MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Terms





In the early 1950s, while the citizens of the USSR and its allies were blockaded and threatened with nuclear annihilation and the people of the countries of Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia were sabotaged, bombed, invaded, poisoned and assassinated while brutal dictators were installed to govern them [see Cold War], people within the U.S.A. were subjected to the terror of McCarthyism, a terror that also spread to the US’s allies.

Senator Joseph McCarthy gave his name to the wave of anti-communist witch-hunting which followed the end of the Second World War, mainly because of a 6 hour scaremongering speech to the Senate on 20 February 1950 which launched his career as a witchhunter. In this speech he claimed that a communist espionage ring with at least 80 active spies, had penetrated the State Department, the Office of War Information and the Board of Economic Warfare, going on to accuse the government of inaction. The House Unamerican Activities Committee was another powerful instrument of anti-Communist witch-hunting, most famous for its denunciation of many hundreds of Hoillywood figures as Communist spies and propagandists.

McCarthy accused the Truman government of being infiltrated by Communists who were undermining the US war effort in Korea, thus helping get General Eisenhower elected President in 1952, and it was only when Joseph McCarthy denounced Eisenhower himself in December 1954, that McCarthyism ran out of steam, though anti-communist witch-hunting in one form or another persists to this day.

McCarthyism drove hundreds of thousands of trade unionists, peace activists, communists and free-thinkers of no particular ideology at all into isolation and poverty. It destroyed the lives of those witch-hunted, and intimidated millions of others into “keeping their heads down” and their mouths shut.

The Cold War, in which the most powerful state the world had ever known waged an all-out war against the working class, using techniques ranging from the threat of thermonuclear extermination to assassination to bribery and corruption on a vast scale had a profound effect on politics during this period. Communism was fought for either with machine guns and Soviet support, or through ‘Mothers Clubs’ and other ‘front’ organisations where the participants pretended that they were not communists at all.

Very few of the Communists of the generation who had been subjected to McCarthyism were politically still active by the time of the upsurge of Student Protests and trade union militancy of the 1960s.


Manchester Liberalism

The outlook of the manufacturing and industrial section of the capitalist class in mid-nineteenth century Britain. The campaign for free trade was based on Manchester, which was the centre of the Anti-Corn Law League of 1839-1846.


Manifesto of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies

The Manifesto of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies "To the Peoples of the World" was adopted by the Soviet on March 14 (27), 1917, and was published in the capital the next day. The S.R. and Menshevik leaders were compelled to vote for it under pressure from the revolutionary people, who insisted on ending the war. The Manifesto called on the working people of the belligerent countries to take action in favour of peace. However, it did not expose the predatory nature of the war, nor did it propose any practical measures for peace. It virtually justified the continuation of the imperialist war by the bourgeois Provisional Government.


(aka Mao Zedong Thought)

A theory and practice which claims to be an advancement of Marxism, developed as a critique of the Soviet Union. While Mao Zedong (1893-1976) valued Stalin as a “great Marxist-Leninist”, he explained Stalin committed some crucial errors:

1) He did not understand dialectics and ended up in metaphysics. He hence sometimes did not understand the demands of the masses. He did not distinguish between the different kinds of contradictions.
2) During the 30’s the regime of Stalin sentenced many innocents to death.
3) He did not conduct democratic centralism within the party good enough.
4) He did not handle the connections with foreign Communist parties well enough, espeically his handling of the 1927 events in China.

The result of these errors according to Maoism was that the Soviet Union was governed by a bureaucratic nomenclature which later was to conduct a “silent counterrevolution” turning the Soviet Union into an imperialist country, not crucially different from the USA.

These are the most distinct components of Maoism:

1) Guerrilla warfare/People’s War: The armed branch of the party must not be distinct from the masses. To conduct a successful revolution the needs and demands of the masses must be the most important issues.

2) New democracy: In backward countries socialism cannot be introduced before the country has gone through a period in which the material conditions are improved. This cannot be done by the bourgeoisie, as its progressive character is long since replaced by a regressive character.

3) Contradictions as the most important feature of society: Society is dominated of a wide range of contradictions. As these are different of nature, they must also be handled in different ways. The most important divide is the divide between contradictions among the masses and contradictions between the masses and their enemies. Also the socialist institutions are plagued with contradictions, and these contradictions must not be suppressed as they were during Stalin.

4) Cultural revolution: Bourgeois ideology is not wiped out by the revolution; the class-struggle continues, and even intensifies, during socialism. Therefore an instant struggle against these ideologies and their social roots must be conducted.

5) Theory of three worlds: During the cold war two imperialist states formed the “first world”; the USA and the Soviet Union. The second world consisted of the other imperialist states in their spheres of influence. The third world consisted of the non-imperialist countries. Both the first and the second world exploit the third world, but the first world is the most aggressive part. The workers in the first and second world are “bought up” by imperialism, preventing socialist revolution. The people of the third world, on the other hand, have not even a short-sighted interest in the prevailing circumstances. Hence revolution is most likely to appear in third world countries, which again will weaken imperialism opening up for revolutions in other countries too.

Maoism as a theory has grown its strongest roots among revolutionaries in the third world, and some of these movements, e.g. the CPN(M) in Nepal and the CPP of the Philippines, are advancing in their guerrilla warfare during the beginning of the 21st century. Western Maoism grew from the 1960s, and some of the movements have had some success in establishing themselves as the main communist parties in their countries.

Transcribed by Mathias Bismo



Originally, a kind of place where buyers and sellers gathered and agreed prices by a noisy process resembling a street-auction, with all the participants in ear-shot of one another. In modern times, the concept of market is extended by analogy to refer to a “social space” where products are sold and prices agreed in a way approximating the “ideal” conditions of the ancient marketplace – but in reality sales are transacted at widely separated times and places.

“As Cournot says,

‘Economists understand by the term Market, not any particular market place in which things are bought and sold, but the whole of any region in which buyers and sellers are in such free intercourse with one another that the prices of the same goods tend to equality easily and quickly.’ [Recherches sur les Principes Mathématiques de la Théorie des Richesses, ch. IV]

“Or again as Jevons says: -

‘Originally a market was a public place in a town where provisions and other objects were exposed for sale; but the word has been generalised, so as to mean any body of persons who are in intimate business relations and carry on extensive transactions in any commodity. A great city may contain as many markets as there are important branches of trade, and these markets may or may not be localised. The central point of a market is the public exchange, mart or auction rooms, where the traders agree to meet and transact business. In London the Stock Market, the Corn Market, the Coal Market, the Sugar Market, and many others are distinctly localised; in Manchester the Cotton Market, the Cotton Waste Market, and others. But this distinction of locality is not necessary. The traders may be spread over a whole town, or region of country, and vet make a market, if they are, by means of fairs, meetings, published price lists, the post-office or otherwise, in close communication with each other.’ [Stanley Jevons, Theory of Political Economy, ch. IV]

“Thus the more nearly perfect a market is, the stronger is the tendency for the same price to be paid for the same thing at the same time in all parts of the market: but of course if the market is large, allowance must be made for the expense of delivering the goods to different purchasers; each of whom must be supposed to pay in addition to the market price a special charge on account of delivery.” [Alfred Marshall, Principles of Economics, 1890, Book 5, Chapter 1, On Markets]

“A market” is therefore an extended social formation in which the needs of people are met by the labour of other people through a network of exchange relations connecting everyone who is part of the given market. “Market” is also used with the more generalised meaning of “effective demand” – i.e., the presence of people both willing and able to pay for a given commodity.

Aside from being a means of effecting the exchange of products, a market functions to assign a price to the product each person brings to the market. Adam Smith explained how the market determines price as follows:

“... market price will be liable to great fluctuations, will sometimes fall a good deal below, and sometimes rise a good deal above their natural price. In the other species of industry, the produce of equal quantities of labour being always the same, or very nearly the same, it can be more exactly suited to the effectual demand. While that demand continues the same, therefore, the market price of the commodities is likely to do so too, and to be either altogether, or as nearly as can be judged of, the same with the natural price. ...

“... fluctuations affect both the value and the rate either of wages or of profit, according as the market happens to be either overstocked or understocked with commodities or with labour; with work done, or with work to be done. ...

“But though the market price of every particular commodity is in this manner continually gravitating, if one may say so, towards the natural price, yet sometimes particular accidents, sometimes natural causes, and sometimes particular regulations of police, may, in many commodities, keep up the market price, for a long time together, a good deal above the natural price.” [Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, 1776, Book I, Chapter 7]

From the time of John Stuart Mill onward, bourgeois economists gave to the market a much greater power than did Adam Smith in the determination of price. Whereas for Adam Smith, there is such a thing as a “natural price” or “value”, to which market price “gravitates”, for later economists, is it solely the market which determines price. For example, in the words of Alfred Marshall:

“[There is a] growing belief that harm was done by Ricardo’s habit of laying disproportionate stress on the side of cost of production, when analysing the causes that determine exchange value. ... the conditions of demand played as important a part as those of supply in determining value ...

“The larger the amount of a thing that a person has the less, other things being equal (i.e. the purchasing power of money, and the amount of money at his command being equal), will be the price which he will pay for a little more of it: or in other words his marginal demand price for it diminishes.

“His demand becomes efficient, only when the price which he is willing to offer reaches that at which others are willing to sell....”

“There is then one general law of demand: -The greater the amount to be sold, the smaller must be the price at which it is offered in order that it may find purchasers; or, in other words, the amount demanded increases with a fall in price, and diminishes with a rise in price. ...

“The price will measure the marginal utility of the commodity to each purchaser individually ...” [Alfred Marshall, Principles of Economics 1890, Book 3 Chapter 3]

In more recent times (Kenneth Arrow for example), the conception of market is more developed still, being conceived of as a network of economic agents who send messages to one another (with a finite transmission time) and compute their response (with finite computing power) and the result is a chaotic and dynamic process resembling the activity of futures speculators on the money markets, far removed from nineteenth century concepts of equilibrium.

Exchange of labour is the most basic form of labour cooperation, so the formation of a market is the first step towards the formation of a society; thus market-places develop into towns and nations are built on the basis of common markets.

“The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.

“The bourgeoisie has, through its exploitation of the world market, given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of reactionaries, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.” [Communist Manifesto, Chapter 1]

The most controversial thing about markets may be, however, the tendency among neo-liberal or “economic rationalist” politicians to “deify” the market, to invest it with powers for providing for human good that it does not have. In Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith famously said:

“... he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. It is an affectation, indeed, not very common among merchants, and very few words need be employed in dissuading them from it.” [Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, Chapter 2, Book 4]

Only the most vulgar economist would argue, however, that the market can solve every social problem, and it is not just a question of the state having to look after the old and sick:

“Capital undertakes only advantageous undertakings, ... The highest development of capital exists when the general conditions of the process of social production are not paid out of deductions from the social revenue, the states taxes ... but rather out of capital as capital. This shows the degree to which capital has subjugated all conditions of social production to itself, on one side; and, on the other side, hence, the extent to which social reproductive wealth has been capitalised, and all needs are satisfied through the exchange form;” [Grundrisse, Part 10]

The Great Depression ended forever the idea that the market would always find a point of equilibrium in which everyone’s needs could be met. John Maynard KeynesGeneral Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, which appeared in 1935, showed that even in a depression, there was no wage so low that it could eliminate unemployment. Keynes explained the origins of unemployment and depression in terms of aggregate demand – the total spending of consumers, business investors, and public agencies. Because consumers were limited in their spending by the size of their incomes, Keynes held that were not the source of business cycle fluctuations; the dynamic actors were business investors and governments. In depressions, the thing to do was either to enlarge private investment or to create public substitutes for private investment deficiencies. In mild economic contractions, monetary policy in the shape of easier credit and lower interest rates might stimulate business investment and restore the aggregate demand caused by full employment. Severer contractions required deliberate public deficits either in the shape of public works or subsidies to afflicted groups. After World War II, Western governments all affirmed their commitment to Keynesian economics to limit the damaging effects of market fluctuations and limit unemployment. When Keynesian mechanisms exhausted themselves in the late-1960s, they were supplemented with the Monetarist methods of Milton Friedman.

Nevertheless, the aphorism that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” has merit, and any thoughts of simply “abolishing” the market in favour of planning should be entertained with caution.

For example, Trotsky explained how the outcome of the period of “Military Communism” in the USSR during which the market was suppressed:

“The program of the Bolshevik party adopted in March 1919 said:

‘In the sphere of distribution the present task of the Soviet Government is unwaveringly to continue on a planned, organised and state-wide scale to replace trade by the distribution of products.'

“Reality, however, came into increasing conflict with the program of “military communism”. Production continually declined, and not only because of the quenching of the stimulus of personal interest among the producers. The city demanded grain and raw materials from the rural districts, giving nothing in exchange except varicoloured pieces of paper, named, according to ancient memory, money. And the muzhik buried his stores in the ground. The government sent out armed workers’ detachments for grain. The muzhik cut down his sowings. [Revolution Betrayed, Chapter 2]

Trotsky then tells, on the other hand, of the outcome of the introduction of the market in the young Soviet Union:

“The market, legalised by the NEP, began, with the help of an organised currency, to do its work. As early as 1923, thanks to an initial stimulus from the rural districts, industry began to revive. And moreover it immediately hit a high tempo. It is sufficient to say that production doubled in 1922 and 1923, and by 1926 had already reached the pre-war level-that is, had grown more than five times its size in 1921. At the same time, although at a much more modest tempo, the harvests were increasing.

