The digital currency Bitcoin has hit the headlines in recent times for its novelty, as well as for its phenomenal rise in price over the past few years. But how much of the Bitcoin sesnsation is hype, and what is the reality?

Bitcoin is a method of payment and a digital currency that was launched in 2009. It has been described as “cash for the internet” and the price of all bitcoins in circulation currently amounts to USD 1.5 billion. One of its key features is its decentralised structure that prevents regulation of the currency by a central authority or bank. It is this aspect of Bitcoin that is trumpeted by utopian libertarians who see it as the embryo of capitalism without regulation or control, a dream that is already being scuppered by the realities of the modern world.

Others see Bitcoin simply as an opportunity to get rich quick and then get out before the bubble bursts, and in that sense Bitcoin paints a microcosmic picture of the nightmarish short-termism and irresponsibility that is the hallmark of capitalism in decline. It is hardly surprising that such a phenomenon should take off in the midst of a global crisis of capitalism.

According to some, the technology pioneered by Bitcoin and other so-called crypto-currencies is potentially game-changing when it comes to online transactions, with as much potential for a revolution in payment processing as Napster was able to achieve with music downloads. However, what is already becoming clear is that this technology can never be used to its full potential under capitalism: to really unleash the power of technology in all fields, not least in online transactions, we require a socialist plan of investment in technology and a plan for the use of technology to develop the economy in the interests of need and not profit.

Bitcoin as a currency

The most hardcore Bitcoin enthusiasts insist that the crypto-currency hails a brighter future free from human error and untrustworthy governments. The economic collapse in Cyprus in 2013, which led to the government seizing a percentage of the deposits of the wealthiest accounts in Cypriot banks, was seized upon by Bitcoin developers who pointed out that such a situation would never arise if only those deposits were held in Bitcoins, out of reach of governments who need bailing out when crisis hits.

Similarly, supporters of Bitcoin point to the eye-watering quantitative easing that is being carried out, most notably in the USA, and the damage and instability the tapering of that easing is causing in the emerging markets, as evidence of the irresponsibility of central banks when it comes to managing currencies.

By contrast to normal currencies, which are backed by central banks and governments, the Bitcoin network is maintained by volunteers, who receive bitcoins in return for maintaining the network (a process referred to a “mining”). Transactions are indelibly recorded on the ‘block-chain’ – a ledger of all transactions ever made - of which every Bitcoin user has a copy. This decentralised setup makes it impossible for one person or entity to control the currency; instead any changes to the network have to be agreed upon by all those who work to maintain it.

This may look good on paper, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating; and in the complex and dynamic reality of the modern economy Bitcoin seems to be leaving libertarians with an unpleasant taste in their mouths.

The value of a bitcoin is incredibly volatile. On multiple occasions it has seen its growth mushroom, only to collapse by as much as 50% in a matter of hours. Recently it increased in value by 60 times over the course of a single year, reaching over USD 1,200 in December 2013, only to have fallen to around USD 650 today. It goes without saying that such a volatile commodity makes for an extremely bad currency. Bitcoin enthusiasts insist that the currency will stabilise given time and wider adoption of Bitcoin, but this seems unlikely.

Means of exchange

The use of a commodity as a currency gives it a two-fold function. Firstly it makes it into the universal equivalent in which the value of all other commodities can be measured. And secondly it makes it into a means of exchange. These two functions are closely linked. Historically, precious metals like gold have been used for this task because they concentrate a lot of value - i.e. socially necessary labour time - into a physically small and durable object. This is possible because gold, as a rare metal, requires a significant quantity of socially necessary human labour to extract and form into a tradable commodity. It therefore does not require much gold to reflect the value of large quantities of other commodities, making it easier to transport and thus facilitate trade. Its physical property of durability also recommends it as a means of exchange.

Clearly gold fulfils both the functions required of a currency; but it’s also clear that the second function of currency, as a means of exchange, could be fulfilled with even greater ease by banknotes or even just electronic transfers. What matters when it comes to currency as a means of exchange is not the intrinsic value of the currency but the ease with which it can be moved around.

