What is Marxism?

Marxism is known as the set of concepts and philosophical, ideological, political and economic proposals, derived from the work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Marxist texts comprise a conception of the world and of social life that is based on historical and dialectical materialism.

Marxist historical materialism posits that cultural and historical transformations originate in the economy and its relations of production. Such relationships are expressed in a social dialectic through the class struggle between those who own the means of production (owners) and those who only have their labor power (manpower).

Therefore, Marxism is a theoretical-sociological model that seeks to explain human reality, characterized by its critique of capitalism. Then, the Marxist ideology has served as the foundation for the political organization of communist parties and revolutionary socialist parties at the end of the 19th century and throughout the 20th century.

The goal of Marxism is that the workers themselves manage the means of production. This would prevent a minority from accumulating wealth to exploit the majority. Thus, it was intended to trace a path to end the class struggle through the construction of an egalitarian society. According to Marx, this would be the communist society.

Since its appearance, Marxism has been influential in different left-wing social movements. The political movements that made the Russian revolution and established the USSR, those that carried out the Chinese revolution, the Cuban revolution, among others, were also considered Marxist.

See also:

  • historical materialism

Characteristics of Marxism

criticism of the free market

It seeks to establish a planned economy that controls the production and distribution of goods. Thus, in a Marxist socialist economy, the State is in charge of ensuring the satisfaction of the needs of society. On the other hand, the range of action of entrepreneurs, producers and consumers is restricted.

Argues that workers are alienated from the product of their labor

He points out that it is the owners of the means of production who take the profit from the products made by the workers. While the value of the merchandise increases the wealth of the employer, the worker sees his freedom reduced; selling this his time in exchange for a salary.

Proposes socializing private ownership of the means of production

In the Communist Manifesto (1848), written by Marx and Engels, it was proposed that private property be replaced by public property. Workers were to be in charge of the factories, the land, the media, and other means of production.

You may be interested:  Feudalism

He affirms that the class struggle is the engine of history

He considers that history advances when an oppressed class carries out a revolution. When a new economic mode of production appears, the story progresses to a higher phase. He explains that this is how it happened from slavery to feudalism, from feudalism to capitalism and supposes that this is how it will happen from capitalism to communism.

Aspire to create an egalitarian society

Projects the elimination of social classes in a socialist stage after capitalism and prior to the establishment of communism. The revolution would have to establish the conditions to impose equality.

Considers religion as a social practice that must be overcome

Marx declared that religion was the “opium of the peoples”. This had arisen as anesthesia before the real misery of the material world. The expectation of a better world in the afterlife appeased the claim capacity of the workers exploited by the upper classes of society.

Marx and EngelsE. Capiro (c. 1895) K. Marx and F. Engels in the press room of the Rheinische Zeitung, 1849.

Marxist theory

It includes the unity of ideas and concepts developed by Karl Marx in order to explain social phenomena. To these are added other hypotheses and concepts developed by various theorists of socialism throughout the 20th century.

Marxist theory aims to understand the concrete reality of a society and then transform it through a revolution that dilutes the differences of social classes and permanently avoids economic crises.

Marxist theory in sociology

Marxism conceives the human being as a natural being with material needs. To satisfy his needs, he works and transforms nature through work. In this way, societies achieve a historical order according to their forms of work organization.

Then, in all societies, the organization of productive tasks leads to the formation of social classes and an antagonism between them. For this reason, history changes when there is a revolution that ends with one order and another appears, in which new techniques, new ways of producing and new social classes are born.

Marxist theory in economics

The Marxist school of economics is inspired by the concepts developed by Karl Marx in works such as the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (1844), Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859) Y Capital (1867), among others.

According to Marxist economics, for example, the value of a thing is determined by the amount of labor required to produce it (the labor theory of value). The difference between the value of what the worker produces and his salary is a form of unpaid value, which is known as capital gain.

The surplus value is obtained by the capitalist in a scheme of exploitation. Hence, the interests of the owners of the means of production (or bourgeoisie) and the workers (the proletariat), are in conflict.

You may be interested:  Social Classes

Learn more at:

  • class struggle
  • Bourgeoisie
  • Proletariat
  • Marxist theory

Representatives of Marxism

Karl Marx (1818-1883)

Marx was a thinker of German Jewish origin, considered the main theoretician of socialism. Marx’s studies encompassed political economy, sociology, philosophy, and history. His manuscripts became the ideological-philosophical basis of dialectical historical materialism, or the Marxist school.

Throughout his life he worked as a journalist and participated in political propaganda activities. In 1864 he was a founding member of the First International of Workers, association that sought to design courses of action against the capitalist system. Karl Marx died in London, England, in 1883.

To learn more, we suggest you read Karl Marx.

Friedrich Engels (1820-1895)

German philosopher, co-author of many of Marx’s books, with whom he struck up a friendship that lasted decades. Engels was a prolific writer, managing to publish numerous books and developing concepts that contributed to the theoretical corpus of dialectical materialism.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870-1924)

He was born in Russia and from a very young age he militated in movements against the Tsarist regime. At the beginning of the 20th century, Lenin became the leader of the Bolsheviks, a revolutionary faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP). In 1917, he led the Russian revolution that overthrew Tsar Nicholas II and led to the establishment of the Soviet socialist government. Lenin was the leading figure in the Soviet Union until his death in 1924.

Lenin's speech

Vladimir I. Lenin in a public speech for the Red Army (1920).

Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919)

She was a political activist and writer of Polish Jewish origin. At the end of the 19th century, she moved to Germany, where she was part of the editorial staff of the newspaper New Zeit (New time). In 1918, she was a member and co-founder of the “Spartacus League”, which later became the German Communist Party (KPD).

Rosa Luxemburg was killed by German security forces in January 1919, while she was participating in the Berlin general strike protests.

Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937)

Founding member of the Italian Communist Party. He was an intellectual who wrote about the role of culture and ideology in society. For his work as a political activist, he was imprisoned in 1926 during the government of Benito Mussolini. He died very ill at 46 years of age, in 1937.

Rise of Marxism

Marxism originated in the mid-nineteenth century, at which time Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote fundamental texts for the interpretation of social reality in accordance with the concepts of historical materialism. Among these manuscripts we find The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845), The Poverty of Philosophy (1847), The Communist Manifesto (1848), among others.

However, both communist and socialist thought predated Marxist thought. What was new about the texts of Marx and Engels was that they tried to give an economic and scientific explanation to the historical formations and projections of social change.

You may be interested:  What Are Strategic Objectives

The perspective of this evolution is described in the book From utopian socialism to scientific socialism (1880). Even so, the term “Marxism” was not adopted by Marx and Engels. This was popularized by debates between orthodox and revisionist interpreters of Marx’s work at a later date.


Marxism-Leninism was the official ideological current of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and of several countries that made up the communist bloc of Eastern Europe during the 20th century. This ideology was intended to adapt the thesis of the philosopher Karl Marx and the revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin to political praxis.

The term was born in the 1930s, when Iósif Stalin declared that it was important to highlight the theoretical contributions of Lenin in Marxist philosophy. Marxism-Leninism still nurtures the ideological base of multiple communist parties around the world.

Capitalism and Marxism

Capitalism and Marxism represent two opposing political-economic systems. Below we show a table to point out some of its notable differences.

Capitalism Marxism
It defends that the means of production, that is, factories, land, companies, etc., must be private property. It proposes public ownership of the means of production and that these be under the control of the workers.
It holds that individual liberty is essential. The place of individuals in society depends on their own decisions. criticize inequalities. Power must be seized by the working class (the proletariat) to suppress social classes.
Classical liberalism declares that capitalism developed organically, that is, according to the natural development of society. Marxist theory points out that society can be transformed according to programmable economic planning by communities aware of their decisions.
It supports that the price system depends on the supply and demand of the products. He affirms that people with their daily decisions are the ones that create the balance in the market. Marxist-style socialist states used price controls. The distribution of the products necessary for society depends on state planning.
Adam Smith stated that people, seeking their own benefit, produced goods and services that favored the rest of society. Karl Marx believed it necessary to organize the productive forces of society in order to have systematized economic growth.


Marx, K. & Engels, F. (1948) Communist Manifesto. Babel, centenary edition. Santiago de Chile.

Marx, K. & Engels, F. (2014) The German Ideology. Akal Editions. Madrid.

Paniagua, Javier (2010) Brief history of socialism and communism. Nowtilus Editions. Madrid.

Pérez, Olga (2021) “Marxists thinking about Marxism: between theory and practice”, in Economy and Development: Journal of the Faculty of Economics of the University of Havana, vol. 165, number 1.

Tarcus, Horacio (2008) “Is Marxism a philosophy of history? Marx, the theory of progress and the Russian question”, in scaffolding vol. 4 number 8. pages 7-32.

See also:

  • USSR
  • Socialism
  • characteristics of communism
  • Communism