Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/313/11640
Understanding Marxism - a guide to action
THE SOCIALIST Party has produced a new publication - a guide and explanation of the essential ideas of Marxism, the basis of our political ideas and organisational methods.
Annoesjka Valent reviews the new Marxist Education Pack.
HAVE YOU just joined the Socialist Party or have you just found out about us and would you like to know more about our general ideas? Then the new Marxist Education Pack is the ideal introduction for you!
It might look a daunting task: understanding Marxism. No need to worry.
Marx, Engels, Lenin or Trotsky wrote books for working-class people to help them understand the situation they were in and what could be done about it, to change it.
But if you've never read anything like this before, you might come across names and terms that you haven't heard of yet, so that's why we've specifically designed these packs: to summarise the basic ideas using modern examples and language.
And, of course, Socialist Party members will be more than willing to assist you in reading them.
The Marxist view of history
EVEN THOUGH Marx's ideas have been developed over time, its fundamentals have stayed the same. 'Dialectical Materialism' (Marxist philosophy) for example is still the most modern method of thought that exists.
As Trotsky observed in Marxism in Our Time:
"... if the theory correctly estimates the course of the development and foresees the future better than other theories, it remains the most advanced theory of our time, be it even scores of years old".
Defenders of capitalism state continually that Marxism is outdated.
But who was voted the thinker of the Millennium in a BBC poll in 2000? Exactly: Karl Marx!
But in order to preserve the status quo, the ruling class (the capitalists), will try to discredit the ideas of Marxism. By changing and hiding the truth, they're trying to morally justify their own rule and depict capitalism as the highest and most natural form of development.
Reading the packs, you will see on the contrary, that the Marxist method offers a much richer and fuller understanding of society and life in general.
It explains that neither big personalities nor supernatural powers are the driving force behind history, but that it's the productive forces, the economy in last instance, that determine the conditions of life, habits and consciousness.
From capitalism to socialism
Every re-organisation of society, whether it was slavery, feudalism or capitalism, initially resulted in an enormous development of the productive forces, which in its turn offered humanity a greater control over nature.
However, from the point where a social system is not able anymore to further develop the productive forces, society enters into crisis.
This is true for the situation under capitalism today: despite the marvellous inventions it cannot solve the basic killers in the world, malnutrition, diseases and war.
Capitalism is a system based on wasteful competition between nation states where rival multinationals fight to improve market share, productivity and profit at our expense.
The market doesn't work, no matter what explanation capitalist economists try to come up with. It has outlived itself.
But the transition from capitalism to socialism will not happen automatically. It is a process that needs the conscious intervention of the working class.
And it is a revolutionary party like the Socialist Party which can act as a lever.
Trotsky, in The history of the Russian Revolution, wrote:
"Without a guiding organisation, the energy of the masses would dissipate like steam not enclosed in a piston box. But nevertheless, what moves things is not the piston or the box, but the steam".
These are the basic ideas of Marxism covered in the introduction pack: philosophy, economics, history, the State, and the need for a revolutionary party.
After reading these, we hope you're keen to read more, so therefore a list for further reading is included in each one of them.
But more than that, we hope they will give you the confidence to act, because that is what Marxism comes down to in the end: it helps us to understand current events and anticipate what could happen in the future.
And this understanding is necessary to develop a correct plan for action that can assist working class people in their struggle to change society and introduce a democratic socialist society!
- Marxism: the term used to describe Marx's ideas. The collection of works by Karl Marx, added to by his closest collaborator Engels after Marx's death and subsequently added to and enriched by the writings and living experience of Lenin and Trotsky who led the 1917 October Revolution.
In The Socialist 6 September 2003: