From ProleWiki, the proletarian encyclopedia

Praxis (from the ancient Greek word for Practice) refers to the practical application of a branch of theory. In Marxist theory, the word is perhaps best exemplified by Marx's statement that "philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it".[1]

The term praxis is preferred over practice as it denotes a specific application, which is guided by goals and purposes.

Union of contradictions with theory

Practice is in contradiction to theory. It is fundamentally opposed to theory -- as practice means a practical application, physical acts in the material world, whereas theory is limited to ideas, or putting ideas on paper. However, practice also cannot exist without theory. Mao wrote that "knowledge begins with practice, and theoretical knowledge is acquired through practice and must then return to practice".[2]

As such, it is impossible to study praxis without studying theory (as a concept) and how the two fit together. They influence each other: as either component is developed (either theory is written based on past praxis, or praxis is developed based on earlier written theory), it influences the other component. That is why Lenin wrote that "without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement".[3] We see here also that dialectically, a contradiction turns into its opposite.

Theory developed without wanting for it to be practically applied (or unable to) is essentially useless, it cannot be called theory and as such are mere thoughts printed on paper for whoever wants to read them. Praxis without guiding theory will be unable to evolve, it will become rigid and lead to adventurism or, at the very least, no functional change will come from this practice.

Application of praxis

Praxis is thus applied by drawing from a theoretical source which is then submitted to practical tests to test their validity. As such, praxis for marxists denounces adventurism and other unprincipled and revisionist practices.

While we saw earlier that writing theory without any practical applications in mind (without a desire from the writer to apply their own theories) is useless, and the same can be said for its readers. The contradiction between theory and practice still exists and is never united if one only reads books and does not later apply their theory. As such, all communists should join a party as the first step towards applying praxis.

Concrete applications

While we have seen that praxis should not be undertaken without proper theory to back it up (to ensure its success), we list historical examples to illustrate how praxis influenced theory and conversely. We also offer a list to use as a source of inspiration to further illustrate how praxis can work and perhaps give ideas to our comrades.

Historical examples

  • After the massacre of the Paris Commune by the French state, Marx reconsidered his earlier theories and started emphasizing armed and uncompromising revolution on the ruling class. Whereas he used to be a proponent of a more peaceful transition to socialism — exemplified by the 10 principles he laid out in chapter 2 of the Manifesto of the communist party[4] — he said of the commune in 1871 that their mistake was not to march towards Versailles (the seat of government) with their weapons after they had taken Paris, and seize the state.


  1. Karl Marx (1845). Theses on Feuerbach: 'XI'. [PDF]
  2. Mao Zedong (July 1937). On practice. [PDF]
  3. Vladimir Lenin (1902). What is to be done?. [PDF]
  4. “We have seen above, that the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy.
    The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.
    Nevertheless, in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.
    1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
    2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
    3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
    4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
    5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
    6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
    7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
    8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
    9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
    10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with material production, etc.”

    Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels (1848). Manifesto of the Communist Party: 'Proletarians and Communists'.