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Marxism in Today's World
BILL MULLINS, the Socialist Party's national industrial organiser, reviews Marxism in Today's World, the new book from the Committee for a Workers' International.
THE NEW book published by the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), Marxism in Today's World, is an opportunity for many people to read in detail the ideas and policies of the CWI.
In the form of questions and answers, it came about as a result of an Italian publishing collective, Giovane Talpa, requesting that the CWI explain its ideas to an Italian audience. This book is the transcript of the extensive interview with Peter Taaffe that followed.
The format will give many people the opportunity to read how the ideas of marxism in the modern era are not the result of fixed and forever rules written in the 19th century - it is the method of marxism that shines through. The ability of the CWI to interpret the world today is a result of this method.
The questions are put by the interviewer Yurii Colombo from Giovane Talpa, who consider themselves marxists but from a different tradition to the CWI.
There are other previous examples where this has been done, such as Socialism on Trial and the questions put by attorneys to Leon Trotsky at the 1937 Dewey Commission in Mexico (see The Case of Leon Trotsky. The Dewey Commission, April 10 to 17 1937 Coyoacan, Mexico).
This was Trotsky's answer to the lies and slander against him and his ideas at Stalin's Moscow show trials in 1937. But it also gave Trotsky the opportunity to explain his ideas at considerable length.
The questions range from how the CWI looks at the world since 9/11 to our analysis of the national question in Northern Ireland, the marxist theory of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall and the permanent revolution today. On the way it takes in what happened in the Soviet Union - why the working class didn't fight back against the encroachments of capitalism - and whether Trotsky's pre-war perspectives for these developments were right or wrong.
The rapid industrial growth in China is also raised in the interview and whether this changes the world balance of class forces.
A penetrating discussion takes place around the question of the European working class, as manufacturing jobs disappear and white-collar workers, both in the public and private sector, come under attack.
This includes an analysis of the consciousness of this section of the working class and whether it can attain the strength and social weight of the industrial working class of the past.
Reform or revolution
The final 25 pages (the book is an easily readable 100-plus pages in length) deals with the history of the CWI and the Socialist Party. This brings out some of the misunderstandings about the CWI and the Socialist Party, both historically and today.
The accusation that our programme is reformist, particularly in relation to the state, is ably answered by Peter Taaffe (see also the recently published online pamphlet, Marxism and the State, an exchange on the Socialist Party website www.socialistparty.org.uk).
The question of the relationship between the International and the different national parties affiliated to the CWI and the membership as a whole is also discussed. In other words, democratic centralism in the modern era and whether it is still necessary to organise the revolutionary party along the lines of the Bolshevik Party of 1917.
I have no doubt that this book will be read with great interest by members of the Socialist Party and the CWI - from the newest to the longest-standing - and beyond. It will add enormously to the political development of all who read it.
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In The Socialist 22 November 2006:
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