Bulletin of the Marx Memorial Library


Bulletin of the Marx Memorial Library (1973), 67, (1), 4–6.


AFTER OUR 40TH ANNIVERSARY William Paul, Marxist Lecturer and Theoretician In the April-June, 1958, issue of this Bulletin (then an 8-page duplicated production) there was an account of the work of William Paul (1885-1958), who had died that March after a lonq life of activity in the cause of Socialism. First in the SocialDemocratic Federation and then, from 1903, in the Socialist Labour Party, he had been very well known as a lecturer and tutor in Marxism, as well as in other fields. Mention was made at our 40th Anniversary Meetii~g of nis little book on the State, published in 1918, which went into three editions. It was based on a series of lectures delivered to students of social science at Birmingham and Derby. Drawing upon such writings of Marx and Engels as were then available, upon those of their most brilliant followers, like Paul Lafargue and August Bebel, as well as upon the works of non-Marxist historians, economists and political writers ancient and modern, Paul produced the first study of the State from the Marxist standpoint written in this country - and it appeared almost on the eve of the first publication in English of Lenin's book State and Revolution (in November 1919), jointly by the British Socialist Party, the successor of the SDF, and Paul's own party, the SLP. Lenin's work carried the Marxist theory of the State to a much higher level, indeed reviving fundamental ideas of Marx and It Engels which had been in practice forgotten for many years. was therefore quite natural that Paul, who in 1920 was delegated by the Communist Party, just formed, to be its first representative in Moscow, should have sought an opportunity to discuss the question of the State with Lenin. No account of this discussion appeared in the report of his interview printed in The Communist (December 2, 1920); but the effect of his talk with Lenin can be seen from the following letter, previously unpublished, which Paul wrote to a friend (and which was found among his papers by his widow Jenny, herself well known for many years as Paul's lifelong comrade: she died only three years ago): "1st December, 1957. Dear Comrade Smith, Many thanks for your letter and enclosed notes. I have been very busy since I returned from Moscow a few weeks ago -t-r-, hence delay in replying to your query re The State. "After the third edition of The State had been sold out, the Bolsheviks had captured power. Lenin wrote his book on the State. I decided not to allow any new editions of The State to be issued until the time was ripe for doing the job at a higher and more extensive level. Lenin agreed with me on this point during our first discussion. "For many years I have studied all the new data that modern scholarship has revealed on social development and social institutions. The work of Pavlov, Gordon Childe, Bernard Stern, 4

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