Ideas & Theory

Russian Revolutionary Vladimir Lenin

Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.

—Vladimir Lenin

“The ideas of the ruling class,” wrote Karl Marx, “are in every epoch the ruling ideas.” So for revolutionary Marxist organisations such as the Socialist Workers Party—which are opposed to the whole of capitalist society—having our own theory, our own ideas, is vitally important.

Ideas in and of themselves cannot overthrow the system, but theory is an essential guide to our political practice. The revolutionary ideas of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Vladimir Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg remain vital for everyone who wants to change society. You can find many of their key works below.

But Marxist theory isn’t a dogma. As the Hungarian revolutionary George Lukacs wrote, “orthodox Marxism does not imply the uncritical acceptance of the results of Marx’s investigations” or faithfully reading “a sacred book”. It’s about applying Marx’s method of class analysis to the problems that confront us today.

And many of the works in our Ideas & Theory section below grapple with new political arguments and battles—from climate catastrophe and the fight for trans rights to the resurgence of the far right.


Our YouTube channel features hundreds of videos, including live streamed events, shorter explainers and meetings from Marxist Festival.

International Socialism Journal

Our theoretical journal, International Socialism, comes out four times a year with longer articles that help to offer a deeper understanding of socialist theory. Search the ISJ for articles on most topics. 


We regularly produce short pamphlets on live political topics and key parts of our theory. You can browse and download a selection of pamphlets online—and order the latest ones from our shop. 

Our educational programme

Along with our regular meetings on political topics, the SWP organises educational courses that help members to get to grips with Marxist theory.

Introductions to Marxism

Whether it’s the pandemic, economic slump or climate chaos, it’s clear the system isn’t working for the vast majority. Marxism provides a framework for understanding why capitalism fails—and a way of changing society. As Marx said, “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” 

The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels

In this classic manifesto, the founders of the Marxist tradition showed that there is a force with the power to bring capitalism to a halt and create the basis for a radically different sort of socialist society. That force is the working class—the potential “gravediggers” of capitalism. 

Making a Marx on history—celebrating 200 years since Karl Marx’s birth, Alex Callinicos, Socialist Worker 

Written on the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth in 2018, Alex Callinicos looks at the lasting legacy of the great revolutionary’s ideas. 

And Callinicos’ The Revolutionary Ideas of Karl Marx is a in-depth and accessible look at the Marx’s ideas. 

Watch Callinicos launch the latest edition of book at Marxism Festival 2015.

What is socialism and can it work?

This Socialist Worker article goes through the common questions about how socialism could work and looks at what’s necessary to achieve it. 

Socialism—Utopian and Scientific by Frederick Engels is a brilliant, brief exposition of Marxism.

Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism by Lenin looks at the origins of Marx’s ideas.

Revolution in the 21st Century by Chris Harman

A short book introducing the relevance of revolutionary Marxism in the 21st Century

How Marxism Works, Chris Harman

Harman’s book goes through the basics of Marxism from the origins of capitalism and the labour theory of value to imperialism and the revolutionary party. 

And The Meaning of Marxism by Duncan Hallas is a very readable, short introduction to the basic ideas of Marxism.

Marxism at the Millennium is a collection of brief essays on Marxism and the ideas of the SWP by Tony Cliff, one of the founders of our party. 

The Two Souls of Socialism, Hal Draper

This classic pamphlet by the US Marxist Hal Draper on the distinction between “socialism from below” and “socialism from above”. He explains that Stalinism or social democracy are based on the state bringing about changes from the top. But the classical Marxist tradition—which the SWP is part of—is based on the working class freeing itself from the bottom up. 

Why You Should Be a Socialist and The Case for Socialism by Paul Foot are two short books making the case for the Socialist Workers Party.

And Arguments for Revolution by Charlie Kimber and Joseph Choonara is an updated introduction to our revolutionary ideas written in 2010.

An Introduction to Marx’s Theory of Alienation by Judy Cox is an accessible introduction to this important area of Marxist theory.

The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Karl Marx

These manuscripts contain the beginnings of Marx’s theory of alienation—the way that capitalism strips workers of their humanity by distorting their relationship to their own labour process, the products of their labour and their fellow humans.

The following books from the Rebel’s Guide series are great introductions to key revolutionary socialists and their ideas. You can buy them from 

A Rebel’s Guide to Marx, Mike Gonzalez 

A Rebel’s Guide to Engels, Camilla Royle  

A Rebel’s Guide to Lenin, Ian Birchall 

A Rebel’s Guide to Trotsky, Esme Choonara  

A Rebel’s Guide to Eleanor Marx, Siobhan Brown 

A Rebel’s Guide to Alexandra Kollontai, Emma Davis 

The state

Whether it’s after Black Lives Matter or the upsurge against sexism after the murder of Sarah Everard, debates about the state are front and centre. What is its role in society? Can it be reformed? Or can a left wing government use it’s structures to bring about socialist transformation?

For revolutionary Marxists, the capitalist state and its institutions such as the police can never be on the side of the working class. 

The state—whose side is it on? Nick Clark, Socialist Worker

As the coronavirus pandemic hit, governments across the world grabbed new power. Nick Clark looked at how the state uses such measures against ordinary people—and how it showed the state isn’t a neutral body.

Hacking scandal exposes corrupt rulers behind rotten ideology, Simon Basketter, Socialist Worker

This piece looked at how the phone hacking scandal, with its links between politicians, cops the media and bosses, exposed the nature of the capitalist state.

