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Theoretical values of Marxism integral to the cause of building socialism in the 21st century

(LLCT) - After “grasping the era with thought”, it can be said that a great revolution in awareness and world transformation has been carried out using Marxism. Marxism is not only a great awareness tool and a complete and close science which puts an end to the randomness and chaos in historical and political conceptions but also the method to transform the world deeply and comprehensively. Nowadays, the sustainable values of Marxism are still asserted, which makes great contributions to mankind by developing awareness about the era, foundation, develop ruling styles, and the characteristics of socialism including the path and method to build real socialism.

Keywords: Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, V.I.Lenin, Marxism - Leninism, socialism.

Marxism was brought to the world in the 1840s by inheriting the scientific awareness to discover the achievements of the thought of human history. This thought was the great theory of human liberation and development.

In the entire history of human thought, it could be argued that no other historical thought or theory can be compared with Marxism in terms of science and revolution. By discovering the objective rules of movements and change of the whole material world and human history, Karl Marx showed the proletariat and progressive people throughout every part of the world real paths and measures to free themselves from oppression, exploitation, and injustice. This enabled them to build a new social regime for the first time in human history - communist society.

The entirety of the massive and deep theoretical heritage of Marxism included a new view intertwined with scientific and revolutionary methodology, bringing the progressive members of mankind, especially the working class, a great awareness tool to transform the world. V.I.Lenin asserted: “Marxist theory is multipurpose because it is precise. It is a full and close theory. It provides people with a complete view, rejecting any superstition, reactionary forces, and actions which protect the oppression of the bourgeoisie”(1).

With two great scientific inventions, namely the historical materialistic conception and the surplus-value theory, Karl Marx laid a solid foundation for the realization of scientific socialist thought - the theory of ushering in the liberation of the working class and mankind as a whole from all forms of enslavement, oppression, exploitation, and deprivation.

With the historical materialistic conception, Karl Marx revolutionized the whole conception of world history. For the first time in history, the rules of development for human society were discovered. V.I.Lenin affirmed: “Historical materialism of Marx is the greatest achievement of scientific thought. A very complete and close scientific theory replaces the chaos and randomness which have governed in the historical and political conceptions”(2).

With their astute argument, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote a wonderful and nuanced analysis of the development of world history with the combined perspective of a philosopher and politician.  Attributes of the perspective include a humane spirit, an indefinite love for people, and freedom. Karl Marx divided history into periods using the socio-economic form theory. With the socio-economic form theory, Marx pointed out the interruption in the continuity of mutual replacement that is essential and appropriate for the development periods, making succession among the steps and eras as well as mutual inheritance and restriction among nations at different development levels. In the lively picture of the socio-historical process, the major trends which worked as the backbone for the change and replacement of the old with new factors and ensured advancement in the process of history emerged.

On evaluating surplus-value theory, V.I.Lenin said that surplus-value theory was the bedrock of Marxist economic theory. Through the surplus-value theory, Karl Marx clarified the fundamental economic basis and rules of capitalism through which Marx could conclude that the annihilation of the capitalist mode of production was inevitable. On that basis, Karl Marx interpreted the worldwide mission of the proletariat as the force able to transform social relations comprehensively, eliminate human exploitation, build the new social regime, liberate themselves and then the rest of mankind. V.I.Lenin stated that the key point of Marxist theory was to enlighten the world to the historical role of the working class as the builder of socialism set to replace capitalist society.

Evaluating the meaning and value in the scientific initiatives of Karl Marx to the revolutionary movements of the proletariat and progressive people clearly and deeply, V.I.Lenin decisively asserted: “Only the philosophic materialism of Marx showed the proletariat the path to freedom from spiritual slavery, including the exploited classes who have been living miserably up to now. Only the economic theory of Marx could explain the real position of the proletariat in the capitalist regime”(3). “The irresistible attraction draws the socialists of all countries to follow such theory because it combines scientific nature (the top of social science) with revolutionary spirit closely and highly, and such combination is not a randomness nor the combination of the qualities of a scholar and a revolutionary in the founder of the theory but the combination in the theory itself - an internal and a close combination”(4).

With the victory of the Great October Revolution of Russia in 1917, the fact that socialism once only a theory became a real socio-political regime this showed the extremely important theoretical and practical values of Marxism.

From a ghost that had been haunting Europe, Marxism was realized in workers’ movements, which opened a new era - the transitional period to socialism in the whole world. The formation of socialist countries had a strong influence on the development process of mankind and worked as support for the colonial and dependent people to rise, liberate themselves, and eliminate the domination of the former and neo-colonialism. The great victories of socialism changed the face of the world, and they were strong proof of the vehement and everlasting vitality of Marxism - Leninism - a scientific and revolutionary theory, a thought foundation, a guideline for the international communist and worker movements.

