Published on International Journal of Social, Politics & Humanities
Publication Date: April, 2020
Betalo Endrias Liranso
School of Sociology and Political Science, Shanghai University
Journal Full Text PDF: A Critical Analysis of Communist Manifesto of February 1848.
The topic of this paper is critically analyzing The Communist Manifesto officially published in February 1848. This is why because it presents a digested analysis of capitalism and its inherent faults, briefly outlining the ways in which capitalism will be superseded by a new stage in human history. Specifically, this term paper analyzes The Communist Manifesto’s historical background, reflect its core points critically and investigate its strengths and weaknesses today by employing a qualitative content analysis design and used secondary data sources including Manifesto itself. The Communist Manifesto describes two opposing economic systems, communism and capitalism, and then discusses the political implications of the tension between them. In 21st century America, the wealthiest of the wealthy continue to earn more and more capital and property, while those below, particularly at the lower ends of the income spectrum, find their wages and earnings stagnating, prices of goods and valuables continue to rise, which leads to a loss of net worth and a dramatic rise of a cost of living for those persons. The document has a great emotional power as it addresses the issues that worried people at that time. The tone contains notes that evoke the desire for struggle. The Communist Manifesto has a very big rhetorical power due to its structure, language and stylistic means used by the authors. It remains the best example of the art of rhetoric.
Keywords: Capitalism, Communist Manifesto, Communism, Frederic Engels, Karl Marx, Socialism.
The topic of this paper is a critical analysis of The Communist Manifesto of February 1848, which is first drafted by Friedrich Engels in October 1847. Communists of various nationalities assembled in London and sketched The Communist Manifesto to be published in English, French, German, Italian, Flemish and Danish languages. Then Manifesto of Communist Party was written by Karl Marx and Frederic Engels as Communist League’s programme on instruction of its Second Congress in London on November 29 to December 8, 1847.
Historically, The Communist Manifesto is the product of the joint development of ideas between Karl Marx and Frederic Engels, and rooted in debates held by Communist League leaders in London. However, the final draft was written solely by Karl Marx. The text became a significant political influence in Germany and led to Marx being expelled from the country, and his permanent move to London. Karl Marx and Frederic Engels revised and republished the text after it became more widely known, which resulted in the text that we know today. It has been popular around the world since the late 19th century, and continues to serve as a basis for critiques of capitalism, and as a call for social, economic, and political systems that are organized by equality and democracy, rather than exploitation.
In this paper, Manifesto is a written document that indicates mainly the history of all hitherto existing society is history of class struggles and society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other. It states that the fall of the bourgeoisie and the victory of the proletariat are both equally inevitable. Hence, capitalism is still with us 170 years later and working class has not permanently and successfully conquered power.
Most of data used in this paper used adopted the name The Manifesto of Communist Party and The Communist Manifesto interchangeably. In this term paper, I also used these names interchangeably. As a matter of fact, nowadays, The Communist Manifesto lauded by some for its prophetic power and blamed by others for deaths of millions.
Interpretations of this short document have affected the lives of millions globally, particularly in the second half of the twentieth century. The text is somehow able to outline the complex theoretical foundations for the world’s most enduring critique of capitalism in a comprehensible and persuasive language, and as such readers of all classes, professions, nations and ethnicities have drawn on and in many cases warped and manipulated its valuable insights.
Manifesto of Communist Party conquered the world, observes millions of people all around the world over the years. It influenced the course of history more directly and lastingly than almost any other text. There was nothing preordained about revolution happening and the wheels of history did not move automatically. Changes in history depended on the objective clash between the different social forces but also on the subjective actions of men and women.
A study by Boyer, George R. (1998) shows that after the global financial crisis capitalism now appears to be on the brink of collapse that The Communist Manifesto predicted so long ago, and new kinds of information networks and collaborative production increasingly resemble the vision of communism first espoused by Marx and Engels. A new generation is beginning to look to Marxist ideas again and The Communist Manifesto. The Communist Manifesto provides a broad brush picture of capitalist development. It extrapolated from trends in the mid 19th century to present a clear and definite view of the future. It is still able to help us comprehend a global system where capitalism tentacles stretch into every corner of the world, and where the traditional ways of doing things are destroyed by the impact of commodity production. The spread of global capital and the revolution in technology have made this analysis even more relevant.
The general objective of this term paper is to analyze critically The Communist Manifesto officially published in February 1848. In line with this main objective, specifically, this paper tried:
a. To analyze historical background of The Communist Manifesto
b. To critically reflect the main points mentioned under The Communist Manifesto
c. To analyze critically the strength and weakness of The Communist Manifesto
1.3 Research Methodology
1.3.1 Study design
Qualitative content analysis is chosen for this study because it helps in locating and addressing research objectives. According to Hocking, quantitative approach of content analysis is only concerned about words in text, easy to fail in noticing meanings found from the context. However, Huckin (2003) explains a qualitative approach of content analysis concentrates on both implicit and explicit concepts, so that the researcher has more freedom to see not only the words but also the concepts in the bigger context.
1.3.2 Sources of data
In this paper, I mainly use secondary data sources from study centres such as library and online. The materials generally provide extensive background information about The Communist Manifesto. Majority of the materials are Manifesto itself, books written by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, etc. As the first step, I obtain a big amount of general background knowledge about The Communist Manifesto by wide reading. While reading, I also collect citable references to support my study. Then, I apply analysis method of content analysis design. This systematic work process is mainly applied in throughout the paper based on objectives.
