Mac’s List

Reading Recommendations: Works written by others


Materialism and Empirio-criticism

By: Vladimir Lenin

Materialism and Empirio-criticism is a philosophical work by Vladimir Lenin, published in 1909. It was an obligatory subject of study in all institutions of higher education in the Soviet Union, as a seminal work of dialectical materialism, a part of the curriculum called “Marxist–Leninist Philosophy”. Lenin argued that human perceptions correctly and accurately reflect the objective external world.

Lenin formulates the fundamental philosophical contradiction between idealism and materialism as follows: “Materialism is the recognition of ‘objects in themselves’ or objects outside the mind; the ideas and sensations are copies or images of these objects. The opposite doctrine (idealism) says: the objects do not exist, outside the mind’; they are ‘connections of sensations’.”

I picked this work for two main reasons; firstly it's a fundamental work of Marxist philosophy and introduced me to the idea that philosophy should be useful above all else. And, secondly, Anthony hates it.

Socialism: Utopian & Scientific

By: Frederick Engels

Socialism, Utopian and Scientific is a political science classic that needs no preface. It ranks with the Communist Manifesto as one of the indispensable books for any one desiring to understand the modern socialist movement. It has been translated into every language where capitalism prevails, and its circulation is more rapid than ever before. The book explains the differences between utopian socialism and scientific socialism, which Marxism considers itself to embody. The book explains that whereas utopian socialism is idealist, reflects the personal

Modern socialism is not a doctrine, Engels explains, but a working-class movement growing out of the establishment of large-scale capitalist industry and its social consequences.

Read the full book here:

The Communist Manifesto is the all time clubhouse leader for socialist works, but it's this short booklet that's always been my go to starting point for anyone wanting to read socialist theory.

Bart Simpson’s Guide to Life

(What I base my entire moral compass off of)

Take a bite out of this bitsy but beefy package, brimming with morsels of wit, wisdom and worldly knowledge brought to you by the one and only Bartholomew J. Simpson. Get the hard–knocks facts of life from the guy who’s seen it all, heard it all, done it all and denies it all.

(The “J” stands for “jenius”…)

Read more here:

I love the Simpsons or, I should say, I loved The Simpsons. If anyone wants to understand why I or anyone else loved that now zombified husk, this is the distillation of seasons 3 to 9.

Lenin and Trotsky- What they really stood for

By: Alan Woods and Ted Grant

The ideas of Lenin and Trotsky are without doubt the most distorted and slandered ideas in history. For more than 80 years, they have been subjected to an onslaught from the apologists of capitalism, who have attempted to present their ideas – Bolshevism – as both totalitarian and utopian. An entire industry was developed in an attempt to equate the crimes of Stalinism with the regime of workers’ democracy that existed under Lenin and Trotsky.

It is now more than thirty years since the publication of the first edition of this work. It was written as a reply to Monty Johnstone, who was a leading theoretician of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Johnstone had published a reappraisal of Leon Trotsky in the Young Communist League’s journal Cogito at the end of 1968. Alan Woods and Ted Grant used the opportunity to write a detailed reply explaining the real relationship between the ideas of Lenin and Trotsky. This was no academic exercise. It was written as an appeal to the ranks of the Communist Party and the Young Communist League to rediscover the truth about Trotsky and return to the original revolutionary programme of Lenin.

Read the full book here:

Can't put it any better than that title. This is really what they stood for.

Canadian Bolsheviks:

The Early Years of the Communist Party of Canada

Ian Angus’ book Canadian Bolsheviks details the birth, growth, and eventual Stalinist degeneration of the Communist Party of Canada and also details the lessons learned by the early communists while building the most successful revolutionary party in Canada’s history.

It is with great happiness that we welcome the reprinting of Ian Angus’ book Canadian Bolsheviks. First printed in 1981, this book details the birth, growth, and eventual Stalinist degeneration of the Communist Party of Canada covering the period from WW1 to the mid 1930s. The party was formed by working class militants inspired by the Russian Revolution and the post-war labour revolt in Canada. They formed a new type of party – a Bolshevik party – the Canadian section of Lenin’s Communist International. Angus provides an excellent antidote to both the Stalinist “official” history and to dry academic histories that see Marxism and Leninism as identical to Stalinism. Most importantly the book details the lessons learned by the early communists while building the most successful revolutionary party in Canada’s history. In the words of Angus, “They have a lot to teach us.”

