Glossary of Marxist terms

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This on line pamphlet produced by SP is a glossary of key people, terms and ideas. It is collated from various sources including our own. It is also available from our book shop for $2.


The act of rousing workers to political action around some immediate particular social injustice.


A petty bourgeois individualist ideology denying any importance to organisation or discipline. Anarchists are followers of Bakunin, Kropotkin and others. As well as being opposed to the State power held by the exploiting classes, the Anarchists reject the principle that the workers must control the State, even though the workers? State itself will end with the advent of communism.Anarcho-syndicalism

The manifestation of anarchism in the trade-union field, which adds to opposition to parliamentary action and political parties the conception that independent trade unions are sufficient to carry through the emancipation of the working class from capitalism. Anarchosyndicalists envision a new social order managed by the trade or industrial unions.


The word Bolshevik means ‘majority’ in Russian. Originally part of the Russian Social Democratic Party (RSDP), the Bolshevik Party emerged as a separate party in 1912. They believed that the working class should unite with the poor peasants, taking the lead in a struggle against all class society, to overthrow czarism, build a socialist state and spread the revolution internation


A transitional form of government between the regimes of parliamentary democracy and fascism, based on dictatorship and military force during a period when class rule is not secure. A strong government which appears to stand ‘above parties’ and ‘above classes’ due to relative equilibrium between the working class and the bourgeoisie. It is based on the military, police, and state bureaucracy rather than on parliamentary parties or a mass movement. So called after Napoleon Bonaparte, the classic example of Bourgeois Bonapartism. Stalin’s totalitarian regime and others like it are classified as Proletarian Bonapartism.


The class of modern capitalists, owners of the means of social production and employers of wage labor.


The word literally means a frame or framework. Cadres are the members on whom the party can mainly depend to carry forward its policy; they are a living framework which must be constantly renewed and strengthened.


Economic capital is any liquid medium or mechanism that represents wealth. Under Capitalism, capital is owned by the capitalist class.


Is the competitive economic system (that we currently live under) in which all or most of the means of production are privately owned (concentrated in the hands of a few individuals) and operated for profit. Under Capitalism investments, production, distribution, income, and prices are determined by the quest for profit rather than by the needs or desires of the majority of the people or by the real value of the commodity. Intrinsic to the nature of Capitalism is the creation of wealth for the capitalist class by exploiting both the working class and the natural environment. Capitalism cannot exist without this exploitation. The alternative economic system is a planned economy.

Capitalist class

The capitalist class (also known as the bourgeoisie or ruling class) comprises people who own and trade in means of production and who hire workers to work for them, using those means of production. Under Capitalism, the ruling class own the land, factories, machinery and everything else that is needed to produce wealth. They obtain a profit from the work of their employees because the value of goods/services produced is greater than the cost of wages and materials. Therefore, the capitalist class obtain surplus value from the work of their employees.
Capitalists make up a small minority of the world?s population. They are a parasitic class, consuming most of the wealth of society, but contributing nothing to producing that wealth.


Contempt for and hatred of other peoples, race and nations. Its basis is imperialist conquest and oppression. Chauvinism reaches its worst degree under Fascism

Class society

Marx used this term to describe societies in which there is a fundamental economic (and hence social) division between the ruling and labouring groups. Under slavery, this division corresponds to that between the slave-owners and the slaves. Under feudalism, it corresponds to that between lords and serfs. Under capitalism, the capitalists exploit the working class. Class society unavoidably results in the constant struggle of one class against another.

Class struggle

This is the ongoing conflict that occurs in class society as each class pursues their opposing class interests. Under capitalism, the interests of the ruling class (the pursuit of profit) are directly opposed to the interests of the working class (being paid for the real value of their work). Class struggle does not stem from moral or theoretical conflicts but from the real economic conditions that define each class.


The society which develops from Socialism. Lenin described it as follows: ?Socialism is the society which grows directly out of capitalism, that is the first form of new society. Communism, on the other hand, is a higher form of society which can develop only when socialism has taken a firm hold.?
Socialism is the transition stage, after capitalism is overthrown, where people still work for a wage but the profits generated are distributed collectively not by a tiny elite of capitalists. As society begins to wear down divisions between rich and poor and scarcity is wiped out, ?communism? or a classless society develops where, as Marx put it, ?from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs!?

