In one sense Marxism embraces revisionism based as it is on a constant dialectic between theory and practice, and with an emphasis on change and development. Vladimir Ilich Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg, Mao Zedong, Frantz Fanon— the list could go on—all revised Marxism in light of the circumstances in which they found themselves. However, it is with Eduard Bernstein that the term revisionism has become most closely associated after he challenged the prevailing Marxist orthodoxy embodied in the writings and words of Karl Kautsky, the so-called Pope of Marxism. In the 1890s and early 1900s the German Social Democratic Party, of which Bernstein and Kautsky were leading figures, was the largest Marxist party in the world and espoused a very deterministic interpretation of Marxism with a belief in the inevitable collapse of capitalism and its replacement by communism. Bernstein highlighted the growing disparity between the revolutionary theory of the party and the reformist practice, and argued that the empirical evidence accumulated since the death of Karl Marx showed that many of his central predictions were false: the middle class was not disappearing as classes polarized into proletariat and bourgeoisie; immiserization of the workers was not growing; capitalism was not lurching from crisis to crisis and the collapse of capitalism seemed further off than ever. Bernstein’s proposed revisions in the direction of a more open reformism and an ethical basis for Marxism were vehemently opposed not just by Kautsky, but also by Rosa Luxemburg who saw his evolutionary socialism as leading to a different goal from that of revolutionary socialism. Since this dispute revisionism has been used as a term of abuse with the intention of discrediting a viewpoint, the Soviet Union, for example, condemning Josip Tito’s Yugoslavia and Eurocommunism as revisionist because of their challenge to the Soviet orthodoxy.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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  • revisionism — /ri vizh euh niz euhm/, n. 1. advocacy or approval of revision. 2. any departure from Marxist doctrine, theory, or practice, esp. the tendency to favor reform above revolutionary change. 3. a departure from any authoritative or generally accepted …   Universalium

  • revisionism — [[t]rɪvɪ̱ʒənɪzəm[/t]] N UNCOUNT (disapproval) Revisionism is a theory of socialism that is more moderate than normal Marxist theory, and is therefore considered unacceptable by most Marxists. [FORMAL] The Guardian says the reforms come after… …   English dictionary

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