The Distinction between Marxism, Socialism and CommunismJune 28, 2021
Marxism and the ideologies of socialism and communism that emerged from it take their foundations from the philosophical views of Karl Marx (1818-1883) and his close friend Friedrich Engels (1820-1895). Therefore, in order to get acquainted with Marxism, socialism and communism, it is helpful to first get acquainted with the philosophical views of Marx and Engels, especially their progressive understanding of history.
Although Marx preserves Hegel’s dialectical systematic as a form, he radically changes the content of this system and reveals his own philosophy of history.
While Marx and Engels were developing their philosophies of history, their predecessors G. W.F. Although they were influenced by Hegel (1770-1831), their content reveals a completely different doctrine. According to Marx and Engels, Hegel’s philosophy of history is a philosophy in which the relations in the mind of the philosopher replace the relations to be determined by going to the facts (Özlem 2004, p. 154). But the real work to be done is to fill Hegel’s system on the basis of real relations. This requires establishing the relationship between being, society and consciousness in the opposite direction of what Hegel established, that is, instead of consciousness being the determinant of existence and society, the idea that being and society determine consciousness (Marx 1993, p. 29).
The basic principles and assumptions that Marx and Engels rely on while creating a materialist, progressive and determinist understanding of history and society can be listed as follows:
• Socio-economic structures of historical societies, that is, the network of material relations determine.
• The two most basic elements of the material relations network are the productive forces – that is, machines, technological infrastructure, human skills, etc. and relations of production—that is, the social relations between producers and consumers.
• Class societies do not end unless private property is abolished, in other words, classes are economically based and arise due to the unjust distribution of private property.
• The stages in history where class conflicts caused the social structure to change with the revolution are decisive.
• With the revolution of the proletariat (that is, the working class whose livelihood is labor), classes will disappear and real freedom will come, which will be the beginning of real human history (Marx-Engels 1999, p. 111).
Against idealists, who argue that consciousness or the mind is the only real entity, materialists argue that the material world and economic-social conditions exist independently of individual consciousness and that these conditions determine the consciousness of individual individuals. Marx and Engels are among these materialists.
The main source of Marxist ideology and those who aim to establish a state according to the principles stipulated by this ideology is the Communist Manifesto of 1848, which was written together by Marx and Engels.
This materialist understanding represented by Marx and Engels also appears as an ideology critique in works such as The German Ideology and Theses on Feuerbach, and Marx and Engels’ concept of ideology is similar to the period of Napoléon Bonaparte as “false consciousness”, “talk about things that do not really exist”. It is possible to see that they interpret it as “the tendency to do so” and that they approach ideology critically (Mc Lellan 2005, p. 25).
One of the most well-known words of Marx and Engels is “Workers of the world, unite”, as they uttered in the Communist Manifesto.
As an ideology, we can say that the main aim of Marxism is to reach a classless society, that is, to move to the communist stage. In socialism, Marxist ideology, it is seen as a transitional stage in the historical process advancing towards communism, where classes have not completely disappeared yet, but where there is abundance compared to capitalism (Yazıcı 2008, p. 178). As it is known, the transition to the communist stage will only be possible with a revolution, and since the historical process has evolved towards a classless society, sooner or later the realization of the proletarian revolution is not a dream or a wish, but a kind of necessity. What makes the materialist philosophy of history of Marx and Engels deterministic at the same time is the necessity they attribute to the coming of the working class revolution and communism.
However, it is not correct to argue that socialism, which is considered as a transitional stage to communism on the axis of Marxism, is an ideology that finds its basis only in the philosophy of Marx and Engels. Although there are many elements evoking socialism in Plato’s Republic and Thomas More’s Utopia, the word “socialism” was first used as a word in the works of critical thinkers such as Robert Owen, Saint-Simon and Proudhon (ibid., p. 179). According to these thinkers’ understanding of socialism, private property should be abolished, the income generated by the society should be redistributed fairly, and the means of production should be completely transferred to the state (ibid.). In socialism, the state is the owner of the means of production and the planner of production and investment in the economy. In addition, there are views in socialism that partially overlap with capitalism, such as the democratic election of those who will manage the economy, taking authority from the people; already social