Introductory Series

The Class Struggle and Socialism

Reading:
The Communist Manifesto (Marx and Engels)
Socialism Utopian and Scientific (Engels)

Questions:
What are classes and why are they important for understanding history?
How do historical changes take place?
In what sense is the modern working class similar to previous oppressed classes and in what sense is it different?
Why is the working class the agent or carrier of socialist change?
Is socialism the automatic result of the development of capitalism?
Can socialist production be organised in some areas or industries within the overall capitalist system and if not, why not?
What is the difference between utopian and scientific socialism?

Reform or Revolution?

Reading:
Reform or Revolution (Rosa Luxemburg)
Where is Britain Going? esp. chapters 2-5 (Trotsky)

Questions:
How do Marxists answer the argument that historical and political change is mainly gradual?
What is a revolution? Why do Marxists believe that revolution is necessary and possible? What is the difference between socialist revolution and earlier types of revolution?
Is violence ever justified? Can there be non-violent change? What would be the consequences for the working class if the reformist road were followed to its conclusion? Why are reformist ideas so strong within the working class movement?

The Revolutionary Party

Reading:
The Urgent Tasks of our Movement (Lenin)
Where to Begin? (Lenin)
The Organisational Structure of the Communist Parties, the Methods and Context of their work. (Communist International)
What is to be Done? (Lenin) - especially part I (D), Part II and Part III
Theses on Communist Organisation

Questions:
What is a party? Why does the working class need a political party? What is the principal purpose of a revolutionary party? What is ‘spontaneity’? Is the working class spontaneously socialist? Is the job of the party to organise the spontaneous struggle or to divert it? If the working class must be led by a party, how does that conform with Karl Marx’s statement that “the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself”?
How should a revolutionary party be organised? What is a ‘professional revolutionary’? What should the obligations of party membership be? What is meant by ‘democratic centralism’? Can democracy and centralism contradict each other?

The Revolutionary Programme

Reading:
The Transitional Programme (Trotsky)
On the Backwardness of the American Workers (Trotsky)
Whither France? (Trotsky)
Once Again, Whither France? (Trotsky)

Questions:
What is a programme? Is it an essential feature of a revolutionary party?
What was the ‘minimum maximum programme’? What is a ‘transitional programme’? Does the transitional programme abolish the minimum programme altogether?
Are transitional demands ‘unrealistic’? Should demands be raised that are far ahead of the existing consciousness of the masses? Can transitional demands be met within the capitalist system? Do transitional demands apply in non-revolutionary situations?
Is the Transitional Programme valid today?