Marxist Theory


Why is it only the working class which can develop a collective, socialist consciousness?

What is Trotsky's Theory of the Permanent Revolution?

What are the elements required for workers' democracy?

What do Marxists think about terrorism?

What do Marxists think about guerrillaism?

What is the basic role of the state and police in society?


Q. Why is it only the working class which can develop a collective, socialist consciousness?

A. It is precisely the social and collective nature of capitalist production that brings workers together in common struggle. The working class, unlike the petty bourgeoisie (small business people, small land holders, intellectuals isolated form the masses), develops a collective consciousness and that is precisely why Marxists base themselves on the working class. It is the only class that can develop such a consciousness, precisely because of its position in production. Of course, without organization, as Marx explains, the working class is only raw material for exploitation. That is why the bourgeois constantly attack the trade unions and labor organizations, hoping to reduce the proletariat to an atomized state. But the whole experience of the class struggle invariably compels the workers to get organized. By contrast, the individualism of the petty bourgeoisie is the result of its role as a class of small producers, small business people, professionals and the like, who are indeed isolated from each other and compete against each other. While the working class must certainly draw broad layers of the petty bourgeoisie behind it by linking their troubles with the fight against capitalism, the petty bourgeoisie simply cannot play an independent role in the struggle for socialism.

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Q. What is Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution?

Excerpt from Marxism and the Struggle Against Imperialism

A. The theory of the permanent revolution was first developed by Trotsky as early as 1904. The permanent revolution, while accepting that the objective tasks facing the Russian workers were those of the bourgeois democratic revolution, nevertheless explained how in a backward country in the epoch of imperialism, the "national bourgeoisie" was inseparably linked to the remains of feudalism on the one hand and to imperialist capital on the other and was therefore completely unable to carry through any of its historical tasks. The rottenness of the bourgeois liberals, and their counterrevolutionary role in the bourgeois-democratic revolution, was already observed by Marx and Engels. In his article The Bourgeoisie and the Counterrevolution (1848), Marx writes:

"The German bourgeoisie has developed so slothfully, cravenly, and slowly that at the moment when it menacingly faced feudalism and absolutism it saw itself menacingly faced by the proletariat and all factions of the burgers whose interests and ideas were akin to those of the proletariat. And it saw inimically arrayed not only a class behind it but all Europe before it. The Prussian bourgeoisie was not, as the French of 1789 had been, the class which represented the whole of modern society vis-a-vis the representatives of the old society, the monarchy and the nobility. It had sunk to the level of a kind of social estate, as distinctly opposed to the crown as to the people, eager to be in the opposition to both, irresolute against each of its opponents , taken severally, because it always saw both of them before or behind it; inclined to betray the people and compromise with the crowned representative of the old society because it itself already belonged to the old society." (Marx, The Bourgeoisie and the Counterrevolution, in MESW, vol. 1, 140–41.)

The bourgeoisie, Marx explains, did not come to power as a result of its own revolutionary exertions, but as a result of the movement of the masses in which it played no role: "The Prussian bourgeoisie was hurled to the height of state power, however not in the manner it had desired, by a peaceful bargain with the crown but by a revolution." (Marx, The Bourgeoisie and the Counterrevolution, MESW, vol. 1, 138.)

Even in the epoch of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Europe, Marx and Engels mercilessly unmasked the cowardly, counterrevolutionary role of the bourgeoisie, and emphasized the need for the workers to maintain a policy of complete class independence, not only from the bourgeois liberals, but also from the vacillating petty-bourgeois democrats:

"The proletarian, or really revolutionary party," wrote Engels, "succeeded only very gradually in withdrawing the mass of the working people from the influence of the democrats whose tail they formed in the beginning of the revolution. But in due time the indecision weakness and cowardice of the democratic leaders did the rest, and it may now be said to be one of the principal results of the last years' convulsions, that wherever the working class is concentrated in anything like considerable masses, they are entirely freed from that democratic influence which led them into an endless series of blunders and misfortunes during 1848 and 1849." (Engels, Revolution and Counterrevolution in Germany, MESW, vol. 1, 332.)

The situation is clearer still today. The national bourgeoisie in the colonial countries entered into the scene of history too late, when the world had already been divided up between a few imperialist powers. It was not able to play any progressive role and was born completely subordinated to its former colonial masters. The weak and degenerate bourgeoisie in Asia, Latin America, and Africa is too dependent on foreign capital and imperialism, to carry society forward. It is tied with a thousand threads, not only to foreign capital, but with the class of landowners, with which it forms a reactionary bloc that represents a bulwark against progress. Whatever differences may exist between these elements are insignificant in comparison with the fear that unites them against the masses. Only the proletariat, allied with the poor peasants and urban poor, can solve the problems of society by taking power into its own hands, expropriating the imperialists and the bourgeoisie, and beginning the task of transforming society on socialist lines.

By setting itself at the head of the nation, leading the oppressed layers of society (urban and rural petty bourgeoisie), the proletariat could take power and then carry through the tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution (mainly the land reform and the unification and liberation of the country from foreign domination). However, once having come to power, the proletariat would not stop there but would start to implement socialist measures of expropriation of the capitalists. And as these tasks cannot be solved in one country alone, especially not in a backward country, this would be the beginning of the world revolution. Thus the revolution is "permanent" in two senses: because it starts with the bourgeois tasks and continues with the socialist ones, and because it starts in one country and continues at an international level.

The theory of the permanent revolution was the most complete answer to the reformist and class collaborationist position of the right wing of the Russian workers' movement, the Mensheviks. The two stage theory was developed by the Mensheviks as their perspective for the Russian revolution. It basically states that, since the tasks of the revolution are those of the national democratic bourgeois revolution, the leadership of the revolution must be taken by the national democratic bourgeoisie. For his part, Lenin agreed with Trotsky that the Russian Liberals could not carry out the bourgeois-democratic revolution, and that this task could only be carried out by the proletariat in alliance with the poor peasantry. Following in the footsteps of Marx, who had described the bourgeois "democratic party" as "far more dangerous to the workers than the previous liberals," Lenin explained that the Russian bourgeoisie, far from being an ally of the workers, would inevitably side with the counterrevolution.

"The bourgeoisie in the mass," he wrote in 1905, "will inevitably turn towards the counterrevolution, and against the people as soon as its narrow, selfish interests are met, as soon as it 'recoils' from consistent democracy (and it is already recoiling from it!)." (Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 9, 98.)

What class, in Lenin's view, could lead the bourgeois-democratic revolution? "There remains 'the people,' that is, the proletariat and the peasantry. The proletariat alone can be relied on to march on to the end, for it goes far beyond the democratic revolution. That is why the proletariat fights in the forefront for a republic and contemptuously rejects stupid and unworthy advice to take into account the possibility of the bourgeoisie recoiling." (Ibid.)

In all of Lenin's speeches and writings, the counterrevolutionary role of the bourgeois-democratic liberals is stressed time and time again. However, up until 1917, he did not believe that the Russian workers would come to power before the socialist revolution in the West—a perspective that only Trotsky defended before 1917, when it was fully adopted by Lenin in his April Theses. The correctness of the permanent revolution was triumphantly demonstrated by the October Revolution itself. The Russian working class—as Trotsky had predicted in 1904—came to power before the workers of Western Europe. They carried out all the tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, and immediately set about nationalizing industry and passing over to the tasks of the socialist revolution. The bourgeoisie played an openly counterrevolutionary role, but was defeated by the workers in alliance with the poor peasants. The Bolsheviks then made a revolutionary appeal to the workers of the world to follow their example. Lenin knew very well that without the victory of the revolution in the advanced capitalist countries, especially Germany, the revolution could not survive isolated, especially in a backward country like Russia. What happened subsequently showed that this was absolutely correct. The setting up of the Third (Communist) International, the world party of socialist revolution, was the concrete manifestation of this perspective.

Had the Communist International remained firm on the positions of Lenin and Trotsky, the victory of the world revolution would have been ensured. Unfortunately, the Comintern's formative years coincided with the Stalinist counterrevolution in Russia, which had a disastrous effect on the Communist Parties of the entire world. The Stalinist bureaucracy, having acquired control in the Soviet Union developed a very conservative outlook. The theory that socialism can be built in one country—an abomination from the standpoint of Marx and Lenin—really reflected the mentality of the bureaucracy which had had enough of the storm and stress of revolution and sought to get on with the task of "building socialism in Russia." That is to say, they wanted to protect and expand their privileges and not "waste" the resources of the country in pursuing world revolution. On the other hand they feared that revolution in other countries could develop on healthy lines and pose a threat to their own domination in Russia, and therefore, at a certain stage, sought actively to prevent revolution elsewhere.

Instead of pursuing a revolutionary policy based on class independence, as Lenin had always advocated, they proposed an alliance of the Communist Parties with the "national progressive bourgeoisie" (and if there was not one easily at hand, they were quite prepared to invent it) to carry through the democratic revolution, and afterwards, later on, in the far distant future, when the country had developed a fully-fledged capitalist economy, fight for socialism. This policy represented a complete break with Leninism and a return to the old discredited position of Menshevism—the theory of the "two stages."

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Q.  What are the elements required for workers' democracy?

A. Socialism is democratic or it is nothing. From the very first day of the socialist revolution, there must be the most democratic regime, a regime that will mean that, for the first time, all the tasks of running industry, society and the state will be in the hands of the majority of society, the working class. Through their democratically-elected committees (the soviets), directly elected at the workplace and subject to recall at any moment, the workers will be the masters of society not just in name but in fact. This was the position in Russia after the October revolution. Let us recall that Lenin laid down four basic conditions for a workers’ state—that is, for the transitional period between capitalism and socialism:

  1. Free and democratic elections with right of recall of all officials.
  2. No official to receive a higher wage than that of a skilled worker.
  3. No standing army but the armed people.
  4. Gradually, all the tasks of running the state should be carried out by the masses on a rotating basis. When everybody is a bureaucrat in turn, nobody is a bureaucrat. Or, as Lenin put it, "any cook should be able to be prime minister."

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Q. What do Marxists think about terrorism?

A.  Marxism has always waged a struggle against the methods of individual terrorism (hijackings, bombings) as well as against state terrorism (the imperialist bombing of Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc.). Acts of individual terror do little but alienate the mass of the people from the cause you are supposed to be promoting. Bombing a market place where women and children are killed does not play a role in increasing the class consciousness and confidence of the working class. Our power and strength are in our numbers, not in individual acts.

Terrorist methods have nothing in common with Marxism, and have historically proven to be impotent at bringing about any serious change. Take for example the terrorist acts of Hamas in Israel/Palestine in the last decades. These attacks did nothing for promoting working class unity between Jews and Arabs against their common oppressor—the ruling class which keeps them divided in order to continue to oppress them. The ruling classes in the Middle East does not want real peace, in fact, to a certain degree, the instability of terrorist acts serves their needs. If there were actual "peace" then the workers of all ethnicities and religions would unite against the ruling class. It was only with the Intifadah (uprising) of the masses of Palestinians that the Israeli ruling class feared the movement and began to give concessions. This is why we need to condemn individual terrorism.

The following quote from Leon Trotsky from the article Why Marxists Oppose Individual Terrorism puts it very eloquently:

"In our eyes, individual terror is inadmissible precisely because it belittles the role of the masses in their own consciousness, reconciles them to their powerlessness, and turns their eyes and hopes towards a great avenger and liberator who some day will come and accomplish his mission. The anarchist prophets of the ‘propaganda of the deed’ can argue all they want about the elevating and stimulating influence of terrorist acts on the masses. Theoretical considerations and political experience prove otherwise. The more ‘effective’ the terrorist acts, the greater their impact, the more they reduce the interest of the masses in self-organisation and self-education. But the smoke from the confusion clears away, the panic disappears, the successor of the murdered minister makes his appearance, life again settles into the old rut, the wheel of capitalist exploitation turns as before; only the police repression grows more savage and brazen. And as a result, in place of the kindled hopes and artificially aroused excitement comes disillusionment and apathy."

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Q. What do Marxists think about guerrillaism?

A. It is not in the tradition of Marxism to support a movement of peasant war separate and apart from the movement of the working class, which is decisive. The efforts and work of Marxists should be largely concentrated in the cities and among the proletariat. Of course, under all conditions, the struggle of other oppressed classes must be supported by Marxists.

Guerrillaism, as Lenin explained, is the method of the lumpen proletariat and of the peasants. While it is somewhat understandable for the guerrilla movements to develop in countries where there is virtually no proletariat, there can be no justification whatsoever for urban guerrillaism! In most countries in the world today the proletariat makes up the vast majority of the population. India for example has more industry than her former colonial master Britain. Peasant wars, even if victorious can only lead to the victory of bourgeois Bonapartism (Dictatorship) or proletarian Bonapartism (Stalinism). They can never result in the victory of a socialist revolution in the classical form which requires a conscious movement by the proletariat. Urban guerrillaism tries to replace the movement of the proletariat by students, lumpens, and even some de-classed workers and is absolutely against all the teachings of Marxism. Invariably it has ended in disaster. That has been the experience in Latin America and in other continents.

The task of Marxists is not merely to overthrow the capitalist regime, but to prepare the way for the socialist future of mankind. The destruction of capitalism and landlordism in the colonial countries is an immense step forward which raises the level of all mankind. But precisely because of the helplessness of the peasantry as a class to rise to the future socialist tasks, it nevertheless can only succeed in raising new obstacles in its path. The victory of the peasant war, given the relationship of forces in the world and the crisis of capitalism and imperialism in the underdeveloped countries can result in a form of deformed workers' state (Stalinism). It cannot result in the conscious control by the workers and peasants of industry, agriculture, and the state.

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Q. What is the basic role of the state and the police in society?

A. The state apparatus, armed bodies of men, the police, the army, and their appendages, the courts, and so on, are tools for the oppression of one layer of society by another, usually of one class over another (for example the capitalist class oppresses the working class). At a certain stage in the social evolution of humanity, the state came into being as a result of the division of society into classes. Once it became possible to produce a surplus above the needs of the producers then it became possible for a minority to free itself from the need to labor, living instead off the surplus produced by the majority. Inevitably however such a small minority required a special force to keep the majority in order, and thus the earliest forms of state apparatus were born out of the division of society into classes. This earliest class division between slave owners and slaves, has been replaced by other forms of class division (feudal lords and serfs under feudalism, capitalists and workers under capitalism). But even to the present day under capitalism it was always only a minority who could live off the surplus produced by the majority. Capitalism has played a progressive role in building up the economy through investment to a point where it would be possible for the first time to do away with this archaic class division. Since the task of socialism is precisely to abolish that division, the state itself should increasingly whither away, passing from the government of people to the administration of things before disappearing altogether.

In his masterpiece on Stalinism, The Revolution Betrayed, Trotsky explained that wherever there are shortages there is want. Wherever there is want there are lines, wherever there are lines you need police to keep order, and the police will find themselves at the front of the line. The police, as instruments of state repression, inevitably abuse their privileged position. Under socialism, there will be no separate police force or standing army, but rather the armed people—if everyone is a policeman, then no one is really a policeman.

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Brief History of Marxist Internationalism


Why must socialism be international?

What was the First International

What was the Second International?

What was the Third International?

What was the Left Opposition?

What was the Fourth International?

What were Trotsky's perspectives for after WWII?


Q. Why must socialism be international?

A. The need for internationalism flows from the position of the working class internationally. This in its turn has been developed by capitalism through the organization of world economy as one single, indivisible whole. The interests of the working class of one country are the same as the interests of the workers of the other countries. Because of the division of labor established by capitalism, the basis is laid for a new international organization of labor and planned production on a world scale. Thus, the struggle of the working class in all countries forms the basis for the movement towards socialism.

Capitalism, through the private ownership of the means of production, developed industry and smashed the local particularism of feudalism. It broke down the archaic customs dues, tolls, and exactions of feudalism. Its great creation is the national state and the world market. But once having accomplished this task, it itself has become a fetter on the development of production. The national state and private ownership of the means of production hamper the development of society. Production possibilities can only be fully utilized by abolishing national barriers and establishing a worldwide federation of workers' states. These, with state ownership and workers' management, are a necessary transition stage on the road to socialism. It is these factors which dictate the strategy and tactics of the proletariat, as reflected in its conscious leadership. In the aphorisms of Marx "the workers have no country" and therefore "workers of the world unite."

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Q. What was the First International?

A. It was with international considerations in mind that Marx organized the First International as a means of uniting the advanced layers of the working class on an international scale. In the First International were British Trade Unionists, French Radicals, and Russian Anarchists. Guided by Marx, it laid the framework for the development of the labor movement in Europe, Britain, and America. In its day, the bourgeoisie trembled before the menace of communism in the form of the International. It established deep roots in the main European countries. After the collapse of the Paris Commune, there was an upswing of capitalism on a world scale. Under these conditions, the pressures of capitalism on the labor movement resulted in internal quarrels and factionalism. The intrigues of the Anarchists received heightened impetus. The growth of capitalism in an organic upswing in its turn affected the organization internationally. Under such circumstances, after first moving the headquarters of the organization to New York, Marx and Engels decided that, for the time being, it would be better to dissolve the International in 1876.

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Q. What was the Second International?

A. The work of Marx and Engels with the First International bore fruit in mass organizations of the proletariat in Germany, France, Italy, and other countries as Marx had foreseen. This in its turn prepared the way for the organization of the International on the principles of Marxism, which embraced greater masses. Thus, in 1889, the Second International was born. But the development of the Second International largely took place within the framework of an organic upswing of capitalism, and while in words espousing the ideas of Marxism, the top layers of world social democracy came under the pressure of capitalism. The leaders of the Social Democratic parties and the trade union mass organizations of the working class, became infected with the habits and style of living of the ruling class. The habit of compromise and discussion with the ruling class became second nature. The negotiation of differences through compromise molded their habits of thought. They believed that the steady increase in the standard of living, due to the pressure of the mass organizations, would continue indefinitely. The leaders raised themselves a step higher above the masses in their conditions of existence. This affected the top layers of the parliamentarians and the trade unions. "Conditions determine consciousness" and the decades of peaceful development which followed the Paris Commune of 1871, changed the character of the leadership of the mass organizations. Supporting socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat in words, and espousing internationalism in phrases, in practice the leadership had gone over to the support of the national state. At the Basel Conference of 1912, with growing contradictions of world imperialism and the inevitability of world war, the Second International resolved to oppose by all means, including general strike and civil war, the attempt to throw the workers of the belligerent countries into senseless slaughter. Lenin and the Bolsheviks, together with Luxembourg, Trotsky, and other leaders of the movement, participated in the organization of the Second International as the means for the liberation of mankind from the shackles of capitalism.

In 1914, the leaders of Social Democracy in nearly all countries rallied to the support of their own ruling class in the First World War. So unexpected was the crisis and the betrayer of the principles of socialism, that even Lenin believed that the issue of Vorwaerts, the central organ of the German Social Democracy, containing the support for the war credits was a forgery of the German General Staff. The International had ingloriously collapsed at its first serious test.

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Q. What was the Third International?

A. After the collapse of the Second International, Lenin, Trotsky, Liebknecht, Luxemburg, MacLean, Connolly, and other leaders were reduced to leading small sects. The internationalists of the world in 1916, as the participants of the Zimmerwald Conference joked, could be gathered together in a few stage coaches. The unexpectedness of the betrayal led to the position where the internationalists, isolated and weak, tended to be a little ultraleft. In order to differentiate themselves from '"social patriots" and "traitors to socialism," they were compelled to lay down the fundamental principles of Marxism—the responsibility of imperialism for war, the right to self-determination of nationalities, the need for the conquest of power, separation from the practice and policies of reformism. Lenin had declared that the idea that the First World War was a "war to end wars" was a pernicious fairy tale of the labor bosses. If the war was not followed by a series of successful socialist revolutions, it would be followed by a second, a third, even a tenth world war until the possible annihilation of mankind. The blood and the suffering in the trenches to the profit of the millionaire monopolists would inevitably provoke a revolt of the workers and peasants against the colossal slaughter.

The principles achieved their justification in the Russian Revolution of 1917, under the leadership of the Bolsheviks. This was followed by a series of revolutions and revolutionary situations from 1917 to 1921. However, the young forces of the new International, which was officially founded in 1919, were weak and immature. As a consequence, though the effect of the Russian Revolution was to provoke a wave of radicalization in most of the countries of Western Europe and the organization of mass Communist Parties, they were too weak to take advantage of the situation. The first waves of the radicalization saw the masses turning to their traditional organizations and because of the inexperience, lack of understanding of Marxist theory, method and organization, and due to their immaturity, the young Communist Parties were incapable of taking advantage of the situation. Thus capitalism was able to stabilize itself temporarily.

In the revolutionary situation in Germany in 1923, because of the policies of the leadership, which went through the same crisis as the leadership of the Bolshevik Party in 1917, the opportunity to take power was missed. After this, imperialism hastened to come to the aid of German capitalism for fear of "Bolshevism" in the west. This prepared the way for the degeneration of the Soviet Union, because of its isolation and backwardness, and the corruption and rotting away of the Third International.

In 1923 we had the beginning of the consolidation of the Stalinist bureaucracy and its usurpation of power in the Soviet Union. A similar process to that which had taken place in the degeneration of the Second International over the decades, took place in a short period of time in the Soviet Union. Having conquered power in a backward country, the Marxists were prepared confidently for the international revolution as the only solution to the problems of the workers of Russia and of the world. But in 1924, Stalin came forward as the representative of an officialdom which had raised itself above the level of the masses of the workers and peasants.

Where "Art, Science and Government" had remained their preserve, instead of the ideas of Marx and Lenin of the participation in government and the running of industry by the mass of the population, the vested interests of the privileged layers came to the fore. In the autumn of 1924, Stalin, in violation of the traditions of Marxism and Bolshevism, for the first time brought out the utopian theory of "socialism in one country." The internationalists under Trotsky fought against this theory and predicted that it would result in the collapse of the Communist International and the nationalist degeneration of its sections.

Theory is not an abstraction but a guide to struggle. Theories, when they secure mass support, must represent the interests and pressure of groupings, castes or classes, in society. Thus the theory of "socialism in one country," represented the ideology of the ruling caste in the Soviet Union, that layer of officialdom who were satisfied with the results of the revolution, and did not want their privileged position disturbed. It was this outlook which now began to change the Communist International from an instrument of international revolution into merely a border-guard for the defence of the Soviet Union, which was supposed to be busily constructing socialism on its own.

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Q. What was the Left Opposition?

A. The expulsion of the Left Opposition from the Communist Parties (Third International) which stood by the principles of internationalism and Marxism, now took place. The defeat of the British General Strike of 1926 and the Chinese Revolution of 1925–27, prepared the way for this development. At this stage it was a question of "mistakes" in the policies of Stalin, Bukharin, and their henchmen. It was a question of their position as ideologists of the privileged layer and the enormous pressures of capitalism and reformism. These mistakes of leadership had doomed the movement of the proletariat in other countries to defeat and disaster.

Having burned their fingers in trying to conciliate the reformists in the West and the colonial bourgeoisie in the East, Stalin and his clique zig-zagged to an ultra-left position, dragging the leadership of the Communist International with them. They split the German workers instead of advocating a united front to prevent Fascism from coming to power in Germany, and thus prepared the way, by paralysis of the German proletariat, for the victory of Hitler. The degeneration of the Soviet Union and the betrayal of the Third International in its turn prepared the way for the crimes and betrayal of the Stalinist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union.

Apart from the nationalization of the means of production, the monopoly of foreign trade and planned production, nothing remained of the heritage of October. The purge, the one sided civil war in the Soviet Union, had their counterparts in the parties of the Communist International. The victory of Hitler and the defeats in Spain and France were the results of these developments. From 1924 to 1927, Stalin had based himself on an alliance with the Kulaks and "Nepmen" in the Soviet Union, and the "building of socialism at a snail's pace." At the same time, Stalinism abroad stood for a "neutralization" of the capitalists, and a conciliation of the Social Democrats as a means of "warding-off" the threat of war. The defeat of the Left Opposition in the Soviet Union, with its program of a return to workers' democracy, and the introduction of five-year plans, was due to the international defeats of the proletariat, caused by Stalinist policies.

From grovelling before the Social Democrats, and other international "friends of the Soviet Union," the Communist International swung over to the policies of the "third period." The slump of 1929–33 was supposed to be "the last crisis of capitalism." Fascism and Social Democracy were twins, and these "theories" paved the way for the terrible defeats of the international working class.

At the same time, the policies of the Left Opposition in Russia won over the most advanced elements in the most important Communist Parties in the world. Lessons of October, a work by Trotsky, dealt with the lessons of the abortive revolution of 1923 in Germany. The general program of the opposition at home and abroad was answered by expulsions, not only in the Russian Party, but in the main sections of the International. There was a rise of opposition groups in Germany, France, Britain, Spain, the US, South Africa, and other countries. The program of the opposition at this time was one of reform in the Soviet Union and the International, and the adoption of correct policies as against the opportunism of the period of 1923–27, and the adventurism of the period from 1927–33.

These splits, as Engels had remarked in another connection, were a healthy development in the sense of attempting to maintain the best traditions of Bolshevism and of the ideals of the Communist International. The crisis of leadership was the crisis of the International and of all mankind. Thus, these splits were a means of maintaining the ideas and methods of Marxism. In the first period of its existence, the Left Opposition regarded itself as a section of the Communist International; although expelled, and stood for the reform of the International.

The masses, and even the advanced layers of the proletariat, only learn through the lessons of great events. All history has shown that the masses can never give up their old organizations until these have been tested in the fire of experience. Up until 1933, the Marxist wing of the International still stood for the reform of the Soviet Union and the Communist International. Whether they would remain viable organizations would be shown by the test of history. Thus tenaciously the opposition maintained itself, although formally outside the ranks, as part of the International.

It was the coming to power of Hitler and the refusal of the Communist International to learn the lesson of the defeat which doomed it as an instrument of the working class in the struggle for socialism. Far from analyzing the reasons for the fatal policy of Social Fascism, the sections of the Communist International declared the victory of Hitler to be a victory for the working class, and as late as 1934 continued the same suicidal policies in France, of united action with the fascists against the "social fascists" and the "radical fascist" Daladier, which if successful would have prepared the way for a fascist coup in France in February 1934.

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Q. What was the 4th International?

A. This betrayal (of the Third International) and the terrible effect of the Hitler defeat led to a reappraisal of the role of the Communist International. An international which could perpetrate the treachery of surrendering the German proletariat to Hitler, without a shot being fired and without provoking a crisis within its ranks, could no longer serve the needs of the proletariat. An international which could acclaim this disaster as a victory could not fulfil its role as a leadership of the proletariat. As an instrument of world socialism, the Third International was dead. From an instrument of international socialism, the Communist International had degenerated into a complete and docile tool of the Kremlin, into an instrument of Russian foreign policy. It was now necessary to prepare the way for the organization of a Fourth International, untarnished with the crimes and betrayals which besmirched the reformist and Stalinist internationals.

As in the days after the collapse of the Second International, the revolutionary internationalists remained small isolated sects. In Belgium they had a couple of MPs and an organization of a thousand or two, in Austria and Holland, the same. The forces of the new international were weak and immature, nevertheless they had the guidance and assistance of Trotsky, and the perspectives of great historical events. They were educated on the basis of an analysis of the experience of the Second and Third Internationals, and of the Russian, German, and Chinese Revolutions and the British General Strike, and of the great events which had followed the First World War. In this way cadres were to be trained and educated, as the indispensable skeleton of the body of the new international.

It was this period, taking into account the historical isolation of the movement from the mass organizations of the Social Democracy and Communist Parties, that the tactic of "entrism" was developed. In order to win the best workers, it was necessary to find a way of influencing them. This could only be done by working together with them in the mass organizations. Thus beginning with the ILP in Britain, the idea of entrism was worked out for the mass organizations where they were in a state of crisis and moving towards the left. Thus, with the developing revolutionary situation in France there was an entry into the Socialist Party. In Britain, the entry into the ILP, then in a state of flux and ferment after breaking from the Labour Party, was followed by the entry of many of the Trotskyists, on Trotsky's advice, into the Labour Party. In the US there was an entry into the Socialist Party.

In the main, the prewar period was one of preparation and orientation and selection of cadres or leading elements to be trained and steeled theoretically and practically, in the movement of the masses.

The tactic of entry was also considered as a short term expedient, forced on the revolutionaries by their isolation from the masses, and the impossibility of tiny organizations getting the ear and finding support among the mass of the working class. It was for the purpose of working among the radical elements looking for revolutionary solutions, who would in the first place turn towards the mass organizations. But always, under all conditions, the main ideas of Marxism should be put forward and the revolutionary banner, i.e., the ideas of Marxism, maintained and defended. It was a question of acquiring experience and understanding, of combating both sectarianism and opportunism. It was a means of developing a flexible approach, with the implacability of principle, as a means of preparing the cadres for the great events which impended.

The defeats of the working class in Germany, France, and in the civil war in Spain, the defeats of the immediate postwar period, which were entirely due to the policies of the Second and Third Internationals, in their turn prepared the way for the Second World War. The paralysis of the proletariat in Europe, in conjunction with the new aggravated crisis of world capitalism made the Second World War absolutely inevitable. It was in this atmosphere that the 1938 founding conference of the Fourth International took place.

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Q. What were Trotsky's Perspectives for after WWII?

A. The document which was adopted at the founding conference of the Fourth International is itself an indication of the reason for its foundation. The Transitional Program of the Fourth International is linked to the idea of mass work, which itself is geared to the idea of the socialist revolution through transitional slogans, from today's contradictory reality. As distinct from the minimum and maximum program of the Social Democracy is put the idea of a transitional program, transitional from capitalism to the socialist revolution. This is an indication of the consideration of the epoch as one of wars and revolutions. Thus, all work has to be linked to the idea of the socialist revolution.

The perspective of Trotsky was that of war, which in its turn would provoke revolution. The problem of Stalinism would be resolved one way or another. Either the Soviet Union would be regenerated through political revolution against Stalinism, or the victory of the revolution in one of the important countries would resolve the situation on a world scale. With proletarian revolution victorious, the problem of the internationals of both Stalinism and reformism would be solved by events themselves.

This conditional prognosis, although revealing a fundamental understanding of processes in class society, was not borne out by events. Due to the peculiar military and political events of the war, Stalinism was temporarily strengthened. The revolutionary wave, during and following the Second World War in Europe was this time betrayed by the Stalinists in a worse fashion than the revolutionary wave following the First World War was betrayed by the leaders of the Second International.

Trotsky's idea in pushing for the foundation of the Fourth International in 1938 was because of the collapse of Stalinism and reformism as revolutionary tendencies within the working class. Both had become enormous obstacles on the path of the emancipation of the working class, and from being a means for the destruction of capitalism had become incapable of leading the proletariat to the victory of the socialist revolution.

The question of new parties and a new international was a question of the immediate perspectives which lay ahead. A new world war in its turn would provoke a new revolutionary wave in the metropolitan countries and among the colonial peoples. The problems of Stalinism in Russia and the world would thereby be solved by these revolutionary perspectives. Under these conditions it was imperative to prepare organizationally as well as politically for the great events which were on the order of the day. Thus, in 1938 Trotsky predicted that within ten years nothing would be left of the old traitor organizations, and the Fourth International would have become the decisive revolutionary force on the planet. There was nothing wrong with the basic analysis but every prognosis is conditional; the multiplicity of factors, economically, politically, socially, can always result in a different development than that foreseen. The weakness of the revolutionary forces, indeed, has been a decisive factor in the development of world politics, in the more than thirty years since Trotsky wrote. Unfortunately, the so-called leaders of the "Fourth International," without Trotsky's guidance and without Trotsky's presence, interpreted this idea of Trotsky's not as a worked out thesis but as literally correct.

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Marxism Basics


What is Marxism?

What are Marxism/Leninism and Trotskyism?

What do people mean when they say they are "socialists"?

What is the difference between "Communism" and "communism"?

What is the difference between socialism and communism?

What about "human nature"?

What will socialist society look like?

What about individualism under socialism?

What do Marxists think about technological innovation?

If socialism is the next stage of human society, why bother fighting for it?

How can democracy and socialism exist at the same time?

How will production be socialized and wealth distributed under socialism?

What is the attitude of Marxists to small farmers and business people?

What is the incentive under socialism?


Q. What is Marxism?

A.  Marxism is the system of Marx's views and teachings. Marx was the genius who continued and consummated the three main ideological currents of the 19th century, as represented by the three most advanced countries of mankind: classical German philosophy, classical English political economy, and French socialism combined with French revolutionary doctrines in general. Acknowledged even by his opponents, the remarkable consistency and integrity of Marx's views, whose totality constitutes modern materialism and modern scientific socialism, as the theory and program of the working class movement in all the countries of the world.

