The struggle for actually building socialist society

An Interview with Fred Engst

MR Online | January 24, 2018

Red Guards and students

The following interview with Fred Engst was conducted by Onurcan Ülker (bios beneath interview) on April 7, 2017 in Beijing. It was originally published by Research Unit for Political Economy (RUPE) on January 19, 2018 under the same title. The present version has been edited and reformatted. As the RUPE editors noted in their original introduction, the Engst interview “provides very significant insights into the building of socialism in China on the basis of both direct experience and deep reflection.” Indeed, like other correctives we have published, Engst also strongly contradicts critiques of Mao that have become dominant. We were particularly impressed with the section, “The real ‘Chinese miracle’ was socialism,” in which Engst argues persuasively against the claim that economic growth was feeble in comparison to Post-Mao Era. With straightforward statistical comparison and a clear critique of the use of “retro-computed GDP” by contemporary scholars, Engst shows that “The economic base built in Mao’s era laid the foundation for a sovereign capitalist development.” —Eds.

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Ecology and value theory

by Jean Parker

International Socialism | January 03, 2017

A review of Jason W Moore, Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital (Verso, 2015), £19.99

Jason W Moore’s Capitalism in the Web of Life sets itself the challenge of locating an account of capitalist commodity production inspired by Karl Marx within the biological, chemical and geological totality we normally call “nature”. The ambition of the book is therefore immense. Moore proposes a method for understanding world history that shows how economic development is connected to “long-wave” ecological transformations. At a time when humanity faces profound and simultaneous ecological and economic crises, Moore proposes a kind of meta-theory that explains them as the outcomes of a single logic.

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How Prabhat Patnaik “discovers” Marx’s alleged shortcomings in theorising colonialism

by B. Sivaraman

Frontier | January 12, 2018

Alleged omissions by Marx
In an article tilted Marx and Naoroji—The clue to the puzzle of “drain of wealth” that appeared in The Telegraph on 20 December 2017Professor Prabhat Patnaik has listed what in his opinion were major omissions by Marx in respect of colonialism [The said article of Prof Pravat Pattanaik may be seen in the “Links to News & Views”-section].

Patnaik has argued that during 1850s, when Karl Marx was working on his Das Kapital, he was also simultaneously writing columns on British Rule in India for New York Daily Tribune and for both he frequently visited the British Museum library and “despite the fact that he was researching on both themes at the same time, the impact of colonialism on the dynamics of capitalism is conspicuously absent in Capital”.Read More »

The total Marx and the total theory of literature

by Ian Birchall

rs21 | January 05, 2018

Marx mural

Revolutionary reflections is proud to publish a lost gem of Marxist aesthetic theory by Ian Birchall. Originally the piece was given as a paper at a conference on the Grundrisse and the “total Marx” on 5 June 1971 (the day after the death of Marxist theoretician Georg Lukács). It was published in Situating Marx: Evaluations and Departures, edited by Paul Walton and Stuart Hall (Chaucer Publishing Co., London, 1972), and has been out of print for over 40 years. The author would like to thank James B for transcribing the article and Colin Barker for adding some corrections.

The piece focuses on the development of a total theory of literature based on Marx’s writings on the subject, and provides one of the best introductions for anyone wanting to understand what Marx wrote on the subject and how we should relate to it.Read More »

21st-century Marx

by Terrell Carver

Aeon Essays | January 03, 2018

Marx T-Shirt

The 21st century has already welcomed back Karl Marx (1818-1883), rather on the assumption that he had faded away and has now returned to haunt us. After the financial crashes of 2008, his leonine face appeared on international news magazine covers, feature articles in quality broadsheets, TV documentaries and blogposts. The questions Why now? and Why Marx? are easily answered: capitalism suddenly appeared unstable, unmanageable, dangerously fragile and anxiously threatening. It was possibly in an unstoppable downward spiral, pushing individuals, families, whole nations into penury and subsistence. It also appeared hugely unfair and internally contradictory in very dramatic ways: banks ‘too big to fail’ would get taxpayer bail-outs, recklessness and fraud would go unpunished, the super-rich beneficiaries of oligarchical stitch-ups would maintain their ‘high net worth’. Invocations of risk, competition, ‘free’ markets and rising living standards for all no longer seemed credible. So what were we all to think?Read More »

Evgeny Pashukanis: Commodity-form theory of law

by William M. A. Chandler

Critical Legal Thinking | December 13, 2017

Evgeny Pashukanis

Whether one believes that law is provided by God (Natural Law), is created by human intellect (Positivism), a gendered institution perpetuating patriarchy (Feminism) or the maintainer of the status quo against marginalised groups (Critical Legal Studies), undergirding those beliefs is the assumption that law is autonomous. In its autonomy, law operates as an impartial arbiter of “right”. Law sustains society through universal regulation. Law is considered autonomous because it is considered to have a “mind/logic” of its own. However, for Pashukanis and Commodity-Form Theorists such as Isaac D. Balbus and China Miéville law slaves for Capitalism.Read More »

York hosts international conference on “Marx’s Capital after 150 Years”

by Babak Amini

York University | June 07, 2017

The keynote speaker, Immanuel Wallerstein, with York’s Marcello Musto (image: Marina Tarantini)

An international conference to mark  the 150th anniversary of the first publication of Marx’s Capital was held May 24 to 26 at York University.

Organized by Marx Collegium (York University), under the directorship of Marcello Musto, associate professor of sociology, the conference brought together some of the leading scholars in the fields of sociology, political science, and philosophy from more than 20 universities and 10 countries to critically discuss the history, the content, and the relevance of this path-breaking book.

As one of the largest academic events in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies (LAPS) in many years, the three-day event attracted a large audience, with more than 1,000 students, scholars, and activists coming from as far as Nepal, Japan, Mexico and Nicaragua. The closing session, with a keynote speech by Professor Immanuel Wallerstein (Yale University), was attended by more than 300 people.Read More »

The Return of Engels


Monthly ReviewVolume 68, Issue 10 (March 2017)

[This article is a revised version of an earlier essay by the same title, published online in Jacobin on November 28, 2016, to mark the 196th anniversary of Engels’s birth.]

Engels & Marx

Few political and intellectual partnerships can rival that of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. They not only famously wrote The Communist Manifesto in 1848, both taking part in the social revolutions of that year, but also two earlier works—The Holy Family in 1845 and The German Ideology in 1846.

In the late 1870s, when the two scientific socialists were finally able to live in close proximity and to confer with each other every day, they would often pace up and down in Marx’s study, each on their own side of the room, boring grooves in the floor as they turned on their heels, while discussing their various ideas, plans, and projects. They frequently read to each other passages from their works in progress.1 Engels read the entire manuscript of his Anti-Dühring (to which Marx contributed a chapter) to Marx before its publication. Marx wrote an introduction to Engels’s Socialism: Utopian and Scientific. After Marx death in 1883, Engels prepared volumes two and three of Capital for publication from the drafts his friend had left behind. If Engels, as he was the first to admit, stood in Marx’s shadow, he was nevertheless an intellectual and political giant in his own right.Read More »

Revolution Revisited

By Barun Das Gupta

Frontier | Autumn Number, Vol. 48, No. 14 – 17, Oct 11 – Nov 7, 2015


Two years from now, in 2017, communists all over the world will observe the centenary of the October Socialist Revolution (OSR) in Russia. In the last one hundred years two important developments have taken place. During the closing decades of the nineteenth century and the first two and a half decades of the twentieth century, socialism as a political ideology and as a movement was growing from strength to strength. It culminated in the overthrow of Tsardom in Russia and conquest of power by the Bolsheviks or communists under Lenin. For the first time in the history of civilization, the poor, the deprived and the dispossessed captured state power and set out to create a new, classless and exploitation-free society. But the closing decade of the twentieth century saw the collapse of the Soviet Union and the People’s Democracies of Eastern Europe and restoration of capitalism in what was usually called the ‘socialist world’.Read More »

The Idea of India

by Saroj Giri

Courtesy: MRZine | 29 June, 2015

When the ‘fascist’ Narendra Modi was coming close to becoming India’s Prime Minister, intellectuals told us that he would be a threat to the very idea of an inclusive and democratic India.  Amartya Sen declared that he cannot be part of an India which has Modi as its PM.  Modi is now PM, but nowhere does it seem that he has to abandon the idea of India in order to pursue his agenda.  Instead many proponents of the idea of India have become Modi-supporters.  Sen himself now says that Modi is no reason to leave the country!Read More »