Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

—   Mar   —

The maras are youth gangs in Central America (especially El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras).

“[T]here are ... roughly 70,000 members of Central America’s maras, or youth gangs, which provide a ready supply of teenagers willing to ferry drugs, mind kidnap victims and carry out other low-level tasks. The blossoming links between the drug traffickers and the maras are a big worry.” —The Economist, Jan. 22, 2011, p. 45.

“MARCH ACTION”   (Germany 1921)
An attempted revolutionary uprising in Germany in 1921, the second such attempt following World War I.

“On March 17, 1921, the German Communist Party began an armed rising against the government, known in party history as the ‘March action’. The enterprise was certainly supported, perhaps prompted, by Zinoviev and Comintern officials; the involvement of other Soviet leaders, heavily preoccupied at the moment by the Kronstadt revolt and the party congress, is doubtful. But the defeat of the German rising must have further diminished the waning hopes in Moscow of revolutions in the west, and strengthened the hand of those who saw a diplomatic accommodation with the capitalist countries as the immediate goal.” —E. H. Carr, The Russian Revolution from Lenin to Stalin, 1917-1929 (2004 [1979]), p. 44.

MARCUSE, Herbert   (1898-1971)
German-American philosopher of the “Frankfurt School”. [More to be added...]

MARGIN CALL   [Capitalist Finance]
A demand from a stock broker for additional funds from an investor who purchased stocks or other investment securities “on margin” (i.e., partly with a loan from the broker). If the value of the stocks that were purchased falls, then the value of the portion purchased with money loaned by the broker also falls, which means his collateral in the form of those stock certificates is worth less than it was earlier and the broker is now in danger of losing money. The broker thus demands that the “investor” (i.e., speculator) cover that loss in the value of the collateral by giving him an equivalent amount of money (or securities).
        In a financial crisis all the speculators who have overextended themselves (i.e., most of them!) can suddenly be faced with margin calls which force them to sell other assets at a loss in order to come up with the necessary cash. Since many speculators are doing this simultaneously, it can lead to a very sudden major and continuing crash in the values of stocks and bonds in general, in a kind of vicious circle.

The marginalist theory, or Theory of Marginal Utility, in bourgeois economics, is a conception designed to replace the
labor theory of value developed by Marx from the cruder versions of the classical bourgeois economists. These “more modern” bourgeois economists chafed under the well-established idea that the value of commodities derives from the amount of socially necessary labor time incorporated into them, and longed for another “source” of value which would not give the working class so much credit. They settled on the “marginal” (or “additional”) usefulness of a commodity to the purchaser, or to some hypothetical eventual purchaser.
        This theory is actually quite incoherent. It cannot explain, for example, how two different commodities which are equally useful to you (whether “at the margin” or not) might commonly have such enormously different actual values. Nevertheless, this absurd notion has become the cornerstone of bourgeois neoclassical economics.
        While there are hints of this marginalist theory in earlier authors, even as far back as Jeremy Bentham, the three bourgeois economists generally given the primary credit for the theory are William Stanley Jevons, Carl Menger and Léon Walras. Alfred Marshall also played a role in mathematizing this theory and turning it into the modern dogma which it still remains in bourgeois economics.
        See also: ECONOMICS—Bourgeois

MARIGHELLA, Carlos   (1911-1969)
Brazilian revolutionary writer, leftist politician, and guerrilla fighter who promoted urban guerrilla warfare and who was killed shortly after launching that form of struggle.
        As a young man Marighella joined the Brazilian Communist Party (Partido Comunista Brasileiro - PCB) and soon became one of its leaders. He was arrested and tortured by the reactionary Brazilian regime on at least two occasions. In 1946, and representing the PCB, he was elected a Federal Deputy, and held that position until the PCB was once again banned in 1948. He visited China in 1953-1954 at the invitation of the Communist Party of China. But later on he was much more influenced by the Cuban Revolution and the
foco strategy of Che Guevara. In May 1964, after a military coup seized power in Brazil, Marighella was shot and arrested by the political police (DOPS), but was released the next year. His 1966 book, The Brazilian Crisis, promoted armed struggle against the military dictatorship. Soon afterwards he renounced his leadership position in the PCB, and in August 1967 he participated in the 1st Conference of Latin American Solidarity in Havana. The next year, while still in Havana, he wrote Some Questions About the Guerrillas in Brazil, which was dedicated to Che’s memory. He was then expelled from the PCB, and founded the Ação Libertadora Nacional (ALN) urban guerrilla organization in February 1968. In September 1969 ALN members participated in the kidnapping of the U.S. ambassador to Brazil, Charles Burke Elbrick. This event, along with other ALN robberies and kidnappings, led to a major effort on the part of the regime to destroy the ALN and capture or kill Marighella. This they quickly accomplished. He was shot dead by police in an ambush led by DOPS on November 4, 1969.
        Marighella’s most famous book is the Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla, which is available online in English translation at: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marighella-carlos/1969/06/minimanual-urban-guerrilla/index.htm This work has been praised and adopted by many petty bourgeois proponents of urban guerrilla warfare including the Weather Underground, factions of the Irish Republican Army, the Basque ETA, the Red Army Faction, and Red Brigades in Europe. Of course this revolutionary strategy has not proven to be correct or successful anywhere, mostly because it necessitates isolation from the masses. Small bands of heroes cannot replace the revolutionary struggle of the masses.
        Carlos Marighella was a dedicated revolutionary, and he can and should be honored for that. But his theory that urban guerrilla warfare in countries like Brazil can promote and lead to a spontaneous peasant revolt in the countryside just makes little sense. The working people of the world simply have to employ a much more rational way to make social revolution.

