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What is Marxism by Krzysztof Karoń

What Is Marxism
What Is Marxism

What is Marxism?

Marxism is a communist ideology based upon slogan enunciated by Karl Marx (1818-1883) in his Theses on Feuerbach from 1845: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” It was an indicator of probably the biggest break in the history of philosophy.

Philosophy (or love for wisdom) has been boiled down to justifying methods of realizing ideological purposes, which let to eliminating the difference between philosopher and ideological activist altogether.

Marx himself used to claim, ironically, that he’s not a Marxist, so we may actually say that the term Marxism is an ideology built upon his philosophical and economical theories, but modified and developed by his successors. Significant part in the process of creating Marxism was played by Friedrich Engels. So-called The Communist Manifesto from 1848 is basically a reiteration of Engels’s Principles of Communism from 1847, the time when Marx was only beginning to study economics. In the Marx-Engels duo, it was Marx who was playing the visionary’s part, while Engels was responsible for administration. Engels had later changed his beliefs for more of a social democratic ideas and the ultimate Marxism’s form was shaped by Vladimir Lenin, who dismissed the idea of working class being an aware revolutionary force.


Theoretical  Writings:

The most important theoretical works of Marxism are:

Karl Marx’s:
Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (published in 1932)
Thesis on Feuerbach (1845)
The Poverty of Philosophy (1847)
The Communist Manifesto (1848)
Wage Labor and Capital (1849)
Outline of the Critique of Political Economy (1858)

Friedrich Engels’s:
The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845)
The Principles of Communism (1847)
The Communist Manifesto (1848)
– The Development of Socialism. From Utopia to Science (1880)
The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884)

Vladimir Lenin’s:
What is to be done? (1902)
Marxism and Revisionism (1908)
The State and Revolution (1917)


Marxism consists of four independent parts:

1) vision of tomorrow’s society
2) vision of humanity’s development
3) tactics of fights for power
4) analysis of capitalist system

What matters here is their order, as it reflects the very process of Marxism’s growth. It began with a vision of communist society, which later turned into perceiving philosophy as a way to justify revolution. Then came the social revolution program, followed by Marxist historiosophy and, eventually, the economical analysis of capitalist system. The term 'capital’ came forth when Marxism, as an ideology, was already a closed system and didn’t affect its development in any way. That explains the most striking thing about Marxist – it was completely out of touch with reality and the most fundamental knowledge about human mentality.


Poetic and academic Marxism

In 1880 Friedrich Engels published a book called The Development of Socialism. From Utopia to Science. It was a summary of all the efforts that classics of Marxism made to give their theories a scientific form, as well as a justification for objective inevitability of revolution. Engels borrowed the term 'academic socialism’ from anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who used it in its published in 1840 book, What is property, but the ultimate proof for Marxism’s scientific character was supposed to be issued from 1867 to 1894 Capital. By that time though, Marx had already presented his vision of the new communist system in Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. It had been enunciated in a gushing language of a young Hegel, but is in reality nothing but an anthem for the mythical 'noble savage’.

His main thought is as follows:

System with a proper division of goods could be found in the original community [tribe], which didn’t know private ownership and distribution of work. It could be called an original communism. Everything that happened later was just a history of another systems solidifying private ownership and allowing economic exploitation, which led to capitalism. It’s therefore obvious, that abolition of social injustice would require going backwards over these historical periods in order to get to the original community of today.

The most relevant part of it is not to get rid of private ownership, but to reconstruct human mind in a way that it no longer craves possession.

Marx also implied, in a roundabout, but clear way, that communism can be implemented in the economical poverty (which proofed his prophetic abilities).

Marx’s manuscripts, probably due to Engels’s impact, had been put aside for over 100 years and were replaced by The Communist Manifesto, which showed a more forthright attitude towards working class revolution. Showing an extremely poor worker from 19th century a happy life of savages living on trees and eating roots was not a good idea (today you have to pay a lot for two weeks of such existence on Maldives). What did seem attractive to him though, was to kill capitalists and take back all the money they stole from him. Since at that time the natural science started stormy development, at the initial stage very useful in the fight against religion, also the theory of the revolution demanded support from the authority of science.

The manuscripts, sometimes referred to as 'Parisian’, were found in Social Democratic Party of Germany’s archives in the late 20s and published in 1932, around the time when Marxist theories were being revised in Frankfurt am Main. The idea of 'original community of today’, found in the early work of young Marx justified the change of Marxism’s paradigms, as well as superimposing class struggle concept with psychoanalysis and findings of evolving ethnography.


