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50 Years Ago: “A Word on Marxism”

It is not an exaggeration to state that to-day “Marxism” is becoming almost a household word. Unfortunately this does not mean that over the wide world millions of people have become thoroughly acquainted with the fundamentals of Marxian doctrines. Rather does it signify that the word “Marxist” has become the modern equivalent of “heretic” or “turk.” In other words, when a man is to-day called a “Marxist” people are usually expressing strong disapproval, although they may have little or no idea of the real meaning of the word they are using. As members of the working class concerned with the crying social evils of the modern world we cannot afford such loose thinking. We do not brand or abuse our political opponents; but are concerned rather with a thorough examination of their point of view. We do not reject or accept their statements out of hand. Marxism must be treated likewise by all serious-thinking men and women, and to do this we must ascertain exactly what we mean by the term.

Like the word “Socialism,” or “Marxism” has, over the course of the last century, been largely abused and misrepresented. We can, however, in brief form put the essential ideas of Marx as follows:-

  1. Materialism.
  2. Materialist conception of History. (Including the class struggle.)
  3. Theory of Value.

These three components of Marxism are in indivisible unity. The so-called “Marxists” of the “Red” variety who claim allegiance to Marxism yet at the command of their Russian masters flout the class struggle and the most elementary conclusions to be drawn from the theory of value can lay no authentic claim to their title. No one with even an elementary understanding of the Marxian outlook can at one time claim to be a Marxist and in almost the next breath speak of his Christian faith and belief in God, as do many members of the Communist Party, including the one-time prominent Douglas Hyde of “I Believed” fame. Such people have failed to understand the most striking feature of Marx's ideas, i.e., each central proposition implies and leads logically to the others. Materialism, so to speak, the foundation stone, is a philosophic view of the universe, irreconcilably opposed to religious dogma.

(From an article by J. Lestor, Socialist Standard, June 1952)