In Chapters 4-8 the secret is revealed: the profit that drives capitalism forward is nothing more than the unpaid labour of the working class, arising from the fact that the value paid (by the capitalist) for labour-power (in the form of wages) is less than the value produced (and appropriated by the capitalist) through the consumption of this labour-power.

Having outlined the question in its general theoretical form, Marx now looks at the issue more concretely, opening up the roof of the factory and peering in to examine the conditions inside – conditions that reveal how the capitalists extract ever greater quantities of surplus value from the working class. What we see when we peek behind this magician’s curtain is a brutal history of exploitation and class struggle.

The rate of exploitation

Firstly, however, Marx defines an important quantity – or ratio – in relation to the question of surplus value – that is, the rate of surplus value, which is defined by the ratio of the surplus value produced by the worker to the value of the labour-power set into motion by the capitalist. This, as a fraction, can be represented as s/v.

The variable capital, v, the value of labour-power involved in the productive, valorising process, Marx notes, can also be thought of as the necessary labour – the labour necessary to produce the necessities of life and thus maintain society. Since value is merely an expression of socially necessary labour time, v can also be thought of as the time taken for the worker to produce the value of their own labour-power. As Marx notes, however, with the division of labour within society, the worker does not, of course, produce their own means of subsistence directly; rather they produce commodities for the market that have a value equivalent to this means of subsistence.

Since the development of agriculture and the dawn of civilisation, however, humans have been in a position whereby the level of the productive forces in society – of science and technique – have allowed for society to produce more than is needed for simply maintaining society. Instead, at a certain level of productivity, a surplus is produced in society – a surplus of products beyond those needed for subsistence.

The additional labour beyond necessary labour, therefore, is surplus labour, which is present in all forms of class society. Indeed, the potential for surplus labour is the prior condition to class society, for it is only with the production of a surplus that a minority of exploiters can live – without working themselves – off the labour of others. What distinguishes capitalism as a mode of production, therefore, is not the presence of surplus labour, but the particular way in which this is generated – i.e. through wage-labour – and appropriated. As Marx notes:

“What distinguishes the various economic formations of society – the distinction between for example a society based on slave-labour and a society based on wage-labour – is the form in which this surplus labour is in each case extorted from the immediate producer, the worker.” (Karl Marx, Capital, Volume One, Penguin Classics edition, p325)

As a ratio of surplus labour to necessary labour, therefore, the rate of surplus value is at the same time the rate of exploitation, “an exact expression for the degree of exploitation of labour-power by capital, or of the worker by the capitalist.” (p326) It is the working class that produces all the value in society; and yet, under capitalism, they receive only a fraction of this value back in the form of wages. The class struggle is, therefore, a struggle for this surplus in society.

The question of time

Since value is an expression of socially necessary labour time, the rate of surplus value, whilst representing the ratio of the surplus labour to the necessary labour, is ultimately a ratio of times: of the time that the worker works to produce the value of their labour-power, compared to the time that the worker works unpaid – free labour from the perspective of the capitalist.

Of course, however, in buying the worker’s labour power, the capitalist has paid for this time, and by doing so, he/she has the right to appropriate the products made in this time. The task of the capitalist is therefore to try and maximise the length of time that the worker works for – to maximise the length of the working day and thus increase the rate of exploitation, the ratio of the surplus labour time compared to the necessary labour time, also written as the fraction s/v.

For the capitalist, all time spent by the worker not working – all leisure time granted to the worker – seems like wasted money. Importantly, during such times, the machinery and infrastructure that the capitalist has paid for – the constant capital – lies idle also. The drive of the capitalist, again, therefore, is to maximise the length of the working day.

“As a capitalist, he is only capital personified. His soul is the soul of capital. But capital has one sole driving force, the drive to valorise itself, to create surplus-value, to make its constant part, the means of production, absorb the greatest possible amount of surplus labour. Capital is dead labour which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the worker works is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has bought from him. If the worker consumes his disposable time for himself, he robs the capitalist.” (p342)

“The prolongation of the working day beyond the limits of the natural day, into the night, only acts as a palliative. It only slightly quenches the vampire thirst for the living blood of labour. Capitalist production therefore drives, by its inherent nature, towards the appropriation of labour throughout the whole of the 24 hours in the day.” (p367)

Regardless of the personal morality of this or that business owner, the laws of competition – the laws of capitalism – force this drive upon the capitalist. Every capitalist must take part in this race to the bottom or face losing their profits to someone else. As Marx comments:

