Violence and Marxism

Marx to Mao

Rustam Singh

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The issue of violence in the Marxist revolution has remained a subject of unresolved controversy. The controversy has spanned both the theoretical and the practical fields of the world communist movement. In both these fields, it has been a major divisive issue and has led to the adoption and propagation of conflicting and contradictory strategies and tactics. Yet the question has not received the kind of systematic and comprehensive attention it deserves.

This book explores and examines in detail the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Mao in order to determine the status of violence in the Marxist theory of revolution. It brings out not only the similarities in the views of these thinkers concerning the issue of violence but also the differences and lays out the reasons for those differences.

The book raises and tries to answer questions such as: Is the Marxist revolution necessarily violent? Or have the leading Marxist thinkers admitted the possibility of a peaceful transformation as well? Is the violent or peaceful nature of the revolution determined by the structures of a given society? If so, is it determined solely by the economic structures? Or do political structures too have a role to play? Under what kind of circumstances, economic and/or political, is a violent socialist revolution likely to take place or be successful? Does the level of the development of the capitalist economic and political structures and institutions affect the nature of the revolution, making it violent or peaceful?

The format of the study is primarily historical and chronological. In other words, the book analyses not only the views of these thinkers but also the specific historical conditions under which these views took shape.


Rustam Singh

Rustam Singh (b. 1955) is a philosopher and translator. He has in the past been associated with various institutions such as Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Indian Institute of Advanced Study and Jawaharlal Nehru University and has worked as an Associate Editor at Economic & Political Weekly. He also writes Hindi poetry.