Marxism’s dogmas

Traditional Marxism was built upon couple of hard-line thesis. Among the most important of them are:
– class struggle theory
– thesis concerning inevitability of revolution
– thesis concerning revolutionary part of industrial proletariat
– thesis concerning executive power of communism


Marxism’s theory of conflict


In their Communist Manifesto from 1848 Marx and Engels wrote:

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.”

The most significant part of Marxism is its specific theory of a social conflict, which is not a conflict of beliefs or interest, but a conflict of sides, that results from the mechanism of class struggle. According to Marxism, this conflict doesn’t happen due to contrary interests of proletarians and capitalists, but rather because those contrary interests set people against each other,  causing them to form contrary classes, such as proletarians and capitalists. And as long as people with contrary interests can meet in the halfway, they can not condone the presence of contrary classes.

You can’t be half-proletarian or half-capitalist. Class struggle can only be solved by demolishing classes altogether, each and every one of them. Classes define each other – decommissioning of a particular class equals decommissioning of the basis of a contrary one, so there could be no capitalists if there weren’t any proletarians and vice-versa.

According to traditional Marxism, that conflict stems from private ownership of the means of production, which enables economical exploitation and free market, as competition leads to aggression. Free market, therefore, forces capitalists to use ownership of the means of production to  expand their profit interminably by exploitation. The bigger their capital, the stronger their disposal of means of exploitation.

Traditional Marxism considers economy as the source of this conflict, but the main thought of its theory is focused on the opposition between the oppressors and the oppressed. That’s what thesis about inevitability of proletarians revolution and Marxist „liberating scheme”, which validated subsequent theories of social revolutions carried out by another proletarians, have been built upon.


Thesis concerning inevitability of revolution

Irreconcilable conflict must lead to revolution, because what capitalist have at their disposal is not only economic power, but also coercive apparatus, which guards their interests. That results in the inevitability of an armed revolution, during which proletarians would resort to terror in order to take away capitalists’ ownership of means of production (protected by law and state). Because it’s the state who protects capitalist’s interests, it is the state that needs to be closed down. And since the only goal of a country is to protect capitalists’ interests, after revolution happens and classes are abolished, the state becomes useless.


Thesis concerning revolutionary role of proletariat

The only force able to carry out revolution is proletariat, which will benefit from it the most. Proletariat can’t carry out a revolution though, because it doesn’t realize its own position and doesn’t understand the essence of exploitation.

The proletariat is „a class in itself,” but it is not „a class for itself”, which means it cannot pose an aware revolutionary force.

What prevents proletariat from becoming self-aware is religion, or in Marx’s words, 'opiate for the masses’ – false concept promising salvation in some mystical future life, that delays growth and radicalization of proletariat, as well as reformist tendencies.

Reformist tendencies displaying themselves in union movements and during strikes pose the biggest threat, as they urge capitalists to compromise and reduce exploitation, therefore putting revolutionary tempers at ease and withholding overall elimination of capitalism. Union movement is thus a natural ally of capitalism and enemy of Marxism.



Another proletariat’s enemy is nationalism, which divides it and stops from uniting in a fight with its main antagonist, capitalism. The goal of nationalities is to protect capitalists’ interests and conflict of those interests leads to wars. The real enemy of proletariat are therefore capitalists understood as supranational class, not just proletarians from a different state. Proletariat will only reach its true unity, when all nationalities disappear and when nationalism is no longer used by capitalists as a tool to keep proletarians divided.


Executive role of communists

Communist Manifesto, 1848:

“The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.

The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat.”

Communists aren’t, therefore, the avant-garde of proletariat, but the avant-garde of its avant-garde, the workers’ party. They are aware of proletarians goals and they shape proletarians awareness to “conquest political power by the proletariat”. However, if it’s the communists who are “the most  advanced and resolute section” and “theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat”, then after proletarians gain political power, it will be them who are actually in control, for it is hard to assume that communists will let unaware proletarians rule them.

The most basic thesis of Marxism consists of tactics of fights for power, particular elements of which can be freely interchanged.


