MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Terms



Doctrinaire Socialism

Doctrinaire socialism is the current of socialism which defends and propagates socialism theory in isolation from movements of the working class.

During periods when the movement of the working class is either undeveloped or under the domination of reactionary or reformist leadership, doctrinaire socialism plays a necessary and important role. It’s sectarian nature is a necessary result of its isolation from a revolutionary workers’ movement.

Referring to the advocates of the various systems of socialism active among the French workers in the first half of the nineteenth century, Engels says:

... doctrinaire socialism, ... was the theoretical expression of the proletariat only as long as it had not yet developed further into a free historical movement of its own.” [ Class Struggles in France]

In the decades before the Russian Revolution, in some countries the parties of the Second International had become conservative parliamentary machines, distant from the struggles of the working class, like the Labour Parties in Britain and Australia. Under these conditions, people like Henry Hyndman and Daniel De Leon defended socialist theory, including Marxism.

The other current actively promoting socialism in these days was syndicalism, which was generally closely connected with the day-to-day struggles of the working class and likewise aspired to the socialist ideal. However, the syndicalist movement were often lacking in theoretical depth, and the doctrinaire socialists contributed in maintaining socialist scholarship and propaganda.



Dogmatism denies the relativity of knowledge and the connection of knowledge to historically changing practice and social relations. Dogmatism couples these denials with the practice of treating knowledge as something abstract, not to be touched by additional input or real world experience. Dogmatism is thinking which minimises the validity of doubt (See Scepticism), asserting the possibility of certain and unalterable knowledge of the world.


Don Cossacks

Russian Cossacks inhabiting the Don region of Russia.

In early 1917, during WWI, mercenary Don Cossacks defected from the front lines and went home. For their service to the Russian army, Czar Nicholas II had given the Cossacks 130,000 sq. km. of the arable land in the Don area. In addition to 2 million Cossacks, 1.8 million peasants lived in the Don region, half of whom had no land, the other half paid rent for their land.

With the fall of the Tsar, the Cossacks aligned themselves with Germany, hoping to create a Don state under autonomy of the German Imperium. When the R.S.F.S.R. was established, the Cossacks would not recognise the new government, refusing to let their newly acquired land be nationalised by the Soviet Land Decree. As a result they co-operated with counter-revolutionary White army, but only insofar as it meant defending their land from peasants in the Don. On occasion however, they advanced under the White generals outside the Don region, when successfully having taken a city, the Don Cossacks launched pogroms and looted the villages. Pro-Bolshevik partisan units in the Don Region combined with the Red Army to defeat the Don Cossacks by 1919, forcing them to disarm and split the land they owned among the peasants of the Don region.