MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Writing Guidelines

Writing Guidelines

It is self-evident that where things and their interrelations are conceived, not as fixed, but as changing, their mental images, the ideas, are likewise subject to change and transformation. They are not encapsulated in rigid definitions, but are developed in their historical or logical process of formation.

Fredrick Engels
Preface, Capital III

Marxist Understanding

The first most important tool for writing in the Encyclopedia of Marxism is a Marxist understanding. We don't mean one particular kind of Marxist understanding, we are not talking about "correct" Marxist understanding. How could this be? We don't want a treatise, we don't need a speech. We want general Marxist understanding, general Marxist analysis. It isn't that hard – a little bit of thought, some pateince, working with someone who is your opposite but also Marxist, and you can get the work done as it needs to be. This is the kind of dialectical process of development we are looking at. There aren't right answers, only good, hard work. This is how we have gotten all this work done over the years, and it is how we expect contributions to be done. We are here to help the process, but if you have a friend (or enemy!) you want to team up with to hammer something out, by all means! We just need that process of critique and opposition to produce good work, whether it comes from you and a collaborator in opposition, or someone of our volunteers.

The Structure of a Definition

When explaining a word, wherever possible quote from a Marxist writer in our archive (sometimes, the more contemporary the better), and when possible, it is certainly best to quote from more than one Marxist writer, and from more than one work. Do not write your own opinions and interpretations of something, but focus on the historical progression, the facts of the matter, and then present the groundwork of a basic Marxist critique – nothing so detailed that can identify with a particular sect or train of Marxist thought unless it is specifically marked in a definition that claims it to be something of that sect. The point being, we dont want any sect to try to insert its particular view as one of all Marxism. No statement of validity is being made here, simply, we don't want this practice. It is also important that there is NO PLAGARISM, NO DIRECT COPYING, of any kind. This has to be original material, except, of course, for quotes.

The basic structure of a definition is as follows:

1.) First paragraph. Concise and clear explanation of the word, possibly only one sentence for a term, up to at most around five sentences for an event. This is absolutely essential to good writing, not only because it serves to provide a generalized outline of everything to follow, but simplicity provides the reader with an easy and solid ground to return to whenever the definition below may become difficult to understand.

2.) Several paragraphs. The body of the definition. An explanation of the definition that details historical development, variations in the word as a result, and critiques.

3.) Possibly one or two paragraphs. If there are non-Marxist variations of understanding this word relevant to understanding society/history (i.e. a bourgeois conception of a word: see Bourgeois Democracy for example), they should be contained at the bottom of the definition in a concise overview and clearly labeled with the tag span class="term" (see: Being for an example).

4.) References. "Further Reading" is used to denote materials outside of the encyclopedia, often material in the Marxist writers or reference archives, that can broaden understanding of the word. If how this material would assist the reader is not clear, a sentence explaining the content of the material is helpful, and always denote the author of the work. "See Also" is used for other words that are within the encyclopedia that will be helpful to an understanding of the word.

Guidelines to crushing dogma:

Dogma is our enemy. There is no absolute truth of history, no single opinion that is correct. All understanding is relative to experience and history, which means in other words that the "truth" of history is as various and different as the people who lived it. Do not explain history with the lens of an ideal, a certain notion of what is true; instead use the context from the real circumstances of history, the real events, as they happened not through your own ideas but through the historical background, present conditions, and ideas of as many participants as you can find. Do not use an adjective or a political position summed up in a single word to wholly describe a person (example: the Centrist Kautsky, the Butcher Stalin, etc.). If cutting these descriptions out of biographies means having no description at all, then so be it. It is much better for us not to have information than for us to give misinformation.