Marxism, also referred to as communism, is a political ideology,philosophy and a body of doctrine which was developed by Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels. Major contributor to the philosophy of Marxism, Karl Marx, was born in Trier, Rhine province, Prussia in 1818. He was born to a Jewish family, which later converted to Christianity. Marx was awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy for his essay on materialism of the Epicurus, a famous Greek Philosopher. He joined as an Assistant Editor at the Rhenish Times and was promoted to the position of Chief Editor. He left this job due to differences between him and the owner. In 1843, he moved to France. He became the editor of the Franco-German Yearbook and continued until it went out of business. Here, he became acquainted to French and German extremists like Proudhon, Mazzini, and Engels. The Communist Manifesto was jointly released by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1848. Marx published the first volume of Das Capital in 1867 and the remaining volumes were published posthumously by his friend Friedrich Engels. He spent his final years in exile and poverty in London
Marxism uses historical materialism to explain class relations and social conflict. The philosophy of Marxism was greatly influenced by Friedrich Engels who was an idealist. This led to the the concept of dialectical materialism. According to dialectical materialism, the prominent ideas that originate in the human mind at a particular point in time are called the thesis. Certain ideas, then, emerge as a response to these prominent ideas which are called as the anti-thesis. Ultimately, there is a conflict between thesis and anti-thesis, which leads to the formation of the synthesis. For example, the synthesis of the thesis of importance of capital and anti-thesis of importance of labour is class war.
According to materialistic interpretation of History, throughout history a man pursues his material needs, which in turn creates history, and only after fulfilling his material needs he shifts his focus to higher goals. Using this interpretation, Marx classifies history into four stages based on modes of production. The first one is the Primitive Communist Stage. In this stage, the factors of production were meagre and were shared among the people of the community. The next stage is the ancient stage. The class structures had developed during this period. Slaves were owned by certain masters and these people controlled the factors of production. Being the master, their needs were fulfilled and possessed a surplus and denied benefits to workers. In a similar manner, the feudal lords exploited the landless serfs in the feudal stage and capitalist exploit the workers in the industrial stage.
Another important principle of Marxism is the theory of surplus value. According to this theory, the value of a commodity is equated to the wages paid to the labourer. Any value above the commodity value is regarded as surplus value, which is both needless and exploitative. According to this philosophy, the surplus value results in the exploitation of the labourer as the producer extracts illegitimate profits. The next principle is the theory of class war. According to Marx, two classes of people exist in all stages of history – the bourgeoise and the proletariat. The bourgeoise refers to people who are in control of the factors of production and pay for the labour of other people. The proletariat refers to people who are workers and do not own any or control any factors of production. History is nothing but a clash between these two classes where the former has always exploited the latter – master-slave, landlord-serf, capitalist-worker. The interests of these two classes are, au fond, in conflict with each other. This results in a continuous conflict called class war.
By exploiting the labour of the proletariat, the rich manage to build vast amounts of wealth. The concentration of wealth in their hands increases and the poor become poorer. This enlarges the gulf between the rich and the poor. Only a few people end up controlling most of the resources. This is called concentration of capital. The continuous exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoise forces them to rebel against the controllers of production. Therefore, revolution by the proletariat against the bourgeoise becomes inevitable.
According to Marx, after the revolution by the proletariat, the capitalists will be removed from the position of power and the dictatorship of the proletariat will be established. The proletariats after the revolution will wipe out the capitalists. This is the dictatorship of the proletariat. This will lead to the formation of a classless society where there is no conflict between people. In a classless society, there is no more any need for the state to maintain order and harmony amongst people. This is the end goal of communism. According to Karl Marx, religion is the opium of the people. It makes people sway to sentiments and is used as a tool of exploitation by the capitalists. However, Karl Marx did not advocate the abolition of religion. Socialism, which is considered peaceful and evolutionary, was a prelude to Marxism, which is violent and revolutionary. Marxism took hold of Russia during the World War 11. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the popularity and influence of Marxism has waned.