The Communist Manifesto

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Contents

Summary

Introduction

Marx.jpg

"Manifesto of the Communist Party (German: Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei), often referred to as The Communist Manifesto, was published on February 21, 1848, and is one of the world's most influential political manuscripts. Commissioned by the Communist League and written by communist theorists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, it lays out the League's purposes and program. It presents an analytical approach to the class struggle (historical and present) and the problems of capitalism, rather than a prediction of communism's potential future forms."[1]


The Communist Manifesto can be thought of as a written document which directly states the goals of the communist party. The text enumerates two main classes created from capitalism, namely the bourgeois and the proletariat. The authors attempt to portray the proletarian class as being exploited by the bourgeois class through wage labor and creative destruction. The document also attempts to criticize the capitalistic framework from its tendency to overproduce goods and to eliminate cultural identity. In this way, it criticizes the current macroeconomic state ruled by the so-called "bourgeois class." The authors believe the formation of a universal communist party is a way to unify the proletariat into a strong political power. In addition, the formation of the communist party is essential to eliminate bourgeois rule and to reconstruct the political system to suit the ideals of the proletariat class.

Chapter 1

The manifesto begins with the quotation: "The history of hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." [2]


This chapter focuses on three main themes: (1) class hierarchy, (2) overproduction, and (3) revolution.

First, the chapter focuses on the stratification of two classes - the proletarian and the bourgeois. The authors define the bourgeois as the ruling class that holds all the capital and resources necessary to compete and flourish in society. The bourgeois are those who tend to catalyze capitalism and its ideals - technological change, progress and innovation - and use various forms of capital (mainly money and people) to achieve worldly success and primacy. In this way the bourgeois is at the top of the social hierarchy whereas the proletarian is at the bottom of the hierarchy. Hence, the authors believe that something must be done in order to maintain job security (stop technological paradigm shifts in order to allow for the proletariats to keep their jobs), bridge social inequality (create a unified social class), and prevent worker exploitation (namely, eliminating wage labor).

Secondly, the authors lists the deleterious consequences of capitalism. The main negative consequence of capitalism is overproduction. The bourgeois class tends to produce more than it can consume. Workers will no longer need to work as a result of this overproduction. Members of the proletariat will, in the end, lose their jobs and become even more exploited by the bourgeois class. However, the authors state that the proletariat class can use this inbuilt mechanism in capitalism to start a communist revolution to eliminate class distinction and to expand the communist cause.

Thirdly, the Manifesto hints at a revolution that will foment in the near future because of the current exploitation of the working class and imperfections of the capitalistic framework. A quotation from page 12 of the Manifesto clearly delineates this claim:

"Finally, in times when class struggle near the decisive hour, the progress of dissolution going on within the ruling class, in fact within the whole range of old society, assumes such a violent, glaring character, that a small section of the ruling class cuts itself adrift, and joins the revolutionary class, the class that holds the future in its hands." [3]

Chapter 2

Chapter two mainly focuses on the tripartite aim of the Communist Party and why the Communist Party has those aims. The first aim is to form the proletariat into a class. The second aim is to overthrow the bourgeois' supremacy. The last aim is to gain political power for the proletariat. The bulk of the chapter explains why the Communist Party possesses these aims, how these aims will be ideally implemented, and also further expands on why the capitalistic framework is imperfect for the proletariat class.

Wikipedia lists a 10 point program in chapter 2 of the Communist Party. The Communist party can achieve their goals through...

  • the abolition of personal property. The Manifesto makes it a clear point that personal property in the current context exacerbates class antagonisms and further stratifies society. Communists believe that capital is a social power and should be possessed by all equally. Therefore, to eliminate the bourgeois supremacy their property should be seized and given it to the hands of the state. Property can be a social power and wealth can be shared equally to all classes. The Manifesto briefly mentions a counterargument where everyone will stop working, but it is quickly dismissed and given a quick response.
  • a graduated income tax. In this way, the rich bourgeois class will have less capital and economic power.
  • the abolition of all right to inheritance. In this way, the rich do not have a way to continue their rooted ways through the next generation.
  • the confiscation of all the property of emigrants and rebels. This policy is to ensure that the government is stable and has little or no opposition.
  • controlling credit through a central bank, as the head of State. This policy is to lessen economic volatility and to give the proletariat greater power for reform.
  • centralizing all forms of transportation to the State. In this way, the State can allow for more efficient transportation for the proletariat class.
  • handing over all instruments of production and factors to the state. This strategy is to ensure that the proletariat class can have the equal opportunity to work either on a farm or in a factory.
  • establishing an equal liability for all labor. In this way, all forms of labor will be funded equally.
  • merging agriculture with industry, as to eliminate the division between town and country.
  • the establishment of free education to all children through public schooling. Also, child labor laws would be enacted in order to prevent child exploitation. This policy would allow for all children to have an equal opportunity to become involved with any occupation which they desire.

