What follows is an excerpt from Maurice Cornforth’s 1952 Readers’ Guide to the Marxist Classics.
I. MARX, ENGELS, LENIN AND STALIN
(1) Frederick Engels. “Karl Marx.” Karl Marx & Frederick Engels Collected Works, Vol. 24, International Publishers, 1989, 183-195.
(2) Frederick Engels. “Speech at the Graveside of Karl Marx.”Karl Marx & Frederick Engels Selected Works in One Volume, International Publishers, 1968, 435-436.
Marx and Engels were the founders of scientific socialism. Their teachings have been continued and developed by Lenin and Stalin. The classics of Marxism comprise the works of these four leaders and teachers. They contain the guiding ideas of the working class struggle for socialism, the building of socialist society and the transition to communism.
Marx and Engels showed that socialism was not the invention of dreamers but the inevitable outcome of the development of modern capitalist society.
They showed that capitalism was creating its own gravedigger in the person of the proletariat,¹ the working class. Only the class struggle of the proletariat and its victory over the bourgeoisie,² the capitalists, would rid humanity of exploitation of man by man.
Marx and Engels therefore taught the working class to be conscious of its own strength, of its own class interests, and to unite in a determined struggle against the capitalist class.
They discovered the laws of development of capitalist society, and proved scientifically that the development of the class struggle must inevitably lead to the fall of capitalism, to the conquest of power by the working class, the dictatorship of the proletariat.
They taught that the working class must rally around itself all the forces discontented with capitalism, and lead them in the storming of capitalism. At the head of all working people it must establish its own political rule, crush the resistance of the exploiters and create a new classless communist society.
And they taught that in order to achieve these aims the working class must have its own working class party, the Communist Party.
Lenin and Stalin have been the great continuers of the work of Marx and Engels in the new historical epoch of imperialism and the proletarian revolution.
Lenin developed Marx’s teachings in new historical conditions. Leninism is accordingly defined as “the Marxism of the era of imperialism and the proletarian revolution.”
The theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism has been further creatively developed by Stalin — the great disciple and collaborator of Lenin, who now leads the Soviet peoples in the construction of communism and teaches and inspires the peoples of the whole world in the fight for peace, democracy, national independence and socialism.
In this part, we introduce to the reader a few of the works dealing specifically with the personalities and lives of Marx, Engels and Lenin, and the services they rendered to the international working-class movement.
¹ Proletariat is a Latin word, denoting freemen—neither slaves nor serfs—who own no means of production. Thus the modern working class, which sells its labour power to the capitalists and from whose exploitation surplus value is produced, is a proletariat.
² Bourgeoisie is a French word, equivalent to “burgess” or “burgher,” meaning the merchants and manufacturers of the towns. Thus the modern capitalist class is a bourgeoisie.
ENGELS: Karl Marx; Speech at Graveside of Karl Marx
- Frederick Engels. “Karl Marx.” Karl Marx & Frederick Engels Collected Works, Vol. 24, International Publishers, 1989, 183-195.
- Frederick Engels. “Speech at the Graveside of Karl Marx.”Karl Marx & Frederick Engels Selected Works in One Volume, International Publishers, 1968, 435-436.
Engels’ article on Karl Marx, written in 1877 for the German People’s Calendar, gives an account of Marx’s life and work. It shows how as editor of the Rhenish Gazette and German-French Annual, as member of the Communist League, as exile in England, as founder and leader of the First International, Marx lived and developed his ideas in the thick of the working class struggle.
Surveying Marx’s theoretical work, Engels singles out as his two most important discoveries (a) the materialist conception of history, (b) “the final elucidation of the relation between capital and labour” through the discovery of the nature of surplus value. He briefly explains the meaning of these two discoveries.
In his Speech at the Graveside of Karl Marx (Highgate Cemetery, March 17, 1883) Engels again refers to these two great discoveries of Marx. He concludes:
“Marx was before all else a revolutionist. His real mission in life was to contribute, in one way or another, to the overthrow of capitalist society and of the state institutions which it had brought into being, to contribute to the liberation of the modern proletariat, which he was the first to make conscious of its own position…. His name will endure through the ages, and so also will his work.”