State and Revolution by Vladimir Lenin is one of best explanations of the Marxist theory of the state. He explains that the state isn’t neutral—it’s a capitalist state made up of “special bodies of armed men” such as the police. 

The State, A lecture delivered at Sverdlov University is a pithy summery of Lenin’s arguments on the state. 

And Nicholai Bukharin’s Toward a Theory of the Imperialist State explains why the state taking on “socially useful functions”, such as the NHS, doesn’t disprove the Marxist theory. 

Watch Amy Leather on Lenin’s State and Revolution on the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution

The Civil War in France, Karl Marx

The defeat of the Paris Commune of 1871—when workers briefly ran the city—had a profound impact on Karl Marx’s thinking on the state. The book is a brilliant piece of journalism by Marx and outlines why working class people can’t use the existing state to build a new society. 

Leon Trotsky’s Lessons of the Paris Commune builds on Marx’s insights. 

Critique of the Gotha Programme, Karl Marx 

Marx restates his insights after the Paris Commune. He takes aim at the “statist socialism” of Ferdinand Lassalle and looks at how revolutionaries should approach the capitalist state and demanding reforms from it. 

Anti-Duhring, Frederick Engels

Frederick Engels looks at the origins of the state in Part 2, Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 and the nature of the capitalist state in Part 3, Chapter 2. 

The state and capitalism today, Chris Harman 

Harman looks at the relationship between the state and capital, taking on the popular idea that the state became less important during globalisation from the 1990s. 

And Vast impersonal forces—Biden, state and capital by Joseph Choonara, written amid the coronavirus crisis, looks at that relationship today. 

What is class?

When Karl Marx wrote “workers of the world unite”, the working class numbered around 10 or 20 million people. Today, the working class makes up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population. But there are huge debates about what makes a person working class, and whether workers still have the power to fight back.

For Marxists, class is defined by your relationship to the “means of production”—do you own or control them, or do you have to work for wage to make a living? And the working class continues to  have a unique position within capitalism as the source of profit, giving it immense power to shut down the bosses’ system. 

What is class in the 21st century? Joseph Choonara, Socialist Worker 

In this feature, Joseph Choonara outlines a Marxist view on class and argues it remains relevant in the 21st century. 

Watch Stay classy—is the working class still relevant today? Speaking at the SWP’s Marxism Festival 2021, Jessica Walsh outlines what is class and why the working class still has immense power in capitalism. 

What actually makes a person middle class? Tomáš Tengely-Evans, Socialist Worker 

This piece takes on the popular ideas about what it means to be middle class and puts forward a Marxist alternative. 

Why the working class, Hal Draper 

US Marxist Hal Draper defends the idea that the working class is a “special class”, with a unique position in capitalism. 

And in The Principle of Self-Emancipation in Marx and Engels, Draper outlines how they came to see working class self-emancipation as central. 

Neoliberalism and the British working class—a reply to Neil Davidson by Joseph Choonara and Jane Hardy. 

This articles looks at what the “neoliberal” period has meant for working class organisation and power. 

New divisions of labour in the global economy by Jane Hardy looks at the structure of the global workforce. It responds to some of the myths that overstate how capital has relocated manufacturing industries to the Global South. 

Into the digital void, Martin Upchurch

This piece challenges the conventional view that digital technology is eradicating the world of work, where workers are brought together collectively in workplaces.

Lenin and the revolutionary party

Every struggle throws up debates about how to go forward—to limit itself to the confines of capitalism or challenge the system. Vladimir Lenin argued that socialists had to organise in a revolutionary party. This sort of party is part of working class struggles and social movements, but also argues for revolutionary politics within them. 

What is to be done? is Lenin’s classic work on the need for revolutionary socialist organisation.  

Party and class, Chris Harman

Harman’s article outlines the key differences between how revolutionary parties and reformist Labour-type parties relate to the working class.

Tony Cliff’s series of books outline Lenin’s politics and rebut some of the myths about Leninist ideas and parties being elitist. Volumes one to four are available from Bookmarks—the socialist bookshop. 

Lenin, volume 1, Building the party,

Lenin, volume 2, All power to the soviets 

Lenin, volume 3, Revolution Besieged

Lenin, volume 4, The Bolsheviks and the World Revolution

The case of the disappearing Lenin, Kevin Corr and Gareth Jenkins. 

This article takes on arguments put forward by US academic Lars Lih, who says Lenin’s ideas around the state and socialist organisation weren’t distinct from other socialists of the time. 

And in Lenin’s April Theses and the Russian Revolution, Corr outlines how Lenin made a crucial intervention in Russia in 1917. He argued that the working class could take power at a time when socialists didn’t think it was possible in a backward country such as Russia. 

A Rebel’s Guide to Lenin by Ian Birchall is a good introduction to the politics of Lenin. 

Revolutions and revolutionary struggles

Socialist revolution isn’t about a small group of people with guns and berets overthrowing the state and taking power. It is about working class people liberating themselves and running society without any need for the politicians, bosses, bankers or landlords. As Leon Trotsky, put it, it’s the “forcible entrance of the masses into the realm of rulership over their own lives”

Karl Marx, workers and revolution, Socialist Worker, Sadie Robinson 

This is a short and incisive article on why revolution was central to Karl Marx’s ideas and what he meant by it. 

