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Marxism refers to the philosophy and social theory based on Karl Marx's work on one hand, and to the political practice based on Marxist theory on the other hand (namely, parts of the First International during Marx's time, communist parties and later states). Marx, a 19th century German, Jewish-born atheist, socialist philosopher, economist, journalist, and revolutionary, often in collaboration with Friedrich Engels, developed a critique of society which he claimed was both scientific and revolutionary. This critique achieved its most systematic (albeit unfinished) expression in his most famous work, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, more commonly known as Das Kapital (1867).
Followers of Marx and Engels have drawn on this work to propose a grand, cohesive theoretical outlook dubbed Marxism. Nevertheless, there have been numerous debates among Marxists over how to interpret Marx's writings and how to apply his concepts to current events and conditions. The legacy of Marx's thought is bitterly contested among proponents of numerous viewpoints who claim to be Marx's most accurate interpreters. There have been many academic theories, social movements, political parties and governments that lay claim to being founded on Marxist principles. Indeed, academic theorising on Marxism is so widespread that there are a number of different schools of Marxism in addition to the classical Marxism of Marx and Engels. Similarly, the use of Marxist theory in politics, including the social democratic movements in 20th century Europe, the Soviet Union and other Eastern bloc countries, Mao and other revolutionaries in agrarian developing countries have added new ideas to Marx and otherwise transmuted Marxism so much that it is difficult to define its core.
Classical Marxism refers to the body of theory directly expounded by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The term 'Classical Marxism' is often used to distinguish between "Marxism" in general and "what Marx believed"; for example, shortly before he died in 1883, Marx wrote a letter to the French workers' leader Jules Guesde, and to his own son-in-law Paul Lafargue, accusing them of "revolutionary phrase-mongering" and of denying the value of reformist struggles: "if that is Marxism" — paraphrasing what Marx wrote — "then I am not a Marxist". As the American Marx scholar Hal Draper remarked, "there are few thinkers in modern history whose thought has been so badly misrepresented, by Marxists and anti-Marxists alike."
Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels
Karl Heinrich Marx (May 5, 1818, Trier, Germany – March 14, 1883, London) was an immensely influential German philosopher, political economist, and socialist revolutionary. Marx addressed a wide range of issues, including alienation and exploitation of the worker, the capitalist mode of production and historical materialism, although he is most famous for his analysis of history in terms of class struggles, summed up in the opening line of the introduction to the Communist Manifesto: "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." The influence of his ideas, already popular during his life, was given added impetus by the victory of the Russian Bolsheviks in the 1917 October Revolution, and there are few parts of the world which were not significantly touched by Marxian ideas in the course of the twentieth century.
The two first met in person in September 1844. They discovered that they had similar views on philosophy and on capitalism and decided to work together, producing a number of works including Die heilige Familie (The Holy Family). After the French authorities deported Marx from France in January 1845, Engels and Marx decided to move to Belgium, which then permitted greater freedom of expression than some other countries in Europe. Engels and Marx returned to Brussels in January 1846, where they set up the Communist Correspondence Committee.
In 1847 Engels and Marx began writing a pamphlet together, based on Engels' The Principles of Communism. They completed the 12,000-word pamphlet in six weeks, writing it in such a manner as to make communism understandable to a wide audience, and published it as The Communist Manifesto in February 1848. In March, Belgium expelled both Engels and Marx. They moved to Cologne, where they began to publish a radical newspaper, the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. By 1849 both Engels and Marx had to leave Germany and moved to London. The Prussian authorities applied pressure on the British government to expel the two men, but Prime Minister Lord John Russell refused. With only the money that Engels could raise, the Marx family lived in extreme poverty.
After Marx's death in 1883, Engels devoted much of the rest of his life to editing and translating Marx's writings. However, he also contributed significantly to feminist theory, seeing for instance the concept of monogamous marriage as having arisen because of the domination of man over women. In this sense, he ties communist theory to the family, arguing that men have dominated women just as the capitalist class has dominated workers. Engels died in London in 1895.
Classical Marxism was influenced by a number of different thinkers. These thinkers can roughly be divided into 3 groups:
- German Philosophy including: Immanuel Kant, Georg Hegel; Ludwig Feuerbach
- English and Scottish Political Economy including: Adam Smith & David Ricardo
- French Socialism including: Jean-Jacques Rousseau; Charles Fourier; Henri de Saint-Simon; Pierre-Joseph Proudhon; Louis Blanc
Other influences include:
The main ideas to come out of Marx and Engels collective works include:
- mode of production: The mode of production is a specific combination of productive forces (including human labour power, tools, equipment, buildings and technologies, materials, and improved land) and social and technical relations of production (including the property, power and control relations governing society's productive assets, often codified in law, cooperative work relations and forms of association, relations between people and the objects of their work, and the relations between social classes).
