What is Marxism?

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What is Marxism

Marxism is a socio-economic and political theory developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the 19th century. It focuses on the struggle between different classes in society, particularly the working class (proletariat) and the owning class (bourgeoisie). Marxism emphasises the role of economics in shaping society, highlighting the exploitation of workers under Capitalism. Furthermore, it advocates for the eventual overthrow of capitalism through a proletarian revolution. This will eventually lead to a classless society and common ownership of resources.

What is Marxism in simple terms?

Marxism is a social, economic, and political theory created by Karl Marx.

  • It argues that society is divided into classes, mainly the working class (proletariat) and the wealthy class (bourgeoisie).
  • The wealthy class owns the things needed to produce goods (factories, farms), and the working class sells their labour to survive.
  • Marx believed the working class is exploited by the wealthy class, and this will inevitably lead to a revolution where workers take control.
  • Additionally, Marxism is the foundation for communist and socialist ideas, which emphasize worker ownership and equality.

Also Read: Right Wing V/S Left Wing: Meaning, Differences, Similarities

6 Key Principles of Marxism

The key Principles of Marxism include Dialectical Materialism, Surplus Value Theory, Revolution, Historical Materialism, Class struggle, Communism, and Proletariat Dictatorship.

Dialectical Materialism

Dialectical materialism is the foundation of Marxist thought. It is a way of understanding the world that highlights material conditions, like economic systems, as the driving force behind change.

  • Moreover, it borrows from the idea of dialectics, which sees things as constantly evolving through contradictions.
  • In Marxist terms, this means social classes with opposing interests (like workers and owners) create tension that pushes society towards revolution and new social orders.
  • Hence, Dialectical materialism is a lens for understanding how societies develop, change, and potentially clash.

Surplus Value Theory

The surplus value theory is a key concept in Marxian economics. It argues that the value of a good or service comes from the labour that goes into it.

  • Workers, however, are only paid enough to survive (subsistence wages).
  • The difference between what a worker produces and what they are paid is surplus value, which capitalists capture as profit when they sell the finished product.
  • This, according to Marx, is the source of exploitation under capitalism, where workers do not benefit from the full value they create.


Marx saw revolution as inevitable under capitalism. The working class (proletariat), he argued, would become increasingly exploited and alienated.

  • As class consciousness grew, the proletariat would rise and overthrow the ruling class (bourgeoisie) who controlled the means of production.
  • This revolution wouldn’t be led by a single hero but by the collective action of the working class itself.
  • The revolution would not just destroy the old system, it would create a new one: a classless, communist society where workers controlled their labour and shared resources.

Historical Materialism

Historical materialism is a theory by Karl Marx that explains how societies change throughout history.

  • It argues that the real driving force behind historical events is not ideas or great leaders, but rather the way a society produces goods and services, known as the “mode of production.”
    • This includes things like technology, resources, and how labour is organized.
  • According to Marx, this economic base shapes everything else in society, from the legal system to religion.
  • As the way we produce things changes, so too do social classes, cultures, and political systems.
  • This can lead to conflict, as different classes benefit from the existing system or a new one.
  • Marx believed these conflicts were the engine of historical progress, thus pushing societies towards new and more developed modes of production.


Communism is the ultimate goal envisioned by Marxism. It describes a classless, stateless society where everyone contributes according to their abilities and receives what they need to live comfortably.

  • This means workers would own and control the means of production (factories, farms) instead of private owners.
  • Communism emphasizes equality, with resources distributed based on need, not wealth.
  • Marxism itself is the theory behind this ideal future, therefore analyzing how societies progress and predicting the rise of communism through revolution.

Proletariat Dictatorship

Proletariat dictatorship is a key concept in Marxist theory. It refers to a transitional period after a socialist revolution where the working class, or proletariat, holds political power.

  • This dictatorship is not meant to be like a typical one-man rule. Instead, the working class, through a socialist state, controls the means of production (factories, farms) and uses this power to suppress resistance from the wealthy class (bourgeoisie).
  • The goal is to create a classless, communist society where everyone contributes and benefits equally.
  • This dictatorship is supposed to be temporary, with the state eventually ” withering away” as society reaches true equality.

Also Read: What Is Anarchism? Definition, History, and Significance

Consequently, here are some of the most powerful Marxist leaders in the World History:

Louis AlthusserFrench
Victor AdlerAustrian
Damodar Dharmananda KosambiIndian
Karl KorschGerman
Rosa LuxemburgPolish
Antonio NegriItalian
Mao ZedongChinese
Leon TrotskySoviet
Raymond WilliamsBritish
Jean-Paul SartreFrench
Popular Marxist Leaders in World History

Also Read: What Is Socialism? Definition, History, and Significance 

Marxism Examples

Furthermore, there are two main ways to look at examples of Marxism:

  1. Real-world situations that reflect Marxist ideas:
  • Unequal distribution of wealth: A situation where factory workers earn minimum wage while the company owner makes millions exemplifies the Marxist concept of worker exploitation.
  • Labor unions: Unions fighting for better wages and working conditions align with the Marxist idea of workers organizing against capitalist power.
  1. Historical events influenced by Marxism:
  • The Russian Revolution: This 1917 revolution aimed to overthrow the Tsar and establish a socialist state, thus heavily influenced by Marxist ideology.
  • Rise of communist countries: Countries like Cuba and China built their governments on Marxist principles, though the actual implementation has been debated.



#1. Who developed the Theory of Marxism?

#2. What is the key focus of Marxism?

#3. What does Dictatorship of Proletariat mean?


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