In one week's time, world leaders will meet in Paris for the COP21 United Nations climate change conference. But as bourgeois politicians impotently discuss and negotiate, the atmosphere continues to heat up as capitalism kills the planet. The future facing humanity is clear: socialism or barbarism.

Join Socialist Appeal supporters on the People's March for Climate, Justice and Jobs in London on Sunday 29th November.

It was said by classical historians that the Emperor Nero “fiddled whilst Rome burnt”. Much the same could be said today, as modern day world leaders do nothing as fires rage in Indonesia.

“Why is this happening?”, George Monbiot – a leading environmental writer – asks in the Guardian (30th October 2015).

“Indonesia’s forests have been fragmented for decades by timber and farming companies. Canals have been cut through the peat to drain and dry it. Plantation companies move in to destroy what remains of the forest to plant monocultures of pulpwood, timber and palm oil. The easiest way to clear the land is to torch it. Every year, this causes disasters. But in an extreme El Niño year like this one, we have a perfect formula for environmental catastrophe.”

The Economist (7th November 2015) elaborates further:

“Indonesia has long suffered from forest fires during the annual dry season. Many are set deliberately, by farmers and firms clearing land for crops such as oil palm. The blazes have grown more serious as agriculture has expanded onto peatlands, which become volatile when drained. But this year’s El Niño has lengthened and intensified the dry season, creating a calamity.”

In short, the anarchy of capitalism, combined with the effects of climate change, has resulted in a seemingly uncontrollable inferno. This is creating an ecological disaster, not only in terms of the damage causes to the local natural habitat, but also to the wider global climate, with some scientific estimates suggesting that the Indonesian forest fires are producing more CO2 emissions daily than the entire US economy. In the space of three weeks, the carbon emissions will exceed that of the German economy’s annual total.

So much hot air

This veritable hell on earth is the backdrop to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference – the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) since the establishment of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992 – which is taking place in Paris between 30th November and 11th December. COP21 marks the latest attempt to reach an international agreement on legally binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expired at the end of 2012.

The ultimate aim is to reduce emissions significantly such as to limit global temperature increases to 2°C above pre-industrial levels – a increase that alone will already lead to rising sea levels and increased droughts, amongst other impacts. Indeed, the 2°C figure is a global average, which hides within it more extreme effects for the most vulnerable regions and populations of the world, such as low-lying islands that are threatened with complete submersion.

After the failures of the last major UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in 2009, where the successor to the Kyoto Protocol was supposed to be agreed, many people are understandably sceptical about whether world leaders will do more than just produce some more hot air this time around.

The result of the 2009 Copenhagen was a pathetic “accord”, with no legally binding targets or commitments, worth less than the paper it was written on. Expectations are higher in advance of this year’s Paris conference, with many mainstream commentators talking about the increased “political will” from politicians in the run-up to this latest climate conference (although it should be remembered that similar optimism was seen before the mighty collapse of the Copenhagen negotiations).

The road to hell…

At the centre of this renewed hope are the “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” (INDCs), emission reduction targets that countries are submitting in advance of COP21. However, UNFCCC analysis shows that even these pledges will only limit the temperature increase by 2100 to 2.7°C – well above the target of 2°C. And this is before the horse-trading between the major imperialist powers in Paris has even begun.

Furthermore, the INDCs are only “intentions” – and as the old saying goes: the road to a very hot place is paved with such good intentions. Even with the best will in the world (something that bourgeois politicians rarely have in any case), it is the laws and logic of the capitalism system – operating behind the backs of the individual agents involved – that will ultimately assert themselves.

In the final analysis, competition and the drive for profit – the forces of the invisible hand – will overpower the good intentions of even the most honest and noble politician, as long as the barriers of private ownership and the nation state remain in place. Nowhere is this shown more acutely as in the case of Tsipras and the so-called “radical left” of SYRIZA in Greece, who are now carrying out cuts worse than their right-wing predecessors; an austerity programme that will have an impact on living standards far worse than even the most extreme estimates for the effects of climate change.

Indeed, even where green regulations and renewable energies are introduced by bourgeois politicians, this has more to do with cynical geo-politics than with any genuine concern for the environment and the lives of ordinary people. For example, the country with the largest solar power capacity is Germany; but Merkel’s infatuation with solar energy is less because of any green sympathies on her part, and more an attempt to reduce the country’s reliance on Russian gas. Similarly, rising trade barriers are now being imposed on Chinese imports into the USA, nominally on the grounds of China’s low environmental standards and regulation, but in reality because of protectionism by the US against Chinese competition.

Just as foreign policy is an extension of home policy, so too it is the case with environmental policy. How can we expect our capitalist governments to carry out policies that will protect the planet and those who rely on its health and stability, when these same governments everywhere – as a result of the crisis of capitalism – are actively pursuing programmes of austerity designed to cut the living standards of workers, the youth, the poor, and the most vulnerable in society?

Moreover, as the Euro crisis and the current refugee catastrophe show, far from seeing international co-operation to solve the problems society faces, we see countries’ leaders today pursuing only the narrow interests of their own capitalist class. And at the end of the day, we cannot rely on these unrepresentative politicians to save the planet, as they already live on a completely different planet from the rest of us.

Socialism or barbarism

The refugee crisis, with ever increasing numbers arriving in Europe looking to escape war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, has highlighted the toll on human lives that imperialism has created. Increasingly, now, there is talk of “climate refugees”, as people flee drought, famine, and disease. As US Secretary of State, John Kerry, told a climate change conference in Alaska:

“You think migration is a challenge to Europe today because of extremism, wait until you see what happens when there’s an absence of water, an absence of food, or one tribe fighting against another for mere survival.”

It is those countries that are already destitute because of imperialist wars and exploitation that are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Just as the current refugee crisis is a product of imperialism, therefore, so too we see that such droughts and famines - far from being simply “natural disasters” – are also the result of capitalism and its impact on earth’s climate.

The vital question of the planet and the future of our environment is far too important to be left in the hands of capitalist governments and the big business interests that they ultimately defend. As can be seen by the recent Volkswagen scandal, the giant multinational monopolies that dominate the global economy cannot be trusted when it comes to stopping the polluting of our planet.

Indeed, Volkswagen, in their bid for ever greater profits, demonstrated that they were willing to lie to the world, break all manner of environmental regulations, and spew out even more noxious emissions in order to cut costs and outcompete their rivals. The financial crisis of 2008 and all the subsequent scandals surrounding the banks and various tax-dodging corporations highlight the same point on a wider scale: big business cannot be trusted to run society, as they currently do under capitalism.

In the final analysis, you cannot plan what you don’t control; and you cannot control what you don’t own. As long as these banks and major monopolies lie in private hands, it is they that will control governments, not the other way around.

Only by taking over the major levers of the economy can we, for the first time in history, have a real control over our destinies, rather than leaving all the real decisions in the hands of a cabal of unelected bankers and bosses. Only then can we begin to integrate our energy supplies, transport, construction, and food production in order to rid us of poverty, homelessness, and disease. Only then can we begin to implement a rational and democratic plan of production in the interests not of profit, but of people and the planet.

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