Marxism-Leninism-Maoism Basic Course – Part 1


1. Introduction   2. What is MLM?   3. Socio-economic Conditions Leading to the Birth of Marxism   4. Early Life of Marx and Engels – Until They Became Marxists   5. The Three Sources of Marxism   6. The Basic Foundations of Marxist Philosophy – Dialectical and Historical Materialism   7. Struggle Against Utopian Socialism and the Establishment of Scientific Socialism   8. Marxist Political Economy   9. Marxism Fuses Its Links with the Working Class   10. The Lessons of the Paris Commune   11. Spread of Marxism and Rise of Opportunism

Chapter 1: Introduction

Most of us revolutionary activists are ‘practical’ people. We feel, “Why bother about ideology, and theory, and such other things, … that is for the scholars and ‘intellectuals’, … the most important thing is to get on with the job”. Th e lower level activists and members feel that it is sufficient that the CC and the higher committees do study and provide guidance; and often, many members in the higher committees also feel that other work is too pressing to ‘allow’ much time for theory.

On the other hand, there are a few others who feel it is necessary to know every work of the Great Teachers in order to work ‘properly’. They spend a large amount of time in trying to read everything. They also have a tendency to treat everything they read as dogma.

It is necessary to avoid both these attitudes in our study. All comrades should give sufficient time and attention to study in order to understand the essence of our ideology — Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought. Rather than knowing by heart a large number of books, it is necessary to understand deeply the essential and basic aspects of our guiding ideology. If we do this and learn to apply it in our day to day work we can greatly improve our practice, both, as individual activists, as well as, of the party as a whole. Very often we understand and analyse the world around us only according to our own limited experiences and therefore arrive at wrong conclusions. A proper understanding of MLM Thought can help us overcome such errors. At other times a superficial understanding can lead to going by only the letter of certain party decisions and stands and not understanding their essence and spirit. Such mistakes can also be avoided by a deeper grasp of MLM Th ought. By our study of MLM Th ought, we learn from the positive and negative experiences of World Revolution; we learn to absorb the good in it, and we learn to differentiate between the good and the bad in our own practice. We thus learn to recognise, criticise, and fight all types of opportunism. In short, MLM Th ought is a must to mould our practice in the light of theory.

This Basic Course in MLM Th ought is intended to present to activists an understanding of the principal aspects of our ideology. Our ideology is, fi rst and foremost, a ‘practical’ theory, meant to be implemented and put into practice. Th e theory itself emerged in the course of numerous class struggles. It is therefore essential to understand the concrete material conditions and social practice through which the Great Teachers of the proletariat – Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao – discovered and formulated its basic principles. Th us, this book has been presented by relating the historical process of the growth and development of MLM Th ought. Th e basic concepts have been presented in short by, wherever possible, linking to the socioeconomic conditions, main political events and class struggles that gave birth to them. In order to understand any particular aspect in detail, more particular study would be necessary. Th is Basic Course however is meant to provide an essential basis for understanding the dynamic process of the development of our ideology and in what historical conditions and circumstances certain stands and theory came into being.

Come; let’s begin our study.


Chapter 2:What is MLM Thought?

Th e party leading the revolution is the Communist party; and the ideology guiding the thinking and practice of the Communist party is Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Th ought. Th is is known to all of us. However many of us are not so sure as to what exactly is meant by communist ideology or MLM Th ought and what are its various parts or aspects. Quite a few understand it simply as the ideas of Marx, Lenin and Mao. Such an understanding is incomplete, insufficient and superficial. What is needed is to go deeper into the matter and understand the internal essence. Let us fi rst therefore try to understand this essence of MLM Thought.

At the time when Marx and Engels were first developing and propagating the theory of communism, Engels, in 1847, drafted a booklet called “Th e Principles of Communism”. In this he defined what is communism in the following very simple manner, “Communism is the doctrine of the prerequisites for the emancipation of the proletariat.” Thus Engels, in this very short definition explains that the essence of communist ideology is to provide the theory regarding what is needed to achieve the ultimate freedom of the working class (the proletariat). Th is freedom would finally be achieved through the establishment of communist society.

Stalin explained the same thing in the following way, “Marxism is the science of the laws governing the development of nature and society, the science of the revolution of the oppressed and exploited masses, the science of the victory of socialism in all countries, the science of building a communist society.” Here Stalin explains the wide scope of Marxism. Firstly, it is a science, which provides the answers to the questions concerning not only society, but also the whole of nature. Th us Marxism is an all-encompassing science. Secondly, it is a science regarding revolution; and this revolution is not of the rich (as in earlier bourgeois revolutions of the capitalist class), but of the poor and toiling masses. And thirdly it is the science of building socialist and communist society.

This science is today given the name of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Th ought after the names of the three Teachers who played the greatest role in establishing and developing it – Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Mao Tse-tung. Besides these three, we recognise two other great Teachers who played a tremendous role – Frederick Engels and Joseph Stalin. Engels was the comrade of Marx who closely collaborated with him in laying the foundations of Marxism, as well as in advancing it after Marx’s death. Stalin defended and developed Marxism-Leninism after Lenin’s death.

Marxism was first worked out by Marx, with the help of Engels, more than 150 years ago. Th e principal parts of Marxism are: the philosophy of dialectical materialism and the discovery of the materialist conception of history or historical materialism; Marxist political economy which discovered the laws of motion of capitalism and its contradictions and the doctrine of surplus value which uncovered the source of exploitation; and the theory of scientific socialism based on the doctrine of the class struggle and the outlining of the principles governing the tactics of the class struggle of the proletariat.

Leninism is Marxism of the era of imperialism and the proletarian revolution. It was fi rst developed by Lenin around the turn of the century during the course of the Russian revolution, while fighting the opportunism of the Second International, and while advancing the international communist movement through the Th ird International. Leninism, while defending and developing Marxism, made the following significant contributions: the discovery of the laws of motion of capitalism under imperialism and how they would inevitably lead the imperialist powers to war; the qualitative development of the theory and practice of proletarian revolution during the bourgeois democratic revolution as well as the socialist revolution; a clear understanding regarding the dictatorship of the proletariat, as well as the      first principles regarding socialist construction; providing the theory and direction for the nationality movements and the movements in the colonies and linking the national liberation movements to the World Socialist Revolution; the development of
the organisational principles of the Leninist party – the party of the new type. Stalin, while defending and developing Leninism, particularly contributed to the principles and laws governing the period of socialist construction.

Mao Tse-tung Th ought is an extension and development of Marxism-Leninism applicable to the present era. It was developed by Mao during the course of the Chinese Revolution, in the process of socialist construction, in the fight against modern revisionism and particularly during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Mao Tse-tung Th ought’s contributions include: the theory of contradictions, the development of the theory of knowledge and the formulation of the mass line of ‘from the masses, to the masses’; the theory of new democracy, the formulation of the path of revolution for the colonies and semi-colonies, and the formulation regarding the three magic weapons of the revolution – the party, people’s army and the united front; the theory of protracted people’s war and the development of the principles of military warfare; the development of the organisational principles of the proletarian party through the understanding of two-line struggle, rectification campaigns and criticism and self-criticism; the development of the political economy of socialism on the basis of the Soviet and Chinese experience and the dialectical understanding of the process of socialist construction as the correct handling of contradictions in the process of transition to socialism; and finally and most importantly, the theory and practice of continuing revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat to consolidate socialism, combat modern revisionism and prevent the restoration of capitalism, and its concrete expression in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

Marxism, Leninism, and Mao Tse-tung Th ought are thus not separate ideologies, but represent the constant growth and advancement of one and the same ideology. We shall in the following pages try to trace the story of the process of its development. While doing this we shall also try to understand the essence of its various parts and aspects that have been listed above. The list may appear to be long and difficult, but it need not be so. If we concentrate and try to understand the basic essence of each aspect within its historical context we will be able to grasp a lot.


Chapter 3: Socio-economic Conditions Leading to The Birth of Marxism

As we will see later, Marxism teaches us that any ideas or theory are always the product of some material conditions. Whenever new material conditions come into being, new ideas and theories too are bound to emerge. Th is same truth applies also to Marxism itself. Th us in order to understand Marxism better we should try to know the material conditions, i.e. the socioeconomic conditions, within which Marx and Engels first gave birth to Marxism.

Marxism was established over 150 years ago, during the 1840s. It was established first in Europe, which at that time dominated the whole world economically, politically and militarily. Th is world domination was such that almost all earlier advanced civilizations like India, China and Persia had been subordinated to it. Marx and Engels were born and lived in some of the most economically advanced parts of Europe while developing the ideas of Marxism. They observed, participated in and were influenced by all the major political events of that time. Th us in order to understand how Marxism was born we will first have to take a look at the Europe of that time and see the principal factors in the socioeconomic situation then.

