Marxism, Karl Marx, Communism, Socialism. These four words strike controversy today, as they have since their creation.
Marx and Engels first histories included Engels German Peasant War and The Conditions of the Working Class in England in 1844. Marx’s first historical works where Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon and The Communist Manifesto. Marx and Engels way of looking at history was drastically different than historians before. They looked at the history from below. The History of the Working Class. Through the philosophical tool known as Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism, Marx and Engels where able to see how modes of production changed. Understanding the How and Why of Change.
The Early Progressive Historians who looked at history through Class Conflict, Racism, and Gender oppression. WEB DuBois, Charles Beard, and Mary Beard. These three historians where essential the first to challenge consensus history.
These Historians paved the way for the Historians who Emerged in the 1960s. These Historians founded what became known as the New Left. Howard Zinn, EP Thompson, Tariq Ali, Ward Churchill, Paul Buhle, Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, Alfred McCoy, Neil Faulkner, and Eric Hobsbawm. These historians changed the entire field of history. Focusing on “History from below”.
This led to what was known as New Social History. Which focused on often long forgotten groups. These groups included African American, Native American, Labor, Latino, Women, and Queers. This was a drastic changed that challenged the traditional notion of what was “True”. A notable Historian in this Field is Gerald Horne, who wrote extensively on the History of African Americans.
The New Left historians, Howard Zinn specifically, highly influenced me to get into history. Zinn’s phenomenal telling of American History, I found not only amazing, but life changing. It was shocking to me at times, and exciting. To me it was a narrative, a story of conflict. I read this book first when I was 16.
These Historians use of Marxism inspires me to keep reading Marxist Theory, and slowly learn how to apply it to the present and the past. As a useful tool, to understand how things are, why they are this way, and what can be done that has worked in the past to change them.