- base and superstructure: The base refers to the means of production of society. The superstructure is formed on top of the base, and comprises that society's ideology, as well as its legal system, political system, and religions. For Marx, the base determines the superstructure.The relationship between superstructure and base is considered to be a dialectical one, not a distinction between actual entities "in the world".
- class consciousness: Class consciousness refers to the self-awareness of a social class and its capacity to act in its own rational interests.
- ideology: Because the ruling class controls the society's means of production, the superstructure of society, including its ideology, will be determined according to what is in the ruling class's best interests. Therefore the ideology of a society is of enormous importance since it confuses the alienated groups and can create false consciousness such as commodity fetishism (perceiving labor as capital ~ a degradation of human life).
- historical materialism: Historical materialism was first articulated by Marx, although he himself never used the term. It looks for the causes of developments and changes in human societies in the way in which humans collectively make the means to life, thus giving an emphasis, through economic analysis, to everything that co-exists with the economic base of society (e.g. social classes, political structures, ideologies).
- political economy: The term political economy originally meant the study of the conditions under which production was organized in the nation-states of the new-born capitalist system. Political economy, then, studies the mechanism of human activity in organizing material, and the mechanism of distributing the surplus or deficit that is the result of that activity.Political economy studies the means of production, specifically capital, and how this manifests itself in economic activity.
- exploitation: Marx refers to the exploitation of an entire segment or class of society by another. He sees it as being an inherent feature and key element of capitalism and free markets. The profit gained by the capitalist is the difference between the value of the product made by the worker and the actual wage that the worker receives; in other words, capitalism functions on the basis of paying workers less than the full value of their labour, in order to enable the capitalist class to turn a profit.
- alienation: Marx refers to the alienation of people from aspects of their "human nature" (Gattungswesen, usually translated as 'species-essence' or 'species-being'). Alienation describes objective features of a person's situation in capitalism - it isn't necessary for them to believe or feel that they are alienated. He believes that alienation is a systematic result of capitalism.
Marx believed that the identity of a social class derived from its relationship to the means of production (as opposed to the notion that class is determined by wealth alone, i.e., lower class, middle class, upper class).
Marx describes several social classes in capitalist societies, including primarily:
- the proletariat: "those individuals who sell their labour power, (and therefore add value to the products), and who, in the capitalist mode of production, do not own the means of production". According to Marx, the capitalist mode of production establishes the conditions that enable the bourgeoisie to exploit the proletariat due to the fact that the worker's labour power generates an added value greater than the worker's salary.
- the bourgeoisie: those who "own the means of production" and buy labour power from the proletariat, who are recompensed by a salary, thus exploiting the proletariat.
The bourgeoisie may be further subdivided into the very wealthy bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie. The petty bourgeoisie are those who employ labour, but may also work themselves. These may be small proprietors, land-holding peasants, or trade workers. Marx predicted that the petty bourgeoisie would eventually be destroyed by the constant reinvention of the means of production and the result of this would be the forced movement of the vast majority of the petty bourgeoisie to the proletariat. Marx also identified the lumpenproletariat, a stratum of society completely disconnected from the means of production.
Western Marxism is a term used to describe a wide variety of Marxist theoreticians based in Western and Central Europe (and more recently North America), in contrast with philosophy in the Soviet Union, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia or the People's Republic of China.
Schools of Western Marxist thought
Structural Marxism is an approach to Marxism based on structuralism, primarily associated with the work of the French theorist Louis Althusser and his students. It was influential in France during the late 1960s and 1970s, and also came to influence philosophers, political theorists and sociologists outside of France during the 1970s.
Neo-Marxism is a school of Marxism that began in the 20th century and hearkened back to the early writings of Marx before the influence of Engels which focused on dialectical idealism rather than dialectical materialism. It thus rejected economic determinism being instead far more libertarian. Neo-Marxism adds Max Weber's broader understanding of social inequality, such as status and power, to orthodox Marxist thought.
The Frankfurt School
The Frankfurt School is a school of neo-Marxist social theory, social research, and philosophy. The grouping emerged at the Institute for Social Research (Institut für Sozialforschung) of the University of Frankfurt am Main in Germany. The term "Frankfurt School" is an informal term used to designate the thinkers affiliated with the Institute for Social Research or influenced by them: it is not the title of any institution, and the main thinkers of the Frankfurt School did not use the term to describe themselves.
The Frankfurt School gathered together dissident Marxists, severe critics of capitalism who believed that some of Marx's alleged followers had come to parrot a narrow selection of Marx's ideas, usually in defense of orthodox Communist or Social-Democratic parties. Influenced especially by the failure of working-class revolutions in Western Europe after World War I and by the rise of Nazism in an economically, technologically, and culturally advanced nation (Germany), they took up the task of choosing what parts of Marx's thought might serve to clarify social conditions which Marx himself had never seen. They drew on other schools of thought to fill in Marx's perceived omissions.
