Marxism is a socialist theory of dialectical human progress culminating in proletarian revolution and the abolition of class divisions and exploitation through the ownership of property. Because of the inconsistency of Marxist predictions with actual events, the doctrine and its exponents are left open to the accusation of hypocrisy either from contrary ideologies or from within Marxist ranks. The movement has been divided for a long time, originally into social democrats and communists (an element of this still exists among Western intellectuals in non-socialist countries) and currently among communist factions in socialist countries. Marxism may be elitist, tending towards bureaucracy, dictatorship and militarism. Alternatively it may tend towards anarchism, social disintegration and violence. Marxism poses a threat to capitalism. It causes international conflict and internal conflict and repression within non-socialist countries. Divisions in Marxist ideology cause repression in socialist countries and may cause foreign intervention (as in Czechoslovakia).
Marxism became a world wide phenomenon during the 20th century. Communist countries take their ideology from Marxist thought. Elsewhere, intellectuals and workers form communist and socialist movements or parties based on Marxist doctrine. High incidence of the latter is found in Italy and France. China, North Korea and Cuba are strongholds of Marxist beliefs. Lenin adopted an elitist and bureaucratic approach to Marxism reflected in pre-Glasnost USSR and the eastern European countries over which it formerly maintained a strict hold. Now Lenin's statue in Berlin is removed. Ideological schism occurs between the Russian and Chinese (and oriental) approach to Marxism. Trotskyite Marxism tends towards anarchy. Wars fought on ideological grounds between Marxism and capitalism include the Korean war, the Vietnam war and the war in Cambodia and Laos. Repression of Marxism occurs particularly in fascist or right-wing capitalist countries. Repression of Marxist deviation occurs within most communist countries.
For some, Marxism remains essentially the active practice of class struggle. Experiencing the ever present and continually renewed force of the relationships of domination and exploitation among men, they reduce Marxism to no more than a struggle-at times with no other purpose-to be pursued and even stirred up in permanent fashion. For others, it is first and foremost the collective exercise of political and economic power under the direction of a single party, which would be the sole expression and guarantee of the welfare of all, and would deprive individuals and other groups of any possibility of initiative and choice. At a third level, Marxism, whether in power or not, is viewed as a socialist ideology based on historical materialism and the denial of everything transcendent. At other times, finally, it presents itself in a more attenuated form, one also more attractive to the modern mind: as a scientific activity, as a rigorous method of examining social and political reality, and as the rational link, tested by history, between theoretical knowledge and the practice of revolutionary transformation. Although this type of analysis gives a privileged position to certain aspects of reality to the detriment of the rest, and interprets them in the light of its ideology, it nevertheless furnishes some people not only with a working tool but also a certitude preliminary to action: the claim to decipher in a scientific manner the mainsprings of the evolution of society.

While, through the concrete existing form of Marxism, one can distinguish these various aspects and the questions they pose for the reflection and activity of Christians, it would be illusory and dangerous to reach a point of forgetting the intimate link which radically binds them together, to accept the elements of Marxist analysis without recognizing their relationships with ideology, and to enter into the practice of class struggle and its Marxist interpretations, while failing to note the kind of totalitarian and violent society to which this process leads. (Papal Writings, 14 May 1971).

Counter Claim:
For most of the 20th century, almost all radical movements for social change were shaped by Marxist ideas. His generous vision of social revolution was based on a "bottom-up" not "top-down" view of democratic change - something his later admirers failed to understand. For him social emancipation was not something that an enlightened elite could bring to "the masses", but something that men and women had to accomplish for themselves. Marx's insistent and life-long emphasis on the role of class in the development of religious, social, economic and political ideas influenced thinkers who otherwise rejected his revolutionary message.
Narrower Problems:
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
10.04.1999 – 00:00 CEST