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Karl Marx: Selected Writings
Karl Marx: Selected Writings
by Karl Marx
Edition: Paperback
Price: £32.12

5.0 out of 5 stars “The emancipation of the working class must be the act of the workers themselves”, 2 Feb. 2016
Although McLellan himself is an academic rather than a Marxist, he has put together an excellent selection of Karl Marx’s writings, including some of the shorter writings in full, as well as extracts from the longer works. The only problem with the book is that it is restricted to Marx himself and does not include the works of Marx’s lifelong friend, comrade and collaborator Friedrich Engels, except those which were written jointly with Marx. For this reason I prefer Robert C. Tucker’s “Marx-Engels Reader” to this volume.

In his speech at Marx’s graveside (which is included in this collection), Engels outlines the three key elements of Marxism. Firstly, there is the materialist conception of history. Engels states that: “Just as Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history…”

As Marx himself puts it in “Preface to a Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy”:

“In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness.”

Secondly, Engels points out that Marx “also discovered the special law of motion governing the present-day capitalist mode of production…” and particularly emphasises the “discovery of surplus value”, which is the mechanism through which the capitalist class exploits the working class (which today includes both manual and white collar workers).

As Marx wrote in “Capital”: “The essential difference between the various economic forms of society, between, for instance, a society based on slave-labour, and one based on wage-labour, lies only in the mode in which this surplus-labour is in each case extracted from the actual producer, the labourer.”

(Marx’s analysis of capitalism also makes good use of his dialectical approach and his theory of alienation.)

Thirdly, Engels shows that Marxism is the theory of working class revolution. “For Marx was before all else a revolutionist. His real mission in life was to contribute to… the liberation of the modern proletariat…”

A revolution was necessary partly because “... the state is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another...” (The Civil War in France) and partly because in the process of the class struggle the ideas of the majority of the working class would change, as is shown in these two passages from “The German Ideology”:

“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time the ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production...”

“Both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness, and for the success of the cause itself, the alteration of men on a mass scale is necessary, an alteration which can only take place in a practical movement, a revolution; this revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew.”

Finally, the democratic nature of the revolution that Marx envisaged (in total contrast to the bureaucratic and tyrannical Stalinist regimes which claimed to be following Marx, but which in fact were/are state capitalist societies) is shown when Marx writes (in “The Civil War in France”) about the short-lived Paris Commune as his model for a workers’ state:

“(The Paris Commune) filled all posts — administrative, judicial and educational - by election on the basis of universal suffrage of all concerned, subject to the right of recall at any time by the same electors. And in the second place, all officials, high or low, were paid only the wages received by other workers.”

Extracts like these make this book very useful for anyone interested in Marxism. And don’t forget that: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” (Marx, “Theses on Feuerbach”.)

Phil Webster.


The Marx-Engels Reader
The Marx-Engels Reader
by Robert C. Tucker
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.99

5.0 out of 5 stars “The emancipation of the working class must be the act of the workers themselves”, 1 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Marx-Engels Reader (Paperback)
This excellent book contains some of the shorter writings of Marx and Engels in full, as well as extracts from their longer works.

In his speech at Marx’s graveside (which is included in this collection), Engels outlines the three key elements of Marxism. Firstly, there is the materialist conception of history. Engels states that: “Just as Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history…”

As Marx himself puts it in “Preface to a Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy”:

“In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness.”

Secondly, Engels points out that Marx “also discovered the special law of motion governing the present-day capitalist mode of production…” and particularly emphasises the “discovery of surplus value”, which is the mechanism through which the capitalist class exploits the working class (which today includes both manual and white collar workers).

As Marx wrote in “Capital”: “The essential difference between the various economic forms of society, between, for instance, a society based on slave-labour, and one based on wage-labour, lies only in the mode in which this surplus-labour is in each case extracted from the actual producer, the labourer.”

(Marx’s analysis of capitalism also makes good use of his dialectical approach and his theory of alienation.)

Thirdly, Engels shows that Marxism is the theory of working class revolution. “For Marx was before all else a revolutionist. His real mission in life was to contribute to… the liberation of the modern proletariat…”

A revolution was necessary partly because “... the state is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another...” (The Civil War in France) and partly because in the process of the class struggle the ideas of the majority of the working class would change, as is shown in these two passages from “The German Ideology”:

“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time the ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production...”

“Both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness, and for the success of the cause itself, the alteration of men on a mass scale is necessary, an alteration which can only take place in a practical movement, a revolution; this revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew.”

Finally, the democratic nature of the revolution that Marx envisaged (in total contrast to the bureaucratic and tyrannical Stalinist regimes which claimed to be following Marx, but which in fact were/are state capitalist societies) is shown when Marx writes (in “The Civil War in France”) about the short-lived Paris Commune as his model for a workers’ state:

“(The Paris Commune) filled all posts — administrative, judicial and educational - by election on the basis of universal suffrage of all concerned, subject to the right of recall at any time by the same electors. And in the second place, all officials, high or low, were paid only the wages received by other workers.”

Extracts like these make this book a must for anyone interested in Marxism. And don’t forget that: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” (Marx, “Theses on Feuerbach”.)

Phil Webster.


The History of the Russian Revolution (3 volumes)
The History of the Russian Revolution (3 volumes)
by Leon Trotsky
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars The Dialectic of Historical Forces and Individual Action, 27 Nov. 2015
Tackling this marvellous but massive book is a challenge – but it is also very rewarding.

Marxism is often accused of being “deterministic”, that is, of focusing on historical forces and classes and of ignoring individuals. But this is an unfair criticism. After all, Marx himself said that it is people who make history, “but they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves...”

This dialectic of the interaction between objective circumstances and subjective human action is at the core of this book.

So in Chapter One we have Trotsky applying the law of uneven and combined development to Russia’s history; and throughout the book Trotsky shows how class forces underlie political activities and attitudes.

But we also see the crucial importance of the actions of individuals. One example of this is the vital role played by Lenin (and by Trotsky himself, of course). Another example is the worker who winked at one of the Cossacks sent to suppress a demonstration, thus helping to win over the Cossacks to sympathising with the revolutionary workers at a crucial moment.

Trotsky was in exile when he wrote this book. He had gone from being one of the key leaders of the revolution in 1917 to being a fierce critic of Stalin’s bureaucratic tyranny, arguing for a new revolution by Russia’s workers to overthrow Stalin’s dictatorship.

Unfortunately, Trotsky clung to the view that Russia under Stalin was a “degenerated workers’ state”. In fact I find much more convincing the theory that was first fully developed by Tony Cliff: that Stalinist Russia was a bureaucratic state capitalist society, as were the other so-called “communist” regimes that appeared later.

But despite this weakness, Trotsky did keep alive the fundamental Marxist idea that socialism must be based on internationalism and workers’ democracy. (The “dictatorship of the proletariat” was meant to mean the DEMOCRATIC control of society by the working class, not a small group ruling OVER the working class.)

Lenin and Trotsky saw the soviets (democratic workers’ councils) as being the form that working class rule would take, and in this book Trotsky gives us a wonderful description of the relationship between individuals, the Bolshevik Party, the soviets, and the masses.

Phil Webster.


History of the Russian Revolution
History of the Russian Revolution
by Leon Trotsky
Edition: Paperback
Price: £20.20

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dialectic of Historical Forces and Individual Action, 27 Nov. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Tackling this marvellous but massive book is a challenge – but it is also very rewarding.

Marxism is often accused of being “deterministic”, that is, of focusing on historical forces and classes and of ignoring individuals. But this is an unfair criticism. After all, Marx himself said that it is people who make history, “but they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves...”

This dialectic of the interaction between objective circumstances and subjective human action is at the core of this book.

So in Chapter One we have Trotsky applying the law of uneven and combined development to Russia’s history; and throughout the book Trotsky shows how class forces underlie political activities and attitudes.

But we also see the crucial importance of the actions of individuals. One example of this is the vital role played by Lenin (and by Trotsky himself, of course). Another example is the worker who winked at one of the Cossacks sent to suppress a demonstration, thus helping to win over the Cossacks to sympathising with the revolutionary workers at a crucial moment.

Trotsky was in exile when he wrote this book. He had gone from being one of the key leaders of the revolution in 1917 to being a fierce critic of Stalin’s bureaucratic tyranny, arguing for a new revolution by Russia’s workers to overthrow Stalin’s dictatorship.

