Top 10 Marxists (non-Leninist)

August Bebel, Karl Marx, Wilhelm Liebknecht, Carl Wilhelm Töl Ferdinand Lassalle

Top 10 Marxists (non-Leninist) in terms of influence on Marxism through history.
Adapted from https://acatheunderground.wordpress.com/guide-to-communists-and-anarchists/
See also
https://libcom.org/blog/6-underrated-marxists-dont-get-enough-love-16102017

1. Karl Marx

https://libcom.org/tags/karl-marx
Marx and Engels were the founders of the modern communist movement. Karl Marx’s most famous works are The Communist Manifesto (1848) and Das Kapital (1867). He and Engels gradually became more influential in the International Workingmen's Association (later known as the First International). Two of his shorter works were also published, Wage Labour and Capital and Value, Price and Profit. The academic discipline of sociology is influenced by Marx.

2. Friedrich Engels

https://libcom.org/tags/frederick-engels
Marx and Engels were the founders of the modern communist movement. Engels and Marx gradually became more influential in the International Workingmen's Association (later known as the First International). Engels edited Marx’s Das Kapital Volumes II and III for publication. Engels most famous works were The Condition of the Working-Class in England, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (one of the best-selling socialist books of the era) and The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.

3. Karl Kautsky

https://libcom.org/tags/karl-kautsky
Karl Kautsky was the main figure of early ‘social democracy’ and ‘Orthodox Marxism’ and prepared Marx’s Capital Volume IV for publication. He founded and edited the influential ‘Die Neue Zeit’ monthly (then weekly) socialist journal. His other most notable work he produced with Engels, The Economic Doctrines of Karl Marx. He also wrote The Foundations of Christianity and The Road to Power. Kautsky then left the SPD and wrote The Dictatorship of the Proletariat and Terrorism and Communism (in response to Leninists).

4. Rosa Luxemburg

https://libcom.org/tags/rosa-luxemburg
Rosa Luxemburg was the leader of the SDKPiL (Social Democratic Party of Kingdom of Poland). She was also influential in the German SPD and the Second International. In opposition to World War I, she split from the SPD to found the Spartacus League (later the Communist Party of Germany) before her execution in the failed Spartacist uprising in 1919. Her most notable works are The Accumulation of Capital and Reform or Revolution.

5. Georgi Plekhanov

https://libcom.org/tags/georgi-plekhanov
The founding father of Russian Marxism. Under Pavel Axelrod's influence, Plekhanov was one of the organizers of the first political demonstrations in Russia in 1876. In 1900, Plekhanov helped found Iskra (The Spark) newspaper to unite various independent local Marxist groups. From this emerged, the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP). Plekhanov outlined a history of materialism and bourgeois philosophers of the "great man theory of history" came under attack from the economic determinist point of view in his 1898 book entitled "On the Individual's Role in History." He defended revolutionary Marxism against the revisionist critics such as Eduard Bernstein.
Plekhanov was extremely hostile to the Bolshevik Party headed by V.I. Lenin. He criticized Lenin's revolutionary April Theses as "ravings" and called Lenin himself an "alchemist of revolution" for his seeming willingness to leap over the stage of capitalist development. Plekhanov always insisted that Marxism was a materialist doctrine rather than an idealist one, and that Russia would have to pass through a capitalist stage of development before becoming socialist.

6. Wilhelm Liebknecht

https://libcom.org/tags/wilhelm-liebknecht
Wilhelm Liebknecht participated in the 1848 revolutions. He co-founded the German Social Democratic Party with August Bebel in 1869, growing it to the largest party in Germany. His most influential written work was No Compromise, No Political Trading.

7. August Bebel

https://libcom.org/tags/august-bebel
Bebel co-founded German Social Democracy with Wilhelm Liebknecht in 1869. Bebel had trained as a cabinet maker, and in 1863, at the time of the founding of Lassalle’s German Workers’ Association, he found "socialism and communism" "totally unfamiliar concepts, double-duth words". Bebel was a member of the Reichstag from 1867. Sentenced with Liebknecht to two years imprisonment for "treason" (opposition to Franco-German War) in 1872. After they merged with the Lassalleans in Gotha in 1875, Bebel remained the unquestioned leader. His fiery parliamentary speeches – from 1868 he was continuously a member first of the North German and later the German Reichstag – are part of the history of German social democracy, as are also his books, above all his autobiography From My Life and Woman and Socialism. Woman and socialism (1879) was one of the socialist movement’s best-selling books. It was reprinted 22 times and translated into many languages. It was instrumental in forming women’s liberation movements in all countries where social democracy existed.

8. Daniel De Leon

https://libcom.org/tags/daniel-de-leon
In 1915 Lenin stated that Daniel De Leon was "the only one who has added anything to Socialist thought since Marx." Daniel De Leon (1852-1914) was an orator and elected newspaper editor for the Socialist Labor Party of America.
The SLP established in 1876 is the oldest socialist political party in the United States and the second oldest socialist party in the world.
De Leon joined the SLP in 1889 and launched the SLP newspaper. De Leon was the leading figure in the Socialist Labor Party of America from 1890 until the time of his death. In 1896 he had seen the union as the "shield" and the Socialist Labor Party ballot as the "sword." Even DeLeon's opponents were usually willing to concede that he possessed a tremendous intellectual grasp of Marxism. He was not a petty tyrant who desired power for power's sake. Rather, he was a dogmatic idealist, devoted brain and soul to a cause, a zealot who could not tolerate heresy or backsliding, a doctrinaire who would make no compromise with principles. He was perhaps the most significant and influential American Marxist in the period 1890-1914.
His key four lectures--Reform or Revolution (1896); What Means This Strike? (1898); The Burning Question of Trades Unionism ( 1904), and Socialist Reconstruction of Society (1905)--have been published together in a single book, Socialist Landmarks.

9. William Morris

https://libcom.org/tags/william-morris
William Morris was the main British representative of socialism and the Arts and Crafts movement. In 1883 he was founding and leading member of one of Britain's largest socialist parties of the 19th Century, the Social Democratic Federation. Morris co-authored the Social Democratic Federation manifesto. In 1884, with the support of Engels and Eleanor Marx, he split to form the Socialist League and edited, funded and was principal contributor to the newspaper Commonweal. He embarked on a relentless series of speeches and talks on street corners and in just 6 months attracted 8 branches and 230 members. By 1887 this rose to 550 members. Two of his best known prose works, the utopian News from Nowhere and A Dream of John Ball were first printed here in serialized form. In 1890 he left the Socialist League but he continued to write and speak for socialism to his death in 1896.

10. Paul Lafargue

https://libcom.org/tags/paul-lafargue
Paul Lafargue, the disciple and son-in-law of Karl Marx, helped to found the first French Marxist party in 1882. Over the next three decades, he served as the chief theoretician and propagandist for Marxism in France. During these years, which ended with the dramatic suicides of Lafargue and his wife, French socialism, and the Marxist party within it, became a significant political force.
Lafargue was the subject of a famous quotation by Karl Marx. Shortly before Marx died in 1883, he wrote a letter to Lafargue and the French Workers' Party leader Jules Guesde, both of whom already claimed to represent "Marxist" principles. Marx accused them of "revolutionary phrase-mongering" and of denying the value of reformist struggles. This exchange is the source of Marx's remark, reported by Friedrich Engels: "ce qu'il y a de certain c'est que moi, je ne suis pas Marxiste" ("what is certain to me is that [,if they are Marxists, then] I am not [a] Marxist").
From then until his death, Lafargue remained the most respected theorist of the POF, not just extending the original Marxist doctrines, but also adding original ideas of his own. He also took active part in public activities such as strikes and elections, and was imprisoned several times.
In 1891, despite being in police custody, he was elected to the French Parliament for Lille, being the first ever French Socialist to occupy such an office. His success would encourage the POF to remain engaged in electoral activities, and largely abandon the insurrectional policies of its previous period. Nevertheless, Lafargue continued his defense of Marxist orthodoxy against any reformist tendency, as shown by his conflict with Jean Jaurès, as well as his refusal to take part in any "bourgeois" government.

Posted By

jondwhite
Apr 18 2020 17:01

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darren p
Apr 18 2020 17:02

The person listed as number 1 was not a 'Marxist'

slothjabber
Apr 18 2020 17:37

So, the bit about Wilhelm Liebknecht is actually about August Bebel, and after the first sentence, is the same as Bebel's entry?

