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Marxism comprises many principles, but in the final analysis they can all be brought back to a single sentence: it is right to rebel. ~ Mao Zedong

Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Marxism uses a methodology, now known as historical materialism, to analyze and critique the development of capitalism and the role of class struggles in systemic economic change.


  • Marx and Engels themselves can never be taken simply at their word: the errors of their writings on the past should not be evaded or ignored, but identified and criticized. To do so is not to depart from historical materialism, but to rejoin it. (...) To take 'liberties' with the signature of Marx is in this sense merely to enter into the freedom of Marxism.
    • Perry Anderson, Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism (Verso, 1996), p. 9.
  • As I noted earlier, when we look back at the scientific and public climates of discussion 50 years ago, the prevailing mindset was socialist in its underlying presupposition that government offered the solution to social problems. But there was a confusing amalgam of Marxism and ideal political theory involved: Governments, as observed, were modeled and condemned by Marxists as furthering class interests, but governments which might be installed 'after the revolution', so to speak, would become both omniscient and benevolent.
    In some of their implicit modeling of political behavior aimed at furthering special group or class interests, the Marxists seemed to be closet associates of public choice, even as they rejected methodological individualism. But how was the basic Marxist critique of politics, as observed, to be transformed into the idealized politics of the benevolent and omniscient superstate? This question was simply left glaringly unanswered. And the debates of the 1930s were considered by confused economists of the time to have been won by the socialists rather than by their opponents, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Both sides, to an extent, neglected the relevance of incentives in motivating human action, including political action.
  • The development of Marxism from the form in which it was evolved by Marx himself, before 1848 in Germany and France and afterwards in England, through the glosses of Engels and through Lenin's reformulation of the doctrine in the early years of the present century, down to its apotheosis as the ideology of the victorious Russian revolution, first under Lenin, later under Stalin, is a fascinating study. Nowadays the impact of current emotions has unfortunately made it fashionable to tell the story in terms of betrayal. According to some, true Marxism was betrayed by Lenin when he proclaimed the socialist revolution in an economically backward, predominantly peasant, country. According to others, Lenin, the faithful disciple of Marx, had his legacy betrayed and distorted by Stalin. Only the stalwarts dare to pretend that there has been no "betrayal" at all.
    • E. H. Carr, "Socialism and Marxism" (1954), published in From Napoleon to Stalin and Other Essays (1980)
  • As for their [Marxists'] argument for revolution-the argument that we must do evil now so that good may come of it in the long run-it seems to me to have nothing in it. Not because I am too nice to do evil, but because I don't believe the Communists know what leads to what.
    • E. M. Forster, "The Long Run" (Review of Studies in a Dying Culture by Christopher Caudwell), The New Statesman and Nation, December 10, 1938. Reprinted in The Prince's Tale and other uncollected writings, London, Andre Deutsch, 1998.
  • As the Marxist movement splintered and mutated into new forms, Left intellectuals and activists began to look for new ways to attack capitalism. Environmental issues, alongside women’s and minorities’ issues, came to be seen as a new weapon in the arsenal against capitalism.
  • You just tell the German bourgeoisie that I shall be finished with them far quicker than I shall with Marxism... When once the conservative forces in Germany realize that only I and my party can win the German proletariat over to the State and that no parliamentary games can be played with Marxist parties, then Germany will be saved for all time, then we can found a German Peoples State.
    • Adolf Hitler, interview with Richard Breiting, 1931, published in Edouard Calic, ed., “First Interview with Hitler,4 May 1931,” Secret Conversations with Hitler: The Two Newly-Discovered 1931 Interviews, New York: John Day Co., 1971, pp. 36-37. Also published under the title Unmasked: Two Confidential Interviews with Hitler in 1931 published by Chatto & Windus in 1971
  • Our adopted term 'Socialist' has nothing to do with Marxian Socialism. Marxism is anti-property; true socialism is not. Marxism places no value on the individual, or individual effort, of efficiency; true Socialism values the individual and encourages him in individual efficiency, at the same time holding that his interests as an individual must be in consonance with those of the community. All great inventions, discoveries, achievements were first the product of an individual brain.
  • Marxian Socialism must always remain a portent to the historians of Opinion — how a doctrine so illogical and so dull can have exercised so powerful and enduring an influence over the minds of men, and, through them, the events of history.
  • In the general collapse of values all around us it is not surprising that Marxism should also be subjected to critical attacks. A failure in the eyes of its enemies, even many of its friends admit that it is going through a severe crisis. Certain self-styled 'orthodox' Marxists, more in love with the letter than the spirit of the writings of Marx and Engels, have provided the less scrupulous critics of Marxism with weighty arguments. However, this category of 'academic Marxists' is becoming less and less numerous, and today we can observe their place being increasingly taken by people with far less knowledge and even greater pretensions: half-a-dozen quotations lifted from this or that popular pamphlet serve them instead of doctrine, and represent in their eyes the sum total of Marxist science. Most of the anti-Marxists of our day reveal the same intellectual poverty.
