Marxism is a political and economic philosophy that is based on theories of class struggle within societies. This philosophy was developed by Karl Marx — for whom it was named — and Friedrich Engels during the middle of the 19th century. It is often described as a form of socialism, an economic system in which resources and the means of production are publicly owned. Marxism calls for society's progression from capitalist oppression to a socialist, classless society through a worker's uprising, which it deems as necessary.
Marx believed that history was a series of class struggles and uprisings. Under capitalism, he argued, members of the working class, which he called the proletariat, are oppressed and alienated by the wealthy elite, whom he called the bourgeoisie. The wealthy own the resources and means of production, and they inevitably pay their workers a smaller wage than their true value in order to make profits and increase their wealth. As the wealthy get wealthier, the inequality between the classes increases, leading to even greater oppression.
Other Dangers of Capitalism
Another of Marx's criticisms of capitalism was that the competition between similar companies would increase until one drove its competitors out of business and became a monopoly. The creation of powerful monopolies would allow for workers to be paid less and consumers to be charged more. Free market forces also would lead to wild swings in the economy, including times of severe depression.
The only way for the proletariat to overcome their oppression and avoid the pitfalls of capitalism, Marx believed, was through an uprising. This would allow the workers to take control of the resources and means of production. The government would then become what Marx called a dictatorship of the proletariat — in other words, the working people would rule. A socialist system would be established and eventually evolve into a communist society — one that includes common ownership of all resources and means of production, no class system and no monetary system.
Marx's theories were detailed in two books he wrote, The Communist Manifesto, in 1847, and Das Kapital, in 1867. Although many of Marx's economic theories, such as the labor theory of value, were soon discredited, Marxism became a very influential concept in global politics during the 20th century. Marxism is widely considered to have led to the creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1922 and later the People's Republic of China, in 1949. There are many variations of Marxism that were developed after Marx's death in 1883, including Leninism, Trotskyism, Stalinism and Maoism.