Introduction to the Revolutionary Philosophy of Marxism


The following is an introduction to the latest publication by Marxist Books, The Revolutionary Philosophy of Marxism, by the editor of In Defence of Marxism, Alan Woods. This new selection of writings on dialectical materialism is now available for purchase at a special launch price on

I was delighted to learn of the plan of the comrades of the US section of the IMT to publish an anthology of basic writings on Marxist philosophy. Every specialized branch of human activity presupposes a certain level of understanding and study. This applies as much to carpentry as to brain surgery. The idea that we can get along without some degree of learning is in flat contradiction to everyday experience.

If I go to the dentist and he says to me, “I have never studied dentistry and know nothing about it, but open your mouth and I will have a go,” I think I would make a hasty exit. If I’m experiencing problems with my central heating and a man comes to my house, pulls a hammer out of his bag and says: “I know nothing about plumbing, but show me your central heating system and I will learn by trial and error,” I would certainly show him where the exit is.

Most people would not dream of expressing an informed opinion about brain surgery or quantum mechanics without specialized knowledge of these fields, but matters seem to be quite different when it comes to Marxism. It seems that anyone can express an opinion about Marxism without having read a single line of what Marx and Engels actually wrote. This statement applies just as much—in fact, far more—to the so-called academic experts who write books attacking Marxism, which clearly show that they have not read Marx, or if they have read a little, they have not understood a single word of it.

This situation is sufficiently lamentable, but even more unfortunate is the fact that many people who call themselves Marxists are equally ignorant of the writings of Marx and Engels. In my experience, even many people who consider themselves to be Marxist cadres rarely bother to plumb the depths of Marxist theory in all its richness and variety. All too often they merely skate over the surface, repeating thoughtlessly a few slogans and quotes taken out of context which they have learned by rote, the genuine content of which remains a closed book for them.

Many people think they know what Marxism is. Over time they have become familiar with some of the basic ideas. But what is familiar is not understood—precisely because it is familiar. A long time ago I read something that Hegel wrote that made a deep impression on me. I cannot remember where I read it and I am writing from memory: “Aber was bekannt ist, ist darum noch nicht erkannt (But what is known is not on that account understood).

Nowhere is this affirmation clearer than in the very important area of philosophy. It is too often forgotten that Marxism began as a philosophy, and the philosophical method of Marxism is of fundamental importance in understanding the ideas of Marx and Engels.

In Defense of Marxism for more

Comments are closed.