Foto: Marx Remix

Call for Conference

Congress in Berlin, 3-6 May 2018
Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung

For the simple thing that is so hard to achieve…
To celebrate the 200th birthday of Karl Marx, the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung will be hosting a large conference. A short week will be filled with the theories, the politics and the arts that are connected to Marx’s anniversary. Many will want to celebrate Karl Marx as a great thinker. Some might even concede that he is one of the greatest thinkers of all time – but also as one who bears little relevance today. We beg to differ. And while some will praise his brilliant theory of crisis, they will denounce or not even mention his political perspectives. Others will say that communism, i.e. the “real movement” that Karl Marx and his fellow thinker and activist Friedrich Engels inspired, was responsible for real socialism, numerous of crimes and the Gulag. And by doing so, they will try to denounce the desire and dreams of another, non-capitalist future as idealist and dangerous. Not us.

Of course, critical self-reflection of Marxism-inspired politics is necessary – but also and at the same time the critical re-appropriation of a radical perspective of emancipation and liberation. For the simple thing that is so had to achieve – as the German playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht called it. For a future, for a perspective of hope which can help us move forward so that, in the here and now, we can “overthrow all relations in which man is a debased, enslaved, forsaken, despicable being.” The conference will be based on senior lectures and panel discussions. Furthermore, there will be broad opportunities for talks, debates and discussions which deal with central issues and topics of Marx’s theory, politics and perspectives of socialism. We are therefore encouraging individuals, groups and journals and editorial projects to submit their suggestions of panels, talks and presentations.

Karl Marx himself did not consider himself as a “Marxist.” He rejected final answers. He did not want to discover a history-philosophical key for an understanding of history just as much as he did not intend to develop a final socialist system. However, he understood his theoretical endeavors as a contribution to the abolition of capitalism. And many historical as well as contemporary activities, organizations and political parties of various kinds have drawn on Karl Marx’s work in order to change and create a better, more humane and more reasonable society. This, of course, had to have consequences for the theory of Karl Marx. It was enriched by numerous, fruitful questions and concepts, productive scholarly research and emancipative social movements – all of whom expanded and renewed it.

At the same time, there was also a dark underside. In real socialism and through a number of left-wing organizations, Marx’s theory became petrified as an ideology and it also became used as a power tool during social struggles. As a result, there has developed a long debate which concerns itself not only with the philological aspects or the inner-theoretical issues and problems in Marx’s oeuvre as well as the aspirations of Marx-inspired social actors; there is also a long-standing debate if and, if so, how emancipative movements can draw on Marx’s writings today. Is he just a classic writer even to leftists? Someone who has a place in the history of philosophy and economic thought? Or is his theory still a measure for a theory and practice of change?

In order to answer these questions, we pose the question what it means to be a Marxist today. In the various fields of materialist theory, the analysis of society, and political activism. The relationship between theory and the practice of change, the question of the subjects of transformation/revolution, the art of politics including a “revolutionary realpolitik” (Rosa Luxemburg), a new politics of class, and the horizons of socialist perspectives and utopias will be placed at the center of this conference.
Therefore, we will want to discuss, among other things:

  • Karl Marx and the trade-union movement/Being a Marxist in the labor movement
  • Karl Marx and the political party/Being a Marxist in socialist parties
  • Karl Marx, the state and democracy/Being a Marxist and democratic
  • Karl Marx, patriarchy and gender relations/Being a Marxist within feminist and LGBTQIA movements
  • Karl Marx and political ecology/Being a Marxist in the environmentalist movement
  • Karl Marx, imperialism, migration and racism/Being a Marxist in the anti-imperialist, post-colonial, peace, immigrant solidarity and anti-racist movement
  • Karl Marx and the far Right/Being a Marxist in the anti-fascist movement
  • Karl Marx and (the politics of) culture/Being a Marxist in the arts
  • Karl Marx as a philosopher/Being a Marxist in philosophy
  • Karl Marx and (the critique of) political economy/Being a Marxist in (the critique of) political economy
  • Karl Marx, the social question and class theory/Analyzing global capitalism and social class transformation with Karl Marx
  • What’s new in Marx’s and Marxist crisis theory?/Analyzing the current crisis of capitalism with Karl Marx
  • Karl Marx and (the) history (from below)/Being a historian and a Marxist
  • Karl Marx and socialism and communism
  • Karl Marx and the arts/Being a Marxist in the arts
  • Karl Marx and political theory
  • Karl Marx as a journalist/Being a Marxist in the media
  • Karl Marx and the digital age
  • What’s new in Marxist philology?
  • Why does one become or remain a Marxist and why not?

On May 5th, Karl Marx’s 200th birthday, a special event on “the dangerous classes” will be held at the Hebbel am Ufer Theater in Berlin

The conference languages are German and English. However, in some exceptional cases papers in French and Spanish will also be considered.

The Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung will in some cases award international travel grants, especially from countries of the global South. However, it is advisable to seek travel funding from other (home) institutions (trade unions, political initiatives, political foundations and home universities). Please circulate widely.

Please submit your paper, panel and workshop proposals to

The deadline for paper, panel and workshop proposals is Octobre 2017. You will be informed of the Stiftung’s decision by 31 Novembre 2017