Each session will be different. This is only a very brief intro to Marx (some of the info –e.g. specifics of propaganda is implied by Marx but specified by other Marxists.). Marx is important because 1) he explained some things in a way which is helpful in understanding our condition. And 2) because he has been very influential – many lean on him or against him. But he is difficult to read – many discuss it in a disconnected fashion.

 Focus is on: how some key parts fit together, on what appear TO ME to be the most relevant/useful to our current state things.


The best way to insure that you understand this (or any complex thought) is by trying to explain it to someone else. This way you will also continue the spirit of

“Each One Teach One!”


If you have any questions (especially if you didn’t make it to the 1st session) you can show up a bit early before the next session and we’ll try to discuss whatever you would like.




Marx based his theory on his own understanding of HUMAN NATURE.

-          current notions of human nature: COMPETITIVE, SELFISH, GREEDY, VIOLENT.

-          But Marx argued that we need to look at HISTORY to understand “True” human nature = how humans act “regardless” of location or time period. [deserted island example]

HUMAN NATURE = humans are

1)       PRODUCTIVE = survival

2)       SOCIAL – producers, procreation, etc.

3)       CONSCIOUS (creative) – we keep using our intelligence to cut corners and reduce the amount of work it takes to produce so that we can have free time, because what we try to achieve is FREE CONSCIOUS PRODUCTION (e.g. cave paintings, music, dancing, loving, etc.) instead of NECESSITY/SURVIVAL PRODUCTION – which chains you to your belly (remember he was writing in 19c where they thought that “savages” are miserable and “work” all day long).



-          it is our “nature” that has driven history in a specific direction -  we keep developing ways of production which allow us to produce more with less effort (e.g. bow and arrow instead of hunting with a rock, than a gun, than a mad cow farm J) which allows for possibility of FREEDOM from necessity. And this constant drive is what keeps “progressing” humanity “foreword” to realization of our nature.  à = the basis of (society) historical change is

ECONOMY =        



-natural resources




- form of ownership of the productive process (and products) [economic structure/system]


-          in CAPITALISM 

the basis of: FORCES OF PRODUCTION is WAGE LABOR = all of it is outcome of the labor of the WORKING CLASS – the class of people who own no (productive) property, all we have is our own labor to sell as a COMMODITY = something that is intended for sale.


               RELATIONS OF PRODUCTION is CAPITAL = a relation where the WORKING CLASS sells its LABOR [work] to the capitalist class, which is used to increase the value of commodities/resources. The CAPITALIST CLASS is the class that owns/controls the MEANS OF PRODUCTION (“property”).


E.G. Production of a table. It is designed and produced by the working class which increases the value of wood by adding it’s LABOR into it = WEALTH production. The capitalist who owns the wood and the machinery takes the table (workers own no part of ità) and sells it by setting a PRICE for it based on ‘bottom line’. From the money that s/he gets s/he pays WAGES (minimum amount necessary for the workers to keep working), and the rest is PROFIT (if the capitalist returns all of the wealth that the workers have put into the product there would be no profit) = THEFT (the fundamental source of injustice in this society)! This is the job of the capitalist [often times it’s not even the capitalist who does this], to set up the production and sale in a way where they can steal the most amount of wealth = “BOTTOM LINE” = CAPITALISM IS A STRUCTURAL PROBLEM not a spiritual/psychological/ideological one. = CLASS CONFLICT   the interests of the two classes are in direct opposition.  This is the primary contradiction within our society.

-          There is no “WE” in economy… or nation! – the economy is “going down” for WHOM and up for whom? Who won the Desert Storm (who’s gas prices only went up)?

-          And there is no “WE” when it comes to the government because the necessary role of the STATE (any kind of GOVT) in capitalist society is to serve the capitalist CLASS of that country (not any one individual capitalist). E.g. Politicians are LACKEYS of that class because:

1)       they generally come from the capitalist class or aspire to be in it (here, $ = “success”),

2)       they are individually dependent on that class to get elected (campaign finance, media, etc),

3)       they depend on that class to be successful as politicians – if they piss off the capitalists (=cost them $) than industries can move out ruin the economy… or just get shot.


Why don’t workers “realize” this? Why are we so confused by what is “true” about ourselves (our “nature”) and the nature of the SYSTEM that we live in?

1)       CONSCIOUSNESS is an outcome of material conditions, of what is around us (i.e. competition, selfishness, bureaucracy, racism, sexism, money oriented relations, etc = current ECONOMY) and not the other way around (idealism). [gangsta rapers have been saying this for over a decade now “we are what your streets and cages have made us, if you want us to change, change our reality”]        Marxism = MATERIALISM.                 

2)       Because we do not scientifically look at history; instead we only pay attention to the existing.       Marxism = HISTORICAL   à Marxims = HISTORICAL MATERIALISM.

3)       The ruling class reinforces this through PROPAGANDA by feeding us the notion that:

-          “This is how it has ALWAYS been and that there is NO IMAGINABLE ALTERNATIVE, so get in line and do what you are told”.

-          “We are all Americans.” They mislead us from the understanding that we are in a middle of a war where only one side knows that it exists – the CLASS CONFLICT. This is why Americans go around saying “we invaded Iraq”, “we spend too much money on military”, “we are destroying the forests” – there is no one WE in capitalism. There is WE (who are forced to do these things) and ‘THEY’ who are the ones to make the decisions and then trick us into following orders.

     Some sources of propaganda:

-          RELIGION which exists only by the permission of the state (e.g. David Koresh/Branch Dividians, tax exemptions). And themselves, holding some power, are interested in maintaining the status quo),

-          SCHOOLS which are controlled by the state (or directly by capitalists) à serve it by producing (like a factory) an army of dumb, patriotic, passive, disciplined, docile workers.

-          MEDIA – who are owned by the capitalist class and then again forced to be dependent on it for advertisements, etc.

-          And whoever else is paid for by capitalist class to shape us into docility - books, academia, etc. – all of these are controlled by the ruling class because they are owned by them and are dependent on the capitalist class for their existence.

-          And when they don’t convince us, then they put the ‘gun’ to our heads and forced us to do it (e.g. draft, taxes, etc)… and if we still don’t do it they pull the trigger (X, MLK, etc).



Society CHANGES [DIALECTICALLY] through revolutions, because of this tension between the FORCES OF PRODUCTION keep outgrowing the RELATIONS of production (=fetters”). [e.g. Internet file sharing.]





-natural resources






- form of ownership of the productive process (and products) [economic structure/system]


-          In capitalist society it is this growing CLASS CONFLICT that will lead to a revolution. Here is ONE major aspect of this building tension:


Creativity à “improvements” in production (in capitalism = more work), lower wages, fewer workers needed, etc. à lower cost (to drive out competition) à small businesses get swallowed by big ones because they can’t compete à ex-bosses and their ex-employees turn into workers who are facing fewer and shittyer jobs àlower consumption + greater production = 1929 Great Depression à need more markets à globalization = global expansion of working class who are now in the same shitty boat    =        greater tension  à class consciousness (hopefully) à global revolution.


- The necessary HISTORICAL ROLE of the capitalist class is to set up a system where we have “advanced” production/technology to liberate us from necessity.


- The necessary HISTORICAL ROLE of the working class is to be the “subject of history” to globally topple the capitalist class and take possession of the means of production, and set up a socialist mode of production where the aims of society is to provide for the people’s needs [our purpose] rather than profit. The working class is supposed to do this by taking all of the means of production and seizing the state apparatus to establish a “dictatorship of the proletariat”. Once we win against the bourgeoisie and all of the economy is reorganized, the state will not be needed and it will somehow “just wither away”.

3 (of the many) CRITIQUES

1)       many people have problems with the reduction of everything down to economy. Some western M’s (Althusere, Marcuse, Sartra, etc), and many other feminists, anti-racists, etc. argue that revolution has not yet taken place because culture/ideology is much more fundamental than what Marx described it to be. Economy can’t explain all [because we are not only producing within economy – social interaction in other spaces/conditions can also be productive]


2)       People like A’s and Michels argue that Marx did not account for the structural relations (material conditions) of institutional leadership itself, which leads the leaderships of organizations that are supposed to be for the benefit of the working class to become just as corrupt as their enemies. They tend to develop a symbiotic relationship with their enemies to maintain their own position – it’s an old trick. The political ruling classes fight to death before “withering away”. àthere is no WE in hierarchy


3)       Post-structuralists and anti-civs point out that Marx never considered the fact that he himself saw history from a particular angle when it comes to:

-          the understanding of primitive societies (in many primitive societies there is no distinction between “hobby/art” and necessity production),

-          direction of change/“PROGRESS”? [àno taste in food! no enviro!]

-          Marx insistence that there is only one path (with various ways of getting to it) lends itself to imperialism (especially against those who might be perceived as hindering the “progress toward end of history” – e.g. if some “backward” tribe resides over “necessary” raw materials).

-          All other interpretations which did not originate with this particular 19c middle class white man are considered “IDEOLOGY” = whatever does not agree with M’s method of historical materialism.    


THAT’s why when Marcos was faced with a different world, he changed his stance to desiring “A WORLD WHERE MANY WORLDS ARE POSSIBLE”



CAPITAL – is accumulated labor imbedded in certain social relations. It’s when living labor acts upon accumulated labor/materials (e.g. a printing press and paper), to increase its value. So a factory on its own is just a commodity, but when you bring in workers it turns into capital. This is living labor serving accumulated labor.


DIALECTIC CHANGE the social unit in itself possesses a contradiction which grows to a point where the structure of the unit cannot contain the conflict, thereby leading to change.}}}

{{{E.g. when the bourgeoisie had started utilizing the innovations in sailing [and genocidal conquest!] they started to gain much power, so the Feudal lords started trying to use their power to keep the bourgies down. For example, they came up with the law that whatever falls off the cart that is traveling through their property will be the property of the lord. Etc. So the bourgies (through creativity) accumulated enough strength to win a revolution against the Monarchy. }}}


ALIENATION where we are all ALIENATED from our “nature” in every way. We are alienated from:

- being SOCIAL because: 1) we work with strangers, 2) we are in a competition with one another,  3) capitalists’ individual appropriation of wealth [except when we steal J], 4)  individual decisions on production [all are implicated in division of labor]

- PRODUCTION: 1) meaningless jobs, 2) bosses are alienated from even getting to touch the product, 3) we only produce commodities – it’s not for us.

- CREATIVITY: 1) bosses only do brain work, 2) workers only do brainless work}}}


this does not mean that all of us are under the same material conditions – the conditions keep changing at different pace depending where you are in society – e.g. access to certain kind of education, digital divide].   Therefore, Leninists argued that a vanguard of people who have been in a position to study and understand all of this need to lead the working class into a global revolution and then be trusted to make the decisions for the people. We all saw what happened.

[In capitalism economy IS more central than in other forms, because this economic system is so all prevalent – it does colonize culture, but not all systems as such – especially the alternatives to capitalism which is why they often fail to change ideology along with them.]

Next session?: ‘alienation’, ‘fetishism of commodities’, ‘reification’,