Unfortunately, Trotsky clung to the view that Russia under Stalin was a “degenerated workers’ state”. In fact I find much more convincing the theory that was first fully developed by Tony Cliff: that Stalinist Russia was a bureaucratic state capitalist society, as were the other so-called “communist” regimes that appeared later.

But despite this weakness, Trotsky did keep alive the fundamental Marxist idea that socialism must be based on internationalism and workers’ democracy. (The “dictatorship of the proletariat” was meant to mean the DEMOCRATIC control of society by the working class, not a small group ruling OVER the working class.)

Lenin and Trotsky saw the soviets (democratic workers’ councils) as being the form that working class rule would take, and in this book Trotsky gives us a wonderful description of the relationship between individuals, the Bolshevik Party, the soviets, and the masses.

Phil Webster.


Ten Days That Shook the World
Ten Days That Shook the World
by John Reed
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars My Petrograd!, 26 Nov. 2015
This is a thrilling eyewitness account of the October Revolution in Russia in 1917. I’ll start with a vivid example of Reed’s writing:

“I went back to Petrograd riding on the front seat of an auto truck, driven by a workman and filled with Red Guards...
Across the horizon spread the glittering lights of the capital, immeasurably more splendid by night than by day, like a dike of jewels heaped on a barren plain.
The old workman who drove held the wheel in one hand, while with the other he swept the far-gleaming capital in an exultant gesture.
‘Mine!’ he cried, his face all alight. ‘All mine now! My Petrograd!’ ”

It is claimed by anti-Marxist historians that Lenin’s Bolshevik Party seized power against the wishes of the majority, and that this led directly to the horrors of Stalinism. But anyone who reads this book will see that this is not the case.

The bureaucratic tyranny of the Stalinist regime in Russia from the mid 1920s onwards, and of the later, similar regimes in Eastern Europe, China etc had/has nothing to do with genuine Marxism. These so-called “communist” states were/are actually state capitalist systems controlled by a ruling class of bureaucrats who betrayed the democratic aims of the 1917 Russian Revolution.

Reed writes that the Bolsheviks did NOT take power “by the organised violence of a small clique. If the masses all over Russia had not been ready for insurrection it must have failed.”

The February Revolution of 1917 had got rid of the Tsar, but it brought to power the Provisional Government which continued to take part in the bloodbath of World War One. Lenin argued for a new revolution, which eventually took place in October.

Lenin did not want to seize power in a coup by a small group. He wanted to win over the majority of the exploited and for THEM to take power. When Marx and Lenin talked about the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, they did not mean that Marxists would rule OVER the working class, they meant rule BY the working class. This workers’ state would then gradually be replaced by a classless society in which the state would “wither away”.

Marx’s model for a democratic workers’ state was the short-lived Paris Commune, where all officials were elected, subject to recall at any time, and paid only an average worker’s wage; and where the army and police were replaced by a workers’ militia. Lenin’s idea was that the soviets (workers’ councils) would also follow this highly democratic model. Reed's book shows how democratic the soviets were in their early days.

October would only have been just a "coup" if the Bolsheviks had taken power without majority support. In fact they only took power when they had won a majority on the soviets, with the previous majority of SRs and Mensheviks having been voted out. Even the Menshevik Martov admitted that the workers were solidly behind the Bolsheviks by October.

Lenin’s idea was that the Bolshevik party should compete with other parties on the soviets. The fact that the soviets later ended up as being a one-party system was a sign of the FAILURE of the revolution: it was not what Lenin had intended.

Lenin expected the Russian Revolution to spark off revolutions in other countries. (Indeed there was a failed revolution in Germany.) But the isolation of the Russian Revolution, the horrors of the Civil War initiated by the “Whites” and intervention by foreign powers in support of the White armies combined to destroy the foundations of the new regime.

It is claimed by anti-Marxist historians that Leninism led directly to Stalinism. But Stalin actually had to DESTROY the last vestiges of genuine Leninism in order to consolidate his counter-revolution. Incidentally, given that it was the isolation of the Russian Revolution which ultimately led to its demise under Stalin, it was not the politics of Lenin's Bolsheviks which led to Stalinism, it was the LACK of mass Leninist parties in other countries.

After Lenin’s death Trotsky kept alive the genuine Marxist idea that socialism means workers’ democracy, but unfortunately he clung to the idea that Russia had become a degenerated workers’ state, whereas in fact it had become under Stalin a bureaucratic state capitalist regime.

Marx argued that a revolution was necessary in order to achieve socialism for two reasons: firstly, because the ruling class would not give up power peacefully; and secondly, because it was by going through the experience of class struggle that the working class’s ideas would change on a mass scale and the majority would be won over to socialist ideas and become “fitted to found society anew.”

Reed’s book shows precisely this changing of ideas on a mass scale. No wonder Lenin wrote a Foreword for the book in 1919, stating: “Unreservedly do I recommend it to the workers of the world.”

Phil Webster.


Ten Days That Shook the World
Ten Days That Shook the World
Price: £0.83

5.0 out of 5 stars My Petrograd!, 26 Nov. 2015
This is a thrilling eyewitness account of the October Revolution in Russia in 1917. I’ll start with a vivid example of Reed’s writing:

“I went back to Petrograd riding on the front seat of an auto truck, driven by a workman and filled with Red Guards...
Across the horizon spread the glittering lights of the capital, immeasurably more splendid by night than by day, like a dike of jewels heaped on a barren plain.
The old workman who drove held the wheel in one hand, while with the other he swept the far-gleaming capital in an exultant gesture.
‘Mine!’ he cried, his face all alight. ‘All mine now! My Petrograd!’ ”

It is claimed by anti-Marxist historians that Lenin’s Bolshevik Party seized power against the wishes of the majority, and that this led directly to the horrors of Stalinism. But anyone who reads this book will see that this is not the case.

The bureaucratic tyranny of the Stalinist regime in Russia from the mid 1920s onwards, and of the later, similar regimes in Eastern Europe, China etc had/has nothing to do with genuine Marxism. These so-called “communist” states were/are actually state capitalist systems controlled by a ruling class of bureaucrats who betrayed the democratic aims of the 1917 Russian Revolution.

Reed writes that the Bolsheviks did NOT take power “by the organised violence of a small clique. If the masses all over Russia had not been ready for insurrection it must have failed.”

The February Revolution of 1917 had got rid of the Tsar, but it brought to power the Provisional Government which continued to take part in the bloodbath of World War One. Lenin argued for a new revolution, which eventually took place in October.

Lenin did not want to seize power in a coup by a small group. He wanted to win over the majority of the exploited and for THEM to take power. When Marx and Lenin talked about the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, they did not mean that Marxists would rule OVER the working class, they meant rule BY the working class. This workers’ state would then gradually be replaced by a classless society in which the state would “wither away”.

Marx’s model for a democratic workers’ state was the short-lived Paris Commune, where all officials were elected, subject to recall at any time, and paid only an average worker’s wage; and where the army and police were replaced by a workers’ militia. Lenin’s idea was that the soviets (workers’ councils) would also follow this highly democratic model. Reed's book shows how democratic the soviets were in their early days.

October would only have been just a "coup" if the Bolsheviks had taken power without majority support. In fact they only took power when they had won a majority on the soviets, with the previous majority of SRs and Mensheviks having been voted out. Even the Menshevik Martov admitted that the workers were solidly behind the Bolsheviks by October.

Lenin’s idea was that the Bolshevik party should compete with other parties on the soviets. The fact that the soviets later ended up as being a one-party system was a sign of the FAILURE of the revolution: it was not what Lenin had intended.

Lenin expected the Russian Revolution to spark off revolutions in other countries. (Indeed there was a failed revolution in Germany.) But the isolation of the Russian Revolution, the horrors of the Civil War initiated by the “Whites” and intervention by foreign powers in support of the White armies combined to destroy the foundations of the new regime.

It is claimed by anti-Marxist historians that Leninism led directly to Stalinism. But Stalin actually had to DESTROY the last vestiges of genuine Leninism in order to consolidate his counter-revolution. Incidentally, given that it was the isolation of the Russian Revolution which ultimately led to its demise under Stalin, it was not the politics of Lenin's Bolsheviks which led to Stalinism, it was the LACK of mass Leninist parties in other countries.

After Lenin’s death Trotsky kept alive the genuine Marxist idea that socialism means workers’ democracy, but unfortunately he clung to the idea that Russia had become a degenerated workers’ state, whereas in fact it had become under Stalin a bureaucratic state capitalist regime.

