What is Marxism?

What is Marxism? The Philosophy of Karl Marx

Marxism is the philosophy based on the writings of Karl Marx, who proposed it and helped popularize the concept. The Encarta Reference Library defines it as, 'a theory in which class struggle is a central element in the analysis of social change in Western societies.'
Historyplex Staff
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
People choose to label Marxism in many different ways, like a science, a way of life, and so on. This political and economic philosophy is based on the ideals of two 19th century thinkers, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. It has influenced societies all around the world to adopt the value system laid down by these individuals. There were many forms and derivations of the Marxist ideals throughout history, such as communism or socialism, which had a profound influence in the lifestyle or the way of living in a society. The Communist way of life or the practice of 'Dialectics', constitute Marxism. It is a theory of how the world works and the human society as its integral part. It was essentially based on a deep study and observations on the way a social system works.
Marxism opposes capitalism, a practice which it finds exploitative and economically irrational. According to the Marxist theory, a capitalist society is characterized by two classes: the privileged and the oppressed. People who own or control all the functions or necessities of life form the capitalists class, and those who work on these functions under the dominance of the capitalist class are the workers. The basic concepts of this philosophy remains the same, although it has been developed, added or interpreted in many different ways. The living experiences of Lenin and Trotsky, who played a pivotal role in the Russian Revolution, were added to the Marxist ideas.
Marxism entails that all human beings should have equal rights and privileges. A person is exploited, if he/she is made to work more than what is required, to produce sufficient goods or services. It has been a regular feature of human civilization. This results in outbursts or revolts by the oppressed class, when they are made to work beyond their capabilities, for the interests of a few. It severely criticizes these policies. It also demands a fair share of the profits or benefits of any process that is designed for enriching the quality of human beings. Marx stated that the class of people is decided by the relation of means of production and the labor associated with it. Thus, the surplus is the difference of that value, for which the product is sold and the payment made to the worker for that product.
Further, the Marxist philosophy demands that a revolution or an uprising must occur if a certain section maintains dominance over another section, with respect to the ways and means to live a life. It claims that recession is a direct fallout of the inability of the working class to purchase the full products of their work, and the ruling class does not consume a sizable amount of what is produced. A socialist school of thought maintains, ' For each according to his ability, to each according to his work,' whereas a communist slogan says, 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his work'. Both are a derivation of the Marxist way of life.
The scientific approach to the way of life is based on experiences. Therefore, the Marxist philosophy cannot be a completed or a finalized study. It evolves as humans encounter different experiences, as is evident in history. The French Revolution is a classic example of what monstrous form a suppressed class can assume on being deprived of their rightful share. It attempts to decode the principles that govern human life, the changes that it underwent in history, and tries to predict the forthcoming alterations. These changes are a systemic result of certain laws which constitute human experience, and not vague assumptions based on notions like religion, hero-worship, likes and dislikes of a few people or Utopian dreams.
Marxist philosophy considers human life as an integral part of nature. It states that the only reality is the state that exists around us, with all the material components and life forms. The state of idealism or perception cannot be the guiding principle of human activity, just as the evolution of man. Man has evolved in his living and way of thinking, based on real life encounters. He did not choose to be what he is, based on his perception of how life should be. This view of Marxism is also known as 'materialism'.
It can be noted that Political Marxism also exists today. China, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam remain the only official Marxist-Leninist states. China also propagates 'Maoism', which is a concept derived from Marxism. It is thus, a process of evolution of human beings based on the events around us, and the quest of human beings to constantly adapt to situations. It is an important philosophy in contemporary world politics and thinking.