History of the Russian Revolution by Leon Trotsky is a brilliant account and analysis of the world’s only socialist revolution written by one of its key protagonists. 

And Lessons of October by Trotsky is a shorter work on the revolution. 

1905, Leon Trotsky 

Trotsky’s assessment of the 1905 Revolution in Russia, considered to be the “great dress rehearsal” for the revolution that followed 12 years later.

The birth of our politics—Marxism and the 1905 Revolution by Mark L Thomas is an assessment of the 1905 Revolution written for the centenary.

In Was there a parliamentary alternative in Russia in 1917? Mike Haynes defends the revolution against reformist critics past and present.

And The Russian Civil War: A Marxist analysis by Megan Trudell is a useful study of the civil war that followed the 1917 Revolution.

The following articles give a through overview revolutions in the Middle East and north Africa during the Arab Spring of 2011-12: 

Ten years since the Arab Revolutions—Middle Eastern voices reflect on a rebellious decade, Anne Alexander

Never going back—Egypt’s continuing revolution, Phil Marfleet

The Egyptian workers’ movement and the 25 January Revolution by Anne Alexander looks at the role of workers in the Egyptian Revolution 

And Taking sides in Syria by Simon Assaf argues why the left should have support the Syrian uprising against dictator Bashar al-Assad. 

Spectres of counter-revolution by Alex Callinicos is an analysis of the attempts to break the Egyptian revolution by the ruling class written in 2013.

The following articles look at the new wave of global revolts that began in 2018: 

A new cycle of revolt by Joseph Choonara looks at the underlying causes, such as neoliberalism and urbanisation, behind the revolts.

Living on revolution time—understanding the dynamics of the uprisings in Sudan and Algeria, Anne Alexander

Class, power & revolution in Sudan, Anne Alexander 

Belarus—revolt in the shadow of Stalinism, Tomáš Tengely-Evans

Thailand—return of the mass movement for democracy, Giles Ji Ungpakom 

Revolutionary pressures in Nigeria, Baba Aye

Why Stalinist Russia wasn’t socialist

The Russian Revolution of 1917 was a genuine socialist revolution. But by the late 1920s, its hopes were drowned in blood, in a counter-revolution lead by Joseph Stalin who built up a society where the working class had no power. 

One of the SWP’s founders, Tony Cliff, argued Russia and its puppet states in Eastern Europe had become a form of “bureaucratic state capitalism”. Today this theory still applies to officially “socialist” states such as China and Cuba. 

State Capitalism in Russia, Tony Cliff. 

Class struggles in Eastern Europe by Chris Harman looks at how Russia imposed state capitalism on its satellites state after 1945—and the rich history of working class revolt against the Stalinist bureaucracy in those countries. Second hand copies are available from Bookmarks—the socialist bookshop.

Russia—how the revolution was lost, Chris Harman

Harman’s pamphlet, available online, is brilliant explanation of how the Russian Revolution was defeated and turned into state capitalism. 

The Prague Spring—rebirth of socialism from below? Tomáš Tengely-Evans 

This article, marking the 50th anniversary the Prague Spring in Stalinist Czechoslovakia, has a useful explanation of the theory of bureaucratic state capitalism. 

Sexism, socialism and the state—women in the Eastern Bloc, Sheila McGregor 

Sheila McGregor takes the popular argument that the Stalinist states made strides towards women’s liberation. 

Mandate of Heaven—Marx and Mao in Modern China, Nigel Harris 

Harris’ classic explains why the Chinese Revolution of 1949 was a step forward, overthrowing landlordism and imperialism, but wasn’t a socialist revolution. 

Cuba, Castro and socialism, Peter Binns and Mike Gonzales

First published in 1983, this article goes through the dynamics of the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and explains why Cuba isn’t a model of socialism. 

And Cuba behind the myths by Chris Harman looks at the Cuban regime after the fall of its main sponsor, Stalinist Russia. 

Trotsky and Trotskyism

My Life, Leon Trotsky

Trotsky’s Marxism by Duncan Hallas is a short book concentrating on Trotsky’s key political ideas.

Tony Cliff’s multivolume work on Trotsky’s life and his theories remains essential reading;  

Trotsky 1: Towards October

Trotsky 2: The Sword of the Revolution

Trotsky 3: Fighting the Rising Stalinist Bureaucracy

Trotsky 4: The Darker the Night, the Brighter the Star

Trotskyism by Alex Callinicos is a study of the development of the Trotskyist movement.

And Their Trotskyism and Ours by Alex Callinicos is a comparison of orthodox Trotskyism and the politics of the International Socialist tradition.

Permanent Revolution and Results and Prospects by Leon Trotsky

These two works outline Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, his account of how socialist revolution could come about in less highly developed countries.

Deflected Permanent Revolution by Tony Cliff

This is an important attempt to explore Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution and how subsequent changes to world capitalism affected its application.

And Trotksy’s Theory of Permanent Revolution and its Relevance to the Third World Today by Alex Callinicos considers the fate of Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution.

Some recent articles debating the relevance of permanent revolution in the modern world: 

From deflected permanent revolution to the law of uneven and combined development, Neil Davidson

The Relevance of Permanent Revolution: A Reply to Neil Davidson, Joseph Choonara

The Dynamics of Revolution, Alex Callinicos


From the horrors of war in the Middle East to multinational corporations plundering the Global South, imperialism is to blame. 

Marxists such as Vladimir Lenin and Nikolai Bukharin analysed how imperialism flowed from capitalism and argued it was a global system of competing capitalist states. Fighting it means opposing our own ruling class and standing in solidarity with national liberation movements, such as the Palestinian struggle for freedom.

Imperialism—the highest stage of capitalism, Vladimir Lenin 

Lenin’s pamphlet is the classic outline of the Marxist theory of imperialism written under the shadow of the First World War. While much of the economic analysis doesn’t apply any more, the broad insights about what is imperialism and how it operates remain vital reading. 

And Imperialism and World Economy by Nikolai Bukharin contains many useful insights about imperialism.  

Analysing imperialism, Chris Harman 

This journal article gives a clear outline of Lenin’s and Bukharin’s views, and looks at developments in world imperialism from the Second World War to the 2000s. 

The multiple crises of imperialism, Alex Callinicos 

In this piece, Alex Callinicos looks at the profound problems facing US imperialism in the wake of its defeat in Iraq. 

Ukraine—imperialism, war and the left by Rob Ferguson analyses US and Russian imperialism in light of the Ukraine crisis

ISIS and counter-revolution by Anne Alexander provides a Marxist analysis about the rise Isis in Iraq and Syria 

And in The contemporary dynamics of imperialism in the Middle East, Alexander looks at the balance of forces between rival powers in the region today. 

China and imperialism in the 21st century, Adrian Budd 

This article looks at the rise of China, its role in world imperialism and its rivalry with the US. 

Socialism and war by Vladimir Lenin and The main enemy is at home by Karl Liebknecht outline a position of “revolutionary defeatism”, the idea that socialists should support the defeat of their own imperialist states in wars.

The Junius Pamphlet by Rosa Luxemburg is a cry of rage against imperialist war and the German social democratic party (SPD) leadership’s support for it. 

The rights of nations to self-determination, Vladimir Lenin 

In this pamphlet, Lenin argues socialists should support the right of nations to self-determination and struggles for national liberation. 

The return of the national question, Chris Harman 

This weighty piece unpicks debates among Marxist approaches to national liberation and self-determination. 

The 1916 Rising—myth and reality, Kieran Allen, Irish Marxist Review 

Kieran Allen’s piece on the 100th anniversary of the Eastern Rising against British imperialist rule in Ireland and the dynamics within the resistance. 

Palestine—resistance, revolution and the struggle for freedom

This pamphlet by Anne Alexander and others looks at the roots of Palestinian national oppression and asks how the resistance can win. 

The Kurds—a history of agony by Socialist Worker journalist Nick Clark is a concise history of the Kurdish struggle for freedom.  



Racism is a defining issue in politics. The Black Lives Matter movement has sparked huge discussions about the roots of racism—and how to fight it. And capitalist states continue to ramp up repression against Muslims, refugees and migrants. 

We believe that racism is systematic and that uprooting it means getting rid of the system, capitalism, which causes and perpetuates it. That doesn’t mean we see fighting racism as secondary to class struggles—combatting oppression is central to a genuine Marxist politics. 

Say it Loud! Marxism and the fight against racism, edited by Brian Richardson 

In this collection of essays, Ken Olende puts forward a Marxist analysis on the roots of racism in the slave trade and the birth of modern capitalism. Gary McFarlane writes on From confrontation to compromise—Black British politics in the 1970s and 1980s  Talat Ahmed looks at The rise of Islamophobia, Yuri Prasad writes on the lessons of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements in the US, plus others. 

Does privilege explain racism? by Esme Choonara, Ken Olende, Yuri Prasad and Weyman Bennet assess privilege theory from a Marxist standpoint. 

In Racism—individual, institutional and structural, Esme Choonara looks at what causes institutional racism and present debates around it. 

Cedric Robinson, racial capitalism and the return of black radicalism, Ken Olende 

Olende looks at the resurgence of interest in the idea of “racial capitalism”, and assesses the strengths and weaknesses of Cedric Robinson’s politics. 

And in Marx and race—a Eurocentric analysis? Olende argues against those who say Marxism is a eurocentric worldview. 

Race and class by Alex Callinicos remains vital reading for Marxists about the relationship between the two. 

On Black Nationalism, Leon Trotsky 

This work is based on a series of discussions between Leon Trotsky and his supporters in the US, known as the Oppositionists. It dispels the idea that the genuine Marxist tradition is “class reductionism” or sees the fight against racism and oppression as a distraction from workers’ struggle. 

Here to stay, here to fight—how Asians transformed the British working class, Yuri Prasad 

In this well-researched and in-depth piece, Yuri Prasad looks at the key flashpoint of resistance by Asian workers in the 1970s. 

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Written a few years after the BLM movement erupted in 2013, Taylor’s book looks at the radical history of fightbacks against racism in the US, the links between anti-racism and anti-capitalism, and how the movement could open the door for black liberation.

The “crisis” of the European border regime—towards a Marxist theory of borders, Nicholas De Genova. 

Nicholas De Genova’s article, written amid the refugee crisis in Europe, puts forward a Marxist analysis of borders. 

And Fortress Europe—the war against migrants by Fran Cetti looks at the role of the European Union in cracking down on refugees. 

