar is a professor of journalism and media studies at Rutgers University, where she is also the president of the lecturers union, AFT-AAUP. She is the author of many articles and books including Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire.



Tithi Bhattacharya

The Coronavirus and Social Reproduction Theory: Feminism in the Age of the Pandemic 

Social Reproduction Theory has been championed by marxist feminists as a way of deepening our understanding of everyday life under capitalism. By analyzing issues such as child care, health care, education, family life and the roles of gender, race and sexuality, it disects the relationship between economic exploitation and social oppression. In this lecture, professor Thithi Bhattacharya will discuss this in the light of the corona virus pandemic, offering a way for feminists and the left to understand the impacts of the virus, and how we can organize to confront them.

Bio: Tithi Bhattacharya is a Marxist historian and activist, writing extensively on gender and the politics of Islamophobia. She has been active in movements for social justice throughout her life, spearheading campaigns across three continents. She is the Professor of South Asian History at Purdue University and the author of numerous books, including Social Reproduction Theory (2017) and Feminism for the 99% (2019). Her writing has been published in the The Guardian, Journal of Asian Studies, Electronic Intifada, International Socialist Review, Monthly Review, Jacobin, Salon and the New Left Review.



Kali Akuno

How Do We Build Power in the City? Strategic dilemmas of municipal socialism

How do we develop a left strategy to take power in our cities? And what strategic dilemmas will we face if we succeed? Activists in Jackson, Mississippi – a state dominated by the far right – did just this. They built a movement based on combining social movement activity, people’s assemblies throughout the city, a network of workers coops, and a political strategy that won the Mayors office, electing Chokwee Lumumba, a radical black nationalist and socialist. In this process they had to take on a highly mobilized right, that undermined their efforts at every turn. There are many lessons that can be drawn from this incredible project, a project that people in Europe have heard far too little about. We are incredibly lucky to be joined by one of the leaders of this movement, Kali Akuno, who will discuss the strategic dilemmas involved in building left power in the city.

Bio: Kali Akuno is the co-director of Cooperation Jackson, a network of worker cooperatives in Jackson, Mississippi. He is a longtime organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and a member of the New Afrikan People’s Organization. He served as the coordinator of special projects for Jackson Mississippi’s late radical Mayor, and former Black Panther Party lawyer, Chokwe Lumumba. He recently coauthored the book Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi



Jodi Dean

From Allies to Comrades

In the twentieth century, millions of people across the globe addressed each other as “comrade.” Now, among the left, it’s more common to hear talk of “allies.” In Comrade, Jodi Dean insists that this shift exemplifies the key problem with the contemporary left: the substitution of political identity for a relationship of political belonging that must be built, sustained, and defended.

Bio: Professor Jodi Dean is an activist and author. She is the Harter Chair in the Humanities and Social Sciences at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. She is the author or editor of twelve books, including Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies (Duke, 2009), Blog Theory (Polity, 2010), The Communist Horizon (Verso, 2012), and Crowds and Party (Verso, 2016).



Alfredo Saad-Filho

The Authoritarian Turn: Global Neoliberalism in Crisis

Will capitalism become more authoritarian as a result of the Corona virus? World renowned political economist Alfredo Saad-Filho argues that around the world neoliberalism is in the grip of three overlapping crises: the sharpest economic contraction in the history of capitalism; the disintegration of ‘liberal democracy’, and COVID-19. This session will examine the political economy of these crises, their relationships, and the authoritarian turn in these three domains. Join us for a talk in which Professor Saad-Filho will consider these trends, and discuss how the left should respond.

Bio: Alfredo Saad-Filho is a Brazilian socialist, writer and academic. He is Professor of Political Economy and International Development in the Department of International Development at King’s College London. He is the author of numerous books, including: Brazil: Neoliberalism versus DemocracyMarx’s ‘Capital‘; and Neoliberalism: A Critical Reader

David Harvey

The Anti-Capitalist Chronicles

How should we understand the capitalist system in light of the interconnected crises we are witnessing? What will the coming economic crisis look like? And how will the system respond? As well as violence and disaster, David Harvey sees the possibility of new forms of resistance emerging in the present moment. In this lecture, he will discuss the themes of his latest book The Anti-Capitalist Chronicles exploring the economic, political and social dimensions of the crisis.

Bio: David Harvey is arguably the world’s foremost Marxist intellectual. He is the author of more than 27 books, in which he has been tracking the evolution of the capitalist system as well as the dynamics of radical movements of opposition rising against it. David Harvey is distinguished professor of anthropology and geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Harvey will talk about the themes of his latest book, The Anti-Capitalist Chronicles, in which he introduces new ways of understanding the crisis of global capitalism and the struggles for a better world.



How Do We Abolish the Police?

Calls to abolish and defund the police are rapidly gaining traction across the world after the murder of George Floyd. There has been a realization that the problems is in what the police are tasked with doing — not how they are doing it. In the US the Minneapolis City Council has voted to disband it’s police department, while Los Angeles and other cities are already making cuts to police budgets to fund other social needs. In Scotland authorities are under pressure to reform a police force that is responsible for the death in custody of Sheku Bayoh – just one more example of the racism that pervades Scottish institutions.

But could we really abolish the police? What would an alternative justice system look like? Is it a viable option or just utopian dreaming?

Conter is bringing together a panel of global and local experts to discuss defunding and abolishing the police. By learning from global examples as well as from Scottish activists involved in criminal justice refom, we can start to build a mass movement at home to end police violence.

Karma Nabulsi

Silencing Palestinian Voices: Why International Solidarity Still Matters in the Struggle for Justice

Thursday 25th June, 6pm

Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to begin a huge operation in July of this year to occupy and formally annexe huge new swathes of land in the West Bank. In the current global crisis, which Netenyahu describes as a “historic opportunity”, the Israeli military is beginning its preparations to annex 30 percent of what remains of the West Bank. This will lead to the construction of major new settlements which the Israeli government has already announced will be off limits to Palestinians who’s land will be seized. Additionaly, many Palestinian cities and population centers will now be completely surrounded by what would become Israeli sovereign territory.

In the UK, however, we have heard nothing about this. Instead there has been an campaign waged against anyone declaring solidarity with Palestine, with prominent supporters of international justice, such as Jeremy Corbyn, being smeared as an anti-semite and a terrorist sympathizer. Palestinians speaking up about injustices in their homeland have also been the target of vicious attacks. This amounts to the silencing of Palestinian voices, and it has to stop.

Bio: Karma Nabulsi is a leading member of the global movement for justice in Palestine. From 1977-1990 she was an international spokesperson for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), serving at the UN, and in Beirut, Tunis and in the UK. Karma is a lecturer in the Politics and International Relations Department at Oxford University, where she has served as director of the famous “Politics, Philosophy, Economics” (PPE) program, as well as the Director of Graduate Research. She is the author of numerous books on political thought, the legal aspects of warfare, and Palestinian history.

Leigh Phillips

Planning and Planet: Rethinking Ecosocialism, Modernity and Growth

Thursday 2nd July, 6pm

Economic growth, progress and industry have come in for a sharp from the green left and beyond in recent years. Everyone from black-hoodied Starbucks window-smashers to Prince Charles himself seem to be embracing ‘degrowth’ and anti-consumerism. This, Leigh Phillios argues, is a form of ecological austerity.

In this talk, science journalist Leigh Phillips marshals evidence from climate science, ecology, paleoanthropology, agronomy, microbiology, psychology, history, the philosophy of mathematics, and heterodox economics to argue that progressives must rediscover their historic, Promethean ambitions and counter the reactionary neo-Malthusian ideology that not only retards human flourishing, but won’t save the planet anyway. “We want to take over the machine and run it rationally”, he argues “not turn the machine off”.

Bio: Leigh Phillips is a science and EU affairs journalist who has written for Nature, the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, the New Statesman, and Jacobin. He is the author of a number of books including Austerity Ecology & the Collapse-Porn Addicts and The People’s Republic of Walmart: How the World’s Biggest Corporations are Laying the Foundation for Socialism.

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