MARK-TO-MARKET   [Capitalist Finance]
Adjusting the reported, or recorded, value of an asset to reflect its changed market value.

MARKET CAPITALIZATION   [Capitalist Finance]
The total market value of all the stock issued by a corporation. Thus if a company has issued 25 million shares which are currently valued at $40 per share, the current market capitalization of that company is 25 million × $40 = $1 billion.
        See also:

An attempt to combine “socialism” with capitalism, and in particular with the capitalist commodity market (including the market for
labor-power). From the revolutionary Marxist (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) perspective this makes no sense whatsoever, because we define socialism as the transitional stage between capitalism and communism. But various types of revisionist thinkers view “socialism” as merely a modification of capitalism, and sometimes even such a slight modification that some of them consider a lightly “regulated” capitalist welfare state (such as in Scandinavia) to be “socialism”!
        Clearly nothing like European social democracy can be in any way viewed as genuine socialism, either economically or politically. But couldn’t we imagine a society where there are really no capitalists, but still separate, decentralized state-run enterprises that use a market to sell commodities to each other, and sell mass-consumption commodities to the people? Couldn’t there still be a labor market as well, with these enterprises hiring workers, and even continuing to extract surplus value from them—but then turning all of this surplus value over to the state for the expansion of production and for public purposes (education, health care, retirement benefits, and so forth), with no “profits” going to any rich owners of the enterprises (because there are none)?
        One important thing to seriously ponder in a thought experiment of this kind is just how stable such a system would be. In fact it would be extremely unstable, and would inevitably degenerate back into traditional capitalism. There would still be foremen, supervisors, layers of management of plants and enterprises, influential people running the government and the dominent political parties, and so forth. And these people would soon develop (if they didn’t already have) special interests of their own, both as individuals, and collectively as a new social class. In other words class society would soon reassert itself, and we would soon be back in the horrible capitalist world where we live today.
        “But couldn’t we keep such tendencies under control?” someone might ask. “Couldn’t we perhaps use the methods developed in Mao’s China to have managers also engage in productive labor, to rotate streams of ordinary workers into management and government positions for limited periods of time, etc. Couldn’t we even engage in struggle against those who get too uppity and start to gather too many private privileges and too much individual power, and so forth?” The answer is that this sort of thing might work for a while, and will have to be made to work during the relatively short socialist transition period to communism. But if society is organized in such a way that these measures are permanently necessary, then an eventual breakdown and return to capitalism is inevitable. The entire underlying material basis for capitalism must be destroyed, and destroyed down to its lowest roots, if capitalism is itself to be destroyed once and for all.
        And here is where it is necessary to come to understand the nature of bourgeois “right”, and how it grows out of the commodity form itself. If you have commodities, if you have commodity exchange, if you have the extraction of surplus value (even if for a time it is somehow arranged that it is put to public uses), then eventually you will have a complete system of capitalism again, because capitalism grows out of those seeds.
        What we revolutionary Marxists are trying to do is to transform society so that classes no longer exist, so that class struggle no longer needs to exist, and so that not even any “struggle” to prevent the development of classes again is necessary any more! There is a way to do this, but it requires uprooting capitalism completely, and on a world scale, down even to the existence of commodity markets and the commodity form. And this is why we are also determined opponents of any “market socialism” schemes.
        The main motivation for favoring “market socialism” comes from those who can only conceive of socialism in the form it took in the Soviet Union, and view that failure as something that is inevitable in a “command economy”. Thus they are straining their brains to think of another way to make socialism work. Well, there is another way, a way that was outlined by Marx, Lenin and Mao. And that way is not the state capitalism of the revisionist Soviet Union nor is it “market socialism”. Those who champion that last scheme have just not investigated the problem deeply enough to understand the inherent flaws in their proposals.
        For those seeking to look into the question of “market socialism” further, I suggest first seriously studying the great work by Marx, “The Critique of the Gotha Programme” (1875) which is available online at: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/index.htm. See also: SYNDICALISM

MARKETS [Capitalist]

“A view that was very dominant before the [2008] crisis—that markets on their own were efficient and stable—no one is supporting that view now. So there really has been a change in the mindset.” —Joseph Stiglitz, a prominent American bourgeois economist, Business Week, March 14-20, 2011, p. 14.

