Marxism is essentially Dialectic Materialism. It is a mixture of Hegels' Dialectics and Feuerbachs' Materialism.
Hegel believed in a Weltgeist or world spirit, which is a philosophy of history that suggests a world spirit constantly changing it's mind and in the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, the general feeling of a certain time or certain group.
Hegelian Dialectics is a form of the dialectic method - of reasoning through dialogue between two or more people who hold different points of view, who establish a consensus point of view through reasoned argument.
Materialism asserts the primacy of the material wor;d, that matter precedes thought, that the world is material and that all phenomena in the universe consists of "matter in motion", whereby everything is interconnected and that the world exists independently of our perception.
Karl Marx wrote a thesis on Feuerbach in 1845, where he asserted that philosophy had to stop interpreting the world in endless debates and instead start changing the world. He and his writing partner/sponsor Engels saw this "change" in the workers' movements in England, France and Germany.
Marxism central premise is that there is an economic "base" aroud which a "superstructure" is constructed. Therefore, the non-economic features of a society are seen as being an outgrowth of it's economic activity.
Marx believed in the concept of Alienation - the separation of things that naturally belong tegether. This follows directly from Feuerbach's "Essence of Christianity" (1841). The Creator and the creation were once one and the same thing, now separate through either the creation of God by Man, or the creation of Man by God.
This is where some observers believe that Marx was essentially speaking about man's longing to return to the Garden of Eden, where God and Man were not separated.
Marx applied this theory of alienation to Capitalism.
If capitalism was the economic base, then its superstructure (i.e. the rest of capitalist society), Marx believed, created alienation in the following ways...
a. It separated the worker from the product of his labour.
b. It alienates the worker from the act of producing for himself through the division of labour, resulting in meaningless jobs, full of repetition and lacking any satisfaction.
c. It alienates the worker from his own essence an from other workers or producers.
The Labour Theory of Value
Marx believed that capital could be reduced in relation to labour and other inputs. He believed that all tradeable goods and services had one common denominator - the labour involved in producing it. Products could therefore be measured in terms of hours of labour involved in producing them (although this theory starts to unravel when we deal with skilled and unskilled labour).
Thus, surplus labour - the amount of labour produced by a worker in excess of what he needs to live(necessary labour) - is the source of profit for entrepreneurs or "exploiters" in capitalist society.
Marxs' obsession with labour is derivative of Adam Smith's Calvinist approach. It is interesting to note that no Catholic country ever had this labour theory of value and is limited by the fact that work is not all there is to human existence. Work is in fact a means to an end - a human action to achieve a goal - such as the accumulation of wealth.
As Ludwig Von Mises pointed out, a human only exchanges if they perceive what they currently have to be less valuable to them than what they could have. Therefore, a worker would only exchange his free time for paid labour, if he valued the pay associated with the labour or the engagement of the labour itself as more valuable to him/her than not working at all.
End of part 1 - to be continued...