However, whenever tokens representing valuable commodities replace the commodities themselves it’s important to remember that the tokens are only replacing one of the functions of currency – that of means of exchange. The function of being a universal equivalent in which all value can be measured must still be fulfilled by a commodity that has a real value (i.e. contains socially necessary labour), something that banknotes or electronic signals hardly possess. For this reason, any tokens that are used as currency must be backed up by a commodity of real value, i.e. they must ultimately represent the actual value of commodities in circulation in the economy.

In the modern world banknotes and electronic transfers clearly aren’t convertible into metallic money, e.g. gold. Going into a high street bank and demanding the equivalent in gold of a ten pound note is not likely to get you very far. Instead the currency is guaranteed by the government and backed up by the strength of a nation’s economy. Today, banknotes fulfil the function of money as a means of exchange, while the strength of the nation’s economy as a whole provides the value against which goods and services can be measured and traded.

So where does Bitcoin fit into all this? Clearly it is a means of exchange, but it is not backed up by a government and a national economy. Bitcoins do not have an economic anchor and so their value is entirely driven by speculation and subject to the whims of investors. Such an empty currency really cannot be considered a currency at all as it is entirely crippled by contradictions.

Money as a social relation

There is an upper limit on the number of bitcoins that will ever be produced, which has been set by its developers, and which will not be reached until the early 22nd Century. But this is entirely arbitrary. Marx points out that when it comes to money, the amount in circulation in a given economy is determined by the sum of all the prices of the commodities being exchanged, divided by the speed at which those commodities change hands. In other words, the amount of money needed in circulation for the economy to function properly cannot be set arbitrarily or on a whim, but is determined by the strength and development of the economy as a whole. Bitcoin is not tied into an economy; in fact it is extremely hard to find real commodities to buy with bitcoins, and therefore the number in circulation is entirely divorced from the real world.

It is this abstract attitude to the concept of money that seems to plague every aspect of Bitcoin. Tyler Winklevoss, one of the twins who claim that Facebook was their idea and who are high-profile backers of Bitcoin, declared “we have elected to put our money and faith in a mathematical framework that is free of politics and human error”. Strangely for a man so closely linked with the world of social networking, Winklevoss seems unable to grasp the fact that money is, by definition, social.

It is not possible to separate money from the societies that use it, nor to place it outside of the influence of the real people who use money throughout the wider economy. This is the reason, historically, why central banks arose in the first place – not as a dark conspiracy forced on society by incompetent governments, but as a result of the development of trade using a universal equivalent. Money, as a universal equivalent, seeks to neutralise the “private” aspect of commodities in general by making all commodities convertible on the same terms. In that sense it is a socialising instrument and can no more be separated from society and placed under mathematical control than trade as a whole could be.

Bitcoin transactions are currently illegal in Russia, and Chinese banks have been banned from handling Bitcoin transactions. Singapore has classed bitcoins as goods rather than currency, but Britain has scrapped plans to charge VAT on the mining of bitcoins. The USA is reviewing the situation and has yet to indicate what its stance in relation to the crypto-currency will be. Finland classifies it as a “digital commodity” not a currency, and Germany treats it as private money. The status of Bitcoin at the moment is clearly not that of a legitimate currency, but it is also obvious that governments are not entirely sure in what way they should classify it.

Could Bitcoin ever become a bona fide currency as its advocates argue? Many point out that it’s simply a case of getting Bitcoin to be more widely accepted – it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby if more people use it then it will become a viable currency because it will have economic activity backing it up. This is a classically abstract and utopian idea. Purely hypothetically this idea may be true, in much the same way that if everybody simply stopped obeying the law then the law would no longer exist. But an idea is not correct simply because it looks good on paper; its validity is proven only by its capacity to be implemented in practice.

