Marx Manifesto Notes


  1. Bourgeois and Proletarians
  2. Proletarians and Communists
  3. Socialist and Communist Literature
      • Reactionary Socialism
        1. Feudal Socialism
        2. Petty Bourgeois Socialism
        3. German, or "True," Socialism
      • Conservative, or Bourgeois, Socialism
      • Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism
  4. Position of the Communists in Relation to the Various Existing Opposition Parties


I. Bourgeois and Proletarians

  1. Communism scares everyone in Europe. Opposition powers often labeled communist. This shows that
    1. (1) it is an acknowledged social power, and
    2. (2) it is time for communists to openly declare their views.
  2. All history is the history of class struggle. Earlier epochs had societies with complex hierarchies or orders/statuses/classes. Contemporary bourgeois society has simplified it down to two: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.
    * As feudalism gave way to industrialism the bourgeois class arose and grew in power so that now "the executive of the modern State is but a committee form managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie" (475.5 (note: page numbers refer to Tucker Marx Engels Reader).
  3. The cultural changes accomplished by the bourgeoisie are nothing short of revolutionary:
      • setting aside hundreds of years of feudal practice,
      • overcoming religious superstition,
      • converting personal worth into exchange value,
      • opening the way to the dominance of Free trade.
    • "In a word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation" (475.9).
    • But we have to admit that it has accomplished more than all previous epochs.
    • Two features of the bourgeois revolution are particularly important:
      1. it has a constant need to revolutionize ("all that is solid melts into air," and
      2. it needs a constantly expanding market. It has given a "cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country" (476.6).
    • It forces every corner of the world to remake itself "after its own image" (477.3). The Bourgeoisie centralizes and concentrates population, production, and wealth.
  4. How did this happen?
    • The means of production and exchange that are basic to Bourgeois society were invented under feudalism, but
    • as they developed the feudal relations of property became incompatible with the changing productive forces (477.9-478.1).
    • And so the feudal relations were replaced by free competition and a set of political values and institutions to go along with it.
  5. Contemporary world is seeing a similar change
    • Bourgeois capitalism is occasionally rocked by crises (depressions, etc.) that threaten its very existence.
    • Tied in with these is the bizarre phenomenon of overproduction.
    • It is a system that doesn't know a steady state. It contains the seeds of its own demise. (478)
  6. It has also created a class who will wield the weapons of its destruction — the proletariat.
    • The work of the proletarian has lost all its charm (alienation). He becomes mere appendage of the machine.
    • Workers move from a "patriarchal" workshop to a factory organized along military lines.
    • And after he collects his wages, the worker is still a slave to other members of the bourgeoisie (landlord, shopkeeper, etc.).
  7. Struggle of the proletariat builds up from that of individual worker to all in factory to all in a trade, etc.
    • They are first united as a force when the bourgeoisie bands them together in armies and such.
    • But gradually, the members of the proletariat are more and more in the same boat.
    • The encounters between individual workers and bosses begin more and more to look like encounters between two classes.
    • They begin to form associations and unions. The occasional riot breaks out. (480.5ff)
  8. Over time, local struggles communicate and connect to form national struggles.
    • The means of travel and communication permit the transformation into a class and a political party in no time at all. (481.5).
    • Much of the "training" for becoming a political force comes about because proletariat is dragged into the political arena by the bourgeoisie's conflicts with other classes of the old society and other bourgeoisies.
    • Late in the process some members of the bourgeoisie go over to the side of the revolutionary class of the proletariat. (481.8)
  9. Other classes (small manufacturer, shopkeepers, etc.) may now and then fight the bourgeoisie
    • but they are basically just trying to save their own skin and so end up being more conservative than revolutionary.
    • Similarly, "social scum" may join the fray, but they are ill prepared and often as not are exploited by conservative ideologues.
  10. Only the proletariat can be the revolutionary class.
    • They don't have vested interest in status quo caused by owning property.
    • They don't participate in bourgeois family relations.
    • They are not subject to national character allegiance because they've become anonymous citizen workers.
    • Proletariat can't take power like previous upwardly mobile classes (which amounted to "turning the tables") because it is the very condition of their existence which they need to change: they need to abolish individual property (which is the source of their problems). (482.6)
  11. Why do we say that this will happen?
    • In previous epochs the exploited and oppressed classes were at least given an accommodation that made it possible to survive as slaves or serfs or what have you.
    • The worker, by contrast, is more and more reduced to pauperism.
    • The bourgeoisie is unfit to be a ruling class because it cannot insure its "slave class" even a decent subsistence.
  12. In summary:
    • Bourgeois class <== augmentation of capital <== wage labour <== competition between workers
    • Advance of industry ==> concentration and organization of workers ==> revolutionary organization.
    • "What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, is its own grave-diggers" (483).

II Proletarians and Communists

  1. Communists vis a vis proletariat — an avant garde, section that keeps common, cross-national interests of workers in sight. Aim of Communists same as proletariat. Form latter into a party, overthrow bourgeois society. Goal does not include abolition of property per se but of the bourgeois private property of appropriation based on class antagonism.
  2. Important to distinguish "self earned" property from private property. Former OK but it is destroyed by capitalism. Wage labour does not create property for the worker. It produces capital for the owner. Property in this sense is based on opposition of worker and capitalist.
  3. Capitalist is a social status.
  4. It takes united actions of many to produce capital. It is a social product. Converting it into social property is NOT, therefore, a conversion of personal to social property. Rather the social character of the property loses its class character (485.4).
  5. Under bourgeois capitalism, workers are kept alive only for the purpose of creating capital which does not belong to them:
      • "In bourgeois society, living labour is but a means to increase accumulated labour. In Communist society, accumulated labour is but a means to widen, to enrich, to promote the existence of the labourer" (485.7).
  6. Communists DO aim at abolition of (bourgeois) individuality, (bourgeois) independence, and (bourgeois) freedom. When the bourgeoisie praise their freedoms (e.g., free buying and selling) they are making a contrast with the restricted selling of the middle ages. But they turn it into an absolute freedom and try to oppose it to a lack of freedom under Communism but this it is not.
  7. Doesn't this mean losing MY property? Most people don't own property as it is. Its existence for those who have it depends on everyone else not having it.
  8. Doesn't the end of private property mean the end of individuality? Yes, if you mean by that "bourgeois individuality." (486.5) All that disappears is the power to subjugate the labour of another for the purpose of appropriation.
  9. Won't everyone become lazy? But what of current society where those who work get nothing and those who get something do not work? Where is the simple reward/punishment/incentive logic IN REALITY? (486.8)
  10. Won't culture disappear? The bourgeois culture which urges worker to be cog in the machine, which trains you to be useful to society (cf. Foucault in Discipline and Punish). IN FACT, much of the objections to Communism are based on bourgeois notions of law, freedom, culture, etc. all of which are determined by the economic conditions in which they arise. (487.2) Like other ruling classes, the bourgeois class is blinded by its tendency to see these constructs as "natural" (cf. reification).
  11. Doesn't Communism represent the abolition of the family? Yes but only the bourgeois family.
  12. And education? Communists are hardly the first to suggest content in education which has always been a means of reproducing the class structure of society and of inculcating the values of the dominant class in the other classes. (487.8)
  13. Won't communists institute group marriage? The point of the Communist revolution will be to stop seeing women as a mere instrument of production. They will also attempt to abolish a hypocritical system in which women are owned by individuals and bought and sold, in other words, the abolition "of prostitution both public and private." (488.5)
  14. Don't communists want to abolish nationality? Working men have no country and so it cannot be taken away. When the exploitation of one person by another ends so too will the exploitation of one country by another.
  15. Doesn't communism toss out the window all sorts of ideas, values, truths that are dear to society and that have lasted a long time? Ideas come and go as material conditions change. All past epochs have been ones in which one part of society exploited others. The fact that a set of ideas was common to these eras makes sense. But when material conditions finally change, these ideas will go away. (489.3-9)
  16. How will things proceed? First proletariat takes over as ruling class. Then they centralize all instruments of production. Then they work to increase productivity as much as possible. Here are practical steps to expect in general case:
    1. abolition of land property, rents go to public coffers
    2. heavy progressive/graduated income tax
    3. abolish right of inheritance
    4. confiscation of property of emigrants and rebels
    5. centralization of credit
    6. extension of factories and production and agriculture according to common plan
    7. equal liability of all to labour — "industrial armies"
    8. combination of agriculture and industry, town and country, spread population evenly
    9. free education for all, end of child labour

* "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." 491

III. Socialist and Communist Literature

  1. Reactionary Socialism
  2. Feudal Socialism
    • Leftover feudal aristocrats decry bourgeoisie "in name of worker" essentially saying "think of how pleasant it was in the old days when we were in charge and you worked on our manors." Their big complaint with the bourgeoisie is not that it creates a proletariat but that it creates a revolutionary class. Their biggest fear is serious rabble rousing that will disturb their place in society. Cf. Some supporters of Thatherite conservatives in 1980s UK. Scary thing is that even as they talk about what bourgeoisie is doing they join right in on the oppressive and coercive control of the working classes. (491-2)
  3. Petty-Bourgeois Socialism
    • This is the class of the small business person. The petty-bourgeois socialists correctly analyzed much of the workers position, but their goals are generally to go back to the way it used to be. Thus, these would be the small business persons who want to rescue the masses from globalization and industrialization by returning to small town America. They are both reactionary and utopian. It's an unrealistic stance and is usually overcome by circumstances. (492-3)
  4. German, or "True," Socialism
    • When socialist ideas arrived in Germany the latter was still quite feudal. Since the material conditions didn't come with the ideas, they blossomed in Germany as mere literature. (494.2) The Germans treated it as mere philosophy, took out the "one class vs. another" part (thinking that made it less one-sided). And then, along comes the "liberal revolution" of the Prussian bourgeoisie. The "True" socialists started to criticize the liberal bourgeois movement, telling the masses it was a losing proposition for them, only to realize at the last minute that this critique of the bourgeoisie only made sense AFTER the bourgeoisie had become a ruling class. It ended up being a way for the then ruling class to fend off the bourgeois revolution. The petty bourgeois class in Germany was threatened by both the bourgeoisie and a rising working class. "Pure" socialism successfully attacked both supporting a status quo in which they could thrive. This German socialism ends up decrying things like class struggles and it so glorifies the German as to prevent any generic identification of all workers.
  5. Conservative, or Bourgeois, Socialism
    • Some bourgeoisie want to redress social problems so as to stabilize society (496-7). The proletariat is expected to enjoy being "elevated" and stop hating the bourgeois class. Another version of this ideology tries to convince workers that mere political reform will not change their lot. Only changes in material conditions will do this. But these folks don't mean changes in, say, bourgeois relations of production. Rather they mean administrative reforms. They frame each of the things they want to do in terms of how it will be better for the working class (e.g., free trade, prison reform, better schools). We could think of this as a self-serving and patronizing socialism.
  6. Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism
    • The earliest utopian socialists (Owen, Saint Simon, etc.) had the right idea but the proletariat was still in a relatively undeveloped stage and so they couldn't really see its possibilities. Capitalism, in a sense, had not developed far enough. They see that the working class suffers the most, but they don't see the antagonism between the classes. They appeal to all to help the least fortunate (without telling anyone it is their fault).
    • This is the Salvation Army approach. It eschews politics and conflict. They do paint a picture of what could be, but it's just the beginning of the proletariat's inklings of future possibilities.

These early Communists also contain a critical element. They question the status quo arrangements. They make proposals for a future — changing nature of family, end of wage system, etc. — but these things didn't really grow out of an appreciation of class antagonisms and so were basically utopian.

A problem here is that as history unfolds and the effects of the class struggle DO start to appear, these types of socialists tend to back off from political action. They (or their disciples) want to avoid politics and set up their little colonies, communes, experiments and be left alone rather than trying to change the world. Before you know it, they turn into reactionary conservative socialists.

IV. Position of the Communists in Relation to the Various Existing Opposition Parties

  1. The communists align themselves with the parties of the opposition of the moment, thereby helping workers in their near term struggles. But they also take responsibility for the longer term interests of the proletariat. Thus, they align with a particular party now, but they will break off from them when necessary to take the side of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie.
  2. "In short, the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things.
  3. "In all these movements they bring to the front, as the leading question in each, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time.
  4. "Finally, they labour everywhere for the union and agreement of the democratic parties in all countries.
  5. "The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at the Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.
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