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Q.  What are Marxism/Leninism and Trotskyism?

A.  This term is generally used to decribe what are considered revolutionary Marxists (those who see that the present system must be replaced by a new one), as opposed to reformists (those who believe that the capitalist system can be made "kinder and gentler"—which is not possible!).  Leninism is really nothing more than the extension of Marx's ideas into the age of imperialism (the age of the domination of finance capital and monopolies, and the total subjugation of the colonial world to the will of the major powers). 

But there is still some confusion as far as Marxism/Leninism goes. There are those who follow Stalin, Mao, or Trotsky. Stalin and Mao were not Marxists, they were actually quite anti-Marxist in that they led regimes based not on democratic control of the state by the workers, but rather based on totalitarian control by an elite stratum of bureaucrats who were a parasite on the workers' state. 

Trotskyism, or those who follow Leon Trotsky (who led the opposition to Stalin's reactionary policies after Lenin's death in 1924) is actually a continuation of Marxism/Leninism, but many people use the word Trotskyism to distinguish themselves from the Stalinists. We are in agreement with Trotsky, and see him as the continuer of Marxism/Leninism, but due to the negative connotations associated with Trotskyism (due to the fanatical and often ultra-left tactics and policies of many of his followers), we are content to stick with calling ourselves Marxist/Leninist, as Trotsky's ideas are an extension of that.  Among Trotsky's most important contributions to  Marxist theory are are his scientific analysis of the nature of Stalinism, and his ideas on the permanent revolution especially as regards the colonial world.

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Q. What do people mean when they say they are "socialists"?

A.  As for "socialist," there are again two types—genuine ones fighting for the abolishment of wage labor and the rule of capital, and reformists. Many reformists call themselves "socialist" but as they accept the continued existence of the capitalist system their policies end up bolstering the system. For example, the French government is currently "socialist"—yet they are pursuing criminal imperialist aims and carrying out cuts and austerity! In Marxist terms, socialism is generally regarded as the period of transition between capitalism and communism—the transition to a system in which we can truly have "from each according to his/her abilities, to each according to his/her needs." Genuine Marxists can be interchangeably called socialists so long as they have as their goal the abolishment of capitalism and the establishment of genuine, worker-controlled democratic socialism. Many of those who call themselves "socialists" need to be taken with a grain of salt—look at the contents of the jar before you eat it—don't rely only on the label!

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Q. What is the difference between "Communism" and "communism"?

A.  "Communism" (with a capital "C") is generally used when it is the name of a formal party (like the Communist Party of France) and "communism" (with lowercase "c") is used when one is discussing the communist socio-economic system or ideas in general. The same can be said of "Socialism" vs. "socialism."

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Q. What is the difference between socialism and communism?

A. Due to the media and the educational system, many people have a different understanding of the words "socialism" and "communism" than the founders of Marxism intended. It is easy to understand this confusion: many modern day, so-called "socialist" parties are nothing of the sort, and most people associate "communism" with Stalin's totalitarian USSR. But for scientific socialists (the original term for Marxists), these words have precise meanings, and describe definite social forms. For Marxists, socialism is a transitional phase between the exploitative capitalist system of private property of the means of production, and the classless society of communism, where there is no longer a state in the proper sense of the word, no compulsion to work, no national borders, etc.

Under capitalism, society is governed by a handful of rich elites who exploit the working class in order to extract profits. They are not concerned with what or how they produce commodities, as long as these bring them a profit.  They have developed the state—bodies of armed men; the laws, courts, prisons, military, police—in order to preserve their privileged position. Under communism, the whole of society will be the "owners" of the means of production, and will produce in the interests of all people in harmony with the environment. But between these two phases of human social development lies the transitional period of socialism.

Despite the illusions of the anarchists that we can somehow magically abolish the state and capitalism overnight, what is required is a transitional period in order to usher in a new era of peace, freedom, and plenty. The material basis for communism is the ability to provide enough to go around for everyone. While we have already developed the technology and the know-how to make this possible very quickly, we still cannot jump from the poverty and want of capitalism to full-fledged communism overnight.  For Marxists, this transitional phase is called socialism. As Marx explained in Critique of the Gotha Program:

"Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat."

The first step in this process is the seizure of political power by the working class majority of society, known in Marx's day as the "dictatorship of the proletariat" as opposed to the "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie" we currently live under. Once in political power, the working class can then move to assert its control over the economy. Once the working class democratically runs the economy in the interests of all, instead of in the interests of a handful of capitalists, then very quickly we will be able to provide the basic necessities and then much more to everyone. We will be able to abolish unemployment, provide universal, quality healthcare, education, housing, and more to everyone. The creative and productive potential of humanity will be unleashed.

As Engels explained, this socialist "state," which would truly democratically represent the vast majority of society, would already be withering away in the proper sense of the word. The capitalist state represents a tiny minority of society, which is why they resort to such brutal measures to keep the majority under their boot. But once the state is run in the interests of the majority, then the need for police, a military, etc., will rapidly disappear along with the inequality and oppression of the capitalist system. Gradually, the coercion and compulsion of the capitalist system will disappear and be replaced by the democratic administration of things in the interests of everyone.

From Lenin's State and Revolution:

"Only in communist society, when the resistance of the capitalists have disappeared, when there are no classes (i.e., when there is no distinction between the members of society as regards their relation to the social means of production), only then 'the state... ceases to exist', and 'it becomes possible to speak of freedom'. Only then will a truly complete democracy become possible and be realized, a democracy without any exceptions whatever. And only then will democracy begin to wither away, owing to the simple fact that, freed from capitalist slavery, from the untold horrors, savagery, absurdities, and infamies of capitalist exploitation, people will gradually become accustomed to observing the elementary rules of social intercourse that have been known for centuries and repeated for thousands of years in all copy-book maxims. They will become accustomed to observing them without force, without coercion, without subordination, without the special apparatus for coercion called the state.

"The expression 'the state withers away' is very well-chosen, for it indicates both the gradual and the spontaneous nature of the process. Only habit can, and undoubtedly will, have such an effect; for we see around us on millions of occasions how readily people become accustomed to observing the necessary rules of social intercourse when there is no exploitation, when there is nothing that arouses indignation, evokes protest and revolt, and creates the need for suppression.

"And so in capitalist society we have a democracy that is curtailed, wretched, false, a democracy only for the rich, for the minority. The dictatorship of the proletariat, the period of transition to communism, will for the first time create democracy for the people, for the majority, along with the necessary suppression of the exploiters, of the minority. Communism alone is capable of providing really complete democracy, and the more complete it is, the sooner it will become unnecessary and wither away of its own accord.

"In other words, under capitalism we have the state in the proper sense of the word, that is, a special machine for the suppression of one class by another, and, what is more, of the majority by the minority. Naturally, to be successful, such an undertaking as the systematic suppression of the exploited majority by the exploiting minority calls for the utmost ferocity and savagery in the matter of suppressing, it calls for seas of blood, through which mankind is actually wading its way in slavery, serfdom and wage labor.

"Furthermore, during the transition from capitalism to communism suppression is still necessary, but it is now the suppression of the exploiting minority by the exploited majority. A special apparatus, a special machine for suppression, the 'state', is still necessary, but this is now a transitional state. It is no longer a state in the proper sense of the word; for the suppression of the minority of exploiters by the majority of the wage slaves of yesterday is comparatively so easy, simple and natural a task that it will entail far less bloodshed than the suppression of the risings of slaves, serfs or wage-laborers, and it will cost mankind far less. And it is compatible with the extension of democracy to such an overwhelming majority of the population that the need for a special machine of suppression will begin to disappear. Naturally, the exploiters are unable to suppress the people without a highly complex machine for performing this task, but the people can suppress the exploiters even with a very simple 'machine', almost without a 'machine', without a special apparatus, by the simple organization of the armed people (such as the Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, we would remark, running ahead).

"Lastly, only communism makes the state absolutely unnecessary, for there is nobody to be suppressed - 'nobody' in the sense of a class, of a systematic struggle against a definite section of the population. We are not utopians, and do not in the least deny the possibility and inevitability of excesses on the part of individual persons, or the need to stop such excesses. In the first place, however, no special machine, no special apparatus of suppression, is needed for this: this will be done by the armed people themselves, as simply and as readily as any crowd of civilized people, even in modern society, interferes to put a stop to a scuffle or to prevent a woman from being assaulted. And, secondly, we know that the fundamental social cause of excesses, which consist in the violation of the rules of social intercourse, is the exploitation of the people, their want and their poverty. With the removal of this chief cause, excesses will inevitably begin to 'wither away'. We do not know how quickly and in what succession, but we do know they will wither away. With their withering away the state will also wither away.

"Without building utopias, Marx defined more fully what can be defined now regarding this future, namely, the differences between the lower [socialism] and higher [communism] phases (levels, stages) of communist society."

So when asked if we are socialists or communists, we can say that we are both. We are fighting for communism, but the first stage toward that is democratic socialism. But above all, we are Marxists—the ideas of Marxism are the "guide to action" that helps us get our bearings in order to fight the capitalist system and hasten the building of socialism.

For further reading on this subject, be sure to check out Chapter 5 of Lenin's masterpiece The State and Revolution.

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Q. What about "human nature"?

A. The question of so-called "human nature" is one of the most commonly raised arguments against socialism—but it is also one of the easiest to debunk. Many people believe that the way people think has always been the same, and that we will always think the way we do now. But a few examples will show that nothing could be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is, like all things in nature, human consciousness and society are always in a state of change. Marx explained that "conditions determine consciousness." In other words, our environment determines to a large degree how we think. We know what rap music, Hollywood movies, and a Boeing 747 are because they exist in our world. For example, if we were born 5,000 years ago as peasants in China, our worldview would be very different! If we were born as royalty in China 5,000 years ago, we would also have a very different view of things than if we were peasants.

Human beings rose to the top of the food chain not by competing against each other and crushing one another in the struggle to "get ahead," but through cooperation. Only by cooperating were humans able to combine their resources to hunt, build shelters, and eventually domesticate plants, animals, develop pottery, build the pyramids, etc. Just look at a human baby! Compared to a deer, which can stand up and run within minutes of birth, human young are totally helpless for years. Infants could not survive even a few days without the help of others! So you see, primitive humans needed to cooperate if they were to survive the elements, wild animals, find enough to eat, etc. For the vast majority of human existence, there were no classes, and we lived communally in small bands, dividing up the work and dividing up the wealth in the interests of everyone.  

And although on the surface is appears that nowadays we are all "individuals," the truth is we are even more dependant on literally thousands and even millions of other humans around the world. Can any one person design a car, mine and process the metals and other materials needed, build the factory, and the put together a car themselves? To even pose the question shows how absurd the idea is. And what about the gasoline to fuel it? Or the roads to drive it on? What about the food we eat? The list goes on and on—and we have only scratched the surface. Think about it carefully, and you will see that under capitalism, almost everyone is indirectly linked to everyone else through the world market and the exchange of commodities.