Governments and central banks

It seems highly unlikely that Bitcoin will gain wide acceptance for a number of reasons. Governments and central banks are unlikely to give up their control of national economies, precisely because that is the method by which they seek to regulate the economy. For example, since the slump of 2008/9 quantitative easing has been carried out on an extraordinary scale in order to try to keep money flowing around the economy. The good sense and impact of this policy on millions of workers around the world has been discussed elsewhere. It is important to note for now that this is viewed by the bourgeoisie as one of the only solutions they have to the crisis. Any threat to take that kind of control out of their hands to be dispersed through a decentralised structure is going to be met with the full weight of the bourgeoisie and their state apparatus in opposition to such an attempt.

For Bitcoin to be widely adopted it would have to offer something better for people than the currency they already use. Bitcoin’s advocates explain that its advantage over traditional currencies is that it can stop meddling by governments. In other words it affords the wealthiest people, who already have a great deal of money or who have enough money and time to “mine” bitcoins, the security of knowing that when economic crisis comes their money will not be threatened by governments looking to raise funds to bail themselves out. This may be an attractive prospect for all the wealthy Russians who lost money when the crisis took hold in Cyprus, but for the vast majority of people Bitcoin, as a method of exchange, offers them nothing because they have no money to exchange for commodities in the first place.

Whether we use Bitcoin or Dollars, it makes no difference if we have none of either. Bitcoin as a currency has no impact on the ownership of the commanding heights of the economy and therefore is of little interest to the vast majority of ordinary people.

Finally, Bitcoin appears to be extremely vulnerable to hackers, with the most recent in a long list of scandals being the bankruptcy of Mt Gox, the largest Bitcoin exchange in the world that handled 70% of Bitcoin transactions, following a major attack in which USD 500 million worth of bitcoins were stolen. Also, already this year USD 2.5 million has been stolen from the Silk Road 2.0 website (which uses bitcoins to trade) and Flexcoin (a Bitcoin bank) was forced to close following the theft of USD 600,000 from its system.

Some of these thefts have been possible due to bugs in the software that supports the bitcoin network, demonstrating the vulnerability of an entirely digital currency. Because Bitcoin transactions and owners are anonymous, trading with Bitcoin is akin to handing over a bag of cash down a dark alleyway; and storing it is like keeping wads of cash in a shoebox under your bed. Even firms who specialise in keeping bitcoins safe seem unable to protect themselves against hackers, so to expect everyone to have the technological skill to protect their computers sufficiently to avoid the theft of their life savings is frankly ridiculous. Banks spend billions protecting themselves from theft; for Bitcoin to be widely adopted would require similar efforts on the part of each and every member of the public – such a situation would be impossible.

A utopian fantasy

Making Bitcoin a currency is not simply a case of declaring it to be so and watching it take off. At the moment it clearly is not a currency, given its abstract nature and lack of an economic anchor, and its prospects for becoming one are slim. It exists in a world that already has historically evolved and established currencies, compared to which it has little to recommend itself for the majority of people.

On top of that, at a time of economic crisis when governments are doing all they can to regulate their own money supply, and with increasingly nationalist inclinations as is inevitable at a time of capitalist crisis, a decentralised, international currency will be met with firm opposition if it tries to begin to tether itself to any kind of real economic activity.

As if this wasn’t demoralising enough for anarcho-capitalist utopians, recent developments have burst another of their bubbles. Bitcoin is supposed to prove that building a system that runs perfectly well without centralisation is possible. This is yet another fundamentally mistaken idea of how the economy works. Bitcoin was set up as a perfectly decentralised system, but to expect it to begin working on a capitalist basis and remain decentralised is pure fantasy. Everything changes and nothing remains the same – under capitalism that change takes the form of concentration of capital and, in a capitalist system where capital equals power, that means the centralisation of power in the hands of a smaller and smaller number of people. is a bitcoin mining pool that allows members of that pool to aggregate their resources and processing power to mine bitcoins more effectively. So far this single mining pool (in essence a cartel) has gained more than 40% of the total computational power on the bitcoin network. All that is required is for this cartel to gain 51% of the processing power for it to be able to control the network entirely, giving it the power to reverse transactions and invalidate other people’s currency.

