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 includes the usual combination of articles focusing on political, economic and environmental debates, trade union issues and struggles, news and views from the Marx Memorial Library & Workers' School and partner organisations, followed by a reviews section. In addition, this issue includes a new feature which invites contributors to reflect on a book that has influenced their thinking in critical ways. The first article in this series, by the Liberation General Secretary Roger McKenzie, reflects on Angela Davis's autobiography and its significance for equalities struggles.

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An MML publication on historical materialism. As global capitalism lurches from one crisis to the next we are seeing a resurgence of interest in Marxist ideas and politics. Marxist thought provides a way of understanding the economic crises rippling across the globe, the environmental destruction and climate change that threaten to change our lives and the desperate inequality and poverty that blights human society.


This book, published by Praxis Press, outlines the main intellectual stages in the development of Karl Marx's theory of historical development, often referred to as historical materialism or the materialist conception of history. Rahim charts Marx's journey from his early life as a Young Hegelian immersed in German philosophical traditions through his turn toward political economy, his interest in Adam Smith and finally his maturing into a truly revolutionary thinker and founder of scientific socialism.

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.

Proud Journey by Bob Cooney - a Spanish Civil War Memoir

By Bob Cooney, with Introduction by Meirian Jump (Manifesto Press, London: 2015)

Bob Cooney (1907-1984) was a prominent anti-fascist and communist in Aberdeen who joined the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. Published here for the first time, Proud Journey is his memoir of those turbulent times. It takes us from street clashes with Blackshirts to the battlefields of Spain and the heroism and sacrifice of Cooney and his comrades facing the forces of Franco, Hitler and Mussolini. Written in 1944 and with the Second World War as a backdrop, this is a rousing personal account of one man’s part in the long and bloody fight against fascism that helped define this key period of twentieth century history. Cooney paints an action-packed and politically-charged picture of struggle, solidarity, comradeship – and hope.

Bob Cooney writes honestly and in great detail about his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, successfully placing the war in the context of the rise of fascism in Europe during the 1930s and the inaction of Western powers, through the policy of non-intervention, to prevent its spread. He writes of conversations and anecdotes with his comrades, but also analyses the complex politics of the conflict. His lifelong communist and anti-fascist beliefs are reflected through his passionate and gripping words. Cooney's Proud Journey is one of many International Brigade memoirs housed in the Spanish Collection archives at the Marx Memorial Library & Workers' School. The collection was originally donated by the International Brigade Association, and contains a variety of original material such as photographs, posters, banners and letters of correspondence.

123 pages

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

Marx 200 book cover

This book, published by Praxis Press, examines the significance of Marxism for today’s world. Leading scholars and activists from different countries – including Cuba, India and the UK – show that Marx’s ideas continue to provide us with the analysis we need to understand our world today in order to change it.

The relevance of Marx’s contribution to political economy is discussed, as is Marxism and the ongoing battle of ideas. John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor, writes about Marxism as a force for change in the 21st century. The leader of the Indian Communist Party, Sitaram Yechury, focuses on Marx’s legacy 200 years on.

Other wide-ranging topics demonstrating the relevance of Marxist ideas and approaches in the current climate include: ‘neoliberalism, austerity and Marx’, ’capitalism and new technology’, 'Marxism and Women', ’Marxism and the environment’, ’Marxism and culture’ as well as ‘the role of the state’, ‘Marxism and the present as history’ and ‘Populist nationalism’.

The book is based on a major international conference organised by the Marx Memorial Library to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx on 5 May 2018.