Reddebrek
Apr 18 2020 17:46
Quote:
In 1915 Lenin stated that Daniel De Leon was "the only one who has added anything to Socialist thought since Marx." Daniel De Leon (1852-1914) was an orator and elected newspaper editor for the Socialist Labor Party of America.
The SLP established in 1876 is the oldest socialist political party in the United States and the second oldest socialist party in the world.
De Leon joined the SLP in 1889 and launched the SLP newspaper. De Leon was the leading figure in the Socialist Labor Party of America from 1890 until the time of his death. In 1896 he had seen the union as the "shield" and the Socialist Labor Party ballot as the "sword." Even DeLeon's opponents were usually willing to concede that he possessed a tremendous intellectual grasp of Marxism. He was not a petty tyrant who desired power for power's sake. Rather, he was a dogmatic idealist, devoted brain and soul to a cause, a zealot who could not tolerate heresy or backsliding, a doctrinaire who would make no compromise with principles. He was perhaps the most significant and influential American Marxist in the period 1890-1914.
His key four lectures--Reform or Revolution (1896); What Means This Strike? (1898); The Burning Question of Trades Unionism ( 1904), and Socialist Reconstruction of Society (1905)--have been published together in a single book, Socialist Landmarks.

What? Even Deleonists of the SLP accused him of being a control freak, and his leadership of the party saw him cause multiple splits including with his own supporters. He lost so many members he had to turn to the courts and sue the larger SLPs to retain the names of the organisations he ran. And he also encouraged members of his parties union affiliate to scab when rival unions were on strike.

The other sections are also extremely eyebrow raising
Who wrote this?

darren p
Apr 18 2020 17:49
slothjabber wrote:
So, the bit about Wilhelm Liebknecht is actually about August Bebel, and after the first sentence, is the same as Bebel's entry?

Bebel and Liebneckt actually led identical lives and even wrote books with the same name at exactly the same time. Not many people know this.

comradeEmma
Apr 18 2020 18:09
Quote:
He also wrote The Foundations of Christianity and The Road to Power. Kautsky then left the SPD and wrote The Dictatorship of the Proletariat and Terrorism and Communism (in response to Leninists).

Seems to omit that he was a member of USPD and went back into SPD with the right-wing after the split. He was also very influential on Lenin and had pretty close organizational ties and correspondence before the war. It is not really Lenin who abandoned orthodox marxism, even Clara Zetkin broke with Kautsky before Lenin did because he submitted to the SPD-leadership by censoring Road to Power rather than let her publish it with its political content fully intact.

Craftwork
Apr 18 2020 18:38

What exactly is the point of "Top 10"-ing communists?

Quote:
The academic discipline of sociology is influenced by Marx.

Is that supposed to be a good thing?

R Totale
Apr 18 2020 18:48
Craftwork wrote:
What exactly is the point of "Top 10"-ing communists?

I was going to say that the point is to kill time while we can't leave the house, but looks like the original blog looks to be from about 2013, so dunno.

jondwhite
Apr 18 2020 18:55

Amended the Bebel text under Liebknecht. The passage below is from The Forging of American Socialism by historian Howard Quint quoted at https://www.marxists.org/glossary/orgs/s/o.htm

Quote:
Even DeLeon's opponents were usually willing to concede that he possessed a tremendous intellectual grasp of Marxism. Those who had suffered under his editorial lashings looked on him as an unmitigated scoundrel who took fiendish delight in character assassination, vituperation, and scurrility. But most of DeLeon's contemporaries, and especially his critics, misunderstood him, just as he himself lacked understanding of people. He was not a petty tyrant who desired power for power's sake. Rather, he was a dogmatic idealist, devoted brain and soul to a cause, a zealot who could not tolerate heresy or backsliding, a doctrinaire who would make no compromise with principles. For this strong-willed man, this late nineteenth-century Grand Inquisitioner of American socialism, there was no middle ground. You were either a disciplined and undeviating Marxist or no socialist at all. You were either with the mischief-making, scatterbrained reformers and 'labor fakirs' or you were against them. You either agreed on the necessity of uncompromising revolutionary tactics or you did not, and those falling into the latter category were automatically expendable as far as the Socialist Labor Party was concerned.

BigFluffyTail
Apr 18 2020 19:14
Quote:
Plekhanov always insisted that Marxism was a materialist doctrine rather than an idealist one, and that Russia would have to pass through a capitalist stage of development before becoming socialist.

Which wasn't Marx's view.

spacious
Apr 21 2020 07:56
BigFluffyTail wrote:
Quote:
Plekhanov always insisted that Marxism was a materialist doctrine rather than an idealist one, and that Russia would have to pass through a capitalist stage of development before becoming socialist.

Which wasn't Marx's view.

I think Plekhanov deserves to be in the top 10 of people who contributed the most, theoretically, to what became the toxic 20th century strain of Marxism, i.e. based on the linear, stageist, productivist and non-revolutionary notion that each society needed to pass through capitalist development before any chance of rupture from it would emerge.

On his deathbed in 1918, Plekhanov asked: "Did we not start the Marxist propaganda too soon, in this backward, semi-Asiatic country?"