Under capitalism centralisation is inevitable. As has already been pointed out, central banks are not the result of conspiracy or accident, but the inevitable product of economic development and trade. The utopians behind Bitcoin dream of giving people power over their own lives; but long as capitalism exists that will never be possible. We should not see centralisation as the enemy, but rather the class that controls these centralised institutions. Only by bringing banks and businesses under democratic workers’ control can we socialise production and allow people to govern their own lives.

Bitcoin as an investment

Marx points out that, when it comes to tokens as currency, those tokens only have a use-value if they have an exchange value. In other words, unless those tokens are accepted as a valid currency then they have no useful function whatsoever and therefore have absolutely no value (even if human labour has gone into producing them). Bitcoin is barely a valid currency since it has almost no economic anchor (pretty much the only place it’s possible to buy things with it is the illegal Silk Road website) and yet bitcoins are changing hands for extraordinary amounts of money and are therefore attracting the attention of investors. Why is this happening?

This is a classic example of a speculative bubble. Bitcoin is new, fashionable and often in the news. Its cult status, anti-government aura and lack of clear regulation or understanding of it by the authorities makes it attractive to investors looking for somewhere to make some quick cash. Because it does not have an economic anchor it is very susceptible to waves of speculation that can have a snowball effect in pushing the price of bitcoins up – hence a 60-fold increase in price over the course of a year.

Of course, the same factors that mean the price can increase rapidly also mean that it can collapse in the blink of an eye. News of hacking or other malfunctions have caused Bitcoin prices to take a tumble multiple times in a short space of time. Mere rumours, or rumours of rumours, can cause jumpy investors to abandon ship which, without any real value to back it up, has the capacity to cause Bitcoin prices to collapse entirely, wiping out fortunes in the process.

Investing in Bitcoin is therefore a risky but potentially profitable business. At the present time this is a rare thing. Investment in Britain has fallen 25% since 2008; many large companies have zero debt on their balance sheets (meaning that they are not borrowing any money to invest); there is GBP 750 billion in cash sitting in British banks, owned by big business, that is not being invested; and, most damningly, industrial production and trade is in the doldrums all over the world and yet the stock markets are booming. Clearly there is a lot of money sloshing around the world, and yet none of it is being invested in real production as there’s no profit to be realised there. This is a process that has been going on for years, but has taken a particularly acute form since 2008/9.

The contradiction of overproduction

The reason for this is the crisis of overproduction that is paralysing the global economy. In the last period capitalism has been extended well beyond its limits, primarily thanks to the vast expansion of credit. Working people, who are paid less than the value of the goods that they produce, were able to borrow money to allow them to continue consuming. But this can only go so far, and for the last five years the economy has been suffering the hangover for the previous period of wild borrowing. There is now a glut of commodities in the economy, which means that capitalists cannot profit from investment – why invest in more production when you can’t use the productive capacity you already have?

The result is that capitalists look to speculation and gambling on the stock markets to make their money. In such circumstances, Bitcoin is an attractive prospect. It holds next to no real value, but it is something that can be invested in, traded and made a profit out of. No new value is created – it is simply making money out of money – but from the capitalists’ point of view that is the only thing that matters.

Speculative bubbles such as this are prone to burst, and Bitcoin is extremely volatile and has seen its price rise and fall dramatically since its conception. Normally such volatility would put investors off, with most looking to invest in something with more stability and a higher likelihood of a good return. For this reason, bubbles as flimsy as this one do not normally last very long. But Bitcoin has proven fairly resilient to the enormous shocks that its volatility gives rise to, and despite halving in price on a number of occasions it continues to attract investors. This is a reflection of the desperation of the capitalists who are completely starved of investment opportunities. There are so few avenues of profitable investment available at the moment that something a volatile as Bitcoin remains a viable investment.

Such activity is clearly not sustainable and has little to do with Bitcoin as a currency. Unlike the anarcho-capitalists who have an ideological attachment to Bitcoin, most investors are simply using it as a vehicle to make money. As soon as the bubble bursts completely or a new fashionable investment opportunity comes up, they will discard Bitcoin without a second thought. Such speculation is interested in making money out of money, not in investment in real production or in supporting libertarian pipe-dreams.

