What Is Marxism-Leninism?

Vladimir Lenin created the Marxism-Leninism ideology.
Vladimir Lenin created the Marxism-Leninism ideology.

Marxism-Leninism is a slight modification by Vladimir Lenin to the Marxism ideology, which was a driving force in the first fruitful communist revolution in Russia in 1917. Consequently, Marxism-Leninism became the foundation of communist movements all around the world by the twentieth century. Marxism is an ideology developed by Karl Marx together with his communist colleagues. In Marxism, the core belief is that the capitalist state (the bourgeoisie) should be removed completely and replaced with a socialist society that will be governed by a dictatorship of the working class. Marx believed that the state is an instrument of the bourgeoisie that protects their private assets. By removing the state, a communist utopia, which will be characterized by a society without classes or a state, will rise and take care of the citizens. The problem with Marxism was that it had a number of holes in its arguments that needed to be filled. Some of the problems include the lack of a clear explanation of how exactly the state would die or how the revolution would happen. The new and improved Marxism-Leninism addressed most of these problems.

Marxism-Leninism in the Soviet Union

During the period of the Soviet Union, Marxism-Leninism had different interpretations based on the era of the Soviet Communist Party leaders. For example, the error of Joseph Stalin was advocating for the establishment of personality cults, which were strongly opposed by another Soviet General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev described the cults as being unknown to Leninism. Another Soviet Communist leader, Leonid Brezhnev, discouraged the disagreements that were propagated during Khrushchev’s era. Most scholars will agree that the ideology developed by Lenin ended in the Soviet Union with bitter feelings and criticisms of its basic ideas.

Modern Usage

A huge percentage of Communist parties in the world today attribute the ideas in the Marxist-Leninist approach as their guiding principles. However, the ideologies have been changed in order to ensure that they adhere to modern political climates. There are some Communist parties that have decided to completely alienate themselves from the Marxist-Leninist approach. Most of these parties are those that had past associations with Euro-communism. In fact, some of these parties have elected to omit Leninism completely from their official documents. When used in the names of parties, the designation “Marxist-Leninist” represents that party’s desire to distance itself from another, mostly revisionist, communist party within the same nation.

The State’s Foundations

Under Marxism-Leninism, the revolution will be led by a single communist party which will be the political vanguard in providing guidance and governance to the working classes in order to establish the key pillars of social state. These key pillars are political, social, and economic.


Direct election will be used to elect key administrative officials at all the relevant levels of governance. Since it was the driving force of the first fruitful communist revolution in Russia, the term was largely centered on the Soviet Union in three political parties. These parties were the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Stalinist, and the Communist International political parties.


Under this pillar, the goal of Marxism-Leninism is to emancipate men and women from dehumanizing work. The dehumanization is brought about by mechanical-like work that removes the balance between working and personal lives in exchange for limited wages to acquire necessities such as food and shelter. The idea is to free people from these clutches so that more personal time is available for pursuing personal goals and interests. To achieve this personal freedom under the socialist state, Marxism-Leninism looks towards new and improved technology that will greatly reduce the time people need to work. To achieve these technological advancements necessary for emancipation, the workforce needs to have an excellent education that will help in the creation of the new technology.

On the matter of material needs that the people will need, Marxism-Leninism also has a solution. Under the ideology, a planned economy will be responsible for the production and distribution of goods and services that the society and the national economy will need. The skills and contribution of an individual to the overall economy will be used as the basis for determining the wages a person should get. In addition, the usage value of goods and services will be responsible for determining the economic value of goods and services, not the exchange rates or the cost of production.


Under the communist society, the state will be responsible for the provision of the welfare needs of the public. The welfare needs include the likes of free public education, universal healthcare, and other needs that are needed for making sure that workers stay productive. The welfare state is expected to educate the working class in matters concerning academics, technology, and politics. In addition, patriarchal systems are replaced with family laws. The argument for the introduction of family law is to ensure that women are free from traditional views that see them as being inferior to men.

Cultural policies will ensure a modernization of relations among citizens by removing the traditional social classes. The changes for this cultural shift are going to be achieved through education, agitation, and propaganda to reinforce communism. From a religious perspective, atheism is dominant in this ideology. The Marxist-Leninist is based on free human beings who guide their own actions and not by supernatural beings that are based on belief only.

International Relations

The approach to international relations for a Marxist-Leninist state is similar to the approach taken towards a capitalist state. There shall be no international relations in that communist state because international relations are seen as being extensions of national economic forces. The approach believes that greedy capitalists exhaust domestic resources then go ahead and export investment capital to other countries, usually undeveloped states, in order to exploit that country’s resources. The Marxist-Leninist approach argues that greedy capitalists control the nation’s resources through price-fixing and thieving cartels.

Variants of Marxism–Leninism

One of the most popular variants is Maoism, which was developed in the People’s Republic of China. Also known as the Mao Zedong Thought, this variant raised tensions between China and the Soviet Union. The tensions arose because both parties considered their interpretation of Marxism-Leninism to be the correct one. Eventually, these tensions led to the Sino-Soviet split between 1956 and 1966.


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