Excerpts from the Classics: Contribution of Marx and Engels, Role of Theory

November 9, 2002

Contribution of Marx & Engels, Role of Theory

The quotations in this section begin with Engels making an assessment of the theoretical contributions of Marx and Lenin making such an assessment of Marx and Engels. Then in chronological order quotations are presented from the three about the role of theory and its relation to practice.

“Just as Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc.; that therefore the production of the immediate material means of subsistence and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given epoch form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, art and even the ideas in religion, of the people concerned have been evolved, and in the light of which they must, therefore, be explained instead of vice versa, as had hitherto been the case.

“Marx discovered the special law of motion governing the present- day capitalist mode of production and the bourgeois society that this mode of production has created. The discovery of surplus value suddenly threw light on the problem, in trying to solve which all previous investigations, of both bourgeois economists and socialist critics, had been groping in the dark.”

Engels, Speech at the Graveside of Karl Marx, March 17, 1883, MESW, IP, 1977, p.435; MECW, Vol.24, pp.467-68

“The great world-wide historical service of Marx and Engels lies in the fact that they proved by scientific analysis the inevitability of the downfall of capitalism and its transition to communism under which there will be no more exploitation of man by man.

“The great world-wide historical service of Marx and Engels lies in this, that they indicated to the proletarians of all countries their role, their tasks, their calling: to be the first to rise in the revolutionary fight against capital and unite around themselves in this struggle all the toilers and the exploited.”

Lenin, Speech at the Unveiling of a Monument to Marx & Engels, Nov.7, 1918, CW, Vol.28, p.65

“We do not regard Marx’s theory as something completed and inviolable; on the contrary, we are convinced that it has only laid the foundation stone of the science which socialists must develop in all directions if they wish to keep pace with life.

Lenin, Our Programme, end of 1899, CW, Vol 4, p.211

“The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.”

Marx, Theses on Feuerbach, 1845, MESW, IP 1977, p.30; MECW, Vol.5, p.5

“There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits.”

Marx, Capital, Vol.I, Preface to the French Edition, March 18, 1872, IP Ed, p.21

“Practice without theory is blind. Theory without practice is sterile. Theory becomes a material force as soon as it is absorbed by the masses.”

Marx “The Germans [Marxists who moved to the USA] have not understood how to use their theory as a lever which could set the American masses in motion; they do not understand the theory themselves for the most part and treat it in a doctrinaire and dogmatic way, as something which has got to be learned off by heart but which will then supply all needs without more ado. To them it is a credo and not a guide to action.”

Engels, Letter to F.A. Sorge, London, Nov.29, 1886, MESC, p.449-50; MECW, Vol.477, pp.531-32

“Without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement.”

Lenin, What Is To Be Done?, 1902, CW, Vol.5, p.369

“The Marxist doctrine is omnipotent because it is true!”

Lenin, Three Sources & Three Component Parts of Marxism, March 1913, CW, Vol.19, p.23

“Nothing human is alien to me.” Marx’ favorite aphorism, original by Terence, poet of ancient Rome

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