Bitcoin as a technology

According to some enthusiasts, while the currency itself may not be viable, the technology behind Bitcoin is of great interest, with serious potential for “revolutionising” the way that online transactions take place. The technology allows for direct transfers from person to person, like handing over cash, without expensive payment providers such as Paypal or Visa acting as middle men and charging high fees for each transaction, as well as by removing high fees for cross-border payments.

This “revolutionary” potential for Bitcoin has already been seized upon by the major investment bank JPMorgan Chase who, last year, filed for a patent for an online payment system that is based on Bitcoin technology. But this serves to highlight the real problem when it comes to technology under capitalism. The reason for high transaction fees is not a lack of sufficient technology, but rather that firms are out to make a profit out of transactions, rather than trying to facilitate exchange so that people’s needs can be met.

In other words, a revolution in the way that online transactions are carried out will not come from different technology but a change in who owns and controls that technology and in what way. For all its technological innovation, if crypto-currency is owned by JPMorgan or some other capitalist firm we can guarantee that it will not be used unless it can make profit. It is this capitalist economic system that holds back the development and use of new technology – it is therefore capitalism that must be the target of our revolution.

In a socialist economy we could make full use of all the technology that currently exists for the fulfilment of need rather than the pursuit of profit. We would also be able to direct investment in new technology where it is needed most, as opposed to what might make the most money for an individual capitalist investor. This is not something that can be achieved under capitalism, nor is it something that can be achieved by demanding decentralisation and anarchy. Only by socialising the means of production through centralisation and democratic control can this potential be realised.

The future of Bitcoin

Bitcoin has little prospect for becoming an accepted currency, neither is it a long term investment option. While its technology has the potential to be developed, this will never be used to its full capacity as long as it is confined within the limits of capitalism. Bitcoin represents little more than an anarcho-capitalist pipe-dream and a speculator’s playground, and in that sense reflects the failures of capitalism and the inadequacy of anarchist, libertarian economic ideas. In short, looking to Bitcoin for revolutionary economics will leave us looking in vain.

Faced with an unprecedented crisis of capitalism and attacks on living standards people are looking to radical economic solutions and the ideas of socialism are gaining an increasing echo. People are looking for ideas to turn society on its head and for real control and ownership over their own lives. In this enormously turbulent period that we are entering into, fashionable speculative bubbles and trendy anarcho-libertarian ideas will disappear into insignificance and be overshadowed by open class struggle and socialist revolution.

Marx Capital in a Day

Marx Capital in a Day

Educate Yourself

  • Educate Yourself
  • The Fundamentals of Marxism
  • Dialectical Materialism and Science
  • Historical Materialism
  • Marxist Economics
  • The State
  • Russia, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalinism
  • Anarchism
  • Feminism
  • Fascism
  • The National Question
  • Imperialism and War
  • Revolutionary Strategy
  • Revolutionary History

Socialist Appeal are proud to publish this basic guide to help focus your studies of Marxist theory and practice. Visit the various tabs to find links to introductory articles, classic texts, and audio talks for different topics. We also invite our readers to become acquainted with the more basic ideas of Marxism by starting with the recommended short reading list, going through the FAQ section, reading this article that combats the myths about Marxism, and listening to the following audios:

Why Marx Was Right - Alan Woods

What is Marxism? - Alan Woods

What Will Socialism Look Like? - Fred Weston

What is Capitalism? What is Socialism? - Fred Weston

We will be expanding and developing this section over time. Please contact us if you have any questions, or if you'd like any suggestions on what to read next.

Reading the classics of Marxism is the best way to understand these ideas. At first it may seem difficult, but every worker and young person knows that things worth having are worth working hard for!  Patient and persistent study, discussion, and ultimately, the day to day application of these ideas over a lifetime are the key.

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Marxist theory is the basis upon which our analysis, perspectives, program, and participation in the movement are based. It is our "guide to action." This why Socialist Appeal and IMT place so much emphasis on political education. To this end, we have created an extensive Education Plan to assist comrades in their political development. This is an important resource.

However, it's length and scope may seem daunting to new comrades. With this in mind, Socialist Appeal has compiled a shorter list of classic works and other important writings we think will serve to lay a strong foundation in the ideas and methods of Marxism. We would like to encourage all our supporters and those interested in learning more about Marxism to read (or re-read!) through the works on this list.

This selection of writings is an excellent introduction to many of the fundamentals of Marxist theory. There are many other writings that could be added, but this selection provides a strong basis for those wishing to equip themselves with the necessary ideas for the daily work of fighting for socialism.

Many of these are smaller books or pamphlets; some are more lengthy books; and others are just short articles. This list should therefore be more digestible than the full Education Plan, particularly those with busy work or school schedules. All of them are available to

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Dialectical Materialism is the philosophy or methodology of Marxism. Every political movement, party, or even statement of any kind bases itself, consciously or unconsciously, on some sort of philosophy or world outlook. Marxism is concerned with effecting a radical change in society, and therefore requires an exceptionally clear, thoroughgoing, and systemic set of philosophical principles.

The ideas of Dialectical Materialism, based on the best traditions of philosophical thought, are not a fixed dogma but a system of tools and general principles for analysing the world materialistically and scientifically.

If we are to understand society in order to change it, this cannot be done arbitrarily, since the human will is not master of nature; rather, our ideas and thoughts are reflections of necessary material laws. Instead, we must seek to understand the laws of how human society changes. By following our education plan for Dialectical Materialism, the reader will familiarise themselves with this way of looking at the world so that they too can begin to apply Marxist ideas.

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Historical Materialism is the result of Dialectical Materialism applied to human society and history. It encompasses the general theory of how and why society develops in the way it does. A deeper, more concrete understanding of these principles in combination with a study of real, living history of class struggles enables us to come to a general understanding of where capitalist society is headed and what political strategy is required to successfully influence the course of events.

The basic principles of Historical Materialism are that human society has inherent laws guiding it - its developments are by no means arbitrary or accidental, nor the mere subject of the will of great men and ideas. Human individuals can and do influence society according to their ideas, but only ever within definite material constraints and conditions. Above all, the law determining historical development is that of the development of the means of production - meaning economically productive technology, science, technique etc. The extent of the development of the productive forces determines the social relations of production - i.e. the structure of society, class relations etc. Each social system has its inherent laws of motion. If we want to overthrow capitalist society, we must understand how capitalism works.

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Marxist economics is the study of the laws of motion of capitalist society. Why does capitalism perpetually go into crisis? Why does mass unemployment exist? Are commodity production, the domination of the market, and rich and poor natural, immutable states of being for humanity? Or are they merely the products of this specific mode of production - capitalism? If so, is there any way capitalism can exist without these problems, or by minimising them?

Marxist economics is a “holistic” way of analysing capitalist economy. It starts out by placing it in its real historical context (rather than dreaming up abstract idealisations of capitalism to justify it, as bourgeois economics does), studying all its interconnections and contradictions, rather than artificially isolating one aspect of it. In doing so, Marxist economics lays bare the functioning of capitalism; the exploitation and injustice inherent within it. Those who want to get to the essence of why, in the 21st Century, despite having a more advanced understanding of the world than ever before, humanity seems plunged into perpetual crisis it cannot get to grips with, should look no further than Marxist economics, beginning with the writings of Marx himself.

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Like money, the state is something we are all very familiar with and take for granted, but its real essence tends to elude us. The ideologists of capitalism have tried, in various ways, to justify the capitalist state as supremely rational; a neutral arbiter for society, and the embodiment of justice. For Marxists, the state is not at all neutral, nor just. It is certainly anything but rational. We must strip the vale of mysticism away and reveal the state’s real basis. To do that, we have to treat the state historically - taking in its origins, rise, and eventual fall.

