The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels
This Friday evening I will be hosting another book discussion on my back patio. We will be discussing The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (1848). Here is the summary I will be sharing with attendees as well as the questions that will guide our discussion:
Chapter 1 | Bourgeois and Proletarians
The history of a society is a history of class struggles between the oppressor and the oppressed.
Society is splitting into two hostile classes: the bourgeois and proletariat.
New economic markets created needs/opportunities that the old feudal system could not satisfy.
Methods of production are industrialized.
Industrial workers now resemble commodities exploited by industrial millionaires.
Production and consumption and individual interests/wants become more cosmopolitan.
Even ordinarily hostile nations are willing to cooperate for the sake of obtaining cheaper goods.
Production, property, population, and politics are all becoming more and more centralized.
The bourgeois exploit old markets, destroy competitive forces, and conquer new markets in order to avoid becoming too narrow to contain the wealth they create.
Modern industry turns the worker (proletarian) into a “soldier” or an “appendage of the machine.”
More efficient machinery + burdensome work + reduced wages = reduced price of commodity
Middle class sinks into the proletariat because of insufficient capital to remain competitive and specialization that has become obsolete/unnecessary due to new means of production.
Workers unite around a common class struggle that eventually gives rise to a political party.
Meanwhile the bourgeois is in conflict externally with both former aristocracy and the bourgeois of foreign nations, while also in conflict internally with those opposing changes in industry/production.
Out of desperate necessity the bourgeois equip the proletariat with means to support the bourgeois. Resultingly, the proletariat are equipped to enter the political arena and eventually resist the bourgeois.
Modern industry that once isolated the worker now draws workers together through their common plight of exploitation.
Chapter 2 | Proletarians and Communists
Communists are a working-class party aiming to overthrow the political power/supremacy of the bourgeois for the good of the proletariat.
The bourgeois gain property through exploitation/antagonism then use this property as capital to further exploit the proletariat. In this sense, the property of the bourgeois is privatized – not used for the common good of all classes but instead further leveraged against the proletariat. Communists aim to abolish this kind of privatization of property.
Communists want to allow individuals to appropriate the goods of their labor but prevent them from using their goods to subjugate others.
Bourgeois family is based on capital and private gain that destroy, exploit, and publicly prostitute the proletarian family – especially women and children.
Proletariats are foreigners in their own country. Instead, they are members of an oppressed class that exists across a multitude of other civilized countries.
Successful abolishment of past class antagonism will naturally include ruptures with traditional property relations as well as traditional ideas, including religious, moral, philosophical, and judicial ideas. This is natural to the process of history.
Revolution must include: (1) Abolition of property in land and confiscation of ground rents to the State; (2) A heavily progressive income tax; (3) Abolition of inheritance; (4) Confiscation of the property of emigrants and rebels; (5) Centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly; (6) Centralization of the means of transport in the hands of the State; (7) Extension of national factories and instruments of production, cultivation and improvement of waste lands in accordance with a general social plan; (8) Obligation of all to labor; organization of industrial armies, especially for agriculture; (9) Combination of agricultural and industrial labor, in order to remove the distinction between town and country; (10) Free public education for all children. Abolition of factory labor for children in its present form. Combination of education with material production
If the proletariat overthrows and ends the bourgeois then it will be the only class, thereby eliminating any class structure. Class antagonism will become an impossibility.
Chapter 3 | Socialist and Communist Literature
Reactionary Socialism: French and English aristocracy have hidden their envious agendas behind forms of Christian aestheticism veneered in socialism. Medieval burghers/townsmen and peasant proprietors/business owners of the middle class eventually become the bourgeois as industry and commerce further develop. The “true socialism” of the German middle class is riddled with the self-interest of preserving the middle class as a kind of petty-bourgeois.
Conservative or Bourgeois Socialism: The bourgeois wants to normalize their present conditions for all by eliminating the proletariat all together. Yet the industrial worker cannot actually be eliminated. Thus bourgeois socialism is simply a society where the oppressed proletariat learns to accept their oppression and keep their mouths shut.
Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism: Socialists who hope to obtain their ends through peaceful means rather than political revolutionary action are fantasizing about a utopia that will never be realized.
Chapter 4 | Position of the Communists in Relation to the Various Opposition Parties
Communists are willing to temporarily support a variety of radical and reactionary classes (e.g., democratic socialists in Switzerland and Polish agrarian revolutionaries) in order to fight for the immediate and momentary aims of the working class and expedite the end of the bourgeois.
“The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of all lands, unite!”
Is the history of all societies a history of the oppressor and the oppressed?
How do methods of production and means of consumption impact the stratification of classes?
How does industrialization initially isolate the worker then later draw the workers together?
How is the private property of the bourgeois used to exploit the proletariat?
Must the abolishment of class antagonism always include the rupturing of traditional religious, moral, philosophical, and judicial ideas? Is this rupturing a natural part of the process of history?
How has Marx been influenced by the philosophy of Hegel? How does Marx translate Hegel’s philosophy of the rational mind into the material?
How many of Marx’s 10 characteristics of a successful revolution are currently realized in the United States today? Are we on the verge of a socialistic revolution?