Chapter 4

"In short, the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things. The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win." [4]

Appearances of Tropes and Trope Intersections

Connections to Contemporary Life and Other Works

Modern Class Struggles

The Communist Manifesto was arguing against a class struggle between proletariat and bourgeoisie that was reminiscent of 1800s America. The argument would be rendered largely invalid in modern American society because there is a much smaller class divide than there used to be. But that lessened divide is largely due to the fact that around the 1970s, America changed from a manufacturing economy to a service economy [5]. When we think of the lowest jobs that exist today, we think of things like janitors and garbage men, not factory workers. In addition, what little manufacturing we do accomplish is largely computerized and automated. There isn't a need for an army of menial factory workers. Most of the products we consume are imported from other, less developed countries countries that do have manufacturing economies. These countries often carry the same image that 1800s America did. So, in essence, we have not really overcome the scenario that Marx talks about. There is still a large class struggle out there between proletariat and bourgeoisie. The only difference is that America as a whole has become the bourgeoisie of the world, and is exploiting other third-world countries as the proletariat for cheap labor. The American views on class struggle is often disguised and has a better reputation that it deserves. Yet since other countries do not have the labor laws that we do, we can 'put it out of our minds' and say it is an issue for their governments to take up.

The Walled World

A Representative distribution of the world's wealth.
The Walled World.

One link of The Communist Manifesto to modern day society is the concept of the "walled world". Here one can view the global economy as a division of proletariat and bourgeoisie between that of the developed ("walled") Western world and that of developing world. It is seen that for just 14% of the world's population the Western nations receive over 73% of the worlds net income which is the kind of class division that the communist manifesto repeatedly voices should be removed. Also note that there are physical, economic and social barriers to prevent lesser developed nations from "class jumping".


Marx believes that by taking away the concept of nations, the hostility between countries will come to an end, and this will help to get rid of class distinctions. However, Marx fails to take into account the fact that people will not "peacefully come together as one 'nation'". The concept of the "walled world" applies in this situation, as it would be extremely challenging (probably impossible) for all the countries of the world to come together as one.

The Stone Canal

Numerous characters in the background chapters of The Stone Canal are Communist activists in Great Britain who participate in numerous marches, protests, and rallies. These characters', including Reid, Wilde's parents, and others, actions are informed by their understanding of Marx's philosophies and goals.

Accelerando

In Chapter 7 of Accelerando, the characters are introduced into a new economic system called Economics 2.0. This new system is mentioned as,"a bunch of superior deterministic resource allocation algorithms". This fixes a major flaw Communism where critics have pointed out that a central planning system is not efficient enough to allocate resources. Now, with complicated, yet more efficient, methods, resources can be allocated in an even more efficient fashion than a free-market system.[6]

Criticisms

There are a number of criticisms of Marx's work. To begin, creating a centrally planned system leads to inefficiencies of production and thus a lack of freedom. A national economy is overwhelming complex with numerous job categories; each with its own set of guidelines and concerns. Accurate information describing the production methods and limits for each of those jobs must then be analyzed and specific plans must be coordinated for each occupation. This results in a tedious, if not impossible, task of a central planner to efficiently decide what products must be manufactured to satisfy its people. As an example, the central planners may consider the production of trucks most important to society at that moment due to an ongoing war, yet the people may desperately need basic amenities such as soap. Adam Smith's resolution to this fault is the idea of an "invisible hand" guiding buyers and sellers together to create a proficient market system of fair pricing.

Another criticism of Marx's work are his predictions of an upheaval of all capitalistic societies. Marx predicted that wages would tend to depreciate and that capitalist economies would suffer worsening economic crises leading to the ultimate overthrow of the capitalists' ways. He predicted the socialist revolution would occur first in the most advanced capitalist nations and once collective ownership had been established, all sources of class conflict would disappear. However, while there have been a number of economic crises in capitalist societies, it is argued that there has been an unprecedented level of sustained economic growth and average wages in many advanced capitalist economies have tended to increase. Furthermore, these advanced capitalist economies have not experienced socialist revolutions while less socio-economically developed states, such as China and Russia, have experienced such upheaval.

A final criticism of Marx's work is his idea of self-interest, or lack there of. For a community to truly accept communism, it would be forced to rid itself of the selfish human nature. While we as a united nation like to imagine that we are of a truly giving nature, human nature calls us to seek our own needs in times of distress. Thus a "fair share" program of spreading the work and the wealth among your neighbors is of a faulty nature. Innovation and motivation for a greater life has progressed America to its elite status today. Being pegged to a certain wage and social status, no matter how efficient you become, stifles that need to revolutionize and hinders the motivation to achieve greatness. While our passions usually lead us to begin innovating and creating, an incentive of capital agin at the finish line always helps keep the competition up and running.

References

  1. The Communist Manifesto. (15 January 2009). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved January 15, 2010 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Communist_Manifesto
  2. The Communist Manifesto. (15 January 2009). In feedbooks.com. http://www.feedbooks.com/book/209
  3. The Communist Manifesto. (15 January 2009). In feedbooks.com. http://www.feedbooks.com/book/209
  4. The Communist Manifesto. (15 January 2009). In feedbooks.com. http://www.feedbooks.com/book/209
  5. The American Workplace - The Shift To A Service Economy (2005) Accessed 15 January 2010 from http://jobs.stateuniversity.com/pages/16/American-Workplace-SHIFT-SERVICE-ECONOMY.html
  6. Stross, Charles. (2005). Accelerando. New York: Ace Books.
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