1.3.4 Ethical considerations
Throughout the paper, I try to keep the whole process as transparent and objective as it could be. I have an ethical responsibility to acknowledge the work of others when used. The methodological procedures detailed are one way in which I have attempted to clarify and examine the assumptions and process which have underpinned this term paper from beginning to end.
2. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO OF FEBRUARY 1848
The most forceful and undeniably significant response to the economic horrors of the Industrial Revolution is Karl Marx’s and Frederick Engels’ pamphlet, The Communist Manifesto officially published in February 1848. Its radical ideas were obviously antagonistic to the ideology of capitalism. It seemed to be brewed as passionate ideology fuelled by emotional rhetoric that was based upon the injustices perpetrated by the middle class bourgeoisie during the Industrial Revolution. The harsh economic conditions of early industrial capitalism produced a new era in social relations and political struggle which grew into a critique and call for complete change of the current system personified best in The Communist Manifesto of February 1848.
The Communist Manifesto anticipates the speed and direction of actual capitalist development in countries and explains a lot about 20th century capitalism. The description of the growth of the proletariat, capital accumulation and the onset of crisis could all apply to the recent history that a growing number of people are looking once again at the ideas of Marx and communism in trying to explain what is wrong with the world.
2.1 Criticisms to Capitalism
Engels (2002, p.472) described as the son of a German textile manufacturer and affluent enough to write intellectual arguments that opposed the perceived immoral qualities of capitalism. His observations would become one of the most honest criticisms of the state of capitalist industrialization to date and would help shape ideas expressed in The Communist Manifesto.
The development of capitalism led to the creation of great manufacturing towns, to which huge numbers of agricultural labourers in search of employment. Engels (1845 , pp. 100-2) shows as the living conditions in cities were horrible. The working class was crowded into slums, in which the housing was poorly constructed, badly ventilated, and in a bad state of repair. Most of slums did not have an adequate water supply and completely lacking in drainage facilities.
Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels (1848 ) present a description of the development of industrial capitalism, and predictions for its future. They begin by declaring that the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. All history is a tale of economic struggles between classes. While condemning the bourgeoisie for its brutal exploitation of labor, Marx and Engels (1848 , pp. 5-8) praise it for showing activity. The bourgeoisie has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together.
Marx & Engels (1848, pp. 4-8), modern industry has established the world market for which the discovery of America paved the way. The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. Marx welcomed this globalization, the new phenomenon in the history of humanity.
Engels (1845 , p. 275) declared the bourgeoisie as a class to be incurably debased by selfishness. The revolt of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie began early in the industrial revolution, and by 1844 had passed through several stages, from crime, to machine breaking and arson, to trade unionism. Unions represented the first attempt of the workers to abolish competition.
According to Engels (1845 , p. 116, 159), the introduction of machinery and the division of labour that occurred as a result of the industrial revolution greatly increased productivity, but every improvement in machinery throws workers out of employment, and the greater the advance, the more numerous unemployed. The increased use of machinery also enabled the bourgeoisie to replace adult male workers with women and children, who were employed at far lower wages. Furthermore, Marx and Engels (1848 , p. 9) shows that under modern capitalism, the workers were forced to sell themselves piecemeal to bourgeoisie. They are consequently exposed to all vicissitudes of competition to all fluctuations of the market.
Adam Smith (2002, p.422) believed the working class was incompetent and unable to see that their lives where ironically worse than the colonial slaves of Africa. He strongly agreed with benefits for the whole of society in constructing social structures but seemed to ignore the problems of the workers. The infamous invisible hand he believed would somehow benefit the workers through the overall social benefits created by constructing such social structures as paved streets, city transport, street lighting, fire brigades, water works, gas works, hospitals, parks and police.
Marcus Steven (1974, p.247) wrote that Engels believed and saw a great division between the two classes that became the common understanding of Marx as well. Engels complains about the concentration of the working class and focuses on this to argue and indict the capitalists as immoral.
Also Marx and Engels (1848 , pp. 11-12) describes that from its conception, the proletariat had struggled with the bourgeoisie. At first, their resistance took the form of isolated acts of machine breaking and arson. However, the advance of industry and in particular the concentration of the proletariat in large factories, led workers to form trade unions and friendly societies. Eventually proletarians formed their own political party, which compels legislative recognition of particular interests of the workers, by taking advantage of the divisions among the bourgeoisie itself.
The capitalists can see clearly what was wrong with ancient or feudal society but not what is wrong with their own. They can see no other way of living and working. Any society based on the exploitation of one group by another, as class societies, will develop ideas which justify the rule of its exploiters. It is not surprising that the ideas of the capitalists sanctify and protect property. The struggle for a new form of society which overcomes those class antagonisms means not just a material struggle against exploitation but an alternative ideological explanation of the world. Despite talk of property owning democracies in modern capitalism, the concentration of property among a tiny minority is still staggering, especially when housing or debt in the form of mortgages is excluded.
Therefore, the radical social changes which Marx and Engels set out and the establishment of communism itself could only be achieved by sweeping away the old system of production, based on private property, which allowed a minority to accumulate wealth while the majority suffered. Only by ridding itself of these conditions, working class begin to end the class antagonisms which the conditions produce. Eventually production for need based on workers themselves running society would lead to a classless society or communism where the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.
Central to Marx and Engels’ view of communism is the need to abolish private property, since this is based on the exploitation of the vast majority. Yet they met an objection still commonly raised today. The capital or property is not a personal but a social power and to be a capitalist is to have not only a purely personal but a social status in production. Abolition of private property would not result in every small item owned by a worker being taken away.
2.2 Criticisms to Socialism
The analysis of socialism was the first simple attempt by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels to define their form of socialism and communism in relation to the various other sorts of socialism during the 1840s. The various forms of socialism offer at this time tended to be backwards looking towards better society before the excesses of capitalism. Proponents lacked any strategy for changing society except for appeals to representatives of the old classes themselves under attack from capitalism. They engage in a polemic against those competing to win workers to different ideas. They consider various sorts of socialism popularised in the years before the Manifesto was written, and start with a material analysis of why these sorts of socialism have found an audience.
John Stuart Mill (1848 , p. 751) writing at the same time as Marx and Engels, concluded that hitherto is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being. They have enabled a greater population to live the same life of drudgery and imprisonment, and an increased number of manufacturers and others to make fortunes.
Marx and Engels (1848 , pp. 5, 27) argued that the adoption of the Reform Act of 1832, which enfranchised middle class property holders and redistributed the seats in Parliament, caused the aristocracy to succumb to the hateful upstart bourgeoisie, who thereby achieved exclusive political sway. As evidence of the bourgeoisie’s control of Parliament, Engels (1845  cited the adoption of the New Poor Law in 1834 and, more importantly, the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. This depiction of British politics in the second quarter of the 19th century is largely incorrect.
Marx and Engels (1953, pp. 509, 537) despite prediction in their letters, were very critical of the British working class. Marx wrote in 1878 that the working class had at last got to the point when it was nothing more than the tail of the Great Liberal Party, i.e., of the oppressors, the capitalists. In 1894, a year before his death, Engels wrote; one is indeed driven to despair by these English workers with their essentially bourgeois ideas and viewpoints with their practical narrow-mindedness. McLellan (1973, pp. 438-42) as their hopes for a proletarian revolution in Britain, or elsewhere in Western Europe declined, Marx and Engels in the late 1870s began to turn their attention to Russia. It was there 22 years after the death of Engels that a communist revolution finally occurred.
Engels (1845 , pp. 82-3) the increasing prosperity of the working class and the decline in worker militancy both went against the predictions in the Communist Manifesto. Marx and Engels reached overly pessimistic conclusions about the economic plight of the working class and overestimated the potential for a proletarian revolution largely because they were writing during the hungry 40s and because they focused their attention.
Many of the early forms of socialism were inspired, led and articulated by the representatives of those classes who had lost out the most in the transition from feudalism to capitalism and whose critique of the new system was based on the desire to preserve its old place in the social order. Even the aristocracy was prepared to attack the emerging bourgeoisie in words, although it was compromising with it in deeds and in sharing the spoils of wealth.
The petty bourgeois socialists also based their ideas on a class whose time had passed and which found its existence threatened by the creation of modern industry and the growth of the proletariat. True socialism tried to straddle the basic conflict between the classes, and therefore identified with the status quo. It was popular in Germany in so far as it represented a rejection of the horrors of industrial capitalism, but true socialism also stood for the preservation of petty bourgeois values and ideas against the rise of a new revolutionary working class. It placed store in eternal values such as ‘truth’ which supposedly transcended the limits of class society but in reality tried to ignore the fundamental class divisions.
The utopian socialists were the other group. Their ideas had heavily influenced Marx and Engels and they retained a degree of respect for the individuals and their ideas. The utopians developed their theories of socialism when the working class was in its infancy. This affected their view both of how capitalism could be changed and which forces could be the agency of change. Rather than seeing the working class in this role, they looked instead to great plans and schemes for building the new society. Their theories crystallised into some speculative and some actual social experiments. However, there was a huge gulf between their visions of society and the means of achieving it.
3. BRIEF REFLECTION ON THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO OF FEBRUARY 1848
The Communist Manifesto is a historically well known document, originally written in German, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, both theorists. To provide some background, Engels was a social and political scientist, theorist and an economist as well as a veteran of the Prussian Army. Relatively wealthy and financially well off; he worked closely with Karl Marx, including funding his research, to found the political theory and school known as Marxism. Marx was university educated, holding a doctorate in philosophy, and has been described as one of the fathers of modern social sciences.
The Communist Manifesto officially published in 1848 sets in a popular manner main ideas and goals of the communist party and ideology. The Communist Manifesto is divided into four chapters outlining the basic philosophical premise of dialectical materialism and class conflict and the forces driving history. Thus the materialist conception of history sees a close interplay between the forms of society that are inevitable and the material basis of society. It is high time communists declared their views to the world.
3.1 Bourgeois and Proletarians
The Communist Manifesto opens first chapter with the proclamation that the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. This dialectical materialism holds that history is driven through the division of society into competing parts and their fight over the means of production moves from describing feudalism to discussing capitalism as a mode in which the bourgeois exploit the proletariat. Therefore, the modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has established new classes, new conditions of oppression and new forms of struggle in place of the old ones.
The bourgeoisie controls land and production, while oppressing and prospering. The proletariat labors, while being oppressed and suffering. With industrialization and new trade routes, markets grew and the medieval status quo crumbled. The industrial bourgeoisie emerged in the long course of these changes. The bourgeoisie controls the state executive, which serves monied interests. The bourgeoisie dismantled feudalism in favor of raw profit exchanges. Each time the bourgeoisie modernizes its factories, all of society is up ended. All tends to make planet a single marketplace, and so makes all nations interdependent. So, the entire globe in order to survive becomes bourgeois.
Marx and Engels state that while modern society has evolved significantly from the days of feudal lords and Roman knights, the modern bourgeois society sprouted from the ruins of feudal society not done away with class antagonisms. Over time, the powerful and the wealthy have gained access and control to the means and modes of the production in industry, and thus, have control of the world which they control for a means to an end; their own wealth being the bourgeoisie.
The Communist Manifesto proclaims and demonstrates that societies were always divided into ruling and ruled classes. After an historical account of the feudalist system of production, the text moves on to discuss capitalism and the relationship between the bourgeois and proletariat. It analyses the way the bourgeois came to rule over the means of production and exploit the proletarian and how capitalism came to be the dominant mode of production. Marx and Engels argue that capitalism relies on the accumulation of capital in private hands through the concept of hired labor that allows for the exploitation of workers. They confess that this mode of class division brought about the greatest period of growth in human history but it is not everlasting and will come to its historic end.
The important function of this chapter is that the stage is set for the next historical revolution, the next stage of the dialectics. Marx and Engels hold that the proletariat will eventually overthrow the bourgeois and lead European society into the next phase of history which will also be the last one since it would be a classless society in which there is not conflict. .
Moreover, Marx and Engels say that the bourgeoisie have effectively made and tied the figurative rope that it will eventually hang itself with. Indeed, but no only has the bourgeoisie forged the weapons that will bring death to itself; it has also called into existence the men who are to wield those weapons, the modern working class, the proletariat. They could very well find themselves looking for new work. This is also evidenced by Marx and Engels stating as privates of the industrial army are placed under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers and sergeants. Not only they are slaves of the bourgeois class, and of the bourgeois state; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, the machine being the socio-political system that makes up the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
This specifically states that because the rich and wealthy control the means to run the machine; everything that the proletariat are powerless to change it unless this system was to change. History is everywhere the tale of oppressors oppressing and the oppressed resisting. The bourgeoisie has lost its claim to legitimacy because it crushes the workers, leaving them paupers and in need of assistance just to survive. Capitalists need capital, which they get from the sweat of laborers. Laborers compete, and eventually form unions. And these labor unions undermine the bourgeoisie control of production and capital. Proletarian victory is inevitable. This is why the famous opening of The Communist Manifesto reads as a spectre is haunting Europe. The Communist Manifesto then continues to analyze capitalist mode of production and its final destiny of being turned over and replaced by communism.
3.2 Proletarians and Communists
The second chapter of the Communist Manifesto discusses the relationship of communists to the proletariat, arguing that it is the true representation of their interests. The initial argument presented in the beginning of the chapter is the communists are the purest representation of the proletariat. The communists argue Marx and Engels differ from other parties in that they tap into the material course of history and represent in their ideas not some made up ideology; Marx’s highly suspicions of ideology but rather the manifestation of the working of historical direction and its inevitable, rather than just desires of direction.
The Communist Manifesto is aimed at clarifying the intention of communism to abolish private property and hired works which are the basic principles of the capitalist system. This part also includes some practical demands such as free public education, progressive tax, abolishing of inheritance and more. One important point here to note is the relation to the nation state which for Marx is closely tied to capitalism and therefore need to go away with it. An important distinction made by Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto is that communism is an international movement rather than national. For Marx and others, capitalism is closely associated with the nation state and the abolition of the former will also include the abolition of the latter.
The chapter analyzes capitalism as dependent on private property. The core goal of communism is therefore set at cancelling private property, thus bringing about a classless society. Marx and Engels also discuss hired labor and show it exploitative nature, connecting it as well to capitalism and its eventual demise. They even go as far as calling for the abolition of the family since it is also a mechanism of exploitation and a means to capitalism’s ends. The purpose of communism as presented to create a society without any divisions, not social, not national and not even between parents and children.
Communists focus attention of workers on international aspects of all workers everywhere. Communists want what all workers want as to unite workers and seize power from capitalists. Private property is the root cause, and so must be forbidden, because it underpins all capitalists do. What is at issue here is not worker’s tools and hovels, but industrial capital. Capital emerges only by social action, and therefore belongs to the collective. As to wages, capitalists set those so workers support themselves, but never have excess by which to improve their lot. Capitalists steal all the excess. In a communist society, all excess would improve the life of workers. To seize capital is to overthrow the capitalists.
Workers have no nations. Their families and children have been turned into tools of capital. Global trade renders nations less and less relevant. The rule of workers will do so even more quickly. When class antagonisms decline, so too will international tensions. Religious and philosophical criticisms of communism lack merit. Rulers impose their ideas on subjects. Ideas emerge from economic relations. Since communism strikes at the heart of private property, it portends a huge change in thought patterns.
Marx and Engels further state that capitalists set the minimum wage as that the worker is able to maintain a meager existence and keep that existence as a mere labourer and not advance any further; and state the contrast that communist society’s labour is a way to enrich and widen scope of one’s life, as opposed to suffering and being held back by upper class bourgeoisie’s rate of the minimum wage.
