Happy New Year, comrades!
I’m sure you’re all aware by now that this year, 2017, will mark the 100th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. And much as in 1917, we find ourselves not only in the midst of great calamity, war, poverty, exploitation, and injustice (and with every indication that, if things are left to continue as they are, our common situation will most likely worsen rather than improve), but also in dire need (perhaps now more than ever) of revolutionary political education and guidance.
So partly in commemoration and partly out of simple necessity, I propose we spend much of this year seriously digging into the classics of revolutionary theory. We must teach ourselves, but we must also follow some sort of plan. To that end, I plan to post weekly reading selections with commentary from Maurice Cornforth’s 1952 book, Readers’ Guide to the Marxist Classics. The organization of these selections will more or less follow Cornforth’s outline.
Selections will also differ greatly in length, ranging from incredibly short to quite lengthy; where necessary, I intend to break up and even abridge longer works. I don’t really expect anybody will read 100 pages or more in a week; that said, I don’t think a single weekly reading of 40, 50, or even 75 pages is necessarily so long it needs to be broken up. (After all, divided evenly over the course of seven days, a 75-page reading amounts to fewer than 11 pages per day. Even 100 pages divided evenly over the same number of days would amount to fewer than 15 pages per day.)
Finally, from Maurice Cornforth’s “Foreword”:
A word of advice to inexperienced readers.
In reading the Marxist classics one often comes upon whole passages which are found, at first reading, very hard to understand. Sometimes this is due to the inherent difficulty of the subject, sometimes to unfamiliar words, sometimes to the introduction of arguments against persons whom the reader has never before heard of and whose ideas are obscure or perverse. On encountering such difficulties, do not allow yourself to get “stuck.” Even if you cannot understand the passage, read straight through it; you will soon find yourself picking up the threads again when the difficult passage is past. And with more extensive reading and with greater familiarity with the subject, you can return to the work again and find that your first difficulty no longer exists or at all events is lessened. If, on the other hand, you stick at the difficult passage and puzzle over it too long, you may grow discouraged and never finish the book at all.
As regards difficult or unfamiliar words, it is hoped that this guide, and the various explanations and references given in it, may give some help in the mastery of such words. But words, like many other unfamiliar things, become understood as you become familiar with them and with their use.
Marxism is not a dogma, but a guide to action. In studying Marxism, it is never a question of learning certain phrases and definitions by heart, but of learning how the principles of Marxism were developed in the course of the struggle for socialism and how we in our turn can apply and develop Marxism in our own struggle. In proportion as we can advance our study of Marxism we are equipping ourselves the better for practical political work; and at the same time, in proportion as we ourselves gain political experience, we are equipping ourselves the better to understand and apply the teachings of Marxism.