Ben Ruissen, Isidora Purkovic, Tijana Sero

From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.

-Karl Marx (1)

Marxism is the the political and economic philosophy fathered by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in which the concept of class struggle plays a central role in understanding society's inevitable development from bourgeois oppression under capitalism to a socialist and ultimately classless society. It is a radical form of socialism, and is often called scientific socialism or communism in order to distinguish it from other socialist ideologies.

The ideas and beliefs of Karl Marx (above) and Friedrich Engels formed the basis of Marxism. (3)

Important Figures

The fathers of Marxist theory and communism were Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. These two men co-wrote “The Communist Manifesto”, and Engels financially supported Marx to do research for “Das Kapital”. In these documents, they elaborated on many principles of scientific socialism. For example, the first sentence of "The Communist Manifesto" is, "the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." This means that history is the story of evolving class warfare.

However, even though he came up with the principles of it, Karl Marx never used the term Marxism. It was coined by a group of French socialists (which included Jules Guesde and Benoit Malon) in the 1880s. (4)

Some political leaders in history have used Marxism as the basis of their policies and politics. Some of these people include Vladimir Lenin (USSR), Mao Zedong (China), Josip Broz Tito (Yugoslavia), and Fidel Castro (Cuba). While these leaders all experimented in 'communism', they were never fully able to move past the stage of dictatorship. As a result, Marx's idea of pure communism was never truly achieved.

Principles of Marxism

Karl Marx established basic principles and outlines he believed would be the only way to see any changes made in society. The proletariat, the workers, were the basis of his theory in that history is the story of evolving class warfare. For the proletariat to gain the means of production, they would have to start a revolution to overthrow capitalism. Marx believed that means of production should rely on the workers’ and that the abolition of private property was essential. (4)

Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels worked together to create a list of principles in the document, “Proletarians and Communists” outlining the key ideas on how the proletariat would gain means of production.

Das Kapital was one of the main literary works behind Marxist ideals. (7)
Das Kapital was one of the main literary works behind Marxist ideals. (7)

  1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
  2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
  3. Abolition of all right of inheritance.
  4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
  5. Centralization of credit in the hands of the state by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.
  6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state.
  7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state.
  8. Equal obligation of all to work.
  9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country.
  10. Free education in public schools, abolition of child factory labour in its present form. (4)

Many people believe that Marx's theory and principles will result in failure and require government spending to resolve economic issues. (5)

Marx's Theory of History

Marx divided history into several stages according to broad patterns in the economic structure of society. The most important stages for Marx's theory were feudalism, capitalism, socialism, and communism. Marx’s beliefs on these stages are as follows (6):

  1. Feudalism- Feudalism's economic structure was based on a strict hereditary class structure in which the aristocracy and theocracy ruled over the serfs and peasants. Trade between nation states in feudalistic times resulted in the creation of a merchant class, and capitalist ideas emerged from the merchant’s riches. These capitalist ideas result in a revolution against the feudal system and its rulers, changing the social and political structure of society.
  2. Capitalism– The rise of capitalism included the creation of Marx’s bourgeoisie and proletariat, which were, respectively, the owners of production and the working class. Through free markets and private property, the bourgeoisie exploit the proletariat and profit unfairly off the proletariat’s labour. Economic competition results in increased exploitation and the bourgeoisie get richer as the workers get poorer. Inequality results in the development of a class consciousness amongst the proletariat, sparking a revolution against the bourgeoisie in order to gain control of the means of production.
  3. Socialism – After a successful revolution, the working class seize control of the means of production and democratically plan production and resources through a system of worker’s councils. Marx called this the dictatorship of the proletariat, as it is the workers and not the capitalists in control of governance. In this society, a worker is paid through labour vouchers according to the amount of labour he or she contributes to society, and in this way every worker experiences a higher quality of life.
  4. Communism Sometime after socialism is established, all people have plenty of personal possessions and no one is exploited. All remnants of class society are abolished, as every citizen works for the good of everyone else. Since people live their lives without need of government or laws, the state withers away, leaving society classless and stateless. Lastly, money and private property are entirely abolished, as all goods and services are free to be used by any who need them. Stateless communism or pure Marxist communism is therefore established.

Link to Liberalism

As seen above, Marxism is based on principles of public property, centralization of credit and communication in the hands of the state, and free education for all children in public schools. These can be seen as aspects of co-operation, government intervention and collective interest. On the other hand, classical liberalism is an ideology that promotes economic freedom, constitutional limitations on the government and individual self-interest. Therefore, it is clear that Marxism is an ideology that is in opposition to classical liberalism. (3)


BookRags Media Network. (2001). Brainy quote. Retrieved from (1)

Marxism. (n.d.) The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. (2003). Retrieved March 2 2012 from (2)

Kreis, S. (2008). Karl Marx, 1818-1883. The History Guide: Lectures on modern european intellectual history, Retrieved from - (3)

Fielding, J., Christison, M., Harding, C., Meston, J., Smith, T., & Zook, D. (2009). Perspectives on ideology. Oxford Canada.-(4)

Csl: Cartoonstock. (1997). Retrieved from (5)

McClelland, K. (2000, February 21). Conflict theory. Retrieved March 5, 2012 from (6)

Ratewall. (2012). Retrieved from (7)