Uses British spelling

Glossary of Marxist Terms

Reflecting fuzzy Communist double-speak, this political ideology is fast seeping into the American consciousness - especially through the dialectic process (including service-learning).

The source of each item is the massive Encyclopedia of Marxism, unless a different source is given.

See Mandatory Training in Orwellian Thinking




Absolute and Relative: "Absolute and Relative are philosophical terms concerning the mutual interdependence of things, processes and knowledge.

       "Relative’ means partial or transient, dependent on circumstances or point-of-view.

       "For dialectics, the Absolute is only the whole movement through various relative stages of understanding, but the progress of knowledge never comes to an end, so the absolute is relative. However, even a relative truth may nevertheless contain some grain of the whole absolute truth, so there is an absolute within the relative."

Analysis and Synthesis: "Dialectics is a unity of both analysis and synthesis. Both analysis and synthesis take part, alternately, in every stage of the cognition of a thing.  ...arriving at a new understanding based on how the parts interact and merge with each other etc., and gaining a new conception of the parts."

Consensus Decision Making: "Consensus Decision Making is the informal meeting procedure most often used in social movements and action groups where the participants are not affected by irreconcilable divisions, and endeavor to make decisions which enjoy the support of everyone present.... The main concepts of Consensus Decision Making are (1) Group Genesis and (2) Roles. These concepts are dealt with in more detail under Group Dynamics.

Communism: "To each according to his needs, from each according to his ability." Karl Marx

"...The more democratic the 'state' which consists of the armed workers, and which is 'no longer a state in the proper sense of the word', the more rapidly every form of state begins to wither away.... Then the door will be thrown wide open for the transition from the first phase of communist society [Socialism] to its higher phase [Communism], and with it the complete withering away of the state." Vladimir Lenin, The State and Revolution. Chpt 5. The higher phase of Communist Society

    "Communism is the positive supersession of private property as human self-estrangement [alienation], and hence the true appropriation of the human essence through and for man. It is the complete restoration of man to himself as a social — i.e., human — being.... This communism, as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism.... it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature, and between man and man... between freedom and necessity.... It is the solution of the riddle of history and knows itself to be the solution." Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts

    "When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so called, is merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another." Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels, The Communist Manifesto

Communitarianism: "the social/political current which emphasises the strengthening and importance of community or neighborhood — a kind of property-owners’ collectivism.... Although communitarianism de-emphasises social class as a potentially divisive factor in building community, where it takes root in working-class neighbourhoods, communitarianism is an important ally of socialism.

Deism: "Deism means belief in God as a prime cause or creator of the world, after which God has no hand in its affairs. Like Pantheism, Deism is a form of belief in God which provides a basis for materialistic criticism of Religion. Deism is particularly associated with the philosophers of the Enlightenment who prepared the way for the French Revolution – Voltaire and Rousseau – and British philosophers such as Locke and Newton."

Dogmatism: "Dogmatism denies the relativity of knowledge and the connection of knowledge to historically changing practice and social relations. Dogmatism couples these denials with the practice of treating knowledge as something abstract, not to be touched by additional input or real world experience. Dogmatism is thinking which minimizes the validity of doubt (See Skepticism), asserting the possibility of certain and unalterable knowledge of the world."

Pantheism: "Pantheism is the philosophical outlook which identifies God with Nature, rather than seeing Nature as having been created or controlled by God. For Spinoza for example, Free Will was possible even in a world in which each and every event was an act of God because the human will was itself also an expression of God's Will. See also: Deism and Theism."

Practical Idea: "In Hegel’s system, the Practical Idea is the penultimate stage of development of the Idea. The Absolute Idea is the unity of the Theoretical Idea and the Practical Idea. In his characteristic “upside down” way, for Hegel, theory is the criterion of truth. In the Practical Idea, Cognition (knowledge) and Volition (will or intention) are synthesized; the subjective Notion is merged with Objectivity, Means is identical with Ends."

Practice & Theory: "Activity with a means and an end. Practice is active, rather than being a passive observation, and is directed at changing something. Practice differs from activity in general, because practice is connected with Theory, which gives its means and end. Practice is only enacted through theory and theory is formulated based on practice. ... theory and practice can only fully develop in connection with one another.... Practice is the criterion of truth...."

Pragmatism: "is a current of philosophy associated with...William James, John Dewey ... The central tenet of Pragmatism is that the meaning of a concept is given by its practical utility and nothing else. The school of Russian psychologists of Lev Vygotsky also owes much to Pragmatism, especially following the visit of John Dewey to Moscow in 1928. ...The central thesis of Pragmatism, which makes Practice the sole criterion of Theory, is indeed very close to Marxism...."

