Historical Economics Essay Research Paper Introduction

Historical Economics Essay, Research Paper [ Introduction to Marxism ] Introduction to Marxist theory on history Historical Materialism: the marxist view of

Historical Economics Essay, Research Paper

[ Introduction to Marxism ]

Introduction to Marxist theory

on history

Historical Materialism: the marxist view of

history

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of

class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian,

lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word,

oppressor and oppressed stood in constant opposition to

each other, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now

open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a

revolutionary reconstitution of society at large or in the

mutual ruin of the contending classes.

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: The Communist Manifesto

Section A: How society works

1. Making sense of history: looking behind the ’story’

The ruling class portrays history as the doings of “great men”, the role of

governors and explorers, lists of wars and invasions and other “important

events”. History in school books is like a story – a succession of events

without any general pattern.

Marxists say that in order to make sense of the story of history – what

people, famous or not, actually did – we have to understand the overall

economic and social context to show why they acted in the way they did.

Take for example the American Civil War of 1861-65. What do most

people know about this war? Northern Americans, the Union, fought against

the Southern Confederates; Bluecoats fought Greycoats. Why?

Most people would say, well, it was about slavery. The Union president,

Abraham Lincoln, was against slavery, while the southerners were in favour

of it. That’s the myth; the northerners fighting slavery out of the goodness of

their hearts. But Marxists would say there was a lot more to it than that. In

fact the northern industrialists behind the Union were in bitter conflict with

the big southern farmers who owned the slaves; most of these industrialists

were racists and not very sympathetic to black slaves. The basic causes of

the war were in this economic conflict between the to different sections of

the US ruling class.

Let’s take the example of the English civil war of 1641-49. Most people

know it was cavaliers against roundheads, parliament versus the crown,

Oliver Cromwell versus Charles 1. But why? Who did parliament represent

– whose interests? And who backed the king, and why? When we

investigate this, we find that different class forces were involved. So, a

Marxist analysis of the English civil war would try to explain the story of the

war in terms of the class interests involved.

This method of looking at things to discover the real class and social interests

involved in events, of course is relevant to more contemporary events. Why

did the US president George Bush start the Gulf war? To defend plucky little

Kuwait against the monster Saddam? Marxists say no, this was just the

propaganda; Bush started the war to defend the economic and political

interests of the US, including the oil supplies from the area. Another example

of how we try to look behind the surface events at the real story.

So this is the first idea: Historical materialism is about discovering the class

interests which determine how people act in history. Now read the following

quote about the English civil war from someone who fought in it, and think

how it relates to what we have discussed so far:

“A very great part of the knights and gentlemen of

England … adhered to the King. And most of the tenants of

these gentlemen, and also most of the poorest of the

people, whom the others call the rabble, did follow the

gentry and ere for the king. On the Parliament’s side were

(besides themselves) the smaller part of the gentry in most

of the counties, and the greatest part of the tradesmen and

freeholders and the middle sort of men, especially in those

corporations and counties which depend on such

manufactures”.

(Colonel Baxter: Autobiography)

What Baxter is saying here is that the conflict was between the king and the

aristocracy (supported by those most dependent on them) on the one hand:

and the rising middle classes on the other. This of course is exactly the

Marxist explanation of the Civil War. (See Christopher Hill: ‘The English

Revolution 1640′).

2. Different types of society

The type of society we have now – capitalism – only started to come into

existence about 350 years ago, first in Holland and England. But human

society existed for hundreds of thousands of years before that. In societies

before capitalism, the way people lived was different to what we know now.

Before capitalism, in Western Europe and in China and Japan before the

arrival of the Europeans, the system which existed was feudalism. Instead of

today’s capitalists who own firms and employ workers for a wage, under

feudalism the ruling class was the aristocratic nobility – the lords – based on

large estates in the countryside. The oppressed class, instead of workers

earning a wage, were the peasants (serfs) doing agricultural work on the

lord’s estate. They had their own plots of land, but they had to work for the

lord for part of the week or give part of their own produce to the lord.

In Europe, before feudalism the predominant form of society was slavery -

the type of society of classical Rome and Greece. The majority of people

were literally owned by the ruling nobles, doing manual labour on the land

(although some slaves worked in the towns), having no rights of their own.

From these few examples we can see that as society evolves, as it gets

richer, the way it is organised changes. The examples we gave here are all

examples of class society, where there were rulers and ruled. However,

before slavery there were other forms of society where there was no ruling

class – something which the capitalists today don’t like to think about.

Marxism tries to analyse each society in terms of how it began, how it

worked and how it was replaced by another type of society.

The basic form of organising any society, the way its economy works,

Marxists call the mode of production. Below we will try to explain this a bit

more.

Marx tried to explain these two things (class interests and mode of

production) in the following passage – one of the most famous in all his

writings. Read it a couple of times and try to get the gist (NB. Marx and

Engels, in common with their contemporaries, always talk about “men” rather

than “people” – we should make the translation).

“In the social production of their life, men enter into

definite relations which are indispensable and independent

of their will, relations of production which correspond to a

definite stage of their material productive forces. The sum

total of these relations constitute the economic structure of

society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and

political superstructure and to which corresponds definite

forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of

material life conditions the social and intellectual life

process in general. It is not the consciousness of men which

determines their being but on the contrary, their social

being which determines their consciousness.”

(From the Preface to ‘A Critique of Political Economy’ of

1859)

3. The mode of production of hunter-gatherer society

So far we have seen that Marxists say the following things:

1.History has to be analysed according to the different social and class

interests at work,

2.There are different types of society, and that society changes

over time,

3.The basic way that society is organised is called the mode of

production.

Let’s think about point 3) in a bit more detail and try to relate it to the quote

from Marx. If you understand this bit, you’ll have Marx’s key to

understanding human history in your hands.

Marx says that in order to produce their livelihood, people enter into

“definite relations” and these are “indispensable” and “independent of their

will”. All peoples through history have lived in societies and co-operated

with one another to produce the food, clothes and shelter they need to

survive.

As far as the politicians and social engineers of today are concerned, society

is just made up of individuals and their families. The A.L.P. don’t believe in

the existence of the working class – only this or that kind of voter; the

sociologists divide people into income brackets, but have no idea about

social organisation. But, even when the first humans were tribes roaming the

African plains in search of food, they had a definite form of social

organisation and collaborated with one another to gather and hunt.

But the fact remains that hunting and gathering is a hard way to earn a living -

the whole tribe had to work every day to eke out a living. There was no

room for slackers. The only division of labour was based on gender and age,

and indeed, the early tribes were extended families.

If Kerry Packer dropped out of the sky and landed in a hunter-gatherer

society, he’d have to go out and hunt with the rest of the tribe or he’d go

hungry; and if he tried to set up a firm and make a profit from other people’s

hunting he’d be sorely disappointed, because after the hunters and their

families had been fed, there’d be nothing left over by way of profit and he’d

still go hungry.

Let’s suppose that the land in a particular country is particularly bountiful or

the hunters particularly skillful and the hunters and gathers produce enough

to keep themselves and their children and old folk and have a little over to

spare.

We know that under these conditions special roles developed in tribal

society – there were priests and chiefs that had the time to study the stars

and the seasons, have fine clothes made for them, carry out social and

cultural affairs etc., and these people all enjoyed a privileged position by

being free from labour and became “mini-rulers” of one kind or another.

If a sociologist from a university were to come across such a society, they

might write learned papers about the customs and religion etc., or any

number of things, but the key to understanding what is going on in such a

society is not these kind of things, but the way they organised themselves to

produce their livelihood – and that little bit extra.

Imagine if a group of Militant members were to find themselves living in

such a society; no doubt they would share everything equally, work

cooperatively, making all decisions with discussion and voting, etc., and form

what we could call a “primitive communist” society.

But their choice would be very limited. One thing they couldn’t do, even if

they wanted to, is set up a capitalist society.

The fundamental wealth of society, the productive technique and division of

labour are not sufficiently developed. With a small number of people simply

hunting and gathering, you can’t have firms, banks, shareholders, capital or

capitalism. The productive forces are just not sufficiently developed.

This hints at another important point we shall come back to: the social

relations, the type of society, has to “fit” the level of development of the

productive resources.

4. Classes and exploitation: the Neolithic Revolution

In Section 1 we talked about three different types of society which have

existed in western Europe during the past 5000 years: slave society,

feudalism and capitalism. In other words, very different types of class

societies have existed during this period. Slavery, feudalism and capitalism

are all characterised by having a ruling class which owns or controls the land,

materials, equipment etc. used for production, what Marxists calls the means

the means of production. Through their ownership or control of the means of

production, the ruling class is able to exploit the labour of the oppressed

class, whether these are slaves, serfs or proletarians under capitalism.