Dialectical materialism (see Dialectics and Materialism)

Dialectical materialism is the philosophical basis of Marxism). As the name signals, it is an outgrowth of both Hegel’s dialectics and Ludwig Feuerbach’s and Karl Marx’s philosophical materialism, and is most directly traced to Marx’s fellow thinker, Friedrich Engels. It uses the concepts of thesis, antithesis and synthesis to explain the growth and development of human history.


This can be defined as the ?science of change?. From the Greek words for dispute and debate, it is a way of analysing the constant change in the forces and processes that make up everything we know including nature, society, thought and the economy. It recognises not only that everything is always changing, but that contradictions exist in the processes of development. It also acknowledges that change is inconsistent, and occurs at different speeds depending on conditions. This can be contrasted with idealist theories that promote a static, absolute (black and white/good and evil) approach to understanding the world. Marxism linked dialectics to materialism, showing that the ongoing, contradictory process of development is governed by concrete factors like environmental or economic conditions.


Rule by force of one class over another, or over other classes. In the capitalist democracies we have the concealed dictatorship of the bourgeoisie; in the fascist countries of the 20th century, the open terrorist dictatorship of the big capitalists.

Dual Power

Occurs in the course of a revolutionary or pre-revolutionary situation when there arises, alongside the ruling class state institutions, a parallel “government” regarded by the insurgent masses as the real government, while the government of the ruling class loses its authority in their eyes. Such a situation is unstable and short-lived, and is either resolved by the recovery of the ruling class and the crushing of the insurrection, or by the victorious seizure of power by the workers.


A Russian variant of anarcho-syndicalism. It held that the economic struggle of the workers was sufficient to develop a mass movement, political consciousness, and an active leadership. Lenin devoted much of his pamphlet What is to be Done? to attacking Economism as a dangerous tendency that glorified the backwardness of the working class, evaded political issues, and downplayed the revolutionary party.


A teaching on the theory of knowledge which holds that sensory experience is the only source of knowledge and affirms that all knowledge is founded on experience and is obtained through experience. The opposite to rationalism. The main failing of this is a tendency to reject reason as a means of deduction in favour of a metaphysical exaggeration of the role of experience alone.

Engels, Frederick

Lifelong friend and collaborator of Karl Marx . Principal works: The Condition of the Working Classes in England, The Manifesto of The Communist Party (with Karl Marx), The German Ideology (with Karl Marx) Anti-Dühring, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and The State.


Fascism is a far-right movement of the middle classes (shopkeepers, professionals, civil servants) who are economically ruined by severe economic crisis and driven to “frenzy.” In the words of Leon Trotsky, fascism brings “to their feet those classes that are immediately above the working class and that are ever in dread of being forced down into its ranks; it organizes and militarizes them…and it directs them to the extirpation of proletarian organizations, from the most revolutionary to the most conservative.”

Fascism unites the middle classes on the basis of the “nation” and race, under the leadership of some iron-fisted leader who will solve the crisis and restore “national greatness.” But while fascism appeals to the middle class on the basis of a kind of “fool?s socialism”–anti-Semitic criticism of the role of big business, for example–fascist movements do not bring the middle class to power.

As Leon Trotsky wrote: “German fascism… raised itself to power on the backs of the petty bourgeoisie, which it turned into a battering ram against the organizations of the working class and the institutions of democracy. But fascism in power is least of all the rule of the petty bourgeoisie. On the contrary, it is the most ruthless dictatorship of monopoly capital.”


The economic system in existence prior to the development of capitalism in Europe. Feudal society is the type of civilisation, generally associated with predominantly small-scale agricultural production, based on traditional patterns of land-ownership and territory, in which the rights and duties of every member of society is defined by traditional inheritance and kinship relations. Feudal society differs from tribal society in being a class society, in which quite different and unequal rights and duties are enjoyed by different families, according to land rights, wealth and social status inherited from previous generations.

Feudal society differs from slave society in that every class in feudal society has rights and is regarded as human, however lowly, whereas slaves have no rights at all and are treated as property rather than people.