Marx argued that a revolution was necessary in order to achieve socialism for two reasons: firstly, because the ruling class would not give up power peacefully; and secondly, because it was by going through the experience of class struggle that the working class’s ideas would change on a mass scale and the majority would be won over to socialist ideas and become “fitted to found society anew.”

Reed’s book shows precisely this changing of ideas on a mass scale. No wonder Lenin wrote a Foreword for the book in 1919, stating: “Unreservedly do I recommend it to the workers of the world.”

Phil Webster.


Ten Days That Shook the World
Ten Days That Shook the World
Price: £0.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Petrograd!, 26 Nov. 2015
This is a thrilling eyewitness account of the October Revolution in Russia in 1917. I’ll start with a vivid example of Reed’s writing:

“I went back to Petrograd riding on the front seat of an auto truck, driven by a workman and filled with Red Guards...
Across the horizon spread the glittering lights of the capital, immeasurably more splendid by night than by day, like a dike of jewels heaped on a barren plain.
The old workman who drove held the wheel in one hand, while with the other he swept the far-gleaming capital in an exultant gesture.
‘Mine!’ he cried, his face all alight. ‘All mine now! My Petrograd!’ ”

It is claimed by anti-Marxist historians that Lenin’s Bolshevik Party seized power against the wishes of the majority, and that this led directly to the horrors of Stalinism. But anyone who reads this book will see that this is not the case.

The bureaucratic tyranny of the Stalinist regime in Russia from the mid 1920s onwards, and of the later, similar regimes in Eastern Europe, China etc had/has nothing to do with genuine Marxism. These so-called “communist” states were/are actually state capitalist systems controlled by a ruling class of bureaucrats who betrayed the democratic aims of the 1917 Russian Revolution.

Reed writes that the Bolsheviks did NOT take power “by the organised violence of a small clique. If the masses all over Russia had not been ready for insurrection it must have failed.”

The February Revolution of 1917 had got rid of the Tsar, but it brought to power the Provisional Government which continued to take part in the bloodbath of World War One. Lenin argued for a new revolution, which eventually took place in October.

Lenin did not want to seize power in a coup by a small group. He wanted to win over the majority of the exploited and for THEM to take power. When Marx and Lenin talked about the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, they did not mean that Marxists would rule OVER the working class, they meant rule BY the working class. This workers’ state would then gradually be replaced by a classless society in which the state would “wither away”.

Marx’s model for a democratic workers’ state was the short-lived Paris Commune, where all officials were elected, subject to recall at any time, and paid only an average worker’s wage; and where the army and police were replaced by a workers’ militia. Lenin’s idea was that the soviets (workers’ councils) would also follow this highly democratic model. Reed's book shows how democratic the soviets were in their early days.

October would only have been just a "coup" if the Bolsheviks had taken power without majority support. In fact they only took power when they had won a majority on the soviets, with the previous majority of SRs and Mensheviks having been voted out. Even the Menshevik Martov admitted that the workers were solidly behind the Bolsheviks by October.

Lenin’s idea was that the Bolshevik party should compete with other parties on the soviets. The fact that the soviets later ended up as being a one-party system was a sign of the FAILURE of the revolution: it was not what Lenin had intended.

Lenin expected the Russian Revolution to spark off revolutions in other countries. (Indeed there was a failed revolution in Germany.) But the isolation of the Russian Revolution, the horrors of the Civil War initiated by the “Whites” and intervention by foreign powers in support of the White armies combined to destroy the foundations of the new regime.

It is claimed by anti-Marxist historians that Leninism led directly to Stalinism. But Stalin actually had to DESTROY the last vestiges of genuine Leninism in order to consolidate his counter-revolution. Incidentally, given that it was the isolation of the Russian Revolution which ultimately led to its demise under Stalin, it was not the politics of Lenin's Bolsheviks which led to Stalinism, it was the LACK of mass Leninist parties in other countries.

After Lenin’s death Trotsky kept alive the genuine Marxist idea that socialism means workers’ democracy, but unfortunately he clung to the idea that Russia had become a degenerated workers’ state, whereas in fact it had become under Stalin a bureaucratic state capitalist regime.

Marx argued that a revolution was necessary in order to achieve socialism for two reasons: firstly, because the ruling class would not give up power peacefully; and secondly, because it was by going through the experience of class struggle that the working class’s ideas would change on a mass scale and the majority would be won over to socialist ideas and become “fitted to found society anew.”

