Legal Marxism

Legal Marxism was a Russian political movement based on a particular interpretation of Marxism whose proponents were active between 1894 and 1901. The movement's primary theoreticians were Pyotr Struve, Nikolai Berdyaev, Sergei Bulgakov, Mikhail Tugan Baranovsky and Semyon Frank. The name was derived from the fact that its supporters promoted their ideas in legal publications.

Unlike the earlier generation of Russian socialists known as narodniks (populists), who emphasized the role of the peasantry in transitioning to socialism, Legal Marxists used the economic theory of Karl Marx to argue that the development of capitalism in the Imperial Russia was both inevitable and beneficial. As Struve put it, they provided a "justification for capitalism" in Russia.

Legal Marxists held numerous open debates from the mid-1890s through the early 1900s, notably at the Free Economic Society in Saint Petersburg, and published three magazines between 1897 and 1901, all of them eventually suppressed by the Tsarist government:

*"Novoye Slovo" (1897)
*"Nachalo" (1899)
*"Zhizn" (1899-1901, resumed abroad in 1902)

Legal Marxists became particularly influential after the arrest and imprisonment of the leaders of the revolutionary wing of Russian Marxism (including Julius Martov and Vladimir Lenin) in 1895-1896. Legal Marxists and revolutionary Marxists were allied in the late 1890s within the newly formed Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, whose Manifesto Struve wrote in 1898 and Legal Marxists magazines were extensively used by revolutionary Marxists living in exile or abroad to publish their writings. However, Legal Marxists became increasingly supportive of Eduard Bernstein's revision of Marxism from 1897 on, which drew criticism from Georgy Plekhanov, Lenin and other revolutionary Marxists. Struve and other Legal Marxist leaders soon abandoned philosophical materialism for neo-Kantianism while Berdyaev, Bulgakov and Frank eventually became philosophers of religion. Tugan-Baranovsky developed a theory of cyclical economic crises under capitalism, which was also criticised by revolutionary Marxists ref|Tugan.

Starting in 1901, Legal Marxists' abandonment of Marxism led to a break with Russian social democrats and they drifted toward liberalism with Struve editing "Osvobozhdenie" ("Liberation"), a liberal magazine, from 1902 on. Eventually the leaders of the movement became allied with the radical part of the Zemstvo within "Soyuz Osvobozhdeniya" ("Liberation Union") in 1903-1905. Most of them were prominent supporters of the Constitutional Democratic party after the Russian Revolution of 1905.


* See, e.g, Lenin's [ letter] to his relatives dated June 20, 1899 in A. Ulyanova-Yelizarova. "Apropos of Lenin' "Letters To Relatives" in Lenin. "Collected Works", Volume 37, Moscow, 1931.


*Vincent Barnett, 'Tugan-Baranovsky as a Pioneer of Trade Cycle Analysis', Journal of the History of Economic Thought, December 2001.
*Neil Harding. "Legal Marxism" in "The Dictionary of Marxist Thought", ed. Tom Bottomore, London, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 1983, 2nd revised edition 1991, ISBN 0-631-18082-6 pp.307-308.
*Richard Kindersley. "The First Russian Revisionists: A Study of Legal Marxism in Russia", Oxford University Press, 1962, 260p.
*Richard Pipes. "Struve: Liberal on the Left, 1870-1905", Harvard University Press, 1970, xiii, 415p. ISBN 0-674-84595-1
*Arthur P. Mendel. "Dilemmas of Progress in Tsarist Russia: Legal Marxism and Legal Populism", Harvard University Press, 1961, 310p.
*Andrzej Walicki. "The Controversy over Capitalism: Studies in the Social Philosophy of Russian Populists", Oxford University Press, 1969, 206p. Paperback reprint: University of Notre Dame Press, 1989, ISBN 0-268-00770-5, 197p.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Legal marxism —    An interpretation of Marxism developed by Russian scholars at the end of the 19th century. P.B. Struve, M.I. Tugan Baranovsky, N.A. Berdyaev, S.N. Bulgakov and S.L. Frank were as critical of Marxism as they were sympathetic to it, many of… …   Historical dictionary of Marxism

  • Marxism — Part of a series on Marxism …   Wikipedia

  • legal culture — consists of values and norms concerning the content and operation of law. Reflecting as it does embedded values about socio economic and political relationships, legal culture constitutes the cognitive environment for legal behaviour. Chinese… …   Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture

  • Legal naturalism — is a term coined by Olufemi Taiwo to describe a current in the social philosophy of Karl Marx which can be interpreted as one of Natural Law. Taiwo considered it the manifestation of Natural Law in a dialectical materialist… …   Wikipedia

  • Marxism — /mahrk siz euhm/, n. the system of economic and political thought developed by Karl Marx, along with Friedrich Engels, esp. the doctrine that the state throughout history has been a device for the exploitation of the masses by a dominant class,… …   Universalium

  • Marxism (Philosophies of) — Philosophies of Marxism Lenin, Lukács, Gramsci, Althusser Michael Kelly INTRODUCTION Marxist philosophy can be seen as a struggle with Hegel or a struggle with capitalism, that is, as an intellectual or a political movement. Neither of these… …   History of philosophy

  • Marxism–Leninism — Part of a series on Marxism–Leninism …   Wikipedia

  • THE SOVIET UNION AND RUSSIAN MARXISM —  Early Russian Marxism: Plekhanov and Legal Marxism  ■ Baron, S.H. Plekhanov: The Father of Russian Marxism. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1963.  ■ Haimson, L.H. The Russian Marxists and the Origins of Bolshevism. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard… …   Historical dictionary of Marxism

  • Japanese marxism —    Marxism has failed to gain significant support in Japan despite the country having had a large urban working class and having been at the forefront of technological development since World War II. The Japanese Communist Party (JCP; Nihon… …   Historical dictionary of Marxism

  • Analytical Marxism — refers to a particular Marxist approach that was prominent amongst English speaking philosophers and social scientists during the 1980s. It was mainly associated with the September Group of academics, so called because of their biennial September …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.