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Karl Marx Essay

In the nineteenth century, it seemed as if the entire world was moving towards democracy. In the two decades between World Wars I and II, fascism was the main challenge to the democratic way of life. World War II destroyed the military ambitions of the fascist Axis, though. Before the end of World War II, communism surfaced as the next big threat to democracy. At the end of World War I, communism seemed as if it were just a Russian spectacle because Russia was the only communist state in the world.

With the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, Russia became the dominant military power in Europe, and the strength of Communist Russia was revealed. At the end of World War II, Russia quickly communized Poland, Rumania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Eastern Germany. It was not just the strength of the Russian armies the proved valuable in spreading communism, but also the force of communist ideology. Communism addressed itself to the world as the true heir of the libertarian, equalitarian democratic tradition. It accepted the democratic ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity.

Its trouble with democracy was not that democracy was too faithful to its ideas, but that it betrayed them. The most significant influence in the development of revolutionary communism was Karl Marx. Marx attended the University of Berlin and studied jurisprudence, philosophy, and history. While at the University, Marx became involved in political activities and joined the staff of the Rheinische Zeitung, a democratic newspaper in Cologne, in 1942. The next year, however, the Prussian Government suppressed the paper, and Marx went to Paris, the European headquarters of radical movements.

While in Paris, Marx met Proudhon, the leading French socialist thinker, Bakunin, the Russian anarchist, and Friedrich Engels, a Rhinelander like himself. Engels soon became Marx’s lifelong friend. In 1845, Marx was expelled from France and he went to Brussels, another center of political refugees from all over Europe. There, Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto with the help of Engels. The Communist Manifesto is said to be the most influential of all Marx’s writings. In 1849, Marx went to London with Engels soon to follow. Marx stayed there until his death in 1883.

Marx writings show a great knowledge of the English economic system. Marx’s analyses of the capitalist system have influenced the making of history even more than the writing of history. In German philosophy, Hegel greatly influenced Marx. Similar to Hegel’s beliefs, Marx believed that history had meaning, and that it moved in a set pattern toward a known goal. Marx believed that history had both a meaning and a goal, and the historical process was dominated by the struggles between social classes. Each phase of struggle represented a higher phase of human evolution than the preceding one.

Hegel and Marx had shared views on history as a perpetual struggle between lower and higher forces; however the outcome of the struggle is predetermined. Marx believed the outcome is the abolition of capitalism. Another important source for Marx’s intellectual development was French revolutionary politics. France was among the most advanced major western nations because its revolutions were most clearly based on social antagonisms. Marx realized the best place to study industrial capitalism and economic science was England.

English economic analysis was the most advanced of any country, and gave Marx the basic tools of economic analysis that could be used in demonstrating that capitalism was both wasteful and exploitative. Marx’s idea was not to abolish the duty of work, but to make work a channel of self-fulfillment. He believed that those who did not work should not eat, and if you did not work, you should take any job that was available. Marx also had strong views on property. He believed that all property should be publicly owned, and that private property was only a power relation.

The romanticism movement in Germany also influenced Marx. Romanticism was a protest against the rise of industrialization. They felt that man was becoming alienated from his fellow man, from nature, and from himself. Marx believed that under capitalism, man is alienated from his work, the objects he produces, his employers, other workers, nature and from himself. He felt that work was not voluntary, but rather forced labor. The work did not satisfy man’s own needs, but rather the needs of the employer making him nothing more than a mere commodity.

According to Marx, all economic systems are condemned because when new productive forces develop, the existing productive relationships stand in the way of their proper utilization. Each system therefore becomes eventually wasteful in terms of their potentialities. Marx feels this same way about the capitalist system. In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels explain how social change through revolution actually occurs. When the forces of production begin to outstrip the methods of production, the owners of the means of production do not step aside and thus accelerate the inevitable course of history.

