The IIRE has released the first volume of the Selected Writings by Ernest Mandel (1923-1995). And fortunately, more volumes are in the pipeline: Marxists Against Stalinism. A debate with Chris Harman and Historical & Theoretical Essays.
It is hoped that more volumes will follow in the near future. The appearance of this series is gratifying news, and it is high time that a part of the very many writings of Mandel (books, articles, lectures, etc.), appears again in print. Not only as a tribute to his contributions to Marxism, but above all because—read critically—much can still be learned from them.
The modest title of the first volume of the Selected Writings is Introduction to Marxist Theory. But it is a very solid introduction to a wide range of topics. The book begins with a piece on the Marxist theory of the state. This is followed by a section on imperialism and different theories of imperialism, on the Marxist economy, on the character of social-democratic reformism, on bureaucracy, and on Leninist organization theory. All in all, a lot of work for a beginning socialist, who wants to know more about Marx and Lenin's thinking and about the history of the labour movement. But Marxism is indeed for people who want to think critically and keep on thinking in order to act as effectively as possible for a socialist world.
Mandel has become known not only as a Marxist economist and a revolutionary militant and theorist through his books and articles, but also through his performances, lectures, readings, debates. In the Netherlands he became known for his debate with Joop den Uyl, who would later become Prime Minister.
I first met Mandel in Utrecht in 1969 or 1970, when he gave a lecture on Marxism to a room full of students from the chemistry department. It was probably the first time that the abolition of private ownership of the means of production had been advocated in this room at the university, to the enthusiasm of the students present.
One of the next times I heard Mandel speak was at the VESVU congress in May 1973. That was a congress at the Free University in Amsterdam. The texts of the introductions and discussions were published under the title 'Crisis in Economic Theory'. One of the speakers at this conference was the famous Keynesian economist Joan Robinson. Mandel gave an introduction about 'the dialectics of growth'. And under the title 'the prevailing economic theory: science or ideology?' he debated with the bourgeois economist Professor Schouten. To the great joy of the audience, Mandel won that debate with flying colours.
Who wants to know more about the life and work of Ernest Mandel, should definitely read the biography that Jan Willem Stutje wrote about him some years ago.
- Rob Gerretsen
The book can be ordered here.