But before slave society, for hundreds of thousands of years, people had

organised themselves into clans and tribes which had no ruling class

exploiting the others. Of course, many of these clans and tribes had chiefs

and elders with authority: but they were not an economically privileged social

layer, not a class. Stable social classes, which involves exploiters and

exploited, are a product of the great change which took place in human

society about 6,000 years ago. This was the most fundamental change in

human history, called the Neolithic Revolution. What happened?

To cut a long story short, in the area which is now Iraq (Mesopotamia),

people developed a settled form of agriculture. Instead of roaming around

killing animals and picking berries, they learned how to domesticate animals

and grow crops. They became farmers. Of course, at first this was a hard

struggle. But over time, they learned that this was much more economically

productive. Instead of always having to struggle just to produce what they

needed to live on, they began to produce a surplus. They started to live in

settlements, which gradually became bigger, leading to the first cities.

The surplus they produced was not of course big enough for everyone to

double or treble the amount they consumed. Gradually, a layer of priests

emerged who began to take the leading role in organising the new

settlements and taking control of and using the new economic surplus. The

priests were the core of the first ruling class, organising society so they could

snaffle the economic surplus that had been produced.

Another thing we should note about the Neolithic revolution: as society gets

richer, as the first towns and cities are built, then production gets more

complicated. As farming gets more efficient, less people have to do farming.

Others are freed up to become artisans, producing goods like pottery and

jewellery, in the towns. In other words, different types of jobs appear, things

get more specialised: Marx said that the social division of labour got more

complex.

Now another quote: it’s from Geoffrey de Ste. Croix, a brilliant man who

wrote Class Struggles in the Ancient Greek World:

“Class (essentially a relationship) is the collective social

expression of the fact of exploitation, the way in which

exploitation is embodied in the social structure. By

exploitation, I mean the appropriation of part of the

product of the labour of others… . A class is a group of

persons in the community identified by their position in the

whole system of social production, defined above all

according to their relationship (primarily in terms of their

degree of ownership or control) to the conditions of

production (that is to say to the means of production) and

to other social classes… . The individuals constituting a

given class may or may not be partly or wholly conscious

of their own identity and common interests as a class, and

they may or may not feel antagonism to members of other

social classes.”

What Ste Croix is getting at is that you can’t separate classes from

exploitation: if you have an upper and a lower class, one is exploited by the

other. And that takes place through the control or ownership of the means of

production.

5. Summary to Section A: the rulers and the ruled

At this point, you should look back at the quote from Marx. He is saying

that the basis of every society is how people organise to produce their

livelihood, and in every society this is done in a definite and specific way,

giving rise to certain relations of production. In class societies, these

relationships are about control and ownership of the productive process,

about exploitation. Exploitation in turn is about controlling the product of the

labour of others, to appropriate the economic surplus created. Here is

another quote in which Marx says the same thing in a slightly different way:

“The specific economic form in which unpaid surplus

labour is pumped out of the producers determines the

relationship between the rulers and the ruled . . . It is

always the direct relationship of the owners of the

conditions of production to the direct producers – a

relationship naturally corresponding to a definite stage in

the development of the methods of labour and thereby its

social productivity – which reveals the innermost secret,

the hidden basis of the entire social structure, and with it

the political form of sovereignty and dependence, in short

the corresponding specific form of the state.”

Note that in the first quote above, Matx says the economic basis of society

is the “sum total” of the social relations of productin, and that this determines

the “legal and political superstructure” and the “social and intellectual” life of

society in general. This is among the most controversial propositions of

historical materialism, which is the topic of section B.

Section B: Base and superstructure

6. How the different “bits” of society fit together

Marxists are generally accused of srtressing too much the role of economic

factors. In order the probe this point it is worth considering some concrete

examples. A goof place to start is the present legal system in Australia. If

you sign a mortgage agreement and don’t keep up the payments, either your

house will be taken back by the bank or you will be taken to court (or both).

If you are taken to court, the judge will find against you and your would be

on the street.

But why? Why doesn’t the judge say you have the right to keep your house

and not pay for it? The answer of course is that the whole of Australian law

is founded on protecting private property, and that “corresponds” with the

basic type of society we have – capitalism. If we had a legal system based

on hostility to private property, then the whole thing would begin to break

down. Nobody would be able to enforce a contract or collect any debts.

Shoplifting would be legalised, Banks and companies would collapse. A

moment’s thought shows this is obvious: the legal system has to “fit” the

property system, the existing class system.

Capitalist law is designed to keep the rich rich and the poor poor. This is

recognised in the common sense saying that “there’s one law for the rich,

another for the poor”: of course there is, that’s what it’s there for!

