From Leftypedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

This is a general FAQ about Marxist communism.


The Basics and Myths[edit]

What is Communism?[edit]

"Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence."[1]

Communism is the movement to overthrow capital, therefore it's politics is firmly rooted in the current conditions of capitalism. It is not a society schematic, nor is it an 'ideal to be achieved'.

Why has communism always failed everywhere?[edit]

Given the history most of us are familiar with, it would seem that 'communist states' or states headed by communist parties have resulted in an endless supply of mass murder, misery, and relapse back to capitalism. On the question whether the USSR was a successful socialist state or not, leftists widely disagree with one another. Nevertheless, leftists tend to agree on the historical facts, disputes mainly consisting in the interpretation of them. Many often cited statistics, such as those in the Black Book of Communism, are known to be based on sloppy research and therefore criticised by contemporary communists.

The reasons for the eventual failure of the Russian revolution are complex. Depending on whom you ask, the failure may have begun at any point in the history of the Union. Many left communists will blame Lenin, most Trotskyists will blame Stalin, most anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninists will blame Khrushchev, et cetera. Marxists often summarise these reasons by saying the material conditions weren't there yet, since Russia wasn't a highly developed capitalist economy. In the early years of USSR, it was assumed that there would be a revolution in Germany to provide these conditions, but this revolution was unsuccessful.

Once the Russian revolution had consolidated, the methods and theories of Lenin and Stalin were exported. Stalin's theory of Marxism-Leninism was used to establish regimes in China, Eastern Europe, Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba, Laos, Cambodia, Madagascar, Angola, Ethiopia, Somalia, Mozambique, and Benin. In some cases, these communists arrived to power via a coup, meaning no Marxist social revolution had taken place. If one regards 20th century communism as a failure, one must regard the Russian Revolution as the only failed proletarian revolution (and its proletarian character is disputed). The aforementioned regimes were all simply an extension of this one alleged failure.

Whatever one's opinion of the USSR, its history shows that even a Marxist-Leninist model can know considerable successes. Soviet Russia managed to industrialize at a speed that was unheard of before that time, enabling it to defeat the Nazis during the Second World War. As is always the case with industrialization, this came at a considerable human cost. Whatever your judgement of their efficiency, history clearly shows us that planned economies are basically functional, even without modern information processing and communication technology.

Beyond this, realise that one can accept Marxism without accepting orthodox Marxist communism. There are many other communist ideologies, of which a large portion agrees with the Marxist analysis of capitalism while disagreeing with its methods. Discussions between different leftist tendencies can get quite heated, and we hope that you can get a sense of them by reading this site.

Why isn't the USSR an example of a "communist state"?[edit]

Although there is considerable disagreement on the successes and failures of the USSR within Marxism, the vast majority of Marxists will agree on one thing: The USSR was not a communist state.

Right-wing propagandists are eager to paint the rejection of the USSR as communist as a "No True Scotsman" fallacy. It is, however, inaccurate to state that communists claim that it wasn't "true communism" or "impure communism." The Soviet Union wasn't "not true communism", it wasn't communist at all. There had been no sufficient qualitative change from capitalism to refer to it that way.

The "No True Scotsman" fallacy does not apply to situations where there's a clear canonical definition. Within Marxism-Leninism, communism is defined as a classless, stateless, moneyless society where the means of production are under common ownership. They do not articulate an ideal of communist society based on rationality or morality but based on a materialist analysis. This dictates that communism will be based on directly social labour, and therefore will not have commodity production, currency, wage-labour, etc.

Thus the USSR can at best be regarded a state aiming to establish communism and failing to do so. It is also often referred to as early-stage socialism or a dictatorship of the proletariat (note that dictatorship here does not carry the modern implications).

Communism killed 100 million people, why give it another chance?[edit]

Let's be clear in what we're talking about. Socioeconomic systems cannot directly kill people - only people kill people. Socioeconomic systems such as communism only decide how humans interact and live with each other - in this case: Without state, money, or class. As such, one can make the claim that the communist socioeconomic system encourages whatever choice is the more deadly one - therefore killing people, in a sense. Or at least encouraging their murder.

But even following such a line of argument, communism could not have possibly encouraged 100 million avoidable deaths, as it has never existed (excluding pre-historic communism as it was pre-historic and not documented). What has been attempted and depending on who you ask also existed, is socialism. The claim that socialism encouraged the murder of 100 million people is a different and already much more plausible claim.

To arrive at the number of 100 million a lot of miscalculation and dishonesty is needed, for instance the inclusion of killed Nazi soldiers from World War II. For an elaborate debunking of this statistic, read our page on the Black Book of Communism.

Every system caused death and suffering by encouraging certain choices, the question now is which one encouraged less. For this we will look at how many people die due to choices based on the short-term profit motive that capitalism encourages, and will then count this as the victims of capitalism: Gentrification, unlivable wages, lack of affordable healthcare, clean water, and others are all forms of structural violence in the form of unnecessary poverty practised by capitalism. It keeps people worldwide in systemic poverty for short-term profit through various ways, and a study found that 18 million people die due to such structural violence each year. [2] Following this source, capitalism has killed around 3 1/2 times more just in the 21st century than "communism" has in the entire 20th century.

This does not even take into account the harm done to minorities through the rise of white supremacy, "incelism", and other reactionary thought as a reaction to the failing capitalist system. Then there's also all the child slaves, coin wage workers, and horrible living and working conditions during the Industrial Revolution all across Europe before the 21st century, or genocide of Native Americans done in the name of colonization - or in other words imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism. Speaking of imperialism: The U.S. has killed 20 million in it's foreign wars since World War II.[3] These were and are all imperialist wars waged in the name of short-term profit and to protect it's power in those regions.

And let us not forget man-made climate change with incalculable financial but most importantly human cost, which we're only facing because of the economic power imbalances with the corruption it brings - best shown by the U.S. being an oligarchy[4] - and endless growth needed to sustain capitalism. Meanwhile, according to WWF, Cuba - an officially socialist country - is the only one with sustainable development in the entire world.[5]

Capitalism has already far exceeded even the highest death toll attributed to socialism - or "communism" - and it will only rise if we do not act.

Alright, but why now?[edit]

Many of it's failures in the past were due to the material conditions surrounding it. All started out economically inferior to their capitalist counterparts (including the GDR/"East Germany"), most had to rapidly industrialize within decades just to not be crushed from the outside - compared to the centuries capitalist countries had time to do the same -, and all were constantly sabotaged from both inside and outside. Industrialization for example, which is what caused most of the famine, would be necessary when transitioning from a developed capitalist economy. Further, if we adjust the economic development of socialist countries their physical quality of life is always better than that of capitalist countries, a study showed.[6]

Another ticking time bomb, besides man-made climate change, is automation. It will only benefit those holding economic power, the means of production, the capitalists owning the technology. They will be able to force to compete workers for even less jobs as others are being done through automation (some new ones will be created as well but as with every technological advancement, not as many as are being lost). This will put more and more pressure on the employed workers, since they can be easier replaced any time as the pool of unemployed workers increases. Or, alternatively the amount of so-called bullshit jobs increases. In both scenarios alienation and therefore suicide will be higher, and in the former more people will be freezing to death on the streets. Either way, automation will create another crisis under capitalism, because your boss will replace you with a robot. Under socialism however, the technology for automation will be in social ownership, therefore bringing benefits to society as a whole. Under socialism it will not create a crisis, because there is no boss - you work alongside the robot, you don't compete but help each other. This is why we need to give communism/socialism another chance.

Can you show a successful example of communism?[edit]

There has never been a communist society. Communism is necessarily global and based on the complete negation of the law of value and commodity production, only after which the alienation of capitalist society ceases to exist.

There have been countries in the past that claimed to have been socialist and moving towards communism. A study of the physical quality of life adjusted for economic development showed better results for socialist than capitalist countries. [6]

What is Marxism?[edit]

There are many readings of Marxism, and these may be referred to as separate Marxisms. They share in common that they're all materialist critiques of capitalism. Marxism is distinct from Marxist communism, the former being a series of analyses of capitalism, and the latter a series of political ideologies.