Reed’s book shows precisely this changing of ideas on a mass scale. No wonder Lenin wrote a Foreword for the book in 1919, stating: “Unreservedly do I recommend it to the workers of the world.”

Phil Webster.


Ten Days That Shook the World (Penguin Classics)
Ten Days That Shook the World (Penguin Classics)
Price: £3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Petrograd!, 26 Nov. 2015
This is a thrilling eyewitness account of the October Revolution in Russia in 1917. I’ll start with a vivid example of Reed’s writing:

“I went back to Petrograd riding on the front seat of an auto truck, driven by a workman and filled with Red Guards...
Across the horizon spread the glittering lights of the capital, immeasurably more splendid by night than by day, like a dike of jewels heaped on a barren plain.
The old workman who drove held the wheel in one hand, while with the other he swept the far-gleaming capital in an exultant gesture.
‘Mine!’ he cried, his face all alight. ‘All mine now! My Petrograd!’ ”

It is claimed by anti-Marxist historians that Lenin’s Bolshevik Party seized power against the wishes of the majority, and that this led directly to the horrors of Stalinism. But anyone who reads this book will see that this is not the case.

The bureaucratic tyranny of the Stalinist regime in Russia from the mid 1920s onwards, and of the later, similar regimes in Eastern Europe, China etc had/has nothing to do with genuine Marxism. These so-called “communist” states were/are actually state capitalist systems controlled by a ruling class of bureaucrats who betrayed the democratic aims of the 1917 Russian Revolution.

Reed writes that the Bolsheviks did NOT take power “by the organised violence of a small clique. If the masses all over Russia had not been ready for insurrection it must have failed.”

The February Revolution of 1917 had got rid of the Tsar, but it brought to power the Provisional Government which continued to take part in the bloodbath of World War One. Lenin argued for a new revolution, which eventually took place in October.

Lenin did not want to seize power in a coup by a small group. He wanted to win over the majority of the exploited and for THEM to take power. When Marx and Lenin talked about the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, they did not mean that Marxists would rule OVER the working class, they meant rule BY the working class. This workers’ state would then gradually be replaced by a classless society in which the state would “wither away”.

Marx’s model for a democratic workers’ state was the short-lived Paris Commune, where all officials were elected, subject to recall at any time, and paid only an average worker’s wage; and where the army and police were replaced by a workers’ militia. Lenin’s idea was that the soviets (workers’ councils) would also follow this highly democratic model. Reed's book shows how democratic the soviets were in their early days.

October would only have been just a "coup" if the Bolsheviks had taken power without majority support. In fact they only took power when they had won a majority on the soviets, with the previous majority of SRs and Mensheviks having been voted out. Even the Menshevik Martov admitted that the workers were solidly behind the Bolsheviks by October.

Lenin’s idea was that the Bolshevik party should compete with other parties on the soviets. The fact that the soviets later ended up as being a one-party system was a sign of the FAILURE of the revolution: it was not what Lenin had intended.

Lenin expected the Russian Revolution to spark off revolutions in other countries. (Indeed there was a failed revolution in Germany.) But the isolation of the Russian Revolution, the horrors of the Civil War initiated by the “Whites” and intervention by foreign powers in support of the White armies combined to destroy the foundations of the new regime.

It is claimed by anti-Marxist historians that Leninism led directly to Stalinism. But Stalin actually had to DESTROY the last vestiges of genuine Leninism in order to consolidate his counter-revolution. Incidentally, given that it was the isolation of the Russian Revolution which ultimately led to its demise under Stalin, it was not the politics of Lenin's Bolsheviks which led to Stalinism, it was the LACK of mass Leninist parties in other countries.

After Lenin’s death Trotsky kept alive the genuine Marxist idea that socialism means workers’ democracy, but unfortunately he clung to the idea that Russia had become a degenerated workers’ state, whereas in fact it had become under Stalin a bureaucratic state capitalist regime.

Marx argued that a revolution was necessary in order to achieve socialism for two reasons: firstly, because the ruling class would not give up power peacefully; and secondly, because it was by going through the experience of class struggle that the working class’s ideas would change on a mass scale and the majority would be won over to socialist ideas and become “fitted to found society anew.”

