MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Terms




A set of revolutionary tactics once used by the Russian Narodniks, and shortly later the People's Will party, which fought for the class position of Russia's peasantry.

Narodism arose in Russia after the emancipation of the serfs in 1861, which signalled the comming end of the fuedalist age in Russia. Seeing the free serfs being sold into wage-slavery, once under landlords, now under the bourgeoisie, narodism was an expression of political reaction against what had happened. Narodniks held a nostalgia for the past; despising the landlord of the past, but hating even worse the uprooting of the peasants from the ancient obshchina, the russian commune.

Lenin defined Narodism as:

"By Narodism we mean a system of views, which comprises the following three features:

1) Belief that capitalism in Russia represents a deterioration, a retrogression. Hence the urge and desire to "retard"", "halt", "stop the break-up" of the age-old foundations by capitalism, and similar reactionary cries.

2) Belief in the exceptional character of the Russian economic system in general, and of the peasantry, with its village commune, artel, etc. in particular. It is not considered necessary to apply to Russian economic relationships the concepts elaborated by modern science concerning the different social classes and their conflicts. The village-commune peasantry is regarded as something higher and better than captitalism; there is a disposition to idealise the "foundations". The existence among the peasantry of contradictions characteristic of every commodity and capitalist economy is denied or slurred over; it is denied that any connection exists between these contradictions and their more developed form in capitalist industry and capitalist agriculture.

3) Disregard of the connection between the "intelligentsia" and the country's legal and political institutions, on the one hand, and the material interests of definite social classes, on the other. Denial of this connection, lack of a materialist explanation of these social factors, induces the belief that they represent a force capable of "dragging history along another line, of "diversion from the path", and so on.

The Heritage We Renounce
1897 SW 1, p. 74

Narodism later took up the position of the seperate path theory, that stipulated that the productive forces in Russia could leap from fuedalism to socialism without the need for capitalism; stressing that the revolutionary class that could accomplish this was the peasantry.

After unsuccessful struggle to unite the peasantry to overthrow the tsar, due to the peasantry's idolisation of the tsar as someone "on their side", Narodism developed the practice of terrorism: the peasantry, they believed, must be shown that the tsar was not supernatural, that he could be killed. This theory, called direct struggle; would show an "uninterrupted demonstration of the possibility of struggling against the government, in this manner lifting the revolutionary spirit of the people and its faith in the success of the cause, and organising those capable of fighting." (from the Programme of the People's Will, 1879) This theory also, lead to short-term failure, as the peasantry as a whole was horrified with what had happened. These events did, however, help sow the roots of the comming revolution of 1905.

In the early 1900s, after the disolution of the People's Will, other political parties emerged following Narodnism, namely the Socialist-Revolutionaries, Popular Socialists, and Trudoviks.



While at first sight it would appear that a nation is a large body of people sharing common genealogy, language, culture, etc., sharing a common territory with a government recognised by other nations and common legal code, it would be more true to say that this is exactly what a nation is not.

A large body of people sharing a common language and culture can be a tribe, with everyone relating to others in extended family relationships which exclude others living within or outside the territory. In order to become a nation as such, it is necessary to transcend the narrow bounds of tribal law and encompass multiple languages, cultures and genealogy, to be multicultural. A nation based on race, like Israel for example, is not yet fully a nation. When Palestinians and Israelis live in the territory of Israel/Palestine with the same rights, then the Israelis will be less of a tribe and more of a nation.

A people may have their common laws, culture and language and yet have not found their homeland, like the Kurds for example, or may live in their homeland under the domination of another, settler nation, like the Australian Aborigines. Surely these are nations nonetheless? But they are not yet fully nations, because a nation does need to have its territory in order to be able to develop. So the Kurds and the Australian Aborigines are nascent or embryonic nations, nations who have not yet actualised.

But a nation that loses connection with its citizens when they leave the borders of the national territory are not yet fully nations either, but simply a territorial administration. A nation must also be a community, that offers protection to its members wherever they are.

Even the national state is a symptom of the incompleteness of the development of the nation, for the state is an indicator of the existence of unresolvable conflicts, usually class conflicts within the community, and the nation is only fully mature when such antagonisms have disappeared and the state withers away. But this is conceivable only when the obsolescence of classes occurs on a world scale. Consequently, the fully mature nation ceases to be a nation at all, dissolving itself in the world community of peoples.

Thus a nation is a process, not an entity.

Nations come into being either:

Communists support the right of nations to self-determination and oppose all forms of colonialism, neo-colonialism, imperialism or “benevolent interference”. Every people needs to achieve modernity by their own route at their own pace.

The current process of globalisation raises a number of problems for national self-determination. Globalisation has posited an ethical universalism wherein it is held that ethical values, such as “human rights” transcend national and cultural distinctions, and this has led to the legitimation of the carpet bombing of other nations by imperialist states. The road to a world-wide free association of peoples can only pass through the national self-determination of all peoples – whether they have achieved statehood and national autonomy or not.

The fundamental values of the working class are internationalism and solidarity and the ethical problems posed by the suffering of people of other nations is determined by these values.

Globalisation is indeed already undermining national government but nations will wither away only gradually over a long period of time through maturation, not abolition. “Globalisation from below” must respect national differences while transcending national borders.


Nation-state and National Government

The Nation-State is the coming together of a nation with a state; the state being an instrument of force which is able to dominate the people of a nation, representing the social interests of the dominant class with that nation.

A National Government is the legitimate administration over a national territory, having responsibility for policing and regulation of civil society, legislative powers and the administration of justice.

In modern society these two social formations are generally identified and legitimate one another.



The terms was first used in 1874 in relation to nationalisation of the land. See Privatisation and Nationalisation.


National Socialism

A synonym for Fascism.



Those systems of views which see consciousness as direct products of Nature.

Naturalism contrasts with Humanism in that it negates the significance of the active role of human beings in producing themselves through labour and ignores the fact that the world in which modern human societies live are an overwhelmingly ‘humanised’ environment.

In his 1844 Critique of Hegel's Philosophy, Marx wrote: “... consistent naturalism or humanism is distinct from both idealism and materialism, and constitutes at the same time the unifying truth of both. We see also how only naturalism is capable of comprehending the action of world history.”.

That is, human beings are natural, corporeal, sensuous beings and the objects of their needs are also natural objects. Consequently, human labour can only meet human needs to the extent that it conforms with nature; labour is not freely created, but has its essence outside of human society in nature. While labor is based on nature, consciousness is not a direct product of nature, but also stems from how humans relate nature; and therefore the relations established within human society itself. Thus, for Marxism, naturalism can only be understood when combined with humanism.



“[Humans] can be distinguished from animals by consciousness, by religion or anything else you like. They themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce their means of subsistence, a step which is conditioned by their physical organisation. By producing their means of subsistence [Humans] are indirectly producing their actual material life.”

Marx and Engels
The German Ideology: First Premises of Materialist Method

In Relation to Humans: Human Labour distinguishes and is our own unique relation to nature. "Man with all his specifically human features is from beginning to end the result and product of his own labour. Even walking upright..." (by Ilyenkov) is not a natural, a priori response, but develops from the human labor process – a distinguishing feature of australopithecus (the species of human before homo erectus) was the use of their hands as tools to manipulate their environment. This practice with their hands soon became necessary, so they gradually discontinued walking on all fours to free up of the use of their hands; thus humans began walking upright.

In Consciousness: Humans live in a predominantly human constructed world, the underlining aspect of consciousness which is based on the environment is therefore not a direct reflection of Nature, but rather a human, social product. A product, of course, which was built on nature.

In contrast to the Marxist understanding, Naturalism is a tendency which emphasises the natural over the social aspect of the human condition. Opposing this is Humanism which stresses only the social factor in determining human consciousness. Marxism understands a dialectical unity of humanism and naturalism in determining the origins and aspects of consciousness.

Further Reading: Marx's Critique of Hegel's Philosophy in General, including Marx on Man and Nature and Capital, Chapter VII, The Labour Process. Also see: Ilyenkov's The Concrete and the Dialectics of the Universal and the Individual

Hegelian philosophy: Hegel, on understanding things in their own being and movement, that Nature is as much the subject of Philosophy as ideas, that Chance and Necessity exist in Nature, rather than being relevant only to knowledge.

Nature is the last word in Hegel's Logic - for materialism, it is the first word. See Lenin's comment on this. See also examples of dialectics of Nature and Natural Science.