Marxist Theory

Marx and Anglo Russian Relations and other writings

by David Riazanov, Francis Boutle publishers

This is not an easy book to understand, but the effort to do so is worthwhile. It is not a work of hagiography, but an example of how the method of Marx can be used to develop the Marxist understanding of history.

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Why the Working Class?

A look at what class society is and who can change it - by Mike

A slightly better known authority than myself once stated that: "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle." Today that struggle is between the class of exploiters - the bourgeoisie - and the class of the exploited - the proletariat. The proletariat have no choice but to sell their labour power to the bourgeoisie, who control the means of production. As such they are often named the working class.

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What do we mean by socialism? October 1917

“Marxism found its highest historical expression in Bolshevism. Under the banner of Bolshevism the first victory of the proletariat was achieved and the first workers’ state established.” so said Leon Trotsky in 1937, speaking about the revolution that took place in in Russia in October 1917.

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Rethinking working-class history: Bengal 1890-1940

A review of Dipesh Chakrabarty 'Rethinking working-class history: Bengal 1890-1940' Princeton, 2000, pp245 by Martyn Hudson

The question of the ‘east’ has always had a problematic status in both Marxist history writing and political practice. Vulgar conceptions of historical development and an inability to co-opt the ‘east’ into these kinds of mechanical explanations have bedevilled Marxist writing over the last century and a half. Marx’s own idea that the peoples of the east and particularly the peoples of India could not represent themselves but only be represented both historically and politically was only the first in a long line of theoretical blunders up to and including the ambivalent Bolshevik congress of the peoples of the east, the central Asian question under Lenin and Stalin, the suppression of Chinese Communism and the role of an independent and revolutionary India as expressed by revolutionaries such as MN Roy in the early Comintern.

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The Third Camp as history and as living legacy

This article by Alan Johnson, from New Politics, vol. 7, no. 3 (new series), whole no. 27, Summer 1999, sets out to "reconstruct the birth of Third Camp socialism in the split with Trotsky over the question of Russia's wars in Finland and Poland in 1939-40, and its development in the epoch of expanding Stalinism after World War II. I set out why the concept was indispensable to a politics of self-emancipation and revolutionary democratic internationalism in the period of the Cold War. The concept was not simply a rejection of the two imperialist war camps -- although that was the beginning of all wisdom. The partisans of the Third Camp, in the most unpropitious of circumstances, also developed a positive alternative to both war-camps, and to war itself, through the concepts of a 'democratic foreign policy' and 'political warfare.' I explore the Third Camp's rejection of the neutralism of the 'one-and-a-half-camp,' and its transcendence of the kind of crippling antinomies, the 'either-or' frameworks, which left Sidney Hook, Irving Howe and ultimately Max Shachtman as critical supporters of the capitalist camp, and the likes of Isaac Deutscher and the orthodox Trotskyists as critical supporters of the Stalinist camp. Second, the essay will explore the meaning of the Third Camp in today's post-Communist world, when the second camp has joined the first but the world is no nearer 'peace, freedom and prosperity'."
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Pacifism and war

There are many sorts of pacifist: the recent votes in the Commons on war against Iraq have shown that. Many of those who opposed Blair will now "come on side" and support "our troops" like the Daily Mirror.

In this article from early 1917 Leon Trotsky discusses the nature and limits of 'official pacifism' in the run-up to World War One and counterposes it to socialist class struggle- the only force on earth with the interest and the strength to stop all war.

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Anti-Capitalism: A Marxist Introduction

Anti-Capitalism: A Marxist Introduction, edited by Alfredo Saad-Filho (Pluto Press)

This book is well worth reading, but it could have been even better. The essays by a range of well-known Marxist academics include some important scholarship and many interesting insights, but it is an uneven book, with some chapters letting down an otherwise valuable collection.

The chief merit of the book is to explain that capitalism is necessarily a system in which wage labour is exploited by capital. Genuine anti-capitalism means understanding the exploitative nature of capitalism and opposing that, rather than the surface appearances of globalisation. There is a real sense that Marxist political economy is undergoing resurgence and this book is a powerful contribution to this revival.

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Wang Fan-hsi

By Din Wong

"I have spent the greater part of my life and effort in the struggle for socialism and against Stalinism." Wang Fan-hsi, 1907-2002.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, many on the left greeted the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in the USSR and Eastern Europe and the rise of US "New World Order" with dismay and despondency. But not Wang Fan-hsi, a life-long Trotskyist and Chinese communist revolutionary, who passed away in Leeds, England, on 30 Dec 2002, aged 95.

