- (1848)Commissioned by the London Congress of the Communist League in November 1847, the Manifesto of the Communist Party was written by Karl Marx using Friedrich Engels’ drafts as a basis. It appeared in early 1848 at a time of revolution in Europe and has been the textbook of revolutionaries for over 150 years. It is not a simple declaration of principles but an exposition of the fundamental tenets of Marxism presented in a polemical form. The influence of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s ideas, and Marx’s opposition, is clear in his use of “scientific method”—historical and dialectical materialism—as the fundamental structure of the work; all man’s history is social change necessitated by class struggle. The relation of the base to the superstructure is so clear as to suggest Engels’ input. A class exists by virtue of its relation to the mode of production and the emergence of a new ruling class is caused by revolutions in production begun in the previous epoch; as the bourgeoisie was built in the feudal age, so the proletariat turns bourgeois weapons against their bearers. Marx proposes that the elements of the new social epoch exist within the old; his theory of history is that of struggle between classes leading inevitably to the communist society.The character of wage labor is that the minimum wage is that which nourishes the development of capital alone; man is subject to alienation, he is an appendage of industry. Furthermore, he is a valuable commodity only insofar as he is useful for exploitation in the service of production and capital. In bourgeois society, the “worker as commodity” is subject to the same laws of supply and demand as every other commodity. Capital is independent and individual, man is not; the living commodity is not enriched by capital as the static commodity is. Man has only bourgeois notions of independence and individuality, i.e., property and free trade as independence. Yet only the minority bourgeoisie has this freedom. Bourgeois state and society withhold freedom from the proletarian majority, therefore “working men have no country” because no country is for man. The fundamental opposition of these classes conceals their dialectical interdependence. The bourgeoisie necessarily creates the proletariat, and as the bourgeoisie develops dialectically, so the proletariat develops against it, as a “really revolutionary class.” The bourgeoisie depends upon capital, which relies upon wage labor, the division of labor and mass production, creating increasing socialization of the workers and ever-growing solidarity; the bourgeoisie produces its “own gravediggers.” Proletarian revolution is the inevitable consequence of the confluence of all the contradictions of the capitalist mode of production and must be violent because, unlike Hegel, Marx argues that systems cannot be changed from within; communism can only be achieved by overthrowing existing conditions. Furthermore, the bourgeois ruling class will not participate in its own destruction. The proletarian revolution is also a further stage in the dialectic of revolution; only this sweeps away the old conditions of class antagonism and abolishes its own supremacy. The abolition of private property, the Manifesto proposes, creates a classless society that can be the first age for the truly free development of man.
Historical dictionary of Marxism. David Walker and Daniel Gray . 2014.
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