September 12, 2013

A Study Guide for Revolutionaries

Lenin once remarked that the task of the youth could be summed up in one word: learn. Before we can build the forces of revolutionary socialism, we have to understand the inner workings of capitalism, the patterns of the class struggle and draw lessons from revolutionary history. We believe that only the Marxist method can furnish this understanding, and for this reason we’ve put together this study guide. The list is divided in different subjects, under which you can find resources ranging from introductory articles to more advanced books, all available for free online. Other than Marxist classics we’ve also included recent articles by members of the Marxist Student Federation.

The amount of readings may seem a little daunting – we encourage comrades to start reading groups in their Marxist Societies, both to improve their own understanding and to educate others. Remember: don’t spread yourself too thin!

 

The Basics

The Myths about Marxism by Owen Walsh and Gavin Jackson, Leeds Marxist Society – Examining some of the most common myths about Marxism and socialism, from the first issue of our magazine, Marxist Student.

Manifesto of the Communist Party by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels – The founding document of our movement. More relevant today than when it was written, predicting inequality, globalisation, imperialism and crisis.

Socialism: Utopian and Scientific by Friedrich Engels – Engels shows how socialism is not just “a good idea” but the result of the class struggle in capitalist society, and gives an overview of Marxist philosophy.

The State and Revolution by Vladimir Lenin – An explanation of Marx’s & Engels’s views on the state and socialism, and how they differed from the views of anarchism and reformism. Written on the eve of the October revolution.

The Transitional Programme by Leon Trotsky – How do Marxists win the working class over to revolutionary demands in an epoch of capitalist crisis?

 

Marxist Philosophy: Dialectical Materialism

The ABC of Materialist Dialectics by Leon Trotsky – A brilliant, short introduction to Marxist philosophy.

Theses on Feuerbach by Karl Marx – Difficult to understand at first, but one always returns to it. “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.”

Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy by Frederick Engels – Engels’s account of the development of Marxist philosophy.

Fundamental Problems of Marxism by Georgi Plekhanov – Another short exposition of Marxist philosophy by the founder of Russian Marxism.

Anti-Duhring by Frederick Engels – A longer book defending the application of dialectical materialism from natural science to revolutionary tactics. The first section concerns itself with philosophy, while the second is about economics and the third about socialism. Overall serves as a great textbook on Marxist theory.

 

The Marxist Theory of History: Historical Materialism

Preface to the Critique of Political Economy by Karl Marx – A short summary of the Marxist theory of history. “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.”

The German Ideology (Part One) by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels – The first full exposition of historical materialism, explaining the development of capitalism and how it gives rise to ideology.

The Materialist Conception of History by Georgi Plekhanov – A shorter explanation of historical materialism.

On the Role of the Individual in History by Georgi Plekhanov – Does Marxism ignore the role that can be played by parties, groups and individuals through history? Far from it.

The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State by Friedrich Engels – Using anthropological and historical data, Engels traces the development of classes in human society, explaining the origin of the family, women’s oppression, and the state.

 

Marxist Economics

Marxism in Our Time by Leon Trotsky – A primer on Marxist economics, originally written as an introduction to Marx’s Capital.

Capitalism and Crisis by Nigel Warren, QMUL Marxists – In an article for Marxist Student magazine, Nigel Warren explains the Marxist theory of crisis.

Wage-Labour and Capital by Karl Marx – A short book explaining labour-power, value, exploitation and various other aspects of capitalism.

Value, Price and Profit by Karl Marx – A speech given by Marx to the International Workingmen’s Association while he was writing Capital, explaining much of its contents. You can skip the first 5 chapters.

Capital Vol. 1 by Karl Marx – Marx’s magnum opus.

 

Revolutionary Socialism

In Defence of October by Leon Trotsky – In this speech, Trotsky explains the causes of the Russian revolution, the role of the revolutionary party, and defends October from common detractions.

The Class, the Party and the Leadership by Leon Trotsky – Looking at the defeated Spanish revolution, Trotsky explains the necessity and agency of the revolutionary party.

Reform or Revolution by Rosa Luxemburg – Classic polemic by the German revolutionary martyr, to be read by anyone who has any illusions in reformism.

‘Left Wing’ Communism: An Infantile Disorder by Vladimir Lenin – Basing himself on the victorious tactics of the Bolsheviks in Russia, Lenin explains how Marxists cannot have a sectarian attitude towards the organisations of the working class, even if these have a reactionary character.

The Lessons of October by Leon Trotsky – Another short book, in which Trotsky explains the universal lessons that can be drawn from the first successful workers’ revolution in history (discounting the short-lived victory of the Paris Commune).

What is to be Done? by Vladimir Lenin – In a polemic against the Mensheviks in 1902, Lenin lays out the basics of what would become Bolshevism. Absolutely essential but often misinterpreted – must be read in historical context.

 

Imperialism and Proletarian Revolution

Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism by Vladimir Lenin – Lenin explains how big banks come to dominate capitalist industry and the state, ravaging and enslaving the world in their search for super-profits. Essential for understanding modern capitalism.

Results and Prospects by Leon Trotsky – Best exposition of the Marxist theory of “combined and uneven development”, which follows from imperialism. Written in 1906, it predicts the revolutionary events of 1917.

The Permanent Revolution by Leon Trotsky – The political conclusions to be drawn from the fact of combined and uneven development.

 

Did Lenin Lead to Stalin?

Stalinism and Bolshevism by Leon Trotsky – Great article responding to the usual criticisms of Bolshevism.

What is Stalinism? by Mordecai Levi, Cambridge Marxist Discussion Group – An explanation of how Stalinism, or proletarian bonapartism, arose in Russia and then in other countries of the world. From the first issue of Marxist Student magazine.

The Revolution Betrayed by Leon Trotsky – Trotsky’s classic book, analysing the sources of the degeneration of the Soviet Union.

 

The Student Movement in Britain and Tasks of the MSF

Student activism and the role of Marxists by Adam Booth

What attitude should revolutionary students have towards the NUS? by Daniel Morley

Perspectives and Tasks for Marxist Students in 2015 by the Marxist Student Federation