Historical materialism

Historical Materialism is the application of Marxist science to historical development. The fundamental proposition of historical materialism can be summed up in a sentence: “”it is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence that determines their consciousness.” (Marx, in the Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.)


In philosophy, the opposite of materialism


The highest, the last stage of capitalism. Brief definition by Lenin:

* Concentration of production into monopolies

* Merging of bank capital with industrial capital

* Export of capital from imperialist countries

* International monopoly combines of capitalists are formed to divide up the world

* Territorial division of the world by the greatest capitalist powers


Educated middle class people in capitalist society, such as doctors, artists etc who are based economically on the capitalist class. In Marxist literature the term refers more particularly to non-workers who adopt the workers standpoint in the class struggle. Intellectuals do not form a class, because in social origin they come from all classes and sub-classes; ideologically they have greater links with the capitalists than with the working class. The vacillate between the workers and capitalists.

Internationals (1st, 2nd, 3rd)

First International

The Communist League was the first international communist organization of the proletariat founded under the guidance of Marx and Engels in London early in June 1847.

The aims of The Communist League were the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the abolition of the old bourgeois society based on class antagonisms, and the establishment of a new society in which there would be neither classes nor private property.
Marx and Engels helped to work out the programmatic and organizational principles of the League; they wrote its programme — the Manifesto of the Communist Party, published in February 1848.

The Communist League played a great historical role as a school of proletarian revolutionaries, as the embryo of the proletarian party, and was the predecessor of the International Working Men’s Association (The First International). It existed until November 1852, its prominent members later playing a leading role in the First International. The First International Workingmen’s Association was the first international tendency that grouped together all the worlds workers parties in one unified international party.

The First International was the first international organization of the proletariat, founded by Karl Marx in 1864 at an international workers’ meeting convened in London by English and French workers. The foundation of the First International was the result of many years of persistent struggle waged by Marx and Engels to establish a revolutionary party of the working class. Lenin said that the First International “laid the foundation of an international organization of the workers for the preparation of their revolutionary onslaught on capital,” “laid the foundation for the proletarian, international struggle for socialism” (V. I. Lenin, The Third International and Its Place in History. See present edition, Vol. 29).

The First International directed the economic and political struggle of the workers of different countries, and strengthened their international solidarity. A tremendous part was played by the First International in disseminating Marxism, in linking-up socialism with the working-class movement.
When the Paris Commune was defeated the working class was faced with the problem of creating, in the different countries, mass parties based on the principles advanced by the First International. “As I view European conditions,” wrote Marx in 1873, “it is quite useful to let the formal organization of the International recede into the background for the time being” (Marx to F. A. Sorge. September 27, 1873). In 1876 the First International was officially disbanded at a conference in Philadelphia.

Second International

Also known as the Socialist International, was set up in Paris in 1889 following the collapse of the First International – the International Workingmen’s Association – in 1876. It came to include parties that claimed to he ‘Marxist’, such as the SPD, and others such as the British Labour Party. In collapsed in August 1914 when its main leaders and parties supported the imperialist war in their respective countries.

Third International (The Communist International / Comintern)

The First World War put to the test the statements of the Second International about the international solidarity of the working class and their anti-war resolutions. Virtually every section – the most notable exception being the Russian – turned to support their own ruling class in the war effort. This split the International in nearly every country; the Russian Revolution gave impetus to the creation of a new International based on those groups who had stood out against the tide of chauvinism. Organized under Lenin’s leadership as the revolutionary successor to the Second International the Third (Communist) International was set up in 1919.

In Lenin’s time its world congresses were held once a year-the First in 1919, the Second in 1920, the Third in 1921, the Fourth in 1922-despite the civil war and the insecurity of the Soviet Union. Trotsky regarded the theses of the Comintern’s first four congresses as the programmatic cornerstone of the Left Opposition and the Fourth International. The Fifth Congress, where Stalin’s machine was in control, was held in 1924, the Sixth not until 1928, and the Seventh not until 1935. Trotsky called the Seventh the “liquidation congress” of the Comintern (see Writings 1935-1936). At first the leading body of world socialism, it degenerated under Stalin, becoming a tool of the Russian bureaucracy, and the Seventh Congress was in fact the last before Stalin announced its dissolution in 1943 as a gesture to his imperialist allies.

