The most valuable and influential legacy which Marx left for us is the theory that has been named after him – Marxism. This theory is just like a magnificent sunrise, illuminating the road on which humankind explores the patterns of history and seeks its own emancipation.
As Marx once famously noted, "The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism of the weapon, material force must be overthrown by material force; but theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses." Marxism is chiefly composed of three parts: philosophy, political economy, and scientific socialism. Taken separately, these parts originate from German classical philosophy, British classical political economy, and French utopian socialism. However, the fundamental reason these ultimately sublimated into Marxism was due to Marx's penetrating observations of the world and age in which he lived, and his profound ken of the patterns underlying the development of human society. As Marx wrote, "The theoretical conclusions of the Communists are in no way based on ideas or principles that have been invented, or discovered, by this or that would-be universal reformer. They merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from a historical movement going on under our very eyes."
It is only by considering the long course of human history that we can gain a perspective on the essence of historical movements and the direction of contemporary developments. Marx's scientific research was just as Lenin described, "He critically reshaped everything that had been created by human society, without ignoring a single detail. He reconsidered, subjected to criticism, and verified on the working-class movement everything that human thinking had created, and therefrom formulated conclusions which people hemmed in by bourgeois limitations or bound by bourgeois prejudices could not draw." Marx's ideas and theories originated from those times and also transcended them; his ideas and theories were both the apotheosis of the spirit of the times and the epitome of the spirit of the people.
Marxism is a scientific theory; it artfully reveals the patterns underlying the development of human society. Utopian socialists had existed long prior to the time in which Marx raised his ideas on scientific socialism; they bemoaned society's ills and had many fine ideas concerning the ideal society. However, as they did not grasp the patterns underlying the development of society, they had not found an effective way to realize their ideals, and consequently their ideas had no real impact on the development of society. Historical materialism and the theory of surplus value which originated from Marx brought to light the general patterns underlying the development of human society, and revealed the particular laws governing capitalist operations. These discoveries lit the way for humankind to move from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom, and illuminated the path for humankind to realize liberty and emancipation.
Marxism is a people-oriented theory; it was the first system of thought to be founded so that people may achieve self-emancipation. Marxism, though wide-ranging and profound, can be summed up in a sentence – the pursuit of the emancipation of humankind. Prior to Marx, the dominant theories in society were those which served the ruling class. Marxism was the first theory to seek the way to liberty and emancipation for humankind from the perspective of the people; it uses scientific theories to demonstrate the way to the ultimate creation of an ideal society in which there is no oppression or exploitation and in which people are equal and free. The influence of Marxism spans time and borders because it is rooted in the people, and demonstrates that the right path for humankind is the path on which the people drive forward the advance of history.
Marxism is a practical theory; it guides the people in their actions to change the world. Marx once wrote that, "All social life is essentially practical," and that, "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it." Practice and existence are the basic standpoints of Marxist epistemology, and its practicality is the distinguishing feature that sets Marxist theory apart from other theories. Marxism is not scholarship to be confined to a study, but rather it was founded so as to change the people's lot in history. Marxism was formed, refined, and developed in practice through the pursuit of the emancipation of humankind, and it has provided a powerful source of inspiration for the people to understand and remold the world.
Marxism is an open-ended and continually developing theory; it is always at the forefront of the times. Marx admonished people over and over that Marxism is not dogma, but a guide to action that must be developed with changes in practice. The history of the development of Marxism is the history of its continued development at the hands of Marx, Engels, and their successors in accordance with developments in time, practice, and knowledge. This history is one of continued self-refinement through the absorption of all of the redoubtable cultural and intellectual achievements of human history. Therefore, Marxism is able to forever maintain its appealing youthfulness, and continue to explore new problems in contemporary developments and respond to new challenges facing humanity.