1) Th e most important factor was the Industrial Revolution, which lasted approximately from 1760 to 1830, and, though it was centred in England, influenced the whole world. Th e Industrial Revolution was named as such because it was during these seventy years that the world fi rst saw an explosive and revolutionary upsurge in industrial development. It was at this time that modern large factories were first set up and grew at a very rapid pace, particularly in England. Along with this was the tremendous expansion of the world market, which sent English manufactured goods to all parts of the world. Though other countries like France, Holland, and parts of Germany and the USA also set up large factories, this period was heavily dominated by England. Its domination was such that it came
to be called the ‘workshop of the world’ which supplied manufactured goods to all countries.

The Industrial Revolution transformed the capitalist class. Th is class was earlier economically not so strong and was a middle class (it was called the bourgeoisie because bourgeois in French means middle class). But, with the Industrial Revolution, this middle class was transformed into a class of industrial millionaires – the modern industrial bourgeoisie. Th e untold riches of this new class gave it the strength to more powerfully challenge the feudal classes, which were, till then, still the ruling classes.

Alongside the modern industrial bourgeoisie the Industrial Revolution also gave birth to another class – the modern industrial working class, or proletariat. Th is class consisting of workers working together in thousands in large factories was also far different from the earlier workers working in small groups in tiny workshops. Th e modern proletarians possessed nothing else except their labouring power and had a strength and confidence not known to earlier generations of workers and toilers. Th is strength came from their contact with modern industry, their discipline learnt from the factory system, and their superior organisation due to their large numbers assembled together in single factories under one roof. Their position within society made them the potentially most revolutionary force in history.

2) Th e other important factor was that which dominated the political situation in Europe at that time. It was the spate of bourgeois democratic revolutions led by the rising capitalist class, of which the most important was the French Revolution of 1789. Th e French Revolution not only brought about very radical changes in France. It also led to the Napoleonic wars where the armies of the French bourgeoisie conquered almost the whole of Europe and introduced bourgeois reforms abolishing feudalism wherever they went. They thus dealt a deathblow to the kings and old feudal classes. Though the French armies were later defeated, the old ruling classes could never recover their old position. Th e modern bourgeoisie continued its revolutionary wave with numerous other bourgeois revolutions, which      resulted in the conclusive defeat of the feudal classes and the victory of capitalism as a world system.

Thus both at the economic and political levels the period of the birth of Marxism was a period of great advances and victories for the capitalist class when it was conclusively establishing its rule in the most advanced and dominant countries of the world.

3) Though this was the period of the greatest advancement of the bourgeoisie, the principal factor that gave birth to Marxism during this period was the rise of working class consciousness and proletarian organisations and movements thus signaling the emergence of the proletariat as an independent and self-conscious force.

This rise of a class-conscious proletariat first took place in England and France. Th is was primarily because of the early spread of modern industry in these two countries. Th e spread of modern industry, though it brought great wealth to the bourgeoisie, at the same time meant the most inhuman working and living conditions for the working class. Almost three-quarter of the workforce was composed of women and children because they provided cheaper and more easily controllable workers for the capitalists. Children from the age of six onwards were forced to work fourteen and sixteen hours in the spinning mills. As the bourgeoisie amassed greater and greater wealth the workers fell into greater and greater misery. While the cloth mill owners multiplied their capital many times over, their weavers’ wages reduced to one eighth of what they earlier obtained.

Thus the conditions of the proletariat were such that rebellion was not merely possible but almost compulsory. Th e first such outbursts were spontaneous, without clear direction. An example was the machine-breaking agitation of 1810-11 in England, where groups of weavers would attack the textile mills and smash whatever machinery they could lay their hands on. Th is was their method of protesting against the modern industry that was destroying their very livelihood. Such protests having no clear direction, and being severely repressed, quickly died out.
What followed was the spread and growth of the labour movement and labour organisations that provided the answer and direction to the fi ghting proletariat. Earlier unions, which had been restricted to skilled workers, started from 1818 uniting all labouring men together in what were then called ‘general trades’ unions. As these unions in England started growing, a movement to start a national level union started building up. Th is was formed, and by 1833-34 reached a membership of 500,000. Along with the unions, workers also started organising themselves in cooperatives and mutual benefit societies. In other countries where unions were largely banned these were the main forms of organisations of the working class which also grew in numbers and strength.

As the workers organisations started growing, the workers in Britain launched the Chartist movement in 1837 demanding electoral rights for workers. Th is was the first broad, truly mass and politically organised proletarian revolutionary movement. It used the method of mass petitions to Parliament somewhat similar to the signature campaigns sometimes organised today. Th ese petitions gathered up to 5 million signatures. Some of the Chartist demonstrations had 350,000 participants showing the organised strength of the working class. However as the movement grew in strength and militancy it faced severe repression and was suppressed by 1850. During the early 1840s while Engels was staying in Manchester (in England) he was in close contact with revolutionary Chartist leaders as well as its weekly Th e Northern Star and was influenced by the Chartist movement.

Th e growing militancy of the workers movement also often in this period led to the first worker uprisings which were suppressed brutally. Examples of these were the uprisings in London in 1816 and Manchester in 1819, the uprisings of the silkworkers of Lyons (France) in 1831 and 1834, and the uprising of the handloom linen-weavers of Silesia in Prussian Germany (today part of Poland) in 1844. Th e last-named struggle had a strong impact throughout Germany as well as on the young Marx.

Thus, by the time of the 1840s, the proletarian movement was growing rapidly in strength and intensity in many industrial countries. However, it was still very weak and in no position to yet pose a threat to either the dominant big bourgeoisie or the old feudal ruling classes. Nevertheless the emergence of the proletariat as an independent class force was an event of world historical significance. Th e coming into material existence of the proletariat also meant at the same time the birth of the ideas representing this new revolutionary class. Many ideas and theories claiming to represent working class interests thus came into being. Marxism, when it was fi rst formulated in the 1840s was only one among these. However, though many theories had emerged from the same economic conditions, Marxism alone provided the tools to properly understand these conditions and also to change them. Therefore in the years to come it was Marxism alone that would prove to be the true proletarian ideology.

Chapter 4: Early Life of Marx and Engels Until they became Marxists

Obviously nobody can be born a Marxist – not even Marx. Th ere has to be a process through which ideas and views are developed and formulated and take a basic shape which can be called an ideology. Naturally Marx and Engels too had to go through such a process before they came to discover and themselves grasp the basic truths of what we today know as Marxism. Th is process of thought was naturally determined to a great extent by the concrete experiences that both of them went through. In order therefore to understand this in some depth let us briefly look at the early life experiences of these two great teachers.

Karl Marx was born on 5th May 1818, in the town of Trier, in what was then called Rhenish Prussia, and which is today part of Germany. His father, Heinrich Marx, was one of the top lawyers of the town. The family was well to do and cultured, but not revolutionary. Both Marx’ parents came from a long line of Jewish priests. Th us, though they were economically well off , they had to face social discrimination in the anti-Jew atmosphere of Prussia. In 1816, Marx’ father was forced to convert to Christianity because the Prussian government had then brought out a rule stopping Jews from practicing law. Similarly, in 1824, another Prussian law was passed to prevent non-Christians from being admitted to public schools. To overcome this, again Heinrich Marx was forced to baptize his son Karl, along with all his brothers and sisters. Th us, though he was no believer in organised religion, Marx’ father was forced to adopt a new faith just in order to pursue his profession and give his children a good education.

Marx’ hometown, Trier, is the oldest town in Germany, which for many centuries had been the residence of Roman emperors and later the seat of Catholic bishops, with a religious administration for the town and surrounding area. In August 1794 the French armies captured the town, instituted a civil administration, and brought in the ideas and institutions of the French Revolution. Th e town only went back into the hands of the Prussian king after the defeat of France’s Napoleon in 1815. Thus during the time of Marx’ birth and youth it still carried the  definite impact of twenty-one years of French revolutionary ideas.

Trier was a small town, similar in size to our smaller taluka towns, with a population then of around 12,000. It was principally a market town for the surrounding area, which for centuries has been a famous wine-growing area. Its population was composed of occupations typical to a ‘service’ town – civil servants, priests, small merchants, craftsmen, etc. It had remained untouched by the Industrial Revolution and was thus economically relatively backward. During Marx’ youth it also had a high degree of poverty. Official statistics in 1830 gave an unemployment figure of one in every four, though the actual figure must have been much higher. Beggars and prostitutes were common and the figures of petty crime like stealing was extremely high. Th us Marx from a very young age was witness to the misery of the poorer labouring classes.

After attending elementary school, Marx entered the Friedrich Wilhelm Gymnasium (secondary school) in 1831, from which he passed out in 1835. Within three weeks he was sent for further studies at the law faculty of the university forty miles away from Trier, at the city of Bonn (an important centre which is today the joint capital of Germany). Marx, with a desire to learn as much as much as possible, immediately registered in nine courses that besides law, included poetry, literature, art, etc. He was at first regular at lectures but gradually lost interest, particularly in the law lectures, which he found dry and unsatisfying. He reduced his courses first to six and then to four.

He decided to study on his own and soon got involved in the stormy life of the students of whom he soon became a leader. Being deeply interested in writing poetry he also joined the Poetenbund, a circle of young writers founded by revolutionary students. In the constant struggle between the sons of the feudal nobles and the bourgeoisie, he soon became a leader of the bourgeois group. He was often involved in fist fights and sometimes in sword duels. He carried a stiletto knife (somewhat similar to our gupti knives), for which he was once arrested and had a police case put on him. He was also sentenced to one day in the university’s student prison on charges of “nightly uproarious disturbances of the peace and drunkenness”. Marx, in one sword duel was even injured on his right eyebrow. Th is led to his father withdrawing him from the Bonn University and bringing him back to Trier in August 1836.

While he was in Trier he got secretly engaged to Jenny von Westphalen, the daughter of Baron von Westphalen a nobleman and senior Prussian government offi cial. Jenny, who was four years elder to him, and Marx, were childhood loves who had decided to get married while Marx was still in school. Th ey now got engaged with the approval of Marx’ parents, but without Jenny’s parents approval, which was only obtained in 1837.

In October 1836 Marx moved to the University of Berlin, which was the capital of Prussia. Th e university was much larger than Bonn and was renowned as a major centre of learning. After registering for his University courses, Marx immediately jumped into a storm of work. He stayed up night after night, eating irregularly, smoking heavily, reading heavy books and filling up notebooks. Instead of formal classes Marx pursued his studies on his own. Working at a tremendous pace he moved from law to philosophy to poetry to art and then to writing plays and stories and then back to philosophy and poetry. His overwork had a bad effect of his health, particularly his TB affected lungs, and he sometimes was forced to take a break. But he was always back to his excessive work habits, reading up everything, from the ancient to the latest works of scientists and philosophers. His bent was towards philosophy, always trying to fi nd universal meaning; always searching for the absolute in principles, definitions and concepts.

During his second year at the University he joined a group of philosophy students and teachers called Young Hegelians. Th ey were followers of the famous German philosopher, Frederick Hegel, who had taught at Berlin University and died in 1830. They tried to give a radical interpretation to Hegel’s philosophy and for this were sometimes called Left Hegelians. One of Marx’ friends in this group, its intellectual leader, was a professor called Bruno Bauer who was a militant atheist who constantly attacked the church’s teachings. Such attacks, along with the radical political views of the Young Hegelians, made them a target of the Prussian authorities. Th us when Marx completed his doctoral thesis he could not obtain his degree from the Berlin University, which was dominated by reactionary appointees of the Prussian government. After completing his studies in Berlin, he submitted his thesis and obtained his Ph.D. in April 1841 from the liberal leaning University of Jena that was outside Prussian control.

After obtaining his degree he had hoped to become a lecturer at the Bonn University where Bruno Bauer had shifted to in 1839. But Bauer himself was in trouble because of the student disturbances his anti-religion lectures were causing. Finally the King himself ordered the removal of Bauer from the Bonn University. Th is meant the end to Bauer’s teaching career as well as any hope of a teaching job for Marx.
Marx started concentrating on journalism, which he had already started immediately after leaving University. Th is also helped him to participate more thoroughly in the rapidly growing radical democratic opposition movement then developing in his Rhineland province and the neighbouring province of Westphalia. Th ese provinces which had experienced the liberating infl uence of the French anti- feudal reforms were major centres of opposition to the Prussian king. Industrialisation had also led to the growth of the bourgeoisie, particularly in Cologne, the richest city of the Rhineland. Th is meant strong support for this radical opposition movement by the industrialists, who were fed up with the excessive controls of the feudals.

Marx first started writing for, and then, in October 1842, became the chief editor of the Rheinische Zeitung, a daily newspaper supported by such industrialists. In Marx’ hands the newspaper soon became a fighter for radical democratic rights. This however brought Marx into constant conflict with the Prussian censors who were very repressive. Finally, when the paper published a criticism of the Russian Czar’s despotism, the Czar himself brought pressure on the Prussian King to take action. Th e paper was banned and had to be closed down in March 1843. Marx then started involving himself in a plan to bring out a new journal the German-French Yearbooks.

During this period, from 1841 to 1843, Marx was deeply involved in the stormy political life of that period. However he was basically a radical democrat and did not at that time hold communist views. At the level of philosophy his major transformation during this period was in 1841 after reading a book Th e Essence of Christianity by Ludwig Feuerbach which presented a criticism of religion from the standpoint of materialism. Th is book played a major role in shifting Marx’ ideas from the idealism of the Young Hegelian group to materialism. Another philosophical work of 1841 (Th e European Triarchy) that influenced Marx was the attempt by his friend, Moses Hess, to develop a communist philosophy by combining French socialist and Left Hegelian ideas.

However at that time Marx yet had only a limited knowledge of the ideas of the socialists and communists. His first contact was in 1842 when he read with interest the works of many of the leading French socialist theorists. He was however not converted to communism or socialism by these readings. This change came about more through his contact with working class communist groups and study of political economy, both of which took place mainly after moving to Paris at the end of 1843.

Seven years after their engagement, Marx and Jenny were married in June 1843. Th ey had a short honeymoon in Switzerland during which Marx wrote a booklet where he presented his initial criticisms of Hegel. After the honeymoon he started the study and preparations for moving to Paris from where the earlier mentioned German-French Yearbooks was to be brought out. Th is move to Paris
was planned in order to avoid the Prussian censors. However, though the journal was planned as a monthly, it collapsed after only one issue that came out in February 1844.

Marx’ period in Paris was however marked by very significant new experiences. Of the greatest importance was direct contact with the various socialist and communist groups of which Paris was a hot centre. Besides meeting a large number of theoreticians and revolutionaries Marx benefited greatly by regular contact with the many working class revolutionaries in Paris. At the same time Marx started a study of political economy in which he read most of the works of the famous English economists. Th e revolutionary contacts and further study had their impact. These were reflected in Marx’ writings.

The only issue of the Yearbooks was of crucial importance because it contained Marx’ first broad generalisation of a Marxist materialist understanding of history that was contained in an article criticising Hegel’s philosophy. It was in this article that Marx made the highly important formulation regarding the historical role of the proletariat. He also here made his famous formulation that religion is the opium of the people. Th e same issue also contained an article by Engels on political economy, which also gave a materialist understanding regarding the development of modern capitalism.

It was Marx’ interest in Engels’ writings that led to their meeting in Paris between August 28 and September 6 1844. This turned out to be a historic meeting that helped the two great thinkers to clarify their ideas and lay the fi rst foundations of Marxism. Though they had both independently come to similar conclusions earlier, this meeting helped them to achieve complete theoretical agreement. It was at this meeting that they more clearly came to an understanding regarding the materialist conception of history, which was the cornerstone of Marxist theory.

Frederick Engels was born on 28th November 1820 in the textile town of Barmen in the Rhine province of Prussia. His father was the wealthy owner of a cotton-spinning mill and was a fiercely religious Protestant Christian with a reactionary political outlook.

Barmen, like Marx’ Trier, also belonged to the part of Prussia which had seen twenty years of French conquest. It thus also had progressive influences on it. However its main characteristic was that it was one of the biggest Rhenish industrial centres. Thus Engels from a very early age saw the severe poverty and exploitation of the working class. To survive against factory competition craftsmen were forced to work from morning to night. Often they tried to drown their sorrows in drink. Child labour and occupational lung diseases were rampant.

Engels attended the Barmen town school till the age of 14. He was then sent to the gymnasium at the neighbouring town of Elberfeld (today both Barmen and Elberfeld are merged into one town). Th is gymnasium (secondary school) had the reputation of being one of the best in Prussia. He was an intelligent student with an early fl air for learning languages. He was also part of a poetry circle among the students and wrote his own poetry and short stories. He was planning to study economy and law but his father was more interested in making his eldest son learn the family business. At the age of 17 he was suddenly removed from school and made to join as an apprentice in his father’s office.

Though this was the end of Engels’ formal schooling he continued to use his free time to study history, philosophy, literature and linguistics and to write poetry, which he was attracted to. Th e next year, in July 1838, Engels was sent to work as a clerk in a large trading fi rm in the large port city of Bremen. Th e big city atmosphere brought Engels in contact with foreign literature and the press. In leisure he started reading fiction and political books. He continued learning new languages and besides German got some knowledge of Latin, Greek, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, English, Dutch, etc. Th is ability to learn languages continued throughout Engels’ life during which he learnt to be quite fluent in over 20 languages including Persian and Arabic. Also in Bremen, Engels became a good horseman, swimmer, swordsman and skater.

While at school itself Engels had been a fighter against bureaucracy. Now as a grown youth he was attracted to the radical democratic ideas of the bourgeois democratic revolution then taking shape in Germany. Th e first group he was attracted towards was the Young Germany literary group that stood for radical political views. He soon started writing for a journal being brought out by them from the port city of Hamburg, not far from Bremen. He wrote two articles on the situation in his home district. He exposed the severe exploitation of the workers in Barmen and Elberfeld, the diseases suffered by them, and the fact that half the children of the town were deprived of school and forced to work in the factories. He particularly attacked the hollowness of the religiosity of the exploitative industrialists (which included his own father).

Towards the end of 1839 he started a study of Hegel, whose philosophy he tried to link with his own radical democratic beliefs. However he only made further progress in this when he finished his clerkship in Bremen in 1841, and, after a few months gap, moved to Berlin for one year’s compulsory military service.

While in military service he joined the Berlin University as an external student and did a course in philosophy. He then became closely connected with the Young Hegelian group which Marx had been part of. He, like Marx, was also influenced greatly by the materialist views in Feurbach’s book that came out in that year. Engels’ writings now started to have some materialist aspects. Th e main thing he always stressed was political action. Th is was what made him split, in 1842, from his earlier Young German group, which he felt restricted itself only to empty literary debate. He however continued to strongly be linked with the Young Hegelians, particularly Bruno Bauer and his brother.

It was this closeness of Engels with the Bauers that prevented a friendship with Marx, when they met for the first time in November 1842. Engels at that time had finished his military service and was on his way from his hometown to join as a clerk in his father’s business in Manchester, in England. On the way he visited Marx at the newspaper office in Cologne where Marx was then the chief editor. Marx, by then, had however started criticising Young Hegelians, and particularly the Bauers, for concentrating their propaganda too much on religion rather than politics. Hence Marx and Engels, having different political affiliations, could not come close at this, their first meeting.

It was Engels’ experiences in England that made him a communist. He developed very close links with the workers of Manchester, as well as the leaders of the revolutionary workers Chartist movement. Manchester was the main centre of the world’s modern textile industry and soon Engels undertook an in depth study of the working and living conditions of its workers. He would regularly visit the working class areas to gain direct knowledge. In this process a love grew between him and Mary Burns, young Irish factory worker, who would later become his companion and wife. Besides collecting material for his future book on the conditions of the working class in England, Engels came to understand the revolutionary potential of the proletariat. His regular participation in the movement convinced him that the working class was not merely a suffering class, but a fighting class whose revolutionary actions would build the future.

Besides working class contact, Engels also made a deep study of the various socialist and communist theories and even met many of the French and German leaders and writers who had formulated these theories. Th ough he did not adopt any of these theories, he made an analysis of their positive and negative points. At the same time he started a deep study of bourgeois political economy. Th is was in order to help him analyse the economic relations of society, which he had started feeling was the basis of all social change. Th e initial results of his study he put down in his article that was published by Marx in his journal brought out from Paris. As we have mentioned earlier, this led to correspondence between Marx and Engels and their historic meeting in 1844.

Engels was then on his way back from Manchester to his hometown Barmen, when he stopped on the way to meet Marx who was then staying in Paris. Their discussions helped Marx to better formulate the materialist understanding of history which they had both started believing in. They also, at this meeting, started work on their first joint book, which was an attack on Bruno Bauer and the Young Hegelian group, which they had both earlier belonged to.

Engels spent the next eight months doing intensive communist propaganda and organisational work in Germany. During this period he was in constant revolt against his father who opposed his communist work and tried to get him to work in his factory. After just two weeks at his father’s office Engels rejected it completely and left Barmen to join Marx. Marx by that time had again become the target of feudal authorities. Th e Prussian King had brought pressure on the French King, who expelled Marx from Paris. Marx was forced to move to Brussels in Belgium along with his wife and eight-month-old child. Th is is where Engels came and set up house right next to Marx’s house.
Marx in the meantime had done deep work and had developed the main features of the new world outlook, which they had discussed at their earlier meeting. In Brussels both Marx and Engels started intensive joint work. Th is was, as Engels said, to develop the new outlook in all possible directions. Th e result was the historic book, Th e German Ideology, which however only got published almost a hundred years later. Th e main purpose served this book served at that time was for the two great thinkers to self – clarify regarding their old understanding and set up the pillars of the new world outlook, which later came to be known as Marxism. Marx and Engels had become Marxists!


Chapter 5: The Three Sources of Marxism

From the earlier account of the early life of Marx and Engels it is clear that they were both very extraordinary and brilliant men. However, it is also very clear that Marxism was not some invention that suddenly emerged from the thoughts of these magnificent brains. Th e socioeconomic changes of that time provided the basis for the emergence of the true proletarian ideology. Th e actual content and the form of that ideology, however, were the product of the struggles waged in the most important fi elds of thought of that time. Marx and Engels being deep intellectuals had a wide and deep grasp of the latest advancement of thought in the most advanced countries of the period. Th ey, thus, could stand on the shoulders of the great thinkers before them, absorbing whatever was good, and rejecting what was wrong in them. And it was thus that they built the structure and content of Marxism.

Let us see which were the main fields of thoughts on which they based their ideas. Th us therefore we can also understand the main sources of Marxism.

1) Th e fi rst source of Marxist thought was German Classical Philosophy. Any ideology has to have its grounding in some philosophy and both Marx and Engels, as we have seen, had a strong base in German classical philosophy.
German philosophy had, during the period 1760 to 1830, grown to become the most infl uential school in European philosophy. It had its base in the German middle classes. Th is class was intellectually very advanced but had not developed the political strength to make revolution, or the economic resources to make an Industrial Revolution. Th is was what probably inclined them towards elaborate systems of thought.
However, this class, having many civil servants, had many contradictory aspects. It sometimes leant to the industrial bourgeoisie and proletariat on the one side and sometimes to the feudal classes on the other. Th is was thus refl ected in German philoso
phy having both a progressive as well as an antiprogressive aspect. Th is was particularly seen in Hegel’s philosophy upon which Marx and Engels largely based themselves. Th ey therefore rejected all the anti-progressive aspects that upheld the existing feudal society, and developed upon the progressive and revolutionary parts, to lay the foundations of Marxist philosophy.
2) English Political Economy was the second important source of Marxism. England being the centre of the Industrial Revolution it was but natural that the study of the economy and its laws should reach its peak in this country. It was a new fi eld of study, which basically started with the growth of modern capitalism. It had its fi rm basis in the modern industrial bourgeoisie and played the role of justifying and glorifying capitalism. It also provided the intellectual arguments for the rising bourgeoisie in its struggles with the feudals.
In England its period started with the publication in 1776 of the world famous book Th e Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith. He basically argued that if capitalism were given the fullest freedom to grow it would lead to the greatest progress of humanity. He thus provided the argument for the reduction of controls of any sort by the feudals on the capitalist class. David Ricardo was another famous classical economist who played a crucial role in the battles of the bourgeoisie with the landlords. He was the one who pointed out that as capitalism progressed the average rate of profi t of the capitalists fell. His very signifi cant discovery was the development of the labour theory of value, which showed that all economic value is created by labour. Other later economists analysed the causes of economic crises under capitalism.
English political economy basically served the interests of the industrial bourgeoisie. It therefore played a revolutionary role against the feudal classes. However the economists very often did not carry forward their analysis beyond the point where it hurt bourgeois class interests. Th us, for example, Ricardo, though he developed the labour theory of value, did not expose the exploitation of labour by the capitalist class. Th is was done by Marx. He took
16 Basic Course in Marxism-Leninism-Maoism
ahead the work of the English economists beyond the limits of the capitalist class and drew the necessary revolutionary conclusions from them. It was thus that Marx developed the principles of Marxist political economy.
3) Th e third source of Marxism was the various socialist theories, which mainly originated from France. Th ese theories represented the hopes and aims of the newly emerging proletariat class. Th ey were both a refl ection of, as well as a protest against capitalist exploitation and oppression of the working class. France at that time was the main centre for revolutionary groups and revolutionary theory, which inspired the whole of Europe. It was therefore natural that socialist theories too mainly came out of France.
Most of these theories had major defects, as they were not based on a proper scientifi c analysis of society. Nevertheless, they represented a break with the individualism, self-interest and competition of bourgeois revolutionary theory. Th ey also pointed the way forward for the proletariat from capitalist society. Marx thus made a study of these theories of socialism and communism before formulating the Marxist principles of scientifi c socialism. While in Paris, he spent a considerable amount of time with the leaders and members of the numerous French revolutionary and socialist groups. Marx took what was best in socialism and gave it the scientifi c basis of the doctrine of class struggle. He thus developed the principles of Marxist scientifi c socialism.
Th is then is the story of how Marxism emerged from the three great sources of ideas in the then most advanced countries of the world. Th e three Sources of Marxism – German philosophy, English political economy and French socialist theories – corresponded to the three main component parts of the new ideology – Marxist philosophy of dialectical materialism, Marxist political economy and Marxist theory of scientifi c socialism. In the following pages we will try to understand the essence of each of these parts.

