Marxist humanism is an international body
of thought and political action rooted in an interpretation of the works of Karl Marx.
The tendency was born in the 1940’s and reached a degree of prominence in the 1950’s and 1960’s
before being largely outshined by the anti-humanist Marxism of Louis Althusser.Marxist humanism
is an investigation into “what human nature consists of and what sort of society would
be most conductive to human thriving” from a critical perspective rooted in Marxist philosophy.
Marxist humanists argue that Marx himself was concerned with investigating similar questions.
As such, contrary to the interpretations of Marx rooted in structuralist Marxism, Marxist
humanists argue that Marx’s work, rather than being an outright rejection, was an extension
or transcendence of enlightenment humanism, extending humanist critique into the realm
of human organization rather than limiting it to the critique of religion.==Philosophy==
Marxist humanism holds that Marx maintained his notion of alienation first laid out in
his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 until his death in 1883. Teodor Shanin
and Raya Dunayevskaya go further, asserting that not only is alienation present in the
late Marx, but that there is no meaningful distinction to be made between the “young
Marx” and “mature Marx.” Philosopher Wang Roushui summarized the essence
of Marxist humanism in his essay “A Defense of Humanism”: Whatever humanism may be, it has as its common
principle, in simple terms, human value. The various humanisms may differ greatly in their
interpretations of human value, but…such differences are merely as between one humanism
and another….Marx often used the expression “human value” in an approving sense, and it
is certainly not exclusively bourgeois jargon. Historically, humanism played not merely an
antifeudal role, but also an anti-capitalist one; hence it cannot be said that humanism
can never be other than bourgeois ideology. Marx did indeed criticize the humanism of
[Ludwig] Feuerbach, but far from utterly denying humanism, he brought it to a higher stage
of development. Marx and Feuerbach both placed many in the highest position and recognized
no essence higher than man’s. But Feuerbach only opposed ideological illusions of superhuman
forces, whereas Marx went further and opposed all the actual social relations that degraded
man to the status of nonhuman. Marx was able to reach this revolutionary conclusion because
he grasped actual man, social man….The humanism we advocate is again Marxist humanism and
no other. The noun “humanism” expresses its genetic link with historical humanism; the
adjective “Marxist” expresses its difference from other humanism.
The early Marx, influenced by Feuerbach’s humanistic inversion of Hegelian idealism,
articulated a concept of species-being, according to which man’s essential nature is that of
a free producer, freely reproducing their own conditions of life. However, under capitalism
individuals are alienated from their productive activity insofar as they are compelled to
sell their labor-power as a commodity to a capitalist; their sensuous life-activity,
or labor, thus appears to them as something objective, a commodity to be bought and sold
like any other. Thus, to overcome alienation and allow humankind to realize its species-being,
the wage-labor system must be transcended, and the separation of the laborer from the
means of labor abolished.==Criticisms==
Marxist humanism has been quite controversial even within Marxist circles. Famously, Louis
Althusser, the French Structuralist Marxist, criticised Marxist Humanists for not recognizing
what he considered to be the fundamental dichotomy between the theory of the ‘Young Marx’ and
‘Mature Marx’. Althusser believed Marx’s thought to be marked by a radical epistemological
break, to have occurred some time in-between the publication of the Holy Family and the
drafting of the German Ideology. For Althusser, the humanism of Marx’s early writings—influenced
by Hegel and Feuerbach—is fundamentally incongruous with the “scientific”, structure-concerned
theory he argued were to be found in Marx’s later works such as Das Kapital.
Althusser was quite critical of what he perceived to be a reliance among Marxist humanists on
Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts. Marxist humanists, however, strongly dispute this. Marxist humanist
activist Lilia D. Monzó states that “Marxist-Humanism… considers the totality of Marx’s works,
recognizing that his early work in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, was profoundly
humanist and led to and embeds his later works, including Capital.” Additionally, they point
out that the groundwork for Marxist humanist ideas was worked out by Georg Lukacs in his
work History and Class Consciousness, published nine years before Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts
were available.==Marxist humanists==
Notable thinkers associated with Marxist humanism include: György Lukács (1885–1971) Hungarian Marxist
philosopher and literary critic. Raya Dunayevskaya (1910–1987) founder of
the philosophy of Marxist Humanism in the United States of America.
News and Letters Committees (1950s onwards) is a small, revolutionary-socialist organization
in the United States founded by Dunayevskaya. Frantz Fanon (1925–1961) Psychiatrist, philosopher,
revolutionary, and author from Martinique. Karel Kosík (1926–2003) Czech philosopher
who wrote on topics such as phenomenology and dialectics from a Marxist humanist perspective.
Lucien Goldmann (1913–1970) French philosopher and sociologist of Jewish-Romanian origin.
Erich Fromm (1900–1980) internationally renowned social psychologist, psychoanalyst,
and humanistic philosopher. Ernst Bloch (1885–1977) was a German Marxist
philosopher. Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937) an Italian writer,
politician, political philosopher, and linguist. Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) German-Jewish
Marxist literary critic, essayist, translator, and philosopher.
Herbert Marcuse (1898–1979) German philosopher and sociologist, and a member of the Frankfurt
School. C. L. R. James (1901–1989) Afro-Trinidadian
journalist, socialist theorist and writer. Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980) French existentialist
philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary
critic. Marshall Berman (1940–2013) American Marxist
Humanist writer and philosopher. Author of All That Is Solid Melts into Air.
Praxis School (1960s and 1970s) Marxist humanist philosophical movement. It originated in Zagreb
and Belgrade in the SFR Yugoslavia. E. P. Thompson (1924–1993) English historian,
socialist and peace campaigner. Andrew Kliman Marxist economist and philosopher.
Kevin B. Anderson (b. 1948) American social theorist and activist.
Henri Lefebvre (1901–1991) French sociologist, intellectual and philosopher generally considered
to be a Neo-Marxist. Franklin Rosemont (1943-2009) American writer,
artist, historian, and activist. Salvador Allende (1908–1973) Former President
of Chile. Christopher Hill (historian) (1912–2003)
English Marxist historian. Paulo Freire (1921–1997) Brazilian educator
and influential theorist of critical pedagogy. André Gorz (1923–2007) Austrian and French
social philosopher. Ivan Sviták (1925–1994) Czech social critic
and aesthetic theorist. Wang Ruoshui (1926–2002) Chinese journalist
and philosopher. John Berger (1926–2017) English art critic,
novelist, painter and author. Leszek Kołakowski (1927–2009) Polish philosopher
and historian of ideas. Kołakowski broke with Marxism after the Polish 1968 political
crisis forced him out of Poland. David McReynolds (1929-2018) American democratic
socialist and pacifist activist. Frankfurt School (1930s onwards) The Frankfurt
School is a school of neo-Marxist critical theory, social research, and philosophy.
Peter McLaren (b. 1948) one of the leading architects of critical pedagogy.
Rodolfo Mondolfo (1877–1976) Italian Marxist philosopher and historian of Ancient Greek
philosophy. Lewis Gordon (b. 1962) Black American philosopher.
Nigel Gibson British & American philosopher John Lewis (philosopher) (1889–1976) British
Unitarian minister and Marxist philosopher.==See also==
Autonomist Marxism Budapest School (Lukács)
Dialectic Frankfurt School
Historical Materialism Karl Marx
New Left Orthodox Marxism
Secular humanism Structure and agency