The Liberating scheme of fights for power

The liberating scheme is comprised of following elements:

– defining the oppressed (e.g. proletariat, youth, homosexuals)
– defining the oppressors (capitalism, family, xenophobes, fascists)
– raising and shaping awareness of the oppressed so they understand their own grievances
– heightening their anger and turning it against the oppressors
– taking charge of revolution and coming into power afterwards

History of using this tactic started with liberating proletarians from capitalist’s captivity. Then came the liberation of young from their parents’ tyranny, homosexuals from homophobes’ yoke or children from society’s sex pressure. Currently we can observe the process of liberating European nations from fascist nationalists’ yoke.


The Communists and power

Improvement in economical and social situation of proletariat, emerging from both restructuring and organized movement of workers, meant gradual realization of proletarians’ goals, but didn’t provide the power to the Communists. That could only be provided by revolution.

That’s why the Communists fought all signs of revisionism in social and union movements with such toughness. In 1875 Marx went nuts, having heard about fusion of Social Democratic Workers’ Party of Germany led by August Bebel and General German Workers’ Association, found by Ferdinand Lassalle, which led to the beginning of the Gotha Program. Similarly hostile attitude towards reformism and trade unions could be seen in Lenin’s notorious brochure What to be done? from 1922, though Engels had already given up on the liberating tactic in 1891, saying:

“What’s certain is that our party and working class can only obtain the power under conditions of democratic republic. Republic can even be referred to as a specific form of proletariat’s dictatorship, just like it was in the French Revolution times.”


Proletariat and power

Proletariat’s aim was never to elicit the power and it never created its own political representation. Working parties have always been found by intelligentsia, or using the term from 19th century, petit bourgeoisie. Proletariat’s representation was based on trade unions. Worker who’s also a union member, doesn’t stop being a worker. One, who takes power, stops being a proletarian. The one, who holds power, becomes responsible for realizing the goals of an entire community, for creating welfare and therefore, sooner or later must oppose claims that are present in every social group.

Proletariat’s postulates concerning dignity and politics didn’t aim at obtaining the power, but at abolishing some certain authority and replacing it with another one, because power does not only mean domination, but above all, organizational activity requiring high qualifications.


The Communists and proletariat

Masses of radical, organized workers indeed made for a force that was able to abolish existing system and power. The problem was, proletariat could abolish any system and any power, both capitalist and communist one, depending on what it deemed more advantageous for itself. That’s why Marxist and Neo-marxist propaganda was targeted at proletariat even after it became an explicitly anti-communist force and when the “new proletariat” was mostly made by youth. Sexual revolution popularized by Wilhelm Reich in Berlin at the beginning of 30s caused stir between proletariat’s youth and proletariat’s parents, leading to the strongest resistance among German and French communists. Proletariat was and still is a naturally conservative source, because its social liberation can only be realized by getting upgraded to middle class and that upgrade is only possible  due to hierarchy’s existence.


Disdain towards proletariat

Proletariat by its very definition can’t have its own political representation and is obligated to support those political movements that promise to guard and realize its interests. Because revolution, in terms of Marxism, is contradictory to proletarians’ main goal (which is a fair salary for work done in a productive economic system), in the 19th century that goal was being gradually taken over by a social democratic idea, that gave up the clear evil, revolution, in favor of reforms leading up to a social system, reasonableness of which couldn’t be verified by anyone. German social democracy started with Ferdinand Lassalle’s General German Workers’ Association (1863), that wasn’t a political party, but a trade union.

While reformist proclivities were fought mostly by Marx, it was Vladimir Lenin who showed disdain towards clueless “proles” in his brochure from 1902 (written for SPD), What to be done?, which he used to show the danger of reformism and thoughtless “spontaneity” (organized union movement), as well as to state that awareness can’t be created by proletariat itself, but has to be “instilled” by some source from the outside. In other words, Lenin thought proletariat was simply too stupid to think on its own and to understand that true liberation can only come with a communist revolution.

What came as a result was the theory of an avant-garde communist party, consisting of professional revolutionists that would spread propaganda among proletariat with a help of well-organized net of trained, paid speakers and canvassers, as well as mass media. The party life, on the other hand, was supposed to be ruled by a principle of democratic centralism, which is a whole other masterpiece of manipulation in itself.


Democratic centralism

Democratic centralism works in a following way:

1.The most basic rule is the rule of democracy, or in other words, voting right, that lets the majority decides. However, due to technical factors, plenary assemblies are being organized every now and then and in the meantime the country is ruled by a certain, chosen by voting group.

2.Elected delegates represent basic groups on the highest level of entire organization, in compliance with the same rules as above. That’s how hierarchical structure of party is made.

