Ten Essential Classics of Marxism-Leninism

131This is a suplement to my more extensive Marxist-Leninist study guide. Whereas that study guide is broken down by subject, highlighting some of the key texts of scientific socialism within those subjects, this supplement is simply a collection of what I believe are 10 essential works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao.

  1. Wage-Labor and Capital by Karl Marx
  2. Socialism: Utopian & Scientific by Frederick Engels
  3. What Is To Be Done? by V. I. Lenin
  4. Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism by V. I. Lenin
  5. The State and Revolution by V. I. Lenin
  6. The Foundations of Leninism by J.V. Stalin
  7. Dialectical and Historical Materialism by J. V. Stalin
  8. Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR by J. V. Stalin
  9. On Practice by Mao Zedong
  10. On Contradiction by Mao Zedong

16 responses to “Ten Essential Classics of Marxism-Leninism

  1. I think this list is pretty great, and enjoy the fact that Stalin’s writings make the most appearances out of anyone’s.

    Once I get a little more free time, I’d like to go through this list in order, maybe make a study of how MLism has evolved over time.

  2. I am curious as to why people who consider themselves to be revolutionaries do not see the three volumes of Capital and its first draft – the Grundrisse – as “essential” classics?

    • I agree that it is an essential classic. There’s lots of essential classics. I chose these ten because they are (relatively) comprehensive, they get into all of the different aspects of Marxism-Leninism (generally), and they are at the same time pretty short and accessable.

      I certainly would encourage anyone to read Capital, but it is a fact that most people could read all ten of these before getting through the first volume of Capital.

      And that’s why I included “Wage-Labor and Capital”, because in it Marx says much of what is in Capital – at least the parts that should be considered “essential” to any communist militant who is busy with the demands of organizing and has little time to read thousands of pages of dense political economy. And of course the reality is that many successful socialist revolutions (including the Bolshevik revolution) were led by people who had never even heard of the Grundrisse. As to whether Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, or Ho Chi Minh, Kim Il Sung, Fidel Casto, Amilcar Cabral or Enver Hoxha, for that matter, studied the three volumes of Capital before leading successful revolutions, I don’t know.

      Maybe it would be helpful to think of this as a sylabus for a Marxism-Leninism 101 course. Capital might be the text for a more advanced seminar.

      And finally, as it says above, this is a suplement to my more extensive Marxist-Leninist study guide. You’ll find Capital there, under the “Political Economy of Capitalism and Imperialism” heading.

  3. What is your opinion of Dialectical and Historical Materialism by J. V. Stalin? That essay was criticized from nearly all sides after his death for distorting dialectics into mechanical metaphysics.

    • The criticism advanced by Mao is the one I am most familiar with.

      It argues that Stalin doesn’t recognize the principal role of contradiction in dialectics. Instead, because Stalin lists contradiction along with the other three features that he points out (interconnection and interdependence of phenomena, continual movement and development, and transformation of quantity into quality), it is argued that he is being mechanical.

      On the other hand, Mao again and again praises Stalin’s ability to apply the dialectical materialist method, especially in his Foundations of Leninism, in analyzing contradictions at work.

      In my view, the criticism advanced by Mao is overblown. Perhaps Stalin was oversimplifying things, but I believe it was a conscious choice for clearity of exposition, and it serves its purpose. It is true that Mao’s work advanced the Marxist-Leninist understanding of dialectics. But, nonetheless, Dialectical and Historical Materialism is an excellent, concise explaination of its subject. So I think it should be studied alongside Mao’s On Contradiction and On Practice, which is why I also include them in this list.

  4. Marx’s Wage Labor and Capital and Value Price & Profit are printed by the CPUSA as a single volume. Together, they are a perfectly adequate prologue or “sneak peek” of Capital.

  5. For Marxism 101, I would recommend textbook popularizations rather than the original classics, which are often polemical in nature and focused on their specific time period and circumstances. I think Soviet textbooks do an excellent job of extracting the universal aspects of Marxism out of the classics, and are perfect for the beginner.