“Beginning with the critical year 1923, the disagreements observed earlier in the ruling party on the relation between industry and agriculture began to grow sharp. In a country which had completely exhausted its stores and reserves, industry could not develop except by borrowing grain and raw material from the peasants. Too heavy “forced loans” of products, however, would destroy the stimulus to labour. Not believing in the future prosperity, the peasant would answer the grain expeditions from the city by a sowing strike. Too light collections, on the other hand, threatened a standstill. Not receiving industrial products, the peasants would turn to industrial labour to satisfy their own needs, and revive the old home crafts. The disagreements in the party began about the question how much to take from the villages for industry, in order to hasten the period of dynamic equilibrium between them. The dispute was immediately complicated by the question of the social structure of the village itself. ...

“The scattered character of the peasant economy, inherited from the past, was aggravated by the results of the October revolution. The number of independent farms rose during the subsequent decade from 16 to 25 million, which naturally strengthened the purely consummatory character of the majority of peasant enterprises. That was one of the causes of the lack of agricultural products.

“A small commodity economy inevitably produces exploiters. In proportion as the villages recovered, the differentiation within the peasant mass began to grow. This development fell into the old well-trodden ruts. The growth of the rich farmers far outstripped the general growth of agriculture. The policy of the government under the slogan “face to the country” was actually a turning of its face to the kulak. Agricultural taxes fell upon the poor far more heavily than upon the well to do, who moreover skimmed the cream of the state credits. The surplus grain, chiefly in possession of the upper strata of the village, was used to enslave the poor and for speculative selling to the bourgeois elements of the cities.” [Revolution Betrayed, Chapter 2]

This passage brings out sharply the following fundamental fact: the market is the very soil on which bourgeois social relations in their entirety and bourgeois social consciousness arises. From the establishment of markets, a long period of time may pass before giving rise to capital, but such a growth is inevitable.

In the last decades of the Soviet Union, there was much discussion about how, if at all, socialism could be combined with the market, about “market socialism”. For example, Mikhail Gorbachev put it this way in his 1987 book Perestroika:

“... the management system which took shape in the thirties and forties began gradually to contradict the demands and conditions of economic progress. Its positive potential was exhausted. It became more and more of a hindrance, and gave rise to the braking mechanism which did us so much harm later. Methods for extreme situations were still being used.

“The dogmatism here stimulated the development of a ‘spend-away’ economy [planning method in which growth is achieved by building more plants and employing more workers, rather than by improvement in production methods], which gained great momentum and continued to exist until the middle eighties. Herein lie the roots of the notorious ‘gross-output approach,’ [planning which emphasised increasing gross output rather than quality of the real level of demand] which has until recently dominated our economy.

“It was as in these conditions that a prejudiced attitude to the role of commodity-monetary relations and the law of value under socialism developed, and the claim was often made that they were opposite and alien to socialism. All this was combined with an underestimation of profit-and-loss accounting, and produced disarray in pricing, and a disregard for the circulation of money.

“In the new conditions the narrow democratic basis of the established system of management began to have a highly negative effect. Little room was left for Lenin’s idea of the working people’s self-management. Public property was gradually fenced off from its true owner - the working man. This property frequently suffered from departmentalism and localism, becoming a no man’s land and free, deprived of a real owner. Ever increasing signs appeared of man’s alienation from the property of the whole people, of lack of coordination between public interest and the personal interests of the working person. This was the major cause of what happened: at the new stage the old system of economic management began to turn from a factor of development into a brake that retarded socialism’s advance.” [Perestroika, Mikhail Gorbachev, 1987]

In 1932, Trotsky explained the problem thus:

“If a universal mind existed, of the kind that projected itself into the scientific fancy of Laplace – a mind that could register simultaneously all the processes of nature and society, that could measure the dynamics of the union, that could forecast the results of their interconnections – such a mind, of course, could a priori draw up a faultless and exhaustive economic plan, beginning with the number of acres of wheat down to the last button for a vest. The bureaucracy often imagines that just such a mind is at its disposal; that is why it so easily frees itself from the control of the market and of Soviet democracy. But, in reality, the bureaucracy errs frightfully in its estimate of its spiritual resources. ...

