Making Our Own History : A User’s Guide to Marx’s Historical Materialism by Jonathan White Published jointly by Praxis Press and the Marx Memorial Library 2021: Praxis Press c/o Unity Books, 72 Waterloo Street, Glasgow, G2 7DA, Scotland, Great Britain, 144 pages
Reviewed by Bob Bonner
Jonathan White, British Marxist, professor, union official, trustee of the Marx Memorial Library in London, Associate Editor of its journal Theory and Struggle, and lecturer at the Library’s Workers’ School, has penned a powerful argument for understanding and teaching historical materialism.
Despite the book’s brevity, the author packs a wealth of Marxist thought into the first half of the book which he calls “The Foundations of Historical Materialism,” and skillfully cites numerous primary sources coupled with his own observations written to explain core concepts to people with no prior knowledge.
White gives us an overview of the importance of the relationship between thought, understanding, and political process to Marx and Engels. He identifies historical materialism as central to Lenin and vital to the liberation of mankind through socialism. He cites numerous examples of the ruling class repeatedly declaring Marxism and class struggle dead, especially after World War II in the McCarthy/Cold War era and then again after the collapse of the Soviet and Eastern European states between 1989 and 1991. “Yet time and again these ideas return to haunt the rulers of the Earth.” For them profit takes precedence over the needs of the people and our ecosystems, and profit drives their resource wars.
White sees the greatest shock to ruling class arrogance in modern times as the dual shock of World War I and the Russian Revolution. The relative calm the rulers reclaimed after 1991 was again shattered by the crash of 2008-9 with the resulting anger and renewed appetite for struggle met with increased condemnations of socialism and Marxism.
The author labels Part II, Historical Materialism in Action, and provides a Marxist interpretation of contemporary history. He provides examples of recent and current events to illustrate the point that “actions of our lives are not lost or wasted, but contribute to the liberation of humankind.”
An observation and a sentiment I fully endorse.
–Bob Bonner is former president of AFGE Local 2028 in Pittsburgh, PA where he represented US Veterans Administration workers.
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