Marxist ideas did spread far and wide. And they informed socialist practice. In his famous book Hammer and Hoe: Communists in Alabama During the Great Depression, Robin D.G. Kelley describes a conversation with Lemon Johnson, one of the black leaders of an American Communist Party-led Alabama sharecroppers union. When Kelley asked how they were able to win some of their demands in a 1935 cotton pickers strike, Johnson “pulled out a dog-eared copy of V.I. Lenin’s What Is to Be Done and a box of shotgun shells” and said, “That’s how we did it. Theory and practice.”
To all those concerned with the “elitism” of reading Marxist theory, I think Lemon Johnson and Vera Zasulich, if they were still around today, might reply: are you so arrogant as to think that you have figured out the complexities of the capitalist world and the proper strategies for transforming it all by yourself? Then, as organizers who took the effective communication of socialist ideas seriously, they would probably try to turn this idea into a meme.