Migration in a era of climate catastrophe by Camilla Royle examines how climate chaos is driving driving a new refugee crisis  

Watch Policing migrants—why does capitalism need borders. Phil Marfleet’s talk from Marxism Festival 2019 looks the links between capitalism, the nation state and borders

France, Islamophobia and the right—an update, Judith Orr 

In this journal article, Orr looks at how the far right use and feed off the Islamophobia pushed by the state 

How not to resist racism—a lesson from France by Dave Sewell is a review of Jim Wolfreys’ Republic of Islamophobia. The books looks at why anti-Muslim racism is so ingrained in France and why the left has failed to challenge it. 

Islamophobia—the othering of Europe’s Muslims by Hassan Mahamdallie is a wide-ranging piece on how Islamophobia took hold. 

The Bolsheviks and Islam, Dave Crouch 

This piece looks at how the Bolshevik party, which had given leadership to the Russian Revolution of 1917, approached religious freedom for Muslims.

The Jewish Question—a Marxist interpretation by Abram Leon is a materialist account of the roots of Jewish oppression and antisemitism.

Antisemitism and the far right today, Rob Ferguson

Rob Ferguson looks at how antisemitism is a tool of reaction and its relationship to contemporary far right movements.


Right across the world far right and fascist parties and organisations have grown in strength in recent years. The revolutionary Leon Trotsky identified that fascism isn’t just a particularly nasty form of racism or authoritarianism. It’s aim is to build a mass movement that can terrorise its opponents and, ultimately, smash working class organisation and all democracy.

What forms does fascism take today? And best can we fight it? remain crucial questions for socialists.  

Fascism—what it is and how to fight it, Leon Trotsky 

This classic work by Trotsky provides a class analysis of fascism as a movement based primarily on “petty bourgeois”—small-time capitalist—layers in society. He argues that a united front between revolutionary and reformist workers could stop it. 

Neoliberal capitalism implodes—global catastrophe and the far right today by Alex Callinicos looks at the nature of the fascist threat today.

Fascism in Europe today by Mark L Thomas applies a Marxist analysis of fascism to the present movements growing in Europe. 

Austria—fascism in government, David Albrich 

This articles by one of our Austrian comrades looks at the fascist Freedom Party’s time in the coalition government with the Tory People’s Party. 

Fighting fascism and the far right today, Lewis Nielsen

Written when British Nazi Tommy Robinson was a major threat, this pamphlet arms activists in the anti-racist and anti-fascist movement with the political arguments about fascism is and how to fight it.

Plumbing the Depth—Marxism and the Holocaust, Alex Callinicos

This is an important attempt to understand how the Nazi Holocaust happened in order to challenge those who would repeat it.

Women’s liberation

Whether it’s the revelations that sparked the #MeToo movement, the burden placed on women by coronavirus or the murder of Sarah Everard, we can see how deeply ingrained women’s is within our society.

This has ignited debates about how to fight the sexist system. Revolutionary socialists have a unique perspective on oppression—because we think oppression hasn’t always existed and that it’s possible to have a society without it. 

Marxism and Women’s Liberation, Judith Orr 

Judith Orr’s book provides a firm foundation for people to get to grips with a Marxist analysis of the roots of women’s oppression. It looks at the mass movements of the past, present debates around sexism, and at how to fight for lasting liberation. 

And A Rebel’s Guide to Sexism and the System by Orr is a good starting-point.

How can we end this sexist system? Sadie Robinson, Socialist Worker

Written in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder, this article asks how we can end violence against women and sexism. 

Women, the family and coronavirus, Sarah Bates, Socialist Worker 

This feature, written at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, looks at capitalism’s reliance on the family and women’s domestic labour. 

The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State by Frederick Engels is the classic Marxist work on the birth of class society and women’s oppression.

Marxism and women’s oppression today by Sheila McGregor defends a Marxist analysis of the roots of women’s oppression. 

Social reproduction theory—back to (which) Marx? Sheila McGregor

This article looks at debates around “social reproduction theory”, which has grown in popularity among people looking to Marxism. It questions the approach taken by Lisa Vogel in her book, Marxism and the Oppression of Women 

And Lisa Vogel and the politics of women’s liberation by Nicola Ginsburgh reviews Vogel’s book 

Can we combine intersectionality with Marxism? by Laura Miles looks at the strengths and weaknesses of intersectionality.

Women’s Liberation and Revolutionary Socialism by Chris Harman outlines why Marxism can explain the origins of women’s oppression, arguing against other socialist feminist and radical feminist theories. 

And Theories of Patriarchy by Lindsey German argues against different forms of patriarchy theory.  

Material Girls—women, men and work, Lindsey German

German’s book, written in the late 2000s, provides a Marxist materialist account of women’s oppression, looks at gains of the 1970s women’s liberation movements, and how they were blunted under neoliberalism. 

LGBT+ oppression

There’s a new radicalism in LGBT+ politics with a younger generation organising Reclaim Prides and militant marches to demand, “trans rights now.” And Marxism has something unique to say in the fight for sexual liberation. 

Most people think that LGBT+ oppression is a natural part of human society or comes from backward, religious ideas. But it hasn’t always existed. it’s rooted in the rise of capitalism—and to win lasting liberation, we need to uproot the whole system. 

Pride, Politics and Protest—A revolutionary guide to LGBT+ liberation, Laura Miles, Isabel Ringrose, Tomáš Tengely-Evans 

A Socialist Worker pamphlet that outlines a Marxist approach to the roots of LGBT+ oppression and the fight for liberation today. 

