The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx

Summary | Analysis | Explanation of The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx | Bourgeois and the Bourgeoisie | Spread of Socialism

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx : ‘The Communist Menifesto’ by Karl Marx (1818-1883) begins with a discussion of the issue of class antagonism. Marx writes, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle.” Throughout history we see the oppressor and the oppressed in constant opposition to each other. This fight is sometimes hidden and sometimes open. However, each time the fight ends in either a revolutionary reconstruction of society or in the common ruin of the classes.

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx

In earlier ages, we saw society arranged into complicated class structures. For example, in the medieval age, there were feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeyman, apprentices and serfs. Modern Bourgeois society sprouted from the ruins of feudal society. This society has class antagonism as well but it is unique. Class antagonisms have have become simplified as society increasingly splits into two rebel camps – Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.

Modern Bourgeoisie is the product of several revolutions in the mode of production and exchange. The development of the Bourgeoisie began in the earliest towns and it gained momentum with the Age of Exploration. Feudal guilds couldn’t provide for increasing markets and the manufacturing middle class took its place. However, markets kept growing and demands kept increasing; and the manufacturing class couldn’t keep up. This led to the Industrial Revolution. Now the manufacturing class was replaced by ‘Modern Industry’ and the industrial middle class was replaced by ‘Industrial Millionaires’ or the ‘Modern Bourgeoisie’. In this way, the Bourgeoisie have become powerful and have pushed medieval classes into the backyard. The development of the Bourgeoisie as a class was accompanied by a series of political developments. With the establishment of Modern Industry and the World – Market, the Bourgeoisie has gained exclusive political power. The state serves solely the interest of the Bourgeoisie.

Historically, the Bourgeoisie has played a quite revolutionary role. Whenever it has gained power, it has put to an end all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has eliminated the relationships that bound people to to their superiors, and now all remaining relations between men are characterized by self – interest alone. Religious fervour, chivalry and sentimentalism have all been sacrificed. Personal worth is now measured by exchange value and the only freedom that exists is Free Trade. Thus, exploitation that used to be veiled by religious and political ‘illusions’ is now direct, brutal and blatant. The Bourgeoisie has changed all occupations into wage – labouring professions, even those that were previously honoured such as that of the doctor. Similarly, family relations have their veil of sentimentality and have been reduced to pure money relations.

In the past, industrial classes required the conservation of old modes of production in order to survive. The Bourgeoisie are unique in that and they cannot continue to exist without revolutionizing the instruments of production. This implies revolutionizing the relations of production and with it, all the relations with the society. Thus, the unique uncertainties and disturbances of the modern age have forced man to face his real condition in life and his true relations with others.

As the Bourgeoisie need a constantly expanding market, they settle and establish connections all over the globe. Production and consumption have taken on a cosmopolitan character in every country. This is true both for materials and for intellectual production, as national sovereignty and isolationism becomes less and less possible to sustain. Thus, Bourgeoisie draws even the most backward nations into civilization and compels all nations to adopt its mode of production. It “creates a world after its own image.” All become dependent on the Bourgeoisie. It has also increased political centralisation.

The means of production and exchange which serves as the basis of Bourgeoisie originated in the feudal society. At a certain stage, however, the feudal relations ceased to be compatible with the developing productive forces. The ‘fetters’ of the feudal system had to be ‘burst assunder’, and they were done so. Free competition replaced the old system and the Bourgeoisie rose to power.

Marx says that a similar movement is underway at the present moment. Modern Bourgeois society is in the process of turning on itself. Modern productive forces are revolting against the modern conditions of production. Commercial crisis, ironically due to over production, are threatening the existence of the Bourgeois society. Productive forces are now fettered by the Bourgeois society, and these crisis represent this tension yet in attempting to remedy these crisis, the Bourgeoisie simply cause new and more extensive crisis to emerge, and diminish their ability to prevent future crisis. Thus, the weapons by which the Bourgeoisie overcome feudalism are now being turned on the Bourgeoisie themselves.

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