"One expression of the genius of Marx and Engels was that they despised pedantic playing with new words, erudite terms, and simple 'isms', and said simply and plainly: there is a materialist line and an idealist line in philosophy, and between them there are various shades of agnosticism." --V.I. Lenin


Marxists are materialists as opposed to being idealists. We believe that ideas need to be checked against the real world. Idealists, the opposites of materialists, believe that the real world is only a crude approximation of another world, a perfect world existing in their minds.

An example is the story of the great astronomer Galileo, who used the newly-invented telescope to prove that the Earth rotates around the Sun. Idealistic church leaders arrested him and forced him to recant. Although he made other great contributions to physical science, Galileo never practiced astronomy again.

It can be frustrating to argue with idealists, because they do not believe in nor accept proof. Scientific evidence from the real world does not sway them. The persistent efforts to discredit Charles Darwin's great work on evolution make a current example. Arguments against Marxism are usually framed idealistically.

Which philosophy is preferred by the capitalists?

Idealism, of course, because idealists can be convinced of any level of nonsense. Capitalist information sources even undermine the very word, "materialism," by confusing it with acquisitiveness. Materialists, they would say, are people who want to buy a lot of stuff.

Everything in this world, the idealist says, is subjective. An idealist can convince his/herself of anything, and often does. An idealist might believe that hijacking an airliner and crashing it into a skyscraper will be of benefit. He/she might try to improve their situation by blowing up a bus with him/her in it! An idealist might be convinced to carry a shotgun into a high school and kill a few friends before turning the gun on his/herself. An idealist might think he/she can fly off a skyscraper.

Idealists also blame themselves and their own lack of "faith" for lack of success in the economic, athletic, or romantic world. An idealist might vote for a mass murderer if he/she thought they shared agreement on some abstract notion. Hallucinogenic drugs and religion completely derail idealists, since they confuse their immediate feelings with facts. Such people are dangerous to themselves and others.

There is great pressure in capitalist society to be an idealist. Since idealists might believe anything, they can be convinced to buy almost anything, vote for almost anybody, or commit war crimes. The American right-wing counts on idealism to get supporters for war, poverty, and oppression. "Work and pray, live on hay," sang the great working-class songwriter Joe Hill, "You'll get pie in the sky when you die!"

Materialism is fundamental to Marxism, as it is fundamental to any scientific knowledge or approach to knowledge. Not all socialists are materialists, and not all materialists are socialists, but Marxists are materialists.

Study up by reading Frederick Engels' Anti-Duhring or a much shorter excerpt, "Socialism, Utopian and Scientific."


Please use the form below to provide some feedback, or just send me an e-mail.

Voluntary Assessment:        


You can go through these little modules in any order you like, but now that you have finished Materialism then What determines our attitudes? is recommended next.