“Capital therefore takes no account of the health and the length of life of the worker, unless society forces it to do so. Its answer to the outcry about the physical and mental degradation, the premature death, the torture of over-work, is this: Should that pain trouble us, since it increases our pleasure (profit)? But looking at these things as a whole, it is evident that this does not depend on the will, either good or bad, of the individual capitalist. Under free competition, the immanent laws of capitalist production confront the individual capitalist as a coercive force external to him.” (p381)

This highlights the problems faced by the Utopian Socialists, such as Robert Owen, who preceded Marx and Engels, and who thought that socialism could be brought about purely through education and by appealing to the “eternal truths” of morality, justice, and reason. Similarly, this explains the limitations of trying to build “socialism in one factory”, as Owen himself attempted to achieve. An individual business owner may be kind and philanthropic, treating their workers kindly and paying them well, but such an owner will still be subject to the laws of competition and production for profit, and thus will be forced to cut labour costs to those of his/her competitors or risk being booted out of business. The problems of capitalism, therefore, are not simply a result of the greed of individual capitalists, but are inherent contradictions within the laws of capitalism itself.

Alongside this drive by the capitalist to extend the working day in the name of profits, Marx notes, “there arises the voice of the worker” (p342), who wishes to curtail the extension of the working day, which leads to overwork and resultant injury. By pushing the hours of the working day upward and trying to extract ever more surplus labour from the worker, the capitalist causes the physical and mental degradation of the worker, and by extension, through competition, of the working class as a whole. The call of the worker, therefore, is: “I demand a normal working day because, life every other seller, I demand the value of my commodity.” (p343)

Limits, therefore, are placed on the length of working day at either end. At a minimum, the working day must be long enough to cover the value of the labour-power – i.e. to cover the necessary labour. This time itself varies from place to place, depending on the value of labour-power, which, as discussed previously, is socially and historically determined, dependent on the productivity within society and the level of living standards that any particular society has become accustomed to.

At the other end of the scale, the working day has a maximum limit. Firstly, it is clearly impossible for the working day to be longer than 24 hours. More importantly, there is a limit imposed by the need to maintain the working class’ physical and mental state. In extending the working day too far, the capitalist not only risks diminishing the productivity of his workers through fatigue, but also risks the possibility of a violent and militant backlash from the accumulation of anger that builds up amongst workers who are pushed to their own personal limits.

As Marx notes, “there limiting conditions are of a very elastic nature...So we find working days of many different lengths, of 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18 hours.” The length of the working day, therefore, ultimately reduces itself to a class struggle – as a battle of living forces: between the capitalist class who wish to extract the maximum amount of labour from the labour-power they have purchased; and the working class, who wishes to work no longer than necessary. The class struggle, in other words, is a struggle over time.

“We see then that, leaving aside certain extremely elastic restrictions, the nature of commodity exchange itself imposes no limit to the working day, no limit to surplus labour. The capitalist maintains his rights as a purchaser when he tries to make the working day as long as possible, and, where possible to make two working days out of one. On the other hand, the peculiar nature of the commodity sold implies a limit to its consumption by the purchaser, and the worker maintains his right as a seller when he wished to reduce the working day to a particular normal length. There is here therefore an antinomy, or right against right, both equally bearing the seal of the law of exchange. Between equal rights, force decides. Hence, in the history of capitalist production, the establishment of a norm for the working day presents itself as a struggle over the limits of that day, a struggle between collective capital, i.e. the class of capitalists, and collective labour, i.e. the working class.” (p344)

The history of the working day

Marx spends a large part of Chapter 10 using historical records and factory reports to look at the concrete ways in which the capitalists have sought to extend the working day, from introducing the shift system in order to ensure that the process production is unceasing and uninterrupted, to biting into the leisure time of the worker and taking from them any breaks:

“[I]n its blind and measureless drive, its insatiable appetite for surplus labour, capital oversteps not only the moral but even the merely physical limits of the working day. It usurps the time for growth, development and healthy maintenance of the body. It steals the time required for the consumption of fresh air and sunlight. It haggles over the meal-times, where possible incorporating them into the production process itself, so that food is added to the workers as to a mere means of production, as coal is supplied to the boiler, and grease and oil to the machinery.” (p376)

In doing so, Marx comments, the capitalists erode away the physical and mental health of the worker. Today, with shorter working days, a weekend of leisure time every week, and longer life expectancies, we might imagine that such talk by Marx is a thing of the past. Surely we’ve never had it so good?!

Firstly, however, we must ask, how did the concept of “the weekend” – that is, of two days paid leisure time – and of a 40-hour week even come into existence? For such “luxuries” have not always existed; as Marx explains, the working day would frequently be 12 hours or more, and the only day of rest would be Sunday – the Lord’s Day. The reality is that this leisure time, like all other progressive reforms, where won by the working class through struggle; through organisation and action. Only by threatening the profits of the capitalist class has the working class been able to win and secure such measures.

Marx spends a great deal of Chapter 10 outlining the history of the working day, detailing how, “The establishment of a normal working day is the result of centuries of struggle between the capitalist and the worker,” (p382) from the Factory Acts of 1833, 1844, and 1847, to the Chartist movement of 1846-1848 and the fight for the Ten Hour Act.

Secondly, we should note that today the capitalists are again trying to take such reforms away and extend the working day wherever possible. For decades there has been a drive by the capitalists to extract ever more labour from the working class in the form of unpaid overtime, which has become an expected norm in most workplaces, with the capitalists using competition between workers and the threat of unemployment to force workers to put in ever more hours every week. In addition, we see the erosion of all personal time during the working day, with lunch breaks now seemingly a thing of the past. The latest estimates from the TUC indicate that the average worker puts in almost eight hours per week of unpaid overtime, with an estimated value (i.e. profit to the capitalist) of £33bn per year.

This enormous quantity of overtime put in by workers lies in contradiction to the mass unemployment existing in society, with capitalism unable to provide jobs, despite there clearly being too much work falling on the shoulders of those who are employed. How can it be that millions are unemployed, and yet millions more are forced to work 50-60 hours per week or take on 2-3 jobs just to make ends meet? As TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady commented in relation to the figures above:

“The British workforce is often unfairly portrayed as a nation of skivers and shirkers. But the reality is exactly the opposite.

“Staff across Britain work among the longest hours in Europe – and are not even paid for much of the extra time they put in.

“If there really is much too much work to go round, employers might want to consider taking on new staff. There are 2.3 million unemployed people across the UK who would be glad of the chance.”

Alongside this, with the growth of giant multinationals, modern technology, and the pressure of competition on small businesses, there is again a drive for production and distribution to break through all physical or temporal limits, with shops open 24/7, online shopping and overnight delivery, and zero-hour contracts to guarantee the “flexibility” of labour.

Finally, whilst the sort of physical degradation and work-induced illness that Marx describes in the 19th Century might be a thing of the past, today we instead see a proliferation of mental illness, stress, depression, and social problems caused by the pressures of overwork. For example, statistics show that stress now accounts for 40% of all cases of work-related illness; and whilst the total number of working days lost to sickness has decreased between 2009-2013 (from 146 million to 131 million), the number of days lost due to stress, depression, and anxiety has increased (from 12.3 million to 15.2 million). Elsewhere, over half of those involved in academic research in the UK say that heavy workloads are having an impact on their mental health; meanwhile, 57% of teachers in Britain say that they are thinking of leaving the profession as a result of increased hours, with primary school teachers and secondary school teachers now working an average of 60 and 56 hours per week respectively.

The competition and pressure under capitalism has, in other words, led to a state where workers are increasingly alienated from their labour, from their fellow workers, and from society in general. In place of mental stimulation and cultural enrichment, we instead see only feelings of isolation and anxiety. The work-induced premature death of Marx’s time may have gone away, but in its place we now instead have only a lifetime of toil, stress, and depression.

Quantity and quality

Marx makes two additional important points regarding the question of surplus labour and surplus value in this section. Firstly, he ridicules the argument of the important ‘Last Hour’ put forward by the English bourgeois economist Nassau W. Senior. Professor Senior argued that laws in the Factory Act of 1833 that imposed a reduction in the working day of one hour – the famous ‘Last Hour’ – would see the profits of the cotton business owners wiped out.

Senior’s argument, Marx showed, was fundamentally flawed, for it assumed that the worker spent much of his day reproducing the values of the constant capital involved in the productive, valorising process. But as explained previously, the value embodied within constant capital – the accumulated dead labour of previous workers – is not destroyed and recreated in the process of production, but is simply transferred over from the old products to the new. This is the case for both the machinery and the tools utilised, and for the raw materials used also.

“You are altogether on the wrong track, if you think that he loses a single moment of his working day in reproducing or replacing the values of the cotton, the machinery and so on. On the contrary, it is because his labour converts the cotton and the spindles into yarn, because he spins, that the values of the cotton go over to the yarn of their own accord. This is a result of quality of his labour, not its quantity.” (p335-336)

The value within the constant capital, therefore, appears on both sides of the balance sheet and cancels out. All socially necessary labour time involved in the productive process adds new value to the end product, which is in addition to the previous accumulated labour contained within the raw materials, machinery, etc. that is the product of past efforts. The hours of the working day, therefore, are not split into c + v + s (constant, variable, and surplus), but are merely split into v + s, the variable and the surplus.

