Marxist Theory and Strategy: Getting Somewhere Better

In: Historical Materialism
Authors: Leo Panitch1 and Sam Gindin2
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The first three sections of this lecture address the need for better historical-materialist theorisations of capitalist competition, capitalist classes and capitalist states, and in particular the institutional dimensions of these – which is fundamental for understanding why and how capitalism has survived into the twenty-first century. The fourth section addresses historical materialism’s under-theorisation of the institutional dimensions of working-class formation, and how this figures in explaining why, despite the expectations of the founders of historical materialism, the working classes have not, at least yet, become capitalism’s gravediggers. While recognising that a better historical materialism along these lines will not necessarily provide us with a gps route to a socialist world beyond capitalism, it does suggest a number of guidelines for socialist strategy, with which the lecture concludes. This includes the need for building new institutions capable of defining, mobilising and representing the working class broadly, as well as recognising that the types of parties that can transform working classes into leading agents of social transformation have yet to be invented. A strategic priority must be to start anew at creating the kinds of working-class political institutions which can rekindle the socialist imagination, and develop the socialist capacities to get there.

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