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"How Does Marxism Help?"

Our group in Dallas recent conducted a discussion on "How Does Marxism Help Us in our Political Work?" The leadoff presentation included parts of works by Marks, Engels, and Lenin. The point was that we can understand our present situation and map out future plans much more effectively by using Marxist ideas as tools. At the same time, it was pointed out that "Marxism is not a catechism." In other words, activists cannot look to the "classic" Marxist writers for easy solutions to today's problems. Rather, Marxism helps provide the method.

Materialism, as opposed to the other great philosophical category of idealism, was shown to be critical as we try to scientifically gauge political and economic developments. Idealism is the opposite of scientific method, and can bring people to believe almost anything.

Dialectics shows us that nothing is static, but is always changing. When small changes accumulate enough, qualitative changes come about. This is true in nature as well as in the affairs of humankind. It was pointed out that qualitative changes sometimes seem to come very quickly. The volatility of the American stock market was a good example. Our analysis of history helps us see the kinds of changes that are happening today, even though they may be entirely unique.

Unique experiences in history, which cannot be anticipated by the usually-reliable common sense, especially need our dialectic approach.

Marx pointed out that some of the fundamental economic concepts in Capital were developed by previous economists. Marx's big contribution was to bring them together to explain capitalism and affect future developments.

Lenin built on the ideas of Marx and Engels to show how activists could work collectively to build a political party that could stand up for the rights of working people and lead us forward into greatly improved economic relations.

In the discussion, members talked about how Marxism helped them with recent developments in our own work. Two new pamphlets had just come from CPUSA national: "The Debate in Labor," and "No Mandate, No Surrender." All of us had seen versions in the People's Weekly World and on www.cpusa.org. We looked at some of the ways that Marxist methodology was used to understand our present situations and help us move forward.

We took extra time to look at developments in the union movement, the fight for immigrants' rights, and the contributions of progressive religious leaders. In summary, our discussion leader quoted Lenin, "The Marxian doctrine is omnipotent because it is true."