Max Weber exerted a major influence, as did Sigmund Freud (as in Herbert Marcuse's Freudo-Marxist synthesis in the 1954 work Eros and Civilization). Their emphasis on the "critical" component of theory was derived significantly from their attempt to overcome the limits of positivism, crude materialism, and phenomenology by returning to Kant's critical philosophy and its successors in German idealism, principally Hegel's philosophy, with its emphasis on negation and contradiction as inherent properties of reality.
Cultural Marxism is a form of Marxism that adds an analysis of the role of the media, art, theatre, film and other cultural institutions in a society, often with an added emphasis on race and gender in addition to class. As a form of political analysis, Cultural Marxism gained strength in the 1920s, and was the model used by the Frankfurt School; and later by another group of intellectuals at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in Birmingham, England.
Analytical Marxism refers to a style of thinking about Marxism that was prominent amongst English-speaking philosophers and social scientists during the 1980s. It was mainly associated with the September Group of academics, so called because they have biennial meetings in varying locations every other September to discuss common interests. The group also dubbed itself "Non-Bullshit Marxism" (Cohen 2000a). It was characterized, in the words of David Miller, by "clear and rigorous thinking about questions that are usually blanketed by ideological fog". (Miller 1996)
Marxist humanism is a branch of Marxism that primarily focuses on Marx's earlier writings, especially the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 in which Marx exposes his theory of alienation, as opposed to his later works, which are considered to be concerned more with his structural conception of capitalist society. It was opposed by Louis Althusser's "antihumanism", who qualified it as a revisionist movement.
Marxist humanists contend that ‘Marxism’ developed lopsided because Marx’s early works were unknown till after the orthodox ideas were in vogue — the Manuscripts of 1844 were published only in 1932 — and it is necessary to understand Marx’s philosophical foundations to understand his latter works properly.
Key Western Marxists
Georg Lukács (April 13, 1885 – June 4, 1971) was a Hungarian Marxist philosopher and literary critic in the tradition of Western Marxism. His main work History and Class Consciousness (written between 1919 and 1922 and first published in 1923), initiated the current of thought that came to be known as Western Marxism. The book is notable for contributing to debates concerning Marxism and its relation to sociology, politics and philosophy, and for reconstructing Marx's theory of alienation before many of the works of the Young Marx had been published. Lukács's work elaborates and expands upon Marxist theories such as ideology, false consciousness, reification and class consciousness.
In his later work, he rejected orthodox (classical) Marxism as historically outmoded, wanting to adapt Marxism to a new historical situation. He wrote in his Ten Theses (1950) that "the first step in re-establishing a revolutionary theory and practice consists in breaking with that Marxism which claims to monopolize revolutionary initiative as well as theoretical and practical direction" and that "today, all attempts to re-establish the Marxist doctrine as a whole in its original function as a theory of the working classes social revolution are reactionary utopias." 
Korsch was especially concerned that Marxist theory was losing its precision and validity - in the words of the day, becoming "vulgarized" - within the upper echelons of the various socialist organizations. His masterwork, Marxism and Philosophy is an attempt to re-establish the historic character of Marxism as the heir to Hegel.
Antonio Gramsci (January 22, 1891 – April 27, 1937) was an Italian writer, politician and political theorist. He was a founding member and onetime leader of the Communist Party of Italy. Gramsci can be seen as one of the most important Marxist thinkers of the twentieth century, and in particular a key thinker in the development of Western Marxism. He wrote more than 30 notebooks and 3000 pages of history and analysis during his imprisonment. These writings, known as the Prison Notebooks, contain Gramsci's tracing of Italian history and nationalism, as well as some ideas in Marxist theory, critical theory and educational theory associated with his name, such as:
- Cultural hegemony as a means of maintaining the state in a capitalist society.
- The need for popular workers' education to encourage development of intellectuals from the working class.
- The distinction between political society (the police, the army, legal system, etc.) which dominates directly and coercively, and civil society (the family, the education system, trade unions, etc.) where leadership is constituted through ideology or by means of consent.
- 'Absolute historicism'.
- The critique of economic determinism.
- The critique of philosophical materialism.
Louis Althusser (October 16, 1918 - October 23, 1990) was a Marxist philosopher. His arguments were a response to multiple threats to the ideological foundations of orthodox Communism. These included both the influence of empiricism which was beginning to influence Marxist sociology and economics, and growing interest in humanistic and democratic socialist orientations which were beginning to cause division in the European Communist Parties. Althusser is commonly referred to as a Structural Marxist, although his relationship to other schools of French structuralism is not a simple affiliation.