We work together, live together, hang out together, go to the movies together, go to the park together, etc. Do we have police around 24/7 to make sure we don't all kill each other? Do we run around murdering each other "to get ahead"? If that were the case, then nothing would ever get done and we would all starve to death in a matter of days! So why do people have this strange idea that we are all "individuals"? Well, getting back to the first point we made, which is that conditions determine consciousness—the ruling class (the capitalists) do everything in their power to affect the way we think. Through our education, through the media, religion, etc., we are raised to have the values of the capitalist system. And what values are these? Precisely the "dog eat dog" attitude which states that the only way to get ahead is to stomp on your opponents. We are raised to look away and think nothing of the homeless, the starving, those killed in war, etc.—or at most to say a prayer for them and give a little "charity" to ease our conscience.

But if we look a little harder, we will see that these "values" benefit only a tiny handful of people—the ultra-rich capitalists! The rest of us, in our daily lives, gain nothing from this. What we want above all is peace, stability, a decent job, no worries about healthcare or education, time off for family and loved ones, etc. It is only the capitalist class which thrives off the individual competition between one company and another. One of the main contradictions of capitalist society is that we have social production (meaning we produce the things we use socially through the cooperation of many people—like the example of the car), but private appropriation of the surplus wealth produced. In other words, we produce the wealth socially, but the profit goes into private hands! The thousands of workers who actually know how to produce the cars in a factory do not get to decide what to produce or how, or what to do with the extra wealth—the capitalist class does. Socialists want to end this contradiction by having social control over the socially produced wealth. The surplus wealth produced by working people would be used to provide better wages, benefits, healthcare, education, safety conditions, new technology that could reduce the working day, etc.—instead of for the private gain of a handful of people while millions starve, are homeless, and unemployed. This is not a utopian idea—the material pre-requisites for this exist now! The only barrier to this is the grip the capitalist class has on political and economic power. Only unity of the world working class can put an end to this situation, and end the horror, degradation, poverty, and instability of the capitalist system once and for all. Then a whole new world will open up!

So just imagine a baby born into a world with no hunger, no want, no poverty, no lack of jobs, etc. Since conditions determine consciousness, they would see the world in an entirely different way than we do today. Even babies born today do not notice differences in race, language, etc. until these are pointed out to them as they get older. Under socialism, people will relate to each other as people, and not as mere commodities to be bought and sold.

The reason for the vast bulk of the problems we suffer under capitalism is scarcity created by the contradictions of the system itself. To take an example from nature, if you take 100 rats and put them in a cage with enough food for 100 rats and then a little bit more, you will have docile, friendly, and gregarious animals before you. But if you put those same 100 rats in a cage with only enough food for only 50 of them, you will quickly see the situation deteriorate into a murderous, greedy, self-interested orgy of violence and bloodshed. Of course, humans and their society are much more complex and on a different level than 100 rats in a laboratory cage, but the example illustrates an important point.

As we all know, much of the scarcity we find is artificially produced. We have all heard the stories of farmers being paid not to plant or to destroy crops, even though there are millions of hungry and malnourished children right here in the United States, let alone around the world; or shoe and clothing stores which punch or tear holes in their old stock, to make them unusable, even though millions of people could use those products; of restaurants firing employees for taking food home, insisting instead that this perfectly good food be thrown in the dumpster; or of perfectly healthy, capable, and willing people being paid not to work, or forced into unemployment when they are willing to work, instead of creating meaningful jobs for them.

"Human nature," like all things, is in a constant state of change. To accept that it is set in stone for all time does not stand up to even the most simple analysis. Humans have created wonderful tragedies, comedies, songs, poems, paintings, sculptures, and countless other expressions of artistic creativity which are a reflection of our changing world view at any given time. Just take a walk through an art, science, or historical museum and you will see the changing consciousness of humanity graphically portrayed. As Marx explained, "the philosophers have interpreted the world in various ways—the point however, is to change it!" Our way of thinking will change with it!

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Q. What will socialist society look like?

A.. Although no one can provide a blueprint in advance of what such a society would look like, we can say that this form of social ownership and democracy would mean the beginning of the end of the class division of society, and indeed of the social division of labor. The working class having taken power will proceed to radically transform the way the economy and society is run. Socialism is democratic or it is nothing. This refers not to some formal democracy on paper—more accurately, bourgeois democracy where you are allowed to vote every few years for a committee (parliament/congress) who then run things in the interests of capitalism—but a democracy where we all play a full and active part not just in voting but in actually running our communities, our workplaces, and our society. Once the modern economy, industry, science, and technology, is in the hands of all members of society, we will be able to achieve full employment and shorter working hours—giving us the time as well as the resources we need to really begin to realize our talents. We could see the economy forge ahead at 10 or even 20% a year! This would be entirely possible once we have done away with the anarchy of private ownership and the profit motive. Such growth could double the wealth of society in five years!

The reduction of the working day, and an increase in the productivity of society are the prerequisites for the disappearance of the class division of society, and for the birth of socialism. It would be, as Marx put it, a society where everyone contributes according to their abilities and receives according to their needs. Such a society is no utopia but the only alternative to a slow and painful descent into barbarism. But it will not come about automatically even in a million years. Only a socialist revolution, that is, the conscious movement of the working class to take control over their own lives, can effect this change. This requires the building in advance of a trained and educated leadership that can ensure its success. For the last hundred years, at least since World War I, the capitalist system has ceased to play a historically progressive role. It stands like a roadblock in the path of human progress. We cannot wait for its instability to drive us back into the dark ages. There will be many opportunities for us in the coming years. But the success of socialism is not inevitable, it can only be guaranteed in advance by the extent to which we begin preparing for it today.

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Q. What about individualism under socialism?

A.. Often, people's idea of individualism under socialism is based on the idea that socialism is represented by either Stalin's Russia or Mao's China. This brings to mind everyone running around in uniform, in terms of both their clothing and their behavior, and an all-powerful state to which the rights and wishes of the individual are subservient, in the "interests of the whole of society." In reality it was not the whole of society whose interests were being served in those cases but the interests of the small bureaucratic clique who led a parasitic existence on the backs of the working class, and on the back of the nationalized, planned economy.

This bureaucratization had a fatal impact on all the gains made by the revolution in Russia, not just economically but in every sphere of life. Bureaucratism has a stifling, suffocating effect not just on production but also on art, science, and culture. The Stalinists were terrified of any potential opposition, and especially the intellectuals that they could not control. They were snuffed out, in many cases quite literally. Individual expression was portrayed as counterrevolutionary, even culture was subjugated to the "collective will"—not of society but of a handful of bureaucrats desperate to cling on to their power and privilege. Not just the economy but all aspects of life require the oxygen of democracy if they are to flourish.

The capitalist society we live in today is supposedly individualistic, and this is made to sound positive. In reality the profit based society is one that engenders greed, selfishness, and egotism. It is a society based on the idea of "kill or be killed," and under capitalism people will do anything to "get ahead." In the name of profit, the talents and abilities of the vast majority of people are squandered on the production line, or the unemployment line. We don't have the right to a job, the right to an education, the right to healthcare, the rights that could ensure the bare bones of a civilized existence, let alone the right to express ourselves and contribute, to fulfil our potential.

The collective society of genuine socialism is one where the rights of the individual can truly flourish for the first time, without any force or coercion. It will be a society without borders and frontiers, based on the democratic running of all aspects of life by the whole of society on the basis of an economy of super-abundance, where all our needs and more can be catered for. With modern technology we can produce more than enough for all the needs and desires of humanity with relatively minimal effort. For example, it used to take many workers to build a television set. But now, with automation, robotics and other improvements in efficiency, it takes far fewer workers. But under capitalism, the machines replace the workers, who must then find other, usually lower-paying jobs or be unemployed—wasting their potential away. Under socialism, improvements in technology will be put to the use of humanity. Machines will be made to work for us—the time we save due to their efficiency can then be spent pursuing other goals in life. We will be freed from the drudgery of human labor that is our existence under capitalism, and we will have the time to breathe in life, to study, to travel, to mingle with other cultures, to realize our talents.

The development of our economy, will enable us to spend less time in work, and free us to participate in those fields blocked off from us today either by money or by overwork. Art, science, music, etc., will all be able to blossom once they are unshackled from the constraints of capitalist society. How many Shakespeares or Beethovens have existed to date? Barely a handful. Or rather barely a handful whose talent we've been able to enjoy. How many more have been confined to the factory, the field, or the office? Having done away with the outmoded private profit system and the anarchy it introduces into our economy, not only the rights of the individual, of all individuals, but their aspirations and their dreams will be set loose as well. New heights of human culture will be attained, and from those summits on the horizon ever newer peaks will emerge. Standing on the shoulders of all previous experience, men and women will stand head and shoulders above history. With our primitive past behind us, and with a democratic plan on how to use our resources and technology, humanity will be free to develop and realize its true potential as a whole and as individuals.

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Q. What do Marxists think about technological innovation?

A. As we have seen, the main area of expansion in the present economic cycle (1991-2000) has been the new information technology. Former labor secretary Robert R. Reich believes that as much as 70 percent of credit for expansion belongs to computers and the Internet. From a Marxist point of view there is nothing new in all of this. It is already anticipated in the Communist Manifesto, never mind Capital. The Manifesto already explains what is ABC for any Marxist—namely, that the capitalist system, unlike any previous system in history can only exist by constantly revolutionizing the means of production.

It has become fashionable to talk about the far-reaching effects of information technology. Clearly these are important developments. But there have been such developments in every economic cycle. We refer here not to the trade cycle as such, but to broader historical periods that have characterized different phases of capitalist development, such as the period of the postwar upswing as opposed to the period between the World Wars, for instance. Even the most superficial examination of the broad cycles of capitalism will reveal that every one of them since the Industrial Revolution has been characterized precisely by investment in new technology, with very far reaching consequences. Steam power was the basis of the Industrial Revolution. It revolutionised the production of textiles. This was followed by the railways boom in the second half of the 19th century.

In every cycle, the capitalists seek a profitable field of investment. At present this role is being played by IT. The Internet is without doubt an extremely significant and important invention, with enormous consequences particularly for a socialist planned economy in the future. But to argue that it has so modified the productive system that the boom-slump cycle has been eliminated is simply absurd. In every cycle, as we pointed out in On a Knife's Edge, there were inventions that were no less revolutionary, and often far more so. The effect of the railways, the steamship, and the telegraph was far more revolutionizing in linking the world together than the Internet. After the railways we had the motor car ("Fordism"), electricity, energy, chemicals, plastics, radio, television, aeroplanes, radar, nuclear power—all these represented great advances.

All these tremendous and impressive technological advances serve to provide us with a glimpse of what would be possible in a future socialist society. However, from the fact that technology exists, one cannot deduce that the economic cycle does not exist. This conclusion does not follow, even from the point of view of formal logic. Seen from a historical perspective it is merely absurd. For example, in the 1920s and 1930s the most staggering technology existed: telephones, electricity, aeroplanes, cars, television, and a host of other things, but it could not be developed. Why could it not be developed?

