Communist manifesto.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Jeffrey Kopstein

Communist manifesto: Bourgeois and Proletarians - Summary The Manifesto begins by announcing, "A spectra is haunting Europe--the spectra of Communism." All of the European powers have allied themselves against Communism, frequently demonizing its ideas. Therefore, the Communists have assembled in London and written this Manifesto in order to make public their views, aims and tendencies, and to dispel the maliciously implanted misconceptions. The Manifesto begins by addressing the issue of class antagonism. Marx writes, "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." Throughout history we see the oppressor and 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 classes' common ruin. In earlier ages, we saw society arranged into complicated class structures. For example, in medieval times there were feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices and serfs. Modern bourgeois society sprouted from the ruins of feudal society. This society has class antagonisms as well, but it is also unique: class antagonisms have become simplified, as society increasingly splits into two rival camps--Bourgeoisie and Proletariat. The Manifesto then shows how the modern bourgeoisie is the product of several revolutions in the mode of production and of exchange. The development of the bourgeoisie began in the earliest towns, and 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 demand kept increasing, and manufacture couldn't keep up. This led to the Industrial Revolution. Manufacture was replaced by "Modern Industry," and the industrial middle class was replaced by "industrial millionaires," the modern bourgeois. With these developments, the bourgeoisie have become powerful, and have pushed medieval classes into the background. The development of the bourgeoisie as a class was accompanied by a series of political developments. With the development of Modern Industry and the world-market, the bourgeoisie has gained exclusive political sway. The State serves solely the bourgeoisie's interests. 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 their superiors, and now all remaining relations between men are characterized by self-interest alone. Religious fervor, chivalry and sentimentalism have all been sacrificed. Personal worth is now measured by exchange value, and the only freedom is that of 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-laboring professions, even those that were previously honored, such as that of the doctor. Similarly, family relations have lost 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 they cannot continue to exist without revolutionizing the instruments of production. This implies revolutionizing the relations of production, and with it, all of the relations in 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. Because the bourgeoisie needs a constantly expanding market, it settles and establishes 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. The bourgeoisie draws even the most barbaric 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 centralization. Thus, we see that the means of production and of exchange, which serve as the basis of the bourgeoisie, originated in feudal society. At a certain stage, however, the feudal relations ceased to be compatible with the developing productive forces. Thus the "fetters" of the feudal system had to be "burst asunder," and they were. Free competition replaced the old system, and the bourgeoisie rose to power. Marx then 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 crises, due, ironically, to over- production, are threatening the existence of bourgeois society. Productive forces are now fettered by bourgeois society, and these crises represent this tension. Yet in attempting to remedy these crises, the bourgeoisie simply cause new and more extensive crises to emerge, and diminish their ability to prevent future ones. Thus, the weapons by which the bourgeoisie overcame feudalism are now being turned on the bourgeoisie themselves. Proletarians and Communists- Summary The Manifesto then discusses the relationship of the Communists to the proletarians. The immediate aim of the Communists is the "formation of the proletariat into a class, [the] overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, [and the] conquest of political power by the proletariat." The Communists' theory simply describes a historical movement underway at this very moment. This includes the abolition of private property. Marx says that Communists have been "reproached" for desiring to abolish the "right" of acquiring private property through the fruits of one's labor. However, he points out, laborers do not acquire any property through their labor. Rather, the "property" or capital they produce serves to exploit them. This property, controlled by the bourgeoisie, represents a social--not a personal--power. Changing it into common property does not abolish property as a right, but merely changes itssocial character, by eliminating its class character. In a Communist society, then, labor will exist for the sake of the laborer, not for the sake of producing bourgeois-controlled property. This goal of communism challenges bourgeois freedom, and this is why the bourgeois condemn the Communist philosophy. Marx writes, "You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population." Despite what the bourgeois claim, Communism doesn't keep people from appropriating the products of labor. Rather, it keeps them from subjugating others in the process of this appropriation. The Manifesto then addresses some objections to Communism. Many dissenters maintain that no one will work if private property is abolished. However, by this logic, bourgeois society should have been overcome with laziness long ago. In reality, it is presently the case that those who work don't acquire anything, and those who acquire things don't work. Other opponents hold that Communism will destroy all intellectual products. However, this reflects a bourgeois misunderstanding. The disappearance of "class culture" is not the same thing as the disappearance of all culture. Marx moves to the arguments against the "infamous" Communist proposal of abolishing the family. He says the modern family is based on capital and private gain. Thus he writes, the Communists "plead guilty" to wanting to do away with present familial relations, in that they want to stop the exploitation of children by their parents. Similarly, they do not want to altogether abolish the education of children, but simply to free it from the control of the ruling class. Marx complains that the bourgeois "clap-trap" about family and education is particularly "disgusting" as Industry increasingly destroys the family ties of the proletarians; thus it renders family and education as
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