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Tuesday, 28 August 2018 17:10
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Karl Marx - the great thinker of mankind

(LLCT) - Karl Marx is the great thinker of mankind whose scientific discoveries changed the world, particularly the materialistic conception of history and surplus value theory. For Marx, science is a historical motivation and a revolutionary force which contributed to the overthrow of capitalist society and freed the modern proletariat. In Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh was the first to acquire, make creative application, and develop Marxism to a higher level suitable to the Vietnamese specific historical conditions. Thence, the Vietnam revolution has been led to successive victories.

Karl Marx (5 May, 1818 - 14 March, 1883) is the great thinker of humanity and the first to have laid the scientific foundation for socialism and the modern worker movement. Among a lot of important discoveries which embed his name in science history, the two great ones which changed the world should be included: historial material conception and surplus value theory. According to Friedrich Engels, a person’s life would be of utmost happiness if he had just one of them.

V.I. Lenin considered Marx’s historical materialism as the greatest achievement of scientific thought. For Marx, science is a historical motivation and a revolutionary force because he was above all a revolutionary. In some way, he participated in overthrowing the capitalist society and its state institutions, took part in the cause of liberating the modern proletariat to whom he was the first to bring the ideology of its own position, and the conditions to liberate itself. That was indeed his vital mission. Struggle was a natural action for Marx, and he pursued it passionately, persistently and fruitfully. The establisment of the International Workers’ Union was like the glorious garland of his entire career. It was a reason why Marx was hated and slandered by the bourgeoisie of his time. The governments rapidly expelled him, and the bourgeoisie cursed him. That his pen would not be bent by power is the truth. F. Engels argued that Marx might have had many opponents instead of a specific enemy.

During Marx’s burial ceremony, Engels read the funeral oration in English. In the oration, a paragraph described that like Darwin who discovered the evolutionary law of species, Marx found the development law of human history. The simple truth which had been largely obstructed up to then was that humans were in need of food, drink, and shelter before they could do politics, science, art, and religion, etc. Thus, the production of direct and primary living materials, or a certain phase of economic development of a nation or an era create a base. From that base, people can develop state institutions, jurisdiction views, art, and even a religious conception. So, the phase must be explained on that basis rather than the contrary which had been done up to then.

According to Marx, one cannot use the jurisdiction relations, state forms, or so-called common development of human spirit to explain such relations and forms. On the contrary, one should notice that those relations and forms originate from the material living conditions, etc. If we are unable to judge a person by his opinion of himself, we are equally unable to judge such a chaotic era based only on the sense of that era. Indeed, such sense must be explained by the contradictions of the material life and existing conflicts between the productive forces and production relations. Marx found that if the economic base in society changes, the whole bulky superstructure becomes upset quickly. The change of material life leads to the change in spiritual life sooner or later.

Marx not only discovered the materialistic conception of history but also surplus value theory. With surplus value theory, Marx found the specific motion law of modern capitalist production mode and the capitalist society born from such a mode. The discovery of surplus value shed light on a field where all the earlier bourgeois economists as well as the socialist critics were in the dark. The surplus value theory has fulfilled its mission. On the one hand, it explains the birth of the capitalist production mode in connection with history and its essence to a certain historical period as well as its disappearance; on the other hand, it exposes the undiscovered inner nature of that production mode. The surplus value theory reveals the secrets of capitalism and the sophisticated exploitation nature of the working class by the bourgeoisie. It also outlines the motivations, goals and results of capital movements, which had been impossible before then.

In the Preface to the Critique of Political Economics, Marx states that regardless of how his viewpoints may be judged and whether they are suitable to the notion of the ruling class, they are still the result of long and careful studies. To complete the Das Kapital, Marx read nearly forty thousand books at the London library. In the Preface to volume 1 of the Das Kapital, Marx claims that he would be glad to welcome any comments from scientific criticism. As for the notions called public opinion which he never conceded, his motto remained unchanged with the same words of the great poet of the city of Florence: “We are persistent with our way without caring about what others say”.

Marx analyzed society on the basis of a very scientific method. He thought that studying a developed body is easier than studying its cells. So, what is the cell in a capitalist society? He argued that the commodity forms of products or value forms of goods are the economic cells of bourgeois society. According to Marx, for amateurs, analysis of that form seemed to be vain inference about the small things. They are indeed little things, but they must be touched by micro electronics surgery. This is the method that Lenin later generalized as the abstraction to the specification method of Marx. Thus, Marx analyzed society on the basis of a very scientific method.

On top of that, it was Marx’s belief that microscopes or chemical reactions could not be applied to the analysis of economic forms. Abstraction must replace both. Not only did he point out the distinction between natural science and social science studies but also the difference between study and presentation methods. For him, to grasp all the details of study, it is necessary to analyze the different forms of development, and find out the inner connection of such forms. After that work is completed, actual movement can be described properly. Particularly, he pointed out the peculiarity of political economics which have shown in the documents studied by political economics to produce the most frenzied, despicable, and hideous situations (the rage of private benefit) against free and scientific study. The Church of England, for example, would easily forgive the attacks against its 38 of 39 dogmas rather than look over the violation of 1/39 of its monetary income.

In the study, Marx selected typical samples for analysis, like a naturalist studying nature. It was Marx’s thinking that a physicist could either observe natural processes where they took place in an outstanding form with little disturbing influence, or carry out an experiment in the conditions which ensure the development process in a pure form. In the Das Kapital, volume 1, Marx’s object of study is the capitalist production mode and the production and exchange relations relevant to said mode. According to Marx, England is still the typical country of this mode of production. That is why England is used as a major illustration for his theoretical presentation. The more developed industrial country brings to the underdeveloped nation a future image of itself.

In this way, Marx can be seen to study society like a naturalist studying nature. Marx told his son-in-law P. Lafargue that science could only be complete with the use of mathematics. In the Das Kapital, we come across many mathematical formulas. Thence, V.I. Lenin argued that the special logic and close coherence of Marx’s thoughts (the characteristics recognized by his enemy and the thoughts that made up the modern materialism and scientific socialism) were considered the theory and creed of the worker movement in all civilized countries.

In the Preface to the first edition of the Das Kapital, Critique of Political Economics, volume I, book I, Marx wrote: “Like other Western European countries in other fields, we (Germany) suffer not only from capitalist production development but also from its incomplete development. Apart from the current disasters, we also endure a series of the following ones caused by the old, out of date production modes which still exist persistently with the improper political and social relations generated by them. We suffer not only from the living but also from the dead. Le mort saisit le vif! (The dead take hold of the living!)”(1).

In the past, the pre-capitalist countries moving towards socialism often stressed too much the aspect of human suffering caused by capitalism rather than lack of it – things accumulated by capitalism over three hundred years such as science and technology, law awareness, science and economic management skills. Because the Eastern socialist countries did not experience the capitalist period, their economy was also in such a situation. So, these countries today understand not only the second side of Marx’s saying deeply - suffering because of its incomplete development and lack of it – but also the disasters caused by inheritance of the old, out of date production modes which still exist persistently with the improper political and social relations generated by them. This is exactly what is happening in Vietnam today.

In Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh was the first to acquire, make creative application, and develop Marxism to a higher level suitable with the specific historical conditions of Vietnam. Thence, the Vietnam revolution has been led to successive victories.

1. First of all, in terms of time (opportunities, conditions) to carry out a socialist revolution, Ho Chi Minh had creative theoretical application, and developed Marxism to a higher level and uniqueness, which has been practically proven.

2. The association of a national liberation revolution with a socialist revolution (if one desires to save the country and liberate the nation, there is no other way but a proletarian revolution(2)) was a unique creative thought of Ho Chi Minh which developed Marxism in the specific conditions of Vietnam at the time.

3. In the process of carrying out the national liberation revolution by moving towards a socialist revolution, Ho Chi Minh, with the perspective of an Oriental person, had extremely unique creative thoughts about the relationship between class and nation, nationalism of the Annam people, social structure of Oriental countries, supplement and development to Marxism, etc., which has been practically proven. He said: “With regard to Indian and Chinese society, I can say that the structures of India or China are not like the western societies in the Middle Ages or in modern times, and the class struggles there were not as fierce as they are here”(3). With his further study of the East, Ho Chi Minh posed a very particular problem: “Marx tells us that the progress of societies goes through three stages: slavery, serfdom, and capitalism. The class struggle is different in each period. We have to watch out! Have the Far East nations experienced the two early periods?”(4). Ho Chi Minh wrote that it was not possible to forbid adding the “historical basis” of Marxism by supplementing the materials which were not available in his era. He proposed to revise Marxism in terms of its history, and reinforce it with Eastern ethnology(5). Why is that? According to him, Marx built his theory based on a certain philosophy of history, but which history is that? European history, but what is it? It does not include the whole humanity(6). Here, Ho Chi Minh developed Marxism under the specific conditions of Oriental countries, especially Vietnam, rather than revised Marxism.

By studying the particular situation of Eastern countries, Ho Chi Minh believed that with the permitted historical reasons, communism could make its way to Asian countries more easily than to European ones(7)”. This genius and predictive discovery of President Ho Chi Minh from 1921 up to now has still shown its vitality and firmness and it has been practically proven.

In the Document of its 12th National Congress, the Party figured out the first of the five lessons of Renovation (doi moi) is to be proactive, incessantly creative on the basis of strictly following the aim of national independence and socialism, make creative application and develop Marxism - Leninism and Ho Chi Minh Thoughts, inherit and promote national tradition, acquire the quintessence of human culture, and apply international experience suitable to Vietnam. Presently, beside creative application, the addition to, and development of Marxism is more urgent than ever, especially in the context of deep international integration as well as the widespread ongoing industrial revolution 4.0. With Marxism, we need to consider what is still correct and long-lasting, what should be corrected from misunderstanding in the past, and what needs to be added and developed because of its backwardness and inadequancy with reality. In order to carry out this work effectively and boost Vietnam through socialism, we need to study the style, methods, and view on developing Marxism of President Ho Chi Minh.


(1) Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Complete Works, Vol. 23, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi 1993, p.19-20.

(2) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, Vol. 12, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, p. 30

(3), (4), (5), (6) op cit, Volume 1, p. 509, 510, 510, 509-510.

(7) op cit, Volume 1, p.47.


Prof., Dr. Nguyen Hung Hau

Institute of Philosophy,

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics



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