“The innumerable living participants in the economy, state and private, collective and individual, must serve notice of their needs and of their relative strength not only through the statistical determinations of plan commissions but by the direct pressure of supply and demand. The plan is checked and, to a considerable degree, realised through the market. The regulation of the market itself must depend upon the tendencies that are brought out through its mechanism. The blueprints produced by the departments must demonstrate their economic efficacy through commercial calculation. The system of the transitional economy is unthinkable without the control of the ruble. This presupposes, in its turn, that the ruble is at par. Without a firm monetary unit, commercial accounting can only increase the chaos.

“The processes of economic construction are not yet taking place within a classless society. The questions relating to the allotment of the national income compose the central focus of the plan. It shifts with the direct development of the class struggle and that of social groups, and among them, the various strata of the proletariat itself. These are the most important social and economic questions: the link between that which industry obtains from agriculture and that which it supplies to it; the interrelation between accumulation and consumption, between the fund for capital construction and the fund for wages; the regulation of wages for various categories of labour (skilled and unskilled workers, government employees, specialists, the managing bureaucracy); and finally the allotment of that share of national income which falls to the village, between the various strata of the peasantry. All these questions by their very nature do not allow for a priori decisions by the bureaucracy, which has fenced itself off from intervention by concerned millions.

“The struggle between living interests, as the fundamental factor of planning, leads us into the domain of politics, which is concentrated economics. The instruments of the social groups of Soviet society are, should be: the Soviets, the trade unions, the cooperatives, and in first place the ruling party. Only through the intersection of these three elements, state planning, the market and Soviet democracy, can the correct direction of the economy of the transitional epoch be attained. Only thus can be assured, not the complete surmounting of contradictions and disproportions within a few years (this is utopian!), but their mitigation, and through that the strengthening of the material bases of the dictatorship of the proletariat until the moment when a new and victorious revolution will widen the arena of socialist planning and will reconstruct the system.” (The Art of Planning, from The Soviet Economy in Danger, Trotsky, October 22 1932).

Trotsky summed up the position with the market in Revolution Betrayed as follows:

“Money cannot be arbitrarily “abolished”, nor the state and the old family “liquidated”. They have to exhaust their historic mission, evaporate, and fall away. The deathblow to money fetishism will be struck only upon that stage when the steady growth of social wealth has made us bipeds forget our miserly attitude towards every excess minute of labour, and our humiliating fear about the size of our ration. Having lost its ability to bring happiness or trample men in the dust, money will turn into mere book-keeping receipts for the convenience of statisticians and for planning purposes. In the still more distant future, probably these receipts will not be needed. But we can leave this question to future generations, who will be more intelligent than we are”. [Revolution Betrayed, Chapter 4]

Market Socialism

“Market socialism” is an oxymoron (a contradiction in terms) but, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, as a result of the disappointment many people felt at what they saw as the ultimate failure of a form of socialism, it was adopted as the objective of almost all Communist Parties in the world, and still has widespread support. “Market socialism” means a proletarian democratic regime in which the mass of the population implements socialist measures within an economy based on commodity production, while accumulation of capital is somehow kept in check.

The conception differs from the idea of “Mixed Economy” once embraced by Social Democracy. Mixed Economy entails state enterprises and welfare services supplementing a ‘mainstream’ economy which remains thoroughly capitalistic, protected by a capitalist state. “Market socialism” envisages a society in which the working class uses democracy to control political power at every level, but uses free enterprise – wage-labour, money and the exchange of commodities – to organise the labour process and social division of labour. Such a conception leaves considerable room for variation, but “market socialism” is only a general conception, not any particular model.

Generally speaking, the conception of “market socialism” is counterposed to the conception of “socialism” exemplified by the Soviet Union, i.e., a conception of “socialism” as a giant state enterprise run by a top-down bureaucracy with those at the bottom taking orders from those above. This conception, introduced by Stalin, is a far cry from Marxism, however.

Two issues are confused: (1) the transition to socialism, and (2) Socialism itself.

Should the working class succeed in taking political power, capital would be abolished but there could be no question of simply “abolishing” the market. This would take time. However, the market inevitably generates inequality and the accumulation of capital, and even more seriously, commodity production and the day-to-day activity entailed in buying and selling oneself on the market is the very ground on which bourgeois ideology grows. Private labour and the existence of the market inevitably engenders bourgeois consciousness. Consequently, the transition to socialism is all about transcending the market and commodity production, not getting used to it.