Now, let’s think about the political system. Look at any major capitalist

country the US, France or Germany. All the government parties in these

countries are pro-capitalist parties. The newspaper and TV channels are all

owned by big business and churn out capitalist ideas. An idea that doesn’t

make a profit for somebody, doesn’t get a look-in. The whole political

culture, with the exception of socialist parties trying to fight the system, is

pro-capitalist: the political system “fits” together with the economic system.

This is what Marx means by the “political and legal superstructure” which

rises on the economic base. The legal and political system of course are very

direct products of the economic system, in which it’s easy to trace the

infterests of the ruling class. We can go back and look at the legal system

under feudalism and the prevailing form of politics, and see how it defended

the landed aristocracy and the king.

But there are many more complicated things in society in which the

domination of the ruling class is more complicated. Marx said: “The ruling

ideas of any society are the ideas of the ruling class”. Is this true – and what

ideas? Let’s start with Australia in 1996. Open up a copy of any major

newspaper. They have lots of debates among themselves, but you will not

finmd a single daily paper in favour of maintaining workers’ Awards, let

alone the abolition of capitalism! Ruling class ideas are propagated by ruling

class control of the means of mass commmunication.

But direct propaganda is not the sole way that ruling class ideas are

purveyed, even in the newspapers. Ruling class ideas – what we call

ideology – is spontaneously reproduced in every section of society,

including the working class. Often it goes in the form of what is known as

“common sense”. Think of a few common sense ideas – let’s list a few:

“Men are stonger than women”

“You should get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work”

“Inequality between people is only human nature”

“There’ll always be rich and poor”

“Trade unions are bad for the economy”

“Gay sex is unnatural”

These ideas fit together with the common assumptions of capitalist law and

politics: they are part of the ideology which has grown up around capitalist

society. Of course, under capitalism these kind of ideas are fought against by

socialists and sometimes by other radical groups like the Greens. Over time,

the ruling class ideas change to meet changing circumstances, and also

because of struggle against them. For example, 100 years ago the following

statements would have been widely accepted in Australia:

“It’s only natural that white people should rule the world”

“Britons are superior to other races”

“Black people are inferior”

“Men are superior to women both physically and intellectually”

Now these are not commonly accepted, althuogh there are many people

who do believe in them – but you will rarely find these ideas publicly

advocated in newspapers and by leading politicians. Why?

First, of course because there has been a struggle against these ideas. But,

vitally, material conditions have changed. The British Empire has gone.

Britain no longer rules 30% of the world. The ruling class has had to come to

terms with being a third rate power: ideas about the white man’s role and

Britain’s superiority have changed with the changing conditions. Women

have entered the workforce on a massive scale: ideas about the complete

inferiority of women no longer “fit” the changing circumstances – although of

course women’s oppression and sexism still exist.

In all the ideas we have discussed here, we can see a direct link between the

social relations of production (capitalist), the ruliong class (the capitalist class

or bourgeoisie), the legal and political superstructure (pro-capitalist), and the

ruling ideas, ideology (pro-capitalist, anti-working class, racist and sexist).

They all “fit” together. Once they no longer fit together in a more or less

harmonious way, society begins to go into crisis.

There is another aspect of ruling class ideology which we should take into

account. There are of course disagreements among the capitalist class itself -

although not on fundamentals. There are different interest groups among the

capitalists: for example those based on finance and banking do not always

have the same interests as those based no manufacturing industry. Beyond

the different interests, there are different assessments of how best to advance

the needs of the capitalist system, how many concessions to make to the

working class and so on. These sorts of differences are reflected in different

ideological trends in capitalist thinking – liberalism and conservatism for

example – and in immediate practical political differences. Sometimes these

differences can become very sharp, without ever going beyond the bounds

of capitalist ideology.

Of course, there are many ideas and fields of intellectual activity in society

which are not so easy to analyse. For example, what about cinema, music,

painting, TV dramas, pop music, the arts in general? Do they all have

pro-capitalist ideology embedded in them? This is a complicated question

and very controversial among Marxists. The answer is “yes and no” – it

depends. Let’s take an easy example – James Bond movies. These are

permeated with pro-capitalist ideology which is absolutely transparent. On

the other hand, it would be difficult to argue that the American school of

painters called the Abstract Impressionists, or a particular piece of jazz

music is a piece of “bourgeois ideology”. Nonetheless, it is possible to

explain how these forms of artistic expression grew up at this particular point

in time, and what developments in society gave rise to them. For example,

the “youth culture” of the 1960s grew up on the basis of a generation of

young people who had a lot of money to spend – “flower power” wouldn’t

have got very far in the 1930s!

