Studying Philosophy

I am still working to prepare a short article asking others to read Maksakovsky’s “The Capitalist Cycle”.

This will include suggestions for preliminary reading to understand that Maksakovsky’s grasp of Marx’s dialectical method is of major importance.

My main suggestions for preliminary philosophical reading will be four relatively short items:

Mao, “On Practice”.

Mao, “On Contradiction”.

Stalin, “Dialectical and Historical Materialism”.

Engels, “Socialism – Utopian and Scientific”.

These are all works that anyone interested in Marxist revolutionary theory should be familiar with.

The third and fourth were pretty much prescribed reading for everyone involved in the mass workers parties of the Third and Second Internationals respectively. The first two are much crisper and more modern summaries.

I have no hesitation in strongly urging anyone to read all four now. Not just as preparation for understanding economic crisis, but as essential for understanding anything. They are not long and not difficult so there is no excuse.

But I would also like to recommend a longer book, the “Leningrad textbook on philosophy“. An english translation, with a separate introduction and completely revised first section is online at the above link. It was widely distributed to the 50,000 or so members of the British “Left Book Club” in 1937.

Amazon createspace has a 400pp hardcopy for $8 since 2013.

Mao’s two articles were prepared after studying and annotating various works on Marxist philosophy including an earlier version of the Leningrad textbook. See Stuart R Schram and Nancy J Hodes, “Mao’s Road to Power: The New Stage (August 1937-1938) (Mao’s Road to Power: Revolutionary Writings, 1912-1949 Vol.6)” pp573-832 especially pp671-832. See also Nick Night, “Mao Zedong on Dialectical Materialism: Writings on Philosophy, 1937 (Chinese Studies on China)”.

I recommend starting from the second section and returning to the earlier parts after finishing. This is where I will be recommending people should go, to understand things not fully explained in the recommended shorter articles. I cannot claim it is essential or short and easy. It also needs a good deal of criticism, revision and updating. But that certainly makes it very important and worthwhile.

Some of the earlier texts referred to in it are also available. That site, marxistphilosophy.org also has lots of other material, including translations of Chinese debates on “One Divides into Two“.

Eventually something like a new version of the Leningrad textbook will have to be written. But that won’t happen soon and certainly won’t happen without studying and understanding what is already known and what lessons can be learned about things communists thought we knew but clearly did not know, including “unknown unknowns”.

So, I hope some people will take up this invitation to read the Leningrad textbook as well as the four essential shorter works listed above.

Any feedback will be greatly appreciated.

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