Fundamentals of Marxism

Fundamentals of MarxismKarl Marx explained that capitalism is a chaotic system of production beyond the control of humanity. While it raised human productive capacity higher than anytime before, it is doomed to plunge society into ever-greater crises. But Marx also explained that the system creates the modern proletariat. This class is set to overthrow the capitalist class and, on the basis of modern production, build a planned economy to use the resources of society for the benefit of all. These are not outdated ideas but vastly more in touch with the general processes in our world today, than most modern texts.

Marx developed his ideas as a direct continuation of the greatest thinkers of German philosophy, English political economy and French socialism. More than anything, Marx developed a method, a comprehensive philosophy, and a world outlook purely derived from the material world that we live in. Marxism is the science of the underlying laws that govern nature and society. It is only by studying these laws that we not only achieve the best understanding of society, but also discover the role and tasks of revolutionaries.

Far from a dead, dry ideology, Marxism is the science of revolution, a guide to action. For any revolutionary today, a serious study of the ideas of Marxism is an urgent necessity in order to understand the working of the world that we are trying to change.

– From Reading guide: the ideas of Karl Marx

One hundred and twenty years ago - on March 14 1883 to be precise - Karl Marx, one of the greatest figures in human history, died. Despite over a century of attacks, distortions and attempts to belittle Marx's contribution, no-one can doubt that he dramatically altered the course of human history.

We are reproducing a slightly edited version of What is Marxism? by Rob Sewell and Alan Woods, last published in 1983 to celebrate the centenary of the death of Karl Marx. The three articles on the fundamental aspects of Marxism, Marxist Economics, Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism were originally published separately in the 1970s. These articles are a good, brief introduction to the basic methods of Marxism and can serve as a first approach to the ideas developed by Marx and Engels.

At first sight it may seem that the republication of The Communist Manifesto requires an explanation. How can one justify a new edition of a book written almost 150 years ago? Yet in reality the Manifesto is the most modern of books.

This Socialist Appeal pamphlet was written by Ted Grant and Alan Woods in March 1994 as an introduction to to Marxism in Our Time by Leon Trotsky. It is a powerful defence of the relevance of Marxist ideas at a time when the forces of socialism appeared to be on the back foot. The subsequent decades proved the validity of these lines: "The next period will see big battles between the classes that will put the struggles of the past in the shade."

Trotsky's 'ABC of Materialist Dialectics' is a brilliant short explanation of Marxist philosophy. It was written as part of a defence of Marxism against a middle class revisionist tendency in the American Trotskyist movement in the late 1930s, which attempted to challenge its basic principles. As opposed to pragmatism and empiricism, Trotsky defended dialectical materialism as a richer, fuller, more comprehensive view of society and life in general. 

Written in the summer of 1917, in the heat of the Russian Revolution, Lenin’s State and Revolution is a key work of Marxism. Here, Lenin explains that, stripped of all non-essentials, the state is in the final analysis “groups of armed men”: the army and the police, in defence of the ruling class.

This marvellous little pamphlet by James Connolly has introduced millions of workers to the basic ideas of socialism. We are reprinting it so that the working class and youth of today can continue to read it and profit from its arguments.

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.

Critique of the Gotha Programme is a critique of the draft programme of the United Workers' Party of Germany. In this document Marx address the dictatorship of the proletariat, the period of transition from capitalism to communism, the two phases of communist society, the production and distribution of the social goods, proletarian internationalism, and the party of the working class.

This pamphlet was commissioned by the Communist League in 1847 and was first published on February 21, 1848. It was co-written by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels and is probably the most influential political writing of all time. It outlines the basic perspectives of what would subsequently be referred to as “Marxism.” These ideas have formed the basis for revolutionary struggles throughout the world up to the present day.

With Marx philosophy finally emerges out of the dark and airless cellar to which it was confined for centuries by scholastic thought and dragged out, blinking, into the light of day. Here at last thought is united with activity – not the one-sided purely intellectual activity of the scholar but real, sensuous human activity.