Marxist Classics

In this little book Connolly challenges the nationalist myths about the Irish struggle for freedom from British rule. Connolly’s aim was to convince the radical nationalists that their policy of a ‘union of classes’ would lead to disaster. He argued that Irish independence would bring little in the way of freedom and progress for the majority of the Irish people unless it included a fundamental challenge to the structure of society. He also shows graphically how the Irish capitalist class was always prepared to abandon and betray the struggle for liberation if its economic and social interests were threatened.

"No book can eradicate religion from the minds of masses who are crushed by capitalist hard labour, and who are at the mercy of the destructive forces of capitalism, until those masses themselves learn to fight this root of religion, fight the rule of capital in all its forms, in a united, organised, planned and conscious way. Does this mean that educational books against religion are harmful or unnecessary? No, it means that Social-Democracy’s atheist propaganda must be subordinated to its basic task—the development of the class struggle of the exploited masses against the exploiters."

Early Christianity arose at a time of upheaval and change associated with the crisis of slave society. The rise of Christianity is one of the most extraordinary phenomena in history. Kautsky's Foundations of Christianity deserves a far wider audience than it has had. The main conclusions have been strikingly confirmed by the latest discoveries of archaeology and in particular the Dead Sea Scrolls. As such, Kautsky’s book remains a masterpiece of the method of historical materialism.

Rosa Luxemburg's Reform or Revolution was one of the most important of her early writings. Written in 1899, it provides a devastating demolition of the theoretical and practical basis of reformism. It was completely valid at the time when it was written and it remains completely valid today. This work placed herself amongst the foremost leaders of the left of Social Democracy internationally, a role she was to occupy until her assassination in 1919.

Results and Prospects

Trotsky’s theory of the permanent revolution is one of the most important additions to the arsenal of Marxism. It was first developed by Trotsky in 1904, on the eve of the first Russian Revolution. At that time, all the tendencies of the Russian Social Democracy had the perspective of a bourgeois democratic revolution. Trotsky alone in 1905 put forward the idea that the Russian working class could come to power before the workers of Western Europe. The correctness of Trotsky’s theory was brilliantly demonstrated in 1917, when the Bolshevik Party under Lenin and Trotsky led the Russian proletariat to power in the first workers state in the world.

"Here is the answer to all the attacks of the clergy: the Social-Democracy in no way fights against religious beliefs. On the contrary, it demands complete freedom of conscience for every individual and the widest possible toleration for every faith and every opinion. But, from the moment when the priests use the pulpit as a means of political struggle against the working classes, the workers must fight against the enemies of their rights and their liberation." (Luxemburg)

First published in early 1902, What Is to Be Done? remains a classic of Marxism on the building of the revolutionary party, which sets out the party’s role as the organiser and director of the revolution. The pamphlet was written as part of a conflict with the opportunism of the Economists, who emphasised ‘bread and butter issues’ rather than theory. Lenin uses the book to explain the necessity of creating a centralised group of professional and dedicated revolutionary cadres before the “times of explosion and outbursts.” The history of the past 100 years has proven Lenin right: time and again, the masses have been ready to struggle, but let down by their leadership.

Lenin's famous call to arms makes the case for a disciplined revolutionary party, organised around an “All-Russian” political newspaper. Through the aid of a newspaper “a permanent organisation will naturally take shape that will engage, not only in local activities, but in regular general work, and will train its members to follow political events carefully, appraise their significance and their effect on the various strata of the population, and develop effective means for the revolutionary party to influence these events.”

Ever since Engels' arrival in London in 1870, he was keen to write a comprehensive work on science and dialectical materialism. The notes and studies for such a work make up the present volume, originally published in 1925. It is an essential read for all those who want to develop a deeper understanding of Marxist philosophy.

"A short, coherent account of our relation to the Hegelian philosophy, of how we proceeded, as well as of how we separated, from it, appeared to me to be required more and more. Equally, a full acknowledgement of the influence which Feuerbach, more than any other post-Hegelian philosopher, had upon us during our period of storm and stress, appeared to me to be an undischarged debt of honor. I therefore willingly seized the opportunity when the editors of Neue Zeit asked me for a critical review of Starcke’s book on Feuerbach." (Engels)

The family, private property, and the state – the basic institutions of capitalist society – are neither 'natural' nor everlasting. They are the product of specific economic and social conditions. Friedrich Engels traces the evolution of these institutions from the dawn of class society until capitalism. He shows how the oppression of women as a sex begins with the development of private property, and how the development of the modern working class creates the material basis to end that oppression.

This work was originally the first three chapters of a larger work, a polemic against Eugen Dühring entitled Anti-Dühring, which was first published in 1878. This selection, in pamphlet form, first appeared in English in 1892, and along with the Manifesto of the Communist Party, quickly became one of the most popular works of Marxist theory.

A classic of Marxism, Anti-Dühring was highly recommended by Lenin as a ‘text book’ of scientific socialism. It was originally written as a polemic against Eugen Dühring, a German revisionist who challenged the basic ideas of Marxism by counterposing his own ‘scientific’ theories within the Social Democratic Party of Germany. Very reluctantly, Engels was forced to take up these ideas and in doing so explained in the clearest fashion the revolutionary theories of Marxism.

In this essay Engels explains that the decisive step in the evolution of humans was the adoption of an upright posture. This move from walking on four feet to two was the result of changes in the environment, which forced some primates from the forests to the ground below, where they were required to travel long distances in the search for scarce food resources. This transition to a bipedal, upright stance freed up the hands and allowed them to develop a range of flexible functions.