20 March 2006

Manifesto, Part 1

The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.


Marx starts off badly. The history of all existing societies is not the history of class struggles. To the extent that the history of a society can be summed up as a struggle, it is always either an internal struggle for power between members of that society or a struggle for survival against an external foe such as another society or part of the natural world. Until the industrial revolution, wealth and power were strongly connected. Having wealth usually brought one power, and having power usually brought one wealth.
Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.


This is not a struggle of classes, but of powers. Men who didn't own slaves may have been freemen, but would have had no need to struggle against a slave. Had they a need, the struggle would have been against the slave's master, as they were the one with power over that slave.

In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations.


Every society striates, and different societies striate in different ways. Marx is correct on this point. Even the most primitive cultures have levels within them, for chiefs, priests, witchdoctors, etc.

The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones.


Well, duh. Marx tries to portray the continuation of societal formations as a shortcoming. It's not a shortcoming, but something inherent in everything humans do. Put three people together and at least one of them will try to assert themselves as a group leader.

Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other — Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.


Except that he's wrong. They aren't coherent groups, as both sides he gives are divided into thousands of factions. Even if you chose to pretend that they are two hostile camps, most people with a 401k fit into both.

From the serfs of the Middle Ages sprang the chartered burghers of the earliest towns. From these burgesses the first elements of the bourgeoisie were developed.


What he means is that the modern middle and upper classes formed from the feudal system. This isn't true. There have always been middle and upper classes. The advent of industrialization and leisure goods permitted the middle-class (non-slave skilled labor has existed in every society with currency as a middle class) to attain a status on par with the lesser nobility. What they could not demand by their position, they could buy with their money.

The discovery of America, the rounding of the Cape, opened up fresh ground for the rising bourgeoisie. The East-Indian and Chinese markets, the colonisation of America, trade with the colonies, the increase in the means of exchange and in commodities generally, gave to commerce, to navigation, to industry, an impulse never before known, and thereby, to the revolutionary element in the tottering feudal society, a rapid development.


Yes, trade changed things a lot. It opened many doors.

The feudal system of industry, in which industrial production was monopolised by closed guilds, now no longer sufficed for the growing wants of the new markets. The manufacturing system took its place. The guild-masters were pushed on one side by the manufacturing middle class; division of labour between the different corporate guilds vanished in the face of division of labour in each single workshop.


The feudal system of industry was not threatened thusly, but by the Reformation. Some Protestant churches allowed banking, which meant bankers, which led to the modern capitalist system of investments. Patronage became a thing of the arts, not industry, as trade routes were established within Europe and non-competitive industries collapsed.

Meantime the markets kept ever growing, the demand ever rising. Even manufacturer no longer sufficed. Thereupon, steam and machinery revolutionised industrial production. The place of manufacture was taken by the giant, Modern Industry; the place of the industrial middle class by industrial millionaires, the leaders of the whole industrial armies, the modern bourgeois.


Mass production did spawn the modern industrial giant. The difference between a modern industrial giant and previous industrial giants is the lack of governmental creation or protection of monopoly. Some secured their own monopoly, but a clever competitor could strip that away from them. Mass Production also lowered the production cost, which lowered the end purchase price, which meant that the “proletariat” could begin living as petty bourgeois. Despite the existence of mass production, small businesses, agricultural, industrial, or commercial, remain at the heart of any economy as it is they, and not massive industries, that provide the diversity to weather economic storms and fill the nooks and crannies that are overlooked by large businesses and governments. This “petty bourgeoisie” is where most people in an industrialized society fit.

Modern industry has established the world market, for which the discovery of America paved the way. This market has given an immense development to commerce, to navigation, to communication by land. This development has, in its turn, reacted on the extension of industry; and in proportion as industry, commerce, navigation, railways extended, in the same proportion the bourgeoisie developed, increased its capital, and pushed into the background every class handed down from the Middle Ages.


The world market did not force people out of historical social classes. The Industrial Revolution did that by producing more goods at a similar quality and lower price, and would have done so with or without a world market. This led to the collapse of the guild system, and without guilds monopolizing types of labor, any person could learn almost any type of labor, permitting them to change careers. The freedom to do so is generally considered a good thing. As some fields have faded away with time, new industries and career paths have opened up.

