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Revisionism (Marxism)

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Revisionism, otherwise known as Marxist reformism, represents various ideas, principles, and theories that are based on a reform or revision of Marxism. According to their critics, this involves a significant revision of fundamental Marxist theories and premises, and usually involves making an alliance with the bourgeois class.[1] Some academic economists have used revisionism to describe post-Stalinist, Eastern European writers who criticized one-party rule and argued in favour of freedom of the press and of the arts, intra- and sometimes inter-party democracy, independent labor unions, the abolition of bureaucratic privileges, and the subordination of police forces to the judiciary power.[2]

In Marxist discourse, revisionism often carries pejorative connotations and the term has been used by many different factions. It is typically applied to others and rarely as a self-description. By extension, Marxists who view themselves as fighting against revisionism have often self-identified as Marxist–Leninist anti-revisionists. Revisionism is most often used as an epithet by those Marxists who believe that such revisions are unwarranted and represent a watering down or abandonment of Marxism—one such common example is the negation of class struggle.[3]


Eduard Bernstein, an early revisionist

Revisionism has been used in a number of contexts to refer to different or claimed revisions of Marxist theory. Those who opposed Karl Marx's revolution through his lens of a violent uprising and sought out more peaceful, electoral means for a socialist revolution are known as revisionists. Eduard Bernstein, a close acquaintance of Marx and Friedrich Engels, was one of the first major revisionists, and was prominent in the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).[4]

In the late 19th century, the term revisionism was used to describe democratic socialist writers, such as Bernstein, who sought to revise Marx's ideas about the transition to socialism and claimed that a revolution through force was not necessary to achieve a socialist society.[5] The views of Bernstein gave rise to reformist theory, which asserts that socialism can be achieved through gradual peaceful reforms from within a capitalist system.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary Revisionism 1. "A policy first put forward in the 1890s by Edward Bernstein (1850–1932) advocating the introduction of socialism through evolution rather than revolution, in opposition to the orthodox view of Marxists; hence a term of abuse used within the communist world for an interpretation of Marxism which is felt to threaten the canonical policy." Cites the first use in English "1903 Social-Democrat VII. 84 (heading) Revisionism in Germany."
  2. ^ Paltemaa, Lauri (2007). "The Democracy Wall Movement, Marxist Revisionism, and the Variations on Socialist Democracy". Journal of Contemporary China. 16 (53): 602. doi:10.1080/10670560701562325. ISSN 1067-0564. S2CID 143933209.
  3. ^ Tse-Tung, Mao (July 1964). On Khrushchov's Phoney Communism and Its Historical Lessons for the World – via Marxists Internet Archive. ... the revisionist Khrushchov clique base themselves mainly on the argument that ... class struggle no longer exists.
  4. ^ Steger, Manfred (1997). The Quest for Evolutionary Socialism: Eduard Bernstein And Social Democracy. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
  5. ^ Eichhorn, Wolfgang, ed. (2002). "Über Eduard Bernstein. Gegensatz und Berührungspunkte zu Rosa Luxemburg und W. I. Lenin" [About Edward Bernstein. Contrast and points of contact with Rosa Luxemburg and V. I. Lenin]. Jahrbuch für Forschungen zur Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung [Yearbook for research into the history of the labor movement] (in German).
  6. ^ Wiener, Philip P., ed. (1973–74). Dictionary of the History of Ideas. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. referenced in Kindersley, R. K. "Marxist revisionism: From Bernstein to modern forms". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved 28 April 2008.