The Meaning of Marxism


About a century ago, Vladimir Lenin was defending the validity of Marxism as a revolutionary method for advancing the project of communism against attacks from anarchists and opportunists. Central to Lenin’s claim is that Marxism is vulgarized, implying intentional distortion, because it is a revolutionary theory… We now find ourselves in the same position as Lenin, a century later, where Marxism has been distorted and vulgarized even further than it was in his time.

The Vulgarizations of Marxism

There are four common vulgarizations of Marxism: 1) Reducing Marxism to the thought of Karl Marx alone. 2) Reducing Marxism to an inherent economic/class reductionism. 3) Reducing Marxism to a general belief in unionization and better conditions for workers. 4) Reducing Marxism to the prediction of global revolution followed by communism. Or in other words, reducing Marxism to the results of its analysis. 

What is Marxism?

Thesis 1: Marxism is not a system of thought, but rather a methodology that is used to produce scientific knowledge of societies and history. Thesis 2: The totality of Marxist analysis, or the aggregate of knowledges produced by Marxist methodology, can be considered Marxist theory, which as a whole is not necessarily scientific.


It is unclear whether or not the Russian or Chinese revolution succeeded entirely because of their methods. This becomes a question of causality. Did these revolutions succeed primarily because of the methods of the revolutionary agents? Was it because of structural conditions within the social formation? Was it because of the weakness of their respective opponents? Or was it an overdetermination of causes as outlined by Althusser?

What is Communism?

Communism is a political ideology that calls for the abolition of private property, classes, the state and repressive state apparatus, and the division of manual and intellectual labor. Communism also asserts that a revolutionary process, beginning with seizing political power from the ruling class, will be necessary to realize these demands.