  • The real crisis through which Marxism is passing is not due to this relaxation of intellectual discipline on the part of some of those who call themselves followers of Marx. Unfortunately, the habit of praising or blaming without knowledge of the subject is becoming increasingly common to men of all parties today. This is not due to the failure of this or that doctrine, but to the crisis through which our whole civilisation is passing. At the same time this regrettable tendency adds greatly to the confusion in which all the sociological disputes of our day are taking place.
  • Let us define what we mean by Marxism. Is it the doctrine of Marx and Engels? Or is it the movements to which that doctrine has given birth, and which, rightly or wrongly, claim to be Marxist? To what extent are these movements actually inspired by Marxism, and to what extent have they caused it to develop, sometimes reforming, sometimes deforming it? Are these movements still really Marxist in the classic sense? Or do perhaps both friends and enemies of Marxism often harbour a distorted conception of Marx’s original theories? We must therefore ask ourselves whether the so-called crisis of Marxism is not in large measure a crisis of differing posthumous interpretations of Marxism. Karl Marx died in 1883 and Friedrich Engels in 1895. Although a number of their followers have developed their doctrines and provided important supplementary analyses of the modifications experienced by capitalism in the course of the twentieth century, the results of these labours have hardly affected the movement as a whole. In fact, as the movement grew in size, the assimilation even of the ideas of Marx and Engels themselves, which were naturally better known, became slower, more fragmentary and more superficial. In accordance with historical conditions which obviously differed considerably as between country and country, each movement took what best suited it from the original doctrine, and applied its choice (very rarely the Marxist method itself) to its own particular situation.
  • Marxism is not a dogma at all; it is a method of investigation. Seeing that the conditions of our day differ considerably from those studied by Marx, what are the new problems which contemporary Marxism has to solve? They certainly cannot be solved by reeling off a few quotations learned by heart.
  • The Marxian theory of ideology predicts that the ruling ideas in any well functioning society will be ideas that promote the interests of the ruling class in that society, i.e., the class that is economically dominant. By the “ruling ideas” we should understand Marx to mean the central moral, political and economic ideas that dominate discussion in the mass media and in the corridors of power in that society. The theory is not peculiar to Marx, since the “classical realists” of antiquity like the Sophists and Thucydides advanced essentially the same theory: the powerful clothe their pursuit of self-interest in the garb of morality and justice. When Marx says that, “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas” (The German Ideology) and that, “Law, morality, religion are to [the proletariat] so many bourgeois prejudices, behind which lurk in ambush just as many bourgeois interests” (The Communist Manifesto), he is simply translating in to Marxian terms the Sophistic view “that the more powerful will always take advantage of the weaker, and will give the name of law and justice to whatever they lay down in their own interests.” (W.K.C. Guthrie, The Sophists (1971), p. 60)
    • Brian Leiter, “The Hermeneutics of Suspicion: Recovering Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud”
  • Complete equality of rights for all nations; the right of nations to self-determination; the unity of the workers of all nations — such is the national programme that Marxism, the experience of the whole world, and the experience of Russia, teach the workers.
    • Vladimir Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 20, pp. 393–454. Also quoted in Robert P. Barnidge, Jr.Self-Determination, Statehood, and the Law of Negotiation: The Case of Palestine Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016 (p.16).
  • Marxism comprises many principles, but in the final analysis they can all be brought back to a single sentence: it is right to rebel.
    • Chairman Mao, Speech marking the 60th birthday of Stalin (20 December 1939)
  • With the demise of Marxism, the illusion that we can finally dispense with the notion of antagonism has become widespread. This belief is fraught with danger, since it leaves us unprepared in the face of unrecognized manifestations of antagonism.
  • Obviously, Tony never became a Marxist even when he soon after decided to champion social democracy as his last act. But these comments were a far cry from his former dismissal of Marxism as a delusional politics with theory playing only the role of indefensible apologetics for terror. All the same, Tony did not feel that his standard bearing for social democracy required much more than moralistic rhetoric in its defense. His grudging admission of Marxism’s relevance for social democracy in the past did not lead him to insist on some new theory justifying his politics now. (In fact, Tony feared that given continuing injustice the most likely outcome for the foreseeable future was Marxism’s revival in theoretical debates.) Tony doesn’t appear to have contemplated that his struggle to reinvent the model of the intellectual committed him, if only to ward off Marxism, to some other return to the tradition of social thought that had defined “theory” until postmodern intellectuals gave the word a different meaning and bad name.
    • Samuel Moyn, "Intellectuals, Reason, and History: In Memory of Tony Judt", H-France Salon (2012)
  • Crude thinkers in the United States, and moreover honest and intelligent men who are not crude thinkers, but who are oppressed by the sight of the misery around them and have not deeply studied what has been done elsewhere, are very apt to adopt as their own the theories of European Marxian Socialists of half a century ago, ignorant that the course of events has so completely falsified the prophecies contained in these theories that they have been abandoned even by the authors themselves.
  • So, at the outset at least, we can then identify two types of exteriority: first, the exteriority of within or, if you prefer, ‘on this side’—en deçà—or ‘before’; in other words, a type of exteriority whose crowning feature is organic status, from which death can return us to the inorganic. Second, the exteriority of ‘beyond’—au-delà—which reflects what this organism finds in front of it as a work object, a need and the means to satisfy it, in order to maintain its status as organism. Thus, we have a dialectic with three terms. This requires us to describe interiorization of the exterior by the organism, in order to understand its capacity to re-exteriorize in transcendent being, in carrying out an act of work or determining a need. So there is only one moment called interiority, which is a kind of mediation between two moments of transcendent being.
    However, we should not think that these two moments are in themselves necessarily distinct, other than for temporal reasons. Ultimately it is the same being, the same being in exteriority, which mediates with itself, and it is this that is interiority. As this mediation defines the space in which the unity of two types of exteriority will occur, it is necessarily immediate to itself in the sense that it does not contain its own knowledge. Consequently, it is at the level of this mediation, which is not itself mediated, that we encounter pure subjectivity. And it is from this starting point, taking account of a number of Marxist themes, that we need to reach a better understanding of the status of this mediation. Does it have a role in human development as a whole? Does it really exist as an indispensable moment in a dialectic crowned by objective knowledge? Or is it merely an epiphenomenon? In putting these questions, we are not bringing in from outside a notion of subjectivity that is not present in Marx; on the contrary we are rendering explicit and taking up a notion that was already given in Marxism itself with the concepts of need, work and enjoyment, even though it went unrecognized by some idealist objectivists such as Lukács.
    • Jean-Paul Sartre, "Marxism and Subjectivity", 1961 lecture published in New Left Review (July–August 2014)
  • Marxism, as the formal framework of all contemporary philosophical thought, cannot be superseded.
    • Jean Paul Sartre, "Marxisme et philosophie de l'existence," cited in A Theology of Liberation (1973), p. 9
  • It is not the truth of Marxism that explains the willingness of intellectuals to believe it, but the power that it confers on intellectuals, in their attempts to control the world. And since, as Swift says, it is futile to reason someone out of a thing that he was not reasoned into, we can conclude that Marxism owes its remarkable power to survive every criticism to the fact that it is not a truth-directed but a power-directed system of thought.
    • Roger Scruton, Political Philosophy: Arguments for Conservatism (Continuum International Publishing Group 2006).
  • The most important political vision was that of communist utopia. At war's end, it had been seventy years since Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels had penned their most famous lines: "Workers of the World Unite!" Marxism had inspired generations of revolutionaries with a summons to political and moral transformation: an end to capitalism and the conflict that private property was thought to bring, and it replacement that would liberate the working masses and restore all of humanity an unspoiled soul. Each dominant political order was challenged by new social groups formed by new economic techniques. The modern class struggle was between those who owned factories and those who worked in them. Accordingly, Marx and Engels anticipated that revolutions would begin in the more advanced industrial countries with large working classes, such as Germany and Great Britain. By disrupting the capitalist order and weakening the great empires, the First World War brought an obvious opportunity to revolutionaries. Most Marxists, however, had by then grown accustomed to working within national political systems, and chose to support their governments in time of war. Not so Vladimir Lenin, a subject of the Russian Empire and a leader of the Bolsheviks. His voluntarist understanding of Marxism, the belief that history could be pushed onto the proper track, led him to see the war as a great chance. For a voluntarist such as Lenin, assenting to the verdict of history gave Marxists a license to issue it themselves. Marx did not see history as fixed in advance but as the work of individuals aware of its principles. Lenin hailed from largely peasant country, which lacked, from a Marxist perspective, the economic conditions for revolution. Once again, he had a revolutionary theory to justify his revolutionary impulse. He believed that colonial empires had granted the capitalist system an extended lease on life, but that a war among empires could bring general revolution. The Russian Empire rumbled first, and Lenin made his move.
    • Timothy D. Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. New York: Basic Books, 2010
  • Marxism would be a phenomenon of little more than historical interest, seeing that it has failed even in its principal stronghold, were it not so closely akin to National Socialism. National Socialism would have been inconceivable without Marxism.
  • First of all I’d like to thank The Struggle and the IMT for giving me a chance to speak last year at their Summer Marxist School in Swat and also for introducing me to Marxism and Socialism. I just want to say that in terms of education, as well as other problems in Pakistan, it is high time that we did something to tackle them ourselves. It’s important to take the initiative. We cannot wait around for any one else to come and do it. Why are we waiting for someone else to come and fix things? Why aren’t we doing it ourselves? I would like to send my heartfelt greetings to the congress. I am convinced Socialism is the only answer and I urge all comrades to take this struggle to a victorious conclusion. Only this will free us from the chains of bigotry and exploitation.
  • Contrary to the accepted Marxist interpretation, Hitler was not an opponent of Marxism and did not want to destroy it because he was ‘inimical to labour’ but because he was caught up in the insane idea that Marxism was an instrument of the Jews for the achievement of world domination, and above all because he rejected internationalism, ‘pacifism’ and the negation of the ‘personality principle’ by Marxism.”

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