What are Marxist economics?[edit]

Was Marx a philosopher?[edit]

"Feuerbach is the only one who has a serious, critical attitude to the Hegelian dialectic and who has made genuine discoveries in this field. He is, in fact, the true conqueror of the old philosophy. The extent of his achievement, and the unpretentious simplicity with which he, Feuerbach, gives it to the world, stand in striking contrast to the opposite attitude [of the others]. Feuerbach’s great achievement is: (1) The proof that philosophy is nothing else but religion rendered into thought and expounded by thought, i.e., another form and manner of existence of the estrangement of the essence of man; hence equally to be condemned; (2) The establishment of true materialism and of real science, by making the social relationship of “man to man” the basic principle of the theory; (3) His opposing to the negation of the negation, which claims to be the absolute positive, the self-supporting positive, positively based on itself."[7]

Marx was not a philosopher in any traditional sense. He was a severe critic of philosophy. This does not change that his writings might have powerful philosophical implications.

Is Marxism necessarily atheistic?[edit]

It is commonly thought Marx himself was an outspoken atheist who harshly criticised religion, usually referring back to his quote about religion being the "opium of the people". However, this is not the case. It is true Marx was not religious and didn't support belief in religions, but his standpoint wasn't a crude assertion of God's non-existence, as is professed by most modern atheists. To Marxists, current religion has to be understood as symptomatic of material conditions, and can only be countered by critiquing and changing them. Marx believed this would naturally lead to a loss of religious dogma. He considered it deeply arrogant to directly attack people's belief in the supernatural.

"The basis of religious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet found himself or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being encamped outside the world. Man is the world of man, the state, society. This state, this society, produce religion, an inverted world-consciousness because they are an inverted world...

To abolish religion as the illusory happiness of the people is to demand their real happiness. The demand to give up illusions about the existing state of affairs is the demand to give up a state of affairs which needs illusions. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of the vale of tears, the halo of which is religion."[8]

Religion develops as an inverted world-consciousness because people are living in an inverted world. Tormented by their everyday lives in capitalist society, full of alienation, exploitation, poverty, and suffering causes people to aspire to an imagined happiness. Religion provides the promise of relief from this everyday hell in a proposed "true world", heaven. This meets the interests of the ruling class, who will promote such beliefs to keep workers from revolting.

As citizens of the western world will readily attest, late-stage capitalism involves a rapid vanishing of religious beliefs. The new conditions of life, although still exploitative, no longer lend to it. People who stick to their religious identity no longer observe it to any meaningful degree. While it is more difficult to perceive, orthodox Marxists will claim that similar changes are happening in other developing regions. Outbursts of Islamic terrorism only occur because of the conflict between dwindling actual belief, and the importance of religion to their community identity, which is seen as threatened by the atheist west.

In abolishing the destructive forces of capital, communism will abolish the conditions which necessitate the imagined happiness of an afterlife, and allows the free full development of the individual to take place. It can be concluded from this that Marxism is not inherently atheistic and does not seek to attack religion. The "opium of the people" quote is often taken out of context. Opium was a popular painkiller at the time. What Marx meant is that religion offers relief from some greater distress in a similar way to opium. Marxism is practical-critical when it comes to religion, the real critique of religion relies on a materialist analysis of why it is necessary for people to believe in God. It makes no judgement on the metaphysical validity of religious doctrine.

"All religions so far have been the expression of historical stages of development of individual peoples or groups of peoples. But communism is the stage of historical development which makes all existing religions superfluous and brings about their disappearance"[9]

If you wish to follow Marxism without abandoning your religious beliefs, this is certainly possible. Critique of religion is only a small part of the Marxist analysis of history, and the idea that religion will disappear after the establishment of communism is even smaller. Who knows, maybe the abolition of capitalism will mean an upsurge in authentic spirituality.

Isn't Marxism like a religion?[edit]

As explained in the previous answer, religion is an abstraction of human consciousness manifested because of the need to escape real suffering. Religion comes from the material circumstances that create society. Marxism, however, is a material analysis of the conditions of existence. Marxism does not promise imagined happiness like religion, it proposes a real, material liberation of the oppressed. It doesn't draw out a path to salvation based on devotion to some divine entity or personal meditation, but only through a real world struggle against the material conditions of your society. Nor does it prescribe a certain way of living or a moral theory, like all religions inevitably do, it begins from your material interests and builds upon them, leaving the moral system you want to follow entirely open to you.

What are the different types of Marxists?[edit]

When people talk about "types of Marxists", what is usually referred to is the interpretation, application or theoretical addition by another Marxist thinker, all summarized by a label for a certain tendency. Though it is also possible to categorize Marxists differently as shown in the last paragraph.

As soon explained, Marxists don't entirely agree on this, but Leninism is seen as either the application of Marxist theory to Russia during the time Vladimir Lenin wrote his theories, or as it's own body of new theories applicable to a new stage of capitalism known as imperialism. Some argue that Lenin's theories were big enough of a contribution to consider it it's own ideology, while others think it is merely an application of Marxism to that certain country at a certain time. Marxism-Leninism, then, is the interpretation of Marx' and Lenin's theories by Stalin, which he wrote a book about called The Foundations of Leninism. There is also Trotskyism based on the theories of Leon Trotsky, who stood in opposition of Stalin during his time. Mao Zedong thought only refers to the theories written by Mao Zedong, while Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is the combination of Marxist, Leninist, and Maoist theories.

In the other direction, Lenin has been criticized by Rosa Luxemburg in a critical, but constructive letter exchange. This has been called Luxemburgism by some. Libertarian Marxism is a term referring to an interpretation of Marxism that attempts to separate itself from interpretations of it that it deems authoritarian - such as those of Lenin, Stalin, or Mao - while viewing itself as libertarian - hence the name. There are more smaller tendencies that could be seen as a subcategory of libertarian Marxism as well, such as autonomous Marxism (it focuses on the autonomy of the individual), but this should be enough to give an overview over the major tendencies of Marxism.

But another, though rarely used way to categorize "types of Marxists" is by field in which they study Marxism and it's theories: There are philosophical Marxists that are mostly interested in Marxist philosophy, economic Marxists/Marxian economists who focus on it's economics, feminist Marxists analyzing how economic systems influenced and influence relations between and societal norms about gender and sexuality using Marxist theories, etc. This includes not only what Marx or Engels themselves had to say about these things or what something would look like under socialism and later communism, but also a Marxist analysis of our current world with it's new events and a refining of Marxist theory.

Marxist Theory[edit]

Marxist 'economics'[edit]

What is Value?[edit]

See also: Law of value

Why is Labour the source of value?[edit]

What is generalised commodity production?[edit]

What is Capital?[edit]

What is the Law of Value?[edit]

Marxist Theory (Other/Misc)[edit]


What is the Proletariat?[edit]

Main article: Proletariat

In Capitalism, the proletariat is the social class directly exploited by the bourgeois through wage labor. While the proletariat is often considered simply a manual factory laborer, other occupations paid in wages can be considered proletarian, such as farmers.

The proletariat is exploited by a number of factors. Firstly, he must labor for a capitalist in order to use the means of production to make a living, as almost all the means of production are privately owned, even land, which is most difficult to justify private ownership of, something even Adam Smith attested to.[18] Secondly, via wage labor, the proletariat is paid less than the true value of his labor to the capitalist in order for the capitalist to profit. Finally, the proletariat must also buy products from the capitalist, as despite having labored to make them, he does not determine their fate.

The proletariat must also suffer alienation from the commodities he produces, since as mentioned above, he produces them not for his or society's benefit, but for that of his masters.[10]

What is "Prole Drift?[edit]

"Prole Drift" is the tendency for stratas of the petit bourgeois to fall into the proletariat during times of economic hardship, as when he goes out of business, the one occupation most readily available for him is a manual laborer of some sort, as everyone's most basic skill is labor.

Marx originally thought that the proletariat would only increase in number while the petit bourgeois fell into their ranks over time as Prole Drift occurred, but in actuality, the middle class increased over time, an error he addressed in his Theories of Surplus Value[11]

What is the lumpenproletariat?[edit]

Main article: Lumpenproletariat

To Marx, the lumpenproletariat is the social class below even the proletariat, in that it is alienated completely from society, and cannot even gain normal employment. Lumpenproletarians consists of criminals, prostitutes, deserters, gangsters, and other outcasts of society. However others use the term as a general reference to the class of society that both produces nothing and owns nothing, which in extention to the above examples includes police officers and soldiers.

Marx looked down on the lumpenproletariat, translating it as the the "dangerous class” in the Communist Manifesto describing them as "the social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of the old society, may, here and there, be swept into the movement by a proletarian revolution; its conditions of life, however, prepare it far more for the part of a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue."[12] This was in contrast to Proudhon and Bakunin, founders of modern anarchism who saw revolutionary potential in the lumpenproletaiat.

Why is only the proletariat considered a revolutionary agent?[edit]

Every stage of historical development has a revolutionary class. For feudalism, the stage prior to capitalism (at least in western Europe), it was the bourgeois and petit bourgeois that were the revolutionary classes, ushering in liberal capitalism. In the age of liberal capitalism, it is the proletariat that is the revolutionary class. This is for a number of reasons, as listed below:

It is usually only the exploited, dispossessed class that is interested in its emancipation. While the petit bourgeois and to a much lesser extent the bourgeois may hold sympathies for it (as in the case of Friedrich Engels). Usually the upper and middle classes will fight against socialism. However, there are still cases in which the petit bourgeois will side with the proletariat in a socialist revolution, usually when it is dispossessed as well, as in the Paris Commune of 1871.

The proletariat is usually the best-educated and "conscious" of the dispossessed classes, as compared to peasantry (an almost extinct class now, but one worth mentioning for historical purposes), who were often illiterate, apathetic, deeply conservative, or a combination of all three flaws. During the July Revolution in France, for instance, it was the large, conservative masses of peasantry that elected Louis Napoleon, a reactionary Bonapartist dictator. The proletariat, being the product of industrialized, modern society, is literate, well-informed, and usually center-left politically. There are few cases of a revolutionary peasantry, save that of Revolutionary early 20th century Russia, but such peasantry is less literate and at least partially unsympathetic to socialism. Much of the peasantry of Russia were quite apathetic to social revolution, and reportedly cared very little when the Bolsheviks seized power.

When a "vanguard party" opts to lead the revolution, the result may be a party dictatorship alienated from the masses. This may be part of the explanation for the failure of 20th century communist parties.


What is the Bourgeoisie?[edit]

Main article: Bourgeoisie

Whereas the proletariat is the subject, exploited, disposed class in capitalist society, the bourgeoisie is the master, exploitative, and possessor class. The bourgeois own the means of production and the means of living, including, but not limited to: Factories, farmland, workshops, offices, and even housing. Obviously, the proletariat and bourgeois stand in direct opposition to one another, with differences irreconcilable, which is why any reform can only come at the benefit of one class and the expense of the other.

Historically, the bourgeois emerged as artisans and petty tradesman during the late stages of feudalism, and from there clashed with their rivals, the landlords of the estates. Feudal states were often physiocratic, preventing the bourgeois from industrializing (Marx details this hypocritical struggle in his second manuscript of his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844.[13]), as well as protectionist, preventing the bourgeois from gaining wealth through foreign trade. Bourgeois revolutions throughout the 18th and 19th centuries in Western Europe and the Americas almost destroyed feudalism, ushering in liberal capitalism.

What is the Petite Bourgeoisie?[edit]

Main article: Petite Bourgeoisie

The petite bourgeoisie (also petty bourgeoisie) is the earliest and most populous strata of the bourgeoisie, being artisans and petty tradesmen throughout history. Their primary difference from the bourgeoisie is that (1.) they perform ordinary labour in their own shop, and (2.) they either do not employ workers or do not employ them large scale, although many continuously strive to grow to a point where they can. They are sometimes an ally to the proletariat, as under capitalism, they repeatedly fall into the proletariat during economic crises.

Is Marxist communism authoritarian?[edit]

See also: Authoritarianism

Communism stands in opposition to authoritarian social structures such as racism, sexism, and so on. As a transitional phase to communist society it supports the dictatorship of the proletariat, which would involve among other features the election of all representatives of the public order based on universal suffrage. It stands for the achievement of a social order based on social equality - communist society, and the eventual destruction of the state.

Certain ideologies have defined Marxist communism as authoritarian. For instance, anarchists argue that certain methods used by Marxist communists, such as the workers' state, are authoritarian. Bakunin argued that the workers' state would suffer from the same problems as the bourgeois state. He warned in his State and Anarchism that workers, "once they become rulers or representatives of the people, cease to be workers. And from the heights of the State they being to look down upon the toiling people. From that time on they represent not the people but themselves and their own claims to govern the people. Those who doubt this know precious little about human nature."[14] Marx however, pointed out that "If Mr. Bakunin were au courant, be it only with the position of a manger in a worker's cooperative, he would send all his nightmares about authority to the devil."

A good solution to the famous rhetorical question Bakunin proposed, "Over whom will the proletariat rule?" in the dictatorship of the proletariat, would be the democratic election of all officials, as well as the ability to recall them. In Marx's article, The Civil War In France, where he describes the Paris Commune (a shortly-lived city-state that Marx considered as having been an example of a dictatorship of the proletariat), he also details their system of government. He explains that the commune was run by "...municipal councillors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town, responsible and revocable at short terms. The majority of its members were naturally working men, or acknowledged representatives of the working class. The Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary body, executive and legislative at the same time."[15] Not to mention that, according to Marx, the question was based off of a straw man interpretation of the "elevation of the proletariat from working class to ruling class," as all this really means is that the proletariat is in the position to use the mechanisms of the state in the form of force or coercion so as to win its battles. The day will not come when a worker can simply bark out orders to non-worker passerby on the street.

But the dictatorship of the proletariat does not just ensure universal suffrage for the proletariat, but also worker freedom from the repressive organs of the state. In the article mentioned above, Marx goes on to describe the commune's attitude towards the army, police, and church. "The first decree of the Commune, therefore," he writes. "was the suppression of the standing army, and the substitution for it of the armed people" (this however, arguably led to the commune's destruction, as the commune could only muster a small portion of its army for its defense). As for the police, "Instead of continuing to be the agent of the Central Government, the police was at once stripped of its political attributes, and turned into the responsible, and at all times revocable, agent of the Commune." Yet that was not enough, and "Having once got rid of the standing army and the police – the physical force elements of the old government – the Commune was anxious to break the spiritual force of repression, the “parson-power", by the disestablishment and disendowment of all churches as proprietary bodies. The priests were sent back to the recesses of private life, there to feed upon the alms of the faithful in imitation of their predecessors, the apostles."

The common misconception of communism as authoritarian really comes from the despotism and treason committed by certain Marxists throughout history. At the same time, the erroneous conception of socialism as being the democratic alternative to communism[16] comes in part from intellectual laziness allowing only a few weary glances at the Communist Manifesto and the ideology of various "Socialist" governments in Europe and Canada.

Marxist communism is distinguished from anarchism in that Marxist communism does not reject the authority of, for instance, the workers' state. Whether this is 'authoritarian' or not depends on which ideological current or tendency is being considered. While anarchists nominally reject such authority, Marxist communists argue that in practice they have established their own workers' states, or similar, and in certain cases even protected or participated in the bourgeois state.

Is Marxism Libertarian?[edit]

This is a difficult question to answer, as how "Libertarian" Marxism can be described as depends largely on how one sees the Libertarian/Authoritarian dichotomy.

As mentioned above, Marxism is in opposition to traditional authoritarian social structures, but some aspects of Marxism may be described as "authoritarian" (or at least, non-libertarian). For instance, the very essence of Marxian social revolution is the forcible (but not necessarily violent) overthrow of the existing social system. This is to be carried out by the majority, so it is certainly not undemocratic, but the ruling classes of the old regime are to be defeated and suppressed against their will.

This does not mean that it cannot be described as Libertarian, however, as many Libertarian socialist groups throughout history have considered themselves "Libertarian," but have engaged in practices of suppression and coercion. During the Spanish Civil War, for instance, Libertarian socialists suppressed the church and its representatives, sometimes through violence. This was arguably justified as churches were spreading right-wing sentiment through the population. Yet, if one were to defined "Libertarianism" as opposition to such methods, then they could not qualify as libertarian.

There is a tendency of Marxism called libertarian Marxism which holds that individual freedom is the ultimate goal and center of Marxism. This is supported particularly by the following statement by the Communist League (a group of early German communists that Marx and Engels joined) in their journal, shortly before they published Marx and Engel's famed Communist Manifesto:

We are not among those communists who are out to destroy personal liberty, who wish to turn the world into one huge barrack or into a gigantic workhouse. There certainly are some communists who, with an easy conscience, refuse to countenance personal liberty and would like to shuffle it out of the world because they consider that it is a hindrance to complete harmony. But we have no desire to exchange freedom for equality. We are convinced that in no social order will freedom be assured as in a society based upon communal ownership.

The "communist who are out to destroy personal liberty" that they are referring to were the likes of Louis Auguste Blanqui, or "Blanquists," who sought to destroy capitalism by overthrowing it, like the Communist League, but after doing so, establish a closed dictatorship of the few that had participated in the revolution, or rather coup. Such a strategy was referred to as Putschism, coming from the French word Putsch, or coup. Marx and Engels were critical of this method, and in the early days of the communist movement sometimes refereed to themselves as "German Democratic Communists" so as to distinguish themselves from the Putschists.

While the vast majority of Marxists agree that Marxism must not be considered undemocratic, some disagree with the libertarian Marxist claim that freedom is at the center of Marxism, as their are arguably both "authoritarian" and "libertarian" notions in Marxism, as pointed out above. Also popular is the analysis that the categories of "libertarian" and "authoritarian" are bourgeois notions that serve to uphold the capitalist system.

In conclusion, we cannot provide a definite answer to this question, save that it is up to the reader based off of his own conceptions of Libertarianism and Marxism.

What is the Marxist view on the state?[edit]

See also: State, Dictatorship of the proletariat

Marxists view the state not so much as a means of administering society (as even "stateless" communism will have means of administering society), but rather as an organ of class rule.

Is the capitalist state not a neutral arbiter?[edit]

In liberal ideology the bourgeois democratic state is, or should be, a neutral arbiter of justice that doesn't discriminate on the basis of class, religion, descent, and so forth. This weaves in nicely with methodological individualism. Each individual is judged purely on the merits of his character, leaving aside the context of structurally asymmetrical power relations, domination and subjugation -- therefore equating the oppressor and oppressed. This aside, we will make a case for why the capitalist state is structurally bend to the interests of the capital at the expense of labour.

Why does communism need to be international?[edit]

Proletarian internationalism is a pillar of communism. The objective and material basis for proletarian internationalism is the global socialisation of labour. A certain trend in socialism may promote self-reliant countries, proposing withdrawal from the imperialist world system, but this is often considered utopian and reactionary by the larger communist movement, undermining the objective basis for proletarian internationalism.

The current global division of labour necessitates a revolution of a corresponding scope. Lithium needs to be extracted from Bolivia and Australia to produce batteries for Sweden. Should one revolutionary territory face isolation it will be compelled to presume external trade relations and hence the penetration of the law of value into this territory. Capitalism will force its stamp on this isolated revolutionary territory. This does not mean that internally planned economies ruled by the working class wouldn't contribute to the eventual abolition of capitalism. Such arrangements may be necessary parts of the struggle towards international socialism, as is professed by Marxism-Leninism.

Is internationalism the same as this "globalism" I keep hearing about?[edit]

See also: Globalism

No. Globalism refers to the support of capitalist globalisation. Contrary to internationalism, it involves the breakdown of national sovereignty in favour of a single global system of exploitation. Internationalism means strengthening solidarity and cooperation between nations in order to empower them. In this way, capitalist globalism and socialist internationalism are perfect opposites to each other.

Is internationalism the opposite of nationalism?[edit]

No! Internationalism is in fact a stronger form of nationalism. It calls for the mutual strengthening of all nations as brothers and sisters. Socialists only oppose nationalist movements because they fight against their own interests. Nationalisms are ideological constructs set up by the national bourgeoisie to create an artificial enemy, and distract workers from acknowledging their material interests. Meanwhile they serve the interests of one nation's capitalist class over those of another nation's, all on the backs of workers who have little to benefit.

Socialists do not oppose nationalism, they merely say: No nationalism but internationalism!

Marxist Philosophy[edit]

What is Marxist philosophy?[edit]

What is Materialist Analysis?[edit]

Main article: materialism

Materialist analysis is an analysis that begins from a universal fact of human civilisation: People have basic needs that need to be filled to survive and reproduce. As such, the most important thing to know is how a society reproduces itself materially. Who produces goods? Who consumes them? How do they produce goods? How do goods get from the producer to the consumer? Who directs production? How do they gain their authority? How do these relations continue to exist? Why don't they fall apart the next moment?

A materialist reading of a text is one that analyses it in these terms. How does it betray the material relations under which it was written? How does it reproduce them? How does it subvert them, and why?

