Boris Korolev's highly abstract project for a monument to Karl Marx, 1919

Marxism’s relation to “communism”: Bruno Bosteels, Jodi Dean, and Boris Groys

IMAGE: Boris Korolev’s highly abstract
Project for a monument to Karl Marx (1919)
[Проект памятника К. Марксу в Москве]

The quasi-religious character of the question

Raising the question of Marx’s relation to communism immediately raises the question of Marxism‘s relation to communism. Even those who reject all everything that came afterwards in favor of a “return to Marx” implicitly set themselves up in opposition to the various Marxists who claimed to continue his legacy. They regard all developments subsequent to Marx’s death — by Mao, Stalin, Trotsky, Lenin, even Engels — as betraying his fundamental insights into the nature of class society. Those who do not restrict their consideration of Marxism’s relation to communism to the historical person of Marx himself find themselves compelled to choose between various legacies, heresies, orthodoxies, schisms, dogmatisms, and Reformation.

An overview of the major proponents of Marxism after Marx’s death in 1883 reveals that such figures explicitly sought to understand themselves in terms of their “faithfulness” to the tradition first established by Marx. Early on, a position of “orthodoxy” was claimed by those who understood their own work as building upon Marx’s theory by further applying his methodology. They thus adopted a kind of fidelity to Marx’s method of social analysis and revolutionary dialectic. Beyond the centrality of Marx, however, if he was indeed deemed central to any subsequent communist tradition, certain other figures were esteemed to have advanced his insights along the lines of Marx’s theory. These figures thereby attained a similar status in the regard of those Marxists who followed them. Continue reading