Difference between Marxism and Communism

Updated on August 26, 2016

These words get interchanged quite often, and the fact that one serves as the foundation of the other means it can be quite tricky to find differences between the two.


Karl Marx

Marxism is an economic and social theory based on the ideas of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. It talks about the importance of the working class and its vital role in bringing a capitalist society to socialism and eventually to a communist state. Marxism is the basis for the practice of communism.

During the mid-1800s, Marx and Engels criticized capitalism heavily and blamed private ownership of companies and natural resources (i.e., modes of production) as the cause of growing social inequality. Marx believed that the widening gap between the proletariat (the working class) and the bourgeoisie (private owners) would bring conflict between the two classes. This conflict would then bring a social revolution that would end private ownership and establish socialism. The modes of production would be publicly owned and would continue to operate to satisfy the needs of the masses, not for the creation of profit. Marx theorized that advancements in technology and industry would eventually lead to a resource-based, humane society without social classes that is not under any form of state control.

Communism is a political, economic and social system that aims to establish public ownership of the means of production. It sees a society where there are no rich or poor people, no money, nor any form of government.

As communism is based on Marxism, it holds that what society has become was brought on by capitalism, a system made up of the working class (proletariat) – the majority of the population – and the capitalist class (bourgeoisie) – the ruling few. Private ownership of factories, industries and natural resources allow the capitalist class to make profit by employing the working class. Political, economic and social factors will cause conflict between the two classes, resulting in the end of private ownership of all industries. The shift to public ownership of the means of production, according to this theory, would eventually bring in a classless society where money has no value and government control slowly ceases to exist.

Marxism vs Communism

So, what is the difference between Marxism and communism then? The important fact to remember is that Marxism is the fundamental idea behind the communist movement.
Even Marxism is clear about itself being a study of society and history based on what is actually happening in real life. It does not provide a blueprint or an action plan, but it is a critique of capitalism.  Communism is a socioeconomic and political system based on the theories of Marxism as prescribed by Marx and Engels. It is acknowledged as the realization of Marxism.

Comparison Chart

A socioeconomic theory and a critique of capitalism and its effect on societyA political, social and economic system based on Marxist ideals
Holds that capitalism and socialism play a temporary role until a communist state is realizedCapitalism would eventually stop; money would lose its value; social classes will disappear along with any form of government or state
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