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Notes on Ellen Meiksins Wood

Some notes on Ellen Meiksins Wood, 'Democracy Against Capitalism'
By Clive Bradley


The work of Ellen Meiksins Wood (EMW from now on) has come up several times in these debates. As one of the most trenchant Marxist critics of 'post-modernism' and all its associated nonsense, she is an important thinker, and all her work I've read is readable and stimulating. I don't propose here to review much of it - I have neither the time nor the ability to cover it all, for one thing because it would require expert historical knowledge I make no pretence to having. (Consequently I won't be saying too much about her thesis regarding the bourgeois democratic revolution in Britain). Instead, I intend to focus on one of her most important books, 'Democracy Against Capitalism'.(Cambridge 1995). I'll try to summarise the argument, suggest some problematic areas, and conclude with some comments about how her argument relates (or doesn't) to the debate we've been having about the 'federal republic'.

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Republics and socialism: debate part 2

All republicans are republican - but some are less republican than others

This is a reply to a polemic by the AWL's Sean Matgamna entitled "Notes on the CPGB/WW". In this he devoted a section to the monarchy headed "All monarchs are monarchs, but some are less monarchical than others!". It was a criticism of the CPGB's republicanism, but could equally be directed towards the RDG.

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Republics and socialism: debate part 1

What the Butler saw
It has been a fascinating few weeks for republicans. The Burrell trial and the aftermath has provided the country with new insights into the secret world of royalty and further confirmation of the RDG's view of the monarchy in crisis. It is a crisis which began in the 1990's and continues to this day.

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'Federal republic' and workers' government

Schema or banality?
The CPGB and the 'federal republic'

By Clive Bradley

"The combination of capital created for this mass a common situation, common interests. This mass is already a class as against capital, but not yet for itself. In the struggle... this mass becomes united, and constitutes itself as a class for itself. The interests it defends become class interests. But the struggle of class against class is a political struggle."

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Vote Chirac? A relevant passage from Trotsky

In the run-off second round of the German presidential election in 1932, the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) called for votes for Hindenburg, a "traditional" right-winger, against Hitler -- just as in the previous presidential election they had backed Wilhelm Marx, the candidate of the Catholic-bourgeois-liberal Centre Party. Their catchcry was that workers must support the "lesser evil". A few months later Hindenburg appointed Hitler as Chancellor.
In his writings on Germany, aimed mostly at people in or around the CP, Trotsky largely takes it as obvious, not needing detailed argument, that the SPD vote for Marx or Hindenburg was unprincipled from a working-class point of view. In a later article, on Spain (14 September 1937), when he feels that not so much can be taken for granted in the way of his readers holding certain assumptions, he explains more.
Specifically, he argues that siding with the Republic in the Spanish Civil War was quite different from voting for Hindenburg.

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AWL conference 2000: Socialism in the 21st century

The working class

The world has over 2.8 billion wage-workers today (2,806 million in 1997, according to the World Bank). Of those, about 550 million work in industry, and 850 million in services.

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Learning from Rosa Luxemburg

Draft leaflet for SWP Rosa Luxemburg meetings

REFORM AND REVOLUTION. "For Social Democracy", wrote Rosa Luxemburg, meaning, in the language of the day, "for working-class socialism", "there exists an indissoluble tie between social reforms and revolution. The struggle for reforms is its means; the social revolution, its goal... The practical daily struggle for reforms, for the amelioration of the condition of the workers within the framework of the existing social order, and for democratic institutions, offers Social Democracy the only means of engaging in the proletarian class struggle and working in the direction of the final goal..."The revolutionary who believes that concerns for votes and elections and "democratic institutions", or defence of limited working-class betterment on issues like the welfare state or trade-union rights, is "reformist", is a poor and ineffective revolutionary. Workers' Liberty is working with the SWP and others to get joint working-class socialist slates to challenge New Labour in the June Euro-elections. We work with other socialists - and urge the SWP to join - in the Welfare State Network and the United Campaign for Trade Union Rights.

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For a workers’ government!

It is necessary to bring to an end the misery and insecurity that capitalism inflicts on the very people who create its wealth. This can only be achieved by the working class organising in a political party which fights for the liberation of the working class.

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Revolutionary socialists were never right

We are now in a period where it is widely acknowledged that there is a crisis of socialist perspectives. This is particularly true for those social-democratic parties across western Europe.

The essence of this debate about reform and revolution was summed up by Rosa Luxemburg at the time when she was engaged in a fight inside the German Social Democratic Party with Eduard Bernstein. Rosa said the debate between reform and revolution was not about different roads to the same goal but it was about different goals.

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