We see, therefore, how the modern bourgeoisie is itself the product of a long course of development, of a series of revolutions in the modes of production and of exchange.


This part is sort of true. The modern “bourgeoisie” is a product of a long course of changes both in society and industry, but Marx grossly mis-portrays how those changes came about.
Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding political advance of that class. An oppressed class under the sway of the feudal nobility, an armed and self-governing association in the medieval commune: here independent urban republic (as in Italy and Germany); there taxable “third estate” of the monarchy (as in France); afterwards, in the period of manufacturing proper, serving either the semi-feudal or the absolute monarchy as a counterpoise against the nobility, and, in fact, cornerstone of the great monarchies in general, the bourgeoisie has at last, since the establishment of Modern Industry and of the world market, conquered for itself, in the modern representative State, exclusive political sway.


Well, duh, if by "exclusive political sway" you mean extending voting rights piecemeal until there is universal suffrage.

The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.


This is what we call a “Republic”. In the modern industrial state (and this was just as true for states contemporary to Marx), the “petty bourgeoisie” is a majority of the population. The industrial “wage-slave” ceased to exist with labor law reforms of the early 20th century, but were vastly outnumbered until then by rural land-owning farmers. The owning of land prevents them from being proletarians. Where few rural farmers owned their land, power was held by a legally empowered upper class (nobility) and not by the “bourgeoisie”.

The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part.


This is true.

The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.


The bourgeoisie has NOT put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, or idyllic relations wherever it has come to power. Most societal organizations in modern France were established by Emperor Napoleon I, and survived the restoration of the monarchy; the establishment and collapse of the Second, Third, and Fourth Republics and the establishment of the Fifth; two Germany occupations; and a perpetual shortage of soap. Most feudal structures in Britain still exist, but with fewer governmentally enforced privileges and powers.

Insofar as the worth of a person, what is a person worth if you refuse to value them monetarily? If you have no standard for measuring their value, then they are worth nothing because there is no exchange to set the value. If you won't compensate someone to work because it gives them a dollar value per hour, what reason do they have to work? Their value depends on the type of work they do, the rarity of applicable skillsets, the quality of their work , and many other measures. The “cash payment” is simply the easiest way of collecting and measuring these values relative to each other and those of other workers. He claims that Egotistical demands for higher wages have supplanted religious beliefs, courtesy, and charity; a strange position for a man who claimed that “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”

The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers.


Those professions have been wage laborers since their inception many centuries ago. All that is changed is the increase in competition following the collapse of the guild system and the Protestant Reformation. It may seem to you at this point that Marx is arguing for the re-establishment of feudal laws restricting career paths, property, governance, and economics. He is. The guild monopolies of the feudal age ensured lifetime job security in one career. The collapse of guilds and the apprenticeship system ended that. Many of the industrial workers courted for socialist groups are not as big of supporters of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” as they are of lifetime job security. Being able to change careers is important if the economy makes your old career obsolete, something far less likely to happen in a feudal system than in a modern free-market.

Marx is also laying out a socialist social structure based on the feudal system. Semiskilled and unskilled workers would be serfs, with socialists from the petty bourgeoisie forming the government, governing in the name of the serfs and using the number of serfs to maintain their power.

The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.


So that's why so many people spend time taking care of relatives.... I didn't know Mr. Reynolds was making money off of it. I've been spending time with my grandmother as well, what is the going rate for that? I haven't yet been paid for going to a Thanksgiving Dinner or anyone's birthday (although I suppose the occasional gift would count as payment for attending my own). Obviously the free market has much to learn from Mr. Marx.

The bourgeoisie has disclosed how it came to pass that the brutal display of vigour in the Middle Ages, which reactionaries so much admire, found its fitting complement in the most slothful indolence. It has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades.


woohoo! Hooray for bourgeoisie productivity! And beer! Hooray Beer!

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.


Marx Fears Change. Yet he doesn't. He wants change, so long as he's the one who approves the what, how, and when. Billions of people are capable of changing the world through thought and action. These changes are not necessarily for the better, but Marx believes these changes are the sole domain of middle and upper class people, the “bourgeoisie”. While not everyone gets to be on television expounding on their opinions and beliefs, anybody can rant on a street corner, and many do.

The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.


More markets mean more markets, but markets are created with new industries as well as new territory. Billions of dollars in goods and services now result from the Internet, something that twenty-five years ago was an obscure research tool.

The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.


World literature = Hollywood, California. Marx seems to be arguing for nationalism, and he is. This is a common trick of socialist rhetoric. The current system is a failure because it doesn't keep “them” away from “us” and replaces “our” culture with “their” culture, so the system must be swept away and replaced with one where we all have the same culture. Marxism is, simultaneously, both for and against nationalism, and/or internationalism.
The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation. The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.

The primary reason cultures adopt modern civilization is because it benefits them, not because it is forced down their throats. Competitive industries reduce inefficiency because it hurts profit, they work faster because it increases profit, they increase productivity because it increases profit. These benefit the local people by giving them more items for security and comfort, gives them resources to trade for things that are not local (such as importing food or water to urban areas), and instead of building monuments to dead kings, their time is spent their own lives, and the lives of their descendants, much better.

The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilised ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West.


Many countries have been isolated from the rest of the world. Through sanctions or self-imposition, they have effectively ceased contact with the outside world. Those countries continue to exist, and rejoin the rest of the world when it suits them. There is no great pressure on Nepal to increase trading ties with anywhere, and Cambodia was completely isolated for the duration of the Khmer Rouge government. China trades with us because it's good for China, not because external pressure but because it suits internal needs. Likewise, we trade with them because it suits us, and neither party is doing anything to compel the other. Marx is assuming that the existence of trade is proof of exploitation.

The bourgeoisie keeps more and more doing away with the scattered state of the population, of the means of production, and of property. It has agglomerated population, centralised the means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands. The necessary consequence of this was political centralisation. Independent, or but loosely connected provinces, with separate interests, laws, governments, and systems of taxation, became lumped together into one nation, with one government, one code of laws, one national class-interest, one frontier, and one customs-tariff.


The concentration of property is of far less lasting concern than the concentration of power. Bill Gates is worth many billions of dollars, but congressmen worth considerably less spent seven billion of taxpayer money in a single day. They could have done the same had they had no personal property or wealth of their own, by virtue of having power. Money may corrupt men, but it's trivial compared to what power does.

The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation or rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground — what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?


One hundred years? Way more than that now, and still going strong! Hooray Beer!

We see then: the means of production and of exchange, on whose foundation the bourgeoisie built itself up, were generated in feudal society. At a certain stage in the development of these means of production and of exchange, the conditions under which feudal society produced and exchanged, the feudal organisation of agriculture and manufacturing industry, in one word, the feudal relations of property became no longer compatible with the already developed productive forces; they became so many fetters. They had to be burst asunder; they were burst asunder.


He's just summing up that he blames personal freedom for mucking up his capacity to inherit his father's job.

Into their place stepped free competition, accompanied by a social and political constitution adapted in it, and the economic and political sway of the bourgeois class.


Power changed hands, but it didn't go into his. Damn those Bourgeoisie for splitting up control to protect themselves from tyrants!

A similar movement is going on before our own eyes. Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. For many a decade past the history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forces against modern conditions of production, against the property relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeois and of its rule. It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put the existence of the entire bourgeois society on its trial, each time more threateningly. In these crises, a great part not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity — the epidemic of over-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce. The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property. The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them. And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. That is to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented.


Here's some paranoid-type ranting. The free market system is a collection of individual agents each acting on their own and for their own benefit. There is no centralizing controlling authority, yet he claims that the centralized controlling authority has lost control of the free market. Markets wax and wane, but this doesn't mean that the free market system is about to collapse under it's own weight.

The weapons with which the bourgeoisie felled feudalism to the ground are now turned against the bourgeoisie itself.


That would be the freedom to trade what you wanted with whom you wanted when and where you wanted for whatever reason you wanted. This is cutting really close to the heart of liberty.