The result is that a reduction in the working day has a far less detrimental effect on the profits of the capitalists than that posed by Senior. As is the case now, Senior’s argument was nothing more than bourgeois hysteria, designed to raise a hue and a cry about legislation that, whilst mildly reducing the burden on workers, was ultimately a threat to the profits of the capitalists.

Later, in Chapter 11, Marx draws a distinction between the rate of surplus value and the mass of surplus value, the latter quantity simply being the former multiplied by the total variable capital advanced. The mass of surplus value (and therefore the mass of profits) for the capitalist, therefore, depends on the degree of exploitation and the number of workers being exploited.

This helps to explain the relationship between investment, productivity, exploitation, and employment. By investing in machinery to increase productivity, the capitalist can increase the degree of exploitation, allowing workers to produce more in a given time period. Fewer workers then need to be employed to produce the same amount, allowing labour costs to be lowered and profits to be increased. The capitalist, then, can lower the prices of their goods below the social average, undercutting competitors and gaining market share. This process forms a key part of the capitalist competition that drives capitalism forward in its heyday to develop the means of production – a tendency that turns into its opposite as capital becomes concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, turning competition into monopoly and progress into destruction.

This also has important consequences for today in Britain, where there seems to be a “productivity puzzle”: compared to pre-crisis levels, the numbers in employment are apparently high (although there are important factors behind this), but yet GDP (national wealth) is relatively low; this implies a drop in productivity in the UK economy since the crisis.

How then are British businesses maintaining their profits, if productivity is low and yet unemployment is low also? The key is that wages are low too, thus a larger number of workers can be employed for a given quantity of variable capital. In other words, cheap labour is being employed in the UK today instead of investing in efficiency, machinery, and automation. Rather than investing and developing the means of production, the parasitic capitalists are simply taking advantage of low wages to make a quick profit.

Finally, Marx explains the dialectical relationship between money and capital – a relationship of quantity and quality. Not all money is capital. But at what point does an accumulation of money and wealth become capital? At what point does quantity transform into quality?

In short, money becomes capital at a point when the owner of wealth is able to survive purely by living off the labour of others. An owner of a small quantity of money may only be able to employ a single worker, who in turn may only produce enough to cover their own means of subsistence and a small fraction of the money-owner’s means of subsistence. As the quantity of money in the hands of the owner grows, the workforce can expand until eventually a point is reached whereby the money-owner can survive without working themselves.

Similarly, as the productivity of labour increases, the ratio of surplus to necessary labour increases, and thus the amount of workers needed to maintain a single capitalist decreases. This again relates to the degree of exploitation and the relationship between the rate and mass of surplus value.

An end to toil

Under capitalism, the question is always posed in such a way: how many workers does capitalism require for its maintenance? The answer we so frequently find is: far fewer than the total population. Hence the permanent scar of mass unemployment that blights society. Such is the absurdity of capitalism, under which the development of the means of production and the increase of science, technology, and productivity only lead to increasing profits at one end and increasing misery at the other.

Instead of having the contradiction of mass unemployment alongside 50-60 hour weeks for those in employment, why isn’t the technology and machinery in society used to share work out evenly amongst the population and lower the hours of the working week for everyone? Full employment could exist alongside a 30 or even 20 hour week.

Today, with a high level of potential productivity, thanks to the modern technology and automation, there lies the possibility of reducing this necessary labour to only a few hours a day, or even less. Eventually, with the continued development of science and technology, this could be reduced even further and the idea of “work” could be done away with completely. As the utopian science fiction writers of the past imagined, influenced by the rise of automation in the early 20th Century, in the future, the biggest problem facing humanity should be what we do with all our leisure time!

Under capitalism, however, where production is only for profit, this indeed remains a utopia. Only a rational and democratic plan of production – that is, a socialist system in which society’s needs come before personal profits – can make this dream a reality.

But as Marx highlights, no gain in leisure time for the working class has ever come without an organised struggle. The task, therefore, is to educate, agitate, and organise, and to fight for the socialist transformation of society.

“The history of the regulation of the working day in certain branches of production, and the struggle still going on in others over this regulation, prove conclusively that the isolated worker, the worker as ‘free’ seller of his labour-power, succumbs without resistance once capitalist production has reached a certain stage of maturity. The establishment of a normal working day is therefore the product of a protracted and more or less concealed civil war between the capitalist class and the working class.” (p412-413)

“For ‘protection’ against the serpent of their agonies, the workers have to put their heads together and, as a class, compel the passing of a law, an all-powerful social barrier by which they can be prevented from selling themselves and their families into slavery and death by voluntary contract with capital.” (p416)

Part five -->>

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