Why I am a Marxist

Korsch, Karl

Year Published:  1935  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX8011

For the Marxist, there is no such thing as 'Marxism' in general any more than there is a 'democracy' in general, a 'dictatorship' in general or a 'state' in general. There is only a bourgeois state, a proletarian dictatorship or a fascist dictatorship, etc. And even these exist only at determinate stages of historical development, with corresponding historical characteristics, mainly economic, but conditioned also in part by geographical, traditional, and other factors. With the deferent levels of historical development, with the different environments of geographical distribution, with the well-known differences of creed and tendency among the various Marxist schools, there exist, both nationally and internationally, very different theoretical systems and practical movements which go by the name of Marxism.

I shall now enumerate what seems to me the most essential points of Marxism in a condensed form:

1. All the propositions of Marxism, including those that are apparently general, are specific.

2. Marxism is not positive but critical.

3. Its subject-matter is not existing capitalist society in its affirmative state, but declining capitalist society as revealed in the demonstrably operative tendencies of its breaking-up and decay.

4. Its primary purpose is not contemplative enjoyment of the existing world but its active transformation (praktische Umwaelzung).


Marxism is essentially critical, not positive. The Marxian theory constitutes neither a positive materialistic philosophy nor a positive science. From beginning to end, it is a theoretical as well as a practical critique of existing society. Of course the word 'critique' (Kritik) must be understood in the comprehensive and yet precise sense in which it was used in the pre-revolutionary forties of the last century by all left Hegelians, including Marx and Engels. It must not be confused with the connotation of the contemporary term 'criticism.' 'Critique' is to be understood not in a merely idealistic sense but as a materialistic critique. It includes from the point of view of the object an empirical investigation, "conducted with the precision of natural science," of all its relations and development, and from the point of view of the subject an account, of how the impotent wishes, intuitions and demands of individual subjects develop into an historically effective class power leading to 'revolutionary practice' (praxis).

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