The state has not always existed. It is inseparable from class society. Ultimately, it is the instrument for the ruling class to oppress and hold down the masses, guaranteeing the status quo and the sanctity of property. Although the modern state performs many other functions, these are secondary to its real basis - the protection of a set of property relations. To do this, it needs “armed bodies of men” and a monopoly on the use of violence. To establish socialism, it will not be possible for the working class to use the state as it currently exists - that is, with the same network of judges, heads of police and army etc. All the key texts explaining how exactly we relate to the state, and the

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The Russian Revolution is the greatest event in world history for Marxists. For the first time, the working class successfully took and held power. The slaves fought back and won. For these reasons, the name of Lenin and Trotsky, and the entire 1917 episode, has been deliberately dragged through the mud by the bourgeoisie ever since.

Naturally they are aided in this task by the degeneration of the revolution and by the existence of Stalin’s monstrous dictatorship. However, Stalinism represents the opposite of Bolshevism’s real traditions, which readers can read about in this section, as well as the Marxist explanation for why Stalinism took place and what this means for our movement.

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Radicalised youth, seeking to understand how to change modern society, naturally tend to look to both Marxism and Anarchism in equal measure. The question as to which philosophy, or which combination of the two, has the best answers, has long been at the forefront of the minds of revolutionaries.

Anarchism is naturally attractive to all those correctly alienated by bureaucracy in the revolutionary movement. Anarchists are certainly correct to reject Stalinism and careerism. However, it is not sufficient simply to reject these phenomena. We need to understand why bureaucracy and oppression exist and what role they play, in order to understand how to avoid them. We believe that, for all its opposition, Anarchism has little to say about the alternative to bureaucracy. Instead, it is Marxism’s historical materialist method that allows us to understand these problems. In this section the reader will find a series of articles dealing with anarchism and the issues that anarchism raises.

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The discrimination and oppression of women is integral to class society, such that Engels even referred to it as the “first class oppression”. Along with the class system itself, the oppression of women often takes on the appearance of being natural, immutable and eternal, since it has been with us for so long.

But Marxism is a historical science, concerned with understanding the fundamental changes that society goes through. It cannot be satisfied with comfortable prejudices. A study of the origins of human society, as Engels famously conducted in his book The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State, reveals that the oppression of women is by no means natural and was not even known for much of our history. As Engels explains, the oppression of women arose with the emergence of class society and private property; it will fall with it.

Marxists are fully in solidarity with feminists: we are irreconcilably opposed to the oppression of women and fully support the struggle for their emancipation. We believe this will be achieved through the class struggle, since that is the basic locomotive of history in a class society such as ours. However, Marxism represents a distinct set of ideas from feminism, which is a more eclectic and varied set of ideas. We believe that in this section, readers will find the tools Marxism

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Fascism is something of a bogeyman in modern British society, and has an almost mythical character in bourgeois public opinion. But despite constant talk of it, very little is said about why it happened and how it may or may not happen again.

Fascism is really the death agony of capitalism and the “distilled essence of imperialism”. The fascists in Germany, Italy, Spain and other countries were only able to come to power on the back of defeats of the working class. Ultimately, the madness of fascism expresses the historic crisis and dead-end of capitalism that had arrived by the early 20th Century, alongside the inability of the working class to take power and replace capitalism with a workers’ state, due to the corruption of their leadership, in the form of both reformism and Stalinism. Fascism could and should have easily been avoided had the working class possessed a militant and united leadership prepared to take power.

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The question of nationalities - that is, the oppression of nations and national minorities, which has characterised capitalism from its birth till the present time - has always occupied a central position in Marxist theory. Once again, the historical materialist approach of Marxism dissolves the apparent “natural” role of the nation as a necessary expression of human society. Nations have by no means always existed, nor will they always exist in the future.

The nation as we know it today is a product of the development of capitalism and its need to unify peoples into units of a certain size (depending on the level of the system’s development – e.g. more recently formed nations tend to be much bigger) to consolidate the market. The contradictions and tensions between nations are a result of capitalism’s “combined and uneven” development. The contradictions of the capitalist mode of production itself force each ruling class to expand outwards, developing a global market and imperialism in the process.