His essay Marxism and Humanism is a strong statement of anti-humanism in Marxist theory, condemning ideas like "human potential" and "species-being," which are often put forth by Marxists, as outgrowths of a bourgeois ideology of "humanity." His essay Contradiction and Overdetermination borrows the concept of overdetermination from psychoanalysis, in order to replace the idea of "contradiction" with a more complex model of multiple causality in political situations (an idea closely related to Antonio Gramsci's concept of hegemony).
Althusser is also widely known as a theorist of ideology, and his best-known essay is Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses: Notes Toward an Investigation . The essay establishes the concept of ideology, also based on Gramsci's theory of hegemony. Whereas hegemony is ultimately determined entirely by political forces, ideology draws on Freud's and Lacan's concepts of the unconscious and mirror-phase respectively, and describes the structures and systems that allow us to meaningfully have a concept of the self.
Marcuse's critiques of capitalist society (especially his 1955 synthesis of Marx and Freud, Eros and Civilization, and his 1964 book One-Dimensional Man) resonated with the concerns of the leftist student movement in the 1960s. Because of his willingness to speak at student protests, Marcuse soon became known as "the father of the New Left," a term he disliked and rejected.
Post-Marxism represents the theoretical work of philosophers and social theorists who have built their theories upon those of Marx and Marxists but exceeded the limits of those theories in ways that puts them outside of Marxism. It begins with the basic tenets of Marxism but moves away from the Mode of Production as the starting point for analysis and includes factors other than class, such as gender, ethnicity etc, and a reflexive relationship between the base and superstructure.
Marxist feminism is a sub-type of feminist theory which focuses on the dismantling of capitalism as a way to liberate women. Marxist feminism states that capitalism, which gives rise to economic inequality, dependence, political confusion and ultimately unhealthy social relations between men and women, is the root of women's oppression.
According to Marxist theory, in capitalist societies the individual is shaped by class relations; that is, people's capacities, needs and interests are seen to be determined by the mode of production that characterises the society they inhabit. Marxist feminists see gender inequality as determined ultimately by the capitalist mode of production. Gender oppression is class oppression and women's subordination is seen as a form of class oppression which is maintained (like racism) because it serves the interests of capital and the ruling class. Marxist feminists have extended traditional Marxist analysis by looking at domestic labour as well as wage work in order to support their position.
Marxism as a political practice
Template:Socialism Since Marx's death in 1883, various groups around the world have appealed to Marxism as the theoretical basis for their politics and policies, which have often proved to be dramatically different and conflicting. One of the first major political splits occurred between the advocates of 'reformism', who argued that the transition to socialism could occur within existing bourgeois parliamentarian frameworks, and communists, who argued that the transition to a socialist society required a revolution and the dissolution of the capitalist state. The 'reformist' tendency, later known as social democracy, came to be dominant in most of the parties affiliated to the Second International and these parties supported their own governments in the First World War. This issue caused the communists to break away, forming their own parties which became members of the Third International.
The following countries had governments at some point in the twentieth century who at least nominally adhered to Marxism (those in bold still do as of 2006): Albania, Afghanistan, Angola, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Ethiopia, Hungary, Laos, Moldova, Mongolia, Mozambique, Nicaragua, North Korea, Poland, Romania, Russia, the USSR and its republics, South Yemen, Yugoslavia, Vietnam. In addition, the Indian states of Kerala and West Bengal have had Marxist governments.
Marxist political parties and movements have significantly declined since the fall of the Soviet Union, with some exceptions, perhaps most notably Nepal.
The 1917 October Revolution, led by Vladimir Lenin, was the first large scale attempt to put Marxist ideas about a workers' state into practice. The new government faced counter-revolution, civil war and foreign intervention. Many, both inside and outside the revolution, worried that the revolution came too early in Russia's economic development as Marxism requires capitalism to have exhausted its mechanisms of growth before attaining socialism. Consequently, the major Socialist Party in the UK decried the revolution as anti-Marxist within twenty-four hours, according to Jonathan Wolff. Socialist revolution in Germany and other western countries failed, leaving the Soviet Union on its own. An intense period of debate and stopgap solutions ensued, war communism and the New Economic Policy (NEP). Lenin died and Joseph Stalin gradually assumed control, eliminating rivals and consolidating power as the Soviet Union faced the horrible challenges of the 1930s and its global crisis-tendencies. Amidst the geopolitical threats which defined the period and included the probability of invasion, he instituted a ruthless program of industrialisation which, while successful, was executed at great cost in human suffering, including millions of deaths, along with long-term environmental devastation.
Modern followers of Leon Trotsky maintain that as predicted by Lenin, Trotsky, and others already in the 1920s, Stalin's "socialism in one country" was unable to maintain itself, and according to some Marxist critics, the USSR ceased to show the characteristics of a socialist state long before its formal dissolution.
Following World War II, Marxist ideology, often with Soviet military backing, spawned a rise in revolutionary communist parties all over the world. Some of these parties were eventually able to gain power, and establish their own version of a Marxist state. Such nations included the People's Republic of China, Vietnam, Romania, East Germany, Albania, Cambodia, Ethiopia, South Yemen, Yugoslavia, Cuba, and others. In some cases, these nations did not get along. The most notable examples were rifts that occurred between the Soviet Union and China, as well as Soviet Union and Yugoslavia (in 1948), whose leaders disagreed on certain elements of Marxism and how it should be implemented into society.
Many of these self-proclaimed Marxist nations (often styled People's Republics) eventually became authoritarian states, with stagnating economies. This caused some debate about whether or not these nations were in fact led by "true Marxists". Critics of Marxism speculated that perhaps Marxist ideology itself was to blame for the nations' various problems. Followers of the currents within Marxism which opposed Stalin, principally cohered around Leon Trotsky, tended to locate the failure at the level of the failure of world revolution: for communism to have succeeded, they argue, it needed to encompass all the international trading relationships that capitalism had previously developed.
The Chinese experience seems to be unique. Rather than falling under a single family's self-serving and dynastic interpretation of Marxism as happened in North Korea and before 1989 in Eastern Europe, the Chinese government - after the end of the struggles over the Mao legacy in 1980 and the ascent of Deng Xiaoping - seems to have solved the succession crises that have plagued self-proclaimed Leninist governments since the death of Lenin himself. Key to this success is another Leninism which is a NEP (New Economic Policy) writ very large; Lenin's own NEP of the 1920s was the "permission" given to markets including speculation to operate by the Party which retained final control. The Russian experience in Perestroika was that markets under socialism were so opaque as to be both inefficient and corrupt but especially after China's application to join the WTO this does not seem to apply universally.
The death of "Marxism" in China has been prematurely announced but since the Hong Kong handover in 1997, the Beijing leadership has clearly retained final say over both commercial and political affairs. Questions remain however as to whether the Chinese Party has opened its markets to such a degree as to be no longer classified as a true Marxist party. A sort of tacit consent, and a desire in China's case to escape the chaos of pre-1949 memory, probably plays a role.
In 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed and the new Russian state ceased to identify itself with Marxism. Other nations around the world followed suit. Since then, radical Marxism or Communism has generally ceased to be a prominent political force in global politics, and has largely been replaced by more moderate versions of democratic socialism—or, more commonly, by aggressively neoliberal capitalism. Marxism has also had to engage with the rise in the Environmental movement. A merging of Marxism, socialism, ecology and environmentalism has been achieved, and is often referred to as Eco-socialism.
Social democracy is a political ideology that emerged in the late 19th and early 20th century. Many parties in the second half of the 19th century described themselves as social democratic, such as the British Social Democratic Federation, and the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. In most cases these were revolutionary socialist or Marxist groups, who were not only seeking to introduce socialism, but also democracy in un-democratic countries.
The modern social democratic current came into being through a break within the socialist movement in the early 20th century, between two groups holding different views on the ideas of Karl Marx. Many related movements, including pacifism, anarchism, and syndicalism, arose at the same time (often by splitting from the main socialist movement, but also by emerging of new theories.) and had various quite different objections to Marxism. The social democrats, who were the majority of socialists at this time, did not reject Marxism (and in fact claimed to uphold it), but wanted to reform it in certain ways and tone down their criticism of capitalism. They argued that socialism should be achieved through evolution rather than revolution. Such views were strongly opposed by the revolutionary socialists, who argued that any attempt to reform capitalism was doomed to fail, because the reformers would be gradually corrupted and eventually turn into capitalists themselves.
Despite their differences, the reformist and revolutionary branches of socialism remained united until the outbreak of World War I. The war proved to be the final straw that pushed the tensions between them to breaking point. The reformist socialists supported their respective national governments in the war, a fact that was seen by the revolutionary socialists as outright treason against the working class (Since it betrayed the principle that the workers of all nations should unite in overthrowing capitalism, and the fact that usually the lowest classes are the ones sent into the war to fight, and die, putting the cause at the side). Bitter arguments ensued within socialist parties, as for example between Eduard Bernstein (reformist socialist) and Rosa Luxemburg (revolutionary socialist) within the SPD in Germany. Eventually, after the Russian Revolution of 1917, most of the world's socialist parties fractured. The reformist socialists kept the name "Social democrats", while the revolutionary socialists began calling themselves "Communists", and soon formed the modern Communist movement. (See also Comintern)
Since the 1920s, doctrinal differences have been constantly growing between social democrats and Communists (who themselves are not unified on the way to achieve socialism).
