Orthodox Marxism

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Orthodox Marxism is the body of Marxism thought that emerged after the death of Karl Marx (1818–1883) and which became the official philosophy of the socialist movement as represented in the Second International until the First World War in 1914. Orthodox Marxism aims to simplify, codify and systematize Marxist method and theory by clarifying the perceived ambiguities and contradictions of classical Marxism.

Marxism economic and sociopolitical worldview based on the works of Karl Marx

Marxism is a theory and method of working class self-emancipation. As a theory, it relies on a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Karl Marx Revolutionary socialist

Karl Marx was a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary.

Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership of the means of production and workers' self-management, as well as the political theories and movements associated with them. Social ownership can be public, collective or cooperative ownership, or citizen ownership of equity. There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them, with social ownership being the common element shared by its various forms.

Contents

The philosophy of orthodox Marxism includes the understanding that material development (advances in technology in the productive forces) is the primary agent of change in the structure of society and of human social relations and that social systems and their relations (e.g. feudalism, capitalism and so on) become contradictory and inefficient as the productive forces develop, which results in some form of social revolution arising in response to the mounting contradictions. This revolutionary change is the vehicle for fundamental society-wide changes and ultimately leads to the emergence of new economic systems. [1]

Productive forces

Productive forces, productive powers, or forces of production is a central idea in Marxism and historical materialism.

Feudalism combination of legal and military customs in medieval Europe

Feudalism was a combination of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries. Broadly defined, it was a way of structuring society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour. Although derived from the Latin word feodum or feudum (fief), then in use, the term feudalism and the system it describes were not conceived of as a formal political system by the people living in the Middle Ages. In its classic definition, by François-Louis Ganshof (1944), feudalism describes a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals and fiefs.

Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. Characteristics central to capitalism include private property, capital accumulation, wage labor, voluntary exchange, a price system, and competitive markets. In a capitalist market economy, decision-making and investment are determined by every owner of wealth, property or production ability in financial and capital markets, whereas prices and the distribution of goods and services are mainly determined by competition in goods and services markets.

In the term orthodox Marxism, the word "orthodox" refers to the methods of historical materialism and of dialectical materialism—and not the normative aspects inherent to classical Marxism, without implying dogmatic adherence to the results of Marx's investigations. [2]

Historical materialism Marxist historiography

Historical materialism is a methodology used by some communist and Marxist historiographers that focuses on human societies and their development through history, arguing that history is the result of material conditions rather than ideas. This was first articulated by Karl Marx (1818–1883) as the "materialist conception of history." It is principally a theory of history which asserts that the material conditions of a society's mode of production or in Marxist terms, the union of a society's productive forces and relations of production, fundamentally determine society's organization and development. Historical materialism is an example of Marx and Engel's scientific socialism, attempting to show that socialism and communism are scientific necessities rather than philosophical ideals.

Dialectical materialism strand of Marxism

Dialectical materialism is a philosophy of science and nature developed in Europe and based on the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. In contrast to the Hegelian dialectic, which emphasized the idealist observation that human experience is dependent on the mind's perceptions, Marxist dialectics emphasizes the importance of real world conditions, in terms of class, labor, and socioeconomic interactions. Marx supposed that these material conditions contained contradictions which seek resolution in new forms of social organisation.

Description

The emergence of orthodox Marxism is associated with the latter works of Friedrich Engels, such as the Dialectics of Nature and Socialism: Utopian and Scientific , which were efforts to popularise the work of Karl Marx, render it systematic and apply it to the fundamental questions of philosophy. [3] Daniel De Leon, an early American socialist leader, contributed much to the thought during the final years of the 19th century and the early 20th century. Orthodox Marxism was further developed during the Second International by thinkers such as Georgi Plekhanov and Karl Kautsky. Kautsky and to a lesser extent Plekhanov were in turn major influences on Vladimir Lenin, whose version of Marxism was known as Leninism by its contemporaries. The official thought of the Third International was based in orthodox Marxism combined with Leninist views on revolutionary organization.[ citation needed ] The terms dialectical materialism and historical materialism are associated with this phase of orthodox Marxism. Rosa Luxemburg, Hal Draper and Rudolf Hilferding are prominent thinkers in the orthodox Marxist tradition.[ citation needed ]

Friedrich Engels German social scientist, author, political theorist, and philosopher

Friedrich Engels was a German philosopher, communist, social scientist, journalist and businessman. His father was an owner of large textile factories in Salford, England and in Barmen, Prussia.