The violent tensions that this process breeds in turn give rise to nationalism, racism and wars. There is no way a successful world revolution, abolishing the global capitalist system, can take place without a careful and nuanced understanding of the national question, with all the sensitivities and complexity it brings. Therefore this section is of the utmost importance for revolutionaries.

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War is a constant feature of life under capitalism, especially in the epoch of imperialism. There has not been a single day of peace since the end of WWII, despite the appearance of WWII (and all previous wars) of being the “war to end all wars”. Capitalism is inherently unstable, competitive and violent. Moreover, there can be no final peace between the classes, since this system is based on the exploitation of the working class by the rich. 

However, there are wars of different kinds under capitalism. The question of war is the hardest equation of all to judge, so careful study is essential so that revolutionaries are not blown off course by the complexities involved. For example, some “socialists” called for support for the war in Iraq, as it had the appearance of establishing “democracy” over dictatorship. Equally, the failure to understand the true meaning of WWI and its implications was the direct cause of the death of the Second International.

Wars, like revolutions, represent the sharp extreme of capitalism’s crisis. Under capitalism, there will be many wars in the future. The more revolutionaries study and understand capitalism’s previous wars, the better equipped we will be to fight against future wars and the capitalist system itself.

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Socialist Appeal is the British section of the International Marxist Tendency, which is active in around 40 countries. Our aim is to spread the ideas of Marxism, in an organised fashion, in the labour and youth movement. Only the British working class has the ability to change British society, because of the central role they play in production and their shared interest in establishing socialism.

However, we must carefully study the history and traditions of the British working class in order for Marxist ideas to connect with them. There are all too many groups who simply declare themselves the vanguard of the British working class, and have a dismissive attitude to the class’ real traditions.

In this section readers will find a series of articles explaining our position on the class struggle in Britain, the key points in the history of the British working class and the lessons to be learnt from them, and the strategy of the Marxists in relation to the movements of the masses.

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The ideas of Marxism and the need for a revolutionary party are not the result simply of a single individual, but arise from the study of history - the history of class struggle. In this respect, the revolutionary party is often referred to as being the memory of the working class, and our task is to learn the lessons from history in order to prepare for the revolutionary events taking place today and in the future.

In this section we present a series of articles and audios covering the key revolutionary struggles in history - from the early class struggles in Rome to the tremendous movements of the working class in the 20th Century. By reading and listening to these, our readers should gain a good overview of the history of the revolutionary movement and the main lessons to be learnt from these.

For analysis of 21st Century revolutionary movements, check out the News and Analysis sections of the website!

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Marxist theory

Hitler and the Rise of Fascism in Germany Hitler and the Rise of Fascism in Germany
Duration: 00:51:40
Date: 9 Mar 2017
Workers’ control, democracy, and power Workers' control, democracy, and power
Duration: 00:57:00
Date: 2 Mar 2017
In Defence of the Russian Revolution - part two In Defence of the Russian Revolution - part two
Duration: 00:21:16
Date: 17 Feb 2017
In Defence of the Russian Revolution -  part one In Defence of the Russian Revolution - part one
Duration: 00:22:04
Date: 1 Feb 2017
Materialism and Dialectics in Ancient Greece Materialism and Dialectics in Ancient Greece
Duration: 00:48:58
Date: 27 Jan 2017
Imperialism in the 21st century Imperialism in the 21st century
Duration: 00:57:35
Date: 13 Dec 2016
Fascism: What it is and how to fight it Fascism: What it is and how to fight it
Duration: 00:36:44
Date: 12 Dec 2016
Dialectics, science, and nature Dialectics, science, and nature
Duration: 00:48:55
Date: 9 Dec 2016
Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution
Duration: 00:42:54
Date: 30 Nov 2016
Marxism, Imperialism, and War Marxism, Imperialism, and War
Duration: 00:50:16
Date: 25 Nov 2016
The Hungarian Revolution: 60 years on The Hungarian Revolution: 60 years on
Duration: 00:47:10
Date: 1 Nov 2016