Materialism stands in contrast to idealism, which does not ask these critical questions and interprets thought and society as driven by ideas.

Why is Marxism materialist?[edit]

What is historical materialism?[edit]

What is this "cultural Marxism" I keep hearing about?[edit]

Main article: Cultural Marxism

Cultural Marxism is a right-wing conspiracy theory that sees communist forces conspiring to manipulate and eventually destroy Western academia, culture, and civilisation. As is often the case, communists are blamed for the internal failings of capitalism. The idea tries to legitimise itself by making vague gestures at legitimate communist texts calling for the creation of a communist counter-hegemony, long march through the institutions, critique of western culture, and so on... Figures like Antonio Gramsci and the thinkers of the Frankfurt School play prominent roles. What's left out, however, is that these thinkers were invariably fighting in favour of authentic culture against its degradation by capitalism.

There are some university departments that draw inspiration from these thinkers, and these particularly fire up the right-wing imagination. Many such departments lack much revolutionary potential and are instead pseudo-radical organs of the capitalist order, which today revels in politically correct causes that fail to threaten its authority. If you wish to describe these departments as "cultural Marxist" you run into the problem that, since they subtract from Marxism it's materialist foundation, they aren't Marxist at all! Cultural Marxism is really an oxymoron.

Another narrative with which the myth of cultural Marxism is often justified is that certain tendencies in the liberal left inherit an oppression narrative supposedly inherent in Marxism. The idea here is that, after the rise of neoliberalism, the Marxist left felt finally defeated, and sought to create a new basis for struggle against a dominant group. For this purpose they found various minorities, to whom they sold a narrative that they were being pushed down by the dominant identity in society, and ought to direct their hatred at them. This struggle of identities is somehow analogous to the earlier struggle of classes. Such an attempt to explain cultural Marxism misses the point twofold. First, Marxism without class analysis isn't Marxism, so the term would be a misnomer. Second, class struggle doesn't involve some blind hatred of the bourgeoisie, projecting all kinds of moral failings onto them that are supposed to be the cause of the poor state of workers. No. It is the fact that there is a bourgeoisie that is fought against. That the individual members of that class will fight back against any push to abolish it is of secondary concern. This strongly distinguishes it from liberal theories of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc...

The notion of cultural Marxism first appeared in Nazi Germany as Kulturbolschewismus (Cultural Bolshevism) as an excuse to persecute Jewish artists and intellectuals. Many of these, such as Charlie Chaplin and Albert Einstein, are today remembered as giants in their fields. It still has much of its anti-Semitic character, as manifest in its obsession with the Frankfurt School and (the ironically strongly anti-communist) George Soros.

About Leftypedia[edit]

What is the Purpose of Leftypedia?[edit]

The purpose of Leftypedia is to provide a balanced, reliable, and informed educational resource for leftists, in particular Marxists and fellow travellers, free from mainstream liberal bias. Leftypedia however, differs from existing resources for such information in that articles are constrained only to what is relevant to an understanding of the leftist tradition.

Is yet another online encyclopedia necessary?[edit]

Wikipedia has an Arbitration committee which solidified in 2007 as a neoliberal and conservative stronghold that constantly controls the edits to undo any edit one makes to an article when it doesn't fit their ideology, even if it is well-sourced. Wikipedia also has around 200 edit filters currently enabled, 92 of which are secret and cannot be viewed by the community. Talking from experience, talk page comments referring to US propaganda activity on Wikipedia are deemed "unconstructive" and automatically blocked.

We decided our energy would be better spent on building our own platform than it would to fight turf wars, bots and sock puppets on wikipedia, many of which are well funded.

Wikipedia's founder Jimmy Wales is also a self-avowed Randian Objectivist.

Are biographical articles permitted?[edit]

Yes, but only so much as the contained information is relevant to the development of Marxism. While Karl Marx's Hegelian influences and early liberal agitation are useful to know when examining the historical development of Marxism, it is difficult to see how his favorite blanket as a toddler (i.e. his early life), would be.

What politics is Leftypedia associated with?[edit]

Leftypedia is a wiki documenting various strands of leftism (such as Marxist communism, anarchism, and democratic socialism) and related theory. It is generally critical of hard-line "tankieism", allowing contributions from its perspective as long as they hold up to a high standard.