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The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 1512 words Published: 31st Jul 2018

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The passage I have chosen to analyze critically is a part of the book “The Communist Manifesto” authored by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels who are both political theorists. This particular passage has been taken from the second chapter of the book which is named “Proletarians and Communists”. The Communist Manifesto is considered to be one of the bravest books of all time. Karl Marx, after being banished from Paris for his comments on radical politics, he established a group of working class people from Germany and together they formed “The Communist League”. The testimonials of the communal principles of the group were written down which later took the form of the book, the Communist Manifesto.

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The book unwraps with the thought that- “The history of all hitherto societies has been the history of class struggles”. In the book, the authors talk about the drawbacks that have arisen in the society due to the formation of two classes: the bourgeois and the proletariats, and the antagonism between these two classes. In the first chapter of the book “Bourgeois and Proletarians”, Marx and Engels describe the rise of the bourgeois class, in which he thought the French revolution had played a huge part. He also explains that how tremendously the bourgeois class is harmful to the society and that it will be the cause of its own destruction.

In the second chapter of the book “Proletarians and Communists”, the author’s main focus is on the ideologies and features of the Communists and that they aim to work on behalf of the proletariats. He also expresses own thoughts regarding the modern bourgeois property features, wage-labor, capital accumulation and lastly ends his argument by saying, “In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all”.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in this chapter mostly talks about the determined willpower of the communists towards the formation of proletariat into a class, overthrow the bourgeois supremacy and the power governance/takeover by the proletariat class in this chapter. They discuss many of the reasons why property and capital are at the power of the bourgeois class. In the passage I have chosen they argue that the wage labour creates only capital which in turn creates the property, but only for the bourgeois not the proletariats and this system needs to be changed in the society.

In the first paragraph, the author talks about wage labour- the person who comes to work to earn a minimum salary for living. There is a certain aggression in the tone of the writing throughout the whole chapter which reflects their rage regarding the issue. They say that the average salary of a wage-labour is only the least possible amount of money needed for the worker to only come to work every day.
‘What, therefore, the wage-labourer appropriates by means of his labour, merely suffices to prolong and reproduce a bare existence.’- Marx and Engels seem to write this with complete offence and disbelief.  Because the scenario which they are talking about, which in fact still exists now, is that workers put their effort and are exploited constantly by the bourgeois class.

‘The two dollars therefore expresses the relation in which labor-power is exchanged for other commodities, the exchange value of labor-power. The exchange value of a commodity estimated in money is called its price’this is an extract from Karl Marx’s writing ‘Wage Labour and Capital’ in which he clearly explains that the wage labourer only receives the money in ‘exchange’ for his work. This turns to the fact that a proletariat sells its own flesh and meat in exchange of a minuscule amount of money, which is completely undeserved.

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Moving on to an example from Adam Smith’s book ‘The Wealth of Nations’. He says that a commodity is only priced at the cost of what it requires for the person to bring the product into the market. He explains the factors that are looked into while pricing a commodity where ‘wage of the labour’ is only one of the factors; hence it is very distinct that the wage labourer cannot even afford to buy the product he himself has produced in the factory. His salary is just a bare minimum for him to afford some food and clothing so that he can come to work the next day to be exploited again by the bourgeois.

The two kinds of societies that are talked about are the bourgeois or today’s capitalist society, and the other is the imagined communist society which communists aim to establish. The authors expresses that in the capitalist mode of production, the workers are only seen as the work power or the force that will earn more capital for the bourgeois through their effort. But in the communist society, the whole proletariat class is a way to promote and enrich themselves and their lives too and not only serving the bourgeois.
“In bourgeois society, therefore, the past dominates the present; in Communist society, the present dominates the past”- this statement is not very precise or clear, but from the lines written just before and after this statement it appears as if Marx and Engels think of the accumulated labour as the past and living labour as the present. Hence, the motivation and ambition to produce more labours will give rise to exploitation by the bourgeois on the present working labour. The labourer only exists because it has to work for increasing the capital which brings me to the point that capital is materialistic, an inanimate object whereas the proletariat is a living person with will, wish and needs. Despite this being a fact, in the capitalist society, the bourgeois dominate the proletariats for which they gain no power or anything and are not free willed. Whereas capital, when controlled being a material object, has complete power to run anything or anyone. It is possible for the owner of capital to run his work without any particular labourer amongst the millions, but it is the labourers who are entirely and in a very complexed way dependent upon selling their labour. Also, the labourers do not have the opportunity to choose between a numbers of capitalists. In this way the labourers are destined to cope up with conditions in which they always give more labour power as an input than they get back in reward as the incentive.

In the last paragraph from the suggested passage I have chosen, the authors seems to talk about the fact that the destruction of this cycle of manipulation and corruption, which is desired by the communists is thought to be unreasonable by the bourgeois society. The bourgeois society holds the communists accountable for depriving them of their ‘individuality’ and ‘freedom’. By critically analyzing it appears that Marx and Engels critiques the existing capitalist society by saying that ‘By freedom is meant, under the present bourgeois conditions of production, free trade, free selling, and free buying.’ In Capitalist mode of production the freedom is the freedom to buy and sell in the market for free, but only for the bourgeois.  Bourgeois desire to earn as much as capital they can earn needed that is crucial to acquire all the social power in the society.

Throughout the whole writing it is very evident that Marx and Engels have persistently portrayed that the whole society is about the exchange of the propertied class and the property-less class. But this is only for profitable development of the former class by the help of the latter. The Communist Manifesto, being one of the most influential political theory books has been an inspiration for many also in the contemporary society today. It has very boldly addressed the social relations and structure of power in the society and how it depends on the production process. It has shown that proletariats are only worth to the bourgeois as long as it brings profits. But there are some aspects of the writing which makes us think about the usefulness and consequences of the establishment of a communist society. Marx and Engels point out several times that if the bourgeois possess majority of the property then exploitation will continue but an argument they also make is that the owner of the means of production do not work but make others work for them. Therefore, if proletariat forms into a class and earns property for them, they are also bound to become idle. Proletariats will also not work and fall under the bourgeois class and use their cogency to compel others to work for them. This circle of power struggles is bound to continue in different forms probably, which is why Marx and Engels’ writing is still essential.


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