But not only has the bourgeoisie forged the weapons that bring death to itself; it has also called into existence the men who are to wield those weapons — the modern working class — the proletarians.


The modern working class differs from previous working classes in that they're not slaves. They can quit and go look for a new job that pays better. If they're smart, they can find a new job that pays better and then quit. Marx, as noted above, thinks it's a bad idea to let people change jobs. Marx also believes that most workers agree with him, wanted to do the same job their parents did, and want their children to follow in their footsteps. No giving your kids a better life than you had nonsense here, we'll lock your descendants into what you're doing until the end of time!

In proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e., capital, is developed, in the same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working class, developed — a class of labourers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labour increases capital. These labourers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market.


The definition of proletariat would fit Bill Gates or Warren Buffet as well as it would fit anyone with a 401k, a retirement pension, social security eligibility, or any sort of savings. Minimum-wage workers seems a reasonable redefinition.

Owing to the extensive use of machinery, and to the division of labour, the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and, consequently, all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him. Hence, the cost of production of a workman is restricted, almost entirely, to the means of subsistence that he requires for maintenance, and for the propagation of his race. But the price of a commodity, and therefore also of labour, is equal to its cost of production. In proportion, therefore, as the repulsiveness of the work increases, the wage decreases. Nay more, in proportion as the use of machinery and division of labour increases, in the same proportion the burden of toil also increases, whether by prolongation of the working hours, by the increase of the work exacted in a given time or by increased speed of machinery, etc.


Here Marx is showing basic ignorance of economics. The price of a commodity is a balance between available supply and demand. Goods can be produced that cost more to produce than they would ever sell for, but that's generally a bad idea. The more repulsive a specific job is, the higher the wages that must be paid to get someone to do it. That's why plumbers get paid well and customer service reps get minimum wage. Overtime laws pretty much put a stop to increasing work hours, and physical limitations and available workers set limits on productivity expectations.

Modern Industry has converted the little workshop of the patriarchal master into the great factory of the industrial capitalist. Masses of labourers, crowded into the factory, are organised like soldiers. As privates of the industrial army they are placed under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers and sergeants. Not only are they slaves of the bourgeois class, and of the bourgeois State; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the overlooker, and, above all, by the individual bourgeois manufacturer himself. The more openly this despotism proclaims gain to be its end and aim, the more petty, the more hateful and the more embittering it is.


Marx claims that industry is hated because it's primary goal is profit for the owners. Small businesses make up a huge part of the economy, so few people are actually working for an industrial baron. The owners of many companies are employees of other companies, via 401k plans.

The less the skill and exertion of strength implied in manual labour, in other words, the more modern industry becomes developed, the more is the labour of men superseded by that of women. Differences of age and sex have no longer any distinctive social validity for the working class. All are instruments of labour, more or less expensive to use, according to their age and sex.


Marx supports sexism.

No sooner is the exploitation of the labourer by the manufacturer, so far, at an end, that he receives his wages in cash, than he is set upon by the other portions of the bourgeoisie, the landlord, the shopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc.


Owning your own home is a good thing, hence our government usually encourages people to do that. Paying others for goods and services is what the money is for. They pay others, who pay others, and the wheels of commerce keep spinning. Most people have some tucked away in 401k's or savings accounts, but getting paid only to be unable to buy stuff defeats the purpose. The money represents the work done, and is a way of trading labor for labor between people who may never meet face to face.
The lower strata of the middle class — the small tradespeople, shopkeepers, and retired tradesmen generally, the handicraftsmen and peasants — all these sink gradually into the proletariat, partly because their diminutive capital does not suffice for the scale on which Modern Industry is carried on, and is swamped in the competition with the large capitalists, partly because their specialised skill is rendered worthless by new methods of production. Thus the proletariat is recruited from all classes of the population.


Except that each new industry means new people running new businesses to provide new goods or services. The more different industries there are, the larger the bourgeoisie, and the smaller the proletariat. Yet Marx stated above that there are too many industries for the bourgeoisie to manage things. The bourgeoisie aren't managing it because no entity controls a free market, BUT the free market compensates by turning proletarians into bourgeoisie to each run a miniscule portion of markets too vast for comprehension.

The proletariat goes through various stages of development. With its birth begins its struggle with the bourgeoisie. At first the contest is carried on by individual labourers, then by the workpeople of a factory, then by the operative of one trade, in one locality, against the individual bourgeois who directly exploits them. They direct their attacks not against the bourgeois conditions of production, but against the instruments of production themselves; they destroy imported wares that compete with their labour, they smash to pieces machinery, they set factories ablaze, they seek to restore by force the vanished status of the workman of the Middle Ages.


Here we see more nationalism as Marx claims that workers want to re-establish monopolies and force people to purchase goods and services locally. Instead of working for a bourgeoisie entrepreneur, they want to work for a guild master who does exactly the same thing as the bourgeoisie entrepreneur, but has a different job title.

“You got your socialism in my nationalism!”
“You got your nationalism in my socialism!”
“Mmmm... national-socialism... yummy!”

At this stage, the labourers still form an incoherent mass scattered over the whole country, and broken up by their mutual competition. If anywhere they unite to form more compact bodies, this is not yet the consequence of their own active union, but of the union of the bourgeoisie, which class, in order to attain its own political ends, is compelled to set the whole proletariat in motion, and is moreover yet, for a time, able to do so. At this stage, therefore, the proletarians do not fight their enemies, but the enemies of their enemies, the remnants of absolute monarchy, the landowners, the non-industrial bourgeois, the petty bourgeois. Thus, the whole historical movement is concentrated in the hands of the bourgeoisie; every victory so obtained is a victory for the bourgeoisie.


Not so much the enemies of their enemies as common enemies. Bringing back King Tyrant the Absolute wouldn't do anybody else any good. Every group is jockeying for power, and allying with whichever groups aid their current cause is not stupid of “proletarians” or manipulative of the “bourgeoisie”, it's simple practicality. Every victory is a victory for everyone on the side that wins. There are no vast Machiavellian schemes in play, just a great many people in a great many groups fighting for what they want.

But with the development of industry, the proletariat not only increases in number; it becomes concentrated in greater masses, its strength grows, and it feels that strength more. The various interests and conditions of life within the ranks of the proletariat are more and more equalised, in proportion as machinery obliterates all distinctions of labour, and nearly everywhere reduces wages to the same low level. The growing competition among the bourgeois, and the resulting commercial crises, make the wages of the workers ever more fluctuating. The increasing improvement of machinery, ever more rapidly developing, makes their livelihood more and more precarious; the collisions between individual workmen and individual bourgeois take more and more the character of collisions between two classes. Thereupon, the workers begin to form combinations (Trades’ Unions) against the bourgeois; they club together in order to keep up the rate of wages; they found permanent associations in order to make provision beforehand for these occasional revolts. Here and there, the contest breaks out into riots.


Wow, people looking out for their own interests, who would've thunk it? Except, of course, that the continuing development of new industries and markets increases the demand for labor and hence wages for all industries.

Now and then the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever expanding union of the workers. This union is helped on by the improved means of communication that are created by modern industry, and that place the workers of different localities in contact with one another. It was just this contact that was needed to centralise the numerous local struggles, all of the same character, into one national struggle between classes. But every class struggle is a political struggle. And that union, to attain which the burghers of the Middle Ages, with their miserable highways, required centuries, the modern proletarian, thanks to railways, achieve in a few years.


So unions grow with the goal of creating isolationist pockets that don't trade with each other so that local unions hold a monopoly on in their respective trade, ensure that people entering the workforce enter and stay in the same career as their parents, and seize the political power to make it all possible.

This organisation of the proletarians into a class, and, consequently into a political party, is continually being upset again by the competition between the workers themselves. But it ever rises up again, stronger, firmer, mightier. It compels legislative recognition of particular interests of the workers, by taking advantage of the divisions among the bourgeoisie itself. Thus, the ten-hours’ bill in England was carried.


Oddly enough, most of the more reasonable claims of oppression Marx has claimed have already been solved by the “bourgeoisie” passing laws to solve them. They didn't involve revolutions or class-warfare, but vested interests coming into agreement. The length of a workweek was set in part to appease unions fearful of their members being overworked, but also to force employers to hire more workers to reduce unemployment. As such, it is the result of an alliance of petty bourgeoisie, politicians, and workers, something Marx was against just a short distance back up the Manifesto.

Altogether collisions between the classes of the old society further, in many ways, the course of development of the proletariat. The bourgeoisie finds itself involved in a constant battle. At first with the aristocracy; later on, with those portions of the bourgeoisie itself, whose interests have become antagonistic to the progress of industry; at all time with the bourgeoisie of foreign countries. In all these battles, it sees itself compelled to appeal to the proletariat, to ask for help, and thus, to drag it into the political arena. The bourgeoisie itself, therefore, supplies the proletariat with its own elements of political and general education, in other words, it furnishes the proletariat with weapons for fighting the bourgeoisie.


Marx claims that these groups are normally hostile, but they usually have far more in common than not. Each faction depends on the other factions to provide it with materials and services, and to use the materials and services it offers in turn. None of them can exist in a vacuum, but Marx believes that hostility is necessary even if all parties are in agreement.

Further, as we have already seen, entire sections of the ruling class are, by the advance of industry, precipitated into the proletariat, or are at least threatened in their conditions of existence. These also supply the proletariat with fresh elements of enlightenment and progress.


Movement is also going the other way, and those most likely to rise out of the proletariat are those who have experience outside of the proletariat.

Finally, in times when the class struggle nears the decisive hour, the progress of dissolution going on within the ruling class, in fact within the whole range of old society, assumes such a violent, glaring character, that a small section of the ruling class cuts itself adrift, and joins the revolutionary class, the class that holds the future in its hands. Just as, therefore, at an earlier period, a section of the nobility went over to the bourgeoisie, so now a portion of the bourgeoisie goes over to the proletariat, and in particular, a portion of the bourgeois ideologists, who have raised themselves to the level of comprehending theoretically the historical movement as a whole.


This is Marx trying to justify his position (and that of others) within the socialist movements, as they are not just members of the bourgeoisie, but wielded considerable power, influence, and wealth both before and after joining socialist groups. It is interesting to note that socialist revolutions led by the bourgeoisie to secure their own power is how Trotsky would later define fascism, a definition that would make not only Marx a fascist, but almost every prominent socialist the world over.

Of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class. The other classes decay and finally disappear in the face of Modern Industry; the proletariat is its special and essential product.


This isn't true. Classes tend to be more career-centered now, doctors, lawyers, politicians, the press, etc. The proletariat, being a modern version (according to Marx) of slaves and serfs, is not special and is essential only in that someone will always be lowest in the pecking order.

The lower middle class, the small manufacturer, the shopkeeper, the artisan, the peasant, all these fight against the bourgeoisie, to save from extinction their existence as fractions of the middle class. They are therefore not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay more, they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheel of history. If by chance, they are revolutionary, they are only so in view of their impending transfer into the proletariat; they thus defend not their present, but their future interests, they desert their own standpoint to place themselves at that of the proletariat.


These groups actually thrive in places where the “bourgeoisie” have established a business-friendly environment. Contrary to Marx, they are not something to be smashed into the proletariat, but a vital and essential part of any economic structure, bourgeoisie or feudal.

The “dangerous class”, [lumpenproletariat] the social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of the old society, may, here and there, be swept into the movement by a proletarian revolution; its conditions of life, however, prepare it far more for the part of a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue.


Now Marx claims that there is a class below the proletariat, the criminal underclass, and that it shouldn't be trusted to defend or advocate for a socialist revolution. It is from this element that socialist groups draw most of their agitprop to divide the non-proletariat classes to seize power.

In the condition of the proletariat, those of old society at large are already virtually swamped. The proletarian is without property; his relation to his wife and children has no longer anything in common with the bourgeois family relations; modern industry labour, modern subjection to capital, the same in England as in France, in America as in Germany, has stripped him of every trace of national character. Law, morality, religion, are to him so many bourgeois prejudices, behind which lurk in ambush just as many bourgeois interests.