The roots of gay oppression, Norah Carlin 

Originally published in 1988, this piece provides a comprehensive account about the position of gay and lesbian people in history and rise of oppression. 

A beginning of the end of shame by Tomáš Tengely-Evans, Socialist Worker 

This article looks at how changes in capitalism and the family after the Second World War paved the way to a highly contradictory homosexuality reform law in Britain.  

Transgender Resistance—Socialism and the fight for trans liberation by Laura Miles is a ground-breaking Marxist analysis of trans oppression. It takes on the biological determinist arguments of those socialist and radical feminists opposed to self-identification. 

The book builds on many of the arguments developed in Transgender oppression and resistance, a piece by Miles in the International Socialism journal.

Marxism, feminism and transgender politics, Sue Caldwell 

Caldwell takes on gender critical arguments—and puts forward the Marxist alternative. 

Queer theory and politics by Colin Wilson is a look at the strengths and weaknesses of “queer theory” from a Marxist point of view. 

Climate change

System Change Not Climate Change—a revolutionary response to environmental crisis 

Can you get an ethical capitalism? Should socialists support a Green New Deal radical programme of reforms? Or should we have a vegetarian diet? are just some of the questions dealt with in this book. 

Marxism and Ecology, Martin Empson

This pamphlet explores why capitalism is so destructive to the planet and what a sustainable society would look like.

The great climate COP out—why the Cop26 process will not solve the environmental crisis, Martin Empson 

Written ahead of the Cop26 summit in November 2020, Empson looks at why the Cop process and other market-based solutions will fail to avert climate catastrophe

Can we build a sustainable society? Martin Empson 

This piece asks, What would an environmentally sustainable society look like? And what would it take to achieve it?.

How big oil is fracking to climate disaster by Amy Leather looks at the political economy of oil, fracking and fossil fuel capitalism.

Dirty energy, capitalism and the working class by Suzanne Jeffery explores class politics in the climate movement and fighting for a just transition. 

Marxism and the Anthropocene, Camilla Royle

Royle looks at the theoretical debates around the anthropocene, a geological epoch defined by human activity. 

Capitalism and the politics of food, Amy Leather 

Leather asks what it would take to build an equitable, sustainable food system, and argues we need more fundamental change than altering our own diets.  

And Food, agriculture & climate change by Martin Empson looks at impact of capitalist agriculture.

Heading for extinction? Socialist Worker, Sarah Bates 

This Socialist Worker feature looks at what’s driving the “sixth mass extinction”, which poses a deadly threat to future of humans, animals, plants and the future of the planet. 

Capitalism and species extinction by Ian Rappel looks at capitalism’s impact on the diversity of life.

Marx’s Ecology in Historical Perspective by John Bellamy Foster is a fascinating account of Marx’s often ignored writings on ecology.

The Labour Party, reformism and trade unions

Tens of thousands of people have left the Labour as Keir Starmer cosies up to big business, wages war on the party’s left and trials behind the Tories. But the problem isn’t just Starmer, it’s “Labourism”, the idea that what happens in parliament is most important to winning social change rather than workers’ struggles. 

And, as Labour’s history shows, it’s a problem that remains a millstone around the Labour left’s neck too. Privileging manoeuvre within parliament and the capitalist led to the failure of left reformists governments and parties, such as in Greece. 

The Labour Party—A Marxist History, 3rd edition, Tony Cliff, Donny Gluckstein and Charlie Kimber 

This classic Marxist history looks at why Labour fails to deliver socialism, from its founding at the beginning of the 1900s to Jeremy Corbyn. 

And Jeremy Corbyn, Labour and the fight for socialism by Charlie Kimber looks more closely at the roots of Corbyn’s triumph 

A House Divided—Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party by Mark Thomas provides an analysis of the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.

After Corbyn, Nick Clark 

Clark assesses different responses from the left in the wake of the defeat of Jeremy Corbyn—and the limits of those approaches. 

The Labour Party—Myth and Reality by Duncan Hallas

This piece sets out the revolutionary socialist critique of Labourism.

Revolutionaries and the Labour Party, Duncan Hallas

In this work, Hallas looks at different approaches that revolutionaries have had towards Labour.

Why did Labour lose? Charlie Kimber

This piece in our International Socialism journal looks at why Corbyn’s Labour suffered a crushing defeat in the 2019 general election.

Classical Marxism and the question of reformism, Donny Gluckstein 

Gluckstein takes a historical view, from Luxemburg and Lenin, at what Marxists mean by reformism.

Why did Syriza fail? by Panos Garganas analyses why the Greece’s left wing Syriza government capitulated to the European Union and capital.  

And in Reassessing Podemos, Andy Brown looks at the limits of the left reformist party in the Spanish state. 

Reform or Revolution, Rosa Luxemburg

This is Luxemburg’s classic polemic against “revisionism”—an early form of reformism that developed in the German socialist movement.

The Economic Roots of Reformism, Tony Cliff

This article explains why most workers often look to reformist, rather than revolutionary politics, under capitalism. 

And in From Bernstein to Blair—100 years of Revisionism, Chris Harman charts the history of reformism on the left.

The Mass Strike by Rosa Luxemburg is a classic pamphlet on how mass strikes develop, written in the wake of the 1905 Russian Revolution.