 As a result, Karl Marx was not only a genius theorist but also a great revolutionary. His theory illuminated the revolutionary path for the proletariat and working people in the world. It could be said that after grasping the era with thought, Marxism and later Marxism - Leninism ended the hard period of millions of working people toiling under oppression and exploitation so that they could find a way to liberate themselves. Marx’s theory was spread worldwide, and it was immensely influential to countries, nations, and politico-cultures in various historical contexts.

Nowadays, the sustainable values of Marxism are still asserted, which makes great contributions to developing the awareness of mankind and building real socialism.

Firstly, Marxism with a new view, scientific methodology, and profound dialectic spirit is still the basis of awareness for the era including nature, the tendency to change, and adjustment of capitalism.

Based on the most common rules of the materialistic dialectic method in combination with lively materials from practice, Marx discovered the nature and rules that govern the movement, change, and development of capitalist society in particular and history in general.

From the mode of production, Karl Marx studied the movement, change, development, and rules of history. There, the mode of production was construed as the movement of productive forces and relationships between people in the process of material production. It was also the connection used to turn various fields into a unified entity, making the integrity and specific characteristics of a society. The issues of the capitalist mode of production were deeply analyzed by Marx and Engels in terms of enlightening theory and practice of capitalist society, and then they raised the core conflict between the nature of capitalist society and the essence of the proletarian revolution.

With the formation of the socio-economic category, Marx and Engels divided history into periods such as the continuity of the inevitable mutual replacement per the essential rules of development periods, making consecutive loops between levels and eras, as well as the mutual inheritance and limitations between countries at different developmental levels. The major trends working as the backbone for the change and replacement of the old order with new factors that ensured the advancement process of history emerged in the active picture of the socio-historical process. The theory of socio-economic form from Marx clarified the indicative and common signs for the developmental steps of society as well as the specific characteristics for each society. The socio-economic form theory provided materialistic and scientific standards for dividing history into periods that helped people understand the objective logic of the social evolution process for the first time. It outlines the unity of history in a variety of events in different countries and during different periods, showing the relation between them to explain rather than describe historical events. V.I.Lenin evaluated: “At that time, that thought was just a hypothesis, but it was the first hypothesis to create the possibility to have a very scientific attitude towards the historical and social issues”(5).

Through the test of Karl Marx on the entire history of mankind, Marx came to a scientific and revolutionary conclusion when he affirmed: “The development of socio-economic forms is a historical - natural process”(6). This not only summarized Marxist theory in general but also opened a new chapter for mankind in studying their own history.

From using the analysis method of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, to apply in analyzing modern capitalism in the process of globalization, we find out that capitalism encounters a self-created problem: new liberalism, after more than 50 years with considerable changes in capitalist countries, chaos to the entire capitalist economy has been caused. This chaos indirectly confirmed the basic conflict within capitalism. When thoroughly solved, the conflict would become the prospect of a new production mode - communism. The financial crisis which took place around the world had a chain effect and created the basic elements of capitalism. This was also a cyclical issue raised by Karl Marx if the capitalist mode of production still existed.

Nowadays, the strong development of productive forces under the influence of the achievements of the scientific and technological revolution, globalization process, adjusting influence, interference of global economic regulations and institutions, etc. makes the nature of socialization more and more effective. The development of modern productive forces directly or indirectly forces capitalism to make adjustments and changes. The classic forms of private ownership of capitalism change. At present, the bourgeoisie must share the right to make decisions on production, production operation, profit allocation, etc. in various forms. The market is no longer limited in some countries but instead expanded in space and form; however, it is not able to get capitalism out of its cyclical crisis. Two major crises of the world economy in 10 recent years (1997- 1998 and 2008), as well as conflicts within capitalism, are still changing. However, it shows that capitalism can not be vanquished immediately, and capitalism can still strongly recover, especially in the context of the scientific and technological revolution. These factors require awareness that capitalism should change.

In the 1950s, the simple awareness of capitalism attached to impatient thought prevented proper awareness of the change from capitalism in the second half of the 20th century, this increased the subjective voluntarism in building socialism. Although socialist countries were conscious of the transitional period from capitalism to socialism beginning with the Russian October Revolution that made socialism the decisive factor for the development of human society, the socialist countries, and remnants of capitalism were not completely destroyed in the transitional period. Nevertheless, this conception could not fully explain when capitalism could recover or develop strongly.

According to that spirit, the Party specified in the Platform to build the country in the transitional period to socialism (supplemented and developed in 2011): “Currently, it is possible for capitalism to develop, but it is still an oppressing, exploiting, an unfair regime in essence. The natural basic conflicts of capitalism, especially the conflict between the increasing socialization of the productive forces and private ownership of capitalism are not only unsolved but also become deeper and deeper. Economic, political, and social crises keep on taking place. It is the movement of those internal conflicts and the struggle of working people that will decide the fate of capitalism”.