Poor proletariat has nothing to believe in. Of course, the proletarian in question doesn't have health care, spends all of his waking hours slaving away for someone else, has no car, not enough spare cash to buy kibble for his dog, etc., etc., etc. In reality, there's no major difference between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, except in the quantity and quality of possessions. Everybody has stuff, unless they're naked and hiding on someone else's property. This isn't so much a description of the condition of the proletariat as the establishment of “social justice”, where if someone else has something you want but don't have, your coveting of their property makes them the bad guy.

All the preceding classes that got the upper hand sought to fortify their already acquired status by subjecting society at large to their conditions of appropriation. The proletarians cannot become masters of the productive forces of society, except by abolishing their own previous mode of appropriation, and thereby also every other previous mode of appropriation. They have nothing of their own to secure and to fortify; their mission is to destroy all previous securities for, and insurances of, individual property.


Without a means of appropriation, there is no production, and society will collapse into a violent bloodbath as people in cities realize that the food they used to eat was appropriated from farms, with the consent of the farmers, in exchange for money (representing the comparative value of goods and services). Without production, they are no longer proletariat, but the “lumpenproletariat” criminal underclass, at least if they want to survive.

All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority. The proletariat, the lowest stratum of our present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, without the whole superincumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air.


Marx has already said that the proletariat isn't quite the lowest stratum of society. Anyone with a clue knows that the middle classes in western societies are quite large, and form the majority in most ways you can tally them. The claim that most people really agree with and support him is based on nothing. Farmworkers were not supportive of socialist activities or ideology, and labor laws resolved most of the substantiative complaints before industrial workers outnumbered farmworkers.

Though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle. The proletariat of each country must, of course, first of all settle matters with its own bourgeoisie.


Nationalism and a sense of national identity remain important.

In depicting the most general phases of the development of the proletariat, we traced the more or less veiled civil war, raging within existing society, up to the point where that war breaks out into open revolution, and where the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat.


Here he goes over the stuff he was lying about up above. Just summing it up.

Hitherto, every form of society has been based, as we have already seen, on the antagonism of oppressing and oppressed classes. But in order to oppress a class, certain conditions must be assured to it under which it can, at least, continue its slavish existence. The serf, in the period of serfdom, raised himself to membership in the commune, just as the petty bourgeois, under the yoke of the feudal absolutism, managed to develop into a bourgeois. The modern labourer, on the contrary, instead of rising with the process of industry, sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class. He becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth. And here it becomes evident, that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society, and to impose its conditions of existence upon society as an over-riding law. It is unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery, because it cannot help letting him sink into such a state, that it has to feed him, instead of being fed by him. Society can no longer live under this bourgeoisie, in other words, its existence is no longer compatible with society.


This is more ignorance. As new industries and markets are developed, there are more classes opening up and more space within each class. If classes fall short, they draw up more from the lower classes to fill in the gaps. It's just practicality at work, with those classes needing the fewest skills drawing more from the lowest classes than those needing more or finely honed skills.

The essential conditions for the existence and for the sway of the bourgeois class is the formation and augmentation of capital; the condition for capital is wage-labour. Wage-labour rests exclusively on competition between the labourers. The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the labourers, due to competition, by the revolutionary combination, due to association. The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.


Wage labor also lies on competition between employers and societal laws, not competition between workers exclusively. Gathering workers together for mass production will not necessarily spawn revolutionary groups. Within a healthy economic system with social mobility via education, investment, hard work, and sometimes a bit of luck, gathering workers together is more likely to spawn a bowling league. The existence of bowling leagues undercuts his assertion that proletariat revolution is both necessary and inevitable.

Part Two


Goe, never actually been bowling.

2 comments:

Rachmeg said...

Wow- Get the word counter out, but I think we have a new record for length.

Pretty awsome, Marx was something I never got around to reading, and it does get that Shakespere feel without breaking it up.

Rach - only about halfway through, but printed it to read at work tomorrow.

Goemagog said...

there are 4 more chapters!

Goe, needs to move on to chapter 2.