Jeff Myers: What Is Marxism? A Five-Minute Primer


“We must begin the work of dismantling the whole system of oppression wherever we find it,” Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota said recently.

Conservative commentators went ballistic. Tucker Carlson proclaimed that Omar is trying to “dismantle the American economy and the American system of government.” Firing back, Snopes rated Carlson’s claim “false” and Slate described him as snarling and venomous and his viewers “dumb” if they believed him.

Omar’s worldview carries strong Marxist overtones. To understand her views — as well as those espoused by some of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter organization — we need to review what Marxism is all about.

Where Marxism Came From

In 1848, Karl Marx published “The Communist Manifesto,” calling for the “proletariat,” the propertyless workers, to seize power, wealth and status from the property owners, what Marx called the “bourgeoisie.”

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Marx wrote grandly, “Proletarians, of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.” To achieve his aims, Marx called for the “forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.”

Marxism is a deeply theoretical worldview.

The writings of Marx, Marx’s co-author Friedrich Engels and later writings by V.I. Lenin and Mao Zedong run into the hundreds of volumes. But it is crystal clear in all these writings that institutions such as the economic system, the government, religion and family are inherently oppressive.

They cannot be fixed. They must be destroyed.

How Marxism, Socialism and Communism Fit Together

It is easiest to imagine Marxism as a car traveling toward the idealistic utopia of communism along the road paved by socialism. When communism is achieved, everyone will give according to his ability and receive according to his need.

In this earthly utopia, we will be able to defund the police because all crime is caused by capitalism.

We won’t have individual families anymore — we’ll all be one big family. Religion will have lost its bewitching power.

All corruption will cease because the workers, purified by their oppression, will rule with peace and harmony.

The First Operating Principle of Marxism: Dialectical Materialism

“Materialism” says that nothing outside of the material world exists. There is no God nor any other kind of spiritual reality. Humanity alone is divine. Justice requires us to “sweep away everything that claims to be supernatural and superhuman,” Marx said.

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The “dialectic” is the way history advances through conflict. The workers revolt against the owners through class struggle. Today, the doctrine of class struggle has been expanded to include conflicts between races. To Marx, conflict is the only way to make things better, even if it is destructive and bloody in the short term.

Marx taught that the combination of the dialectic process and materialistic philosophy created the combustible materials that would spark the fire of revolution. Out of the ashes of this blaze a new society would arise.

The Second Operating Principle of Marxism: Economic Determinism

When Marxists think about the world, they see it in purely economic terms. “Show me the money,” they say. Remember, Marxists say that the material world is all there is. There is only so much to go around.

If any one person has an economic advantage, that alone is proof that he has stolen his wealth from the rest of us. Case closed. Taking it back is only fair.

To Marxists, it’s not enough to improve worker safety or increase wages. These are just delaying tactics the powerful use to sap the working-class of their revolutionary fervor.

You can count on Marxists to despise anything they think stops short of all-out revolution, even such seemingly good things as affordable consumer goods, technological breakthroughs, art and architecture.

What Cultural Marxism Means

Marxists love to dig into what they think of as capitalism’s bottomless bag of dirty tricks.

If a religious revival breaks out, Marxists complain about how capitalists are funding it as a way of drugging the working-class into complacency. If the working-class gets access to less expensive goods, Marxists show pictures of mounds of garbage and critique the “waste” capitalism generates.

There is no end to such critiques. Even as poor people get access to better health care and living conditions, Marxists dismiss the good news and focus instead on the gap between the rich and the poor (remember, if there is only so much to go around, the rich can only get richer by stealing the rest of us blind).

How Marxists Want You To See the World

Tragically, tens of millions of unmarked graves testify to the fact that the lighting of the fires of revolution, contrary to Marx’s hope, leads not to a glorious utopia, but to something else altogether.

Do you think Marxists are trying to dismantle America as we know it?

Yet Marxists won’t give up. It’s not about the rules of the game. Rather, it’s about seizing power and deciding what the final score ought to be. Marxism succeeds to the degree that people allow themselves to be divided into “interest” groups that will fight one another out of resentment and fear.

In spite of Marxism’s horrific track record, Marxists are often seen as righteous because they draw attention to exploitation and oppression. But does their ability to point out the problem mean that their solution will work?

There is only one way to find out, Marx’s followers say: Give them control, destroy existing social conditions and start over.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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Jeff Myers, Ph.D., is president of Summit Ministries. In their classic best-selling text "Understanding the Times," Myers and co-author David A. Noebel offer a deeply researched defense of a Christian worldview and critique of Marxism and other destructive worldviews.