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".
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".
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". 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.
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.
- After the Paris Commune, Marx took a turn in his writings and emphasized armed and uncompromising revolution on the ruling class (as the communards were all massacred by the army mercilessly). Whereas he used to lay 10 planks in the Manifesto of the communist party to transition towards a socialist state, he said of the commune that their mistake was not to march towards Versailles (the seat of government) with their weapons after they had taken Paris.
Inspirations of praxis
- When fascist figures or organisations are advertising their rallies (especially when in a venue), it is possible to do the following:
- Call the venue and let them know who is booking them
- Flood the registration form with fake names and addresses to take up space and prevent sympathisers from registering.
- Karl Marx (1845). 'XI' in Theses on Feuerbach.
- Mao Zedong (July 1937). On practice.
- Vladimir Lenin (1902). What is to be done?.