The Communist Manifesto was written by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in late 1847 and published in February 1848. It contains a summary of the Communist values and aims, as well as a history of Communism and the explanation of historical development as described in the Communist theory. The piece quickly became one of the most influential works of its time and had a great impact on the development of Communism in many countries, particularly in Germany, England, and Russia.
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The Communist Manifesto is divided into four parts, each one of them focused on a certain aspect of Marx’s theory. For instance, the first section explains the historical basis for the Communist theory. Marx and Engels describe the historical development of countries and societies, stating that, throughout the history, certain classes “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” (Marx and Engels 14). The authors use examples of ancient Rome, feudalist societies of the Middle Ages, and the colonization of America to support their theory. They also claim that the same theory applies to the contemporary society and the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat: “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.” (Marx and Engels 15).
They describe the history of the development of these two classes and show that the revolution is inevitable, as the current means of production and exchange are obsolete (Marx and Engels 17). Section II is more focused on the Communism itself, rather than on its history and foundations. The authors clearly state that Communism supports the proletariat and that its major aim is to facilitate the revolution and to help overthrow the bourgeois class (Marx and Engels 22). They also explain the necessity to abolish private property to destroy the existing class system (Marx and Engels 23). The third section of the work addresses the existing Socialist and Communist literature to point out the flaws of the previously discussed theories. Finally, the last section establishes the political position of Communism and its attitude towards the other parties. The authors explain that the communists would align with other political parties as long as they have similar goals: for instance, in France, the Communists cooperated with Social-Democrats to fight the conservative and radical bourgeoisie (Marx and Engels 34).
Marx’s theory, as outlined in The Communist Manifesto, led me to think about how the society of that time is different from our global society. For example, the current structure of business decreased the class struggle by introducing more layers to society. In other words, even though there is still a certain degree of class distinction in modern society, there is no longer an opposition between two distinctive classes. In a way, Marx’s theory no longer applies to the society we live in now: there is no clear need to overthrow the ruling class to promote the rights of workers since these rights are strictly protected in most countries. In Marx’s time, Trade Unions and other organizations aiming to promote the rights of the working class were not effective: “Now and then the workers are victorious, but only for a time” (Marx and Engels 19). However, in the last century, these unions achieved substantial progress in supporting the rights of workers.
Nevertheless, even though the necessity for revolution, as outlined by Marx and Engels, no longer applies to our society, some principles outlined in the Manifesto still answer to the current struggles. For instance, Marx and Engels outline the problematic role of women in the bourgeois class: “The bourgeois sees his wife a mere instrument of production” (25), and advocate the freedom and protection of women as a separate community. Nowadays, there are many societies, particularly in developing countries, where women are seen in the same way, which makes this part of the Manifesto relevant to modern society. Moreover, due to the current globalization of the world, the boundaries between nations and races need to be destroyed, which is something that Marx and Engels also advocate for: “”National differences and antagonism between peoples are daily more and more vanishing […] The supremacy of the proletariat will cause them to vanish still faster” (25).
Overall, I found the class and the reading of Marx in particular quite enlightening. It was exciting to see how Marx’s theory of Communism applies to the world we live in today and how some other things discussed in the Manifesto are now obsolete. To me, this emphasized the progress that has been made in the last century and at the same time encouraged me to think that there may be a possibility to apply Marx’s thoughts to solve the persistent issues, such as racial and gender inequality.
Marx, Karl and Frederick Engels. The Communist Manifesto. Web.
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