The owners of the means of production will utilize all the instruments of the legal, political, and ideological superstructure to block the growth of the forces that represent the potentially more progressive economic system. Marx’s and Engels’ doctrines made a great impact on social thinkers, reformers, and revolutionaries everywhere. As noted before, the Communist Manifesto was the most influential of all Marx’s writings. The Communist Manifesto was published in London in 1848 as a declaration of principles and objectives of the Communist League.

Largely written by Karl Marx, with the assistance of Friedrich Engels, the Manifesto has four parts to it. Its introduction begins with these strong words: ” A specter is haunting Europe – the specter of Communism. ” In the Manifesto, Marx identifies class struggle as the primary dynamic in history and predicts that class rivalry will generate a revolution in which the proletariat will defeat the bourgeoisie, abolish private property, gain control of economic production, and class distinctions will begin to disappear. Marx identifies the Communists as the partners and theoretical front line of the proletariat.

The Manifesto ends with a call for unity; “Workers of All Countries, Unite! ” The first section is an outlook of his theory of history, and his insight to the end of exploitation. He says the world is the stage for a dramatic confrontation between two struggling classes: the bourgeoisie, or the ruling class capitalists, and the proletariat, the working class. Driven by the logic of capitalism to seek greater profit, the bourgeoisie constantly revolutionizes the means of economic production. The bourgeoisie turned traditional social values into monetary values.

The bourgeoisie expanded into other parts of the globe because they controlled supply. With the exchange of products into different places, so came the exchange of intelligence and the bourgeoisie way of thought. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production. In a word, it creates a world after its own image. The middle class made the country subject to the rule of the town, and with that came the dependence of the peasant of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie overtook the feudal system and replaced it with free competition.

With this, though, the bourgeoisie were no longer able to control its power because of over-production. There was too much substance, industry and commerce for society to handle, and society stepped back into momentary barbarism. The weapons with which the bourgeoisie overtook feudalism were now turned against itself, and the proletarian working class was created. The proletariat goes through various stages of development. With its birth begins its struggle with the bourgeoisie. Trades people easily become proletarian because they cannot compete with the new technology.

The proletarians revolt by smashing machinery, burning factories then move to fighting landowners, and smaller forms of control. The proletarians set up trade unions to counter attack the bourgeoisie control on wages. They unite by means of communication, set up by these unions, and are able to influence legislature to their aid. The bourgeoisie finds itself in a constant battle. The bourgeoisie teach the proletarians how to fight them by asking them for help with their other enemies. The bourgeoisie is no longer fit to rule society because it held proletarians down and gave them no chance to rise up.

The working class grew both in population and political awareness, generating what Marx called an “inevitable defeat of the bourgeoisie. ” The second part mainly predicts the method of eliminating class distinctions, by abolishing private property. This will reveal the bourgeoisie culture, the ideology of capitalism. After the revolution, all economic production will be led by the state, organized as the ruling class. The distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property.

In a sense, the theory of Communism can be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property. Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that it does is to deprive him of the power to conquer the labor of others by means of such appropriation. The Communists are further reproached with desiring to abolish countries and nationality. Marx described the following ten steps as necessary steps to be taken to destroy a free enterprise society:

1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax. 3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance. 4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels. 5. Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly. 6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in he hands of the state. 7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan. Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture. 9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country. 10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc. The third section criticizes the various socialists’ ideals of the time.

It starts of talking about reactionary socialism through feudal socialism, petty bourgeois socialism, and German or “True” socialism. It next talks about conservative or bourgeois socialism. The socialist bourgeois want all the advantages of modern social conditions without the struggles and dangers necessarily resulting from them. They wish for a bourgeoisie without a proletariat. It is summed up in the phrase: the bourgeois-for the benefit of the working class. Lastly, it talks about critical-utopian socialism and communism. Here, they wish to attain their ends by a peaceful means.

They want an economic system based on the premise that if capital voluntarily surrendered its ownership of the means of production to the state or the workers, unemployment and poverty would be abolished. The last part compares the philosophy of Communism to other organized parties in Europe. The Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things. In all of the movements, it brings up the property question. The famous document closes with these famous words, a slogan of a sort: ” Workers of all countries, unite! “

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