Chapter 6
The Basic Formulations of Marxist Philosophy: Dialectical and Historical Materialism
As we have repeatedly seen earlier, Marx and Engels always insisted that all philosophy should be practical and linked to the real world. Th is was expressed in the most clear manner by Marx in his famous saying, “Th e philosophers have always interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” By this, Marx meant that he did not want to become a philosopher like our rishis and munnis sitting on some mountain and meditating regarding supernatural things. He did not see much point in thinking and contemplation unless it was linked to the practical world. His basic search was to try to understand how the world was changing and thus to participate in actual practice and change today’s world and society. He thus was interested in a philosophy that would be applied in social practice.
In order to do this Marx had to take a stand with regards to the basic division in all philosophy – the division between idealism and materialism. Th is division is regarding the basic question as to, which is primary – spirit or nature. Th ose who take the stand that spirit is primary belong to the camp of idealism, whereas those who take the stand that nature is primary belong to the camp of materialism. Idealism is always connected in one way or other to religion. Being men of practice, who were absolutely opposed to religious beliefs, it was but natural that Marx and Engels established Marxist philosophy fi rmly in the camp of materialism.
In doing so they were defi nitely infl uenced and aided by the writings of Feuerbach and other materialist philosophers of that time. However these philosophers were mechanical materialists who understood nature and society to be like a machine turning round and round without any development or real change. Marx rejected mechanical materialism because it did not give any understanding of historical change and development.
For this Marx had to turn to dialectics, which is the science of the general laws of motion. Th e essence
of dialectics is that it understands things in their inter-connections and contradictions. Dialectics thus was able to provide the science of development that Marx knew was necessary to change the world.
At that time Hegel’s philosophy and laws of dialectics (which Marx studied deeply) were the most advanced in Europe. But Hegel had developed his philosophical laws in an idealist way by only making them applicable to the fi eld of thought. He belonged to the camp of idealism and refused to recognise that nature and material social being are primary, and spirit and ideas are secondary. He thus did not accept that his system of thought itself was a product of the development of human society to a defi nite stage. He refused to understand that his laws of thought were themselves refl ections of the laws of nature and society. Th us, as Marx said, Hegel’s dialectics, by being idealist, was standing on its head – that means it was absurd and illogical. Marx turned Hegel’s dialectics the right side up – that means he made it rational – by putting it on the basis of materialism. Marx took Hegel’s dialectical laws and gave them the approach of materialist philosophy. He thus made Hegel’s laws of thought also into laws of nature and society. He thus formulated Dialectical Materialism, which is the essence of Marxist philosophy.
By giving dialectics a rational and materialist basis Marx changed it into a philosophy of revolution. Marx and Engels applied dialectical materialism to the study of society and history and thus discovered the materialist conception of history. Th e materialist conception of history was a new and revolutionary way of understanding society and social change. It explained the basis of social changes and political revolutions not as an invention of some brilliant men’s brains but as the product of the processes within society. It showed all revolutionaries that the path to social change lay in understanding society and accordingly formulating the ideas to bring about change.
Th e starting point of the materialist conception of history is the level of development of the material productive forces i.e. tools, machinery, skills, etc. Marx says that according to the stage in the devel
18 Basic Course in Marxism-Leninism-Maoism
opment of the productive forces we get defi nite relations of production i.e. relations of ownership and control over the means of production. Th us, for example, backward productive forces like the wooden plough, and wind, hand and animal operated mills give us feudal relations; modern productive forces like tractors, harvesters, etc., when they are widespread, give rise to capitalist relations of production. Th ese relations of production constitute the economic structure of society, or the economic base of society.
On top of the economic base of society arises a legal and political superstructure with defi nite forms of social consciousness. Further, Marx says that it is the mode of production (consisting of the productive forces and relations of production) that conditions the social, political and intellectual life in general. Th us, for example, the feudal mode of production gives rise to very severe oppression on women and lower castes and a very undemocratic political system; the capitalist mode of production, on the other hand, reduces social oppression and brings some bourgeois democratic rights.
At a certain stage in the development of the productive forces they come into confl ict with the existing relations of production. Th ese old relations of production start preventing the development of the productive forces. Unless these production relations are changed the productive forces cannot develop. Th is period when the relations of production start acting as chains on the development of the productive forces is the beginning of the epoch of social revolution. Revolution is needed to change the relations of production i.e. the relation between the various classes in society. Once this happens and the relations of production or property relations are broken i.e. the economic base is changed, then the change in the whole superstructure follows quite quickly.
Th is materialist conception of history was the fi rst great discovery of Marx, which he accomplished in 1844-45. It was the foundation on which the other great pillars of Marxist theory were built.
In later years Marx and Engels, and the other Marx
ist Teachers further developed Marxist philosophy. However its essence remained the basic principles of dialectical and historical materialism mentioned above.

Chapter 7
Struggle Against Utopian Socialism and the Establishment of Scientifi c Socialism
Utopian socialism is the term used to describe the main trends of pre-Marxist socialism, which arose and became prominent in the fi rst half of the nineteenth century. Th e terms ‘utopians’ (derived from the idea of Utopia, which is supposed to be a state of things where everything is perfect) and ‘socialist’ became popular fi rst in the 1830s. Th ey were used to describe a group of thinkers who developed theories to transform society on a more egalitarian basis by removing the individualism, selfi shness and competitiveness in human nature. Many of these thinkers or their followers tried to implement their theories by setting up ideal communities where all the members worked, lived and shared the fruits of their labour on a cooperative basis. Th ey believed that such ideal communities would provide the example that would then be followed by the rest of society. Th ey thus did not rely on the actual processes in society for building their schemes of socialism. Rather they thought that the rationality of their plans and ideas itself was suffi cient to convince people and change society.
Utopian socialism was fi rst and foremost a reaction to the oppression and exploitation of the working class under capitalism. Th e working people had fought bitterly for the overthrow of feudalism. However the bourgeoisie’s slogans of freedom, equality and fraternity had only meant freedom for the capitalist class and intensifi ed exploitation of the workers. Th e various socialist doctrines arose as a result of the emerging class contradictions between the capitalists and workers and as a protest against exploitation. Th ey attempted to build a system that would provide justice to the toilers.
Th e anarchy of capitalist production was another cause for the new socialist theories. Th e utopian socialists attempted to build rational systems that would provide for the needs of humankind in an orderly and harmonious fashion. Some of them even tried to convince capitalists and government offi cials that their socialist systems where much more
rational, planned, and therefore desirable than the existing capitalist system. Th ey even thus attempted to get funds from the rich for their projects.
Th e main defect of pre-Marxist socialist doctrines was that they did not have a real basis in the class contradictions and class struggles unfolding in society. Th ough their ideas were themselves the product of the class contradictions within society, the utopian socialists did not realise that it was absolutely necessary to wage the class struggle in order to achieve socialism. Th ough their ideas were in reality a refl ection of the aspirations of the infant proletariat, the utopian socialists did not recognise the central importance of the revolutionary role of the proletariat in bringing about socialism.
When Marx and Engels came into contact with the socialist and communist groups they started trying to convince the followers of the utopian socialist theories of the incorrectness of their ideas. Th ey participated intensively in the debates in the various revolutionary and working class groups where these theories and ideas were being discussed. Th eir main aim was to give a scientifi c basis to socialist theory. For this they had to expose the defects and wrong understanding of the earlier socialists and place socialism on the sound basis of the Marxist theory of class struggle.
As Marx himself pointed out the theory of class struggle was not something new invented by him. In fact the earlier socialists and even bourgeois writers were quite conscious about and wrote about classes and class struggle. However the essential difference of the Marxist theory of class struggle is that it showed how the class struggle led inevitably to socialism and communism.
Marx fi rst of all showed that classes are not something that have always existed in human society. He showed that there was a long period in human history when there were no classes at all (i.e. during primitive communism). Th ere would also be a period in the future when there would again be no classes. Secondly Marx particularly analysed the present day class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and showed how this class strug
20 Basic Course in Marxism-Leninism-Maoism
gle would inevitably lead to revolution by the workers and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat i.e. socialism. Th irdly, Marx pointed out that this dictatorship of the proletariat was itself a period of transition to a new society. Th e proletariat could only develop by destroying itself as a class, by abolishing all classes and establishing a classless society i.e. communism.
It is this theory of class struggle that Marx and Engels developed, propagated and brought into practice throughout their lives. It is this Marxist theory of class struggle that converted socialism into a science, which laid the basis of scientifi c socialism. With this, socialism was no longer to be seen as the product of some brilliant mind, but it became the necessary outcome of the struggle between two historically developed classes – the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Because of scientifi c socialism the task of the socialists did not become one of trying to develop the most perfect, harmonious and rational system of society like the utopian socialists had tried to do. Under scientifi c socialism the task was to analyse society, to analyse the history and economic basis of the class contradictions in society, and from this economic basis to fi nd the way to end all class confl ict and bring socialism and communism.
Th e scientifi c clarity of Marxist socialist theory was so great that most sincere elements in the various socialist and communist organisations of the 1840s soon rejected the pre-Marxist and non-class varieties of socialism. Marx and Engels soon became ideological leaders within the socialist movement. When a new international organisation was formed in 1847 uniting workers, intellectuals and revolutionary socialist groups of various countries they at once became its leaders. Th ey suggested its name, Th e Communist League, and it was they who were appointed to draft its programme. Th is programme is the world historic Communist Manifesto.
Th e Communist Manifesto was not only the fi rst programme and general line of the international proletariat. It also laid down the basic principles of scientifi c socialism and the approach to all other types of socialism. With its quick translation into
numerous languages, the Manifesto soon spread the basic ideas of Marxist scientifi c socialism throughout Europe and then throughout the world. Th e basic principles outlined in this document have in essence remained fi rm for more than 150 years, up to this day.

Chapter 8
Marxist Political Economy
As we have seen earlier Marx developed his principles of political economy in continuation of and in opposition to the bourgeois political economy of the English economists. Most of Marx’ earlier economic writings from 1844 to 1859 were in the form of a critique of bourgeois political economy. He countered the claims of the bourgeois political economists that capitalism was a permanent and universal system. On the other hand he proved that capitalism could exist only for a limited period and was destined to be overthrown and replaced by a new and higher social system. His later economic analysis, particularly the various volumes of his main work, Capital, concentrated on discovering the economic laws of capitalism. Th e in-depth analysis of the relations of production in capitalist society, in their origin, development and decline, thus forms the main content of Marx’ political economy.
Bourgeois political economists always made their analysis in the form of a relation between things i.e. the exchange of one commodity for another. Marx however showed that economics deals not with things but with relations between persons, and in the last resort between classes.
Since under capitalism it is the production of commodities that dominates, Marx started his analysis with an analysis of the commodity. He pointed out that the exchange of commodities was not a mere exchange of things but actually an expression of the relation between individual producers in society who have been linked by the market. Th ough commodity exchange has existed for thousands of years, it is only with the development of money and the birth of capitalism that it reaches its peak linking up the entire economic life of millions of individual producers throughout society into one whole. Capitalism even converts the labour power of the worker into a commodity that is bought and sold freely in the market place.
Th e wageworker sells his labour power to the owner of the means of production, i.e. the capitalist. Th e
worker spends one part of his working day producing the equivalent of his wage, i.e. producing what is necessary to cover the cost of maintaining himself and his family. Th e other part of his working day is spent producing for the maintenance and growth of the capitalist. Th e worker gets absolutely no payment from this production which is for the capitalist. Th is additional value which every worker produces, over and above the value necessary to earn his wage and maintain himself, Marx called surplus value. It is the source of profi t and the source of wealth of the capitalist class.
Th e discovery of the concept of surplus value exposed the nature of exploitation of the working class. It also brought out the source of the antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Th is class antagonism was the principal manifestation of the fundamental contradiction of capitalist society: the contradiction between the social character of production and the private character of ownership. Th is discovery of surplus value was referred to by Engels as the second important discovery of Marx (along with the discovery of the materialist conception of history). Lenin called the doctrine of surplus value as the corner stone of Marx’ economic theory.
Marx also analysed in detail the periodic economic crises that repeatedly aff ected capitalism. He explained capitalist crises also as another manifestation of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism. He thus exposed the falsehood of the bourgeois economists who at that time propagated that capitalism could not face any crisis, as the operation of the market would solve all problems. Th ey tried to present that whatever was produced by the capitalist would automatically be sold in the market place.
Marx however exposed that the nature of the working of capitalism itself would lead inevitably to crisis. He showed how capitalists in their desperate urge to earn more and more profi ts went on madly increasing production. However at the same time every capitalist tried to maintain a higher rate of profi t by cutting the wage rates of his workers and throwing them into poverty. Th e working class composes the largest section in society and the poverty of the working class automatically means the reduction
22 Basic Course in Marxism-Leninism-Maoism
of their capacity to buy the goods available in the market. Th us on the one hand the capitalist class goes on increasing the production of goods being supplied to the market, whereas on the other hand it goes on reducing the buying capacity of a large section of the buyers in the very same market. Th is naturally leads to a severe contradiction between the expansion of production on one hand and the contraction of the market on the other hand. Th e result is a crisis of overproduction where the market is fl ooded with unsold goods. Numerous capitalists are thrown into bankruptcy. Lakhs of workers are thrown out of their jobs and forced into starvation at the same as the shops are fi lled with goods that remained unused because there is no one to buy them.
Marx further concluded that the anarchy of these crises of capitalism could only be resolved by resolving the fundamental contradiction of capitalism between the social character of production and the private character of ownership. Th is could only be done by overthrowing the capitalist system and establishing socialism and communism, and thus giving a social character to the ownership of the means of production. Marx showed that the social force that would bring about this revolution had been created by capitalism itself; it was the proletariat class. It was the proletariat alone who had no interest in continuing the present system of exploitation and private ownership. It alone had the interest and capacity to establish socialism.
Marx analysed how every crisis intensifi ed the contradictions of the capitalist system. He described the process with each crisis of centralisation of capital into the hands of a smaller and smaller handful of capitalists. Th is proceeded alongside the immense growth in the misery and discontent of the vast mass of workers. As the contradictions of capitalism sharpened, the revolutionary upheavals of the proletariat grew in strength, fi nally resulting in revolution, the confi scation of the capital of the capitalists and the building of a socialist society with a social character of ownership suited to the social character of production.
In this way, Marx, starting from the economy’s most
basic unit – the commodity – brings out the nature of the economic laws governing capitalism. He thus exposes the scientifi c economic basis for the socialist revolution and the road to communism.