Marx’s ideas about how the law, politics and ideas in general fit together

with the economic basis of society are not just applicable to capitalism. For

example, Marxists have analysed the role of the Catholic Church under

feudalism as a key factor in the ideological “cement” of feudal society,

justifying the rule of the landed nobility and the role of the crown,

None of this should lead us to conclude that it is possible to predict exactly

every aspect of law, politics and art just on the basis of knowing that a

society is feudal or capitalist: it can only tell us the general parameters. For

example, the French legal system is very different from the British. In France

you are (more or less) guilty until proven innocent. In Britain you are (in

theory) innocent until proven guilty. In order to explain this difference, we

have to study the history of these legal systems in detail. Thefact that Britain

and France are both capitalist won’t help us much in explaining these

differences: but one thing is noticeable. Both British and French system are

ounded on defence of private property. They both “fit” the basic relations of

production.

7. The state

One thing we have left out so far, in discussing the evolution of class society

and the legal-political superstructure, is of course the state – the entire

bureaucratic apparatus which guards the domination of the ruling class. The

role of the state is explained in a separate paper in this pack. For the

moment it is enough to note the following propositions of Marxist theory:

1.The state is an apparatus to defend the continued rule of the ruling

class.

2.The state is ultimately a body of armed people – in other words, the

core of the state when it comes to the crunch are the police and the

armed forces.

3.The state did not exist before class society, but only came into

existence with the division of society into classes.

Section C: The ruling class and revolution

8. The ruling class and revolution

How does one type of society get transformed into a completely new type

How is it that feudalism came to an end and was replaced by capitalism -

why aren’t we still living under feudalism? Marx approaches the problem this

way in the next passage from one of his writings quoted above (the 1859

Preface to the Critique of Political Economy):

“At a certain stage of development, the material

productive forces of society come into conflict with the

existing relations of production or – this merely expresses

the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations

…From the forms of development of the productive forces,

these relations turn into their fetters”.

What does this mean? Here we have to remind ourselves of the way that

society fits together.

A certain level of production technique gives rise to definite social relations

of production. Let’s think about this point. Remember the hunter-gatherer

society we talked about above. We noted that there were different ways the

people there could organise themselves on the basis of thier production,

which consists of hunting, fishing, picking fruit and a few handicrafts (the

exact details don’t matter for our purposes). However, we also said that

capitalism couldn’t exist there, because to get capitalism you need a money

economy, capital, industry, banks, a developed division of labour, etc. This

is impossible in our very under-developed desert island (so long as it remains

isolated from the rest of the world). The level of productive tecnique, or to

put it another way, the level of development of the productive forces, sets

definite limits to the type of society you can have.

In a book he wrote in 1845, ‘The Holy Family’, Marx presented this in a

very sharp manner when he said: “The hand mill (for grinding flour – Ed.)

gives you the feudal lord; the steam mill gives you the industrial

capitalist”. There is a large element of truth in this, but painted so boldly it is

an overstatement. The development of the productive forces places definite

limits on the type of social relations you cna have, but does not absolutely

determine them in detail. We know that the level of productive technique

associated with feudalism – mainy based on the agriculture of rural peasants

– in other parts of the world gave rise to a different type of society based not

on the rule of lords based in the countryside as in Britain, France and

Germany, but to the rule of a centralised state bureaucracy under a king (or

in the Ottoman Empire in Turkey and North Africa, a Sultan).

But overall, the level of productive technique and the type off social relations

have to fit together more or less harmoniously, and this in turn has to fit

together with the legal, political and ideological “superstructure”. But what

happens if the “fit” begins to break down?

In the transition from feudalism to capitalism, the growth of the productivity

of agriculture created the basis for sections of the peasants to move off the

land into the towns. The growth of trade and commerce began to create

merchants in the towns with huge amounts of money capital to invest: the

conquest or pillage of colonial lands like South America concentrated new

ealth, including huge amounts of precious metal like gold and silver, which

could be used as coins. The scene was set for the development of a

manufacturing, capitalist class – the bourgeoisie – developing within

feudalism. As production developed, the development of the productive

forces came into conflict with the existing relations of production – those of

the domination of the feudal lords, the landed aristocracy. As Marx notes:

“A period of revolution then ensued”.

