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Orthodox Marxism | Wikipedia audio article

Orthodox Marxism | Wikipedia audio article


Orthodox Marxism is the body of Marxist thought
that emerged after the death of Karl Marx (1818–1883) and which became the official
philosophy of the socialist movement as represented in the Second International until the First
World War in 1914. Orthodox Marxism aims to simplify, codify and systematize Marxist method
and theory by clarifying the perceived ambiguities and contradictions of classical Marxism.
The philosophy of orthodox Marxism includes the understanding that material development
(advances in technology in the productive forces) is the primary agent of change in
the structure of society and of human social relations and that social systems and their
relations (e.g. feudalism, capitalism and so on) become contradictory and inefficient
as the productive forces develop, which results in some form of social revolution arising
in response to the mounting contradictions. This revolutionary change is the vehicle for
fundamental society-wide changes and ultimately leads to the emergence of new economic systems.In
the term orthodox Marxism, the word “orthodox” refers to the methods of historical materialism
and of dialectical materialism—and not the normative aspects inherent to classical Marxism,
without implying dogmatic adherence to the results of Marx’s investigations.==Description==
The emergence of orthodox Marxism is associated with the latter works of Friedrich Engels,
such as the Dialectics of Nature and Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, which were efforts
to popularise the work of Karl Marx, render it systematic and apply it to the fundamental
questions of philosophy. Daniel De Leon, an early American socialist leader, contributed
much to the thought during the final years of the 19th century and the early 20th century.
Orthodox Marxism was further developed during the Second International by thinkers such
as Georgi Plekhanov and Karl Kautsky. Kautsky and to a lesser extent Plekhanov were in turn
major influences on Vladimir Lenin, whose version of Marxism was known as Leninism by
its contemporaries. The official thought of the Third International was based in orthodox
Marxism combined with Leninist views on revolutionary organization. The terms dialectical materialism
and historical materialism are associated with this phase of orthodox Marxism. Rosa
Luxemburg, Hal Draper and Rudolf Hilferding are prominent thinkers in the orthodox Marxist
tradition.Orthodox Marxism is contrasted with later variations of Marxism, notably revisionism
and Leninism. In contrast to Lenin’s Bolshevik idea of revolution, orthodox Marxists said
that Imperial Russia was too backwards for the development of socialism and would first
have undergo a capitalist (bourgeois) phase of development.The characteristics of orthodox
Marxism are: A strong version of the theory that the economic
base (material conditions) determines the cultural and political superstructure of society.
In its most extensive form, this view is called economic determinism, economism and vulgar
materialism. A related variation is that of technological determinism.
The view that capitalism cannot be reformed through policy and that any attempt to do
so would only exacerbate its contradictions or distort the efficiency of the market economy
(in contrast to reformism). Orthodox Marxism holds that the only viable and lasting solution
to the contradictions of capitalism is for the establishment of a post-capitalist socialist
economy. The centrality of class as a process and the
view that existing policymakers and government is largely and structurally beholden to the
interests of the ruling class. This view is called instrumental Marxism.
The claim that Marxist methodology is a science. The attempt to make Marxism a total system,
adapting it to changes within the realm of current events and knowledge.
An understanding of ideology in terms of false consciousness.
That every open class struggle is a political struggle.
A pre-crisis emphasis on organizing an independent, mass workers’ movement (in the form of welfare,
recreational, educational and cultural organizations) and especially its political party, combining
reform struggles and mass strikes without overreliance on either.
The socialist revolution is necessarily the act of the majority (contrasted with Marxism–Leninism’s
view of the vanguard party and democratic centralism).
Orthodox Marxism is contrasted with revisionist Marxism as developed in post-First World War
Social Democratic parties. Some writers also contrast it with Marxism–Leninism as it
developed in the Soviet Union, while others describe the latter as firmly within orthodoxy:
Orthodox Marxism rested on and grew out of the European working class movement that emerged
in the final quarter of the 19th century and continued in that form until the middle years
of the twentieth century. Its two institutional expressions were the 2nd and 3rd Internationals,
which despite the great schism in 1919, were marked by a shared conception of capital and
labour. Their fortunes therefore rose and fell together. Trotskyism and Left communism
were equally orthodox in their thinking and approach, and therefore must be considered
left-variants of this tradition.Two variants of orthodox Marxism are impossibilism and
anti-revisionism. Impossibilism is a form of orthodox Marxism that both rejects the
reformism of revisionist Marxism and opposes the Leninist theories of imperialism, vanguardism
and democratic centralism (which argue that socialism can be constructed in underdeveloped,
quasi-feudal countries through revolutionary action as opposed to being an emergent result
of advances in material development). An extreme form of this position is held by the Socialist
Party of Great Britain. In contrast, the anti-revisionist tradition criticised official Communist parties
from the opposite perspective as having abandoned the orthodox Marxism of the founding fathers.==Variants==
A number of theoretical perspectives and political movements emerged that were firmly rooted
in orthodox Marxist analysis, as contrasted with later interpretations and alternative
developments in Marxist theory and practice such as Marxism–Leninism, revisionism and
reformism.===Impossibilism===Impossibilism stresses the limited value of
economic, social, cultural and political reforms under capitalism and posits that socialists
and Marxists should solely focus on efforts to propagate and establish socialism, disregarding
any other cause that has no connection to the goal of the realization of socialism.
Impossibilism posits that reforms to capitalism are counterproductive because they strengthen
support for capitalism by the working class by making its conditions more tolerable while
creating further contradictions of their own, while removing the socialist character of
the parties championing and implementing said reforms. Because reforms cannot solve the
systemic contradictions of capitalism, impossibilism opposes reformism, revisionism and ethical
socialism. Impossibilism also opposes the idea of a vanguard-led
revolution and the centralization of political power in any elite group of people as espoused
by Leninism and Marxism–Leninism . This perspective is maintained by the World
Socialist Movement, De Leonism, and to some extent followers of Karl Kautsky and pre-reformist
social democracy.===Luxemburgism===
Luxemburgism is an informal designation for a current of Marxist thought and practice
that originates from the ideas and work of Rosa Luxemburg. In particular, it stresses
the importance for spontaneous revolution which can only emerge in response to mounting
contradictions between the productive forces and social relations of society and therefore
rejects Leninism and Bolshevism for its insistence on a “hands-on” approach to revolution. Luxemburgism
is also highly critical of the reformist Marxism that emerged from the work of Eduard Bernstein’s
faction of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. According to Rosa Luxemburg, under
reformism “[capitalism] is not overthrown, but is on the contrary strengthened by the
development of social reforms”.===Menshevism===
Menshevism refers to the political positions taken by the Menshevik faction of the Russian
Social Democratic Labour Party prior to the October Revolution of 1917. The Mensheviks
believed that socialism could not be realized in Russia due to its backwards economic conditions
and that Russia would first have to experience a bourgeois revolution and go through a capitalist
stage of development before socialism became technically possible and before the working
class could develop the class consciousness for a socialist revolution. The Mensheviks
were thus opposed to the Bolshevik idea of a vanguard party and their pursuit of socialist
revolution in semi-feudal Russia.===Karl Kautsky and “Kautskyism”===
Karl Kautsky is recognized as one of the most authoritative promulgators of orthodox Marxism
following the death of Friedrich Engels in 1895. As an advisor to August Bebel, leader
of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) until Bebel’s death in 1913 and as editor
of Die Neue Zeit from 1883 till 1917, he was known as the “Pope of Marxism”. He was removed
as editor by the leadership of the SPD when the Independent Social Democratic Party of
Germany (USPD) split away from the SPD. Kautsky was an outspoken critic of Bolshevism and
Leninism, seeing the Bolsheviks (or Communists as they had renamed themselves after 1917)
as an organization that had gained power by a coup and initiated revolutionary changes
for which there was no economic rationale in Russia. Kautsky was also opposed to Eduard
Bernstein’s reformist politics in the period 1896–1901.===Instrumental Marxism===
Instrumental Marxism is a theory derived from classical Marxism which reasons that policy
makers in government and positions of power tend to “share a common business or class
background, and that their decisions will reflect their business or class interests”.==Criticism==
There have been a number of criticisms of orthodox Marxism from within the socialist
movement. From the 1890s during the Second International, Eduard Bernstein and others
developed a position known as revisionism, which sought to revise Marx’s views based
on the idea that the progressive development of capitalism and the extension of democracy
meant that gradual, parliamentary reform could achieve socialism. This view was contested
by orthodox Marxists such as Kautsky as well as by the young Georg Lukacs, who in 1919
clarified the definition of orthodox Marxism as thus: [O]rthodoxy refers exclusively to
method. It is the scientific conviction that dialectical materialism is the road to truth
and that its methods can be developed, expanded and deepened only along the lines laid down
by its founders. It is the conviction, moreover, that all attempts to surpass or ‘improve’
it have led and must lead to over-simplification, triviality and eclecticism.
Western Marxism, the intellectual Marxism which developed in Western Europe from the
1920s onwards, sought to make Marxism more “sophisticated”, open and flexible by examining
issues like culture that were outside the field of orthodox Marxism. Western Marxists,
such as Georg Lukács, Karl Korsch, Antonio Gramsci and the Frankfurt School, have tended
to be open to influences orthodox Marxists consider bourgeois, such as psychoanalysis
and the sociology of Max Weber. Marco Torres illustrates the shift away from orthodox Marxism
in the Frankfurt School: In the early 1920s, the original members of the Frankfurt Institute—half
forgotten names such as Carl Grünberg, Henryk Grossman and Karl August Wittfogel, were social
scientists of an orthodox Marxist conviction. They understood their task as an advancement
of the sciences that would prove useful in solving the problems of a Europe-wide transition
into socialism, which they saw, if not as inevitable, at least as highly likely. But
as fascism reared its head in Germany and throughout Europe, the younger members of
the Institute saw the necessity for a different kind of Marxist Scholarship. Beyond accumulating
knowledge relevant to an orthodox Marxist line, they felt the need to take the more
critical and negative approach that is required for the maintenance of an integral and penetrating
understanding of society during a moment of reaction. This could be described as the politically
necessary transition from Marxist positive science to Critical Theory.
In parallel to this, Cedric Robinson has identified a Black Marxist tradition, including people
like C.L.R. James and W. E. B. Du Bois, who have opened Marxism to the study of race.
In the postwar period, the New Left and new social movements gave rise to intellectual
and political currents which again challenged orthodox Marxism. These include Italian autonomism,
French Situationism, the Yugoslavian Praxis School, British cultural studies, Marxist
feminism, Marxist humanism, analytical Marxism and critical realism.==See also==
Classical Marxism Impossibilism
Instrumental Marxism Luxemburgism
Materialist conception of history Marxian economics
Marxism–Leninism Marxist revisionism
Menshevik Scientific socialism
Technological determinism==References====External links==
Lukács What is Orthodox Marxism (1919)

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