Secondly, Marxism is the basis to analyze the birth, development rules, and specific characteristics of socialism. Mentioning the essence of socialism, Marx and Engels wrote: “For us, communism is neither a status to be created nor an ideal to stereotype. We call communism a real movement, and it abolishes the current status. These conditions of such movement are borne by existing premises”(7). As a result, the premises for the birth of socialism appeared within capitalism, and the appearance of socialism is inevitable. V.I.Lenin commented: “Marx poses the issue of communism as if he were a naturalist”(8). “Nowadays, socialism is appearing in a direct manner, in practice, and in each important measure forming an advance on the basis of modern capitalism…”(9). The prospect of socialism is stipulated by real socialism, and its premises are prepared on many aspects of modern society by capitalism. With that meaning, Communism is the essential form and decisive principle of the near future”(10).

Thirdly, Marxism is still the basis for interpreting issues of the socialist model, roles of the state under the circumstance of globalization, ruling party, and the building of the socialist law-ruled state.

Apart from the major issues mentioned above, reality poses lots of new issues. Each issue should be based on the methodological basis of Marxism, so it is necessary to do comprehensive research and assert the sustainable values of Marxism today.

In fact, what Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels analyzed is not only true for their time but also accurately predicted what is happening in this era.

In his work “The Communist Manifesto”, we see Marx’s detailed and deep description of the factors of industrial revolution as well as his genius predictive ability about the forces promoting the development of the world up to now. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels mentioned the unstoppable flow of technology and capital in their work “The Communist Manifesto” influencing the world. It removes all barriers, boundaries, obstacles, and constraints for global commerce.

In his work, Flat World, Thomas L. Friedman admitted: “Indeed, reading the Communist Manifesto again now, I am amazed at the detailed and deep description of Karl Marx about the factors flattening the world in the prosperous period of Industrial Revolution as well as his superior prediction ability about the fact that these forces have flattened the world up to now”(11).

It is Karl Marx who first saw the possibility that the world could become a global market without being limited by national boundaries. Karl Marx strongly criticized capitalism, but he also saw its power in breaking the barriers and creating global production and consumption.

In the “Critique of the Political Economy”, the first draft of “Capital” written in the years 1857-1859, Marx stressed: “The development of fixed capital is the indicator showing the extent that common social knowledge turns into direct productive forces. Therefore, it is also the indicator showing the extents that the conditions of the living process comply with the control of common knowledge and that it is transformed to suit that process”(12).

After a century with a lot of changes, when common social knowledge turns into direct productive forces seen today(13), it makes positive changes to many aspects of economic, political, social, and world cultural life, creating a premise for the strong development of mankind.

The industrial revolution generated issues unknown to Karl Marx in his lifetime, so he could not offer theoretical insights. Mentioning this, V.I.Lenin wrote: “We do not expect that Marx or Marxists understand every aspect of the path to socialism. That would be absurd. We only know the direction of that path and the forces leading to that path. The experience of millions of people will tell what and how that path is in practice when they take action”(14). Marxism - Leninism consists of theoretical points which we have to find practical solutions for today because of the lack of precedent for them in history.

Thus, in the face of new practical issues today, communist parties, socialist countries, and genuine and creative Marxists are required to keep supplementing and developing Marxism - Leninism with a vision to solve the practical issues of revolution in any country in the world. We should not consider Marxism as something “complete” and “inviolable” but develop it to the point that it meets practical requirements. This initiative is truly in compliance with the dialectic spirit and scientific and revolutionary nature of Marxism n


l Endnotes:

(1) V.I.Lenin: Complete works, vol.23, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2005, p.50.

(2), (3) V.I.Lenin: Complete works, vol.23, Progressive Publishing House, Moscow 1980, p.53, 57-58.

(4) V.I.Lenin: op cit, vol.1, p.421.

(5) V.I.Lenin: Complete works, vol.1, Progressive Publishing House, Moscow, 1974, p.161.

(6) Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Complete works, vol.23, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 1993, p.21.

(7) Karl Marx and F. Engels: Complete works, vol.3, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 1995, p.51.

(8) V.I.Lenin: Complete works, vol.33, Progressive Publishing House, Moscow, 1977, p.103-104.

(9) V.I.Lenin: Complete works, vol.34, Progressive Publishing House, Moscow, 1977, p.258.

(10) Karl Marx and F.Engels: Complete works, vol.42, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2000, p.183.

(11) Thomas L.Friedman: Flat World, Youth Publishing House, Ho Chi Minh City, 2006, p.350.

(12), (13) Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Complete works, vol.46, part II, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2000, p.372-373, 372.

(14) V.I.Lenin: Complete works, vol.34, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2006, p.152-153.



Institute of Philosophy,

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

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