Book Review from the August 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard
Marx And Other Four-Letter Words. Edited by Georgina Blakeley and Valerie Bryson, Pluto Press, 2005.
Being a collection of essays by academics for their students, this volume examines Marx’s key concepts: capitalism, class, the state, oppression, revolution, equality and democracy, and more. There are numerous books of this type and and most of the chapters do a reasonable job of reconstructing Marx’s thought. However, Paul Blackledge’s chapter on Revolution treats Marx and Lenin as though they were complementary. This is the standard Leninist line put forward by Blackledge:
“While Marx and Engels laid down some general guidelines for building a workers’ party, they did not develop these into a fully worked out theory: this task was taken up by later Marxists, notably Lenin ...”
Paraphrasing Lenin himself, the author claims that Lenin’s State and Revolution (published in 1917) “returned to the works of Marx and Engels” and explained their ideas on revolution. But this untrue. Marx and Engels’ insistence on working class self-emancipation specifically rules out what would become later known as Leninism, the idea that the working class were incapable of self-emancipation and must be freed by a Leninist vanguard party. This is in fact the exact opposite of Marx and Engels’ position.
As the chapter on Working-Class Internationalism quotes Marx: “numbers weigh only in the balance if united by combination and led by knowledge.” And the chapter on Democracy, quoting another commentator on Marx in the twentieth century, declares: “the terrible fate which befell Marx was that he was Leninised.”