Marx and Engels conclude chapter two of The Communist Manifesto with a list of short term means and actions that can serve to move history in right direction. The proletariat will take over state mechanisms at the polls, then seize private property for the state, and, bit by bit, eliminate the social order of the past. This process include: public ownership of all land, high income taxes, confiscatory inheritance taxation, seizure of all property of state enemies, centralized banking and credit, nationalizing transportation and communications, rapid industrial expansion, forcing all people to work, redistribution of population out of cities and into the countryside, and free universal education and abolition of child labour. When all power lies with proletariat, state will cease functioning politically.
3.3 Socialists and Communist Literature
The third chapter of The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels tries to define communism not thorough it capitalist opposition rather as distinguished from the closer socialist movement. The basic point is that socialism, unlike communism, is essentially counter revolutionary since they just want progressive change that will only serve to perpetuate capitalism and its exploitative practices. What Marx and Engels are after in their The Communist Manifesto and not a bandage but rather a deep and total change of the very structure of society with the modes of production. The point and goal for communism is the root, the core, and that means to turn the table completely as bring down the whole system instead of just trying to improve on it. This sets communism apart from other socialist movements that might be preaching a seemingly similar gospel and demanding similar demands.
English and French aristocrats railed against the upstart middle class by facetiously complaining of the bourgeoisie’s abuse of their workers. The feudal socialism of endangered gentry complained that shopkeepers radicalized workers. The church joined these feudal socialists, since Christian piety weds neatly with aristocratic rhetoric. The petty-bourgeoisie is between workers and capitalists, aspiring to wealth, but often suffering defeat and becoming proletarian. Such socialism offers helpful critique of capitalism, but in the end seeks restoration of the old, now passing, values. German socialists created an arid idealism from the French Revolution’s ideas. In so doing, they rendered the French ideas impotent. German socialism became the silly mouthpiece of the petty bourgeoisie. It wrongly condemned the heedless destructiveness of communism.
Conservative socialism seeks administrative improvements, not revolutionary upheaval of the economic mode of production. Early communist theorists could not adequately formulate a theory because the proletariat was in its infancy. The workers exist in their minds only as a beleaguered group. These utopians think themselves above class struggles. Their schemes propose to benefit all, even the wealthy. They imagine that little experiments and peaceful persuasion will win the day. Still, though dreamers, they are communists. Because they miss the role of the workers in revolution, they end up dampening class struggle, and waste their time with little experimental communities. In the end, they serve the capitalists with their mystical view of the power of their social thinking and their pacifistic opposition to meaningful conflict.
Marx and Engels specifically state that the goal of the communists to overthrow the rich and wealthy bourgeoisie, and end domination of the means and ability to control and to bring this control under a unified proletariat; and that this was by no means a revolutionary idea. Citing the French Revolution, Marx and Engels reference how feudal lands and property rights in favor of a bourgeois property and ownership system. Making the point that communism wasn’t calling for the abolition of property ownership completely, it iterated that bourgeois property, as such, be abolished seemingly to come under control of the now unified proletariat. The Communist Manifesto also claims that while socialism in fact serves the interests of the bourgeois, it is communism that is really tuned in to the needs of the actual working class and that it is the instrument to bring about the end of the conflict between bourgeois and proletariat.
3.4 Position of the Communists in Relation to Existing Opposition Parties
The fourth chapter of The Communist Manifesto is its last short chapter of closing. It discusses the relationship between the communist party and other parties and movements and Europe of the time. It supports anyone who wants to overthrow the existing ruling order, preferably by force.
The Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things. In all these movements, they bring to the front, as the leading question in each, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time. Finally, they labour everywhere for the union and agreement of the democratic parties of all countries. 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. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains.
Communists support Chartists and Agrarian Reformers, social-democrats and radicals everywhere. Wherever action overthrows existing institutions, communists provide support, redirecting enthusiasm to the question of property. Communists unite all parties seeking change. Communists coerce others to create a society they approve. The capitalists should quake. Workers have nothing, and so stand to lose nothing, but their miseries. If they will unite internationally, workers shall control the world. They have a world to win. The Communist Manifesto ends with the famous call: Workers of the world unite!
4. STRENGTH AND WEAKNESS OF COMMUNIST MANIFESTO OF FEBRUARY 1848
The Communist Manifesto which was first published in February 1848 remains an essential guidebook for any socialist serious about overthrowing capitalism. This is because Karl Marx, with the help of Frederick Engels, was able to show for the first time the essential features and laws of capitalism as a class based social system of production and exchange. The Communist Manifesto is a declaration of the intentions of a communist organization. It served as a brief and concise explanation of the ideas that form foundation of communist and socialist ideology. Marx thought that a kind of dialectical or two opposites producing a unified whole process would create a merchant class and a working class from the struggle between the peasant and the nobility.
The Communist Manifesto still finds favour among many political groups and its tenets and ideas are worthy of study because there are economic and historical truths embedded within it. It has also proved to be the foundation of one of the most prominent economic and political movements of the 20th Century. Throughout the twentieth century, it became the most zealous advocate of the world’s anti colonialist movements. It influenced numerous anti colonial leaders and organizations, from Fidel Castro in Cuba to Frantz Fanon in Algeria, from Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana to Julius Nyerere in Tanzania, and from the Indian National Congress in India to the African National Congress in South Africa.
The Communist Manifesto shows how the capitalist class played a revolutionary part in history by ending feudalism and absolute monarchy, establishing a world market and conquering exclusive political control. The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie. The new labour government forcibly springs and globalised capitalism with its constant movement of production, financial instability, job insecurity and rapid technological change.
