The term “Marxism” was probably first used in the year 1879 by the German Social Democrat Franz Mehring to characterize Marx’s theory, and established itself at the end of the 1880s as a discursive weapon used by both critics and defenders of “Marx’s teachings”, but the birth of a “Marxist school” is unaminously dated back to the publication of Anti-Dühring by Friedrich Engels in the year 1878 and the subsequent reception of this work by Karl Kautsky, Eduard Berstein, et al. Engels’ writings – even if the terms “Marxism” or “dialectical materialism”, the self-applied labels of traditional readings, do not yet appear in them – supplied entire generations of readers, Marxists as well as Anti-Marxists, with the interpretative model through which Marx’s work was perceived. In particular, the review of Marx’s Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859), the late work Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy (1886) or the supplement to Volume III of Capital (1894/95) achieved an influence that can hardly be underestimated. Above all, however, it was Anti-Dühring that was to be stylized as the textbook of Marxist theory as well as a positive depiction of a “Marxist worldview”: For Kautsky, “there is no other book that has contributed so much to the understanding of Marxism. Marx’s Capital is greater. But it was first through Anti-Dühring that we learned to correctly read and understand Capital.” And for Lenin, it is one of the “handbooks of every class-conscious worker.”
At the same time, something is consummated which will be a general characteristic of the history of “Marxism”: the initiators of the theoretical corpus regard it as “unnecessary […] to themselves make an appearance as eponyms […] the eponyms are not the real speakers.” In many respects, Marxism is Engel’s work and for that reason actually an Engelsism. In the following I will name only two points which an ideologized and restricted reception of Marx could draw upon.