Proletarians and Communists

In the section entitled Proletarians and Communists, Marx and Engels speak out against claims made against communist ideology on the basis of philosophical, religions and ideological grounds.  By stating that the ruling class in every previous age has always created the ideology by which the age is dominated, Marx and Engels are making a point to find fault with previous ruling class systems as a whole throughout history.  All previous eras from ancient societies like Greece and Rome through the current bourgeois elite have one central, common theme – the exploitation of the bottom half of society by those at the top.[1]   To provide examples for this emphatic claim, the authors point to the overthrow of old world religions by Christianity, which in turn was overthrown by the humanist and rationalist thoughts in the 18th century enlightenment.[2]  At each of these turning points in society, fundamental concepts such as religion and law remained, they just changed form – necessarily evolving and adapting to current cultural knowledge, values and internal pressures.  The charge against communism, by contrast, was that by abolishing such concepts as ‘eternal truths’, the history of society would be turned upside down by recognizing and acknowledging a simple truth – all former societies have relied on the introduction of and the continuation of class distinctions, rivalries and exploitation.[3]  In other words, under communism both Marx and Engels hoped to make the proletariat the ruling class in order to break the cycle of exploitation of those in a ‘higher’ class upon those continually stuck in a lower one.

[1] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “Manifesto of the Communist Party,” in Heritage of Western Civilization, eds. John L. Beatty and Oliver A. Johnson (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1995), 187.

[2] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “Manifesto of the Communist Party,” 187.

[3] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “Manifesto of the Communist Party,” 187.

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The Bourgeois and the Proletarians

It was interesting to see Marx and Engels refer to the bourgeois as revolutionary in their own right, seeming to place them on an equal playing field with the proletariat.  When they explained further, however, the distinctions between these two opposing revolutionary forces became clearer.  By severing relations formed under the feudal system throughout much of the world (especially Europe) and establishing a middle class, the bourgeois turned their focus exclusively to profit and self interest at the expense of those relegated to producing the materials the bourgeois required and desired.[1]  Rather than placing value either on society as a whole or upon individuals, the bourgeois valued only what could be exchanged and gained from them.[2]  This resulted in unapologetic exploitation of the lower class.  By continually revolutionizing production in order to gain more and more goods and personal property, the bourgeois uprooted all previous societal frameworks, creating one based solely on self-interest and personal gain.  As material desires spread outwards, nations became dependent upon one another in the constant quest for newer, more exotic goods.[3]  Nations who could not adapt to the new production methods and demands faced extinction.  By succumbing to these external, material pressure, these nations became bourgeois-based themselves by themselves, spreading the cycle outwards and enveloping European society.[4]

[1] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “Manifesto of the Communist Party,” in Heritage of Western Civilization, eds. John L. Beatty and Oliver A. Johnson (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1995), 176

[2] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “Manifesto of the Communist Party,” 176.

[3] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “Manifesto of the Communist Party,” 177.

[4] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “Manifesto of the Communist Party,” 177.