In defence of genuine Marxism

1337B7A5 0CF0 4336 97A1 B6CFEABB3A18One often hears of this caricature of Marxism as a dry, narrow doctrine, which reduces all human thought to economics and the development of the productive forces. Yet even today there are people who like to call themselves Marxists who defend, not the genuine ideas of Marx and Engels in all their richness, breadth and profundity, but the very same “economist” caricature of the bourgeois critics of Marxism. This is not Marxism at all but, to use Hegel’s expression, “die leblosen Knochen eines Skeletts” (the lifeless bones of a skeleton), on which Lenin commented: “What is necessary is not leblose Knochen, but living life.”...

The advanced workers and youth have a thirst for ideas and theory. They want to understand what is happening in society. They are not attracted by tendencies that merely tell them what they already know: that capitalism is in crisis, that there is unemployment, that they live in bad houses, earn low wages and so on. Serious people want to know why things are as they are, what happened in Russia, what Marxism is, and other questions of a theoretical character. That is why theory is not an optional extra, as the “practicos” imagine, but an essential tool of the revolutionary struggle.

– From In defence of theory — or Ignorance never yet helped anybody

This book is correctly regarded as one of Trotsky's finest classics. It is a product of a sharp polemic within the American Trotskyist movement during the period 1939-40. This was a dispute which touched on the very fundamentals of Marxism. It was for this reason that Trotsky himself participated in this struggle in the form of a series of articles and letters that are brought together in this volume.

We republish Leon Trotsky's 1938 pamphlet, Their Morals and Ours. Written while Trotsky was in exile in Mexico, the pamphlet answers critics of the Russian Revolution, who smeared the Bolsheviks as "amoral". Trotsky argues that morality is not fixed but reflects class interests in society. So-called common sense and "elementary moral precepts" against violence, for example, in reality serve the interests of the ruling class. Revolutionary morality – including the use of violence in class struggle – is determined by whatever advances the cause of the proletariat, and thus the liberation of humanity.

A transcription of Leon Trotsky's address to the N.Y. Hippodrome Meeting. The speech "I Stake My Life!" was delivered by telephone from Mexico City for the opening event of the Dewey Commission on the Moscow Trials.

This book was written by Leon Trotsky at the height of the Russian Civil War. While it is a polemical response to German social-democrat Karl Kautsky, it is also represents the Bolshevik defence of the extraordinary means the young workers’ republic had to take in order to defend itself from the almost two dozen armies that were on its soil trying to turn back the revolution. This version keeps true to the form of the style of English used in this edition of the book, with only some spelling corrections and the contemporary title, Terrorism or Communism.

Lenin began work on the book The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky at the beginning of October 1918, immediately after he had read Kautsky’s The Dictatorship of the Proletariat, which distorted and vulgarised the Marxist theory of the proletarian revolution and slandered the Soviet state. Lenin attached great importance to exposure of Kautsky’s opportunist views on the socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

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.

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.”