<i>Dialectics of Nature</i> Book

Dialectics of Nature is an unfinished 1883 work by Friedrich Engels that applies Marxist ideas – particularly those of dialectical materialism – to science.

<i>Socialism: Utopian and Scientific</i> literary work

Socialism: Utopian and Scientific is a short book first published in 1880 by German-born socialist Friedrich Engels. The work was primarily extracted from a longer polemic work published in 1876, Anti-Dühring. It first appeared in the French language.

Orthodox Marxism is contrasted with later variations of Marxism, notably revisionism and Leninism. In contrast to Lenin's Bolshevik idea of revolution, orthodox Marxists said that Imperial Russia was too backwards for the development of socialism and would first have undergo a capitalist (bourgeois) phase of development. [4]

Revisionism (Marxism) various ideas, principles and theories that are based on a significant revision of fundamental Marxist premises; often used as a derogatory term by more “orthodox” Marxists

Within the Marxist movement, the word revisionism is used to refer to various ideas, principles and theories that are based on a significant revision of fundamental Marxist premises.

Leninism political, social, and economic theory developed by Vladimir Lenin

Leninism is the political theory for the organisation of a revolutionary vanguard party and the achievement of a dictatorship of the proletariat as political prelude to the establishment of socialism. Developed by and named for the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, Leninism comprises socialist political and economic theories, developed from Marxism and Lenin's interpretations of Marxist theories, for practical application to the socio-political conditions of the Russian Empire of the early 20th century.

The characteristics of orthodox Marxism are:

Economic determinism

Economic determinism is a socioeconomic theory that economic relationships are the foundation upon which all other societal and political arrangements in society are based. The theory stresses that societies are divided into competing economic classes whose relative political power is determined by the nature of the economic system. In the version associated with Karl Marx, the emphasis is on the proletariat who are considered to be locked in a class struggle with the capitalist class, which will eventually end with the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system and the gradual development of socialism. Marxist thinkers have dismissed plain and unilateral economic determinism as a form of "vulgar Marxism", or "economism", nowhere included in Marx's works.

Economism is a term in Marxist discourse. It was used by Vladimir Lenin in his attacks on a trend in the early Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party around the newspaper Rabochaya Mysl:

The Economists [in Russia] limited the tasks of the working class to an economic struggle for higher wages and better working conditions, etc., asserting that the political struggle was the business of the liberal bourgeoisie. They denied the leading role of the party of the working class, considering that the party should merely observe the spontaneous process of the movement and register events. In their deference to spontaneity in the working-class movement, the Economists belittled the significance of revolutionary theory and class-consciousness, asserted that socialist ideology could emerge from the spontaneous movement, denied the need for a Marxist party to instil socialist consciousness into the working-class movement, and thereby cleared the way for bourgeois ideology. The Economists, who opposed the need to create a centralized working-class party, stood for the sporadic and amateurish character of individual circles [or collectives]. Economism threatened to divert the working class from the class revolutionary path and turn it into a political appendage of the bourgeoisie.

Technological determinism is a reductionist theory that assumes that a society's technology determines the development of its social structure and cultural values. Technological determinism tries to understand how technology has had an impact on human action and thought. Changes in technology are the primary source for changes in society. The term is believed to have originated from Thorstein Veblen (1857–1929), an American sociologist and economist. The most radical technological determinist in the United States in the 20th century was most likely Clarence Ayres who was a follower of Thorstein Veblen and John Dewey. William Ogburn was also known for his radical technological determinism.

Orthodox Marxism is contrasted with revisionist Marxism as developed in post-First World War Social Democratic parties. Some writers also contrast it with Marxism–Leninism as it developed in the Soviet Union,[ citation needed ] while others describe the latter as firmly within orthodoxy:

Orthodox Marxism rested on and grew out of the European working class movement that emerged in the final quarter of the 19th century and continued in that form until the middle years of the twentieth century. Its two institutional expressions were the 2nd and 3rd Internationals, which despite the great schism in 1919, were marked by a shared conception of capital and labour. Their fortunes therefore rose and fell together. Trotskyism and Left communism were equally orthodox in their thinking and approach, and therefore must be considered left-variants of this tradition. [5]

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Two variants of orthodox Marxism are impossibilism and anti-revisionism. Impossibilism is a form of orthodox Marxism that both rejects the reformism of revisionist Marxism and opposes the Leninist theories of imperialism, vanguardism and democratic centralism (which argue that socialism can be constructed in underdeveloped, quasi-feudal countries through revolutionary action as opposed to being an emergent result of advances in material development). An extreme form of this position is held by the Socialist Party of Great Britain. [6] In contrast, the anti-revisionist tradition criticised official Communist parties from the opposite perspective as having abandoned the orthodox Marxism of the founding fathers.

Variants

A number of theoretical perspectives and political movements emerged that were firmly rooted in orthodox Marxist analysis, as contrasted with later interpretations and alternative developments in Marxist theory and practice such as Marxism–Leninism, revisionism and reformism.

Impossibilism

Impossibilism stresses the limited value of economic, social, cultural and political reforms under capitalism and posits that socialists and Marxists should solely focus on efforts to propagate and establish socialism, disregarding any other cause that has no connection to the goal of the realization of socialism.

Impossibilism posits that reforms to capitalism are counterproductive because they strengthen support for capitalism by the working class by making its conditions more tolerable while creating further contradictions of their own, while removing the socialist character of the parties championing and implementing said reforms. Because reforms cannot solve the systemic contradictions of capitalism, impossibilism opposes reformism, revisionism and ethical socialism.

Impossibilism also opposes the idea of a vanguard-led revolution and the centralization of political power in any elite group of people as espoused by Leninism and Marxism–Leninism .

This perspective is maintained by the World Socialist Movement, De Leonism, and to some extent followers of Karl Kautsky and pre-reformist social democracy.

Luxemburgism

Luxemburgism is an informal designation for a current of Marxist thought and practice that originates from the ideas and work of Rosa Luxemburg. In particular, it stresses the importance for spontaneous revolution which can only emerge in response to mounting contradictions between the productive forces and social relations of society and therefore rejects Leninism and Bolshevism for its insistence on a "hands-on" approach to revolution. Luxemburgism is also highly critical of the reformist Marxism that emerged from the work of Eduard Bernstein's faction of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. According to Rosa Luxemburg, under reformism "[capitalism] is not overthrown, but is on the contrary strengthened by the development of social reforms". [7]

Menshevism

Menshevism refers to the political positions taken by the Menshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party prior to the October Revolution of 1917. The Mensheviks believed that socialism could not be realized in Russia due to its backwards economic conditions and that Russia would first have to experience a bourgeois revolution and go through a capitalist stage of development before socialism became technically possible and before the working class could develop the class consciousness for a socialist revolution. [8] The Mensheviks were thus opposed to the Bolshevik idea of a vanguard party and their pursuit of socialist revolution in semi-feudal Russia.

Karl Kautsky and "Kautskyism"

Karl Kautsky is recognized as one of the most authoritative promulgators of orthodox Marxism following the death of Friedrich Engels in 1895. As an advisor to August Bebel, leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) until Bebel's death in 1913 and as editor of Die Neue Zeit from 1883 till 1917, he was known as the "Pope of Marxism". He was removed as editor by the leadership of the SPD when the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD) split away from the SPD. Kautsky was an outspoken critic of Bolshevism and Leninism, seeing the Bolsheviks (or Communists as they had renamed themselves after 1917) as an organization that had gained power by a coup and initiated revolutionary changes for which there was no economic rationale in Russia. Kautsky was also opposed to Eduard Bernstein's reformist politics in the period 1896–1901.

Instrumental Marxism

Instrumental Marxism is a theory derived from classical Marxism which reasons that policy makers in government and positions of power tend to "share a common business or class background, and that their decisions will reflect their business or class interests". [9]

Criticism

There have been a number of criticisms of orthodox Marxism from within the socialist movement. From the 1890s during the Second International, Eduard Bernstein and others developed a position known as revisionism, which sought to revise Marx's views based on the idea that the progressive development of capitalism and the extension of democracy meant that gradual, parliamentary reform could achieve socialism. This view was contested by orthodox Marxists such as Kautsky as well as by the young Georg Lukacs, who in 1919 clarified the definition of orthodox Marxism as thus:

[O]rthodoxy refers exclusively to method. It is the scientific conviction that dialectical materialism is the road to truth and that its methods can be developed, expanded and deepened only along the lines laid down by its founders. It is the conviction, moreover, that all attempts to surpass or 'improve' it have led and must lead to over-simplification, triviality and eclecticism. [10]

Western Marxism, the intellectual Marxism which developed in Western Europe from the 1920s onwards, sought to make Marxism more "sophisticated", open and flexible by examining issues like culture that were outside the field of orthodox Marxism. Western Marxists, such as Georg Lukács, Karl Korsch, Antonio Gramsci and the Frankfurt School, have tended to be open to influences orthodox Marxists consider bourgeois, such as psychoanalysis and the sociology of Max Weber. Marco Torres illustrates the shift away from orthodox Marxism in the Frankfurt School:

In the early 1920s, the original members of the Frankfurt Institute—half forgotten names such as Carl Grünberg, Henryk Grossman and Karl August Wittfogel, were social scientists of an orthodox Marxist conviction. They understood their task as an advancement of the sciences that would prove useful in solving the problems of a Europe-wide transition into socialism, which they saw, if not as inevitable, at least as highly likely. But as fascism reared its head in Germany and throughout Europe, the younger members of the Institute saw the necessity for a different kind of Marxist Scholarship. Beyond accumulating knowledge relevant to an orthodox Marxist line, they felt the need to take the more critical and negative approach that is required for the maintenance of an integral and penetrating understanding of society during a moment of reaction. This could be described as the politically necessary transition from Marxist positive science to Critical Theory. [11]

In parallel to this, Cedric Robinson has identified a Black Marxist tradition, including people like C.L.R. James and W. E. B. Du Bois, who have opened Marxism to the study of race.

In the postwar period, the New Left and new social movements gave rise to intellectual and political currents which again challenged orthodox Marxism. These include Italian autonomism, French Situationism, the Yugoslavian Praxis School, British cultural studies, Marxist feminism, Marxist humanism, analytical Marxism and critical realism.

See also

Related Research Articles

Eduard Bernstein German politician

Eduard Bernstein was a German social-democratic Marxist theorist and politician. A member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Bernstein had held close association to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, but he saw flaws in Marxist thinking and began to criticize views held by Marxism when he investigated and challenged the Marxist materialist theory of history. He rejected significant parts of Marxist theory that were based upon Hegelian metaphysics and rejected the Hegelian dialectical perspective.

Erfurt Program

The Erfurt Program was adopted by the Social Democratic Party of Germany during the SPD congress at Erfurt in 1891. Formulated under the political guidance of Eduard Bernstein, August Bebel, and Karl Kautsky, it superseded the earlier Gotha Program.

Communism socialist political movement and ideology

In political and social sciences, communism is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.

Two-stage theory

The two-stage theory, or stagism, is a Marxist–Leninist political theory which argues that underdeveloped countries such as Tsarist Russia must first pass through a stage of capitalism before moving to a socialist stage.

<i>Dialectical and Historical Materialism</i> book

Dialectical and Historical Materialism, by Joseph Stalin, is a central text within Soviet political theory Marxism–Leninism.

Marxist schools of thought

Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that frames capitalism through a paradigm of exploitation, analyzes class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. While it originates from the works of 19th century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Marxism has had several different schools of thought.

Internationalist and defencist were the broad opposing camps in the international socialist movement during and shortly after the First World War. Prior to 1914, anti-militarism had been an article of faith among most European socialist parties. Leaders of the Second International had even suggested that socialist workers might foil a declaration of war by means of a general strike.

Impossibilism

Impossibilism is a Marxist theory and perspective on the emergence of socialism that stresses the limited value of political, economic, cultural and social reforms within a capitalist economy. It argues that the pursuit of such reforms is counterproductive because they stabilize and strengthen support for capitalism, thereby helping to ensure its continuation. Impossibilism holds that the pursuit of reforms should not be a major concern for socialists because such reforms are irrelevant, if not counter-productive, to the realization of socialism.

Revolutionary socialism is the socialist doctrine that social revolution is necessary in order to bring about structural changes to society. More specifically, it is the view that revolution is a necessary precondition for a transition from capitalism to socialism. Revolution is not necessarily defined as a violent insurrection; it is defined as seizure of political power by mass movements of the working class so that the state is directly controlled or abolished by the working class as opposed to the capitalist class and its interests. Revolutionary socialists believe such a state of affairs is a precondition for establishing socialism and orthodox Marxists believe that it is inevitable but not predetermined.

Dictatorship of the proletariat Marxist political concept

In Marxist philosophy, the dictatorship of the proletariat is a state of affairs in which the working class hold political power. Proletarian dictatorship is the intermediate stage between a capitalist economy and a communist economy, whereby the government nationalises ownership of the means of production from private to collective ownership. The socialist revolutionary Joseph Weydemeyer coined the term "dictatorship of the proletariat", which Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels adopted to their philosophy and economics. The Paris Commune (1871), which controlled the capital city for two months, before being suppressed, was an example of the dictatorship of the proletariat. In Marxist philosophy, the term "Dictatorship of the bourgeoisie" is the antonym to "dictatorship of the proletariat".

Reformism is a political doctrine advocating the reform of an existing system or institution instead of its abolition and replacement. Within the socialist movement, reformism is the view that gradual changes through existing institutions can eventually lead to fundamental changes in a society’s political and economic systems. Reformism as a political tendency and hypothesis of social change grew out of opposition to revolutionary socialism, which contends that revolutionary upheaval is a necessary precondition for the structural changes necessary to transform a capitalist system to a qualitatively different socialist economic system.

Chinese Marxist Philosophy is the philosophy of dialectical materialism that was introduced into China in the early 1900s and continues in the Chinese academia to the current day.

Karl Kautsky Czech-Austrian philosopher, journalist, and Marxist theoretician

Karl Johann Kautsky was a Czech-Austrian philosopher, journalist, and Marxist theoretician. Kautsky was recognized as among the most authoritative promulgators of Orthodox Marxism after the death of Friedrich Engels in 1895 until the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

Scientific socialism social-political-economic theory

Scientific socialism is a term coined in 1840 by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in his What is Property? to mean a society ruled by a scientific government, i.e. one whose sovereignty rests upon reason, rather than sheer will:

Thus, in a given society, the authority of man over man is inversely proportional to the stage of intellectual development which that society has reached; and the probable duration of that authority can be calculated from the more or less general desire for a true government, — that is, for a scientific government. And just as the right of force and the right of artifice retreat before the steady advance of justice, and must finally be extinguished in equality, so the sovereignty of the will yields to the sovereignty of the reason, and must at last be lost in scientific socialism.

Outline of Marxism Overview of and topical guide to Marxism

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Marxism:

Crisis of Marxism was a term first employed in the 1890s after the unexpected revival of global capitalist expansion became evident after the Great Depression of Europe from 1873-1896, which eventually precipitated a crisis in Marxist theory. The crisis resulted in a series of theoretical debates over the significance of economic recovery for the strategy of the socialist movement, leading to ideological fragmentation and increasingly sectarian debates. By the 1890s, orthodox Marxists came to believe that capitalism was on the “verge of breakdown,” while the socialist movement was on the “verge of revolutionary triumph,” but due to a renewed burst of capitalist and industrial activity such interpretations could no longer be maintained in Western Europe.

References

  1. Rees, John (July 1998). The Algebra of Revolution: The Dialectic and the Classical Marxist Tradition. Routledge. ISBN   978-0415198776.
  2. Lukács, Georg. What is Orthodox Marxism?. Marxism Internet Archive (1919): "What is Orthodox Marxism?". "Orthodox Marxism, therefore, does not imply the uncritical acceptance of the results of Marx's investigations. It is not the 'belief' in this or that thesis, nor the exegesis of a 'sacred' book. On the contrary, orthodoxy refers exclusively to method."
  3. Jack Mendelson. "On Engels' metaphysical dialectics: A foundation of orthodox "Marxism"" Dialectical Anthropology. 1979. Volume 4. Issue 1. pp. 65–73.
  4. Steele, David Ramsay (September 1999). From Marx to Mises: Post-Capitalist Society and the Challenge of Economic Calculation. Open Court. p. 67. ISBN   978-0875484495. Lenin is urging a socialist revolution in Russia, against the traditional Marxists who argue that Russia is too backwards for anything but a bourgeois revolution.
  5. Mike Rooke. "Marxism is Dead! Long Live Marxism!".
  6. Howard, M.C. and King, J.E. State Capitalism in the Soviet Union. History of Economic Thought Society of Australia: http://www.hetsa.org.au/pdf/34-A-08.pdf: "The same point was made, in the United Kingdom, by the leadership of the remorselessly orthodox Socialist Party of Great Britain".
  7. Duncan Hallas (1973). "Do We Support Reformist Demands?". Controversy: Do we support reformist demands?. International Socialism. Retrieved 14 November 2013.
  8. "Menshevik". Marxism.org. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
  9. Goldstein, Joshua S. 2004. International Relations. Canadian Edition. Ed. Whitworth, Sandra. Toronto: Pearson Education. p. 147.
  10. "What is Orthodox Marxism?". March 1919
  11. Marco Torres "The science that wasn't: The orthodox Marxism of the early Frankfurt School and the turn to Marxist Critical Theory". Platypus. May 1, 2008.