Revolutionary Marxism is a way of looking at the world, analysing it and changing it. It embodies certain key basic ideas (the ultimate priority of the mode of production in shaping society, including its ideas; the class struggle; the centrality of the working class in modern history). Marxism deals with an ever-changing reality. There is no rest, no finality. Reality moves, permutes, is transformed. The best texts of Marxism "age" and become progressively divorced from the evolved reality whose ancestor, so to speak, they captured.
There can be no "sacred texts". To treat any of the texts of Marxism, the past judgements of Marxists, as embodying supra-historical truth. is to break with the heart of Marxism and to transform attempted works of science into quasi-religious objects of veneration. To the degree that such texts are worshipped instead of being critically reviewed, used, worked over, they lose whatever power they had to illuminate reality and thus help us in the work of changing it. We kill or fail to develop the capacity in ourselves to use the tools of Marxism.The Marxists whose work is now venerated worked differently. Marxism was a method of analysing concrete reality. Previous Marxist attempts to analyse the same or antecedent reality offered guides, models, ideas, comparisons for the working, thinking, living Marxists. In truth. of course, everyone thinks about the world, even the religious text-worshippers, except that their cogitations do not go further than the thought that Marx or Lenin or Trotsky — or Stalin or Mao — was infallible and could tell you about your world, though it may have come into existence after they were dead.
Of course, what the dogmatist usually does in practice is pragmatically and impressionistically take an attitude on current events and then find the right quotes’ to dress it up. Marxism as a method of analysing reality atrophies.
Ireland shows at its worst this process of atrophying — and of dead “Marxism” being filled with alien content. Marx and Engels analysed Ireland. They died; Ireland changed.
Partial analyses of aspects of Ireland’s evolution were made by later Marxists influenced by Marx and Engels. Ireland evolved into two bourgeois states. And there, frozen at the point when the Communist International died as a Marxist, working-class organisation, "Marxism" on Ireland stopped.
Comments and analyses of Marx and Lenin (Lenin's radically wrong at the start. See articles on this website) became timeless truths of the Stalinist church and gained wide influence by merging with left-wing petty-bourgeois Republicanism.
"Trotskyists" who thought they had done their duty as Marxists if they re-labelled what the Stalinists called "completing the bourgeois revolution" and straight Republicans called "reunifying Ireland", calling it "Permanent Revolution" instead, have been a part, and not the least influential part, of this process. Nobody who knows both Irish reality and Trotsky's theory of "Permanent Revolution could believe “Permanent Revolution" has any bearing on Irish politics! I have never in 30 years found anyone able to argue for its seriously. But they "believe" it. It is the common dogma, functioning as a licence for playing the chameleon to petty bourgeois nationalism.
Marxists, if they are Marxists, draw from life, not from the dead or half-dead reflection of ever-changing life in old analyses.
(From Marxism and the Irish revolution, a criticism of Rayner Lysaght's compilation, The Communists and the Irish Revolution” , 1995)