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Transcript
Political Thinking
POL 161
Erik Rankin
D&B 208-222
The Communist Manifesto- Karl Marx
and Friedrich Engels
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"A spectre is haunting Europe--the spectre of Communism."
Communists have gathered in London and written a Manifesto to
make public their views, aims and tendencies.
The Manifesto begins by addressing the issue of class antagonism.
"The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class
struggles."
History shows us the oppressor and oppressed in constant
opposition to each other.
This fight is sometimes hidden and sometimes open.
Every time the fight ends in either a revolutionary reconstruction of
society or in the classes' common ruin.
The Communist Manifesto- Karl Marx
and Friedrich Engels
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The Communist Manifesto begins with a statement of
its purpose, to push the views, aims and ideas of the
Communists.
It is a document that is meant to be read by the
public, and it is meant to be easily grasped by a
general audience.
This is the reason for its abbreviated format and
simple language
It is also meant to be a general overview of what
Communism is, both as a theory and as a political
movement.
The Communist Manifesto- Karl Marx
and Friedrich Engels
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Marx begins by introducing several of the key ideas of his theory.
The main idea is that all of history until now is made up of a series
of class struggles.
Every society in history has a characteristic economic structure,
which breeds different classes
This is not permanent, eventually the means of production cease
to be compatible with the current class structure.
Then the structure begins to impede the development of
productive forces.
Inevitably, the existing structure must be destroyed.
This explains the emergence of the bourgeoisie out of feudalism. It
will also explain the eventual destruction of the bourgeoisie.
Marx feels all of history should be understood in this way—a
process in which classes realign themselves in accordance with
changing means of production.
The Communist Manifesto- Karl Marx
and Friedrich Engels
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
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A huge aspect of this theory of history is what it
does not deem important
In Marx's theory, history is shaped by economic
relations alone
Topics such as religion, culture, ideology, and the
individual human being, play a very little role (rather
odd given some ideas)
This has been one of the biggest criticisms of Marx’s
theory
History for Marx moves according to impersonal
forces, its overall direction is inevitable
The Communist Manifesto- Karl Marx
and Friedrich Engels
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Marx feels that this kind of history will eventually come
to an end
The Manifesto argues that this modern class conflict is
the final class conflict; which brings about the end of all
class relations.
Here are some of the ways in which the modern era is
unique.
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Classes have been simplified, the bourgeoisie and the
proletariat, are the only two classes
Everything is seen in terms of self- interest.
The bourgeoisie continually revolutionize the instruments of
production, which leaves social relations in an unstable state.
The Communist Manifesto- Karl Marx
and Friedrich Engels

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Marx pounds in the idea of the plight of the
modern laborer.
He feels that the worker is commodified, and is
a part of the machinery.
He matters only in so far as he produces, and
he does not have control over his production
What do we do with non-producers?
The story of the laborer is a story of obvious
exploitation, and has had great resonance with
many of Marx's readers.
The Communist Manifesto- Karl Marx
and Friedrich Engels
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Marx also shows the proletariat are a unique class (for obvious
reasons)
They are the majority in society, and their numbers are growing
The biggest point he feels is that they have virtually nothing to
lose
The proletarians have no power or privileges they must defend.
They must destroy the entire system, not change but utter
destruction
When they have their revolution, they must destroy the entire
system of class exploitation, including all private property.
That is why Marx describes this as the last part of history
This stage can only exist due in part to the existence of the
other stages
The proletariat must create a revolution
The Communist Manifesto- Karl Marx
and Friedrich Engels
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
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He moves to ideas of religion and philosophy being
rooted in people's material existence; most ideas are
only the results of specific relationships of production.
Most ideas, according to Marx are those that serve the
interests of the ruling class (surprise)
The ruling class makes the rules that form society, and
supports those ideas that help them meet their ends
EX: the bourgeoisie glorify property rights because they
own most all of the property
The Communist Manifesto- Karl Marx
and Friedrich Engels
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Marx talks about how he feels the revolution will unfold
The workers become the rulers, eliminate private property,
eliminating the vestiges of old class power
It gets tough to understand if the Manifesto is talking about
history or if it is laying out specific plans (as you read form
your own opinion)
Communism feels history is an unchangeable force, but also
as leading to a morally desirable outcome.
What is Communist's role in the process of history?
If the revolution is an inevitable force of history, we might even
question why the Communist Manifesto is necessary.
The Communist Manifesto- Karl Marx
and Friedrich Engels
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Marx's techniques of responding to criticisms, is
harsh and often quite sarcastic
Consider whether his approach is effective
Would he be more convincing if he took a more
serious tone about the critiques of
Communism?
BUT…
Can the Manifesto retain its "revolutionary"
ideals if he did change his tone?
The Communist Manifesto- Karl Marx
and Friedrich Engels
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Marx argues that other socialist ideas have failed
because they missed out on a key component of
Communist theory
Most fail to realize that the inevitability of the
bourgeoisie's rise, and of their eventual fall at the
hands of the proletariat
The Conservative Socialists, do not see the obvious
features of class antagonism, and of the destruction of
the bourgeoisie.
The Critical-Utopian Socialists do not understand that
social change must occur in revolutions, and not by
words with dream like qualities
Here you see the turn towards violence
The Communist Manifesto- Karl Marx
and Friedrich Engels
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For us Marx's discussion of the second subgroup deserves the most
consideration.
The Conservative Socialism that Marx abhors is same the attitude
embraced by the United States toward the working class.
Welfare, Social Security and a minimum wage are all practices that
Marx would say act to preserve the capitalist system by making the
position of the proletariat tolerable.
Marx argues that these "reforms" are really done in the interests of
the bourgeois, in order to appease the proletariat and make them
accept their social role
This is hard to swallow, but Marx feels that “reforms” are not done to
protect you at all, rather to make accept to role in society quietly
This is the reason that Marx and his ideals still exist in society today
Is this argument compelling to you?
The Communist Manifesto- Karl Marx
and Friedrich Engels



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
Marx believes this type of Socialism is wrong; he feels that the only way
fix the problems of the proletariat is by restructuring economic and social
relations
This is a revolutionary act; the suggested reforms of Conservative
Socialists are merely there to serve the elite
How does Marx's theories apply to the U.S. or Western European
nations--nations that have instituted such "Conservative Socialist"
programs?
Is Marx right saying reforms serve the interests of the ruling capitalists,
and not the workers?
Looking back and having seen "Conservative Socialism" in action, do
you see historical evidence supporting Marx's claims of the inevitability of
a proletariat uprising?
If so, do you feel there is a desirability of such an uprising?
The Communist Manifesto- Karl Marx
and Friedrich Engels
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Marx ends by showing what his political agenda has in
store.
The end goal is a proletariat revolution and the abolition of
private property and class differences
He feels that history must go through stages, this may
mean sometimes supporting the bourgeoisie, in order to
eventually make a workers' revolution possible
HUH?
While the Communists have a strong foundation,
combining observations and predictions, they are also
advocating those predictions, and attempting to accelerate
their realization.
The Communist Manifesto- Karl Marx
and Friedrich Engels
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Marx does not simply declare that workers shall one day unite
He calls on workers to unite, promising them freedom and a better
world free of class struggles
How separable are the political and theoretical messages of the
Communists?
Is the Communists' theory of history an essential part of its
revolutionary message?
By this I mean, since this revolution is inevitable, is it difficult to
disagree with Marx?
His theory might seem awful open ended, and very applicable today
(be fearful!)
Ask yourself how the Communist cause might be helped or harmed
by the claim that revolution is inevitable