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Book review: Marxism in Today's World
A new edition of Marxism in Today's World, about the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), the international organisation which the Socialist Party is affiliated to, was released this year.
Since it was first published in 2006 I have found this book useful and inspiring. It puts the CWI's position on many vital issues and explains the method and analysis behind it.
The book arose from a long interview by an Italian Marxist, Yuri Columbo with Socialist Party general secretary Peter Taaffe and the CWI's Bob Labi.
Its conversational style makes it an engaging read, helping the reader find their way through many, often complicated, political questions such as the national question in Ireland and Israel/Palestine and the class nature of the former Soviet Union and of China today.
Internationalism is vital to Marxists. Workers have common interests across national borders and socialism cannot be built in a single country.
That internationalist perspective runs through the book which focuses on international issues. There is an appetite for these ideas - it has been translated into at least five languages, on top of the original English and Italian versions.
The book is reproduced now because, the new introduction explains: "there is a generalised crisis of capitalism throughout the globe." A lot has happened in the seven years since the original publication including the deep economic crisis and the Arab Spring's mass revolutionary movements. These are mentioned in a new introduction.
For Marxists truth is concrete, you cannot always transplant old slogans into a new situation. But defending an independent working class approach and our consistent application of Marxist methods and ideas mean the positions outlined in the book stand the test of time. It correctly anticipated many subsequent developments.
While Gordon Brown was still claiming to have abolished 'boom and bust' and most capitalists expected uninterrupted economic growth, we said of the world economy: "Often a flame flares the brightest just before it dies out.
"All the ingredients of a collapse are there.... the whole mighty edifice of society has become indebted.
"The world economy is resting on 'chicken legs', the US housing boom and the growing Chinese reserves."
Comparing these predictions to the unthinking optimism of most capitalist economists at the time shows the superiority of the Marxist method!
In tracing the process leading to the end of apartheid in South Africa, the book explains that despite empowerment for a small black elite, the country still has the same capitalist set-up.
But it also predicts "the revolutionary drive and potential is there amongst the working class, which will break out again."
The new edition's front page is a picture of the founding conference of the Workers' and Socialist Party, built out of the heroic struggles of South African workers, especially miners, following the Marikana massacre.
The first time I read the book it helped me get my head round the issues discussed but even now I find it a valuable resource to help put forward and explain our ideas.
I recommend it to new and potential members as a good introduction to our party and international. It is useful for those wanting to compare our approach to that of other left organisations and internationals.
The ideas in this book play a practical role in building the CWI. A few years ago we recruited two Indian members, living in Bristol for a time.
Translating the book was important preparation for their return and gave them a useful tool for their pioneering work in a new part of their country. I would recommend Marxism in Today's World for all readers of the Socialist.
Marxism in Today's World by Peter Taaffe
Answers on war, capitalism and environment
Special offer: £8 including P&P
Available from Socialist Books: PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD
020 8988 8789 socialistbooks.org.uk
In The Socialist 6 November 2013:
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