If Marxism represents the ingredients then, as yet, we have failed to create the recipe that produces a palatable form of Socialism or Communism.

Marxism is a theory, and an ideology, that combines economic, social and political change resulting in a fair and equal society (i.e. communism). Formulated and pioneered by Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels, marxism focuses on a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and the development and eventual collapse of capitalism.

As with other social science philosophies, theories and religions, marxist theory has resulted in differing interpretations, understandings and applications.

The term marxism is often used too freely to refer to any social theory that claims a vague foundation in the works of Karl Marx. This generalisation leads to misrepresentation and common misunderstandings of marxist theory, often associating it with restrictive, dysfunctional or anarchic social systems.

The basis for any form of Marxism should address the following principles:

  • that economic matters ultimately control political and cultural phenomena;
  • that abolition of private property is necessary to ensure equality and bring an end to exploitation;
  • that the road to such a society must come about by the proletariat (working classes), or its (not necessarily proletarian) leaders developing a revolutionary consciousness, grasping power, and acting as a vanguard to issue in the Communist society.

Unfortunately, the term Marxism has been applied so broadly that it often has little serious connection with its origins, even in theory. This is possibly most notable where Marxism has been used to refer to the policies of so-called Marxist, or Communist, states such as the former USSR, despite there being significant differences from the original philosophy.

Despite the inconsistencies in applied marxist theory it would appear that each ‘branch’ has generally retained similarities. These discrepancies in application of Marx’s philosophy usually occur through an over-emphasis on a particular aspect of the theory whether economic, social or political.

Early derivations of marxism include Trotskyism and Maoism that, while deviating from ‘proper’ marxism, still hold much more in common with Marx’s original scripts than modern real-world interpretations.

When considering the influence of Marxism in twentieth century Communist societies across the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries, it is probably fairer to term it Marxist-Leninism accounting for the impact of Lenin and, latterly, of Stalin to turn the general theory into a practical doctrine for revolutionary and subsequent post-revolutionary governments.