Read a full summary here:

Not nearly enough is written about the history of Canadian socialists, or Canadian politics for that matter, but this is the best analysis of the hows and whys of the explosive growth in power and eventual irrelevance of the Communist Party of Canada. It's too bad it's the only good book the writer ever came out with.

The Foundation Trilogy

By: Isaac Asimov


FOUNDATION begins a new chapter in the story of man’s future. As the Old Empire crumbles into barbarism throughout the million worlds of the galaxy, Hari Seldon and his band of psychologists must create a new entity, the Foundation-dedicated to art, science, and technology-as the beginning of a new empire.

FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE describes the mighty struggle for power amid the chaos of the stars in which man stands at the threshold of a new enlightened life which could easily be destroyed by the old forces of barbarism.

SECOND FOUNDATION follows the Seldon Plan after the First Empire’s defeat and describes its greatest threat-a dangerous mutant strain gone wild, which produces a mind capable of bending men’s wills, directing their thoughts, reshaping their desires, and destroying the universe.

Buy here:

While the science of psychohistory is a childish version of Dialectics, reading it as a child started me on the long road to seeing history as more than just "one damn thing after another".

Canada in Africa: 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation

The Early Years of the Communist Party of Canada

Yves Engler continues his groundbreaking analyses of past and present Canadian foreign policy. The author of The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, and other works that challenge the myth of Canadian benevolence, documents Canadian involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, the “scramble for Africa” and European colonialism. The book reveals Ottawa’s opposition to anticolonial struggles, its support for apartheid South Africa and Idi Amin’s coup, and its role in ousting independence leaders Patrice Lumumba and Kwame Nkrumah. Based on an exhaustive look at the public record as well as on-the-ground research, Canada in Africa shows how the federal government pressed African countries to follow neoliberal economic prescriptions and sheds light on Canada’s part in the violence that has engulfed Somalia, Rwanda and the Congo, as well as how Canada’s indifference to climate change means a death sentence to ever-growing numbers of Africans.

Read a full summary here:

For anyone who insists that Canada is not an imperialist power give them this book. While our capitalists have always been overshadowed by the USA this book does an excellent job of showing just how a "lesser power" can exploit and dominate just like the rest, which, in turn, provides for a richer understanding of imperialism

The Impossibilists

By:Peter E. Newell

Formed in January 1905, the Socialist Party of Canada’s anti- reformist, anti-statist revolutionary platform led to ideological disputes with rival socialist groups and even arguments within the Party itself over what it stood for. Peter E Newell’s absorbing and thorough account of the life and times of the Socialist Party of Canada charts the Party’s pre-history in the 1890s, when the availability of translations of the works of Marx and Engels fuelled the radicalism of such figures as Daniel De Leon. It also covers the early years of the twentieth century when, with the merger of like-minded Provincial socialist parties, the SPC was founded. In the present day the party remains a beacon for socialists worldwide for its refusal to compromise its passions and beliefs. 

See more here:

Again, not enough written on Canadian socialists. This is my go to in understanding the historical foundations for the left in BC and the rest of Canada. From the fights between wobblies and marxists to the SPC it's amazing how all these ideas still exist within and inform the left today.

Capital Volume 1 & Volume 3

By: Karl Marx

Capital, Vol 3, subtitled The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole, was prepared by Friedrich Engels from notes left by Marx & published in 1894. It’s in seven parts:
1.The conversion of Surplus Value into Profit & the rate of Surplus Value into the rate of Profit
2.Conversion of Profit into Average Profit
3.The Law of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall
4.Conversion of Commodity Capital & Money Capital into Commercial Capital & Money-Dealing (Merchant’s) Capital
5.Division of Profit Into Interest & Profit of Enterprise, Interest Bearing Capital
6.Transformation of Surplus-Profit into Ground Rent
7.Revenues & Their Sources
The work is best known today for part 3, which in summary says that as the organic fixed capital requirements of production rise as a result of advancements in production generally, the rate of profit tends to fall. This result, which orthodox Marxists believe is a principal contradictory characteristic leading to an inevitable collapse of the capitalist order, was held, as a result of various contradictions in the capitalist mode of production, result in crises whose resolution necessitates the emergence of an entirely new mode of production as the culmination of the same historical dialectic that led to the emergence of capitalism from prior forms.

Read it here:

Right now, around the world, workers are reading excerpts from this massive work. It's the only sound foundation on which a criticism of capitalism can be built. And I know it's intimidating, but it can totally be read and understood by anyone seriously interested.
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