Marxism: The philosophy of praxis

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By Doug Enaa Greene

To Harrison and Sam.


“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”
-Karl Marx

"Marxism is the theory of the proletarian movement for emancipation."
-V. I. Lenin

I. Objectivity and Partisanship

Since Marxism stepped onto the stage of world history in the 1840s, it has been open to many different and conflicting interpretations - among both its supporters and critics. For members of the socialist and communist parties, whether in or out of power, Marxism was generally viewed as a set of scientific observations without any bearing on current political practice or the class struggle. For instance, orthodox Marxists in the Second International, such as Karl Kautsky, saw Marx's theories as a science of social development, which predicted that socialism would result inevitability from the processes at work under capitalism. In other words, this was a passive and fatalistic Marxism divorced from revolutionary practice. While Kautsky maintained a formal commitment to revolution, as opposed to Bernstein's revisionism, in actuality, his orthodoxy was similar in practice to the revisionists (despite claims to the contrary). For both revisionist and orthodox social democrats, there was a disconnect between the ends and the means, which ultimately tore the revolutionary soul out of Marxism. In the Soviet Union, China, and Eastern Europe - Marxist theory was codified into a state religion of Marxism-Leninism “served to exploit the moral authority of an inherited doctrine in the interest of the ruling group, to disguise the fact that that doctrine offered no clear answers to new problems, to reinterpret its tenets, to kill dissent or doubt, and to discipline the faithful. It was vain to search Lenin's writings for solutions to the problems of the day.”[1] However, Marxism-Leninism was not a vibrant theory of revolution, but a dogma and an infallible science used to justify the requirements of whatever the policy the party leadership needed it to. Soviet and Chinese Marxism-Leninism was just as reformist, deterministic, mechanical and economistic as their erstwhile social democratic opponents. These problems were replicated on a smaller scale in many other communist currents, such as Trotskyism and Maoism.

An early effort to explain what brought Marxism to such impasses could be found in the philosopher Karl Korsch's 1923 work, Marxism and Philosophy. Korsch argued that in Second International Marxism (and this could easily be extended to Soviet Marxism), theory ceased to be a guide for practice, and was viewed “more and more as a set of purely scientific observations, without any immediate connection to the political or other practices of class struggle.”[2] Korsch stated that this resulted in the fragmentation of Marxism into

separate branches of knowledge that are isolated and autonomous, and with purely theoretical investigations that are scientifically objective in dissociation from revolutionary practice” instead of being viewed as “a living totality; or, more precisely, it is a theory of social revolution, comprehended and practised as a living totality.[3]

According to Korsch, Marxism was not simply a science of social development, which can be utilized by any class, but “is the theoretical expression of a revolutionary process”[4] that cannot avoid questions of politics, ideology and the state. For Marxists, neglecting these questions means falling into opportunism. Korsch praised Lenin's approach in the 
State and Revolution in 1917 as “an early indication that the internal connection of theory and practice within revolutionary Marxism had been consciously re-established.”[5]

Marxism had to be restored to an integral system: “as a dialectical development: a theory of social revolution that comprises all areas of society as a totality.”[6] Marxism is a revolutionary weapon not just in politics, but in all areas of philosophy and theory, which are all linked together into a coherent worldview. In other words, Marxists could not avoid questions of the state or philosophy “because theoretical vagueness and disarray can seriously impede a prompt and energetic approach to problems that then arise in the ideological field.”[7] A truly revolutionary and integral Marxism is not compatible with being a legitimizing ideology for reformist politics or a state religion, but must be “dialectical and revolutionary...”[8] The rebirth of Marxism means that theory and practice must be fused together.

Yet Marxism is also an objective analysis of the world, which means its conclusions are contingent and subject to verification. According to the American philosopher Sidney Hook, this did not undermine Marxism's claims to be a science, since

the validity of scientific method depends on its power to predict, and whenever possible, to control the succession of natural phenomena. It is this progressive power of prediction and control which justifies us in retaining scientific method even when we have discarded or modified [old sciences]...Similarly the validity of Marx's method depends upon whether it enables us to realize the class purposes in whose behalf it was formulated.[9]

Marxism also takes the class standpoint of the proletariat. How can a claim to partisanship be reconciled with objectivity? A class standpoint “did not make [Marx's] conclusions any less objective, but it made them partial in their bearings and implications.”[10] Marxism's class standpoint determines the facts being investigated and the course of action being pursued. For Marxists, knowledge of capitalist exploitation can lead to different results depending upon the class standpoint of the observer: the proletariat will use their knowledge to plan strategies for revolution, while the bourgeoisie will justify and defend the reigning order. In other words, an objective analysis of capitalism will result in antagonistic classes developing different ideas, programs, and plans of action to achieve their aims. Marxism, if it is to be Marxism, must combine both an objective description of reality with a proletarian class standpoint. The Japanese Communist Mita Sekisuke explains the linkage between the two as follows:

It is often said that occupying the standpoint of the revolutionary proletariat results in biased social-science research, so that objective truth cannot be attained, but this is completely wrong. In fact, this standpoint generates a desire for study, and sustains it, so that it is one of the most important conditions for attaining objective truth. There are class-related differences for truth itself, but being critical and class-oriented facilitates the discovery of truth. The significance of class partisanship within the social sciences is that the discovery of the truth is painful for the bourgeoisie whereas the proletariat welcomes it.[11]

II. Dialectics[12]

At the heart of revolutionary Marxism is its dialectical method. However, what is the “dialectic”? Defined by Frederick Engels, “dialectics...comprehends things and their representations, ideas, in their essential connection, concatenation, motion, origin and ending.”[13] Thus, dialectics conceives all of reality as in a process of constant change. Yet dialectics not only considers reality as changing and in motion, but as forming a single totality (or a whole). In a totality, no single part exists in isolation, but is connected through various interconnections, linkages and mediations (an intermediary or where something acts on something else) to every other part. For example, in capitalism, the mediation in the relationship between the capitalist and the laborer is money (or the wage). However, a totality, changes, and development, are necessary, but not sufficient, to define a dialectical system since none of them is able to explain how change occurs.

Non-dialectical systems can adopt the concept of totality, but ultimately see it as static and always returning to equilibrium. For instance, champions of laissez-faire believe that capitalism is a smooth, self-regulating, efficient and harmonious system. To them, capitalism is something natural which people should not intervene in. According to the theory of laissez-faire, capitalism suffers periodic crises not due to any problems inherent to the system itself, but due to external causes such as – (1) a natural cause such as an earthquake or (2) human error (wars, political miscalculation, too much optimism on the markets). Laissez-faire, declares that in principle capitalist crises need not occur. Other theories use a simple cause and effect relationship to explain changes and developments (Franz Ferdinand is assassinated in 1914 leading to World War I). While these are useful as descriptions (the 'what'), they do not provide explanations of the 'how' and the 'why.' A problem of cause and effect approaches is that they become an infinite regression of going further and further backwards, leaving the ultimate cause of events outside of the casual change. In both cases listed above, the cause of change is located external to the system. In contrast to these approaches, the dialectical method not only incorporates totalities, but change, development, and instability to explain not only the 'what', but the 'how' and 'why.' Thus, dialectics locates the source of change as inherent to the system – meaning change is the result of contradiction, instability and development – or the internal properties of the system itself.

What are the the laws of dialectical change? Engels reduces them to three general laws. First: the transformation of quantity into quality (and vice versa), a process whereby gradual quantitative change suddenly results in a qualitative change.[14] As an example, in the natural sciences, there is water slowly boiling on a stove. While we might not notice the change in temperature of the water from one degree to the next, when it reaches the boiling point, then the kettle will whistle. Thus, a gradual build-up leads to a very rapid change in the nature of water from a liquid to a gas. Engels cites another example of the transformation of quantity into quality in society is where Marx shows “that a sum of values can be transformed into capital only when it has reached a certain size, varying according to the circumstances, but in each case definite minimum size...”[15]

In order for values/money to be transformed into capital, the following must occur: "a certain minimum of money or of exchange-value must be presupposed in the hands of the individual possessor of money or commodities.”

He takes as an example the case of a labourer in any branch of industry, who works daily eight hours for himself — that is, in producing the value of his wages — and the following four hours for the capitalist, in producing surplus-value, which immediately flows into the pocket of the capitalist. In this case, one would have to have at his disposal a sum of values sufficient to enable one to provide two labourers with raw materials, instruments of labour and wages, in order to pocket enough surplus-value every day to live on as well as one of his labourers. And as the aim of capitalist production is not mere subsistence but the increase of wealth, our man with his two labourers would still not be a capitalist. Now in order that he may live twice as well as an ordinary labourer, and turn half of the surplus-value produced again into capital, he would have to be able to employ eight labourers, that is, he would have to possess four times the sum of values assumed above. And it is only after this, and in the course of still further explanations elucidating and substantiating the fact that not every petty sum of values is enough to be transformable into capital, but that in this respect each period of development and each branch of industry has its definite minimum sum, that Marx observes: “Here, as in natural science, is shown the correctness of the law discovered by Hegel in his Logic, that merely quantitative changes beyond a certain point pass into qualitative differences.”[16]

The second law identified by Engels is the interpenetration of opposites whereby reality is a contradictory unity of opposites. Lenin describes internal contradiction, as “living.... [which] furnishes the key to the “self-movement” of everything existing; it alone furnishes the key to the “leaps,” to the “break in continuity,” to the “transformation into the opposite,” to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new.”[17] So important is contradiction to dialectics that Lenin goes so far as to say that "in brief, dialectics can be defined as the doctrine of the unity of opposites.”[18] The unity of opposites is the basic law of dialectics (although not the only one) that propels change. These contradictions move and change:

In a certain sense both are correct as the recognition (discovery) of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in a phenomena and processes of nature (including mind and society). The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their “self-movement,” in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the “struggle” of opposites.[19]

However, what are the possible dialectical conceptions of transition that exist in reality? According to Lenin, “The leap. The contradiction. The interruption of gradualness.”[20]

For Marxists, contradictions are the key to explaining how society changes and transforms. Yet contradiction is not a simple magic talisman that can be used to explain anything. To understand a contradiction means undertaking an analysis of the available facts and their relationships in each situation. As Lenin said, "The living soul, of Marxism - a concrete analysis of a concrete situation."[21]

For example, the contradiction between the forces of production and relations of production, and the struggle between classes (bourgeoisie and proletariat) is the source of change in capitalism. The fundamental contradiction of capitalism is that production is increasingly socialized - every part is interconnected as part of a wider totality. The division of labor has become so general and advanced, that people no longer produce independently of each other with only rudimentary links with each other, as they did in pre-capitalist societies, but now the labor of all workers throughout the world is indispensable to the survival of all. The socialization of production under capitalism brings about a tremendous expansion and development of the productive forces that can potentially provide a decent life for all. Although capitalist socialization transforms human labor into objectively co-operative labor, it is not regulated, managed or consciously planned. Rather, production is governed blindly by the “laws of the market” and despite being socialized, it does not develop in accord with human needs, but by the imperative for profit. The relations of production remain those of private property, ownership and appropriation by a few capitalists as opposed to the vast majority who don't share in the wealth they produce. Production develops by leaps, but unevenly, not where human needs are the greatest, but where the highest profit can be obtained. Due to its unplanned nature, crisis and disequilibrium between the different branches of production are the unavoidable results of capitalism. As time passes and the contradiction develops, the private interests of the bourgeoisie find themselves in growing conflict to the interests of workers. The class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie that can result in a revolution that establishes socialism – thereby, negating capitalism. According to Lenin, this is an example of dialectical change occurring as “one 'form' of being changes into another through leaps.”[22]

The final law identified by Engels is that of the negation of the negation, which is contested terrain among Marxists. According to this law: in the struggle between opposites, one opposite part negates the other, which is in turn, negated, resulting in a higher level of development. In this process, there is a new synthesis or aufheben (a German word sometimes spelt aufhebung), which can be translated in multiple ways to mean sublation, to abolish, to transcend, to supersede, or “to preserve,” “to pick up,” “to end,” “to keep,” “to raise,” or “to annul.” As an example of aufheben, primitive communism was replaced by class society (negation) which is in turn replaced by communism (negation of the negation). However, communism (as the negation of the negation) is not a simple return to the low productive levels of primitive communism since thousands of years of history and developments passed in the interval. Rather, communism preserves the achievements of class society (advances in production, art, architecture, etc), but abolishes both exploitation and oppression, while transcending both class society and primitive communism in creating a new egalitarian society.

The negation of the negation is associated with Hegel and his teleological system where the consciousness of freedom is realized through progressive stages until finally being realized in the modern [Prussian] state. Mao Zedong offers an alternative approach to dialectics, stating that the three laws of dialectics can be reduced to a single one: the unity of opposites since “there is no such thing as the negation of the negation. Affirmation, negation, affirmation, negation . . . in the development of things, every link in the chain of events is both affirmation and negation.”[23] Maoists argue there is such a deep interconnection between the Hegelian system and method, that it is not easy to separate “the systematic, determinist elements of Hegel’s philosophy [which] are embedded in the dialectic itself, most notably with the law of negation of negation.”[24] If the Marxist dialectic adopts the negation of the negation, then it is embracing a form of mechanical materialism associated with Soviet-line communists and social democrats, its “inevitable historical march of the economic base, i.e., the economic determinism of the theory or the productive forces...”[25] If Marxism uses the negation of the negation, then Maoists say it becomes a prophetic religion. However, without the negation of the negation, the dialectic is less focused on lawful notion and triumphalism, and more open to accident and contingency.[26] However, Maoist dialectics (with their rejection of the negation of negation) has not prevented them from falling into the same type of determinism which they condemn in other Marxist currents.

While the negation of the negation can be used to justify determinism, merger, gradualism and synthesis in the cases of social democrats and Moscow-line communists, this is not necessarily a correct reading of Marx and Engels on the concept. According to Engels, the negation of the negation is not a simple merger, but is the creation of something new. In regards to communism, Engels says the process of the negation of the negation is where

The state of things brought about by the expropriation of the expropriators is therefore characterised as the re-establishment of individual property, but on the basis of the social ownership of the land and of the means of production produced by labour itself. To anyone who understands plain talk this means that social ownership extends to the land and the other means of production, and individual ownership to the products, that is, the articles of consumption.[27]

Furthermore, Lenin says that the negation of the negation is part of dialectical development, which is not reducible to simple evolution:

is far more comprehensive and far richer in content...[and] proceeds in spirals, not in a straight line; a development by leaps, catastrophes, and revolutions; "breaks in continuity"; the transformation of quantity into quality; inner impulses towards development, imparted by the contradiction and conflict of the various forces and tendencies acting on a given body, or within a given phenomenon, or within a given society; the interdependence and the closest and indissoluble connection between all aspects of any phenomenon (history constantly revealing ever new aspects), a connection that provides a uniform, and universal process of motion, one that follows definite laws – these are some of the features of dialectics as a doctrine of development that is richer than the conventional one.[28]

In other words, at its best the negation of the negation explains the process of profound twists, leaps, upheavals and turns where something new emerges.

Thus, the general form of the Marxist dialectic is an internally contradictory totality which is undergoing constant change. A dialectical approach is incompatible with reductionism, since the parts and the whole are not reducible to each other. According to two Marxist biologists, Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin,

parts acquire properties by virtue of being parts of a particular whole, properties they do not have in isolation or as parts of another whole. It is not that the whole is more than the sum of its parts, but that the parts acquire new properties. But as the parts acquire properties by being together, they impart to the whole new properties, which are reflected in changes in the parts, and so on. Parts and wholes evolve in consequence of their relationship, and the relationship itself evolves.[29]

The parts have no independent existence outside of the whole. When connected to the whole, the parts acquire new properties which they did not possess outside of the totality. For instance, an individual person can not run 100 miles per hour or travel to outer-space, but due to society, we can travel quickly thanks to trains, airplanes and, reach the moon via space shuttles. These inventions are the result of social organization and production which overcomes the limitations of what individual people can achieve. Levins and Lewontin state:

The whole, thus, is not simply the object of interaction of the parts but is the subject of action on the parts.

The dialectical emphasis on wholes is shared by other schools of thought that rebel against the fragmentation of life under capitalism, the narrowness of specialization, the reductionism of medical and agricultural theory.[30]

The parts and the whole condition (or mediate) each another. If one attempts to reduce a whole to a single element then this ignores its specific characteristics. Those Marxists who reduce every event to the “objective conditions,” “economics” or “bad leadership” are not following a dialectical approach, but a one-sided one, since they ignore the wider totality. The whole that is greater than the sum of its parts and in the words of Hegel, must be regarded “as an organic whole."[31] John Rees, a Marxist philosopher says “These terms—totality, change, contradiction and mediation—are the key terms of the dialectic. They are, in the marxist tradition, not simply intellectual tools but real material processes and so this is a materialist dialectic.”[32]

III. Historical Materialism

Hegelian dialectics was one of the crowning achievements of not just bourgeois philosophy, but philosophy in general. Although Hegel's dialectic reflects real movements, it does so in idealistic form. Idealism can be defined as viewing mind or spirit as the main reality or ideas precede matter. On the other hand, materialism, asserts that the material world is primary and that matter precedes ideas. Hegelian dialectics was a great advance on the prevailing forms of materialism which regarded motion as essentially mechanical whereby the same events would reproduce themselves. The Bolshevik revolutionary Nikolai Bukharin described Hegel's accomplishments and limitations as follows:

The dialectical movement of ideas that is found in Hegel, and that reflects real movement in idealist form, contains elements that are highly valuable. These are the ideas of universal relationship, of movement, of change, and the forms of this movement; here the division, or self-differentiation, of the whole, the revealing of opposites and their interpenetration, serve as the motivating principle. This is the great revolutionary side of Hegel that is restricted and smothered by the elements of idealism and by the idealist conception of the world. All form is understood/here in its movement, that is, in its rise, development, downfall, and extinction, in its contradictions and the resolution of contradictions, in the rise of new forms and the revealing of new contradictions, in the peculiarities and qualities of new forms, which again and again become subject to the process of change. The great contribution made by Hegel lies in this fearlessness of thought that encompasses the objective dialectic of being, nature, and history. The basic dialectical contradiction of Hegel's own system, a contradiction noted by Engels, led to the system's collapse, and gave rise to a new historical unity, at a new stage of historical development, in the dialectical materialism of Marx.[33]

In comparison to Hegelian idealism with its penetrating insights into change, contradiction, and the activity of the mind, the reigning philosophies of materialism were non-historical and non-dialectical, and unable to comprehend change. In other words, this materialism was mechanical and explained the laws of nature and society as the result of eternal and unchanging relationships. As Marx said,

The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism... is that the thing, reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the object or of contemplation, but not as sensuous human activity, practice, not subjectively. Hence, in contradistinction to materialism, the active side was developed abstractly by idealism – which, of course, does not know real, sensuous activity as such.[34]

Mechanical materialists saw the human mind as a passive and possessed no understanding how human beings changed their environments. This materialism operated with a simple cause and effect relationship that could not account for the actuality of human activity or its practical results.

Marx rejected idealism and the old forms of mechanical materialism, but he adopted the Hegelian dialectic, while stripping it of its metaphysical and idealistic qualities. According to Marx,

My dialectic method is not only different from the Hegelian, but is its direct opposite. To Hegel, the life process of the human brain, i.e., the process of thinking, which, under the name of “the Idea,” he even transforms into an independent subject, is the demiurgos of the real world, and the real world is only the external, phenomenal form of “the Idea.” With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought.[35]

Although Marx and Engels agreed with Hegel on a dialectical approach to understanding the whole of the world by rising from the abstract to the concrete through successive waves of approximation (Marx's theory of knowledge will be the subject of a later section), but differed from him in their starting point - the material world and not the realm of ideas:

The production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness, is at first directly interwoven with the material activity and the material intercourse of men, the language of real life. Conceiving, thinking, the mental intercourse of men, appear at this stage as the direct efflux of their material behaviour. The same applies to mental production as expressed in the language of politics, laws, morality, religion, metaphysics, etc., of a people. Men are the producers of their conceptions, ideas, etc. – real, active men, as they are conditioned by a definite development of their productive forces and of the intercourse corresponding to these, up to its furthest forms. Consciousness can never be anything else than conscious existence, and the existence of men is their actual life-process. If in all ideology men and their circumstances appear upside-down as in a camera obscura, this phenomenon arises just as much from their historical life-process as the inversion of objects on the retina does from their physical life-process.[36]

As a philosophy of materialism, Marxism investigated the real movement of things which in turn produces thought. Marxism is concerned with material reality and “man as a social and historical being.”[37] The Marxist philosopher Antonio Labriola said that the materialist conception of history concluded that people worked socially to:

create and improve his instruments of labor, and with these instruments can create an artificial environment whose complicated effects react later upon himself, and which by its present state and its successive modifications is the occasion and the condition of his development. There are, then, no reasons for carrying back that work of man which is history to the simple struggle for existence. If this struggle modifies and improves the organs of animals, and if in given circumstances and methods it produces and develops new organs, it still does not produce that continuous, perfected and traditional movement which is the human processus.[38]

The premise from which historical materialism begins is people living socially and producing socially to satisfy their needs. Humans are distinguished from animals by producing their own means of subsistence and taking an active role in creating their material existence. According to Marx and Engels,

this mode of production must not be considered simply as being the production of the physical existence of the individuals. Rather it is a definite form of activity of these individuals, a definite form of expressing their life, a definite mode of life on their part. As individuals express their life, so they are. What they are, therefore, coincides with their production, both with what they produce and with how they produce. The nature of individuals thus depends on the material conditions determining their production.[39]

Labor is essential in order for humanity to make history since people need to be able to live and eat before they can write poetry, build skyscrapers or paint. Therefore,

life involves before everything else eating and drinking, a habitation, clothing and many other things. The first historical act is thus the production of the means to satisfy these needs, the production of material life itself. And indeed this is an historical act, a fundamental condition of all history, which today, as thousands of years ago, must daily and hourly be fulfilled merely in order to sustain human life.[40]

Superficially, the work of humans is similar to that of animals – such as bees, spiders or beavers – since both act upon nature in order to make it suitable for their own needs. However, the work of humans is fundamentally different from animals since the labor of the former is done consciously, while the latter is merely instinctual. Marx describes the difference as follows:

A spider conducts operations which resemble those of the weaver, and a bee would put many a human architect to shame by the construction of its honeycomb cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is that the architect builds the cell in his mind before he constructs it in wax. At the end of every labour process, a result emerges which had already been conceived by the worker at the beginning, hence already existed ideally. Man not only effects a change of form in the materials of nature; he also realizes his own purpose in those materials. And this is a purpose he is conscious of, it determines the mode of his activity with the rigidity of a law, and he must subordinate his will to it. This subordination is no mere momentary act.[41]

In other words, through the course of evolution, humans have come to labor consciously. This ability to labor, with both purpose and intelligence, is what distinguishes us from animals and makes us human. It is through human labor that civilization has emerged with art, culture, architecture, technology, literature, etc. It is through our ability to labor and create that we can truly express our humanity and creativity. Without the ability to consciously labor, humanity would just be another animal.

According to Marx, what is essential to the labor process, throughout all of human history, no matter the mode of production are the following: “The simple elements of the labour process are (1) purposeful activity, that is work itself, (2) the object on which that work is performed, and (3) the instruments of that work.”[42]

The organization of the labor process and the extraction of surplus to ensure the reproduction of society has existed in different modes of production throughout history. Marx identified several modes of production which have existed: primitive communism, slavery, feudalism, and capitalism. None of these modes of production are eternal, but are subject to different laws of motion, along with class struggles between the immediate producers and the dominant classes for control over the surplus. However, class struggles are not necessarily confined to the economic sphere, but extends to the political-cultural-ideological levels (or the superstructure) as well.

What do we mean by class? According to the Marxist historian of antiquity, G.E.M. de ste Croix offers the following definition:

A class (a particular class) is a group of persons in a community identified by their position in the whole of social production, defined above all according to their relationship (primarily in terms of the degree of ownership or control) to the conditions of production (that is to say, the means of labour and production) and to other classes...The individuals constituting a given class may or may not be wholly or partly conscious of their own identity and common interests as a class, and they may or may not feel antagonism towards members of other classes as such.[43]

In different modes of production, there have been various classes locked in struggle: “Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight...”[44] However, the outcome of the class struggle is not determined in advance, but can end in several ways: either the transition to a new mode of production or the common ruin of the classes. The mere fact of struggle does not mean that members of a class are conscious of their class. It is in the interests of the ruling class that the lower classes do not think of themselves as part of a larger exploited class with common interests. In fact, most class struggles throughout history have not been defined by any class consciousness, but this does not change their nature as class struggles. If we were to look at class and class struggles as defined by their degree of consciousness, then we would have to discount most class struggles:

To adopt the very common conception of class struggle which refuses to regard it as such unless it includes class consciousness and active political conflict (as some Marxists do) is to water it down to the point where it virtually disappears in many situations. It is then possible to deny the very existence of class struggle in the United States of America or between employers and immigrant workers in Northern Europe, and between masters and slaves in antiquity, merely because in each case the exploited class concerned does not or did not have any "class consciousness" or take any political action except on very rare occasions and to a very limited degree. But this, I would say, makes nonsense not merely of The Communist Manifesto but of the greater part of Marx's work.[45]

The class struggle occurs between the direct producers and those exploiting them, whether or not either have consciousness of the struggle.

Marx sums up the materialist conception of history in the Preface to a Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy as follows:

In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.[46]

In a mode of production, there is an economic base which allows for the creation of a political, legal, ideological superstructure. However, Marxism does not reduce everything to the economic factor. As Engels said,

According to the materialistic conception of history, the production and reproduction of real life constitutes in the last instance the determining factor of history. Neither Marx nor I ever maintained more. Now when someone comes along and distorts this to mean that the economic factor is the sole determining factor, he is converting the former proposition into a meaningless, abstract and absurd phrase.[47]

The base shapes and maintains the superstructure (without a functioning mode of production that produces necessities, society would break down) while the superstructure maintains and shapes the base (the state preserves social cohesion and laws can regulate economic activity). Marxists should not expect every example of politics or ideology to be an immediate expression of the base. Antonio Gramsci ridicules this interpretation of Marxism as “primitive infantilism." Rather, there is mediation involved between the two. Understanding the totality of a mode of production has to be approached in a flexible, not a dogmatic manner:

The underlying economic structure, which determines all the rest, is not a simple mechanism whence emerge, as immediate, automatic and mechanical effects, institutions, laws, customs, thoughts, sentiments, ideologies. From this substructure to all the rest, the process of derivation and of mediation is very complicated, often subtle, tortuous and not always legible.[48]

In other words, there is a reciprocal and dynamic relationship between the base and superstructure with the latter influencing the former. However, the economic base is decisive in the last instance. In
Capital: Volume 3, Marx provides a much clearer summation of the mediated relationship between base and superstructure than found in the Preface:

The specific economic form in which unpaid surplus labour is pumped out of the direct producers determines the relationship of domination and servitude, as this grows directly out of production itself and reacts back on it in turn as a determinant. On this is based the entire configuration of the economic community arising from the actual relations of production, and hence also its specific political form. It is in each case the direct relationship of the owners of the conditions of production to the immediate producers - a relationship whose particular form naturally corresponds always to a certain level of development of the type and manner of labour, and hence to its social productive power - in which we find the innermost secret, the hidden basis of the entire social edifice, and hence also the political form of the relationship of sovereignty and dependence, in short, the specific form of state in each case. This does not prevent the same economic basis – the same in its major conditions - from displaying endless variations and gradations in its appearance, as the result of innumerable different empirical circumstances, natural conditions, racial relations, historical influences acting from outside, etc., and these can only be understood by analysing these empirically given conditions.[49]

IV. The Logic of Capital[50]

If we begin with the surface appearance of capitalist society, then we would say that it is characterized by free and fair elections and the rule of law. The wealthy and powerful achieved success through hard work and ingenuity thanks to the wonders of free enterprise - which is the greatest engine of prosperity the world has ever known. Workers are paid for the full value of their labor and should be grateful for what they have and not demand any more. If someone is unemployed, then they should not blame society for their condition and shouldn't come looking for a handout, but pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. In other words, if we judge capitalism based on its appearance and pronouncements, then it is true that we live in the “best of all possible worlds.”

However, if the surface appearance of bourgeois society did coincide with how it actually functions then what need is there to analyze it? According to Marx, "all science would be superfluous if the outward appearance and the essence of things directly coincided."[51] We know that the great slogans of the bourgeoisie are painted over the most wretched forms of exploitation. So how do we move beneath what is superficial and find out what is essential? For Marx, to analyze capitalism we need to begin with political economy. The classical political economists, such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo were theoretical representatives of the rising bourgeois class, who were genuinely interested in how the new capitalist society operated:

Classical political economy seeks to reduce the various fixed and mutually alien forms of wealth to their inner unity by means of analysis and to strip away the form in which they exist independently alongside one another. It seeks to grasp the inner connection in contrast to the multiplicity of outward forms.[52]

Whatever their limitations, in their heroic period, bourgeois political economists were pioneers of a new science. Once the bourgeoisie conquered power in France and England, the class struggle was no longer with the aristocracy, but took on new and threatening forms between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The bourgeoisie could no longer permit genuine inquiry into how society operated, lest it provide theoretical weapons to the proletariat. Instead, political economy transformed into apologia which justified everything from child labor to imperialist expansion. Marx summed up the fate of political economy as follows: "It was henceforth no longer a question, whether this or that theorem was true, but whether it was useful to capital or harmful, expedient or inexpedient. In place of disinterested inquirers, there were hired prize-fighters; in place of genuine scientific research, the bad conscience and evil intent of apologetic."[53]

Marx not only built on the best of political economy, but transformed it in Capital, where began by understanding that there is a disconnect between appearance and essence. Hence, it was necessary for science to lift the veil. Here, Marx analyzed the “fetishism of commodities” which shielded the exploitation of capitalism with an inverted view of the world where the social relations between people are transformed into relations between things: "There the products of the human brain appear as autonomous figures endowed with a life of their own, which enter into relations both with each other and with the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men's hands.”[54] In their everyday experiences, it appears to both the capitalists and the workers, that an external power (commodities) controls their existence, not the social relations of capitalism.

How do we pierce the veil of commodity fetishism and grasp the inner connections of capitalism? Marx says, “Moreover, in the analysis of economic forms neither microscopes nor chemical reagents are of assistance. The power of abstraction must replace both.”[55] According to the Marxist economist Paul Sweezy, Marx's method consists of “successive approximations” which moves from the abstract to the more concrete in “a step-by-step, removing simplifying assumptions at successive stages of the investigation so that theory may take account of and explain an ever wider range of actual phenomena.”[56] In Capital: Volume 1, Marx begins with a very high level of abstraction that deals with only a few aspects of reality, which means his conclusions have a very provisional character. As Sweezy observes of these conclusions: “in many cases, though not necessarily in all, they undergo a more or less extensive modification on a lower level of abstraction, that is to say, when more aspects of reality are taken into account.”[57] Through Marx's method, the concepts undergo a process of enrichment in the course of development. And as the procedure continues, new concepts emerge which contain more than what they proceeded from. The results achieved are higher and richer the starting point. In this process, the original concept leaves nothing behind as it develops, but carries it all to a higher level. In other words, knowledge proceeds through a spiral, beginning with the abstract (ex. commodity), then moving onto the concrete (ex. use-value and exchange-value), then returning again to the abstract (exchange) to introduce more layers of reality in order to continually enrich the original concept. In Marx's method, the concrete is abstracted by and viewed in isolation. Bukharin describes this process as follows:

First the various "parts" of the object, its aspects and functions, are established analytically. They are isolated and examined in their isolation. Then the transitions from one to another of them are considered. Next, the thought process returns to its starting point, that is, to the concrete. But this concrete (the "second concrete") differs from the starting point (the "first concrete") in that now we understand its essence, its law, its universal nature as revealed in the particular and individual. Here, therefore, the object is understood in its conformity to natural laws. We understand the relationship between its components; we understand the relationship between this basic character and its mediations. There is nothing Bcanty here; on the contrary, compared with the first concrete we see a massive enrichment, since instead of indeterminate and arbitrarily selected aspects, the living dialectic of the real process is represented here, Marx in all his works made brilliant use of this dialectical method, which is simultaneously both analysis and synthesis.[58]

As this process is developed, more complex patterns and concreteness are unveiled which allows the structure to come more fully into view. Marxist economist Henryk Grossman describes Marx's method in Capital in a lengthy passage worth quoting in full:

The real world of concrete, empirically given appearances is that which is to be investigated. But in itself this is much too complicated to be known directly. We gain an approach to it only by stages. To this end we make various simplifying assumptions that enable us to gain an understanding of the inner structure of the object under investigation. This is the first stage of cognition in Marx's method of approximation to reality. It is the particular methodological principle that finds its specific reflection in Marx's reproduction schemes, which form the starting-point of his entire analysis, and which already underlie the arguments of Capital Volume One. Among the numerous assumptions connected with the reproduction schemes are the following: that the capitalist mode of production exists in an isolated state (foreign trade is ignored); that society consists of capitalists and workers alone (abstract from all so-called 'third persons' in the course of our analysis); that commodities exchange at value; that credit is ignored; that the value of money is assumed constant, and so on and so forth.

It is clear that thanks to these fictitious assumptions, we achieve a certain distance from empirical reality, even while the latter remains the target of our explanations. It follows that conclusions established on such a structure of assumptions can have a purely provisional character and therefore that the initial stage of the cognitive process must be followed by a second, concluding stage. Any set of simplifying assumptions will go together with a subsequent process of correction that takes account of the elements of actual reality that were disregarded initially. In this way, stage by stage, the investigation as a whole draws nearer to the complicated appearances of the concrete world and becomes consistent with it.[59]

Whereas Hegel saw “the real as the product of thought concentrating itself,” Marx's point of departure was society and his aim is “to reveal the economic law of motion of modem society,”[60] therefore he had to bring the essential into focus.

In order to do this, Marx had to determine that in the "process of scientific understanding, it is of importance that the essential should be distinguished and brought into relief in contrast with the so-called non essential. But in order to render this possible we must know what is essential."[61] However, the separation of the essential from the inessential is no easy task. Since Marx's intellectually activity was, according to Sidney Hook, “a program of action; his analyses a method of clearing the way for action.”[62] his methodology was experimental and conclusions are true only so long as they are verified by experience and practice. In other words, Marx's dialectical method is not a dogma or an inflexible method, but is flexible with its hypotheses and conclusions are provisional, which are subject to revision based upon practice.[63]

Since Marx's object was in understanding the laws of social change in the whole of capitalist society, he needed to identify where the impetus of change might be located. To determine this, Marx undertook a concrete study of historical and factual data of capitalism (as anyone reading Capital can attest). With this objective in mind, his starting point was with the “”simplest determinations” from which he would be logically able to produce “a rich totality of many determinations and relations.”[64] Marx rejected other starting points such as the population or wage labor, since these would produce “a chaotic conception of the whole” and he would have to move “by means of further determination, move analytically towards ever more simple concepts, from the imagined concrete towards ever thinner abstractions until I had arrived at the simplest determinations.”[65] According to Michael Lebowitz, Marx “accepted Hegel’s principle that the simple, abstract, universal term must be the starting point for cognition, the way to understand.”[66] In bourgeois society, Marx began with “the commodity-form of the product of labour, or the value-form of the commodity, is the economic cell-form."[67] in which the many particularities and the complexity of the concrete totality emerges from.[68]

The power of abstraction allowed Marx to isolate the commodity in its purist form and abstract away other aspects of reality, so he could investigate. Once this preliminary investigation was complete, Marx could reintroduce those aspects later. Since a commodity is produced not for direct consumption, but for exchange, this lead Marx to look at the exchange relation and the nature of exchange-value (including an analysis of money).[69] From an analysis of commodities, Marx moved through the power of abstraction to the capital-labor relation. Marx views the capital-labor relation as the most essential in bourgeois society. In accordance with his methodology, Marx tentatively assumes away all other social relations (which will be introduced later). Secondly, the capital-labor relationship is reduced to its most significant and general forms. Once Marx establishes that the capital-labor relation is an exchange relation between two classes where the capitalist purchases labor-power from the worker, who, in turn, uses their wage to buy necessities. However, the transformation of labor-power into a commodity is a special feature of capitalism, since it was the source of surplus value for capital, meaning that the capital-labor relation was the fundamental relation of bourgeois society.

The capital-labor relationship is necessary to capitalism and it has to be reproduced to ensure the continuation of the whole system:

The capitalist process of production, therefore, seen as a total, connected process, i.e. a process of reproduction, produces not only commodities, not only surplus-value, but it also produces and reproduces the capital-relation itself; on the one hand the capitalist, on the other the wage-labourer.[70]

However, the reproduction of capital-labor relationship is not a static process, but undergoes “a movement, a circulatory process through different stages, which itself in turn includes three different forms of the circulatory process. Hence it can only be grasped as a movement, and not as a static thing."[71] Marx says, even when the situation is the most favorable to the worker, “the inevitable consequence for the worker is overwork and early death, reduction to a machine, enslavement to capital which piles up in threatening opposition to him, fresh competition and starvation or beggary for a section of the workers."[72]

Although we are simplifying Marx's method, it enabled him to develop and explain, step-by-step, the “composition of society, in which all relations coexist simultaneously and support one another.”[73] As Lenin observed of the dialectical method,

the basic idea is one of genius: that of the universal, all-sided, vital connection of everything with everything and the reflection of this human concepts, which must likewise be hewn, treated, flexible, mobile, relative, mutually connected, united in opposites in order to embrace the world.[74]

Marx's Capital was not simply a mature “scientific” work in contrast to his youthful “philosophy,” but drew heavily upon the philosophy of Hegel, particularly his Logic. According to Roman Rosdolsky, in his study of Marx's Grundrisse (the rough draft of Capital),

a whole series of categories of central importance and in constant use stem directly from Hegel's Logic. We need only recall the Hegelian origin and the substantive and methodological importance of what is for Marx as fundamental a distinction as the one between immediacy and mediation...If Hegel's influence on Marx's Capital can be seen explicitly only in a few footnotes, the Rough Draft must be designated as a massive reference to Hegel, in particular to his Logic- irrespective of how radically and materialistically Hegel was inverted![75]

Marx himself noted that his reading of Hegel's Logic, particularly its method, enabled him to have “completely demolished the theory of profit as hitherto propounded.”[76] Therefore, we can say that Hegelian philosophy, far from being a speculative and metaphysical “residue” of the youthful Marx, is in fact integral to the method and practice of Capital. A truly revolutionary Marxism must begin with a return to Hegel.

V. The Philosophy of Praxis

Marxism is not, as the Austro-Marxist Rudolf Hilferding put it, “an objective, value-free science”[77] without any immediate connection to politics or the class struggle. This approach may produce results in terms of historical studies or economic treatises, but it ultimately serves to tear the revolutionary heart out of Marxism and make it just another social science like any other. Marxism is not simply an objective account of the world, or a method, or a philosophy, or a theory of history. Marxism is the proletariat's revolutionary weapon of war. According to the Marxist philosopher Georg Lukács,

the essence of the method of historical materialism is inseparable from the ‘practical and critical’ activity of the proletariat: both are aspects of the same process of social evolution. So, too, the knowledge of reality provided by the dialectical method is likewise inseparable from the class standpoint of the proletariat.[78]

What does it mean to adopt the “standpoint of the proletariat”? Although the bourgeoisie rules society, they are unable to prevent economic crises or overcome the contradictions of capitalism. Due to the fragmented nature of capitalist society, which atomizes and reifies our view of the world, a bourgeois standpoint cannot see the real social relations, but only parts in isolation. If the bourgeoisie want to understand the contradictions of capitalism and overcome them, this requires a standpoint other than their own. At best, a bourgeois standpoint can only offer reformist solutions or other panaceas. The limits of the bourgeois standpoint are stated starkly by Lukács:

For the bourgeoisie was quite unable to perfect its fundamental science, its own science of classes: the reef on which it foundered was its failure to discover even a theoretical solution to the problem of crises. The fact that a scientifically acceptable solution does exist is of no avail. For to accept that solution, even in theory, would be tantamount to observing society from a class standpoint other than that of the bourgeoisie. And no class can do that – unless it is willing to abdicate its power freely. Thus the barrier which converts the class consciousness of the bourgeoisie into "false" consciousness is objective; it is the class situation itself. It is the objective result of the economic set-up, and is neither arbitrary, subjective nor psychological. The class consciousness of the bourgeoisie may well be able to reflect all the problems of organisation entailed by its hegemony and by the capitalist transformation and penetration of total production. But it becomes obscured as soon as it is called upon to face problems that remain within its jurisdiction but which point beyond the limits of capitalism.[79]

An individual vantage-point cannot offer an alternative to the bourgeois standpoint, since the individual is “faced by a complex of ready-made and unalterable objects which allow him only the subjective responses of recognition or rejection.”[80] Another class position is needed – a position that breaks with bourgeois forms of thought and puts on the historical agenda a future without capitalism. Without this, the only solution available will only reproduce the immediacy of capitalism.

That standpoint comes from the proletariat. According to Marx and Engels, the working class is the only revolutionary class under capitalism and its position in production makes them uniquely placed to overthrow it. The very conditions of life compels the working class to organize and resist, producing a larger movement. Their location in the workplace is where they produce wealth and are forced to work together for capital. With organization and consciousness, the proletariat can organize themselves collectively to run society in their own interests. The interests of the working class as a whole, regardless of whether they are consciously revolutionary, are diametrically opposed to the interests of capital, leading them to struggle. The general course of working class struggles, with ever-increasing boldness and radicalism, leads them outside of a bourgeois framework. Ultimately, the proletariat is the only class with the social weight and potential power to lead a revolution. While past revolutions replaced one ruling class with another minority ruling class, the proletarian revolution is different: “The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.”[81] The proletarian revolution is, thus, not simply a revolution of the working class, but it is a struggle against all forms of exploitation and oppression, no matter what class or stratum they affect.

In order for the proletariat to become a revolutionary subject, it can no longer view capitalism through the fragmented lens of bourgeois ideology, but must see society in its totality:

It was necessary for the proletariat to be born for social reality to become fully conscious. The reason for this is that the discovery of the class-outlook of the proletariat provided a vantage point from which to survey the whole of society. With the emergence of historical materialism there arose the theory of the “conditions for the liberation of the proletariat” and the doctrine of reality understood as the total process of social evolution.[82]

As we have emphasized, Marxism is defined by its understanding of totality - breaking through the veils of bourgeois thought to reveal the true underpinnings of society, its laws of motion, so the proletariat can understand what they are fighting against:

It is not the predominance of economic motives in the interpretation of society which is the decisive difference between Marxism and bourgeois science, but rather the point of view of totality. The category of totality, the all-round, determining domination of the whole over the parts is the essence of the method which Marx took over from Hegel and, in an original manner, transformed into the basis of an entirely new science.[83]

Once the proletariat grasps the totality of capitalism, it ceases to be the object of history and becomes, the subject of history:

Only when the consciousness of the proletariat is able to point out the road along which the dialectics of history is objectively impelled, but which it cannot travel unaided, will the consciousness of the proletariat awaken to a consciousness of the process, and only then will the proletariat become the identical subject-object of history whose praxis will change reality.[84]

However, the proletariat's understanding of totality, cannot just occur in theory, but must manifest itself in practice. As Lenin said, “Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.”[85] The Marxist world-view alone, “has shown the proletariat the way out of the spiritual slavery in which all oppressed classes have hitherto languished.”[86] Ultimately, Marxism provides the tools to study and understand society and, based on those results, it enables the working class to consciously act to change the world.


[1] Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Unarmed: Trotsky 1921-1929 (New York: Verso, 2003), 242.

[2] Karl Korsch, Marxism and Philosophy (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1970), 60.

[3] Ibid. 60 and 57. 

[4] Ibid. 69.

[5] Ibid. 68.

[6] Ibid. 70.

[7] Ibid. 71.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Sidney Hook, Towards the Understanding of Karl Marx: A Revolutionary Interpretation (Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2002), 6 [80]. Brackets indicate the page numbers in the updated edition.

[10] Ibid. 106 [180].

[11] Mita Sekisuke, “The Method of Capital,” Marxists Internet Archive.

[12] A great deal of this section drew upon John Rees, Algebra of Revolution: The Dialectic and the Classical Marxist Tradition (New York: Routledge, 1998), 3-9.

[13] Frederick Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (New York: International, 1998), 48.

[14] Karl Marx, Frederick Engels and V. I. Lenin, Reader in Marxist Philosophy, ed. Howard Selsam and Harry Martel (New York: International Publishers, 2002), 122-3.

[15] Frederick Engels, Anti-Dühring (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1976), 159.

[16] Ibid. 158-9.

[17] “Philosophical Notebooks,” Lenin Collected Works 38 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976), 358. (henceforth LCW)

[18] Ibid. 222.

[19] Ibid. 357-8.

[20] Ibid. 282.

[21] “Kommunismus: Journal of the Communist International,” LCW 31.166.

[22] “Philosophical Notebooks,” LCW 38.483.

[23] Mao's rejection of the negation of the negation can be found in Stuart Schram, ed., Chairman Mao Talks to the People, Talks and Letters: 1956-1971 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1974), 226. Nick Knight argues that Mao did not reject the “negation of the negation,” was its title, but not the substance of the idea which was included within the “basic dialectical law” which was the unity of opposites. For more on Mao and the “negation of the negation” see Nick Knight, ed. Mao Zedong on Dialectical Materialism: Writings on Philosophy, 1937 (Armonk: Sharpe, Inc., 1990), 15-24.

[24] Former Members of the Committee for a Proletarian Party, “In Defense of Mao Tsetung’s Contributions to Materialist Dialectics,” Marxists Internet Archive.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Mike Ely, “What’s Normal for a Grain of Barley? On Negation of Negation,” Kasama Project. See also Mike Ely, “Communist Philosophy: One into Two? Two into One? Or Something Else?” Kasama Project.

[27] Engels 1976, 166.

[28] “Karl Marx,” LCW 21.54-55. Sidney Hook penned the following decent and succinct definition of the concept of synthesis and its relation to the “negation of the negation” and aufheben: "A genuine synthesis is more than a simple destructive process which removes the possibility of further development and conflict (as when a community goes down to a common doom as a result of class struggles). But neither is it a simple additive process which by fusing and compromising opposing elements produces a new situation - one in which the original elements produces a new situation - one in which the original elements can still be discerned and, by some inverse operation, precipitated out again (as when we mix a white sand heap with a black sand heap to get a very grey sand heap). Nor is it a simple transformative process in which the qualities of the different elements are no longer discernable in the new quality created (as when water emerges from the union of oxygen and hydrogen). Nor is it finally a simple repetitive process in which the elements remain unchanged. A dialectical synthesis is all this and more. Thesis and antithesis are resolved in such a way that the pretensions of each constitute the whole of a relation are denied; yet aspects of each are retained or conserved in every new whole of situation; and are reinterpreted or elevated (aufgehoben) as subordinate moments in a more inclusive whole." Sidney Hook, From Hegel to Marx: Studies in the Intellectual Development of Karl Marx (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1962), 68

[29] Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin, The Dialectical Biologist (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1985), 3.

[30] Ibid. 273.

[31] Quoted in Nikolai Bukharin, Philosophical Arabesques (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2005), 109.

[32] Rees 1998, 7.

[33] Bukharin 2005, 327.

[34] See “Marx's Theses on Feuerbach” in Frederick Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy (New York: International Publishers, 1996), 82.

[35] Karl Marx, Capital: Volume 1 (New York: Penguin Books, 1976), 102.

[36] Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology (New York: International Publishers, 2001), 47.

[37] Antonio Labriola, Socialism and Philosophy (St. Louis: Telos Press Ltd, 1980), 95.

[38] Antonio Labriola, Essays on the Materialistic Conception of History (New York: Cosimo Books, 2005), 120.

[39] Marx and Engels 2001, 42.

[40] Ibid. 48.

[41] Marx 1976, 284.

[42] Ibid.

[43] G.E.M. de Ste Croix, The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World: from the Archaic Age to the Arab Conquests (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981), 43-44.

[44] Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Birth of the Communist Manifesto, ed. Dirk Struik (New York: International Publishers, 1975), 89.

[45] De ste Croix 1981, 57.

[46] Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (New York: International Publishers, 1999), 20-21.

[47] “Engels to J. Bloch - September 21, 1890,” in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Selected Works (New York: International Publishers, 1986), 692.

[48] Labriola 2005, 152.

[49] Karl Marx, Capital: Volume 1II (New York: Penguin Books, 1981), 927-928.

[50] This section draws heavily from the following: Bukharin 2005, 83-91 and 104-130 ;Paul Sweezy, The Theory of Capitalist Development: Principles of Marxian Political Economy (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1962), 11-22; Michael Lebowitz, Following Marx: Method, Critique and Crisis (Boston: Brill, 2009), 69-85.

[51] Marx 1981, 956.

[52] “Theories of Surplus Value: Volume II,” Marx and Engels Collected Works 32 (London: Lawrence & Wishart) 499. (henceforth MECW)

[53] Marx 1976, 97.

[54] Ibid. 165.

[55] Ibid. 90.

[56] Sweezy 1962, 11.

[57] Ibid. 18.

[58] Bukharin 2005, 85-86.

[59] Henryk Grossman, The Law of Accumulation and Breakdown of the Capitalist System (London: Pluto Press, 1992), 30.

[60] Karl Marx, Grundrisse (New York: Penguin Books, 1973), 101 and Marx 1976, 92.

[61] Quoted in Sweezy 1962, 12.

[62] Hook 2002, 65 [139].

[63] Sweezy 1962, 18. Grossman warns that a common misreading of Marx is taking his provisional conclusions as final results: “Yet an almost incredible thing happened - people saw that Marx works with simplifying assumptions but they failed to notice the purely provisional nature of the initial stages and ignored the fact that in the methodological construction of the system each of the several fictitious, simplifying assumptions is subsequently modified. Provisional conclusions were taken for final results." Grossman 1992, 30.

[64] Marx 1973, 100.

[65] Ibid.

[66] Lebowitz 2009, 74.

[67] Marx 1976, 90.

[68] Lebowitz 2009, 74.

[69] Sweezy 1962, 17.

[70] Marx 1976, 724.

[71] Karl Marx, Capital: Volume II (New York: Penguin Books 1978), 185.

[72] Karl Marx, “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844,” in Early Writings (New York: Penguin Books, 1992), 285-286.

[73] Karl Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy (Amherst: Prometheus Books, 1995), 120.

[74] “Philosophical Notebooks,” LCW 38.146.

[75] Roman Rosdolsky, The Making of Marx's 'Capital' (London: Pluto Press, 1977), xiii.

[76] “Marx to Engels - 16 January 1858,” MECW 40.249.

[77] Rudolf Hilderding, Finance Capital: A Study in the Latest Phase of Capitalist Development (Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1981), 24.

[78] Georg Lukács, History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1971), 20-21.

[79] Ibid. 53-54.

[80] Ibid. 193.

[81] Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Birth of the Communist Manifesto, ed. Dirk Struik (New York: International Publishers, 1975), 100. The description of the proletariat found in this paragraph can be found in my “Communist Manifesto: A Weapon of War,” LINKS International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

[82] Lukács 1971, 19-20.

[83] Ibid. 27.

[84] Ibid. 197.

[85] “What is to Be Done: Burning Questions of Our Movement,” LCW 5.365.

[86] “The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism,” LCW 19.28.