Interested in socialism but not sure where to begin? Here are booklet-sized writings offering thinking about a range of basics from class to the climate.
Let us know at FSnews@socialism.com if you would like more suggestions in the FS of fundamental readings geared toward a better world.
The Communist Manifesto
On your Marx, get set, go!
Where else to start? Karl Marx and Frederick Engels were commissioned by the Communist League, a new international workers’ association, to write its founding document. Published in 1848, the Manifesto for the first time set out the core ideas of scientific, as opposed to utopian, socialism.
Though the League disbanded in 1852, the Manifesto lives on. It’s a deep read, but not a daunting one. In just a few pages, 60 or so depending on the edition, a whole new world of thought opens up. Using a method called historical materialism, Marx and Engels discuss forms of class conflict in earlier societies, the rise of capitalism, and the power of workers to set humanity free.
Available in most non-MAGA bookstores and at marxists.org.
The Revolutionary Party: Its Role in the Struggle for Socialism
Why a vanguard?
James P. Cannon, primary founder of U.S. Trotskyism, wrote this piece in 1967 advocating for V.I. Lenin’s conception of the socialist party.
Quiet as it’s kept in some quarters, revolutions happen all the time. The American War of Independence was one; so was the Civil War. Workers and oppressed people are constantly striving to overturn systems that exploit them. But what does it take to succeed? And, going further, not only to overthrow a system, but to build a just and sustainable replacement from the ground up?
Cannon explains that this is where the need for the party comes in — above all in the U.S., with its “most highly organized concentration of economic, political, military, and cultural power in history.”
Available at marxists.org.
Leon Trotsky: His Life and Ideas
Champion for socialism on a world scale
Being a leader of the Russian Revolution apparently wasn’t enough for the remarkable Leon Trotsky. He was also the spearhead of global left opposition to the ascent of the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union, a prescient and persistent voice against the rise of fascism in the 1930s, and an organizer of socialist forces internationally.
Trotsky expanded Marxist thought with his profound theory of permanent revolution, which author Helen Gilbert explains simply and clearly. Trotsky’s contribution explains, among other things, why it is useless to hope any longer for meaningful reforms under capitalism. The theory is a foundation for both the revolutionary optimism of the Freedom Socialist Party and FSP’s dynamic melding of socialism and feminism.
Available at Red Letter Press.
Fascism: What It Is and How to Fight It
Every führer needs a mass movement
This pamphlet brings together excerpts from Trotsky’s writing between 1930 and 1940 as he addressed the growth of fascism in Italy, Germany, and Spain.
Today, far-right tyrants proliferate, and it’s tempting to slap the label of “fascist” on them all. But the value of this collection lies in its sober analysis of what fascism is, specifically, and where it gets its strength.
That involves looking at class, Trotsky shows. Fascism’s main support is in the middle class, whose desperate and angry members fall prey to its lies, fake populism, and scapegoating of minority or marginalized communities — Jewish and Black people, LGBTQ+ folks, and so on. And it is only a resolute working-class movement that can win the petty bourgeoisie to a different course.
Available at marxists.org
Socialist Feminism and the Revolutionary Party
A harmony with unlimited potential
Not that long ago, burned by the sexism of Old and New leftists, many women’s liberationists saw socialism as a boys’ club with nothing to offer them. And the majority of Marxists considered feminism hopelessly bourgeois or, at best, a distraction from the class struggle.
The booklet, authored by this writer, looks at how the 1966 forming of the Freedom Socialist Party smashed those unhelpful tropes. It takes note of early Marxists who took bold stands for women’s emancipation and explains why the combination of feminism and a Leninist party is so explosive — in a good way. It’s this synthesis that holds the key to resolving the crisis of capitalism in favor of women and all who are exploited and abused.
Ecosocialism: The Solution for Survival on Planet Earth
For an alliance able to meet the challenge
Many environmental scientists now describe what’s happening to the planet not as “climate change” but “climate crisis” and not as “global warming” but as “global heating.” And well they might.
Steve Hoffman’s FSP position paper deals with the end-game threat facing us all. He shows how Marx and Engels were ahead of their time on ecological issues. He discusses the unequal effects of the climate crisis on women, communities of color, and poorer countries. He cites resistance, especially among indigenous people, and how to build upon it.
Hoffman tells us, “Ecosocialism offers the clearest path out of deepening poverty for workers and impending climate Armageddon for the planet. It targets the profit motive as the common cause behind both threats.”
Available at Red Letter Press.