Reed’s book shows precisely this changing of ideas on a mass scale. No wonder Lenin wrote a Foreword for the book in 1919, stating: “Unreservedly do I recommend it to the workers of the world.”

Phil Webster.


The State and Revolution: The Marxist Theory of the State and the Tasks of the Proletariat in the Revolution
The State and Revolution: The Marxist Theory of the State and the Tasks of the Proletariat in the Revolution
by Lenin
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars The State, Revolution and Democracy, 18 Nov. 2015
Many people dismiss Lenin, and Marxism in general, because they are usually associated with the bureaucratic tyranny of the Stalinist regimes of Russia, Eastern Europe, China etc. But these regimes had/have nothing to do with genuine Marxism, as anyone who reads this book will see. The so-called “communist” states were actually state capitalist systems controlled by a ruling class of bureaucrats who betrayed the democratic aims of the 1917 Russian Revolution.

Lenin follows Marx and Engels in showing that the existence of the state is a result of the existence of class exploitation and class conflict in society. (In pre-class societies, the state did not exist.) As Marx said, “...the state is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another...”

This is obvious in the case of ancient Roman slave society or medieval feudalism, but it is less obvious in modern capitalist societies, because capitalists usually hide their class rule behind a veneer of “democracy”. But as Lenin says in this book:

“Bourgeois democracy, although a great historical advance in comparison with medievalism, always remains, and under capitalism is bound to remain, restricted, truncated, false and hypocritical, a paradise for the rich, and a snare and deception for the exploited...”

In modern capitalist “democracies” the electorate and parliaments do not have real power. The ruling class capitalists can use their economic power to force governments into line; they control the media and the top levels of the civil service; and if all else fails they can resort to force, through their control of the police and armed forces.

Lenin agreed with Marx’s view that a revolution was necessary in order to achieve socialism for two reasons: firstly, because the ruling class would not give up power peacefully; and secondly, because it was by going through the experience of class struggle that the working class’s ideas would change on a mass scale and the majority would be won over to socialist ideas and become “fitted to found society anew.”

Lenin did not want to seize power in a coup. He wanted to win over the majority of the exploited and for THEM to take power. When Marx and Lenin talked about the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, they did not mean that Marxists would rule OVER the working class, they meant rule BY the working class. This workers’ state would then gradually be replaced by a classless society in which the state would “wither away”.

Marx’s model for a democratic workers’ state was the short-lived Paris Commune, where all officials were elected, subject to recall at any time, and paid only an average worker’s wage; and where the army and police were replaced by a workers’ militia. Lenin’s idea was that the soviets (workers’ councils) would also follow this highly democratic model. Bourgeois “democracy” should be replaced by something much MORE democratic. John Reed's book "Ten Days That Shook The World", for example, shows how democratic the soviets were in their early days.

The February Revolution of 1917 had got rid of the Tsar, but it brought to power the Provisional Government which continued to take part in the bloodbath of World War One. Lenin argued for a new revolution, which eventually took place in October.

October would only be a "coup" if the Bolsheviks took power without majority support. In fact they only took power when they had won a majority on the soviets, with the previous majority of SRs and Mensheviks having been voted out. Even the Menshevik Martov admitted that the workers were solidly behind the Bolsheviks by October.

Lenin’s idea was that the Bolshevik party should compete with other parties on the soviets. The fact that the soviets later ended up as being a one-party system was a sign of the FAILURE of the revolution: it was not what Lenin had intended.

Lenin expected the Russian Revolution to spark off revolutions in other countries. (Indeed there was a failed revolution in Germany.) But the isolation of the Russian Revolution, the horrors of the Civil War initiated by the “Whites” and intervention by foreign powers in support of the White armies combined to destroy the foundations of the new regime.

It is claimed by anti-Marxist historians that Leninism led directly to Stalinism. But Stalin actually had to DESTROY the last vestiges of genuine Leninism in order to consolidate his counter-revolution. Incidentally, given that it was the isolation of the Russian Revolution which ultimately led to its demise under Stalin, it was not the politics of Lenin's Bolsheviks which led to Stalinism, it was the LACK of mass Leninist parties in other countries.

After Lenin’s death Trotsky kept alive the genuine Marxist idea that socialism means workers’ democracy, but unfortunately he clung to the idea that Russia had become a degenerated workers’ state, whereas in fact it had become under Stalin a bureaucratic state capitalist regime.