The Communist Manifesto shows how the contradiction between the forces of production and its system of ownership and control is the historical law that leads to revolutionary change. This is how the capitalist class came to power in countries like England and France, as the rising bourgeoisie were drawn into conflict with the existing organisation of agriculture and manufacturing. The anarchy of capitalist economy is characterised by the massive application of science and technology, a tremendous growth in the productive forces, the socialisation and internationalisation of production, and the reduction of all labour to property like less wage labour. Today we live under unique political conditions. Reformism cannot offer even the smallest concessions to workers and has turned into its opposite.
The Communist Manifesto proposes not simply a theory of history, but also a thesis about the historicization of theory. Formally, it connects the written word to historical and material revolution, developing an intimate relationship between theory and action. The Communist Manifesto is a book that not only shaped the postcolonial world, but actually theorized the processes of its own revolutionary shaping. It celebrates the social and economic conditions brought about by bourgeois capitalism because they lay the material foundations for the next stage in history called communism. Bourgeois capitalism or today’s neo liberalism is a necessary prerequisite to communism as Marx and Engels envisage it. The Communist Manifesto is courageous enough to conclude that the socialization of man would produce automatically a harmony of all interests.
The Communist Manifesto emphasizes that the global economy and culture created by bourgeois capitalism is a necessary predicate for the international communism that it advocates; the working men of all countries, not of one region or nation that must unite! It then creates that global audience by overcoming the problem of its own translatability. The Communist Manifesto anticipates the world wide dissemination and mingling of national and local literatures that defines contemporary global culture. The Manifesto’s prediction of a global culture is exemplified by its own history of publication, translation and dissemination.
Marx’s role has been to provide clarity and guidance, to serve as a symbol of certain tendencies of thought and action. His uniquely forceful and acute analyses of history and capitalism have been a font of inspiration for thinkers and activists, a stimulus to keep their eyes on the prize, so to speak. His prediction of the collapse of capitalism from its internal contradictions has given hope and confidence to millions, perhaps too much confidence, in light of the traditional over optimism of Marxists. But having such a brilliant authority on their side, such a teacher, has surely been of inestimable benefit to the oppressed.
Marx was right that capitalism isn’t sustainable, because of its contradictions, its dysfunctional social consequences, and also its effects on the natural environment. No compromises between capital and wage labour. The market is just too anarchic, and capital too voracious. Stability is not possible. Genuine socialism of workers’ democratic control on an international scale never could have happened in the twentieth century, which was still the age of oligopolistic, imperialistic capitalism, even state capitalism. In fact, it wasn’t until the twenty first century that the capitalist mode of production was consolidated across the entire globe, a development Marx assumed was necessary as a prerequisite for socialism or communism.
Socialist or post capitalist interests can surely not take over national states until they have vast material resources on their side, such as can only be acquired through large scale participation in productive activities. As the capitalist economy descends into global crisis/stagnation, one can predict that an alternative economy, a solidarity economy of cooperative and socialized relations of production will emerge both in society’s interstices and, sooner or later, in the mainstream. In many cases it will be sponsored and promoted by the state on local, regional, and national levels, in an attempt to assuage social discontent; but its growth will only have the effect of hollowing out the hegemony of capitalism and ultimately facilitating its downfall.
The new society has to be erected on the foundation of emerging production relations, which cannot but take a very long time to broadly colonize society. And class struggle, that key Marxian concept, will of course be essential to the transformation as decades of continuous conflict between the masters and the oppressed, including every variety of disruptive political activity, will attend the construction from the grassroots up to the national government of anti capitalist modes of production.
The conquest of political power will occur piecemeal, gradually; it will suffer setbacks and then proceed to new victories, then suffer more defeats, etc., in a century long or longer process that happens at different rates in different countries. It will be a time of world agony, especially as climate change will be devastating civilization; but the sheer numbers of people whose interests will lie in a transcendence of corporate capitalism will constitute a formidable weapon on the side of progress.
One reasonable, though rather optimistic, blueprint for the early stages of this process is the British Labour Party’s Manifesto, which lays out principles that can be adapted to other countries. Such a plan will necessarily encounter so much resistance that, early on, even if the Labour Party comes to power, only certain parts of it will be able to be implemented. But plans such as this will provide ideals that can be approximated ever more closely as the international left grows in strength; and eventually more radical goals may become feasible.
The egalitarianism of modern America represents the essential achievement of the classless society envisioned by Marx. The new technologies such as the internet are making communist production practices realizable today. Though these microcosms of communist production are still antagonistically entangled into capitalist class relations, they might yet be developed, extended, and intensified into other spheres of society. Utopian potentials inherent in twenty first century technology cannot remain bound to a parochial capitalist imagination. They must be liberated by an ambitious left alternative. The world literary and social commons, that The Communist Manifesto drew on and created in both content and form, and which informed many of the twentieth century’s anti imperial movements.
Yet the real problem with the Marxian ideas imbued in The Communist Manifesto might be that Marx misunderstood which class would ultimately subsume all the others. He was under the impression that labourers must ultimately take over the means of production and so destroy the capitalist system. What he could not understand was that the means of production would become less and less expensive all the time due to efficiencies in production. Workers would themselves become entrepreneurs in free and republican societies. The advent of computers, and inexpensive access to the tools of a service industry would make small business a dominant and driving force. The internet has opened publishing up to any person who has a few dollars to rent a server.