MARKING   [Linguistics: Semantics]
The utilization of the name of a broader category in a narrower (less abstract) sense. For example, the word ‘animal’ in the broader sense includes all mammals and thus also us human beings. But in the semantically marked sense—such as in a sign on the door of grocery store saying “No animals allowed inside”—we human beings are contrasted with (other) animals. The sign does not mean that no human beings are allowed in the store! It is the context that “marks” this use of the word as being narrower.
        Another example, where there is at present social struggle involved (mostly among liberals and youth) which is now leading to changes in how many people talk, is the use of the word ‘men’ to include both male and female human beings (as in the sentence “All men are mortal”). No one imagines that this means the speaker thinks that women may not be mortal! But, in contrast, in the marked sense, the word ‘men’ refers only to males (as with reference to the “Men’s Room” in a restaurant). The unmarked senses of many English words (such as man, men, mankind, mailman, fisherman, etc.) are now falling out of favor—because of the long history of male chauvinism in class society. While this trend is understandable and reasonable, it is in fact also based on a failure of the public to understand the difference between the marked and unmarked words in these cases, and the whole concept of semantic marking in linguistics. And it does sometimes get quite silly and carried away, as with a few feminists (including some men) who insist on spelling ‘women’ as ‘womyn’. I suppose there must be some people who also object to the word ‘humanity’ because of the imagined chauvinist inclusion of the word ‘man’ within it! Moreover, things are getting even more socially complicated and sometimes bizarre in this case, because even what it means for a person to be a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’ or perhaps some intermediate or other gender is now a matter of confusion and/or struggle.
        While semantic marking may be systematically misconstrued in a few specific cases like this, it is in general a very important aspect of language (all languages!), and an important means by which we humans think. The ability to move in both directions in our thought, towards the more abstract and towards the more specific, are critically important. And thus semantic marking (and unmarking) are essential to thinking.
        See also:

“To show that a good part of what we call ‘flexibility’ and ‘creativity’ is tied to the eminently human faculty of extending categories and making leaps between them, we’ll take a close look at a particular phenomenon that gives insight into the processes underlying the development of concepts—specifically, the linguistic phenomenon called marking, which is extremely widespred in language, although people seldom notice it at all; in fact, few even know it exists. The idea is that a single word of a language can designate both a narrower and a broader category, where the narrower one is wholly contained inside the broader one... Although marking can occasionally hinder communication and lead to confusion, it is mostly a useful tool, imbuing language with greater fluidity by allowing several categories to be labeled simultaneously by a single term and by taking advantage of our mind’s natural sensitivity to context.” —Douglas Hofstadter & Emmanuel Sander, Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking (2013), pp. 186-7.

“In language, one sees category membership shifting in a striking fashion thanks to the phenomenon of marking, which allows an entity to shift its category membership without changing its lexical label, but simply by changing the level of abstraction that applies to that label. Marking is the phenomenon whereby a word is used sometimes as the name of a general category and other times as the name of a subcategory of the general one. When such a word is used in its broader sense, it is said to have its unmarked meaning, while the narrower sense is the marked meaning.” —Douglas Hofstadter & Emmanuel Sander, ibid., p. 193.

        See also below, and:

MARRIAGE — Trends in Contemporary Capitalist Society
In advanced capitalist countries in the contemporary era, marriage is being more and more delayed, and there are indications that formal marriages may even be gradually dying out! There are various reasons for this, including changing social mores, but the most fundamental reason seems very likely to be the worsening economic situation for most people as the long-developing capitalist economic crisis gets worse and worse. (Note that the start of the increasing delay in marriage shown in the graph at the right corresponds almost exactly with the beginning of the
Long Slowdown in the U.S. economy in the early 1970s.) When more and more people can no longer obtain reliable jobs with at least wages capable of supporting both themselves and their families, then how can they reasonably get married and start families? If they do live together they are still somewhat like individuals more or less “on their own” economically than people in a true marriage. And if they nevertheless do have a child or two, how certain is their long-term economic ability to support them?
        Marx explained how the wages for workers must tend toward the level just barely able to live at the prevailing low current standard and to allow for the bringing up of new generations of workers. But, because of ever increased productivity and the long-term economic slowdown due to growing crisis, more and more of the population becomes unnecessary as workers for the capitalists. This means more and more competition for jobs, which in turn means that the wage level can and does tend to decline below the level necessary to support marriages and families! That is exactly what seems to be going on as the capitalist nightmare in human society continues.
        See also: “MIDDLE CLASS”—Bourgeois Ideology Of [WSJ quote]

MARSHALL, Alfred   (1842-1924)
Important bourgeois economist who taught at Cambridge University and who greatly influenced a generation of British economists and beyond. Two of his famous students were Arthur Pigou and
John Maynard Keynes. In some respects Marshall served as a bridge between classical economics and the new neoclassical bourgeois economics. In other respects he may be viewed as one of the key founders of neoclassical economics who helped merge many of the ideas of the “marginalists” into bourgeois economic theory and give these ideas a more mathematical form. Although trained as a mathematician, Marshall tried to keep the mathematical content of his writings to a minimum and relegate much of it to footnotes and appendices. Nevertheless, the original source of the notorious ultra-mathematization of modern bourgeois economics does in fact lie in the work of the marginalists and Alfred Marshall.
        His influential textbook, Principles of Economics (1890), presented the new neoclassical reformulation of bourgeois economics in a fully integrated way, and became its first “bible”. However, in the years since then the remaining small elements of classical economic views in his work have mostly been discounted and ignored, as bourgeois economics moves ever further away from reality.

An unsuccessful attempt by the American general George C. Marshall to mediate a peace between the Chinese Communist Party and
Chiang Kai-shek’s Guomindang from 1945 to 1947, and thereby to protect American “interests” in China by trying to prevent a successful revolution by the Communists.

MARTIN, Bill   (1956-  )
An eclectic radical American intellectual who is a professor of philosophy at DePaul University in Chicago. His philosophical views have been influenced by many diverse and conflicting sources, but especially by
Kant and by modern Continental philosophers such as Sartre, Althusser, Derrida and Badiou. Overall we believe it is fair to call Martin a radical Kantian, especially in ethics.
        For a number of years Martin was close to the Revolutionary Communist Party and served to lend some limited academic respectability to them through this association. With Bob Avakian he co-authored a book of philosophical conversations entitled Marxism and the Call of the Future (2005). A couple years later, however, Martin broke with the RCP and became a participant in the Kasama Project whose core consisted of others who also left the orbit of the RCP. Martin considers himself to be a “Maoist”, though he is at pains to reject a number of what he views as “dogmatic principles” of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. In his book Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation (2008), as in his joint work with Avakian and elsewhere, Martin argues for a Kantian re-envisioning of ethics within Marxism. Thus Martin has many similarities to the philosophical idealists within Marxism in Lenin’s day, who also called for a “return to Kant”.
        Among Martin’s other works are several on rock music and one entitled Into the Wild: Badiou, actually-existing Maoism, and the “vital mix” of yesterday and tomorrow, which demonstrated how deeply enamored Martin is with Badiou.
        [See also my “Report on a Discussion by Bill Martin & Raymond Lotta of a book by Martin and Bob Avakian” (April 2007), at: https://www.massline.org/Philosophy/ScottH/BillMartin-RayLotta.htm —S.H.]

MARTOV, L. (or Julius)   (Real name: Yuli Osipovich Tsederbaum)   (1873-1923)
A prominent Russian
Menshevik leader. He was born in Istanbul into a Russian Jewish “middle-class” family. Martov led the struggle against Lenin at the Second Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party in 1903 (which was really its founding Congress). His “Mensheviks” (“minority”) were defeated on the issue of the composition of the editorial board of the Party publication Iskra [“Spark”], but won the vote on the issue of who should be allowed to be a member of the Party. (Lenin wanted a party of fully committed and dedicated revolutionaries; Martov wanted a party with much looser and broader membership rules.) This led to the split between the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks (“majority”).
        Martov, however, was generally on the “left” wing of the Mensheviks, and opposed Russian participation in World War I, which he agreed with Lenin was an imperialist war. He thus became the central leader of the “Menshevik Internationalist” faction, which opposed the main Menshevik party leadership. Martov also opposed the Mensheviks becoming part of the Provisional Government after the overthrow of the tsar, but was unable to stop them from doing so and from continuing their support for the war.
        Martov was thus marginalized both within the overall R.S.D.L.P., and even within the Mensheviks. After the October Revolution, he became even more marginalized, and in 1920 legally emigrated to Germany where he died three years later. In his last few years he established a newspaper called Socialist Messenger which continued publication in Paris and then New York until the last of the Mensheviks abroad petered out. It is rumored that Lenin himself provided the initial money for Martov to set up this newspaper! If true, it would not be too surprising; Lenin thought that even the enemies of the people should still be allowed a small voice, as long as they were unable to corrupt the masses.

MARX, Karl   (1818-1883)
The primary founder, along with
Frederick Engels, of the science of society and social revolution which is now customarily known as Marxism, or—as it has further developed—as Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
[Much more to be added...]

“As to myself, no credit is due to me for discovering either the existence of classes in modern society or the struggle between them. Long before me bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this class struggle and bourgeois economists the economic anatomy of the classes. What I did that was new was to demonstrate: 1) that the existence of classes is merely linked to particular historical phases in the development of production, 2) that class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat, 3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.” —Marx, Letter to Joseph Weydemeyer, March 5, 1852, Marx-Engels Selected Correspondence (Moscow: 1975), p. 64; in a slightly different translation in MECW 39:62.

“These two great discoveries, the materialist conception of history and the revelation of the secret of capitalistic production through surplus-value, we owe to Marx. With these discoveries socialism became a science. The next thing was to work out all its details and relations.” —Engels, Anti-Dühring (1878), MECW 25:27.

MARX — and Philosophy
As a young man Marx saw the need to study philosophy in order to begin to understand the world. Unlike most who do so, and once he felt he understood the basic points of philosophy (which are by no means inherently undecidable as bourgeois ideologists contend!), Marx then shifted his focus of interest into politics and political economy. Not such a bad personal trajectory!

“In 1837 [at the age of 19] Marx ceased his literary pursuits, having come to the conclusion that he can make no progress in any branch of science, for example, jurisprudence, without first studying philosophy. Indeed, as Engels was to write later, if one wishes to develop and perfect the capacity for theoretical thought, ‘there is as yet no other means than the study of previous philosophy.’
        “Marx attempted a critical interpretation of the philosophy of Hegel, who then had a large following at Berlin University. Marx was both attracted and repelled by Hegel. He was deeply impressed by Hegel’s dialectic, by his attempt to grasp the world in its development, in motion, in the struggle of opposites. He recognized in Hegel a gigantic philosopher who had dared to draw into one philosophical system the entire development of the universe, the whole of science and art. However, this system was idealistic in that, for Hegel, the creator of the natural world was the ‘world spirit’, thus making the idea prime [primary] over matter. Marx began to doubt whether Hegel was right, and in order to resolve these doubts he turned to the source of philosophy, to the philosophers of Ancient Greece.
        “From among the numerous philosophical trends of antiquity, Marx chooses to examine the ideas of Democritus and Epicurus. Both were materialists and moreover, developed the theory that matter is composed of basic, indivisible particles—atoms. The fact that Marx selected the philosophies of the major Greek atomists and materialists reveals the direction in which he was moving in his search for a new world view. The Hegelian system could not be superceded within the framework of idealism. No idealist philosophy could be of any help in this regard. Only the age-old materialist tradition could offer a solution.
        “Marx chose the philosophy of Democritus and Epicurus as the theme of his doctor’s thesis, which he successfully completed in 1841. This thesis reveals that, while Marx has not yet adopted a fully materialist outlook, he is already dissatisfied with idealism. This work, together with the preparatory manuscripts, contains a profound criticism of Hegel and his reactionary followers, the so-called right-Hegelians. Marx also sharply criticizes the theoretical basis of religion, in particular the principles used to prove the existence of God and the immortality of the soul.
        “In the last three years as a student, Marx moves from a struggle against religious hypocrisy and religious morality to a decisive rejection of religion. At that time, criticism of religion was one of the forms of protest against the feudal-monarchical system in Prussia, which had the blessing of the official church. Marx’s friends from the left-wing, more progressive followers of Hegel (the so-called Young Hegelians) became enthusiastic critics of religion and theology.
        “[However,] purely theoretical speculation did not satisfy the young doctor of philosophy. He wished to combine philosophy with reality, that is, to take an active part in politics.”
         —The Basics of Marxist-Leninist Theory, ed. by G. N. Volkov, (Moscow: Progress, 1979), pp. 14-15.

MARX — “Promethean Impulse” Attributed to Marx

“Critics of Marx have sometimes noted a so-called Promethean strain in his work—a belief in Man’s sovereignty over Nature, along with a faith in limitless human progress. There is indeed such a current in his writings, as one might expect from a nineteenth-century European intellectual. There was little concern with plastic bags and carbon emissions around 1860. Besides, Nature sometimes needs to be subjugated. Unless we build a lot of seawalls pretty quickly, we are in danger of losing Bangladesh. Typhoid jabs are an exercise of human sovereignty over Nature. So are bridges and brain surgery. Milking cows and building cities mean harnessing Nature to our own ends. The idea that we should never seek to get the better of Nature is sentimental nonsense. Yet even if we do need to get the better of it from time to time, we can do so only by that sensitive attunement to its inner workings known as science.
        “Marx himself sees this sentimentalism (‘a childish attitude to nature,’ as he calls it) as reflecting a superstitious stance to the natural world, in which we bow down before it as a superior power; and this mystified relation to our surroundings reappears in modern times as what he calls the fetishism of commodities. Once again, our lives are determined by alien powers, dead bits of matter which have been imbued with a tyrannical form of life....
        “As early as The German Ideology, Marx is to be found including geographical and climatic factors in social analysis. All historical analysis, he declares, ‘must set out from these natural bases and their modification in the course of history through the action of men.’ He writes in Capital of ‘socialized man, the associated producers, rationally regulating their material interchange with nature and bringing it under common control, instead of allowing it to rule them as a blind force.’ [Vol. 3, Int’l Publishers ed., 1967, p. 102.] ‘Interchange’ rather than lordship, rational control rather than bullying dominion, is what is at stake. In any case, Marx’s Prometheus (he was his favorite classical character) is less a bullish champion of technology than a political rebel. For Marx, as for Dante, Milton, Goethe, Blake, Beethoven and Byron, Prometheus represents revolution, creative energy and a revolt against the gods.
        “The charge that Marx is just another Enlightenment rationalist out to plunder Nature in the name of Man is quite false. Few Victorian thinkers have so strikingly prefigured modern environmentalism.”
         —Terry Eagleton, Why Marx Was Right (2011), pp. 226-8.

MARX — and Racism
There is a letter by Marx written to Engels in 1862 which criticizes
Ferdinand Lassalle in a way which certainly seems to express a racist attitude, and apparently also an anti-Semitic attitude. Although it is always painful to learn about any shortcomings of your heroes, our allegiance to the truth must always take precedence over our allegiance to any individual. Here is the passage at issue:

“The Jewish nigger Lassalle who, I’m glad to say, is leaving at the end of this week, has happily lost another 5,000 talers in an ill-judged speculation. The chap would sooner throw money down the drain than lend it to a ‘friend’, even though his interest and capital were guaranteed. [Marx was in a desperate financial situation at the time. —Ed.] In this he bases himself on the view that he ought to live the life of a Jewish baron, or Jew created a baron (no doubt by the countess). [Sophie von Hatzfeldt, who gave Lassalle a great deal of money for representing her in a legal case against her ex-husband. —Ed.] ...
         [Followed by a page of criticisms by Marx of Lassalle’s self-importance and his absurd claims to have controlled the ‘history of the past three years’ in Europe.]
        “And on top of it all, the sheer gluttony and wanton lechery of this ‘idealist’!
        “It is now quite plain to me—as the shape of his head and the way his hair grows also testify—that he is descended from the negroes who accompanied Moses’ flight from Egypt (unless his mother or paternal grandmother interbred with a nigger). Now, this blend of Jewishness and Germanness, on the one hand, and basic negroid stock, on the other, must inevitably give rise to a peculiar product. The fellow’s importunity is also niggerlike.”
         —Marx, excerpts from a letter to Engels, July 30, 1862; MECW 41:389-390.

Lest these outrageous words by Marx be viewed as a matter of mistranslation from the German original, it should be noted that the word ‘nigger’ is in English in the original letter. And although that word had developed from the innocuous meaning of “black” in Latin much earlier, by Marx’s day it had already long-since acquired something close to its modern highly derogatory meaning.
        Yes, this is only one letter, a private letter not intended for publication, and Marx was perhaps justly peeved at Lasalle for a variety of good reasons. And as far as we know this is the only time that Marx wrote in this racist sort of way, even privately. In his newspaper articles Marx lambasted the English military officers in India for their racist colonial actions, and similarly prominently opposed racism and colonialism everywhere. Moreover, Marx was a staunch opponent of slavery and a very strong supporter of the North in the Civil War in the U.S. (However, it was quite possible to be a total opponent of slavery and to still have racist attitudes, as was the case with Abraham Lincoln.)
        But it seems that this letter alone is in fact sufficient evidence to conclude that Marx did have at least some actual racist views, and probably also some anti-Semitic views. It is distressing to realize this, but facts are facts.
        Marx may well have had other views and shortcomings which we today would justifiably criticize as well. What were his views of homosexuality for example? (We have not yet investigated this. —Ed.) Some other general criticisms of Marx in recent years seem to be less justified, such as his supposed “Eurocentrism” and his supposed neglect of environmental issues (see however the entry above on Marx’s “Promethean Impulse” on that topic).
        It seems that we have to conclude that Marx—despite being a great revolutionary and a very far-seeing thinker in many respects—was, like everyone else, also to some degree a person “of their own times”, that is, someone who shared at least some of the unfounded and unscientific biases of their own age. Lenin once remarked that you can’t live in society and be totally free of society, and that goes for the great creators of our revolutionary science Marxism-Leninism-Maoism themselves.
        In reference to Sun Yat-sen, Mao once said that “Like many great figures in history who stood in the forefront guiding the march of events, Dr. Sun, too, had his shortcomings. These shortcomings should be explained in the light of the historical conditions so that people can understand; we should not be too critical of our predecessors.” [“In Commemoration of Dr. Sun Yat-sen” (Nov. 12, 1956), SW 5:331.] We should apply this same standard to Marx. We can and should criticize him where we believe he is wrong—as with regard to apparent racist and anti-Semitic views—but at the same time we should continue to uphold him as the great revolutionary thinker and leader of the international working class that he still undoubtedly was.
        Marx himself explained early on how it is that social revolution can actually be carried out by people who are themselves by no means perfect. As we make revolution we also transform ourselves in the process; and the fact that we revolutionaries ourselves need to be further transformed should by no means frighten us:

“The materialist doctrine that men are products of circumstances and upbringing, and that, therefore, changed men are products of other circumstances and changed upringing, forgets that men themselves change circumstances and that the educator himself must be educated....
        “The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionizing practice.” —Marx, Thesis III, “Theses on Feuerbach” (1845), first published as an appendix to Engels’s book Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy in 1888. (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1976), p. 62.

“From the long-range view future generations ought to be more knowledgeable than we are, just as men of the bourgeois-democratic era were more knowledgeable than those of the feudal ages. Their judgment would prevail, not ours. The youth of today and those to come after them would assess the work of the revolution in accordance with values of their own.
        “Mao’s voice dropped away and he half closed his eyes. Man’s condition on this earth was changing with ever increasing rapidity. A thousand years from now all of us, he said, even Marx, Engels, and Lenin would probably appear rather ridiculous.” —Mao’s comments, as reported by Edgar Snow from an interview on Jan. 9, 1965. SW 9:473. Online at: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-9/appendix.htm

        1. [As used by Marxists-Leninists-Maoists:] The science of society and social revolution, as originally established by
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, and elaborated and extended by many others, especially V. I. Lenin and Mao Zedong. Short-hand for Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
        2. [As used by non-Marxists:] The ideas of Karl Marx specifically (and sometimes Engels), as interpreted and distorted by bourgeois professors and other anti-Marxist ideologists.
        See also: MARXIST THEORY

STALIN—Marxism and the National Question

MARXISM — As a Religion
There are several important things to discuss in this connection: 1) The claim by anti-Marxists (or the just plain ignorant) that Marxism is really just another religion in the same way that Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, or any other religion is; and why this claim is simply not true. 2) The fact that some people who call themselves Marxists do in actuality treat Marxism as a religion. And, 3) The fact that sometimes actual scientific Marxists have spoken in rather poetic terms of Marxism as a religion, which in part acknowledges that at least sections of the masses look at Marxism in this way. We will discuss each of these three issues in turn:
        1)   Marxism is the science of social revolution and, as a science, it can in no way be considered a religion:   Many people in contemporary bourgeois society do not at all understand the difference between science and non-scientific systems of belief, such as religions. For them, all “belief systems” are more or less the same sort of thing. This shows their ignorance of science and the
scientific method. Belief can be founded on what others just tell you (such as priests), on what you were raised to believe, or on the most fanciful ideas that you came across somewhere. That sort of belief is religious, or at least genuinely akin to religious belief. But belief can also be founded on careful thought and investigation, on the summation of wide experience of not only your own but of many other people as well, and on tests of ideas through social practice and scientific experiment. A body of scientific theory can be developed in that way, and this has been done in the case of Marxism. Marxist principles (beliefs) are always subject to rejection or revision if further investigation and social experience requires us to do this. And indeed, Marxism has on many occasions been modified or extended based on new experience in the world revolutionary struggle. [See however: “RUPTURES” IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF MARXISM] Thus viewing the theory of revolutionary Marxism (Marxism-Leninism-Maoism) as a “religion” is either a mark of complete ignorance, or else an outright bourgeois slander.
        2)   Unfortunately, however, some people who call themselves Marxists do in fact tend to partially approach Marxist scientific theory in sort of a religious way:   This sorry fact reflects a situation in present society where people are not trained to be scientific in general. It is dangerous for the capitalist ruling class to promote skepticism in the educational system they control, or to encourage thoughtful scientific investigation in any sphere, and especially so with regard to human society. Even in the high schools where students are supposely learning something about the sciences of chemistry, physics and biology, what the students are mostly actually taught are a few of the established facts and principles that these sciences have discovered in the past. It is extremely rare for any attention whatsoever to be paid to learning the scientific method, let alone to inculcating the basic scientific approach to the investigation of the world into those students. Even at the college level, education in the scientific method is woefully weak. Thus it is no surprise that many young people, when they first turn to revolution, tend to view Marxist theory in the same way they view the principles of chemistry and biology that they have hopefully been exposed to; i.e., as a body of doctrine simply to be memorized.
        Engels once pointed out that since socialism had become a science it must be pursued as a science—that is, it must be studied. [See Engels quote in: REVOLUTIONARY THEORY.] And that is definitely true. But the full education of revolutionary Marxists also requires the internalization of the scientific method, and the transformation of any lingering religious approach to the body of Marxist theory into a genuinely scientific approach toward it.
        3)   On a very few occasions genuine Marxists have spoken, in sort of a loose or poetic fashion, of Marxism as a “religion”:   How do we account for this?
        Mao once remarked that “Not to have a correct political orientation is like not having a soul.” [SW 5:405] But did that mean that Mao actually believed in “souls” in the religious sense? Of course not! Similarly, in his conversation with the French intellectual, André Malraux in 1965, Mao said:

“There is what one sees, and what one doesn’t see. Men do not like to bear the burden of the Revolution throughout their lives. When I said ‘Chinese Marxism is the religion of the people,’ I meant—but do you know how many communists there are in the countryside? One per cent!—I meant that the communists express the Chinese people in a real way if they remain faithful to the work upon which the whole of China has embarked as if on another Long March. When we say, ‘We are the Sons of the People,’ China understands it as she understood the phrase ‘Son of Heaven.’ The People has taken the place of the ancestors. The People, not the victorious Communist party.
        “The revolution freed the wife from her husband, the son from his father, the farmer from his overlord. But for the benefit of collectivity. The individualism of the West has no roots among the Chinese masses. The hope of transformation, on the other hand, is a very powerful sentiment. A husband must stop beating his wife in order to become a different man, who will be a member of the party, or simply of his people’s commune, or of those which the army will set free: ‘Gods are all right for the rich; the poor have the Eighth Route Army.’” —Mao, quoted in Donald MacInnis, Religious Policy and Practice in Communist China (1972), pp. 17-18.

MARXISM — Bourgeois Views Of

“A bourgeois philosopher or a bourgeois publicist will never understand Social-Democracy [which we now refer to as Marxism or Communism —Ed.] properly, whether it is Menshevik or Bolshevik Social-Democracy. But if he is at all a sensible publicist, his class instinct will not fail him, and he will always grasp the essence of what one trend or another in the Social-Democratic movement may mean to the bourgeoisie, although he may present it in a distorted way. That is why our enemy’s class instinct, his class opinion always deserves the closest attention from every class-conscious proletarian.” —Lenin, “Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution”, LCW 9:117.

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A monthly theoretical and commentary journal of the totally revisionist Communist Party of Great Britain, published from 1957 until the collapse of that party in 1991. Individual articles from this (mostly worthless) magazine are available online at:


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This was a totally fake communist party set up in 1968 in the Netherlands by the Dutch secret service agency BVD (Binnenlandse Veiligheidsdienst). It pretended to have a “pro-China” policy in order to try to develop contacts with the Chinese government for espionage purposes, and also no doubt to try to better monitor some of the genuine revolutionaries in the Netherlands. It was finally closed down sometime in the early 1990s.

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“The world’s greatest movement for liberation of the oppressed class, the most revolutionary class in history, is impossible without a revolutionary theory. That theory cannot be thought up. It grows out of the sum total of the revolutionary experience and the revolutionary thinking of all countries in the world. Such a theory has developed since the second half of the nineteenth century. It is known as Marxism. One cannot be a socialist, a revolutionary Social-Democrat, without participating, in the measure of one’s powers, in developing and applying that theory, and without waging a ruthless struggle today against the mutilation of this theory by Plekhanov, Kautsky, and Co.” —Lenin, “The Voice of an Honest French Socialist” (1915), LCW 21:354.


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