Theory & Struggle is the journal of the Marx Memorial Library published by Liverpool University Press. Currently published annually, it features articles that grapple with debates taking place within Marxist circles as well studying critical developments in the labour and progressive movements in Britain and internationally, including movements for gender equality, for racial equality and for peace.

This issue looks at debates within Marxist theory and history with a focus on left governments in power.

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The First World War accentuated the divisions between the left and right in the labour movement. The militancy of labour's rank and file continued unabated, whilst the exigencies of war gave labour's leaders the chance to become fully enmeshed within the State itself. The gulf between the two widened to such an extent that it was difficult for both to co-exist within the same organisations. The 'unofficial' opposition, reflecting the chasm between leaders and led, generated its own structures in the form of the Shop Stewards Movement and Workers' Committees. The shop stewards of today can trace their origins to this wartime period, during which rank and file workers kept effective trade unionism alive in the face of their leaders' preoccupation with the war effort. This is the story of those socialists and activists who opposed World War One, condemning it as imperialist and needless in the face of the power of the state and the majority of the mainstream press. This pamphlet made use of resources from the MML’s archives and financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund to detail this, often under-appreciated, subject. It was part of a larger project, which included the launch of a new website, the delivery of lectures on the same topic and the publishing of educational material.

A pamphlet about the build-up to the Russian Revolution, the execution of the revolution itself and the impact it had on the course and outcome of WW1, including in the European and British labour movements. 

The October Revolution of 1917 was a seismic event which uprooted the established order of capitalism in Europe, changing the course of international history. The revolution profoundly altered the Russian state and impacted the outcome of WW1 spurring Western governments to intervene to prevent the Communist ideology spreading westward. Despite attempts to stifle it, the revolution influenced popular left-wing movements across Europe, sparking other revolutions and uprisings. It is remarkable to note that the revolution occurred despite its contradictory nature, taking place in the least educated and most economically backward country in Europe. This pamphlet traces the revolution from its origins through to its implementation, and thereafter the explosion of actions, reactions and movements it affected. Written and published in the centenary year of the revolution, this pamphlet accompanied an exhibition exploring the same themes, which was displayed at academic institutions across the country. It was published as part of a larger celebration of the Russian Revolution, which included the launch of a website for researchers, as well as many lectures and discussions, culminating in an international conference held at the TUC hall on November 4, 2017. This project was made possible by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and made generous use of the resources of the Marx Memorial Library, the Society for Co-Operation in Russian and Soviet Studies, Sputnik, RIA Novosti and the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick.

Gertrude Elias pamphlet

A pamphlet dedicated to artist, activist and writer Gertrude Elias, who left her unique collection to MML. It showcases a stunning series of anti-fascist cartoons alongside a brief biography, an introduction to her archive and an extract from her memoir. This publication was the second in the MML's 'from the archives' series.

The archive of artist and writer Gertrude Elias, housed in the Marx Memorial Library, has uncovered some fascinating material. The variety of correspondences, writings, collages and drawings from Elias are an insight into her deeply held political beliefs and activism, as well as her original artistic flair. This pamphlet aims to pay tribute to her underrated work and showcase eight of her drawings. Nilu and Martin York, who were friends of Elias’, provide a brief biography of her work, plus an outline of her anti-imperialist and anti-fascist activism. Then Elias explains in her own words the context of some particular cartoons of hers, drawings that she is convinced George Orwell heavily drew upon for the concept of his anti-Soviet novel Animal Farm. Regardless of what one considers about this controversy, the cartoons are undeniably interesting - both aesthetically and historically. This pamphlet serves to encourage familiarity with the breadth of Elias’ writings and work, and promote interest in the library’s archive.

16 pages
Published 2016

The Woman Worker

By N K Krupskaya, translation by Dr Mick Costello (Manifesto Press, London: 2017)

This is the first publication in English of a pamphlet originally written in 1899 (published 1902), then suppressed following the 1905 Russian Revolution, before being republished in 1925. This is N K Krupskaya's first pamphlet and the first work written by a Marxist on the situation of women in Russia.

Often undervalued in scholarship and treated as merely ‘Lenin’s wife’, Nadezhda Konstantinovna Krupskaya was a Russian revolutionary and activist in her own right. She was active during the earliest days of the Russian Revolution, where she worked on the policies of education and enlightenment, and later chaired the education committee and served as Deputy Minister of Education in the USSR until her death in 1939. She also sat on the editorial board of Rabotnitsa (The Woman Worker) and helped found the Communist Youth movements Komsomol and the Pioneers. This pamphlet, The Woman Worker, was written under the pseudonym ‘Sablina’ whilst Krupskaya was exiled Siberia in 1899. It was banned following the suppression of the 1905 revolution, but republished after the October Revolution (1917). It is notable as the earliest example of an in-depth analysis of the role of women in Tsarist Russia. It calls for women to organise alongside male workers: ‘The woman worker is a member of the working class and all her interests are closely tied to the interests of that class’. Krupskaya also outlines the powerlessness of the peasant woman in family life, their diminished status and the fact that they were treated as property. This is the first time that the work as a whole has been published in English, and was part of a wider celebration of the centenary of the October Revolution.

20 pages

The Councils of Action 1920 and the British Labour Movement's Defence of Soviet Russia

By John Foster (Manifesto Press, London: 2017)

John Foster examines the creation of the Councils of Action against the background of a rising militancy and in the political context of a government divided over how to restore Britain's power, the ideological challenges to right-wing Labour arising from the Irish nationalist movement and Soviet power, and the formation of the Communist Party.

On 7 August 1920, the Councils of Action were convened by representatives of the British Labour movement to prevent the government from participating in war against Soviet Russia and sending troops to assist with the invasion. Over 300 local Councils of Action were called as the basis for organising a general strike. Two days after these councils were formed, the government abandoned its plan, choosing to support Soviet proposals for a peace treaty with Poland. John Foster writes that this was the first occasion where the British Labour movement leadership formally used industrial action to pressure a sitting government to drastically change a policy, thereby setting a precedent for the 1926 General Strike. This extended pamphlet draws from the MML’s archives, analysing the way in which the British Labour movement organised and created the Councils of Action, and then dealt with the subsequent reactions from the government of the time. 

30 pages