Plekhanov may have been opposed to Lenin (his disciple who at least managed to break away from this influence at a few historic moments), but after worldwide proletarian revolution failed in the early-to-mid 1920s, there was arguably a lot of implicit Plekhanov in the subsequent development of state capitalism under Stalin, later in China, and in many other "officially" socialist developmental regimes, which set out above all to develop wage labour and accumulate capital, but under the banner of socialism.

Perhaps non-Leninism isn't such a good criterion to judge by.

All in all I think this whole list is quite odd (even apart from the fact that a majority were non-Leninist by default, living as most of them did in the 19th century). There are many other people who'd make much more sense, who actually were capable of responding theoretically to Leninism (and Stalinism), and whose work strikes bridges between anarchist conclusions and Marxian theory. Korsch, Pannekoek, Gorter, to begin with.

Red Marriott
May 6 2020 13:22

There is no real point to these Top 10s except, presumably, in relation to some obscure squabble or pub quiz internal to the SPGB and the typical marxoid obsession with their own sect's particular ancestry and bloodline. I guess that's why, eg, Lukacs, Korsch & Pannekoek get no mention. Outside of a tiny academic minority, how many read Plekhanov, Bebel, Liebknecht or Kautsky in the last 50 years compared to other marxists and how often are they published? For claimed "marxists" this is a curiously ahistorical, contextless shallow exercise. It just mimics the pantheon so loved by stalinists & maoists. Sometimes called 'the history of beards' by Nepalis.

Mike Harman
May 6 2020 18:21

Does the (non-Leninist) imply that if Leninists weren't excluded they'd knock others off the ranking?

comradeEmma
May 7 2020 15:15

I think Bebel is still one of the most read of the original social-democrats, both for Women and Socialism and speeches on homosexual rights. But in reality he was more of an agitator and organizer than a theoretician. Kautsky is seeing a revival though.

Red Marriott
May 7 2020 21:05
Quote:
I think Bebel is still one of the most read of the original social-democrats

That is probably damning with very faint praise. Who reads social democrats? Probably not even social democrats.
With a quick Google I couldn't find anything in English currently in print by Bebel or Kautsky, only a 2015 biography of Bebel. It's very rare to see them in bookshops in the UK and has been so for at least the last 40+ years, almost certainly longer. Maybe it's different elsewhere.

zugzwang
May 7 2020 23:27

I thought Kautsky's Economic Doctrines of Karl Marx was a helpful book to read alongside capital vol 1.

comradeEmma
May 8 2020 04:29

Women and Socialism is absolutely still in print. My copy was printed by the Swedish fourth international section because Bebel was very influential on marxist thought. Same with Kautsky. This like saying we should not read Luxemburg prior to her break with SPD and USPD.

Red Marriott
May 8 2020 13:08

Well I hope you read it more carefully than you do my posts. I'm not saying who should or shouldn't be read, only that there didn't seem to be any English language editions in print. This expensive academic printing is the only recent one I found, from 2010; https://www.amazon.co.uk/Woman-Socialism-August-Bebel/dp/1166386295
But I see now a cheap pamphlet; https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08244CT52/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vp...
But I doubt they're widely read or influential today.

Mike Harman
May 8 2020 14:08

I don't think anyone reads Bebel either, I did read a little bit recently to figure out if the 'anti-capitalism of fools' was properly attributed to him, and it wasn't - he was quoting someone else to disagree with them. Women and Socialism is online in case anyone's wondering https://www.marxists.org/archive/bebel/1879/woman-socialism/index.htm

Jacobin Magazine claim to be big Kautsky fans, but of course this does not necessarily involve actually reading him.

comradeEmma
May 8 2020 17:57

Maybe it is the ever hunting social-democratic heritage of Sweden.

Red Marriott
May 8 2020 23:05

Aren't there any interesting Swedish marxists?

R Totale
May 9 2020 09:30

I'd put Kampa Tillsammans in my top 10 interesting Swedish Marxists.

comradeEmma
May 9 2020 14:46

From memory Kämpa Tillsammans! do claim a leninist heritage in a similar manner to Mario Tronti though(they say they are influenced by the "left" politics on organizing for revolution of Lenin but oppose the "rightist" economic politics). They even wrote this one super strange essay synthesizing Lenin and Luxemburg's party conception by reading Camatte and Bordiga, though it remains untranslated. The only really non-leninist and non-social-democratic group that I find interesting is Folkmakt, which would later become both Riff-Raff and Kämpa Tillsammans(swedish ultraleft sectology).