Although there are still many Marxist revolutionary social movements and political parties around the world, since the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellite states, very few countries have governments which describe themselves as Marxist. Although socialistic parties are in power in some Western nations, they long ago distanced themselves from their direct link to Marx and his ideas.
As of 2005, Laos, Vietnam, Cuba, and the People's Republic of China - and to a certain extent Venezuela had governments in power which describe themselves as socialist in the Marxist sense. However, the private sector comprised more than 50% of the mainland Chinese economy by this time and the Vietnamese government had also partially liberalised its economy. The Laotian and Cuban states maintained strong control over the means of production.
Alexander Lukashenko president of Belarus, has been quoted as saying that his agrarian policy could be termed as Communist. He has also frequently reffered to the economy as being 'market socialism'. Lukashenko is also an unapologetic admirer of the Soviet Union.
North Korea is another contemporary socialist state, though the official ideology of the Korean Workers' Party (originally led by Kim Il-sung and currently chaired by his son, Kim Jong-il), Juche, does not follow doctrinaire Marxism-Leninism as had been espoused by the leadership of the Soviet Union.
Libya is often thought of as a socialist state; it maintained ties with the Soviet Union and other Eastern bloc and Communist states during the Cold War. Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi, the leader of Libya, describes the state's official ideology as Islamic socialism, and has labeled it a third way between capitalism and communism.
|Kim Jong-il | Lenin | Mao | Marx | Stalin|
A Communist state is a state which declares its allegiance to the principles of Marxism-Leninism. Communist states have a centrally planned economy, a rigid system based on collectively owned property, although some Communist states such as the People's Republic of China have allowed some controlled private investment in an effort to expand their economies. The governments of Communist Party states are dominated by a Communist party, either as a single-party state or a single list, which includes formally several parties, as was the case in the GDR; historically this power concentration has tended to produce totalitarian rule. Their governments have generally referred to their states as socialist states.
Communist governments have historically been characterized by state ownership of productive resources in a planned economy and sweeping campaigns of economic restructuring such as nationalization of industry and land reform (often focusing on collective farming or state farms.) While they promote collective ownership of the means of production, Communist governments have been characterized by a strong state apparatus in which decisions are made by the ruling Communist Party. Dissident communists have characterized the Soviet model as state socialism or state capitalism.
Marxism-Leninism, strictly speaking, refers to the version of Marxism developed by Vladimir Lenin known as Leninism. However, in various contexts, different (and sometimes opposing) political groups have used the term "Marxism-Leninism" to describe the ideologies that they claimed to be upholding. The core ideological features of Marxism-Leninism are those of Marxism and Leninism, viz. belief in the necessity of a violent overthrow of capitalism through communist revolution, to be followed by a dictatorship of the proletariat as the first stage of moving towards communism, and the need for a vanguard party to lead the proletariat in this effort. It involves subscribing to the teachings and legacy of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels (Marxism), and that of Lenin, as carried forward by Joseph Stalin. Those who view themselves as Marxist-Leninists, however, vary with regards to the leaders and thinkers that they choose to uphold as progressive (and to what extent). Maoists tend to downplay the importance of all other thinkers in favour of Mao Zedong, whereas Hoxhaites repudiate Mao.
Leninism holds that capitalism can only be overthrown by revolutionary means; that is, any attempts to reform capitalism from within, such as Fabianism and non-revolutionary forms of democratic socialism, are doomed to fail. The goal of a Leninist party is to orchestrate the overthrow the existing government by force and seize power on behalf of the proletariat, and then implement a dictatorship of the proletariat. The party must then use the powers of government to educate the proletariat, so as to remove the various modes of false consciousness the bourgeois have instilled in them in order to make them more docile and easier to exploit economically, such as religion and nationalism.
The dictatorship of the proletariat is theoretically to be governed by a decentralized system of proletarian direct democracy, in which workers hold political power through local councils known as soviets (see soviet democracy). (In practice, the Bolsheviks banned other political organizations and removed all real political power from the soviets shortly after the October Revolution as the Russian Civil War got underway, when it became clear that the Bolshevik Party lacked popular support in the nonindustrial areas outside the major cities of St. Petersburg and Moscow.)
Trotskyism is the theory of Marxism as advocated by Leon Trotsky. Trotsky considered himself a Bolshevik-Leninist, arguing for the establishment of a vanguard party. He considered himself an advocate of orthodox Marxism. His politics differed sharply from those of Stalin or Mao, most importantly in declaring the need for an international "permanent revolution". Numerous groups around the world continue to describe themselves as Trotskyist and see themselves as standing in this tradition, although they have diverse interpretations of the conclusions to be drawn from this.