Patterns of Mass Strike, Tony Cliff

This article assesses Luxemburg’s work, The Mass Strike, and contrasts the kinds of struggles she considers with bureaucratic mass strikes that are tightly controlled by trade union officials.

Marxism and the Trade Union Struggle, Tony Cliff and Donny Gluckstein

This is the first section of Cliff and Gluckstein’s penetrating account of Marxist approaches to trade unions. They argue that the union bureaucracy is a social layer that sits between labour and capital, meaning it is “janus faced” and vacillates between the two. 

A Reappraisal of the Rank-and-File versus Bureaucracy Debate by Ralph Darlington and Martin Upchurch is a useful summary of the argument about rank and file and bureaucracy in trade unions. 

The General Strike by Chris Harman is a short piece on the 1926 General Strike and its lessons for revolutionaries today. 

And The General Strike by Harman (1985) considers when slogans calling for a general strike are and aren’t appropriate.

The following articles were part of a lively debate about what’s behind the low level of strikes in the pages of the International Socialism journal: 

The working class, trade unions and the left—the contours of resistance, Sean Vernell 

The problem of the one-day strike—a response to Sean Vernell by Mark O’Brien 

Revolutionaries in the unions—the reality of the strike, Mark O’Brien 

Why are these so few strikes, Simon Joyce 

Official and unofficial action in the fight against the union laws, Ralph Darlington

The question of confidence—a reply to Simon Joyce by Donny Gluckstein 

The end of the ‘safe space’ for unions? A response to Simon Joyce by Martin Upchurch 

Once more on strikes—a reply to critics, Simon Joyce 

Striking Debates, Paul McGarr

Strategy and tactics

Revolutionary socialists are a minority under capitalism, with the majority of working class people looking to reformist ideas. So how can revolutionaries work with reformists without giving up our politics? Why do we support the fight for reforms if we don’t believe capitalism can be reformed away? Can we organise on an international scale? These questions run through Marxist work on strategy and tactics? 

Left-Wing Communism—an Infantile Disorder, Lenin

This is Lenin’s polemic against German revolutionary socialists, who argued they could drop any work inside trade unions, elections and parliament. He said this “ultra left” approach would cut off revolutionaries from millions of reformist workers they had to win over to the need to smash the capitalist state. 

And What do we mean by ultra-leftism by John Molyneux is a useful summary of Lenin’s argument against “left-wing communism”.

On the united front tactic—some preliminary notes, Duncan Hallas

Hallas looks at the united front and how it might be applied by a small revolutionary party.

Spontaneity, strategy and politics, Chris Harman

Written in the aftermath of the rise of the “anti-capitalist movement” from 1999, Harman looks at the different strategic approaches in the movement.

Mass movements and direct action scare the state, Socialist Worker, Nick Clark 

Clark looks at the strengths and weaknesses of direct action as a tactic, arguing it’s most powerful when based on mass numbers and a mass movement. 

Do we support reformist demands by Duncan Hallas cautions against revolutionaries taking a sectarian approach to struggles for reforms under capitalism. 

Agitation and propaganda, Duncan Hallas. 

This is a short piece by Hallas that considers the distinction between propaganda (“presenting many ideas to a few persons”) and agitation (“presenting one idea to many persons”).

The Comintern, Duncan Hallas

This excellent little book explores the history of the Comintern, or Third International, formed by the Bolsheviks after the Russian Revolution to build the international struggle against capitalism.

Anarchism—a Marxist Criticism by John Molyneux provides a Marxist critique of the main ideas of anarchism around the state, organisation and freedom. 

Toni Negri in Perspective, Alex Callinicos

Callinicos analyses the works of Toni Negri, an important figure in Italian autonomism, a political current that shares many things in common with anarchism. 

The new workerism—the politics of the Italian autonomists by Jack Fuller

This is an Interesting account of the growth of autonomism out of the Italian struggles of the 1960s and 1970s.


Mainstream economics is reduced to a series of abstract mathematical models, debates about “efficiency” and supply and demand on the market. But Karl Marx’s political economy uncovers the web of social relations that lie beneath buying and selling on the market. 

It allows us to see how capitalism is a system based on exploitation of workers’ labour and driven forward by competition—and why it’s prone to constant crises. 

Unravelling Capitalism—a guide to Marxist political economy by Joseph Choonara is a brilliant introduction to the main ideas in Marxist political economy. 

Value, Price and Profit by Karl Marx is a basic elaboration of Marx’s view of the capitalist economic system.

A Reader’s Guide to Marx’s Capital, Joseph Choonara 

This short book will help those new to Marx’s masterwork, Capital, navigate the book’s concepts and arguments. 

Capital, volume 1, Karl Marx

The first volume of Marx’s best known work discusses production under capitalism.

Capital, volume 2, Karl Marx

The second volume of Capital focuses on the process of circulation under capitalism.

Capital, volume 3, Karl Marx

And In this volume Marx uses his analysis of capitalism to understand crisis, the financial system and rent.

The Grundrisse, Karl Marx

This work consists of notes that Marx made during his research for Capital, and functioned as a kind of laboratory for his ideas.

A History of Economic Thought, Isaac Ilych Rubin

Rubin’s work is a brilliant Marxist survey of pre-Marxist political economy, including the works of Adam Smith and David Ricardo. 

The rate of profit and the world today, Chris Harman

This article considers one of the controversial aspects of Marx’s economic theory—the tendency for the rate of profit to fall.