However, the advocates of “market socialism” propose the continuation of commodity production as an integral part of socialist society. Such a conception is only possible when the very meaning of the word “socialism” has been forgotten. Some present-day advocates of “market socialism” such as David Schweickart, see three distinct markets (1) the capital market, (2) the labour market and (3) the market in goods and services, and each must be looked at separately. Under this perspective, the capital and labour markets would be abolished, but a market in goods and services supplementing collectively planned investment programs.

See Deng Xiaoping and Ota Šik, two advocates of “market socialism.”


Marxism and Marxist

Marxism is both a current within the revolutionary movement against capitalism and a current of social theory which engages a wide spectrum of people. It originates from the political and scientific work of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the 1840s, but the words are of later origin.

The word ‘Marxist’ was first used by supporters of Marx in France, following the Hague Conference of the International in 1872, in order to distinguish themselves from supporters of Bakunin in the ranks of the International, which was undergoing a split. In a letter from to Bernstein 2-3 November 1882, Engels referred to a conversation of Marx with Paul Lafargue in the following terms:

“Now what is known as ‘Marxism’ in France is, indeed, an altogether peculiar product – so much so that Marx once said to Lafargue: ‘Ce qu’il y a de certain c’est que moi, je ne suis pas Marxiste.’ [‘If anything is certain, it is that I myself am not a Marxist’] ” (Engels to Bernstein 2 November 1882)

Marx had a low opinion of his supporters in France at this time, after the defeat of the Commune, but he was also opposed to the intensification of factionalism within the International by people identifying themselves as “Marxists.”

A little later, Engels wrote to Schmidt in 1890 complaining about the intellectual laziness of many “dangerous friends” who were calling themselves “Marxists.”

“... little Moritz is a dangerous friend. The materialist conception of history has a lot of them nowadays, to whom it serves as an excuse for not studying history. Just as Marx used to say, commenting on the French “Marxists” of the late [18]70s: ‘All I know is that I am not a Marxist’.” (Engels To Schmidt August 5, 1890)

Engels continued to resist the use of the term to identify the political current formed by their supporters, but as the differences with their opponents in the workers’ movement proved to be irresolvable, Engels reluctantly recognised that it was impossible to avoid the label.

In Engels’ letter to Laura Lafargue in 1889, he says

“Now we have been victorious, we have proved to the world that almost all Socialists in Europe are ‘Marxists’ (they will be mad they gave us that name!) and they are left alone in the cold with Hyndman to console them. And now I hope my services are no longer required.” (Engels to Laura Lafargue 11 June 1889)

Particularly as a result of Kautsky’s work in promoting and popularising Marx and Engels’ ideas, and with the formation of the Second (Socialist) International, “Marxism” came to be used to refer to a body of doctrine. For example, in Engels’ characterisation of their British supporter, Henry Hyndman, we see his frustration:

“After all, the S.D.F. is purely a sect. It has ossified Marxism into a dogma and, by rejecting every labour movement which is not orthodox Marxism (and that a Marxism which contains much that is erroneous), that is, by pursuing the exact opposite of the policy recommended in the Manifesto.” (Engels to Kautsky 12 August 1892)

But at the same time, it is clear that Engels had come to accept the use of the word “Marxism” as referring to a body of political philosophy. The word began to appear in the writings of English speaking Marxists from about 1900 through translations of the writings of Kautsky. The British Marxist E. Belfort Bax (1854-1925) never used the word “Marxism,” but does use the “Marxist” as the name of a political current, not a body of theory, as early as 1893, in the context of the differences between supporters of Marx and those of Proudhon and Bakunin.

By 1900, Marxism was also used in opposition to the following of those like Marx’s erstwhile supporter Eduard Bernstein who was designated as a Reformist. Thus, by about 1900, Marxist meant “revolutionary socialist, not anarchist or reformist.”

After the Russian Revolution, “Marxism” increasingly came to refer to a body of political theory. After the death of its founders, social conditions continued to transform the workers movement and its problems. By the time of the Russian Revolution, Marxists had achieved so much and gone through so many experiences, and made so many original achievements in social theory, that there really was a body of literature and theory which had a life of its own and deserved the name of “Marxism” ... but what and who Marxism is, is just as contested today as it was in Marx’s own time.

See the “What is Marxism?” to learn more about the theory and ideas of Marxism.



A label of Lenin's approach to Marxism at the beginning of the 20th-century, in a capitalist Russia emerging from feudalism. While Lenin considered himself only a Marxist, after his death his theory and practice was given the label of Marxism-Leninism, considered to be an overall evolution of Marxism in the "era of the proletarian revolution". Marxism-Leninism was the official political theory of the former Soviet state and was enforced throughout most of the former Eastern European socialist governments of the 20th-century.

Historical Development: The creation and development of Marxism-Leninism can be divided into two general categories: the creation and development by Stalin (1924-1953), and the revision by Khrushchev and continual revisions by the Soviet government to follow (1956-1991).

Stalin defined Leninism in his work The Foundations of Leninism : "Leninism is Marxism in the era of imperialism and the proletarian revolution. To be more exact, Leninism is the theory and tactics of the proletarian revolution in general, the theory and tactics of the dictatorship of the proletariat in particular." Stalin explained that Leninism first began in 1903, and was identical to Bolshevism.

Stalin explained that a foundation of Marxist-Leninist theory was that a socialist revolution could only be accomplished by the Communist Party of a particular nation, the vanguard of the working class (its organizer and leader). After the socialist revolution had been affected, this vanguard would act as the sole representative of the working class.

While in some ways a direct product of Lenin's philosophy for Russia, Marxism-Leninism also took on new approaches. For example, though Lenin believed that socialism could only exist on an international scale, Marxism-Leninism supported Stalin's theory of "Socialism in One Country". Stalin enforced Marxism-Leninism as an international platform by explaining that its principles and practices applied to the whole world.

In this way Marxism-Leninism became the only true theory and practice of Marxism in the 20th-century – 'without adhering to Marxism-Leninism a socialist revolution could not be achieved'. This assertion was partly based on one of the foundations of dialectical materialist thinking: that practice is the criterion of truth. Stalin explained that Lenin had shown through his practice, a particular way to establish a socialist government in Russia; thus that practice substantiated Lenin's theory as true in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century. That particular however, was extracted from its historical context and converted into a universal. Hence the basis for why some considered the label Marxist-Leninist to be partially idealist, because it placed the conditions of practice particular to Russia at the beginning of the 20 century as true for all countries in the world.

Despite Stalin's creation and evolution of the Marxist Leninist philosophy, the term was later used by the Soviet government in support of "De-Stalinification". While Stalin had recognized the theory of the Communist vanguard as a creation of Lenin, the Soviet government headed by Khrushchev had explained that the Communist vanguard was in fact a part of the "Marxist" aspect of Marxism-Leninism (an aspect which hitherto had been little addressed). The Leninist aspect, Khrushchev explained, began in the "era of the proletarian revolution and socialist construction".

Khrushchev developed Marxism-Leninism to explain that a worldwide war between workers and capitalists was no longer necessary, but instead that the ideal of peaceful coexistence is inherent in the class struggle. The new Soviet government further explained that while Marxism-Leninism was created by the theory and practice of the dictatorship of the proletariat (which Lenin had explained as a short and transitionary form of government) Marxism-Leninism evolved into the theory of a "state of the whole people" (This development was directly opposite of Marx, Engels, and Lenin's theory of the state – that the state always acts in the interests of a certain class, and when no classes existed, the state would cease to exist).

After Lenin's death, the creation, development and evolution of Marxism-Leninism was the focus of crippling sectarian battles throughout the world over what Lenin "had really meant". Stalin explained that the practice and understanding of Trotsky was completely opposite of Leninism (Trotskyism or Leninism?) , while Trotsky criticized Stalin's Marxism-Leninism as a failure (Revolution Betrayed). Mao criticized Khrushchev's Marxism-Leninism as bourgeois revisionism (On Khrushchov's Phoney Communism), while Khrushchev and later the Chinese government itself declared Mao a renegade to Marxism-Leninism, etc, etc, etc.....



Opposite of Vanguard.

Any social movement contains both a vanguard and a mass. The masses are large numbers of people who participate in a struggle or are involved simply by their social position, but are less committed or well-placed in relation to the struggle, and generally will participate only in the decisive moments, which in fact change history. On the other side is the vanguard, made up of people and groups who are more resolute and committed, better organised and able to take a leading role in the struggle.

The masses in a social movement are by their very nature diverse for they represent a large spectrum of humanity. Not only is the mass heterogeneous, but within the mass there are a myriad of networks and relations by means of which the masses enter into activity, ponder questions of policy, make judgments of leaders and make decisions.

The consciousness of the masses can be chaotic since all manner of views co-exist within a movement. A vanguard will generally serve one of two roles among the masses: it can come to dominate the mass, shaping and forming it according to the beliefs of the vanguard, or it can "point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire [mass]", and "always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole." (Source). It is the practical action of the masses however, which is the creative engine of all politics - smashing all illusions, punishing mistakes and exposing all fakes. When an idea is embraced by the masses, it becomes a material force of enormous power.


Master-Slave Dialectic

The Master-Slave dialectic is a process described by G W F Hegel in the early 19th century, in which the unmediated contact between two subjects leads to the subordination of one subject by the other. This concept has been used to theorise forms of oppression such as colonisation and patriarchy and the struggle against this subordination, known as the “struggle for recognition.”

The master-slave dialectic was first outlined by Hegel in his System of Ethical Life, where it appeared in two forms: (1) the war between two subjects (such as ancient city-states), which can lead to a stand-off, i.e., peace, or the victory of one over the other; in the case of a decisive victory, the defeated subject may be wiped out (if the dominant culture produces no social surplus) or enslaved, and incorporated into the dominant subject; and (2) in the subordination of small-scale proprietors by wealthy families, reducing them to the status of employees or servants.

In the later Phenomenology, only the first of these dialectics was elaborated, as part of the process of development of subjective consciousness, and this passage has become Hegel’s most well-known and widely interpreted passage.

In 1937, Alexandre Kojève built a whole philosophical system around the master-slave dialectic, which was widely influential amongst the French radical intelligentsia in the post-World War Two period, and was used by Frantz Fanon as a basis for his analysis of colonialism and the struggle of subject peoples for their own national consciousness.

The essential form of the master-slave dialectic is this: both subjects are “duplicated,” that is, they have both an ideal and a material form, on one side, their ideas, beliefs, political and religious hierarchies, techniques of production and so on, and on the other side, their land, crops, animals, their bodies and means of production generally. The two subjects do not recognise each other’s property relations and go to war to protect their rights against the life-threatening intrusion of the foreign subject. Hegel places great emphasis on the willingness of one subject to risk death rather than subordinate themselves to the other, and eventually forcing the other to submit.

As a result, the ideal side of the subordinated subject is destroyed — their language, religious beliefs, techniques of production and even their own needs are marginalised or destroyed; the material side of the subordinated subject are “taken over” by the victorious subject — their land for example, and their labour. As a result, the enslaved subject is forced to work to meet the needs of the master subject, according to his law and his beliefs.

Modern society arises through the slave-subject raising itself up and overcoming the “stoic acceptance” of their enslavement, while the master-subject is “dissatisfied” by the worthlessness of recognition by the slave, desiring recognition from a subject like themselves. Crucial to this process, is that the slave actually produces the master’s needs, whereas the master’s culture is reproduced only thanks to the labour of the slave. This turns the tables on the master, and ushers in modern society in which all citizens have rights and the state comes to be an expression of the will of the people as a whole, not just the aristocracy, who remain, accoridng to Hegel, the ruling elite.

See the Hegel-by-HyperText archive.



Those philosophical trends which emphasise the material world (the world outside of consciousness) as the foundation and determinant of thinking, especially in relation to the question of the origin of knowledge. Compare with idealism. For materialism, thoughts are “reflections” of matter, outside of Mind, which existed before and independently of thought. According the Marx:

“The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism - that of Feuerbach included - is that the thing, reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the object or of contemplation, but not as sensuous human activity, practice, not subjectively.”
[Theses on Feuerbach].

Further Reading: Marx’s essay on French Materialism & Communism in The Holy Family as well as the epoch-making outline in Chapter one of The German Ideology, Materialism and Idealism, and Lenin's concise explanation, and the definition of Materialist Dialectics. See also Hegel's definition in his critique of Empiricism. For help see: History of Materialism and Materialism and Idealism.



1. Philosophy: Denoting all that exists outside of and independently of thought – objective reality. As a philosophical category, “matter” must be distinguished from any particular theory of matter developed by natural science and from its meaning in physics as mass.

Further Reading: Hegel's comment on Kant's theory of matter and Hegel's criticism of the natural scientific confusion on this question.



From the name Manilov, a character in Gogel's Dead Souls, represented as a type of easygoing sentimental landowner, whose name has become a synonym for an idle, weak-willed dreamer and gas-bag.