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The Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels, has become one of the world’s most influential and significant pieces of political propaganda ever written. It contains the viewpoints and ideology of the world-view that Marx and Engels had come to know from their political involvement from the previous years. Published in 1848, in a time of European revolution, the Manifesto is an incisive summary of the Marxist vision and outlines the foundation of the Marxist movement.
According to Marx, four stages of human development exist. In the beginning of social development there is slavery where political and social freedoms are non-existent. The second stage of development, known as feudalism, is a system in which freedom becomes slightly more obtainable, yet a lord or vassal who oversees all rules. The third, and most controversial of stages, is known as capitalism. Here, private or corporate ownership of capital goods is determined by private decisions rather than the state. Price, production and the distribution of goods are determined mainly by competing in a free market. Lastly, the forth stage of human development, is referred to as Communism. This is a final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state and private ownership is demolished, and economic goods are owned and distributed equally. In the stages of society previous to communism, society is based on antagonisms of the ìoppressed and the oppressing,î from freeman and slaves, working class and government, to proletariat and bourgeois.
Each stage of the social order goes through a passage from one stage to the other. The movement from one platform to another is best described as going through a corresponding political advance, in which an oppressed class takes sway over the feudal nobility. In the case of the capitalist society, the bourgeoisie seek greater profit at the expense of the working class. Thus, the working class or proletarians, grow in number and political awareness, and according to the Manifesto, generate inevitable revolution. Though Marx does not specifically describe the steps of transformation from one stage to another, he does give strong allusion and assumption to a political and social revolution.
Marx, through political involvement, witnessed the third social stage of development known as capitalism. In this Marx came to see the world system as a whole and recognized the many evils of capitalism. Marx saw capitalism as the worst stage of human and social development, for its foundation lay in the oppression of the working class.
These social evils were numerous; the most important were the class antagonisms set upon the masses or proletariats. Therefore the bourgeois remained the only class that was financially and physically well off. The capitalist society reduced the family to a ìmere money relation,î and thus increased urban population causing a momentary stalemate due to the overabundance in subsistence, industry, and commerce. The capitalist society also substituted brutal exploitation for morals and money. This caused the capitalist society to grow too large for its own good, forcing the bourgeois to either destroy what they have created and start over, or leave and form a new settlement for markets; both of which left the proletariat and working class citizens in a dismal state of chaos and disorder. The capitalist society was all for private property, and through the ideology of Marx and his follower’s change was needed.
Marx came to believe a communist society would eventually take the place of the dismal state of capitalism. Communist would become a stark contrast to capitalism and become the ally and answer to the working class problems. Communism had its interests only in the working class as a whole, making the working class not dependent on the capitalist. In this new communist or utopian society all would be equal. The primary objective of communism would be to abolish capitalism and private property. Ownership would be equal among the masses, causing class antagonism to disappear. Communism would put the economy back in the hands of the working class and establish a heavy graduated income tax. Centralization of credit through the hands of the state, communication, and transportation would be established. The utopian society would abolish families, thus utilizing the education system to end exploitation of women and children. It would also abolish countries, causing class and national antagonisms to further degenerate in the hopes of developing feelings that one class is better than any nationality. Communism would also incorporate a system of equal land distribution to the working class allowing for agriculture and manufacturing areas to combine, and for urban and rural areas to form one state. It would also provide free education for all children in public schools, allowing for the advancement of the younger generations. All of these concepts would benefit the working class holistically.
The utopian society formed would end wars and conflict among people. It would bring an end to the exploitation of people allowing all people the opportunity to succeed in life. National boundaries and all class antagonisms would obliterate. Therefore, the Communist society, in the eyes of Karl Marx, would allow the masses a chance to come together and unite for all people to work for the common good. Marx’s final words in the conclusion of the Manifesto, ìLet the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, uniteî gives hope to the working class to further disassemble the oppression from the prior capitalist society.
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