And in Not all Marxism is dogmatism, Harman responds to critics of his position on the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.

The crisis of bourgeois economics by Chris Harman is a critique of non-Marxist economics, including Keynesian analyses.

Could Keynes end the slump? by Guglielmo Carchedi is a useful Marxist critique of Keynesianism. 

And Radical economics, Marxist economics and Marx’s economics by Jane Hardy is an assessment of “heterodox” economics from a Marxist perspective.

Financial crises and the real economy, Rob Hoveman

This article, written at the time of the East Asian crisis of 1998, considers the relationship between credit, stock-markets and so on and the wider capitalist economy.

Western Capitalism Since the War, Michael Kidron

Kidron’s work presents a pathbreaking analysis of capitalism following the Second World War. It contains his celebrated theory of the permanent arms economy, which he developed to explain the unprecedented, post-war capitalist boom.

The following articles debate and assess the continuing relevance of the theory of the permanent arms economy: 

Two insights don’t make a theory, Michael Kidron

Better a valid insight than a wrong theory, Chris Harman

Reassessing the permanent arms economy, Gonzalo Pozo 

The monetary and the military—resisting Kidron’s permanent arms economy, Joseph Choonara

The following articles look at the underlying causes of the global financial crisis of 2007 and the Great Recession that followed: 

From the credit crunch to the spectre of global crisis, Chris Harman

The slump of the 1930s and the crisis today,  Chris Harman

Marxist accounts of the current crisis, Joseph Choonara

The political economy of the long depression, Joseph Choonara 

From global slump to long depression, Michael Roberts


Disability discrimination is not natural and we can have a world without it. Evidence spanning centuries from across the globe shows that the way people with impairments are treated has changed over time. Disability and attitudes towards it are linked to material factors—and discrimination arose with capitalism.

A Very Capitalist Condition—a history and politics of disability by Roddy Slorach is an important book that looks at disability from a Marxist perspective. 

It builds on Slorach’s arguments in Marxism and disability, an article in the International Socialism journal from 2011. 

And The social roots of impairment by Lee Humber added to some of the ideas in Slorach’s ISJ article 

Politics of the Mind—Marxism and Mental Distress, Iain Ferguson 

Iain Ferguson’s book seeks to understand what lies behind mental distress, arguing it’s the symptom of a sick society. 

History and historical change

We’re taught in school that history is made by “great men”. But Marx’s method, known as historical materialism, gives us a very different analysis about how it’s driven forward by social forces. 

Human labour—and the very different ways it has been organised—is central to understanding differences between societies across history. And it allows us to understand capitalism, and class society in general, isn’t natural. 

The preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy by Karl Marx contains a brief statement of Marx’s theory of historical change.

The German Ideology, Karl Marx

This wide-ranging early work by Marx contains, among other things, an attempt to develop the Marxist theory of historical change.

Engels and the origins of human society, Chris Harman

Harman’s article is an assessment of Engels’ arguments about the origin of the state, class society and women’s oppression.

The bourgeois revolution by Duncan Hallas is short article on the kinds of revolutions that were required to establish the dominance of capitalism.

And Bourgeois revolutions and historical materialism by Alex Callinicos is detailed exploration of the concept of bourgeois revolution.

Base and superstructure, Chris Harman

Marx used the metaphor “base and superstructure” to understand historical change, arguing “the economic structure of society” forms the “real basis” on which “rises a legal and political superstructure”. In this article, Harman’s looks at what makes up the base, the superstructure and the relationship between the two. 

In Comments on base and superstructure, Alex Callinicos suggests some problems with Harman’s formulation. 

And Comments on base and superstructure by Duncan Hallas continues the debates around it.

The rise of capitalism by Chris Harman is an important work on the rise of capitalism and why it first took place in Europe. 

Marxism and religion

A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Karl Marx 

This work contains Marx’s infamous words about religion being the “opium of masses”, but the full passage reveals he didn’t have a crude approach to religion. 

More than opium—Marxism and religion by John Molyneux is a helpful overview of Marx’s position on religion.

Freedom, religion and Marx, Socialist Worker, Ken Olende. 

In the aftermath of the horrific Paris killings, Ken Olende looked at the Marxist attitude to satire, free expression and the role of religion. 

The Prophet and the Proletariat, Chris Harman

This pamphlet offered a path-breaking analysis of the class basis of Islamist movements in the Middle East, North Africa and east Asia. It argues against seeing them as forms of “Islamo fascism”, and looks at how the left should relate to them. 

What are we to do with Islam? The case of Turkey by Ron Margulies offers a Turkish perspective on Islamism.

Karl Marx, Abram Leon and the Jewish Question—a reappraisal by John Rose looks at one of Marx’s controversial works around Jewish emancipation. 


Dialectics of Nature, Frederick Engels

In this controversial work, Engels seeks to apply the philosophical ideas of Marxism to nature.

Engels and natural science by Paul McGarr is a defence of Engels’s contribution to our understanding of the natural world.

In Dialectics, nature and the dialectics of nature, Camilla Royle asks if there is a “dialectic of nature”.

The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man, Frederick Engels

Though dated in some ways, Engels’s writings on evolution contain valuable insights about the origins of human society. 

Revolutions in evolution, Paul McGarr

McGarr assesses evolutionary theory developed by Stephen Jay Gould.