In order for a given technology to be developed, it must be in the interest of that class which has the material power to develop it. This can be shown even in ancient times. The Greeks invented steam power and actually built functioning models of steam engines. But it could not be developed and remained a mere toy and a curiosity. Why? Because the slave economy was based on an apparently unlimited supply of unpaid human labor. Why then should the slave-owners be interested in labor-saving machinery? An analogous situation existed under feudalism, which was based on the bonded labor of the serfs. The feudal landowner also had no interest in investing his surplus on machinery and technology. Why should he when he had at his disposal the labor of the serfs? Only with the advent of capitalism and the industrial revolution does the economy of labor time acquire a crucial importance, and this has been seen at every stage in the development of capitalism for the past 200 years. As Marx explains, capitalism is the only socio-economic system that has ever existed which bases itself on the constant revolutionizing of the productive forces.

However, this does not at all mean that the capitalists are interested in investing in technology for its own sake. The bourgeois will invest only insofar as they get a suitable return on their investment, and not one moment longer. At a certain point in the investment cycle, the return on capital is no longer sufficient to warrant further investment. At that point, the capitalists cease to invest and the boom collapses. The mere fact of the existence of technology and productive potential is therefore no guarantee against a crisis. Rather the contrary. It is the uncontrolled flood of investment into new avenues that eventually gives rise to over-investment, over-production, a fall in the rate of profit and ultimately a fall in the mass of profit, leading to a crisis.

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Q. If socialism is the next stage of human society, why bother fighting for it?

A.Under capitalism, the material means for creating a socialist society are created, but the capitalist system will never suffer a "final" collapse—it won't go on its own, it needs to be pushed. If it were to continue in existence for any length of time it would lead the whole of humanity back into barbarism. Even today that barbarism is spreading across the world, from ISIS in the Middle East to the drug cartels in Mexico. The tragic acts of mass violence are other examples of barbarism. During the course of such a decline the working class internationally will be forced into struggle time and time again. If they fail in conquering power, then over their bones the capitalist system will continue, only maintaining any kind of stability through dictatorship, wars, and counterrevolutions. Eventually if the working class does not succeed in capturing power and creating a democratic, socialist society, the whole of humanity could descend into chaos. The task of Marxists is to spread the ideas of genuine Marxism and to build in preparation of upsurges in the class struggle so that when revolutionary opportunities arise, the working class is able to take power as quickly and peacefully as possible.

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Q. How can democracy and socialism exist at the same time?

A. First of all, the idea that Marxism and democracy are opposites is false. The fact is that under capitalism (which is often mistakenly used to be synonymous with "democracy") there is no real democracy. Yes, you can vote every few years in the presidential and congressional elections. But look at who stands in those elections. Only those who have enough money to do so. Who finances their campaigns? The big corporations. So you do not have a real choice. In practice, there is democracy only for the rich and powerful—bourgeois democracy.

More important than that, the government which is elected does not really have much choice of what policies to follow. When the 0.01% own more than the bottom 90% it is clear: they are the ones who really run politics. With their economic decisions they determine the lives of millions of ordinary people, their job prospects, their access to health care, education, etc. When the interests of these big corporations are threatened they use the government to save them. For example when the democratically elected government of Allende in Chile in 1973 decided to nationalize the copper mines and the telecomms (owned by US companies), these corporations and the CIA organized a military coup in Chile which replaced the democratically elected government of Allende with the military dictatorship of Pinochet under which tens of thousands were tortured and murdered. Government and bourgeois political parties are in the last analysis a tool of big business and they are the ones who determine the policies which are implemented. These parties do not exist in a vacuum but are directly funded and influenced by the billionnaires and corporations. Therefore they do not really act in the name of "law," "truth," or "justice," but in the interests of the hand that feeds them.

Under socialism on the other hand, the economic resources of the country and world would not be in private hands, but in the hands of the majority of the population who would run and control them democratically. This would be a real democracy where the people would have real control over their lives. They would be able to democratically elect their representatives in government, and at the same time these representatives would have real power over the economy, to really change things. These officials would be subject to immediate recall if they did not satisfactorily do the jobs they were elected for. The people would then elect someone else who they thought would do things better. Also, these elected officials would not earn any more than a skilled worker. Unlike today where the "perks" often outweigh the salary of our "elected" officials. This will get rid of careerists and make sure that the people doing the jobs are there because they want to be there, not so they can get extra benefits from the job. These elected officials would also come from all members of society—as Lenin said, "any cook should be able to be prime minister."

A further complication to this issue is that people generally identify Marxism with the regime which existed in the Soviet Union. Despite, on paper, having one of the most democratic constitutions in the world, there was no democratic control of politics or the economy. It was Stalinism, that is, a regime where the economy was in the hands of the state, but the citizens had no way of participating in running it. The bureaucratic caste took control over the state apparatus, and used it in their own interests. This had nothing to do with socialism and in fact, in order to come to power Stalin had first to kill hundreds of thousands of communist militants, including most of the members of the central committee of the Bolshevik Party who organized the Russian Revolution in 1917. But the bottom line is that genuine socialism and genuine Marxism are based on the ultimate democracy—workers' democracy—democracy by and for the vast majority of people. As Leon Trotsky said, "socialism needs democracy like the human body needs oxygen."

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Q. How will production be socialized and wealth distributed under socialism?

A. Modern production is already socialized—for example, one person alone cannot build a car from start to finish, or the computer you are typing on. The modern economy is so complex it requires the efforts of millions around the globe in order to put together a final product such as a computer. From the people who get the raw materials, to those who design the hardware. From those who assemble it to those who ship it to your door. It is a collective process. Yet the wealth created by all these workers is not shared equally—the corporations and billionnaires keep a very unequal share for themselves.

The modern working class are the ones who really run the factories and businesses on a day to day basis, they are the ones who produce the wealth of society collectively. Yet they do not really share in the reward for their efforts. Sure they may receive a few crumbs in the form of bonuses and minor raises, but this is nothing compared to the "bonuses" the capitalists get (it is not uncommon for corporate CEOs to get multi-million dollar "Christmas bonuses!"). What is needed is for this wealth to be distributed among those who actually produce it.

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Q. What is the attitude of Marxists to small farmers and business people?

A. From a long historical point of view, the development of large scale farming is obviously progressive. It allows for a greater productivity of labor and thus means that the bulk of the population can be provided with its food needs by a tiny minority of the population. In the US, only about 1% of the working population works on the land. That liberates the overwhelming majority of the population for other productive activity.

Thus, under socialism we would have a situation where mechanization and large-scale farming would be the norm throughout the world. Obviously we would oppose the widespread use of toxic pesticides, and damaging chemical fertilizers, etc., which is a consequence of the profit motive driven capitalist system.

So what do we say to small farmers? In fact, what do we say to all small business people, small shopkeepers, etc.? From a historical point of view these elements are condemned to disappear under capitalism due to the relentless competition of the big farmers, the big supermarkets, etc.

But they still exist in this society and it is our duty to develop a program that would win them to the revolutionary party. Trotsky takes this up in the Transitional Program, and also in other writings. These layers are potential allies of the proletariat and can be won on the basis of a clear program. That means we demand cheap credits for the small farmers and small businessmen. Under capitalism these layers are crushed by the big monopolies and banks. They have to pay big levels of interest on their loans that they take out to develop their business, but end up unable to pay or being limited by the huge amount of their income which is eaten up by the interest. We explain to them that we demand cheap credit to purchase machinery, but also cheap fertilizers, cheap seeds, etc., but that leads us to the demand to take over the banks, take over the big monopolies that control the production of fertilizers, seed, etc. In this way we can show the small farmers (and small shopkeepers) that they should unite with the workers against the big capitalists and thus remove them from the influence of the capitalists.

Additionally, a program to incentivize small businesses to join the planned economy could be implemented. These small businesses could be sold into the broader socialist economy which would free many small business people from being shackled to their businesses. Of course, this would be done on a 100% voluntary basis.

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Q.  What is the incentive under socialism?

A. "What is the incentive under socialism?" is a commonly asked question."If everyone is paid the same wage then what is the incentive for the worker to produce more than he or she has to or even the quota amount?"

Lenin explains in the State and Revolution, and Marx explains in Critique of the Gotha Program, it is impossible to jump straight from capitalism to the most advanced stage of human society—a classless society based on the democratic administration of things in the interests of all. Communism is based on being able to provide more than needed for everyone—and though in the US we could reach that level fairly quickly, it is still not there right now. This is why a transitional period, which we often refer to as socialism, is necessary.

During this time there will still be elements of the old society (some market economy, some armed forces until the whole world is in the deomcratic hands of the workers, etc.) But already things will be moving rapidly towards the complete dissolution of the state, of the market economy, and so on. Once the workers begin to democraticly all plan the major industries—the ones which dominate ourlives—energy, banking, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, etc., then we will be putting the surplus produced by the workers towards improving our lives.

New technology and greater productivity of labor will lead to a decrease in the working day, to more time for study, travel, exploration, research, music, art, culture, etc. Nowadays the incentive to work harder is "work so you can pay your rent, your mortgage, your interest on credit card and school loans, your overpriced food, healthcare, transportation, and entertainment, and so on or starve." That is the only incentive capitalism offers us! Why work more efficiently at work if you know you have to be there for 8 hours no matter what?

Under socialism, the incentive to come up with more efficient ways to do things is that we'd have to work less time to do the same amount of work! The amount of necessary labor needed to produce the things we need like food, housing, etc. would gradually decrease so that eventually we may only need to "work" for 2 hours a week or less! Of course, as humans we would not be lazy and sit around—humans are curious, exploratory, and want to learn, invent, etc. Our "free" time would be spent creating ever better works of art, scientific research, cures for diseases, etc. After a period of time, the new generations will not even know what it was like under capitalism, and the productivity of labor will be tremendously high. The barrier between "work" and raw human exploration and mastery over its environment (in harmony with the environment!) will disappear also—no more coercive state, police, etc. No more chaos in the markets—the workers will plan what we need and then reinvest a portion to continually make even better things. Everyone will be "rich" so to speak—able to travel, to live comfortably, to eat what they wish, to continue their education throughout life.

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Who Were Karl Marx and Frederick Engels?


Who was Karl Marx?

Who was Frederick Engels?


Q. Who was Karl Marx?

From V.I. Lenin's Karl Marx—A Brief Biographical Sketch with an Exposition of Marxism (Lenin Collected Works, Volume 21)

A. Marx, Karl, was born on May 5, 1818 (New Style), in the city of Trier (Rhenish Prussia). His father was a lawyer, a Jew, who in 1824 adopted Protestantism. The family was well-to-do, cultured, but not revolutionary. After graduating from a Gymnasium in Trier, Marx entered the university, first at Bonn and later in Berlin, where he read law, majoring in history and philosophy. He concluded his university course in 1841, submitting a doctoral thesis on the philosophy of Epicurus. At the time Marx was a Hegelian idealist in his views. In Berlin, he belonged to the circle of "Left Hegelians"(Bruno Bauer and others) who sought to draw atheistic and revolutionary conclusion from Hegel's philosophy.