3.Representation of majority of a lower level is by its definition a minority on a higher level. Their vote counts when it’s considered a majority during election, but outside of voting, they are obliged to implement the decision of the management group.

4.Decisions made during plenary assemblies, as well as decisions made by management groups of higher cabinets are binding for entire lower cabinets too. Thus, in reality, plenary assemblies of lower cabinets can make any decisions they want, but are fully dependent on higher cabinets, as majority of a higher cabinet is more important than majority of a lower one.

Democratic centralism is based on democratic elections of absolute central power, that prepares election in the most democratic way possible in between another elections.


Communism and terror

The use of terror in Marxism has extensive justification by two reasons. One of them concerns terror being an inevitable part of revolution and post-revolution time, which Friedrich Engels explained in his work, On Authority:

“Have these gentlemen ever seen a revolution? A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon — authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionists. Would the Paris Commune have lasted a single day if it had not made use of this authority of the armed people against the bourgeois? Should we not, on the contrary, reproach it for not having used it freely enough?”

As well as Lenin in The State and Revolution (1917):

“The dictatorship of the proletariat, i.e., the organization of the vanguard of the oppressed as the ruling class for the purpose of suppressing the oppressors, cannot result merely in an expansion of democracy. Simultaneously with an immense expansion of democracy, which for the first time becomes democracy for the poor, democracy for the people, and not democracy for the money­bags, the dictatorship of the proletariat imposes a series of restrictions on the freedom of the oppressors, the exploiters, the capitalists. We must suppress them in order to free humanity from wage slavery, their resistance must be crushed by force; it is clear that there is no freedom and no democracy where there is suppression and where there is violence.”

Another reason justifying terror is communists’ awareness or intuition (which didn’t really require much imagination and was available to any person who doesn’t fall to ideological fanaticism) of communism’s inefficiency, that inevitably leads to economical poverty and rebel against the power of communists.

Deindustrialization and elimination of the proletariat

Pacifying proletariat began right after Bolsheviks’ victory in 1918 (after disbanding the constituent assembly). It was symbolized by suppressing the uprising in Kronstadt in 1921 by Leon Trotsky’s Red Army and then terminating another workers’ uprisings in Berlin (1953) or Poznań (1956). The idea of workers’ rebellion that couldn’t be controlled by communists became reality in 1980 during strikes and development of Solidarity movement [Poland], which started out as an economical protest and transformed into an anti-communist movement. For the first time modern proletariat enunciated its own postulates and created a multi-million force that posed a real threat to the process of peaceful transformation of Soviet communism into Western anti-culture.

That is why the symbol of this movement has been liquidated and it is only a matter of time that the last traces of the existence of the Gdańsk Shipyard disappear.

Sooner or later it will be replaced by some kind of Disneyland, or at least a gigantic water park.

The history of the liquidation of the increasingly better educated proletariat as an anti-communist force is still waiting to be worked out. So far, the most important part of it, on the global scale, has been the process of 'deindustrialization’, which relied on a seemingly naive thesis phrased by Herbert Marcuse, who claimed that productivity of capital economics and technological progress will cause automation of production and decrease in demand for workforce.

In reality however, this process looked a little different and had a completely other goal. In the 80s manufacturing industry, that hoarded well-educated proletarians, indeed expanded in Europe and USA, but instead of causing production to be eliminated or automatized, it caused it to be transferred to Asia (China or Indie), to the regions of poverty and cheapest manpower that was ready to work for peanuts for couple decades (but not forever). Abolishing the industry and therefore dispersing proletariat enabled transformation of the system, funded by banks’ speculations and redistribution of EU’s funds intended mostly for services and anti-culture.

Source: Co To Jest Marksizm


  1. The cause of the idea of a march by the institutions was another defeat of Marxism, a decline in social support, and social hostility towards more and more radical activists, but first and foremost a lack of a prospective positive program and a lack of cadres capable of seizing power.
    Dutschke himself admitted in one of the interviews that in a few million Berlin he had 100-200 devoted people who were able to lead to the streets several thousands of demonstrators, most of whom were not interested in politics at all, but looked for opportunities to have fun, brawl or „event”.

    In 2003, German journalist Jurgen Busche could write:
    „A long march through the institutions, led by the leaders of the revolt ’68, the non -parliamentary opposition and various trends of social movements, ended in the center of power and mastered key positions in the state, economy and universities, providing them with a dominant position in general social discussion.”

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