Theory History

The fall of the short-lived Second French Republic in December 1851 marks one of the most rapid and complete reversals in modern political history. Born out of the February Revolution of 1848, the Republic appeared to promise a new era of progress and democracy for the whole of Europe. But this proved to be a false dawn. In less than four years the most democratic republic on Earth was transformed into its opposite: the naked dictatorship of Napoleon III.

27 July of this year marks the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement, which halted the three-year-long, all-out conflict known as the Korean War. The Armistice is not a peace agreement, and the two states that exist on the Korean Peninsula to the north and south of the 38th parallel are technically still at war with each other.

Issue 42 of In Defence of Marxism magazine is available to pre-order now! Alan Woods’ editorial, which we publish here, looks at the Marxist view of the state and the role of the individual in history – unifying themes in this issue. This issue includes a Marxist critique of Graeber and Wengrow’s The Dawn of Everything; an analysis of the class struggle in the Roman Republic by Alan Woods; a look at the rise of ‘authoritarian’ governments and the Marxist view of Bonapartism; a review of Honoré de Balzac’s Human Comedy; and Trotsky’s invaluable article, Bonapartism and Fascism.

The English Revolution of the 17th Century stands as one of the first great bourgeois revolutions in history. In only a few decades, it shattered the rotting feudal system and paved the way for the development of capitalism worldwide. For Marxists, these decades are full of lessons.

1848 was a year of revolution in Europe, with French workers rising up and exploding onto the streets in a struggle against the old order. Today, as Marx wrote then, a spectre is once again haunting the ruling classes – the spectre of communism.

Born in 1632 in the Dutch Republic, the rationalist philosopher Baruch Spinoza was one of the great fathers of Enlightenment thinking. As Hamid Alizadeh explains, Spinoza’s philosophy – which contained a materialist and atheistic kernel – represented a revolutionary challenge to the authority of both Church and state.

In the 1960s, especially in radical student circles, there were many fanciful ideas floating about. The most pernicious and erroneous of these was the view represented by Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, that “neo-capitalism” had evolved ways of avoiding capitalist crisis, and that the working class had been integrated into the system as passive consumers in the “affluent” society. As Daniel Morley explains, these were the pseudo-Marxist ideas of the so-called Frankfurt School.

Promoted by some activists as a means of combating oppression, identity politics is increasingly being used by the establishment to attack the left and the labour movement. Workers and youth must fight back with revolutionary class struggle.

Today is the 175th anniversary of the publication of that founding document of the Marxist movement, the Communist Manifesto. Written in 1847 by Marx and Engels, and published the following year, the Manifesto retains an astonishing vitality today. Indeed, it is more relevant now than when it was written. We publish below an article by Trotsky written in 1937 on the occasion of the Manifesto's 90th anniversary.

The American Civil War is an event of world-historic significance. This revolutionary war, which consumed US society for four long and bloody years, overthrew slavery as a mode of exploitation and laid the ground for the rapid development of US capitalism. This episode in the class struggle graphically demonstrated the dynamics of revolution, and should be studied by all class-conscious workers and youth.

90 years ago, on 30 January 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany, paving the way for the dictatorship of the Nazis. In this extract, Ted Grant analyses and explains the events that enabled the fascists to come to power.

We are very happy to share the recollections of a member of our French organisation (Révolution), who was born in Moscow in the 1960s, and later moved to Paris, joining the PCF (Communist Party of France) and eventually the IMT. There, he discovered Trotsky’s writings, which accurately reflected the comrade’s experiences of the bureaucratic regime in the USSR. This is a fascinating insight into what life was really like in the USSR (both good and bad),


In the course of his life, Lenin made several visits to London. The first and longest took place in 1902, and lasted for over a year. He made other visits to attend the congresses of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) in 1903, 1905 and 1907, and he returned again in 1908 and 1911 to undertake studies at the British Museum. As of late, there has been a growing interest in retracing Lenin’s footsteps across the city. A fascinating ‘cottage industry’ has grown up around this subject, even encompassing Lenin Walks in the British capital.

Today marks one hundred years since French troops invaded the Ruhr. This occupation, combined with hyperinflation, sparked revolutionary convulsions across Germany. With crisis once again haunting Europe, Rob Sewell examines the lessons of 1923.

This year’s New Year edition of Der Spiegel features an interesting piece titled, “Was Marx right after all?” Full of astute observations about the state of capitalism, it’s a piece symptomatic of the anxiety of the ruling class. But the ‘solutions’ it proposes – reactionary and utopian ideas based on keeping capitalism intact, like ‘degrowth’ and Keynesianism – are really no solutions at all.