KarlMarxPortraitAfter graduating, Marx moved to Bonn, hoping to become a professor. However, the reactionary policy of the government, which deprived Ludwig Feuerbach of his chair in 1832, refused to allow him to return to the university in 1836, and in 1841 forbade young Professor Bruno Bauer to lecture at Bonn, made Marx abandon the idea of an academic career. Left Hegelian views were making rapid headway in Germany at the time. Feuerbach began to criticize theology, particularly after 1836, and turn to materialism, which in 1841 gained ascendancy in his philosophy (The Essence of Christianity).

The year 1843 saw the appearance of his Principles of the Philosophy of the Future. "One must oneself have experienced the liberating effect" of these books, Engels subsequently wrote of these works of Feuerbach. "We [i.e., the Left Hegelians, including Marx] all became at once Feuerbachians." At that time, some radical bourgeois in the Rhineland, who were in touch with the Left Hegelians, founded, in Cologne, an opposition paper called Rheinische Zeitung (The first issue appeared on January 1, 1842). Marx and Bruno Bauer were invited to be the chief contributors, and in October 1842 Marx became editor-in-chief and moved from Bonn to Cologne.

The newspaper's revolutionary-democratic trend became more and more pronounced under Marx's editorship, and the government first imposed double and triple censorship on the paper, and then on January 1 1843 decided to suppress it. Marx had to resign the editorship before that date, but his resignation did not save the paper, which suspended publication in March 1843. Of the major articles Marx contributed to Rheinische Zeitung, Engels notes, in addition to those indicated below (see Bibliography), an article on the condition of peasant winegrowers in the Moselle Valley. Marx's journalistic activities convinced him that he was insufficiently acquainted with political economy, and he zealously set out to study it.

In 1843, Marx married, at Kreuznach, a childhood friend he had become engaged to while still a student. His wife came of a reactionary family of the Prussian nobility, her elder brother being Prussia's Minister of the Interior during a most reactionary period -- 1850-58. In the autumn of 1843, Marx went to Paris in order to publish a radical journal abroad, together with Arnold Ruge (1802-1880); Left Hegelian; in prison in 1825-30; a political exile following 1848, and a Bismarckian after 1866-70). Only one issue of this journal, Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, appeared. publication was discontinued owing to the difficulty of secretly distributing it in Germany, and to disagreement with Ruge. Marx's articles in this journal showed that he was already a revolutionary who advocated "merciless criticism of everything existing", and in particular the "criticism by weapon", and appealed to the masses and to the proletariat.

In September 1844, Frederick Engels came to Paris for a few days, and from that time on became Marx's closest friend. They both took a most active part in the then seething life of the revolutionary groups in Paris (of particular importance at the time was Proudhon'sdoctrine), which Marx pulled to pieces in his Poverty of Philosophy, 1847); waging a vigorous struggle against the various doctrines of petty-bourgeois socialism, they worked out the theory and tactics of revolutionary proletarian socialism, or communism (Marxism). See Marx's works of this period, 1844-48 in the Bibliography. At the insistent request of the Prussian government, Marx was banished from Paris in 1845, as a dangerous revolutionary. He went to Brussels. In the spring of 1847 Marx and Engels joined a secret propaganda society called the Communist League; they took a prominent part in the League's Second Congress (London, November 1847), at whose request they drew up the celebrated Communist Manifesto, which appeared in February 1848. With the clarity and brilliance of genius, this work outlines a new world-conception, consistent with materialism, which also embrace the realm of social life; dialectics, as the most comprehensive and profound doctrine of development; the theory of the class struggle and of the world-historic revolutionary role of the proletariat -- the creator of a new, communist society.

On the outbreak of the Revolution of February 1848,Marx was banished from Belgium. He returned to Paris, whence, after the March Revolution, he went to Cologne, Germany, where Neue Rheinische Zeitung was published from June 1 1848 to May 19 1849, with Marx as editor-in-chief. The new theory was splendidly confirmed by the course of the revolutionary events of 1848-49, just as it has been subsequently confirmed by all proletarian and democratic movements in all countries of the world. The victorious counter-revolution first instigated court proceedings against Marx (he was acquitted on February 9 1849), and then banished him from Germany (May 16 1849). First Marx went to Paris, was again banished after the demonstration of June 13 1849and then went to London, where he lived until his death.

His life as a political exile was a very hard one, as the correspondence between Marx and Engels (published in 1913) clearly reveals. Poverty weighed heavily on Marx and his family; had it not been for Engels' constant and selfless financial aid, Marx would not only have been unable to complete Capital but would have inevitably have been crushed by want. Moreover, the prevailing doctrines and trends of petty-bourgeois socialism, and of non-proletarian socialism in general, forced Marx to wage a continuous and merciless struggle and sometime to repel the most savage and monstrous personal attacks (Herr Vogt). Marx, who stood aloof from circles of political exiles, developed his materialist theory in a number of historical works (see Bibliography), devoting himself mainly to a study of political economy. Marx revolutionized science (see "The Marxist Doctrine", below) in his Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy(1859) and Capital (Vol. I, 1867).

The revival of the democratic movements in the late fifties and in the sixties recalled Marx to practical activity. In 1864 (September 28) the International Working Men's Association -- the celebrated First International -- was founded in London. Marx was the heart and soul of this organization, and author of its first Addressand of a host of resolutions, declaration and manifestoes. In uniting the labor movement of various forms of non-proletarian, pre-Marxist socialism (Mazzini, Proudhon, Bakunin, liberal trade-unionism in Britain, Lassallean vacillations to the right in Germany, etc.), and in combating the theories of all these sects and schools, Marx hammered out a uniform tactic fort he proletarian struggle of the working in the various countries. Following the downfall of the Paris Commune (1871) -- of which gave such a profound, clear-cut, brilliant effective and revolutionary analysis (The Civil War In France, 1871) -- and the Bakunin-causedcleavage in the International, the latter organization could no longer exist in Europe. After the Hague Congress of the International (1872), Marx had the General Council of the International had played its historical part, and now made way for a period of a far greater development of the labor movement in all countries in the world, a period in which the movement grew in scope, and mass socialist working-class parties in individual national states were formed.

Marx's health was undermined by his strenuous work in the International and his still more strenuous theoretical occupations. He continued work on the refashioning of political economy and on the completion of Capital, for which he collected a mass of new material and studied a number of languages (Russian, for instance). However, ill-health prevented him from completing Capital.

His wife died on December 2 1881 and on March 14 1883 Marx passed away peacefully in his armchair. He lies buried next to his wife at Highgate Cemetery in London. Of Marx's children some died in childhood in London, when the family were living in destitute circumstances. Three daughters married English and French socialists; Eleanor Aveling, Laura Lafargue and Jenny Longuet. The latters' son was a member of the French Socialist Party.

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Q. Who was Frederick Engels?

From V.I. Lenin's brief biography of Engels (Lenin Collected Works, Volume 2, 15–28)

A.  On August 5 (new style), 1895, Frederick Engels died in London. After his friend Karl Marx (who died in 1883), Engels was the finest scholar and teacher of the modern proletariat in the whole civilised world. From the time that fate brought Karl Marx and Frederick Engels together, the two friends devoted their life's work to a common cause. And so to understand what Frederick Engels has done for the proletariat, one must have a clear idea of the significance of Marx's teaching and work for the development of the contemporary working-class movement. Marx and Engels were the first to show that the working class and its demands are a necessary outcome of the present economic system, which together with the bourgeoisie inevitably creates and organises the proletariat. They showed that it is not the well-meaning efforts of noble-minded individuals, but the class struggle of the organised proletariat that will deliver humanity from the evils which now oppress it. In their scientific works, Marx and Engels were the first to explain that socialism is not the invention of dreamers, but the final aim and necessary result of the development of the productive forces in modern society. All recorded history hitherto has been a history of class struggle, of the succession of the rule and victory of certain social classes over others. And this will continue until the foundations of class struggle and of class domination--private property and anarchic social production-- disappear. The interests of the proletariat demand the destruction of these foundations, and therefore the conscious class struggle of the organised workers must be directed against them. And every class struggle is a political struggle.

FrederickEngelsPortraitThese views of Marx and Engels have now been adopted by all proletarians who are fighting for their emancipation. But when in the forties the two friends took part in the socialist literature and the social movements of their time, they were absolutely novel. There were then many people, talented and without talent, honest and dishonest, who, absorbed in the struggle for political freedom, in the struggle against the despotism of kings, police and priests, failed to observe the antagonism between the interests of the bourgeoisie and those of the proletariat. These people would not entertain the idea of the workers acting as an independent social force. On the other hand, there were many dreamers, some of them geniuses, who thought that it was only necessary to convince the rulers and the governing classes of the injustice of the contemporary social order, and it would then be easy to establish peace and general well-being on earth. They dreamt of a socialism without struggle. Lastly, nearly all the socialists of that time and the friends of the working class generally regarded the proletariat only as an ulcer, and observed with horror how t grew with the growth of industry. They all, therefore, sought for a means to stop the development of industry and of the proletariat, to stop the "wheel of history." Marx and Engels did not share the general fear of the development of the proletariat; on the contrary, they placed all their hopes on its continued growth. The more proletarians there are, the greater is their strength as a revolutionary class, and the nearer and more possible does socialism become. The services rendered by Marx and Engels to the working class may be expressed in a few words thus: they taught the working class to know itself and be conscious of itself, and they substituted science for dreams.

That is why the name and life of Engels should be known to every worker. That is why in this collection of articles, the aim of which, as of all our publications, is to awaken class-consciousness in the Russian workers, we must give a sketch of the life and work of Frederick Engels, one of the two great teachers of the modern proletariat.