The Communist Manifesto’s epoch making claim that the history of all complex societies has been the history of class struggle is oversimplifying, contrary to what has been claimed a thousand times, if class struggle is understood to mean not only explicit conflict between classes and class subgroups, but also the implicit antagonism of interests between classes, which constitutes the structure of economic institutions. Particular class dynamics together with the level of development of productive forces they determine and are expressed through provide the basic institutional context around which a given politics and culture are fleshed out.
Class struggle is central to history in still more ways; for instance, virtually by analytical necessity it has been directly or indirectly, the main cause of popular resistance and rebellions. Likewise, the ideologies and cultures of the lower classes have been in large measure sublimations of class interest and conflict. Most wars, too, have been undertaken so that rulers effectively the ruling class could gain control over resources, which is sort of the class struggle by other means. Wars grow out of class dynamics, and are intended to benefit the rich and powerful. In any case, the very tasks of survival in complex societies are structured by class antagonisms, which determine who gets what resources when and in what ways.
Most intellectuals including many academically trained leftists, also see The Communist Manifesto’s economistic arguments as overly simplifying and reductivist. Mainstream intellectuals in particular consider it a sign of unsophistication that The Communist Manifesto tends to abstract from complicating factors and isolate the class variable. Reality is complicated and they shout in unison. Class isn’t everything and somehow, it is considered an intellectual vice, and not a virtue, to simplify for the sake of understanding. It’s true, after all, that the world is complex; and so in order to understand it one has to simplify it a bit, explain it in terms of general principles.
In essence, while Marx was right to locate a capitalist tendency toward relative immiseration of the working class, he was wrong that this tendency could not be effectively counteracted, at least for a long time by opposing pressures. That is, he underestimated the power of tendencies toward integration of the working class into the dominant order, toward pure and simple trade unionism, toward the state’s stabilizing management of the economy, and toward workers’ identification not only with the abstract notion of a social class that spans continents but also with the more concrete facts of ethnicity, race, trade, immediate community, and nation. These forces have historically militated against the revolutionary tendencies of class polarization and international working class solidarity. They have both fragmented the working class and made possible the successes of reformism; the welfare state, social democracy, and the legitimization of mass collective bargaining in the wake of the Great Depression and World War II.
Marx expected that the proletariat would have to seize control of the national state and then carry out the social revolution from the commanding heights of government. This is clear from the ten point program laid out in The Communist Manifesto, the specifics of which he repudiated in later years, but apparently not the general conception of statist reconstruction of the economy. It’s doubtful, appears, that both he and Engels were extreme statists, even though, like anarchists, they hoped and expected that the state would somehow, inexplicably disappear eventually.
The social revolution can’t occur after a total seizure of state power by the proletariat, which isn’t a unitary entity but contains divisions for several reasons. First, this conception of revolution contradicts the understanding of social dynamics. It exalts a centralized conscious will as being able to plan social evolution in advance, a notion that is utterly undialectical. According to dialectics, history happens behind the backs of historical actors, whose intentions never work out exactly as they’re supposed to. Marx was wise in his admonition that we should never trust the self interpretations of political actors. And yet he suspends this injunction when it comes to the dictatorship of the proletariat: these people’s designs are supposed to work out perfectly and straightforwardly, despite the massive complexity and dialectical contradictions of society.
The statist idea of revolution is also wrong to privilege the political over the economic. In supposing that through sheer political will one can transform an authoritarian, exploitative economy into a liberatory, democratic one. Marx is, in effect, reversing the order of dominant causality such that politics determines the economy whereas in fact the economy determines loosely and broadly speaking politics. The Communist Manifesto itself suggests that the state can’t be socially creative in this radical way. And when it tries to be, what results, ironically, is overwhelming bureaucracy and even greater authoritarianism than before. While the twentieth century’s experiences with communism or state socialism happened in relatively non-industrialized societies, not advanced capitalist ones as Marx anticipated, the dismal record is at least suggestive.
Corresponding to all these errors are the flaws in Marx’s abstract conceptualization of revolution, according to which revolution happens when the production relations turn into fetters on the use and development of productive forces. It would seem that capitalism has fettered productive forces for a very long time, for example in its proneness to recessions and stagnation, in artificial obstacles to the diffusion of knowledge such as intellectual copyright laws, in under investment in public goods such as education and transportation, and so forth. On the other hand, science and technology continue to develop, as shown by recent momentous advances in information technology.
There is a conflict between two types of production relations, two modes of production; one of which uses productive forces in a more socially rational and unfettering way than the other. The more progressive mode slowly develops in the womb of the old society as it decays, i.e., as the old dominant mode of production succumbs to crisis and stagnation. In being relatively dynamic and ‘socially effective,’ the emergent mode of production attracts adherents and resources, until it becomes ever more visible and powerful. The old regime can’t eradicate it; it spreads internationally and gradually transforms the economy, to such a point that the forms and content of politics change with it. Political entities become its partisans, and finally decisive seizures of power by representatives of the emergent mode of production become possible, because reactionary defenders of the old regime have lost their dominant command over resources.
The most obvious concrete instance of this conception of revolution is the long transition from feudalism to capitalism, during which the feudal mode became so hopelessly outgunned by the capitalist that, in retrospect, the long-term outcome of the bourgeois revolutions from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries was never in doubt. Capitalism was bound to triumph after it had reached a certain level of development. But the important point is that capitalist interests could never have decisively seized the state until the capitalist economy had already made tremendous inroads against feudalism.