This period of revolution was of course the period of the bourgeois,

capitalist, revolutions against feudalism – most notably the French Revolution

of 1789, the English Revolution of 1641 – 9, which destroyed the monarchy

and brought Oliver Cromwell to power, the unification of Italy (the

Risorgiamento) led by Garibaldi in the 1840s. The United States has had

TWO bourgeois revolutions – first George Washington’s revolt against the

British Crown, leading to the Declaration of Independence in 1778, and

second, the Civil War of 1861 – 5, in which the northern industrial capitalists

united the country, by destroying the slave mode of production in the south,

and creating a unified country based on capitalist production relations.

By clearing away feudal and pre-capitalist social relations and state

structures, the bourgeois revolution creates the basis for extending and

ensuring the domination of capitalism. The feudal aristocracy was either

destroyed, or integrated into a reconstiuted capitaist class (as happened in

Britain). Huge sections of the serfs, the rural peasantry, are driven off the

land and forced into the towns to become wage labourers, proletarians, the

core of the new working class. The transformation from feudalism to

capitalism takes place via revolution. As Marx says: the bourgeois emerges

on to the historical stage as a most revolutionary class.

Section D: Freedom and determinism

9. Freedom and determination

According to Marx: “Men make their own history, but not in conditions of

their own making”. This has to be put together with two other statements by

Marx: that production relations are “indispensable and independent of their

(human beings’) will”, and the notion that what distinguishes human beings

from animals is consciousness.

Imagine a peasant serf in feudal England who believes in the socialist

Commonwealth and hates the system – a very advanced and far-seeing serf!

That doesn’t stop the serf being trapped in a set of feudal social relations,

dominated by his feudal lord. However, being a conscious being, het serf

could have taken conscious action: for example, by organising a peasant

uprising. But not in conditions of his own choosing – an individual peasant

could not wish away feudalism by an act of will. Human beings have choices,

they have free will: but their field of action is strictly limited by the economic,

social and political circumstances in which they find themselves.

However, despite the limitations of circumstances, history works throughh

active human agencies who have free will. People have choices. The idea of

a sociaist serf however is highly improbable, because the ideology of

socialism hadn’t been thought of. We are all products of the time in which we

live. Today, we can’t think in terms of a new ideology or theory which won’t

be developed until a thousand years from now. So we have free will, but

only within definite limits.

The problem from the point of view of Marxist theory is that, as Marx and

Engels put it, the political-ideological “superstructure” reacts upon the

economic base of society. People can try to change the existing social

relations and sometimes succeed. For example, the British deliberately kept

the price of land high in Australia to promote the development of capitalist

agriculture:

“extreme facility of acquiring land, by which every man

has been encouraged to become a Proprietor, producing

what he can by his own unassisted efforts . . . [but] what is

now required is to check this extreme facility and to

encourage the formation of a class of labourers for hire

…”

(Colonial Secretary Lord Goderick, quoted in “No Paradise

for Workers” by Ken Buckley and Ted Wheelwright).

This is just one example of how the development of ideas reacts with the

economic base of society. Ideas, inventions, are crucial to the development

of new productive techniques, which in turn help to transform production

relations. New ideas about equality and social justice create movements

which fight against the prevailing system. As Marx put it, ideas, when

mobilising millions, themselves become a material force.

This is especially true of the struggle for socialism. The capitalist revolution

was fought out with the feudal lords on the basis of a religious ideology.

Socialist revolution is the first revolution in human history based on a totally

conscious attempt to transform the social relations of production and bring

them under the control of the producers themselves. The way in which

production relations, the state, politics and ideology fit together will be

completely transformed.

The literature on this topic is vast, so the choice of further reading is

arbitrary. To erally get into the topic it is worth reading ‘What Happened in

History?’ And at least the first 50 pages of ‘The German Ideology’. In

addition to the works listed below, ‘The Communist Manifesto’ by Marx

and Engels, also now available as a Penguin Classic, is important to read.

Recommended reading

Basics

1.’What happened in History?’ C. Gordon Childe, Penguin Books

2.’The German Ideology’, Marx and Engels, Lawrence and Wishart

3.’Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State’, Engels,

Penguin

4.’Preface to the Critique of Political Economy, 1859′ Marx (This is

in most one-volume selections of Marx-Engels).

More difficult work

1.’Freedom and Determination in History according to Marx and

Engels’ Joseph Ferraro, Monthly Review Press

2.’Karl Marx’s Theory of History: A Defence’ G A Cohen

3.’Making History’ Alex Callinicos, Polity Press

4.’Marxism and Anthropology’ Marc Bloch, Oxford University Press.

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