Hello! Happy New Years!
I almost forgot to write a blog today. If I'm going to be doing this in a more structured sense, then I aught to set a daily reminder to do it. I suppose I'll do that one that I said I would do, about defining Marxism.
Others likely have the capacity to explain this better (https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1913/mar/x01.htm) but this is my definition, and although I'll probably oversimplify things, this blog should be more accessible.
The first part of Marxism is its philosophical postulates, the first of which being materialism, or the philosophy of looking at the world (and history) as they actually are, their material conditions, rather than how it should be. It's the belief that the material conditions of society are what drive ideas behind a society, rather than the opposite (which is known as idealism). It's an interesting question, which one being true or not, about whideas driving conditions or conditions driving ideas, but Marxists have taken the latter to be true for a couple reasons:
– We can see throughout history that the materialist view of history is typically more coherent.
– Take the American Revolution: the idealist view of how that revolution went would go something like “The founding fathers, aimed with their new ideas of freedom and liberty, decided to overthrow the tyrannical king to achieve a new society based on the persuit of life, liberty and the persuit of happiness” where the materialist view of this revolution would go “A young and vulnurable merchant class escaped the persecution and economic friction of the king by travelling to a different country, and when the king tried to impose himself economically there, the people revolted so that they could create their own economic structures, free from economic oppression from the king.”
Another philosophical postulate is dialectics. Dialectics is the counterpart to the socratic method you might have heard about in school: it's a philosophical truth-finding strategy based on having two philosophers essentially argue with each other, each taking the others' arguments and using them to strengthen one's own base, until the two finally agree on a singlular, more coherent philosophy. Marxism uses this in two ways: firstly, it “flips dialectics on its head” and integrates it with materialism, looking at how different material conditions contradict each other and fight. It also uses it as a means of self-modification, a way of the philosophy modifying itself, evolving like DNA, to change as material conditions change.
That brings us right into the next major aspect of Marxism, which is Class Conflict. This is an outlook on society that allows us to analyze the relationships between major different bodies of people, henceforth known as classes. The two traditional classes are the bourgeosie (those who own the means of production under capitalism) and the proletariat (those who, having no other choice, are forced to sell their labor under threat of starvation), but they don't have to be, if society is arranged differently then there might be class conflict in different ways. There may also be sub-classes, too: within the proletariat there may be urban and rural proletariat with slightly different interests. This is one of Mao's contributions to Marxism.
The important part is simply acknowledging that independent classes have interests in common, and that by realizing this (the act of which is known as “gaining class conciousness”) certain classes can overcome their individual differences and come together to achieve more.
I will note that this is also one of the biggest misconceptions of Marxism. Marxism does not seek to make “everyone equal” because that's not practical according to the material conditions of almost every capitalist society. It just seeks to reconcile class conflict via a revolution of the proletariat against the bourgeosie, creating a democracy in the economy as well as in liberty.
The last aspect of Marxism (that I'll go into at least) is an analysis of Capitalism.
Something which capitalists don't often do is a thorough analysis of communism, without shrugging it off as a dictatorship or tyranny. That's not a good analysis of the material conditions of communism and those people have no right to speak about communism.
On the other hand, Marxists have done an analysis of capitalism ad tedium, armed with the above postulates of Material Dialectics and Class Conflict. Such an analysis finds capitalism to be unsustainable, oppressive for the working class, inherently racist (via colonialism), un-democratic, and leads to the erosion of human rights.
With that, Marxists seek to unite the proletariat into a coherent class for the purpose of organizing a revolution against the bourgeosie, to create a “dictatorship of the proletariat” where they then work (sometimes for decades to come) to establish a “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need” economic system. After that, marxists tend not think about society after the revolution too hard, perhaps to our downfall. The reason for this is because the material conditions under which a revolution happens are different in every country, and so are the immediate post-revolution goals.
It's interesting to note though that class conflict doesn't go away after a revolution. There will be people who do well under post-capitalist communism, like (for example) bureaucrats under USSR rule, and those people may form a class of itself because they have their own material interests, one of which being the preservation of their power. That doesn't mean that a dictatorship of the proletariat doesn't work, we simply need to take lessons from other revolutions (like the USSR) and learn from them.
Wow that was a long blog post. If you have any questions or criticism I'd be happy to answer that (go to my contact page). Not every post is going to be this long, but it was important to me that I got that out I suppose.
A good place to find more info on this would be marxists.org, the Marxist internet archive; or the Red Menace podcast, which initially introduced me to Marxism from Anarchism. Specifically this episode, embedded below: