[Marxism] What is Marxism?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Aug 22 10:27:10 MDT 2004

I think I'll have to pass on this as well. I would only say that historical 
materialism is the term that Marx used. For a good overview of historical 
materialism, check Engels's "Socialism, Utopian and Scientific":

The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the 
production of the means to support human life and, next to production, the 
exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in 
every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is 
distributed and society divided into classes or orders is dependent upon 
what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. 
 From this point of view, the final causes of all social changes and 
political revolutions are to be sought, not in men's brains, not in men's 
better insights into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes 
of production and exchange. They are to be sought, not in the philosophy, 
but in the economics of each particular epoch. The growing perception that 
existing social institutions are unreasonable and unjust, that reason has 
become unreason, and right wrong 1), is only proof that in the modes of 
production and exchange changes have silently taken place with which the 
social order, adapted to earlier economic conditions, is no longer in 
keeping. From this it also follows that the means of getting rid of the 
incongruities that have been brought to light must also be present, in a 
more or less developed condition, within the changed modes of production 
themselves. These means are not to be invented by deduction from 
fundamental principles, but are to be discovered in the stubborn facts of 
the existing system of production.

What is, then, the position of modern Socialism in this connection?

The present situation of society — this is now pretty generally conceded — 
is the creation of the ruling class of today, of the bourgeoisie. The mode 
of production peculiar to the bourgeoisie, known, since Marx, as the 
capitalist mode of production, was incompatible with the feudal system, 
with the privileges it conferred upon individuals, entire social ranks and 
local corporations, as well as with the hereditary ties of subordination 
which constituted the framework of its social organization. The bourgeoisie 
broke up the feudal system and built upon its ruins the capitalist order of 
society, the kingdom of free competition, of personal liberty, of the 
equality, before the law, of all commodity owners, of all the rest of the 
capitalist blessings. Thenceforward, the capitalist mode of production 
could develop in freedom. Since steam, machinery, and the making of 
machines by machinery transformed the older manufacture into modern 
industry, the productive forces, evolved under the guidance of the 
bourgeoisie, developed with a rapidity and in a degree unheard of before. 
But just as the older manufacture, in its time, and handicraft, becoming 
more developed under its influence, had come into collision with the feudal 
trammels of the guilds, so now modern industry, in its complete 
development, comes into collision with the bounds within which the 
capitalist mode of production holds it confined. The new productive forces 
have already outgrown the capitalistic mode of using them. And this 
conflict between productive forces and modes of production is not a 
conflict engendered in the mind of man, like that between original sin and 
divine justice. It exists, in fact, objectively, outside us, independently 
of the will and actions even of the men that have brought it on. Modern 
Socialism is nothing but the reflex, in thought, of this conflict in fact; 
its ideal reflection in the minds, first, of the class directly suffering 
under it, the working class.

full: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1880/soc-utop/ch03.htm

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