Introduction

Many people become interested in Marxism. We come across newspapers, pamphlets, internet postings and books claiming to be Marxist as well as going to talks and discussions on Marxist themes. But very often persons attracted towards Marxism, or dialectical and historical materialism to give its proper name, do not receive a systematic introduction to this revolutionary doctrine. Here Revolutionary Praxis provides the opportunity for people to acquire an overview of Marxism by becoming acquainted with its basic concepts and their application to human societies with the aim of bringing about revolutionary transformation in the direction of socialism and communism.

Over the years we have used various texts, e.g. Manifesto of the Communist Party, to help people get to know about and understand Marxism. This experience suggests to us that the most effective introductory text is Dialectical and Historical Materialism by J.V. Stalin. Some of you may be put off because you have a negative opinion of Stalin. But you probably never have read anything he wrote. So we say, suspend your disbelief and give it a go. As D.H. Lawrence said, “Trust the tale, not the teller”. If having seriously studied this article you have any criticisms of it then please let us know. We want, as Mao Tse-tung said, to “Seek truth to serve the people”.

The text is divided into five sections:

1. Dialectics

2. Materialism

3. The Material Basis of Society

4. The Stages of Social Development

5. Dynamics of Revolution

At the end of each of the five sections are Questions for Study and Discussion.

HOW TO STUDY THIS ARTICLE

It is best to follow this course of study together with other people. If you can get together with a few other people and work through the article together at five consecutive sessions then this will stimulate your thoughts and help you all to grasp a good understanding of the text. This is the dialectical process in action. Or if you have no immediate contacts with which to co-operate you can still follow the course and get something worthwhile out of it.

For each section you need to read it carefully. It is no good just glancing through it as you might with a magazine article. It is necessary to think carefully about each part of the text and perhaps make some notes. Although fairly short the text is rather dense. It might be helpful to print off a section so you can mark what seem to be key points. At the end of each section are questions for you to consider and write down answers. There is not always just one right answer but there may be many, especially when concrete examples are requested.

Then if you are meeting with others go through the section telling each other what you think the text means. It may be useful if the participants take turns to chair each session so that you have a structured and orderly discussion. You can give your answers to the questions as you go through the text or deal with them at the end as you prefer.

Answers to the questions are given but these should not be consulted until after you have tried to produce your own answers. Don’t cheat. Don’t be dismayed if you don’t always come up with suitable answers. You are engaged in a learning process and this inevitably involves making mistakes. If you can answer all the questions correctly then you probably don’t need to follow this course. Dare to struggle, dare to win!

If you are studying the text by yourself then you can stiil engage in a dialogue to understand its meaning and answer the questions. After all, thinking is talking to yourself silently. When we think about things we are internalising the process in which we engage in conversation with other people. You have a dialogue with yourself.

Revolutionary Praxis would be interested to learn of your responses to this course when you have completed it.

You can move to the different sections of the text by clicking onto the following links:

Section 1: Dialectics

Section 2: Materialism

Section 3: The Material Basis of Society

Section 4: The Stages of Social Development

Section 5: Dynamics of Revolution