Home     Introduction     Marxist Philosophy     Marxist economics   The State      History     Revolutionary Party

What Is Marxism?


MANY TIMES since his death in 1883, Karl Marx’s ideas have been dismissed as irrelevant. But, many times since, interest in his ideas has resurfaced as each new generation which challenges the unequal, unjust and exploitative nature of the capitalist system looks for ideas and a method to change the world we live in.

Marx’s ideas – a body of work collectively described as Marxism – was added to by his closest collaborator Frederick Engels after Marx’s death and subsequently added to and enriched by the writings and living experience of Lenin and Trotsky who led the 1917 October Russian Revolution.

For any person looking to change the world in a socialist direction the ideas of Marxism are a vital, even indispensable, tool and weapon to assist the working class in its struggle to change society.

Most people who describe themselves as socialists will have at one stage or another looked at Marxist ideas and, unfortunately, some have chosen to ignore the rich experience and understanding that Marxist ideas add to an understanding of the capitalist world and how to change it.

However, Marx’s ideas are once again becoming fashionable; even amongst people Marx would have regarded as his political opponents. Having been voted the thinker of the Millennium in a BBC poll in 2000, Marx has now been taken up by university professors and City analysts alike as offering one of the most modern ways to understand globalised capitalism.

But, for socialists who wish to permanently remove capitalism and establish a global socialist system, we don’t look to Marxist ideas just for a method of understanding – as important as that is. Marxism helps us understand the present struggles of the working class and oppressed masses around the world and anticipate the most likely course of events in the future.

Achieving such an understanding allows us to orientate correctly to political movements and economic developments and work out our plan of action in the form of appropriate slogans, demands and campaigns.

The purpose of this pack is to introduce people to the ideas of Marxism, also known as scientific socialism. Like any science, the works written by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky use political and economic terminology and shorthand, which may not always be familiar to the reader in the 21st century. Also, some of Marx’s works – like the Communist Manifesto – were written over 150 years ago. Marxism has always been a living science and body of ideas since its inception and Marx would have been the first to demand that his ideas were kept as up to date as possible.

The pamphlets in this pack are designed to introduce today’s new audience for Marxist ideas to them in as contemporary and easy way as possible using more modern examples and language. They cover basic areas of Marxist thought and practice including philosophy; economics; history; the state and the need for the revolutionary party.
Even though they are designed to be an easier introduction to Marxist ideas than many of the original works they are based upon, some of the terminology may still cause some difficulties. Whilst there’s always the dictionary for some of the terms, more experienced Socialist Party members will also be able to help explain and add to the material in the pamphlets.

In fact, it’s recommended to ask for more discussion and explanation about the ideas in the pamphlets with Socialist Party members. Also, in each of the pamphlets is a list for further reading. Again, these will all prove worthwhile in adding to your understanding and are worth approaching, particularly if you are given assistance in what to read and added explanation by other Socialist Party members.

There are hundreds and hundreds of Marxist works after you have finished these pamphlets to add to your understanding of Marxism. But as Marx himself said – and Marxists are often fond of repeating it – "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is, however, to change it."


Ken Smith, May 2003


Socialist Party logo