Marx: The Communist ManifestoJune 27, 2021
Can the complex history of the human species be reduced to a single formula?
For Karl Marx, one of the greatest thinkers of the 19th century, the answer was yes. He begins the first part of his most famous work, The Communist Manifesto, by arguing that all historical change is the result of an ongoing conflict between dominant (upper) and dependent (lower) social classes, and that this conflict is rooted in the economy. Marx believes he has gained an understanding of the uniquely important nature of society through the ages. Early approaches to history emphasized the role of individual heroes and leaders or emphasized the roles played by ideas. But Marx focused on the successive class conflicts between masters and slaves in antiquity, lords and serfs in the Middle Ages, and modern employers and workers. And he argued that these conflicts between classes led to revolutionary changes.
Marx wrote the Manifesto with the German philosopher Friedrich Engels, whom he met while both were studying academic philosophy in Germany in the late 1830s. Although Engels demonstrated financial support, ideas, and outstanding writing skills, it is widely accepted that Marx was the real genius behind their joint publication. In their private notes from the early and mid-1840s, Marx and Engels emphasize that previous philosophers sought to interpret the world, whereas their aim was to change it.
Throughout the 1850s and 60s, Marx matured his ideas in many short documents, including the 40-page pamphlet “The Communist Manifesto.” The manifesto is intended to explain the values and political program of communism—a new belief system put forward by a small group of relatively new radical German socialists. He argues that society is reduced to two classes in direct conflict; they are the bourgeois (the capitalist class) and the proletariat (the working class).
The word “bourgeois” derives from the French “burgeis” meaning a proprietary merchant who rose from the general populace to own and run his own business, or “burgher” which means citizen and citizen.
Marx describes the rapid development of commerce and industry since the middle of the 19th century, with the discovery and colonization of America, the opening of Indian and Chinese markets, the increase in goods to trade. Craftsmen could no longer produce enough goods to meet the increasing needs of new markets, and production systems took their place. As the Manifesto says, markets continue to grow and demands continue to increase.
Marx argues that the bourgeois, who controls all this trade, leaves no other bond between people but a bare self-interest, a callous exchange of cash. Where people were once judged by who they are, the bourgeois have now reduced personal values to business values.
Moral, religious, and even emotional values have been cast aside—everyone—from scientists and lawyers to priests to poets—is made into paid workers. Marx writes that the bourgeois have removed religious and political “illusions” and replaced them with “naked, shameless, direct, bestial exploitation.” She argues that the privileges that once protected women’s liberties were cast aside for the sake of “freedom without conscience — Free Trade.” According to Marx, the only solution to this situation is that all the means of economic production (such as land, raw materials, equipment and factories) become common property, and in this way, each individual in the society works according to his own capacity and consumes according to his needs. This is the only way to prevent the rich from living off the poor.
The Communist Manifesto has many claims about politics, society and economy, as well as a general explanation of the history of humanity that led to the birth of the bourgeois and proletarian class. He argues, for example, that the capitalist system is not only based on exploitation, but is financially unstable enough in nature to cause repeated and increasingly brutal commercial crises, the growing need for labor, and the emergence of a truly revolutionary proletariat. And this revolutionary class represents such a great majority of humanity for the first time in history.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook