Was Communism meant to be a telos, for Marx, or for Lenin etc.? By that, I mean to ask whether Communism is already contained in anything that creates Communism? My apologies if my jargon is off, I read e.g. that

teleology assumes that the end is already contained in the beginning

I have no idea what the answer is.

I'm interested, because then maybe Lenin's international (Communist) nature means that he should advocate principles which are extant after a Communist world revolution.

It seems to me that e.g. 'red terror' is the wrong word when the international proletariat has already seized its dictatorship and is transitionining toward a "classless" society.

Obviously, Lenin did advoate a "red terror".

There's a fun pamphlet I scanned most of, in which he talks about "compromise" as something one has to do to survive, and how different that is to doing so in order to profit with those who you're compromising with. He seems to be linking that to merely proletarian parties, those that aren't international ("always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole").

I was wondering how that would look with 'telos'?

  • just wanted to add, what about the idea that lenin was not a communist because his revolution failed to achieve its international goals. historical necessity and all that?
    – user28660
    Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 23:50
  • Maximilien Rubel may give us some clue as to what Marx himself envisioned. Very little to no government, and the formation of what we would call co-ops. marxists.org/archive/rubel/1973/marx-anarchism.htm
    – Gordon
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 3:41
  • @Gordon ah i can't stand anarchist theories. another intereting question, though, is "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?". find some truly hard people, right??
    – user28660
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 5:02
  • Are you asking about "telos" understood in some metaphysical sense as a fundamentally different form of causality from past events causing later ones (what Aristotle would call an efficient cause), or would you include things like attractors in science?
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 15:39
  • Or more of a logos?
    – h_undatus
    Commented Feb 25 at 18:50

3 Answers 3


FULL COMMUNISM is the teleos of the proletariat’s historical dismantling of itself as its negation of its position of selling its labour power to capital to consume the products of its labour as the needs of living and be consumed by the products of its labour as new capital and capital goods and production goods.

Within the relationship of M—lp and M—C…P…C’—M’… is necessarily contained the abolition of these relationships. In addition to mere negation transcendence is possible as commodities lose their use-values and exchange-values during Production: they become mere uses, not use-values. In this sense capitalism is unnecessary for production. Additionally the declining rate of profit as a result of the declining fraction of living labour in the circuit of capital produces a premonition of the possibility of reducing labour power to zero and thus abolishing the sale of labour power.

In the sense that capital is self-abolishing and that the proletariat engages in loving solidarity as a prefigurative form of communist relations of being, communism is the teleos of the proletariat’s struggle in capitalism. These forms of loving solidarity exist in the struggle to survive on wages, in the struggle to maximise wages, and in the struggle to abolish wages. Marx and Engels are being propagandistic rather than scientific in this call to action:

Workers ought not to be exclusively absorbed in these unavoidable guerilla fights incessantly springing up from the never ceasing encroachments of capital or changes of the market. They ought to understand that, with all the miseries it imposes upon them, the present system simultaneously engenders the material conditions and the social forms necessary for an economical reconstruction of society. Instead of the conservative motto, ‘A fair day's wage for a fair day's work!’ they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword, ‘Abolition of the wages system!’ (Value Price and Profit 1865)

This transcending self abolition isn’t a historical necessity. Collapse into material social relations which order fewer things and people is possible. Thus the occasional slogan, “Socialism or barbarism.”


No. At the risk of oversimplifying, we can say that Marxism is a materialist philosophy and that makes it anti-teleological.

After this question was asked, an article was published that addresses it nicely. To quote a key passage:

Hegel appears to hold that history has a specific and finite teleological end point, an “end of history.” He speaks, for example, of “the final goal of world history,” which he describes as “Spirit’s consciousness of its freedom, and hence also the actualization of that freedom” (Hegel, 1988, 22). [...]

Marx himself does not talk of an end to history, nor are there good grounds for thinking his philosophy is committed to such an idea. He describes communist society of the future not as the end of “history,” but rather as the end of “prehistory” (Marx, 1978c). With this phrase he is clearly alluding to the Hegelian picture of history, but it should not be interpreted as expressing a teleological thought. For what Marx is referring to is the end only of this present, blind, stage of historical development — the end of the era of development governed by the clash of blind forces. He is not saying that communism will be the final, teleological, end of history. Rather, it will mark the beginning of a new era which will be made possible “when a great social revolution shall have mastered the results of the bourgeois epoch, the market of the world and the modern powers of production, and subjected them to...common control” (Marx, 1978b, 664).


The 'telos' for Marx (the goal of his theory) was a classless society, meaning a society in which social position was not determined by economic factors or institutional structures. Marx saw the world as a material dialectic: a conflict between those who control the productive forces and those who are subject to them. The form of production changes (agricultural to commercial to industrial to...), but the relationship between those who control the form of production and those who merely labor within it does not. For Marx, this ongoing tension between classes of people is a permanent feature of human society until society rids itself of class distinctions entirely. The idea of 'classlessness' is implied is implied in the notion of classes — e.g., the way the early Liberal philosophers contested the idea that the aristocratic class was intrinsically superior to or different from the burgeoning bourgeois class — but it is notoriously difficult to accomplish as a fact.

Marx referred to his end goal as 'communism', in reference (I think) to the kind of small, egalitarian, faith-based or secular communes that had sprung up in the mid 19th century as part of pre-Marxist socialism. But Marx didn't define it as any particular kind of system, except that it was a system without entrenched and reified classes. What we typically refer to as 'communism' in the modern world, Marx would have referred to as a kind of 'socialism'. Socialism (for Marx) was a transitional stage away from capitalism, where productive power is taken away from the capitalist class and given to an artificial class (a state, a worker's union, an industry syndicate) that ostensibly administers the productive forces in the proletariat's name. Marx more or less shrugged off socialism as less than ideal; Lenin and other leaders decided that the ultimate 'telos' was too idealized, and reached to implement the transitional socialist state instead.

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