Lenin’s monograph on Karl Marx

Being associated with the largely failed Russian Revolution has never done any favours for Lenin the theorist. He seems to have gone from being a well-regarded Marxist theoretician to (in parts of the academic world at least)  a u-turning politician who inaugurated state capitalism, set the wheels in motion for Stalin’s fascism, and did little more for the people than bring “electrification” to Russian energy.

Well, whatever the view, there was a time before the October revolution when Mr. Ulyanov busied himself greatly with matters theoretical; studying deeply the works of Hegel (see his notebooks on Hegel) in order to get to the core of Marx’s work. During the years of his exile in many countries including London, Switzerland and Poland, he wrote rather prolifically: many newspaper articles and book-length ‘pamphlets’. One of these was an ‘article’ on Marx, which originally appeared in the Encyclopaedia Granat, an encyclopaedia published in 58 volumes by the Granat bibliographic institute in Russia.

Beginning with an ultra-brief ‘life’ of Marx, Lenin goes on t0 explain the philosophical, economic and class-struggle elements of Marxist thought. In the preface, he mentions that his section on “Marx’s revolutionary tactics” had been censored by the encyclopaedia, and that having lost his notes in Switzerland, he couldn’t restore the chapter. What we get instead is a typically Lenin-like chapter on ‘tactics’, complete with one of his usual snappy titles:  Tactics of the class-struggle of the proletariat (deep breath!).

This is in fact one of Lenin’s most readable books, and still a very good introduction to Marx’s thought in a brief and thorough form.

Read Karl Marx, by V.I. Lenin


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