Labour theory of value

This is an economic theory (expanded by Marx) that equates the “value” of an exchangeable good or service (i.e. a commodity) with the amount of labour required to produce it. This is distinct from ?free market? theory in which value is determined by supply and demand.

The Left Opposition (Bolshevik- Leninists)
Formed in 1923 as a faction of the Russian Communist Party, and the International Left Opposition (ILO) was formed in 1930 as a faction of the Comintern. A group of ILO leaders met with Trotsky when he was in Copenhagen in November 1932, and an international preconference of the ILO was held in Paris in February 1933. When the ILO decided to work for the creation of a new International in 1933, it also changed its name to the International Communist League. Trotsky proposed that the Fourth International be founded at an ICL conference held in Geneva in 1936, but the conference disagreed and instead established the Movement for the Fourth International. The founding conference of the Fourth International was held in Paris in September 1938. It held one more conference during Trotsky’s lifetime – an emergency conference in the Western Hemisphere in May 1940, which adopted a manifesto on World War II written by Trotsky.

Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich – (1870-1924)

Restored Marxism as the theory and practice of revolution in the imperialist epoch after it had been debased by the opportunists, revisionists, and fatalists of the Second International. He initiated the tendency that became known as Bolshevism, which was the first to point the way on how to build the kind of party needed to lead a working-class revolution. He was the first Marxist to fully understand and explain the central importance of the colonial and national struggles. He led the first victorious workers’ revolution in 1917, and served as the first head of state of the Soviet government. He founded the Communist International and helped to elaborate its principles, strategy, and tactics. He prepared a fight against the bureaucratization of the Russian Communist Party and the Soviet state, but died before he could carry it out.


Roughly translatable as “slum proletariat,” covers the outcast, degenerated, and submerged elements such as beggars, prostitutes, gangsters, petty criminals, the chronically unemployed, the old and broken, to be found in all modem industrial cities. The ranks of these poor non-producers are swelled by the addition of the unemployed in times of social crisis. Reactionary and fascist demagogues have found some of their mass base in the lumpenproletariat – whose atomized condition militates against their adopting class-conscious, proletarian attitudes.

Luxemburg, Rosa – 1871-1919

Joined movement in Poland in 1887; exiled in 1889; leader of SDKP (Polish Social Democrats); joined SDP in Germany 1898; on Second International bureau from 1903; leader of left wing against revisionist right and, after 1910, against Kautskyist group; leading revolutionary opponent of war; founder of Spartacus group. In prison for most of the war, she became the chief writer for Die Rote Fahne November 1918-January 1919. Founder and leader of the KPD; she opposed the call for the January rising, although this was not reflected in her articles. Her arrest was ordered by the Social Democratic government for her participation in the uprising, and she was brutally murdered by the SDP-instigated Freikorps at the same time as Liebknecht.

Marx, Karl

Karl Marx (1818 ?1883) was an influential German philosopher, political economist, and revolutionary organizer of the International Workingmen’s Association. Although Marx addressed a wide range of issues, he is most famous for his analysis of history in terms of class struggle, summed up in the famous line from the introduction to the Communist Manifesto: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle”.


Marxism is the system of analysis that was developed by Karl Marx. Marx bought together and developed the three main ideological currents of the 19th century: classical German philosophy, classical English political economy, and French socialism combined with French revolutionary doctrines in general. In doing this he developed dialectical materialism, a scientific approach to understanding the way that material conditions influence the constantly changing factors that make up the world. Acknowledged even by its opponents, application of the Marxist method provides the basis for understanding the development of society, the world?s problems and how they can be solved. Marxism has provided key guidelines for analysing and building the working class movement worldwide. (see DIALECTICS and MATERIALISM)


This is a method of analysis that accounts for the developments and changes in human history according to economic, technological, and more broadly, material development. It is a scientific approach to analysis of the world that identifies the link between human behaviour and our real concrete environmental conditions. It can be contrasted with idealistic theories of history which say historical and social change is caused by things like philosophy, art, God, or other theoretical ideas. Marxism linked materialism to dialectics, showing that the ongoing, contradictory process of development is governed by concrete factors like environmental or economic conditions.

Means of production

Refers to physical, non-human, inputs used in production. That is, everything that is needed to produce something except human labour. This includes factories, machines, tools, raw materials, infrastructure and natural resources. Means of production are a part of the productive forces. Under Capitalism the means of production is owned by the ruling class.


The word menshevik means ‘minority’. Originally part of the Russian Social Democratic Party, split from the Bolsheviks (majority) in 1903, forming two wings of the RSDP, until the Bolsheviks formed a separate party in 1912. They were a moderate socialist party claiming allegiance to Karl Marx, but believed that the working class must collaborate with the liberal bourgeoisie to over throw czarism and estalish a bourgeois democratic republic.


There are two definitions of this word: the one used by Marx and Engels, and the other more traditional conception. In Marxist terminology, metaphysics is a method which holds that things are final and immutable, independent of one another and denies that inherent contradictions are the source of the development of nature and society but rather that nature is at rest, unchanging and static. All things can be investigated as separate from each other. Nowadays, the word reductionism would often be used instead.

The more traditional philosophical definition derives from Aristotle who used the word metaphysics to describe the branch of philosophy dealing with universal concepts as opposed to the observation of nature (in Greek, “meta ta physika” means “that which comes after physics”). Later on it became a synonym for abstract idealist speculation.

Middle Class or Petty or Petit Bourgeoisie

Small proprietors, peasants, artisans, and tradesmen – people broadly speaking who employ labor but also labor themselves.


The ideology developed by the rising bourgeoisie during their revolutions against feudalism in order to mobilise support for their campaign for the creation of strong nation states.

The development of the nation state has been a product of capitalism and has helped take society forward in the past. But modern productive techniques have far outstripped the limitations of national boundaries. Even the regional markets which the capitalists are attempting to create in their various spheres of influence are not large enough to satisfy the productive appetites of the huge modern corporations. The financial markets have become globalised. The nation state is an outmoded anachronism from the point of view of production, of finance, and of a harmonious development which can protect the climate, environment and eco-system of the world.

It is not for sentimental but for entirely practical reasons that we are for a world plan of production to replace the anarchy of capitalism; that is of production based on private property and the nation state. Socialists are internationalists not nationalists.
Bourgeois nationalism sets out to disguise this fact stressing that we are all Australian, English, German, etc, whether we live in a public housing estate or a mansion. To this national solidarity of oppressor and oppressed, marxism counterposes the international solidarity of all the oppressed against all oppression.
For the most advanced sections of the working class such a straightforward appeal to class solidarity and internationalism may be enough. But where a national issue has arisen perhaps in the form of opposition to national oppression, for the majority of people, workers included, it will be necessary to go beyond this.

There will be a need to show that socialists stand opposed to all national oppression and are the firmest advocates of the rights of nationalities and indeed of all minorities within a state.

Hence the need for a programme of democratic demands; against oppression, against the suppression of language, literature and other aspects of the culture of a nation, and including the right to self-determination ie the right of a national minority within a state to secede from that state and establish itself as an independent nation.

While nationalism itself is ultimately divisive it has two quite distinct aspects which cannot be lumped together. The nationalism of a fascist demanding a new Reich is not the same as the nationalism of a Palestinian in a refugee camp striving for a homeland for his or her people


Neo-liberalism is a set of economic policies that have become widespread during the last 25 years or so.

“Neo” means we are talking about a new kind of liberalism. The old kind was the liberal school of economics which became famous in Europe when Adam Smith, an English economist, published a book in 1776 called The Wealth of Nations. He and others advocated the abolition of government intervention in economic matters. No restrictions on manufacturing, no barriers to commerce, no tariffs, he said; free trade was the best way for a nation’s economy to develop. Such ideas were “liberal” in the sense of no controls. This application of individualism encouraged “free” enterprise,” “free” competition — which came to mean, free for the capitalists to make huge profits as they wished.

Economic liberalism prevailed in the United States through the 1800s and early 1900s. Then the Great Depression of the 1930s led the economist John Maynard Keynes to a theory that challenged liberalism as the best policy for capitalists. He said, in essence, that full employment is necessary for capitalism to grow and it can be achieved only if governments and central banks intervene to increase employment.

But the capitalist crisis over the last 25 years, with its shrinking profit rates, inspired the corporate elite to revive economic liberalism. That’s what makes it “neo” or new. Now, with the rapid globalization of the capitalist economy, we are seeing neo-liberalism on a global scale.

The main points of neo-liberalism include:

THE RULE OF THE MARKET. Liberating “free” enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no matter how much social damage this causes. Greater openness to international trade and investment. Reduce wages by de-unionising workers and eliminating workers’ rights that had been won over many years of struggle. No more price controls. All in all, total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services. To convince us this is good for us, they say “an unregulated market is the best way to increase economic growth, which will ultimately benefit everyone.” It’s like Reagan’s “supply-side” and “trickle-down” economics — but somehow the wealth didn’t trickle down very much.

REDUCING THE SAFETY-NET FOR THE POOR, and even maintenance of roads, bridges, water supply — again in the name of reducing government’s role. Of course, they don’t oppose government subsidies and tax benefits for business.

DEREGULATION. Reduce government regulation of everything that could diminish profits, including protecting the environment and safety on the job.

PRIVATISATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatization has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.

ELIMINATING THE CONCEPT OF “THE PUBLIC GOOD” or “COMMUNITY” and replacing it with “individual responsibility.” Pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves — then blaming them, if they fail, as “lazy.”

Around the world, neo-liberalism has been imposed by powerful financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. It is raging all over Latin America. The first clear example of neo-liberalism at work came in Chile (with thanks to University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman), after the CIA-supported coup against the popularly elected Allende regime in 1973. Other countries followed, with some of the worst effects in Mexico where wages declined 40 to 50% in the first year of NAFTA while the cost of living rose by 80%. Over 20,000 small and medium businesses have failed and more than 1,000 state-owned enterprises have been privatized in Mexico. As one scholar said, “Neo-liberalism means the neo-colonization of Latin America.”

The beneficiaries of neo-liberalism are a minority of the world’s people. For the vast majority it brings even more suffering than before: suffering without the small, hard-won gains of the last 60 years, suffering without end.


Lenin defined it as: ?Sacrificing the basic interests of the working class for some temporary advantage? and ?adapting the labour movement to the interests of the bourgeoisie.?

Petit bourgeoisie

This class is made up of small business people like proprietors, farmers, artisans, and tradespeople. The petty bourgeois are, broadly speaking; people who employ labour but also labour themselves. Because of their circumstances, the petty bourgeois have interests in common with both the working class and capitalist class, although they are ultimately part of the capitalist class.

Planned economy

A planned economy is an economic system in which economic decisions are made by centralized planners (in the case of Socialism the decisions would be made democratically based on the needs and wants of the majority) who determine what sorts of goods and services to produce and how they are to be priced and allocated.

Under a planned economy, neither unemployment nor idle production facilities exist beyond minimal levels, and the economy is stable, unimpeded by inflation or recession. A planned economy serves social rather than individual ends. It eliminates the dependence of production on individual profit motives. Unlike the Capitalist economy, the planned economy is capable of providing adequately for all human needs and wants and of doing so without destroying the environment.

Political Strike

A strike in which workers have a political objective – frequently a protest against some government policy.

Popular Front

Stalinist idea developed in the 1930/40’s. After the idea of the “Third Period” (a period of capitalist crisis in which every non-Stalin leftist was labeled a “social fascist”) proved an utter failure, Stalin’s Comintern created the Popular Front. It is similar to the Trotskyist United Front, but instead of merely uniting with working-class parties, the Stalinists also work with the “liberal bourgeois.” This brought much criticism from other groups, though it allowed the Stalinists to work with the upper-class Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, and allowed the Communist Party USA to support Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Productive forces

Productive forces is a term within Marxism indicating the combination of the means of production with human labour power. All those forces applied to the productive process are encompassed within this term. Together with the relations of production the productive forces produce a historically specific mode of production.


The class of modern wage laborers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labor power in order to live. The working class.


The presentation of many ideas explaining some particular problem, in contradistinction to Agitation, which explains and arouses political action on the basis of one commonly known event or condition.


One who defends the existing exploiting order.


The policy that diverts the workers from struggle for their basic interests and objective; that seeks to solve the workers? problems by reforms only, but not by ending the rule of the capitalists. Reformism sow illusions about ?gradual? and ever-increasing improvements for the workers under capitalism, which is impossible.


A revolution occurs when a new class comes to power, replacing the oppressing class (or classes). When the French capitalists (or bourgeoisie) came to power in 1789, ending the rule of the Bourbon Monarchy, and also the power of the landed aristocracy, that was a revolution. Also, when the workers seized power in Russia in October 1917. Hitler?s seizure of power was not a revolution, because the then ruling class, the capitalists, continued in power; the change was only from capitalist democracy to terror-rule by big capital.
National revolution: Generally, the struggle of an oppressed or colonial country against foreign domination for its national independence.
Bourgeois revolution: The revolution in which the rising capitalist class overturns the power of the monarchs.

Proletarian revolution: The seizure of political power by the working class, with the establishment of a socialist democratically-planned economy.

Ruling class

Marx explains that the nature of the ruling class in class society changes depending on the historical situation. Currently, in advanced capitalist countries, the ruling class is the capitalist class.


Incorrect policy, or correct policy incorrectly applied, which tends to isolate the revolutionaries from the masses, leaving them few in number, a ?sect?.


A theory or system of social organization that advocates the ownership and control of land, capital, industry, etc. by the community as a whole. In Marxist theory it represents the stage following capitalism in a state transforming to communism.

Socialism in One Country

Reactionary theory proclaimed in 1924 and later incorporated into the program and tactics of the Comintern under Stalin. Nowhere in the writings of any Marxist, including Stalin himself can such an idea be found before 1924. It became the ideological cover for the abandonment of revolutionary internationalism in favor of narrow nationalism and was used to justify the conversion of the Communist parties throughout the world into the docile pawns of Moscow’s foreign policy.


The Russian word for “council”. During the Russian Revolution this word was used to designate the councils of workers’, soldiers’, and peasants’ deputies. Soviets represent extremely flexible, highly democratic bodies which both pass and enforce laws. It is the form of organization discovered during the Russian Revolution of 1905 through which the masses can express themselves through their democratically elected and immediately recallable representatives.


Engels defined the State as ?a particular power of suppression?. The apparatus of State power (army, police, courts etc) in the hands of one class to suppress another, or other classes. In capitalism, it is in the hands of the big capitalists, bankers etc to suppress the workers. Engels continued: ?The State has not existed from all eternity. There have been societies which have managed without it, which had no notion of the State or State power?the (socialist leading to communist) society which organises production anew on the basis of free and equal association of the producers will put the whole State machinery where it will then belong ? into the museum of antiquities, next to the spinning wheel and the bronze axe.?

State capitalism

The exploitation of wage-labour in nationalised enterprises in which the State, representing the whole capitalists, owns a part of all of the capital invested.

Stalin, Joseph – (1879 – 1953)

Born Josif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, he was the leader of the Soviet Union until 1953. Adopted psydonym Stalin in 1910, meaning “a man of steel”. Gave up studying for the priesthood after becoming converted to Marxism. Joined Bolshevik Central Committee in 1912. Edited the magazine Pravda in 1913 and after the Revolution of February 1917. Became General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1922. Formed Troika with Zinoviev and Kamenev after Lenin’s death which opposed Trotsky. In Lenin’s Testament written shortly before his death he describes Stalin as being “too rude” and called for his removal. He began major forced industrialization in 1929, and launched the “Great Terror” in the mid-1930s where he wiped out a generation of Bolsheviks. The term Stalinism, which is another word for proletarian bonapartism comes from Joseph Stalin.

Became a Social Democrat in 1898, joined the Bolshevik faction in 1904, was coopted to its Central Comittee in 1912, and elected to it for the first time in 1917. In 1917 he favored a concilliatory attitude to the Provisional Government before Lenin returned areoriented the Bolsheviks toward winning power. he was elected commissar of naitonalities in the first Soviet government, and general secretary of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) in 1922. In Lenin’s Testament written shortly before his death he describes Stalin as being “too rude”, and called for his removal from the post of general secretary because he was using it to bureaucratize the party and state apparatuses. After Lenin’s death in 1924, Stalin formed a Troika with Zinoviev and Kamenev and gradually eliminated his major opponents, starting with Trotsky. He began major forced industrialization in 1929, and launched the “Great Terror” in the mid-1930s where he wiped out a generation of Bolsheviks, becoming the virtual dictator of the party and the Soviet Union in the 1930s. The chief concepts associated with his name are “socialism in one country,” “social fascism,” and “peaceful coexistence.” The term Stalinism, which is another word for proletarian bonapartism comes from Joseph Stalin. His biography by Trotsky, uncompleted when the latter was assassinated by Stalin’s henchmen in 1940, is entitled Stalin, An Appraisal of the Man and His Influence.

Surplus value

Surplus value is the unpaid surplus labour performed by the worker for the capitalist, serving as a basis for capital accumulation.The German equivalent word “Mehrwert” means simply value-added, but in Marx’s value theory, the extra or surplus-value has a specific meaning, namely the amount of the increase in the value of capital upon investment, i. the yield regardless of source or form.The problem of explaining the source of surplus value is expressed by Frederick Engels as follows:”Whence comes this surplus-value? It cannot come either from the buyer buying the commodities under their value, or from the seller selling them above their value. For in both cases the gains and the losses of each individual cancel each other, as each individual is in turn buyer and seller. Nor can it come from cheating, for though cheating can enrich one person at the expense of another, it cannot increase the total sum possessed by both, and therefore cannot augment the sum of the values in circulation”.


The name of the eleventh month in the calendar adopted by the French Revolution. On the ninth of Thermidor (July 27) in 1794, Robespierre, a Jacobin, was overthrown – starting shifts to the right in the government that opened the way for Bonaparte and the destruction of the First Republic. Trotsky often compared the policies of Stalinism with the Thermidorian reaction.

Trotsky, Leon – (1879-1940)

Born Lev Davidovich Bronstein, Leon Trotsky became a revolutionary in 1896 and a collaborator with Lenin on Iskra in 1902. He broke with Lenin the next year over the nature of the revolutionary party and aligned himself with the Mensheviks. He broke with the Mensheviks in 1904 and tried during the next decade to reunite the party. In the 1905 revolution, he was the leader of the St. Petersburg Soviet and developed the theory of permanent revolution. In 1915 he wrote the Zimmerwald manifesto against the war. He joined the Bolshevik Party in 1917, was elected to its Central Committee, and organized the Bolshevik insurrection that made the new Soviet state possible.

His first government post was as commissar of foreign affairs. Then as commissar of war he organized the Red Army and led it to victory through three years of civil war and imperialist intervention. He formed the Left Opposition in 1923 and fought for the next decade to return the Soviet Union and the Communist International to Leninist internationalism and proletarian democracy. Defeated by the Stalin faction, he was expelled from the Communist Party and the Comintern, and exiled to Turkey in 1929. In 1933 he gave up his efforts to reform the Comintern and called for the creation of a new International. He viewed his work on behalf of the Fourth International as the most important of his career. In 1940, murdered by a Stalinist assassin at his home in exile, in Mexico.

United Front

Unity in action between socialists and others in the workers movement around a concrete issue, eg to fight fascism. No expectation that the socialists need to water down their ideas or cease criticism of non-socialist ideas.

Working class

Although not always clear cut, the working class is normally considered to be made up of people who work for wages. They generally do not own property and have no way to support themselves other than selling their labour for an hourly rate. The huge majority of the world?s population are in this category. Karl Marx defined the “working class” or proletariat as “those individuals who sell their labour and do not own the means of production”.

Under Capitalism, the working class are responsible for creating the wealth of society (eg. buildings, bridges, furniture, new inventions and “intellectual products”). Though they create wealth they do not own it. Under Capitalism the wealth is owned by the ruling class.

The proletariat are subdivided by Marxists into the ordinary proletariat and the lumpen proletariat, those who are extremely poor and cannot find legal work on a regular basis. These may be beggars or homeless people.