Trotsky advocated proletarian revolution as set out in his theory of "permanent revolution", and he argued that in countries where the bourgeois-democratic revolution had not triumphed already (in other words, in places that had not yet implemented a capitalist democracy, such as Russia before 1917), it was necessary that the proletariat make it permanent by carrying out the tasks of the social revolution (the "socialist" or "communist" revolution) at the same time, in an uninterrupted process. Trotsky believed that a new socialist state would not be able to hold out against the pressures of a hostile capitalist world unless socialist revolutions quickly took hold in other countries as well.
On the political spectrum of Marxism, Trotskyists are considered to be on the left. They supported democratic rights in the USSR, opposed political deals with the imperialist powers, and advocated a spreading of the revolution throughout Europe and the East.
Trotsky developed the theory that the Russian workers' state had become a "bureaucratically degenerated workers' state". Capitalist rule had not been restored, and nationalized industry and economic planning, instituted under Lenin, were still in effect. However, the state was controlled by a bureaucratic caste with interests hostile to those of the working class. Trotsky defended the Soviet Union against attack from imperialist powers and against internal counter-revolution, but called for a political revolution within the USSR to restore socialist democracy. He argued that if the working class did not take power away from the Stalinist bureaucracy, the bureaucracy would restore capitalism in order to enrich itself. In the view of many Trotskyists, this is exactly what has happened since the beginning of Glasnost and Perestroika in the USSR. Some argue that the adoption of market socialism by the People's Republic of China has also led to capitalist counter-revolution.
Maoism or Mao Zedong Thought (Chinese: 毛泽东思想, pinyin: Máo Zédōng Sīxiǎng), is a variant of Marxism-Leninism derived from the teachings of the Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong (Wade-Giles transliteration: "Mao Tse-tung").
IThe term Mao Zedong Thought has always been the preferred term by the Communist Party of China and that the word Maoism has never been used in its English-language publications except pejoratively. Likewise, Maoist groups outside China have usually called themselves Marxist-Leninist rather than Maoist, a reflection of Mao's view that he did not change, but only developed, Marxism-Leninism. However, some Maoist groups, believing Mao's theories to have been sufficiently substantial additions to the basics of the Marxist canon, call themselves "Marxist-Leninist-Maoist" (MLM) or simply "Maoist."
In the People's Republic of China, Mao Zedong Thought is part of the official doctrine of the Communist Party of China, but since the 1978 beginning of Deng Xiaoping's market economy-oriented reforms, the concept of "socialism with Chinese characteristics" has come to the forefront of Chinese politics, Chinese economic reform has taken hold, and the official definition and role of Mao's original ideology in the PRC has been radically altered and reduced (see History of China).
Unlike the earlier forms of Marxism-Leninism in which the urban proletariat was seen as the main source of revolution, and the countryside was largely ignored, Mao focused on the peasantry as the main revolutionary force which, he said, could be led by the proletariat and its vanguard, the Communist Party of China. The model for this was of course the Chinese communist rural Protracted People's War of the 1920s and 1930s, which eventually brought the Communist Party of China to power. Furthermore, unlike other forms of Marxism-Leninism in which large-scale industrial development was seen as a positive force, Maoism made all-round rural development the priority. Mao felt that this strategy made sense during the early stages of socialism in a country in which most of the people were peasants. Unlike most other political ideologies, including other socialist and Marxist ones, Maoism contains an integral military doctrine and explicitly connects its political ideology with military strategy. In Maoist thought, "political power comes from the barrel of the gun" (one of Mao's quotes), and the peasantry can be mobilized to undertake a "people's war" of armed struggle involving guerrilla warfare in three stages.
Some libertarian members of the laissez-faire and individualist schools of thought believe the actions and principles of modern capitalist states or big governments can be understood as "Marxist". This point of view ignores the overall vision and general intent of Marx and Engels' Communist Manifesto, for qualitative change to the economic system, and focuses on a few steps that Marx and Engels believed would occur, as workers emancipated themselves from the capitalist system, such as "Free education for all children in public schools". A few such reforms have been implemented — not by Marxists but in the forms of Keynesianism, the welfare state, new liberalism, social democracy and other minor changes to the capitalist system, in most capitalist states.
To Marxists these reforms represent responses to political pressures from working-class political parties and unions, themselves responding to perceived abuses of the capitalist system. Further, in this view, many of these reforms reflect efforts to "save" or "improve" capitalism (without abolishing it) by coordinating economic actors and dealing with market failures. Further, although Marxism does see a role for a socialist "vanguard" government in representing the proletariat through a revolutionary period of indeterminate length, it sees an eventual lightening of that burden, a "withering away of the state."
Disputing these claims
Many academics dispute the claim that the above political movements are Marxist. Communist governments have historically been characterized by state ownership of productive resources in a planned economy and sweeping campaigns of economic restructuring such as nationalization of industry and land reform (often focusing on collective farming or state farms.) While they promote collective ownership of the means of production, Communist governments have been characterized by a strong state apparatus in which decisions are made by the ruling Communist Party. Dissident communists have characterized the Soviet model as state socialism or state capitalism. Further, critics have often claimed that a Stalinist or Maoist system of government creates a new ruling class, usually called the nomenklatura.
However Marx defined "communism" as a classless, egalitarian and stateless society. Indeed, to Marx, the notion of a socialist state would have seemed oxymoronical, as he defined socialism as the phase reached when class society and the state had already been abolished. Once socialism had been established, society would develop new socialist relations over the course of several generations, reaching the stage known as communism when bourgeois relations had been abandoned. Such a development has yet to occur in any historical self-claimed Socialist state. Often it results in the creation of two distinct classes: those who are in government and therefore have power, and those who are not in government and do not have power — thus inspiring the term State capitalism. These statist regimes have generally followed a command economy model without making a transition to this hypothetical final stage.
Criticisms of Marxism are many and varied. They concern both the theory itself, and its later interpretations and implementations.
Criticisms of Marxism have come from the political Left as well as the political Right. Democratic socialists and social democrats reject the idea that socialism can be accomplished only through class conflict and violent revolution. Anarchists reject the need for a transitory state phase. Some thinkers have rejected the fundamentals of Marxist theory, such as historical materialism and the labour theory of value, and gone on to criticize capitalism - and advocate socialism - using other arguments. Some contemporary supporters of Marxism argue that many aspects of Marxist thought are viable, but that the corpus also fails to deal effectively with certain aspects of economic, political or social theory.
- ↑ Karl Korsch (1950) Ten Theses on Marxism Today
- ↑ Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses: Notes Toward an Investigation is available in several English volumes including Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays
- Avineri, Shlomo (1968). The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx. Cambridge University Press.
- Kolakowski, Leszek. Main Currents in Marxism.
- Parkes, Henry Bamford (1939). Marxism: An Autopsy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
- Screpanti, E, S. Zamagna (1993). An Outline of the History of Economic Thought.
- Sowell, Thomas (1985). Marxism: Philosophy and Economics. New York: William Morrow, 281 p. ISBN 0-688-06426-4.
Other articles about Marxism
- Academic Marxism
- Analytical Marxism
- Communist Philosophy of Nature
- Contributors to marxist theory
- Council communism
- Criticisms of communism
- Dialectical materialism
- Dictatorship of the proletariat
- Economic determinism
- False consciousness
- Historical materialism
- Legal Naturalism
- Marxian economics
- Marxist film theory
- Marxist historiography
- Marxist humanism
- Marxist literary criticism
- Marxist philosophy
- Marx's theory of alienation
- Western Marxism
- Anarchism and Marxism
- Antagonistic contradiction
- Crisis theory
- Critical theory
- Communist state
- Communist party
- Lewis H. Morgan
- Labor theory of value
- Monthly Review
- Political economy
- Political philosophy
- Rethinking Marxism
- Social-conflict theory
- Social evolutionism
- Marxists Internet Archive
- A Marxism FAQ - under construction
- Libertarian Communist Library Marxism archive
- The Last Superpower - discussion on Marxism
- Marxism Page
- Marxist.net Marxist Resources from the Committee for a Workers' International
- Marxism FAQ
- Marx Myths & Legends
- Introductory article by Michael A. Lebowitz
- History of Economic Thought: Marxian School
- Modern Variants of Marxian political economy
- Rethinking Marxism: A journal of economics, society, and culture
- MRZine A project of Monthly Review Foundation
- Marxist.com In Defence of Marxism
- Pathfinder Books, Marxist bookstore online
- Solidarity Economy: Marxist theory, analysis and debate
- Debating Marxism Michael Albert (ParEcon) vs. Alan Maass (Marxism)
- Marx on India and the Colonial Question from the Anti-Caste Information Page
Critiques of Marxism
- Liberalism, Marxism and The State, by Ralph Raico
- A Farewell to Marx: An Outline and Appraisal of His Theories, by David Conway
- Marx Lite, by Thomas J. DiLorenzo
- Marxist Dreams and Soviet Realities, by Ralph Raico
- Marxism, by David L. Prychitko
- Marxism As Pseudo-science, by Ernest Van Den Haag
- The Open Society and Its Enemies. Volume II: The High Tide of Prophecy (Hegel, Marx and the Aftermath) critique by Karl Popper