Strategy for Revolution in 21st Century - Readers Discussion Board
Stratey for Revolution in 21st Century >Home Page

Writings of Karl Marx

Writings of Karl Marx
(Coordinator Comment)

Marx knew that revolutionaries needed a new theory of history. So he took the best theory of history then available, that of Hegel, and he stood it on its head. The result was a new theory of history as summarized by Marx in his preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy written in 1859.

Marx begins with social class, the relation of people to the means of production: "In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life."

Psychological consciousness is very important, but it can only be understood in the context of social class: "It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness."

Historical change, in the view of Marx, arises out of conflict and contradiction: "At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or - this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms - with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.

Visitor Comments

To add your own comments in this box, send them with title "sfr comments" to the following email:

game administrator Jun. 13 2019,18:22
Readers' comments are invited on this topic.
Red-Metta October 20, 2009 /b>
It is evident that Marxism is a very complexed set of arguments, weaved together within the general context of social reform through revolution.  In a very real sense, the end justifies the means.  But the 'means' employed by Marxian thinking, should not be treated (as it is often the case), as a perfect dogma, that has no capacity for improvement or refinement.  Part of the problem resides in the dichotomisation of 'Marxism', (in its various guises), and the prevelant and hitherto successful 'Capitalist' system.  Inshort, the latter is seen to be working, (regardless of the abstract concept of 'fairness'), whilst the former, although historically viewed as existing via the USSR, the PRC, and possibly Cuba, has either collapsed, morphed into a Capitalist State, or has been embargoed to the margins of world affairs.  

Traditional Marxists (and not those adhering to Gramsci), have not had much of a coherent response to these changing events.  However, two clear intellectual positions have become clear; 1) Marxist theory must be adhered to stronger than ever, as though it were a religion without a god.  2) The collapse of Coomunist rule in the USSR, and the development of blatant Capitalism (free of the hindrance of Democracy) in China, are the results of Marxist thinking not being applied correctly, or as Marx 'originally' intended.

The latter view has led to a concretisation around every word Marx has written, as though something were amiss with the orignal interpretations that have obviously failed in their attempt to build a just society within a Marxist framework.  An alternative view might hold that the original theory, although heading in the right direction, requires further development - and that this process of self-examination, should be constant and equal.  

A problem with regard to the traditional Marxist theory of ‘Materialism’, is that it ignores the innate human potential that may be viewed as the ‘subjective’, or that which represents and reflects the inner existence of a human being.  The theory itself excludes the possibility of a valid and contributing driving force to physical life, originating from the conscious processes of the human mind.  

The Marxist theory of Materialism, postulates that ‘matter’ creates ‘mind’.  Matter both pre-exists physical being (i.e. ‘birth’), and post-exists the physical death process.  In other words, individual lives come and go throughout the ages, but the physical matter of the universe continues to exist for all time.  Life simply arrives and departs within a material framework.  There is nothing beyond the ‘material’, and therefore no such entity exists, as a Marxist theory of Metaphysics.  

The Marxist theory further asserts that the conscious state of an individual, group or class, is determined and dependent upon the relationship of that between the individual (or group) and the economic means of production.  Working from this premise, the argument is further developed, whereby the outer circumstance of the physical world, serve to create the inner structures, (i.e. psychological states) of the  inner (i.e. subjective) world.    

This is a determinist model that suggests that ‘we are how we live’, and as a consequence, no other theory can be allowed, that might suggest a differing view, or offer a modification of the original theory.   This situation may have been arrived at by both Marx and Engels, as a reflection of their requirement for Marxist theory to be considered ‘scientific’ – and therefore appealing to the intellectual mind and the academic community of their time.  As a consequence, the Marxist theory of Materialism is a ‘closed system’ that can not, as a matter of definition, allow for any other view.  In this sense, this Marxist theory of social science, attempts to mimic the clarity of thought developed by such subjects as Physics, Science and Chemistry – which of course, make full use of the ‘scientific method’ and the ‘closed system’.

The Marxist theory of Materialism is, of course, philosophy rather than science in the classical sense.  Furthermore, it is a speculative philosophical theory – unlike classical science, it has not historically proven its central assertions.  Whereas, that which can not be proven by the use of the scientific process, is discarded as incorrect, or viewed as a methodological ‘error’.  In this sense, Marxist materialism treats humanity as the passive bystander in the living process.  A passive bystander that is acted upon by the social structures surrounding the economic process the individual experiences.  

This implies that the individual has no potential ability to contribute to (and possibly change) the outer social structures, through the agency of ‘will’.  A ‘will’ generated from within, and possibly the product of hitherto ‘unrecognised’ inner processes, existing free of the influence of the material determinism of external phenomena.   From this perspective, it can be deduced that an individual may well be subject to very powerful and oppressive external forces, but yet remain inwardly free of the influence of these forces.  

This capacity to remain inwardly free may not be the case for all beings.  However, the potential for such a situation to exist, should not be beyond the remit of Marxist theory.  To maintain a form of self-determination, whilst experiencing oppressive social forces, can be interpreted as the product of the attribute, of the human requirement to ‘transcend’.  This attribute also serves as the basis of human spirituality – which has often become distorted by established religion.  Therefore, the human spiritual urge, can not be fully explained by the Marxist theory of Materialism.  The spiritual urge, together with the social structures it has created, can not be fully explained as merely the internalisation of outer material forces.  That is, the reflective mirroring conscious processes, that are believed to be the product of the relationship between the individual and the means of production.  If it were, it would mean that the inner urge to ‘transcend’ outer circumstances, would be potentially imprinted in the outer material itself.  Marxist materialist theory would have to allow therefore, that in the oppressive outer forces of the social contract, the implicit requirement to ‘transcend’ is present.

As it is not in the interests of the ruling and dominating elite, to have the social structures they have created, (and that serve their elitist purposes) transcended, it would be reasonable to believe that ‘transcendence’ is not part of the social fabric they have created.  It logically follows therefore, that this urge to transcend does not originate in the material of the outer circumstances, but instead is a product of an internal psychological archetype.  An archetype that even if not triggered by the external culture one is born into, nevertheless remains as a potential, and may well serve some kind of creative purpose through other social functions.  This is where Marxist theory has to tread carefully.  There must be a distinction between religious institutions that have gained political power, and have entrapped people in a self-limiting net of social superstition and undeveloped argument, and the legitimate pursuing (by individuals) of a spiritual path of self-development, that has no institutions or establishments, and is not interested in the securing of outer political power or in the pursuing of economic oppressive structures.