From Fourth International, Vol.12 No.3, May-June 1951, p.66.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
It’s not easy nowadays to build up a comprehensive Marxist library. Many important books have never been translated into English. Others have long been out of print. Browsing around the second-hand book stores in New York, which is one of our secret ways of relaxing, we notice that even some of the outstanding classics like the second and third volumes of Capital have become scarce.
One of the reasons for this is that the outfits which used to be the main source of publication no longer supply the market. The Social Democratic press long ago lost professional interest in anything that does not toe the line of the State Dept. propagandists. The Kremlin shot the authors of many valuable works as “fascist mad dogs” and naturally stopped printing their books in order to avoid the inevitable question, “How could such authors, who helped found the Soviet Union, end up before Stalin’s firing squads unless they were framed up?”
Pioneer Publishers, operating on a small budget, does its best to provide the works of Leon Trotsky and his adherents, which are of burning importance to the labor movement today, in meeting the great political problems of our time, but is unable to finance a more ambitious publishing program.
Besides the scarcity of supply, however, something else is beginning to operate: the market for Marxist works is widening. Leon Trotsky expected this to happen in America. A year or two before his death, he observed that when the United States finally feels the full impact of the death agony of capitalism as a world system, the American workers will turn to Marxism for an explanation and a program and we can expect to see the popularity of Marxist works grow by leaps and bounds.
Up to now no capitalist publisher has managed to look far enough past his prejudices to see the potential market or even the existing market. That’s understandable enough although it is hard to determine whether it’s the result of short-sightedness or far-sightedness.
The moral of this is that when a reprint of an old book does appear or a new book makes it over the hurdles, you only cut your own throat thinking it doesn’t matter if you don’t get your copy right away. It’s surprising how little time it takes to exhaust an edition. And those who do convert their depreciating money into a Marxist book find they’ve not only invested in some rich evenings of reading but also salted something away for the future.
All this was driven home to us the other day when a book dealer unlocked one of his cases and brought out one of his precious items, a small paper-bound book by Leon Trotsky, Germany, What Next? He wanted $10 for it. He let us touch a little pamphlet by Trotsky, Communism and Syndicalism, now listed at $2.50. When we offered $2.25 with the idea of making a quarter, he put it back like he’d been insulted, and he’s the kind that doesn’t insult easy.
Thinking it over, we didn’t wait another day. We lined up with the “wise” money and bought two copies of The Jewish Question by A. Leon which has just been released by Pioneer Publishers. The one copy is for our own library, the other for sale when Pioneer Publishers exhausts the first edition and the collectors move in for the kill. This should be enough of a tip-off. The paper edition is only $1, cloth $1.50. The address is 116 University Place, New York 3.
While you’re making out the money order you might as well get your copy of the 1948-49 bound Fourth International. This item is still only $5, which is a bargain as it includes all the issues for two years bound together with an index. That’s more than 600 pages of articles by the world’s leading Marxists, a real mine of information on politics, economics, history, trade union problems, the struggle for Negro equality, Wall Street’s war drive, and the Socialist solution to the problem of peace.
Earlier volumes are available as far back as 1938 although some of them are now pretty scarce. Here are the prices: 1947, $4.60; 1946, $5; 1945, $5; 1944, $7; 1943, $8; 1942, $8; 1940-41, $15; 1939, $15; 1938, $15. These volumes are one of the major sources in English for the rare and important shorter writings of Leon Trotsky and other prominent figures of the revolutionary socialist movement.
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Fourth International has a broad circle of readers in America who fully realize the important function it fills in expounding and developing Marxist theory. They are its ardent partisans. But we often think that perhaps the theoretical magazine of American Trotskyism is appreciated even more abroad. That’s the impression we get at least from letters like the following one from Edinburgh, Scotland:
“The Fourth International’s analysis of international affairs and current events is the best and soundest I have yet read and the material contained in the pamphlets is most interesting and illuminating. I find myself becoming more and more interested in Trotskyism.”
Last updated on: 24 March 2009