Marx, photo fhwrdh/CC
Marx, photo fhwrdh/CC

Helen Pattison

“Marx was right” was plastered across newspapers following the 2007-08 economic crash. Obviously they didn’t mean it. But the economic crash had exposed the broken capitalism for a new generation. Here we are again, heading for a renewed recession following a decade of austerity.

Capitalism has shown it can’t offer a decent standard of living, especially to the next generation. Based on competition and the pursuit of profit, it is incapable of the cooperation and planning needed to protect the planet.

But capitalism won’t simply dismantle itself. A fight must be waged, backed up by a Marxist analysis, to defeat it. That’s what’s on offer in the Socialist Party’s latest publication ‘Introduction to Marxism – the basic concepts’,  offering an understanding and analysis of Marx’s ideas applied to the situation today.

This book gives a background to very real questions Socialist Party members are being asked. The chapter on Marxist economics is vital to answering questions on inflation. To explain why wage rises aren’t responsible for inflation you have to understand where wages come from and who produces value in society. All of this is addressed in the book.

With the Tory threat to further beef up trade union laws, it is again important to learn about the role of the capitalist state. Today, the crisis poses the possibility of new left governments coming to power in the future, and capitalist states will not be neutral in allowing them to come to power or implement their programmes. The chapter ‘The State and class rule’ explains a Marxist approach to these questions.

Capitalism is a system based on class and exploitation and private property. This informs how every area of society functions and is run. But it is not the only economic form society has taken and it won’t be the last. Studying historical materialism, the subject of another chapter in this book, should give readers the theoretical basis to understand why socialism is possible.

Marx and Engels also traced back the systematic oppression of women to the development of private property and the first class societies. Capitalism, a system based on inequality and exploitation, has gender inequality and sexism entrenched into it and therefore the struggle to end oppression must be linked to the transformation of society.

But especially galvanising for readers should be the chapter on dialectical materialism. Marx’s scientific analysis of society gives us an understanding of how outlook can change; how the anger boiling under the surface can develop into a revolutionary movement to challenge the system. This method of analysis enables us to draw up a programme to help the working class discover its huge strength and ability to change society, and to run it in the interests of all.

Every member of the Socialist Party should aim to read this new book. It should be towards the top of the reading list of every future new member. But Marx never wrote for people to simply read his work and sit on a shelf – and neither do we! He wanted his ideas to enable the next generation to change the world.

This book is to be read, discussed and debated. You can do that in a pair or as a discussion group as part of your branch. A Marxist understanding of the world is a socialist’s greatest tool.