  6. Yes, but are many of those textbooks online? I really like A. Leontiev’s “Political Economy: A Beginner’s Course”, but it isn’t online (except for the first three chapters that the CPGB-ML put up), and it is, again, quite long. And I would say that 8 of the 10 texts here are particularly non-polemical, popular texts. The exceptions are “State and Revolution” which is only a little polemical and is mostly a popular outline, and “Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR” which may need some context, but is still the most fundamental Marxist text on the political economy of socialist construction.

  7. As far as the classics go, I think your list is very good at covering the fundamentals of Marxism, with relatively accessible texts. My first work was the Manifesto, and I then found Stalin’s work on DiaMat a useful way of understanding the Marxist method, which I learned to apply to different aspects of society.

    Otto Wilhelm Kuusinen’s Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism was an incredibly useful work covering the complete system of Marxism including DiaMat, HistoMat, Political Economy and Scientific Socialism. While there was revisionist influence especially on discussion of the state, this text was used to educate the entire Leninist movement in the 1960s including Maoists.

    As for the texts being online most post-Stalin texts are available here http://leninist.biz/en/HTML

    And Stalin era texts here:

    There are also some Maoist texts, most importantly Fundamentals of Political Economy, available here:

  8. Great! Thanks for sharing those links, Heiss! Very helpful!

    I’ve heard mention of Kuusinen’s Fundamentals of ML over and over, but I’ve never read it. I’ll have to find a copy.

    • Great! Apparently that is the later edition of Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism. There is an earlier (first) edition that contains less of the revisionist stuff, eh? I’m going to try to find a hard copy of that used and cheap.

      In the meanwhile, speaking of basic textbooks, I agree with Mao:

      “As for education for cadres whether at work or in schools for cadres, a policy should be established of focusing such education on the study of the practical problems of the Chinese revolution and using the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism as the guide, and the method of studying Marxism-Leninism statically and in isolation should be discarded. Moreover, in studying Marxism-Leninism, we should use the History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks), Short Course as the principal material. It is the best synthesis and summing-up of the world communist movement of the past hundred years, a model of the integration of theory and practice, and so far the only comprehensive model in the whole world. When we see how Lenin and Stalin integrated the universal truth of Marxism with the concrete practice of the Soviet revolution and thereby developed Marxism, we shall know how we should work in China.” (Reform Our Study)

  9. FML was listed by the Maoist CPP as educating Communists in the Philippines. For practical reasons the main source of Marxist learning even for Anti-Revisionist parties during the Cold War, was usually Soviet textbooks.

    In 1959, a few young men and women, independent of the old merger party of the Communist and Socialist Parties, started forming study circles to read and study the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Zedong that could be gotten from secret collections. They initially did so amidst the open and legal studies about the problems of national independence and democracy. The Marxist-Leninist works that they read included the Communist Manifesto, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, Wages, Prices and Pro fit, The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, Two Tactics of Social Democracy, State and Revolution, The Foundations of Leninism, the Analysis of Classes in Chinese Society and Talks at the Yenan Forum on Art and Literature.

    The most avid students of Marxism-Leninism read and studied Das Kapital, The Dialectics of Nature, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, History of the CPSU (Bolsheviks), Short Course; the first edition of the Soviet-published Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism and the Selected Works of Mao Zedong. The volumes of the selected works of the great communists began to reach the Philippines in 1962. To get hold of Marxist reading materials in the period of 1959-62 was by itself an achievement in view of the anticommunist hysteria and repressive measures since the end of World War II.

    • Right. I saw that, which is why I mentioned an earlier edition. They say that they studied “the first edition of the Soviet-published Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism” whereas the version in the link is the second revised edition. I would think the CP of the Philippines would specify the edition for a reason, and according to the searches I’ve done the 2nd revised Ed. was published in 1963 and the 1st around 1960. So it would seem that the difference is that the 1st edition was published before the 22nd Congress of the CPSU, which was a major advance for revisionism in the USSR.

      Thanks for the links!

  10. So what are the main differences between these two editions of Fundalemtals of Marxism-Leninism? What chapters were changed for the later edition?

    I have a Finnish version of this book but I can’t remember which edition it is.

  11. Hello Comrades — I did the version of FML that is linked here. I have several version of FML regarding the question of what are the main differences between the two editions. You can email me at webmaster at leninist dot biz — also there’s a forums.myspace.com board on Gus Hall where comrades are talking about editing FML. Regards. Robert.

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