History had given the emerging capitalist class the task of ending feudalism. In turn, the overthrowing of capitalism, The Communist Manifesto shows falls to those who had nothing to lose; the working class. As Marx and Engels explained; the theories of the communists are not in any way based upon ideas or principles discovered or established by this or that universal reformer. They serve merely to express in general terms, the concrete circumstances of actually existing class struggle of any historical movement that is going on under our very eyes. Marx’s great genius lay in revealing that the existence of classes was bound up with particular, historic phases in the development of production. He showed that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat, the overthrow of capitalism by the working class.
The Communist Manifesto is a brief publication that declares the arguments and platform of the communist party. It was written in 1847 by theorists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and was commissioned by the Communist League in England and officially published in 1848 consisting preamble and four chapters. Marx famously states history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. It lays out the position that the bourgeois, through competition and private ownership of land, forever exploiting and oppressing proletariat or working class. Marx then states that the system always results in class conflict and revolution and should be replaced by communism, a society without class distinctions.
The Communist Manifesto also explains the relationship between the communist party and other working parties, stating that the communist party would not organize against them. It declares the intention of the party to focus on the interests of the proletariat as whole, and not any particular group. The Communist Manifesto clarifies the main points of the communist platform, which includes ten short term demands such as abolishing ownership of all private property, establishing system of heavy taxation, abolishing the right to inherit, centralizing credit and establishment of a state bank, centralizing communication and transport with the state, confiscating all emigrant and rebel property, extending the means of production to the state, equalizing liability to all levels of labor, combining agriculture and manufacturing industries and establishing a free public education system.
The Communist Manifesto further explains the differences between communism and other socialist doctrines of the day including reactionary socialism, bourgeois socialism, and critical-utopian socialism. While they have their points, they are all inadequately addressing the underlying issues of perpetual class conflicts, according to Marx. Besides to this, it deals with position of the communists in relation to various opposition parties. This explains how the communist party views the European conflicts of the time.
The Communist Manifesto is considered us one of the most influential in the world history. I can put it in the next rank to the Bible and Koran for its influence on the word society. It provoked many positive and negative responses; it has a great influence on literature. A detailed critical analysis of the document reveals its influence on the reader, as well as provides a corrective understanding of the text. I read it that there is a fight each time ended either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.
The Communist Manifesto describes two opposing economic systems, communism and capitalism, and then discusses the political implications of the tension between them. It is based on opposition; the authors oppose two classes’ bourgeois and working class. They focus on the exploitation of one class by another. The bourgeoisie controls the means of production, which implies the virtual enslavement of the proletariat in order to sustain this system.
The Communist Manifesto document has a great emotional power as it addresses the issues that worried people at that time. The tone contains notes that evoke the desire for struggle. The authors address the reader that makes him/her feel involved and significant. Its purpose is to inform, explain, persuade and motivate the reader. In addition, the authors’ use various stylistic means such as comparisons, hyperboles and repetitions; it must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere, and emotionally colored words such as adjectives like brutal exploitation.
The Communist Manifest has a very big rhetorical power due to its structure, language and stylistic means used by the authors. A detailed rhetorical analysis of the writing can help explain the influence of it on the reader, as well as provides a corrective understanding of the text. This document remains the best example of the art of rhetoric. It became a basis for many scientific works and had a great influence on works of modern and post modern writers, sociologists, economists, psychologists and linguists.
In 21st century America, the wealthiest of the wealthy continue to earn more and more capital and property, and it is arguably becoming easier for them to do so, while those below, particularly at the lower ends of the income spectrum, find their wages and earnings stagnating, prices of goods and valuables continue to rise, which leads to a loss of net worth and a dramatic rise of a cost of living for those persons. The result is a system where the haves continue to get wealthier and wealthier, and the poor get poorer and poorer; if they do not at least maintain a status-quo. The proletariat of America’s society today is beginning to realize that they outnumber the bourgeoisie of America and can indeed, take measures to change what they perceive is an unfair system.
Frederick Engels (1987). The Condition of the Working Class in England (Trans.). Harmondsworth, UK Penguin Books, pp. 29-275. (Original work published 1845).
Frederick Engels (2002). The Condition of the Working Class in England: Perspectives from the Past. In James M. Brophy, et al, (Eds), Primary Sources in Western Civilizations (pp. 473-474). W. W. Norton & Company Inc, New York.
Huckin, T. (2003). Content Analysis: What Texts Talk About. In Charles Bazerman, Paul A. Prior, (Eds), What Writing Does and How It Does It: An Introduction to Analyzing Texts and Textual Practices. Mahwah, N J: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels (1953). On Britain. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House. Pp.509 & 537.
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels (Eds). (1970). The Manifesto of Communist Party. Peking: Foreign Languages Press.
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels (1988). The Manifesto of Communist Party (Trans). In Samuel Moore, (Eds) by Frederick Engels). Zodiac.
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels (1992). The Communist Manifesto (Trans). Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Original work published 1848).
Marcus, S. (1974). Manchester and the Working Class. Random House: New York. Pp. 143 & 247.
McLellan, David, Marx, K. (1973). His Life and Thought. New York: Harper and Row. Pp.438-442.
Mill, J. S. (1909). Principles of Political Economy (Trans.). London: Longmans. Pp.751 (Original work published 1848).
Schwarzschild, L. (1947). The Red Prussian: The Life and Legend of Karl Marx. Hamish Hamilton, London. P.7.