Political Theory

THE leader of the Communist Party of Germany, Ernst Thaelmann, who was murdered in 1944 by the nazis in the Buchenwald concentration camp, said in 1925 that anniversaries are for communists and the class-conscious “not vain commemoration days, but guidelines for class struggle, manuals for action.”

This is valid also for today. To honour Marx is to remind us of the most important thinker in the history of Europe, to study his ability to combine theory and practice.

Friedrich Engels, his close friend and comrade-in-arms, described this in 1883 in his speech at Marx’s grave.

“Just as Darwin discovered the law of development or organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history — the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc, that therefore the production of the immediate material means, and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given epoch, form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, art and even the ideas on religion of the people concerned have been evolved and in the light of which they must, therefore, be explained, instead of vice versa, as had hitherto been the case.”

There were, naturally, materialist philosophers before Marx.

But he was the first to explain and demonstrate that the state, ideas or religious faith are not the driving forces of history but rather the dialectics of productive forces, of technology and man, and of production conditions, in juridical terms, the conditions of property.

Darwinism posits natural selection as a driver of animal evolution. In an analogous way, Marxism posits that class struggle is a driver of social and economic change.

THE eulogy given by Engels at Marx’s grave in 1883 may be more than touched by grieving. But was it over the top?

Charles Darwin discovered the law of the development of organic nature upon our planet. Marx is the discoverer of the fundamental law according to which human history moves and develops itself, a law so simple and self-evident that its simple enunciation is almost sufficient to secure assent.”

Those who denigrate evolution say: “But it’s only a theory.” And so it is.

But Darwinism, as a working device to understand how species adapt and change over time due to sexual selection and adaptive benefits, is comparable to Marxism. The insight that labour is the source of all value, that people as a group tend to do what benefits them as a group and that the course of history is very much influenced by these things is just as powerful.

The insight that labour is the source of all value, that people as a group tend to do what benefits them as a group and that the course of history is very much influenced by these things is just as powerful.

On the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx, JONATHAN WHITE reviews a new book by Robert Griffiths on Marx’s Das Kapital and Capitalism Today.

LAST year saw the 150th anniversary of Das Kapital, otherwise known as Volume 1 of Capital, coinciding with a period in which the systemic crisis tendencies of the capitalist system are only too apparent.

The work of Marx and Engels is receiving renewed attention. Crowds of people from all backgrounds have queued up to attend lectures and discussions at the Marx Memorial Library in London. 

New editions of classic works have appeared and new works have hit the shelves. Most of these are academic works and some of them are deservedly revered.

But Robert Griffiths’s new book for Manifesto Press deserves to be widely read, not just by students but throughout the left and the labour movement more widely.

Marx’s Das Kapital and Capitalism Today couples great clarity of exposition with an absolutely contemporary focus on what Marx’s great work tells us about our world. Das Kapital is explained in clear, simple language which does not shy away from the great controversies in Marxist thought.

What is Trotskyism? What do Trotskyite groups hold in common? How to Trotskyists seek to influence politics? What are their common methods of working, recruiting, educating and indoctrinating well-defined and near-sacred shibboleths into members and new recruits? 

John Kelly, author of "Contemporary Trotskyism: Parties, Sects and Social Movements in Britain", launched his critically acclaimed new book in Scotland at a Communist Party of Britain hosted public event. This was filmed on Friday 31st August 2018 at Unity Office, 72 Waterloo Street, Glasgow.

John Kelly teaches at the Department of Management, Birkbeck College, University of London. He has published widely on trade unions and the labour movement. Years of meticulous research and academic rigour are combined with a sympathetic and passionate Marxist outlook.

This live filmed presentation is a "tour de force", mirroring the unique and more detailed analysis of his new book. What is the structure and influence of modern British Trotskyism, and why is it so far so resilient?

A  follow on from Trotskyism: A Rough Guide

Now we look at how Ultra Leftism (much broader than just Trotskyist groups) misunderstands Imperialism.
Right opportunism: short term gains in place of long term aims & principles. 
Left opportunism: preserve abstract priciples rather than make short term compromises. Class struggle is more complex than their dogmatic strain allows.

Lenin: Imperialism is the highest stage of Capitalism. What is the relationship between Capitalism and Revolution? e.g. What are the characteristics of bourgeois revolutions?.... Advances but with limitations.

Economic aspect of Imperialism: export of Capital (this is different than merely trading internationally goods). Capitalist need to seek investment away from saturated internal market.   Creates comprador bourgeoisie between foreign companies and raw markets - they have a stake in Imperialism, against national bourgeoisie. They would make deals with the pre-Capitalist feudal classes, in fact incorporate them into Colonial structure (especially British Empire in India etc).

This development left Revolutionaries oppressed by Imperialism - no democracy, no autonomy, dominated by backward feudal relations especially outside city. Similar tasks as faced by bourgeoisie initially. Allied workers and peasants could throw off this yoke. Possible class alliances with national bourgeoisie - "impure" to Ultra Left.

Lenin's Political aspect. Imperialism, by generating huge profits, can buy off sections of working class - could be won to support pro-Imperialist policies - creation of "labour aristocracy". "civilisation" of "savages" - Lenin called Social Chauvinism - xenophobic & racist.

Part 1

Orwell's anti-communist work strangely similar to earlier female author's ideas for anti-Fascist parable 

The 1941 drawings by Gertrude Elias from her story board for a cartoon film mooted to the Ministry of Information.  Orwell briefly worked there and they knew each other. Bottom left, the 1952 version of Orwell's Animal Farm, the idea for which Elias accuses him of plagiarising from her but inverting Nazi pigs into Soviet ones.

Orwell’s intellectual life as a socialist seemingly began with a special interest in theories on language and class and this seems to be rather significant. For there is more than a hint of middle-class guilt in Orwell; note, for example, his observation that working people “sweat their guts out [so] that superior persons can remain superior”.

Perhaps it is relevant that he conflated his own `anti-scientific-ism’ with the famous English (maybe the `Celts’ are immune from this!?) disregard for theory and saw a tenuous link there with the masses.

Yet he also deprecated the anti-intellectualism of the working class, the “life of the sense and suspicious of all forms of abstraction”. Even so, his own thought processes about capitalism appeared to have been entirely arrived at through intuition, without recourse to intensive study of facts.  

It is telling that Orwell began his acquaintance with the common man by reaching out for the `underclass’. Though some of his early work featured working people, there was little of substance on their lives. His sketches of the working class appear thin and insubstantial.

I’ve often thought that this particularly applies to his portrayal of women. Indeed, there is a case to answer that there is far too much misogyny, in tone at least, in Orwell’s creative writing, even if he publicly and often attacked those who do not support the emancipation of women. But then this is a man who, in private life, was intrigued by the paranormal but did not advertise the fact and few of his socialist admirers are aware of this.  

This video could make you a Communist!

Indepth presentation and discussion on the development of Marxism in the 21st Century, and how to be an effective Communist campaigner in your work place and community. 

Class struggle is the motive for change.

Communists need to be where working people are organised - in Trade Unions in the workplaces, in Tennents Associations, in Community groups, even if they are very rudimentary, even if they need to be built up. They have to be built on real experience.

Learn from the experience of struggle of the working class - you need to be part of that.

Reformism is not about making reforms or supporting reforms, but the belief that reforms are enough to change the formation of society.

Reforms are not enough to break free from Capitalism, and reforms can be easily taken back by the Capitalist state when perceiving that the class forces are strongly in their favour - just look at the NHS and welfare state in Britain for evidence! A talk by the late great Marxian Hans Heinz Holz, organised by the Communist Party of Britain.


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