Abiezer Coppe "Marxist Reading List"

I don’t usually print stuff like this, but my newest guest columnist  Abiezer Coppe is incredibly well-read. This is a list of the Marxist literature he has been through, which includes most of the seminal works of the discipline. I still maintain that we on the Left have to quit critiquing actually existing capitalism (AEC) so much and figure out some alternatives to AEC that actually not only get rid of the problems of AEC but are workable and viable.
Abiezer is much better read in Marxist literature than I am. I checked out some recent stuff by Meszaros from last fall and it was pretty good stuff. Hungarian Marxist philosopher. A lot of my readers are Leftists and many are also extremely well-read, so they might be interested in this post. They will probably chime in in the comments with recommendations of their own. I agree that Marx is incredibly hard to read. Abiezer’s bio is here.
To call myself a Marxist would be really overegging the pudding! After all around 1872 Karl Marx himself said “All I know is that I’m not a Marxist!”. I’m not a Marxist, I’m a Communist. And I’m definitely a humanist. I identify with Marxist humanism. Obviously I’ve absorbed Marx via membership of the Communist Party, and latterly of the Socialist Workers’ Party (the only Marxist game in the city in the 2000’s), which I quit because of its politics on various issues, and I’ve read Marx at times.
But no-one can seriously call himself a Marxist unless they have read Capital Volumes 1 to 3 and can give an exposition on what they mean. I haven’t.
I tried to read Volume 1, a copy of which sits proudly in my bathroom along with Trotsky’s My Life, Engels’ Anti-Duhring, Paul Sweezy’s The Theory of Capitalist Development, two books of Marxist philosophy by the inestimable American Communist Barrows Dunham (If you haven’t read him, check him out!), Engels’ Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844, Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, David Shub’s biography of Lenin, Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution, Kent Worcester’s biography of CLR James plus various Marxist books on history (two copies of British Communist A L Morton’s – whom I  knew – A People’s History of England) and literary criticism, but I never got that far with Das Kapital.
I also have wonderful volumes by British Marxist novelists Jack Lindsay (I knew him well and named my son after him) and Lewis Grassic Gibbon. I learn a lot from novelists, especially those writing in the Marxist tradition. And from Marxist poets like Neruda, Hikmet, Vallejo and Yevtushenko.
The 20th century Marxists I’ve read include Gramsci, Trotsky, Lenin obviously, Bukharin (brilliant!), Rosa Luxemburg, Alexandra Kollantai, Mao Tse Tung, Lukacs, Althusser because I was a member of the French Communist Party in the 1970’s, Coletti, Fernando Claudin (his History of the Communist Movement), Meszaros (for whom I retain a great affection despite his dreadful 985 page Hegelian reading of Capital, which I did read to the end and emerged none the wiser. But his Marx’s Theory of Alienation is just brilliant in my view.), Christopher Hill and Isaac Deutscher (I knew his second wife Tamara) and EP Thompson.
Marx’s Theory of Alienation and Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts, plus Lenin’s State and Revolution, The Communist Manifesto, Mao’s On Contradiction and Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution, were the first books I ever read by Marxists, after coming back from India at the age of 19, meeting Indian Communists in New Delhi and deciding the world needed to be turned upside down, as in the song about the Levellers by Leon Rosselson, the greatest British Marxist Jew songwriter ever, and still performing at 75! His albums are brilliant!

3 thoughts on “Abiezer Coppe "Marxist Reading List"”

  1. Believe it or not, I own most of these books; but I’ve just about lost the ambition to read them. Increasingly, I feel that a socialist vision that can’t be expressed in under 30 simple words, is one that isn’t fit for purpose – the purpose being to inspire people to demand as just and democratic a society as possible. Some of these guys mean well, but ultimately they just disappear up their own arsehole.

  2. Yup, that’s certainly true of Althusser, true of Coletti, and some of Meszaros; too clever by half. That’s why I like the poets. I forgot to mention William Morris’ Political Writings and News from Nowhere. A great prose writer, direct and passionate. OK “Lafayette” from Scotland: give me your socialist vision in just 30 words.
    I’ll give it in 2. No Hunger. That’s it. No hunger anywhere. What about 1: Democracy.

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