Phil Webster.


The State and Revolution: Full Text of 1917 Edition (Illustrated)
The State and Revolution: Full Text of 1917 Edition (Illustrated)
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5.0 out of 5 stars The State, Revolution and Democracy, 18 Nov. 2015
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Many people dismiss Lenin, and Marxism in general, because they are usually associated with the bureaucratic tyranny of the Stalinist regimes of Russia, Eastern Europe, China etc. But these regimes had/have nothing to do with genuine Marxism, as anyone who reads this book will see. The so-called “communist” states were actually state capitalist systems controlled by a ruling class of bureaucrats who betrayed the democratic aims of the 1917 Russian Revolution.

Lenin follows Marx and Engels in showing that the existence of the state is a result of the existence of class exploitation and class conflict in society. (In pre-class societies, the state did not exist.) As Marx said, “...the state is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another...”

This is obvious in the case of ancient Roman slave society or medieval feudalism, but it is less obvious in modern capitalist societies, because capitalists usually hide their class rule behind a veneer of “democracy”. But as Lenin says in this book:

“Bourgeois democracy, although a great historical advance in comparison with medievalism, always remains, and under capitalism is bound to remain, restricted, truncated, false and hypocritical, a paradise for the rich, and a snare and deception for the exploited...”

In modern capitalist “democracies” the electorate and parliaments do not have real power. The ruling class capitalists can use their economic power to force governments into line; they control the media and the top levels of the civil service; and if all else fails they can resort to force, through their control of the police and armed forces.

Lenin agreed with Marx’s view that a revolution was necessary in order to achieve socialism for two reasons: firstly, because the ruling class would not give up power peacefully; and secondly, because it was by going through the experience of class struggle that the working class’s ideas would change on a mass scale and the majority would be won over to socialist ideas and become “fitted to found society anew.”

Lenin did not want to seize power in a coup. He wanted to win over the majority of the exploited and for THEM to take power. When Marx and Lenin talked about the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, they did not mean that Marxists would rule OVER the working class, they meant rule BY the working class. This workers’ state would then gradually be replaced by a classless society in which the state would “wither away”.

Marx’s model for a democratic workers’ state was the short-lived Paris Commune, where all officials were elected, subject to recall at any time, and paid only an average worker’s wage; and where the army and police were replaced by a workers’ militia. Lenin’s idea was that the soviets (workers’ councils) would also follow this highly democratic model. Bourgeois “democracy” should be replaced by something much MORE democratic. John Reed's book "Ten Days That Shook The World", for example, shows how democratic the soviets were in their early days.

The February Revolution of 1917 had got rid of the Tsar, but it brought to power the Provisional Government which continued to take part in the bloodbath of World War One. Lenin argued for a new revolution, which eventually took place in October.

October would only be a "coup" if the Bolsheviks took power without majority support. In fact they only took power when they had won a majority on the soviets, with the previous majority of SRs and Mensheviks having been voted out. Even the Menshevik Martov admitted that the workers were solidly behind the Bolsheviks by October.

Lenin’s idea was that the Bolshevik party should compete with other parties on the soviets. The fact that the soviets later ended up as being a one-party system was a sign of the FAILURE of the revolution: it was not what Lenin had intended.

Lenin expected the Russian Revolution to spark off revolutions in other countries. (Indeed there was a failed revolution in Germany.) But the isolation of the Russian Revolution, the horrors of the Civil War initiated by the “Whites” and intervention by foreign powers in support of the White armies combined to destroy the foundations of the new regime.

It is claimed by anti-Marxist historians that Leninism led directly to Stalinism. But Stalin actually had to DESTROY the last vestiges of genuine Leninism in order to consolidate his counter-revolution. Incidentally, given that it was the isolation of the Russian Revolution which ultimately led to its demise under Stalin, it was not the politics of Lenin's Bolsheviks which led to Stalinism, it was the LACK of mass Leninist parties in other countries.

After Lenin’s death Trotsky kept alive the genuine Marxist idea that socialism means workers’ democracy, but unfortunately he clung to the idea that Russia had become a degenerated workers’ state, whereas in fact it had become under Stalin a bureaucratic state capitalist regime.

Phil Webster.


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