Chapter 9
Marxism Fuses Its Links with the Working Class
As we saw earlier Marx and Engels were deeply involved in the revolutionary communist groups of the eighteen forties. Th ey thus came to lead the Communist League which was an international body uniting the revolutionaries of various European countries. Th ey also drafted its programme – the Communist Manifesto –, which acquired world historic signifi cance. However at that time – in 1848 – the infl uence of Marxism had yet to reach the vast working class masses. Th e infl uence of the Communist League was limited and it consisted mainly of exiled workers and intellectuals. In fact at that time Marxism was just one of the many trends of socialism.
Th e 1848 Revolution, which spread insurrection throughout the European continent, was the fi rst major historical event where Marxism proved itself in practice. Marx and Engels were in Brussels when the Revolution fi rst broke out in France. Th e Belgian government fearing the spread of the Revolution immediately expelled Marx from Brussels and forced him to leave for Paris where he was soon joined by Engels. However as the revolutionary wave spread to Germany, both decided to immediately move there in order to directly participate in the revolutionary events.
Th ere they tried to consolidate the work of the Communist League and the workers’ associations. Th ey brought out a daily newspaper, the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, which served as an organ of propagation of the revolutionary line. Th e newspaper took a line in support of radical bourgeois democracy as the completion of the bourgeois democratic revolution was then the main task in Germany. However the paper simultaneously served as the organiser of the emerging revolutionary proletarian party in Germany. Marx and Engels even tried to form a mass workers’ party by uniting the workers’ associations of various provinces of Germany. Th e paper lasted for one year. With the collapse of the revolution in Germany and other parts of Eu
rope, the paper was forced to close down and Marx was expelled by the Prussian King. He retreated to Paris but had to soon leave from there too because of persecution by the French authorities. Engels continued in Germany fi ghting as a soldier in the revolutionary armies till the very end. After military defeat, he escaped, and towards the end of 1849, joined Marx, who had by then settled in London. England then continued to be their centre till the end of their lives.
Th e defeat of the 1848 Revolution had spread confusion among the revolutionaries and proletarian activists throughout Europe. Most of the earlier dominant trends of socialism could not provide any proper understanding regarding the reasons for the course of events during the revolution. It was in such an atmosphere that Marx took up the task of explaining the social forces behind the initial victory and later defeat of the Revolution. Since France was the centre and principal starting point of both the upsurge and decline of the revolution, Marx concentrated his analysis on the French events. Th is he did through his brilliant works, Th e Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850 and the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. Th ey were Marx’ fi rst attempts to explain current historical events by means of the materialist conception of history. He analysed with complete clarity the class forces behind each of the major turns and twists in the revolution. He thus provided the class basis for revolutionary proletarian tactics. By exposing the role of various classes at various stages, he showed who were the friends and enemies of the revolution and therefore the approach of the proletariat to each of them.
In the following period, Marx continued his writings on all the major political events throughout the world. In all these writings he presented a clear perspective from a proletarian viewpoint. Th is distinguished them from all other varieties of socialism, which proved incapable of providing real answers to the continuously changing world situation. It clearly established the superiority of Marxism over other brands of socialism as a practical tool for understanding and changing the world.
24 Basic Course in Marxism-Leninism-Maoism
Simultaneously, Marx and Engels worked energetically to unite the weak and fragmented organisations of the working class. Th e Communist League, which had its main centre in Germany, faced severe repression from the Prussian police. Many of its members in Germany were put behind bars and the organisation itself was fi nally dissolved in November 1852. During the long period of reaction after the failure of the 1848 Revolution Marx and Engels tried continuously to reorganise and revive the working class movement. Besides writing and publishing their works extensively, they maintained constant contact with the working class organisations in various countries, particularly England, France and Germany. Th eir constant attempt was to form an international organisation of the working class and to set up separate parties of the proletariat in the industrially developed countries.
Th e main work in this respect was done by Marx. He worked throughout this period under very diffi cult conditions. After having been driven out by the governments of various countries, even after Marx settled in London he was under constant surveillance of the secret police, particularly of Prussia. Besides the political repression Marx’ economic situation was always very bad. Due to the poor and disorganised state of the revolutionary working class movement at that time it was unable to support him as a full-timer. Th us his only source of earnings was the small payment per article which he got for writing for a large American newspaper Th e New York Tribune. Th is was of course totally insuffi cient for Marx’ large family. Th ey thus faced constant poverty, debt and even starvation. Many a time things from the house had to be pawned to provide for food. Marx had six children but only three survived beyond childhood. When his baby daughter died the burial had to be delayed for a few days till some money was collected for the burial. Marx himself faced constant serious illnesses, which he had to struggle against to complete his work.
Th roughout all these economic diffi culties the main support for the Marx family was Engels. After the failure of the 1848 Revolution Engels had been forced to take up a job in his father’s Manchester fi rm. He worked there for twenty years, fi rst as a
clerk and then for the last fi ve years as a partner in the fi rm till 1869. During this period he had a substantial income, with which he would regularly help Marx.
Engels’ help however was not merely economic. Th ough he did not get much spare time because of his job he put in all eff orts to continue study and help Marx. Th ey corresponded very regularly and constantly exchanged ideas. Marx always consulted Engels on major questions, particularly on decisions regarding the international working class movement.
Th eir eff orts fi nally bore fruit in 1864 with the formation of the International Workingmen’s Association – the First International. Marx soon became its leader and was primarily responsible for drawing up its fi rst programme and constitution. Th e International’s programme however did not contain the strong words of the Communist Manifesto. Th e First International, unlike the Communist League, was not an organisation limited to small groups of revolutionaries. In fact many of the sections of the International, especially those of England and France, represented organisations with a vast mass following of workers. However, most of these organisations did not have a clear and correct understanding. Th ough they were composed predominantly of workers the level of consciousness was normally lower than that of the selected revolutionaries of the Communist League. Th e programme and constitution thus had to be formulated keeping this in mind. Th e correct line had to be presented in a manner acceptable to the member organisations of the International. Marx, with his great ideological depth and practical organisational experience was at that time the only person capable of thus drafting these documents and was therefore given this task. In subsequent years too, it was he, who drafted all the most important documents of the First International.
It was thus Marxism alone that could provide the ideological, political and organisational perspective for the First International. Implementation of this perspective meant constant struggle against the various anarchist and opportunist trends that arose
Part 1 25
within the movement. Among other things the anarchists opposed a strong organisation whereas the opportunists opposed resolute struggle. Fighting both deviations, Marx and Engels worked to build the International into a mass organisation of struggle, uniting the workers in both Europe and America. Th is they largely succeeded in, doing leading at the same time to the formation of independent proletarian parties in many of the industrialised countries of the world.
By the time of the historic Paris Commune of 1871, Marxism had advanced very far from it’s position at the time of the 1848 Revolution. Marxism no longer remained as merely one of the trends of socialism. Th e earlier brands of Utopian Socialism had been swept away by history and it was Marxism alone that retained full practical signifi cance. Marxism also was no longer restricted to small groups but had become a mass phenomenon. Its infl uence extended to the proletarian movements in various industrialised countries. It provided the ideological leadership to independent proletarian parties. It headed a massive proletarian movement, which had begun to challenge the bourgeoisie. Marxism had fused its links with the vast working class masses.

Chapter 10
The Lessons of the Paris Commune
Th e Paris Commune was the fi rst time in history when the proletariat seized power and attempted to set up its own rule. Th e Commune could not consolidate its rule and was crushed within a period of 72 days. However its experience was of world historic signifi cance. During its short existence it had provided a glimpse of the new society. Th rough both its positive examples as well as its mistakes it had provided immensely valuable lessons for the working class of the world. Marx, in his role as leader of the First International, summarised the lessons of this great experience for the international proletariat.
Th e background to the Paris Commune was provided by the Franco-German war of 1870-71. It started in July 1870 with the reactionary French Emperor Napoleon III ordering an attack on Prussia (which with other smaller provinces became Germany in January 1871) because he mistakenly thought that the Prussians were in a weak position. His armies were rapidly defeated and Napoleon III himself surrendered and was taken prisoner by the Prussians in September 1870. Napoleon III’s surrender was followed by the setting up of a Republic headed by a politician named Th iers. Th iers in March 1871 signed a peace treaty with the Germans. Paris however, which had been surrounded by the Prussian army since September 1870, did not submit to Th iers. It was in the control of the Paris National Guard, which was composed mainly of workers. On March 18th, 1871, Th iers sent his army to disarm the National Guard. Th ere was a revolt in which two of the French army generals were shot dead and the army was forced to retreat. Power had passed over into the hands of the National Guard, who, within a week, held elections and set up a Council consisting of 92 members. Th e Council, which had a large number of workers, became the organ of government. It introduced numerous progressive measures for the reorganisation of social life and the administration of the city and thus had the full support of the whole working people. Th e Paris Commune was however a government under
constant attack. Fearing the strength of the working class, the German and French oppressors had immediately joined hands to crush the Commune. Germany even directly helped the Th iers government by releasing a large section of the French army who had surrendered and been taken prisoner in 1870. Th e Th iers government strengthened by reinforcements then launched a full-scale campaign to conquer Paris. Th e workers fought bravely but they were no match for the well equipped professional army. After many days of heroic fi ghting, resulting in thousands of martyrs, the Commune was crushed on May 28th, 1871. Even after the takeover over 30,000 Communards were butchered in cold blood. Over 45,000 were court-martialed, of whom many were executed and others sent to prison or to exile. It was as if the bourgeoisie was determined to teach an unforgettable lesson to the workers lest they ever even dream of seizing power again.
Th e First International was at the peak of its popular appeal at the time of the Franco-Prussian war and the Paris Commune. It had a wide struggle base among the workers and regularly provided guidance on political questions. When the Franco-Prussian war broke out Marx immediately brought out a document in the name of the General Council of the First International. Th is document is one of the fi rst applications of the Marxist tactical principles regarding war. He called for international solidarity of the workers while putting the blame for the war on the rulers of both France and Prussia. Due to the propaganda of the International a strong spirit of internationalism existed among both German and French workers. In fact Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht, two members of parliament and leaders of the German proletarian party who were Marxist members of the International were jailed by the Prussian government for voting in parliament against war credits.
In the initial period of the war Marx characterised it as a defensive war on the part of Germany because of the reactionary nature of the aggressive Napoleon III regime. He however predicted the fall of this reactionary ruler. When this took place Marx immediately brought out a document which called on the German workers to oppose what had now
Part 1 27
become a German war of conquest. He called for peace with France and recognition of the newly formed Republic. He characterised the Republic as being led by the fi nance aristocracy and big bourgeoisie. He however felt it would be premature to attempt to overthrow the Republic and form a workers’ government. In fact Marx fi rmly opposed any attempt at insurrection in Paris. Th is was because the German enemy had already surrounded Paris and there was very little chance of any insurrection surviving in such circumstances.
Despite Marx’ advice the activists of various anarchist and conspiratorial trends who had some following in Paris made various attempts at organising an uprising. When the insurrection actually took place Marx despite all his earlier opposition declared full and militant support for the Commune. He immediately recognised its historic signifi cance and sent hundreds of letters throughout the world trying to build up support. He through messengers kept contact with the Communards sending advice to the Internationalists in the Commune. Consulting Engels, who was an expert in military matters he also sent advice regarding the military defence of the Commune. Th ough the leadership of the Commune was in the hands of the members of other groups and trends, the Marxists within the Commune made all attempts to strengthen its activities and defence. After the defeat of the Commune the International was the principal organisation which arranged for shelter and help to gain jobs for the Communards who had to fl ee the brutal repression of the French bourgeoisie.
Marx, who immediately hailed the Commune as an event of immense historic signifi cance, made an in-depth analysis trying to draw lessons from its experience. Th is work, Th e Civil War in France, was written during the Commune but could only be brought out two days after the its fall. It served to propagate its achievements and build the correct approach to the Commune among revolutionaries and workers throughout the world.
Marx fi rstly highlighted the major positive and revolutionary measures taken by the Commune, which he presented as the incubation of the new society.
He pointed out the major political decisions as the separation of the Church and the State, abolition of subsidies to the Church, replacement of the standing army by a people’s militia, election and control of all judges and magistrates, upper salary limit for all government offi cials and making them strictly responsible to the electorate, etc. Th e major socioeconomic measures were free and general education, abolition of night work in bakeries, cancellation of employer fi nes in workshops, closing of pawnshops, seizure of closed workshops which were to be run by workers’ cooperatives, relief to the unemployed, rationed houses and assistance to debtors. All the above measures showed that there being no clear direction to the Commune, all its decisions had the clear stamp of the actions of the proletariat. Despite being faced constantly by the desperate question of its very survival, the Commune through its actions provided the fi rst glimpse of what type of society the coming proletarian revolution would bring. It provided the fi rst experience of the proletariat in state power – what Marx and Engels referred to as the fi rst dictatorship of the proletariat.
Th e Commune by its weaknesses also provided the most valuable lessons for the future struggles of the proletariat. Th ese were pointed out by Marx. A serious weakness of the Commune was the lack of the clear and centralised leadership of a single proletarian party. From this Marx concluded that for the success of the revolution it was absolutely necessary to have the leadership of a strong, clear-sighted and disciplined proletarian party. Th e other point, which Marx repeatedly stressed was the need to smash the earlier state machinery. In order to build the new workers’ state it was not possible to rely upon the earlier state machinery of the bourgeoisie with its state offi cials who were totally committed to preserving the old social order. In fact in order to build the workers’ state it was fi rst necessary to smash the earlier state apparatus and get rid of all the high level offi cials associated with it.
In the period of reaction and repression following the Commune, there was considerable confusion among the revolutionary forces as to how to assess the experiences and draw the correct conclusions. Th e anarchists, who had participated in large num
28 Basic Course in Marxism-Leninism-Maoism
bers in the Commune, were particularly at a loss. Marx’ analysis gave a clear-cut position clearing all types of confusion. Marx also helped propagate the correct understanding regarding the Commune throughout the world. Following the Commune the bourgeoisie portrayed Marx as the real leader of the Commune and he was therefore even interviewed by the world press. Th rough these interviews he thus was able to present the correct stand to various countries. Marxism again was providing the correct answers.

Chapter 11
Spread of Marxism and Rise of Opportunism
Th e period after the Paris Commune was one of reactionary off ensive by the bourgeoisie on the working class movement. Th is had its impact on the First International. Th e French section was the worst hit with most of the members becoming refugees in other countries and severe factional fi ghts among them. Th e German labour movement also faced a setback with the long arrest of the main Marxist leaders, Bebel and Liebknecht, who had opposed the war and the annexation of parts of France. Th is meant that the two of the most important sections in the International were handicapped. Simultaneously there was a split in the English section with some of the leaders leaving the International in opposition to the militant stand in support of the Commune taken by Marx. Th is coupled with the manipulations by the anarchists weakened the International. Marx and Engels decided to transfer the headquarters of the International from London to New York. Th is decision was taken in the 1872 Congress of the International. Th e weakened International however could not revive and was fi nally dissolved in 1876.
Th e dissolution of the First International however did not stop the onward march of Marxism and the setting up of new proletarian parties. Th e period after the Paris Commune saw a long almost 35 year gap of peace, without any major wars between the big capitalist countries on the European continent. During this period the labour movement in most industrialised countries expanded rapidly. Socialist parties, which had a basically proletarian composition, set up large and elaborate structures. Under their leadership grew trade unions, daily newspapers, worker cooperatives, etc. Working often under legal conditions they participated quite successfully in the bourgeois parliaments. It was many of these parties who got together to set up the Second International in 1889. Th is formation of the Sec
ond International gave further encouragement to the growth of new proletarian socialist parties in various parts of the world.
Marx and Engels till the end of their lives continued to play the role of ideological leaders and practical organisers of this growing working class movement. Th ey provided constant theoretical inputs to strengthen the foundations of the growing movement. Marx concentrated on further study of political economy and more in-depth study of capitalism. Th e fi rst volume of Capital came out in1867. After that Marx continued to struggle against severe ill health to try and complete the later volumes of this work. However it remained unfi nished right upto his death on 14th March 1883. Engels however completed the monumental task of collecting together Marx’ notes, editing them and fi nally publishing the second and third volumes of Capital. Engels in fact also did substantial theoretical work after becoming a full-timer in 1869. Along with Marx, and alone, he brought out various works on philosophy, socialist theory, evolution, origin of social and political institutions, etc. After the death of Marx he played the central role in guiding and building the movement in various countries. Th rough regular correspondence he performed the role of a centre which was otherwise non-existent throughout this period. Th is he did till his death on 5th August 1895.
A large part of the work of Marx and Engels was in fi ghting the trends of opportunism that started gaining strength with the growth of the movement. One important trend was that of Lassalleism which arose fi rst during the First International but continued also in later years. Its originator, Ferdinand Lassalle, was the founder of the fi rst working class socialist party set up in 1863 in Germany. Th e main opportunist aspects of Lassalleism were a discouragement of workers struggle for higher wages and making appeals to the state for government aid to set up workers cooperatives which Lassalle saw as the main means of reforming society and gradu
30 Basic Course in Marxism-Leninism-Maoism
ally bringing about socialism. In order to fi ght the wrong understanding on wage struggles Marx wrote the work, ‘Wages, Prices and Profi ts’ and presented it in the General Council of the First International in 1865. Th e fi ght against Lassalleism continued in 1875 when Marx wrote the Critique of the Gotha Programme. Th e Gotha programme was the programme drafted at the time of the unifi cation of the Lassalleist and Marxist proletarian parties of Germany into one party. At that time the Marxists were so keen on unity that they made many compromises with the opportunist politics of Lassalleism. Marx in his Critique made a thorough criticism of the points that had opportunist politics. However the Critique was only given to a handful of the leading Marxist members of the German party. It was not circulated and very few of its suggestions were brought into practice. However in 1891 when a new party programme was being drafted Engels insisted on publishing the Critique, despite the protests of some of the leading members of the party. Th is time the Lassalleist aspects did not appear in the new programme.
Other opportunist trends, which appeared, were similarly resolutely opposed by Marx and Engels as long as they were alive. After Engels’ death however one of the most major attacks on Marxism appeared from within the proletarian movement itself. Since direct opposition to Marxism was very diffi cult this attack came in the form of an attempt to ‘revise’ Marxism. Th is trend which later came to be called revisionism was initiated fi rst by Bernstein, one of the leading members of the German party and also of the Second International. He fi rst presented his views in 1898-99 within the German party. Bernstein proposed that because of changed conditions it was necessary to change all the basic formulations made by Marx. He proposed that it was not necessary to have violent revolution to bring about socialism and that reform of capitalist institutions would gradually bring about socialism. As opportunism had been growing in the working class movement Bernstein’s revisionism soon found supporters in various parties. However at the same time many genuine revolutionaries rallied around in the support of Marxism. Th e debate was taken up before the Congress of the Second International
held in 1904. Th e Congress strongly condemned revisionism by a vote of 25 to 5, with 12 abstentions. Th ere was also another compromise resolution, which did not so strongly condemn revisionism, which did not get passed because there was a tie vote of 21 to 21. Thus in both the resolutions there was a very big section that supported or did not want to take a strong stand against revisionism. Though the Congress          finally condemned revisionism it was quite clear in 1904 itself that opportunism and revisionism had built a substantial base for itself at the highest levels of the international working class movement. Th e opposition to opportunism in many countries however was also strong. A particularly strong centre was in Russia, where the Bolsheviks under the leadership of Lenin had already waged numerous struggles against Russian varieties of opportunism.

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