Engels was born in 1820 in Barmen, in the Rhine Province of the kingdom of Prussia. His father was a manufacturer. In 1838 Engels, without having completed his high-school studies, was forced by family circumstances to enter a commercial house in Bremen as a clerk, Commercial affairs did not prevent Engels from pursuing his scientific and political education. He had come to hate autocracy and the tyranny of bureaucrats while still at high school. The study of philosophy led him further. At that time Hegel's teaching dominated German philosophy, and Engels became his follower. Although Hegel himself was an admirer of the autocratic Prussian state, in whose service he was as a professor at Berlin University, Hegel's teachings were revolutionary. Hegel's faith in human reason and its rights, and the fundamental thesis of Hegelian philosophy that the universe is undergoing a constant process of change and development, led some of the disciples of the Berlin philosopher--those who refused to accept the existing situation --to the idea that the struggle against this situation, the struggle against existing wrong and prevalent evil, is also rooted in the universal law of eternal development. If all things develop, if institutions of one kind give place to others, why should the autocracy of the Prussian king or of the Russian tsar, the enrichment of an insignificant minority at the expense of the vast majority, or the domination of the bourgeoisie over the people, continue for ever? Hegel's philosophy spoke of the development of the mind and of ideas; it was idealistic. From the development of the mind it deduced the development of nature, of man, and of human, social relations. While retaining Hegel's idea of the eternal process of development,* [* Marx and Engels frequently pointed out that in their intellectual development they were much indebted to the great German philosophers, particularly to Hegel. "Without German philosophy," Engels says, "scientific socialism would never have come into being."] Marx and Engels rejected the preconceived idealist view; turning to life, they saw that it is not the development of mind that explains the development of nature but that, on the contrary, the explanation of mind must be derived from nature, from matter.... Unlike Hegel and the other Hegelians, Marx and Engels were materialists. Regarding the world and humanity materialistically, they perceived that just as material causes underlie all natural phenomena; so the development of human society is conditioned by the development of material forces, the productive forces. On the development of the productive forces depend the relations into which men enter with one another in the production of the things required for the satisfaction of human needs. And in these relations lies the explanation of all the phenomena of social life, human aspirations, ideas and laws. The development of the productive forces creates social relations based upon private property, but now we see that this same development of the productive forces deprives the majority of their property and concentrates it in the hands of an insignificant minority. It abolishes property, the basis of the modern social order, it itself strives towards the very aim which the socialists have set themselves. All the socialists have to do is to realise which social force, owing to its position in modern society, is interested in bringing socialism about, and to impart to this force the consciousness of its interests and of its historical task. This force is the proletariat. Engels got to know the proletariat in England, in the centre of English industry, Manchester, where he settled in 1842, entering the service of a commercial firm of which his father was a shareholder. Here Engels not only sat in the factory office but wandered about the slums in which the workers were cooped up, and saw their poverty and misery with his own eyes. But he did not confine himself to personal observations. He read all that had been revealed before him about the condition of the British working class and carefully studied all the official documents he could lay his hands on. The fruit of these studies and observations was the book which appeared in 1845: The Condition of the Working Class in England. We have already mentioned what was tile chief service rendered by Engels in writing The Condition of the Working Class in England. Even before Engels, many people had described the sufferings of the proletariat and had pointed to the necessity of helping it. Engels was the first to say that the proletariat is not only a suffering class; that it is, in fact, the disgraceful economic condition of the proletariat that drives it irresistibly forward and compels it to fight for its ultimate emancipation. And the fighting proletariat will help itself. The political movement of the working class will inevitably lead the workers to realise that their only salvation lies in socialism. On the other hand, socialism will become a force only when it becomes the aim of the political struggle of the working class. Such are the main ideas of Engels' book on the condition of the working class in England, ideas which have now been adopted by all thinking and fighting proletarians, but which at that time were entirely new. These ideas were set out in a book written in absorbing style and filled with most authentic and shocking pictures of the misery of the English proletariat. The book was a terrible indictment of capitalism and the bourgeoisie and created a profound impression. Engels' book began to be quoted everywhere as presenting the best picture of the condition of the modern proletariat. And, in fact, neither before 1845 nor after has there appeared so striking and truthful a picture of the misery of the working class.

It was not until he came to England that Engels became a socialist. In Manchester he established contacts with people active in the English labour movement at the time and began to write for English socialist publications. In 1844, while on his way back to Germany. he became acquainted in Paris with Marx, with whom he had already started to correspond. In Paris, under the influence of the French socialists and French life, Marx had also become a socialist. Here the friends jointly wrote a book entitled The Holy Family, or Critique of Critical Critique. This book, which appeared a year before The Condition of the Working Class in England, and the greater part of which was written by Marx, contains the foundations of revolutionary materialist socialism, the main ideas of which we have expounded above. "The holy family" is a facetious nickname for the Bauer brothers, the philosophers, and their followers. These gentlemen preached a criticism which stood above all reality, above parties and politics, which rejected all practical activity, and which only "critically" contemplated the surrounding world and the events going on within it. These gentlemen, the Bauers, looked down on the proletariat as an uncritical mass. Marx and Engels vigorously opposed this absurd and harmful tendency. In the name of a real, human person--the worker, trampled down by the ruling classes and the state--they demanded, not contemplation, but a struggle for a better order of society. They, of course, regarded the proletariat as the force that is capable of waging this struggle and that is interested in it. Even before the appearance of The Holy Family, Engels had published in Marx's and Ruge's Deutsch-Franzosische Jahrblicher his "Critical Essays on Political Economy," in which he examined the principal phenomena of the contemporary economic order from a socialist standpoint, regarding them as necessary consequences of the rule of private property.. Contact with Engels was undoubtedly a factor in Marx's decision to study political economy, the science in which his works have produced a veritable revolution.

From 1845 to 1847 Engels lived in Brussels and Paris, combining scientific work with practical activities among the German workers in Brussels and Paris. Here Marx and Engels established contact with the secret German Communist League, which commissioned them to expound the main principles of the socialism they had worked out. Thus arose the famous Manifesto of the Communist Party of Marx and Engels, published in 1848. This little booklet is worth whole volumes: to this day its spirit inspires and guides the entire organised and fighting proletariat of the civilised world.

The revolution of 1848, which broke out first in France and then spread to other West-European countries, brought Marx and Engels back to their native country. Here, in Rhenish Prussia, they took charge of the democratic Neue Rheinische Zeitung published in Cologne. The two friends were the heart and soul of all revolutionary-democratic aspirations in Rhenish Prussia. They fought to the last ditch in defence of freedom and of the interests of the people against the forces of reaction. The latter, as we know, gained the upper hand. The Neue Rheinische Zeitung was suppressed. Marx, who during his exile had lost his Prussian citizenship, was deported; Engels took part in the armed popular uprising, fought for liberty in three battles, and after the defeat of the rebels fled, via Switzerland, to London.

Marx also settled in London. Engels soon became a clerk again, and then a shareholder, in the Manchester commercial firm in which he had worked in the forties. Until 1870 he lived in Manchester, while Marx lived in London, but this did not prevent their maintaining a most lively interchange of ideas: they corresponded almost daily. In this correspondence the two friends exchanged views and discoveries and continued to collaborate in working out scientific socialism. In 1870 Engels moved to London, and their joint intellectual life, of the most strenuous nature, continued until 1883, when Marx died. Its fruit was, on Marx's side, Capital, the greatest work on political economy of our age, and on Engels' side, a number of works both large and small. Marx worked on the analysis of the complex phenomena of capitalist economy. Engels, in simply written works, often of a polemical character, dealt with more general scientific problems and with diverse phenomena of the past and present in the spirit of the materialist conception of history and Marx's economic theory. Of Engels' works we shall mention the polemical work against Duhring (analysing highly important problems in the domain of philosophy, natural science and the social sciences),* [* This is a wonderfully rich and instructive book. Unfortunately, only a small portion of it, containing a historical outline of the development of socialism, has been translated into Russian (The Development of Scientific Socialism, 2nd ed., Geneva, 1892).] The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (translated into Russian, published in St. Petersburg, 3rd ed., 1895), Ludwig Feuerbach (Russian translation and notes by G. Plekhanov, Geneva, 1892),  an article on the foreign policy of the Russian Government (translated into Russian in the Geneva Sotsial-Demokrat, Nos. 1 and 2), splendid articles on the housing question, and finally, two small but very valuable articles on Russia's economic development (Frederick Engels on Russia, translated into Russian by Zasulich, Geneva, 1894). Marx died before he could put the final touches to his vast work on capital. The draft, however, was already finished, and after the death of his friend, Engels undertook the onerous task of preparing and publishing the second and the third volumes of Capital. He published Volume II in 1885 and Volume III in 1894 (his death prevented the preparation of Volume IV). These two volumes entailed a vast amount of labour. Adler, the Austrian Social-Democrat, has rightly remarked that by publishing volumes II and III of Capital Engels erected a majestic monument to the genius who had been his friend, a monument on which, without intending it, he indelibly carved his own name. Indeed these two volumes of Capital are the work of two men: Marx and Engels. Old legends contain various moving instances of friendship. The European proletariat may say that its science was created by two scholars and fighters, whose relationship to each other surpasses the most moving stories of the ancients about human friendship. Engels always--and, on the whole, quite justly--placed himself after Marx. "In Marx's lifetime," he wrote to an old friend, "I played second fiddle."His love for the living Marx, and his reverence for the memory of the dead Marx were boundless. This stern fighter and austere thinker possessed a deeply loving soul.

After the movement of 1848-49, Marx and Engels in exile did not confine themselves to scientific research. In 1864 Marx founded the International Working Men's Association, and led this society for a whole decade. Engels also took an active part in its affairs. The work of the International Association, which, in accordance with Marx's idea, united proletarians of all countries, was of tremendous significance in the development of the working-class movement. But even with the closing down of the International Association in the seventies, the unifying role of Marx and Engels did not cease. On the contrary, it may be said that their importance as the spiritual leaders of the working-class movement grew continuously, because the movement itself grew uninterruptedly. After the death of Marx, Engels continued alone as the counsellor and leader of the European socialists. His advice and directions were sought for equally by the German socialists, whose strength, despite government persecution, grew rapidly and steadily, and by representatives of backward countries, such as the Spaniards, Rumanians and Russians, who were obliged to ponder and weigh their first steps. They all drew on the rich store of knowledge and experience of Engels in his old age.

Marx and Engels, who both knew Russian and read Russian books, took a lively interest in the country, followed the Russian revolutionary movement with sympathy and maintained contact with Russian revolutionaries. They both became socialists alter being democrats, and the democratic feeling of hatred for political despotism was exceedingly strong in them. This direct political feeling, combined with a profound theoretical understanding of the connection between political despotism and economic oppression, and also their rich experience of life, made Marx and Engels uncommonly responsive politically. That is why the heroic struggle of the handful of Russian revolutionaries against the mighty tsarist government evoked a most sympathetic echo in the hearts of these tried revolutionaries. On the other hand, the tendency, for the sake of illusory economic advantages, to turn away from the most immediate and important task of the Russian socialists, namely, the winning of political freedom, naturally appeared suspicious to them and was even regarded by them as a direct betrayal of the great cause of the social revolution. "The emancipation of the workers must be the act of the working class itself"--Marx and Engels constantly taught. But in order to fight for its economic emancipation, the proletariat must win itself certain political rights. Moreover, Marx and Engels clearly saw that a political revolution in Russia would be of tremendous significance-to the West-European working-class movement as well. Autocratic Russia had always been a bulwark of European reaction in general. The extraordinarily favourable international position enjoyed by Russia as a result of the war of 1870, which for a long time sowed discord between Germany and France, of course only enhanced the importance of autocratic Russia as a reactionary force. Only a free Russia, a Russia that had no need either to oppress the Poles, Finns, Germans, Armenians or any other small nations, or constantly to set France and Germany at loggerheads, would enable modern Europe, rid of the burden of war, to breathe freely, would weaken all the reactionary elements in Europe and strengthen the European working class. That was why Engels ardently desired the establishment of political freedom in Russia for the sake of the progress of the working-class movement in the West as well. In him the Russian revolutionaries have lost their best friend.

Let us always honor the memory of Frederick Engels, a great fighter and teacher of the proletariat!

What a torch of reason ceased to burn, What heart has ceased to beat!

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