Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Why theory matters

In the day to day struggle of making a living and just getting by the matter of theory can sometime seem abstract and not relevant. I think this is a mistake I. Recently I’ve been shocked and surprised at the level of political understanding that your average socialist party member has when it comes to Marxism. Whilst I don’t think this is uncommon the left due to the driving back of workers consciousness is at a very low point as we stand. No amount of talking ourselves up and saying things are good just around the corner will do I’m afraid. Things are very poor for us and we must face up to that not continuously con ourselves into thinking if only the trade union leaders were better and more militant we would have a chance. This completely fails to understand the role of trade union leader’s labour aristocracy if you like in the class struggle. Very few if any are revolutionaries and most are out and out reformist and some have even brought into the idea there is no alternative to the market and capitalism. What saddens me most though is the attitude towards theory. Of course our day to day struggles are important probably more so at the moment with the bedroom tax and the other huge cuts on their way. But even within more so called advanced members of our party I’ve found a big lack of theory and understanding. Most get that capitalism is bad and needs to be replaced that’s a g even or should be at least. # Yet you start to talk about Marxist economics and many run a mile a sort of fear of Marxism a fear of theory and economics. Few I know have actually read or even tried to read capital one of Karl Marx greatest works. I’m currently working my way through volume 3 myself and I haven’t found it easy but I believe it is fundamental and absolutely necessary for a comrades understanding of the system we are looking to over throw. I genuinely feel you cannot over throw something you have very little understanding of. Few comrades I note have even tried to read capital fearing its s size and its complicated language actually it isn’t that bad once you get into it I found. Some parts are hard there is no getting away from that but you must endeavour and once I finish reading it there is much to understand from it I will no doubt read it again at some point as it is a very rich text with plenty of lessons for workers today. Take for example Marx’s theory of labour value most comrades know the workers are being mugged but mention surplus value or necessary labour time they mostly haven’t a clue. An understanding of theory doesn’t have to be academic far from it it is the basic under pinning of any good party and membership. A failure to grasp what we’re up against will result in coming up short I have to say. This is not a plea to start reading everything Marx ever wrote but a plea for the party to take the idea of theory far more seriously than it currently does. There is always time to read and read some more. We even try new member’s schools which need to be developed for more advanced comrades too who want to develop their ideas further taking on bigger and bigger ideas if they can. Whilst some will say to me we need to be relevant and talk to workers in ways they can understand this misses the point I’m not saying we are about to go out and start talking in Marxist terms about excess surplus value or variable capital on the picket lines no not at all but this is something we as a party must get to grips with. If we can understand things better about the way capitalism works or doesn’t work depending on your point of view the better chance we have of convincing workers putting things into a way they can understand things as I do believe many workers can understand Marx it is not something that is way out or very hard to read. Sure Marx wrote it in a day where language was very different but there are so many help books lectures by the likes of Prof David Harvey who help you understand things much better from capital that there really isn’t any reason why ordinary workers could start to get this sort of stuff. Also understanding and learning the lessons from history is key reading and learning workers struggles from the past including the Russian revolution the Spanish and what happened in Chile is also key. I think understanding Trotsky’s writings on fascism what it is and how to fight it will become key in the future too but that’s for another post. Theory is important and should be given more time and thought certainly for me a good Marxist understanding should be fundamental to any good revolutionary worth their salt today. I mean I am starting to understand a bit more why can’t others?

1 comment:

  1. Yes I agree with you, Mark. Was talking to a comrade about the need to talk again and again about what socialism means - that there are no short cuts to having these difficult conversations. theory-talk is not necessarily off putting for workers - that wuld be patronising - but our duty is to find the ways in which we can make those ideas sing and inspire. I'm with Gramsci on the relationship of the intellectual (and the theorist) with workers as a mutual one.