March 14, 2015
March 25, 2015
London, United Kingdom
London Review Bookshop
March 09, 2015
Bristol, United Kingdom
Bristol Festival of Ideas
By Luke Billingham of Haven Distribution
On World Book Day, a day to celebrate and promote reading, we recognise that a book can be an incredibly important thing for anybody. Many people can identify books which have had a profound impact on them, perhaps even changed the way they live their life.
For prisoners, books can quite literally be a life-line—they can be an essential resource for their studies, which could be the key to their successful resettlement, or they can be the vital source of escapism that keeps them going day-to-day. Books help prisoners gain the qualifications needed for meaningful and fulfilling employment on release, and they provide the rich stimulation needed to tackle the chronic and crushing boredom that can eat away their self-worth.
On the weekend of the international conference on Nicos Poulantzas’s work held at the Sorbonne on 16–17 January, Contretemps published this interview with Michael Löwy, who was for seven years the late Greek-French thinker’s assistant at the Université de Paris 8-Vincennes.
Can you tell us about how you met Nicos Poulantzas?
In the 1960s my Brazilian friend Emir Sader – who to this day remains one of the most important Latin American Marxists – was living in exile in France. After my own move to France in 1969 I met with Emir one day and he said to me: ‘I have to leave for Chile’ (this was a few months before Salvador Allende’s Unidad Popular came to power, in 1970), ‘can you take my place as Nicos Poulantzas’s assistant at Vincennes university’? I said ‘yes, of course…’ That was when he introduced me to Nicos, who also agreed to this.
At that time, Nicos knew nothing of my own theoretical and political pedigree. He had no reason to worry about that, since Emir had vouched for me. But we belonged to very different tribes of Marxists: he was an Althusserian whereas I was a Lukácsian, he was semi-Maoist and then a Eurocommunist, whereas I was a Trotskyist. And yet we got along marvellously well. Over the years we organised courses on the Third International, the national question, state theory, Lenin, Gramsci… And at the outset we had decided to do the courses together. The students loved this, because they heard two different points of view on each of these themes. Our little duo lasted for some years…
Rosa Luxemburg [1871-1919], the Polish-born revolutionary and writer, was one of the most original theoretical minds of the early twentieth century. Her work stands as a testament to the great social of upheavals of the time and a life lived in struggle for a better world. She ultimately suffered for her convictions, spending time in jail between 1904 and 1906 and again for three and a half years for opposing the First World War, before her brutal and untimely death in 1919 at the hands of the proto-fascistic Freikorp. To mark her birthday, we have an extract from The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg that shows her characteristic mix of astute political and social analysis and incredible compassion for her fellow creatures. The letter, written around Christmas 1917 from her prison cell in Breslau to fellow SPD-member Sophie Liebknecht, relates an incident in the prison courtyard between a guard and a buffalo carrying piles of torn and bloodied clothes sent from the frontlines.
Writer and feminist Rachel Hills considers the relevance of Sheila Rowbotham’s Woman’s Consciousness, Man’s World in relation to contemporary notions of feminism and talks to Laurie Penny, Reni Eddo-Lodge, and Jacob Tobia about what we might learn from this work today. In Buzzfeed of all places!