Praxis: "Is really just another word for practice in the sense in which practice is understood by Marxists, as an aspect of theory-and-practice, in which neither theory nor practice are intelligible in isolation from the other.... Lukács uses the term in 1923, and thereafter has been used commonly by Western Marxists. Marx had used this term once in his 3rd Manuscript of 1844 (not published until 1932) ."

Privatization and Nationalization: "Nationalisation is the transformation of private companies, assets and natural resources in private hands, into public property."

Nationalisation, Privatisation and Socialism: "During this whole period, “Nationalisation under workers’ control” was a slogan expressing the difference between bourgeois nationalisation... and socialist nationalisation. “Nationalisation” refers to the passing of ownership from the private sphere to the public sphere, but still leaves open the question “Who will control it?”

    "As a nationalised industry, the driving force is to provide the best services according to criteria set by the government, at the smallest possible cost to the public purse."

    "As a privatised industry, the driving force is to make the maximum possible profit. This in turn implies meeting customer demand on the largest possible scale. ... When industries are privatised, governments usually use regulation and reward-and-punishment methods of funding, to mitigate these negative social effects of privatisation."

Proletariat: "The proletariat is that class in society which lives entirely from the sale of its labour power and does not draw profit from any kind of capital; whose weal and woe, whose life and death, whose sole existence depends on the demand for labour."

Proletarian Democracy (Socialist Democracy): "Socialist democracy begins simultaneously with the beginnings of the destruction of class rule and of the construction of socialism. It begins at the very moment of the seizure of power by the socialist party. It is the same thing as the dictatorship of the proletariat.

     "Yes, dictatorship! But this dictatorship consists in the manner of applying democracy, not in its elimination, but in energetic, resolute attacks upon the well-entrenched rights and economic relationships of bourgeois society, without which a socialist transformation cannot be accomplished. But this dictatorship must be the work of the class and not of a little leading minority in the name of the class -- that is, it must proceed step by step out of the active participation of the masses; it must be under their direct influence, subjected to the control of complete public activity; it must arise out of the growing political training of the mass of the people... withering away of any state." 

Protest: "A protest is a political gesture which is aimed at pressuring or persuading the powers-that-be to change their policy, especially by means of moral pressure or the pressure of public opinion, rather than an act which is part of a program for overthrowing the powers-that-be or rallying forces which will force the powers-that-be to act as demanded."

Reflection: "For dialectics, Reflection refers specifically to the ‘recognition’ of quantities and qualities in terms of notions which have already been acquired through past experience and thought. Reflection refers especially to the relation between phenomena and their Essence."

Religion: "Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet found himself or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being encamped outside the world. Man is the world of man, the state, society. This state, this society, produce religion, an inverted world-consciousness, because they are an inverted world....

     "The struggle against religion is therefore indirectly a fight against the world of which religion is the spiritual aroma.... Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

    "To abolish religion as the illusory happiness of the people is to demand their real happiness. The demand to give up illusions about the existing state of affairs is the demand to give up a state of affairs which needs illusions." Karl Marx, Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Law

Socialism: "After the degeneration of the Russian Revolution after the mid-1920s, there has been a split in the revolutionary workers' movement and this has been reflected in a separate development of the theory and practice of communism. On the one hand, creative theoretical work within the workers' movement itself has been stunted by bureaucratism and sectarianism; on the other hand, academics, and others remote from workers' struggles, have further elaborated Marx's theoretical work as part of the social division of labour of bourgeois society. Consequently, there are developments of Marxist theory that have developed relatively independently of the struggle of the working class, and communist struggle which has failed to fruitfully develop Marxist theory. This separation of theory and practice, which is inimical to Marxism, needs to be overcome."

     "The worst thing that can befall a leader of an extreme party is to be compelled to take over a government in an epoch when the movement is not yet ripe for the domination of the class which he represents and for the realisation of the measures which that domination would imply. What he can do depends not upon his will but upon the sharpness of the clash of interests between the various classes [a crisis that can be manipulated], and upon the degree of development of the material means of existence, the relations of production and means of communication upon which the clash of interests of the classes is based every time." Frederick Engels The Peasant War in Germany

Theism: "Belief in god as a super-natural being who intervenes in and controls the affairs of the world."

Unity of Opposites: "seeing something as a unity of opposites is recognizing the dialectical content of that thing. Because everything has its opposite, to understand it one must not only understand its present form and its opposite form, but the unity of those two forms, the unity of opposites.

    The term has been used by Marxists such as Engels and Lenin to popularise the dialectical way of understanding things. For example, in his Summary of Dialectics, Lenin refers to the ‘unity, identity, struggle and transformation of opposites’.

Further Reading: Marx on Abstract vs. Concrete and Analysis vs. Synthesis ...Many of the concepts in this Encyclopedia are unities of opposites, such as Analysis & Synthesis, Absolute & Relative, Finite & Infinite, Form & Content, Means & Ends, Quality & Quantity, etc., etc.

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