"MML’s founders in the 1930s understood precisely that only the working class held the possibility of transforming their society, defeating fascism and building a socialist society"
WELCOME TO this inaugural edition of ‘theory & struggle’. Our new publication continues the Marx Memorial Library and Workers’ School journal formerly published as ‘Praxis’. It is our aim to develop a Yearbook serving both as a contribution to writings on Marx’s ideas and to provide reviews and commentary on contemporary marxist writings and on studies of the development of the working class movement world-wide.
The contents of this edition reflect our determination to uphold the Library’s founding principles for ‘advancement of education, knowledge and learning by the provision of a library of books, periodicals and manuscripts relating to all aspects of the science of Marxism, the history of Socialism and the working class movement’.
The founding of Marx Memorial Library at a conference in Conway Hall on 11 March 1933 was described by Robin Page-Arnot as ‘a fitting memorial - a centre of working class education - to the greatest thinker and revolutionist of all time in the city where he lived and worked for the greater part of his adult life’. It took place in circumstances as inauspicious as any up until recent times.
1933 saw Hitler’s appointment as chancellor in Germany, first on 30 January in a coalition government, then with plenary powers from 24 March when the Centre Party and Conservatives in the Reichstag voted for an Enabling Act to rule without parliamentary consent or constitutional limitation. Book-burnings and attacks on so-called ‘degenerate’ art, design and culture meant all progressive ideas, especially those of Marx, were under threat.
The response of the socialist and trade union movement in Britain to imperialist crisis and fascist reaction was to reffirm and deepen their committment to educate the working class movement in the ideas of Karl Marx.
The resolution carried unanimously at the founding conference was moved by WE Baldwin of the National Union of Railwaymen declaring ‘the best memorial to Marx in London would be a Marxist Library, workers’ school and educational centre’.
The work of the Library and Workers’ School in its early years concentrated not only on amassing books by and about Marx, Engels and Lenin, then hard to come by in English translation, but also commenced an ambitious series of classes and public lectures aiming to provide high quality education in marxist ideas on history, philosophy, sociology and art that was above all accessible to working people.
Tom Mann, a towering figure of the labour movement and close friend of Eleanor Marx and Friedrich Engels gave the inaugural public lecture, “The Life of Marx” on 5 November 1933.
But, as well as famous speakers, accessibility meant delivering classes that workers could attend after their working day. MML tutors were sent out to evening classes all over Britain, following the pattern established by the Plebs League and National Council of Labour Colleges 20 years earlier.
Today’s Marx Memorial Library and Workers’ School stands fully in the tradition established by our founders.
During 2013-14 we have hosted regular and continuing public classes on the classic works of marxism, political economy for trade unionists, marxism and science as well as piloting online learning, which will be developed as a distance learning course in the coming months.
This inaugural edition of our journal reflects the highly successful public lectures MML hosted over recent months.
John Douglas, President of the Irish Confederation of Trade Unions delivered the annual Marx graveside oration on 16 March, reproduced here. We are very grateful to John for also addressing our public meeting to celebrate publication of ‘James Connolly and the Reconquest of Ireland’ by Dr. John Callow, which utilises previously unpublished papers from MML’s Desmond Greaves archive to show the critical development of Connolly’s thought on imperialism and the national question between the Dublin Lockout and his murder in April 1916.
Costas Lapatvitsas, a prolific teacher, writer and journalist on contemporary capitalist crisis, delivered our annual Marx Memorial Lecture in February this year, reproduced below. Our main hall was full to overflowing with members of the public keen to hear and discuss the implications of Professor Lapatvitsas’ proposition that we are living through a crisis of financialisation, understood as ‘an epochal transformation of capitalism’.
Eric Rahim has contributed a companion piece emphasising the relevance of Marx’s writings to an understanding of capitalist globalisation.
Christine Lindey delivered two stimulating lectures on revolutionary art and the Bolsheviks, demonstrating the broad audience that exists for marxist theories of art criticism and art history. Her exposition of the use of art as a transformative popular technique is also reproduced below.
Andrew Murray writes on the crisis confronting the socialist and trade union movement in Britain in the aftermath of global financial crisis and in the midst of austerity policies dictated by ‘the holy trinity of the world bourgeouisie – the IMF, the World Bank and the European Union’.
Why are such difficult questions important today when many people in Britain are facing real and immediate hardships from government cuts and falling real wages
MML’s founders in the 1930s understood precisely that only the working class held the possibility of transforming their society, defeating fascism and building a socialist society in Britain and internationally. In order for the working class to fight for its interests, workers must first of all perceive those interests clearly and understand the origins and circumstances of their exploitation under capitalism.
We hope that you find ‘theory & struggle’ a useful contribution to the great struggle of the liberation of humanity