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There are two things that beginning students of socialism should guard themselves against. One is the idea that there are short cuts to understanding socialism. The other is the idea that socialism can be learned by reading the works of nonsocialist or anti-Marxist "socialists" who pretend to treat the subject objectively.

There are no short cuts to an understanding of the fundamental principles of socialism. This is not to say that serious students cannot be guided and shown how to use their time fruitfully and economically. They can be, and it is our purpose here to provide some guidance and direction to the beginner.



As to short cuts, it is especially important to avoid secondary sources of "information" on socialism. The "scholars" who produce such secondary studies are, even when they claim to be socialists, almost invariably hostile to Marxism, which is to say, to genuine socialism. One consequence of this is that lies and distortions of Marxism, invented by supposed "authorities," become the raw material for scores of treatments of alleged Marxist concepts and "histories" of the socialist movement.

As for the idea that socialism may be understood by reading books that are allegedly "objective," this is based on a fundamental misconception of what socialism is.

Socialism is a science. But it is not like botany, or electronics, or chemistry. Socialism is also politics--working-class politics--and it challenges the existing capitalist order at almost every point. For that reason, as Marx expressed it, socialism arouses "the most violent, mean and malignant passions of the human breast, the furies of private interest." Rare indeed is the capitalist or capitalist-minded "scholar" who can be objective about socialism.

Students who really want to understand Marxism won't sell themselves short by going to secondary sources. They will go to original sources. They will go to the works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, the founders of scientific socialism, to Daniel De Leon and to the works of other recognized exponents of Marxism.



"How should one begin?" is a question the serious beginner may find difficult to answer. Socialism is a science of considerable dimensions. It involves history, sociology, politics, economics and even anthropology. A study of socialism leads into all these fields. But all aspects of socialism dovetail, and scientific socialism may be said to rest on three basic theories or principles. They are:

We believe beginners can best prepare themselves to grasp these theories and principles by first reading four pamphlets by Daniel De Leon. De Leon was not only a master of Marxian science; he also had a gift for simplifying complex ideas. While the four pamphlets we refer to were first published many years ago, their lucid explanation of basic socialist principles lends them remarkable freshness. The four pamphlets are: Reform or Revolution, What Means This Strike? The Burning Question of Trades Unionism and Socialist Reconstruction of Society.

Our advice to beginning students is that they next concentrate on grasping the Marxian theory of history--historical materialism. There are few brief works that unfold this vital area of thought better than the Communist Manifesto and Engels' Socialism: From Utopia to Science.

There are other important elaborations of the materialist conception of history. But these can wait for later. Here we would suggest that beginning students proceed by turning their attention to Marxian economics, starting with Marx's Wage-Labor and Capital and his later work Value, Price and Profit.

By this time beginning students will find that they have a good grasp of the meaning of the class struggle, for it is an aspect of socialism that is inseparable from the study of historical materialism and Marxian economics. However, the manifold implications of the class struggle are elaborated in a large number of works listed in our catalogue. One that the beginning student can profit from is Capitalism and Unemployment.

Finally, for students who wish to learn something about what socialism is not, we recommend Socialism Today: A Reply to Time Magazine and The Nature of Soviet Society.

From this point, beginning students of socialism will find that they have the basic orientation needed to find their own way.

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These are the basic pamphlets recommended in "Socialism for Beginners."

Socialist Landmarks--out of stock

WHAT MEANS THIS STRIKE? (posted on SLP's Web site under Daniel De Leon Online)
SOCIALIST RECONSTRUCTION OF SOCIETY (posted on SLP's Web site under Daniel De Leon Online)
By Daniel De Leon

Communist Manifesto--$2.00

By Karl Marx and Frederick Engels; International Publishers edition

Socialism From Utopia to Science--$4.95

By Frederick Engels; International Publishers edition

Wage-Labor & Capital+Value, Price & Profit--$4.95

By Karl Marx; International Publishers edition

Capitalism & Unemployment--$0.50

Socialism Today: A Reply to Time Magazine--$0.25

The Nature of Soviet Society--$0.75

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