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Marxism




Marxism

The ideology of Marxism which was a popular ideology during the 19th century and had a great impact on the history of the 19th and 20th century was developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels around the mid 19th century. Although most of the documents which contributed to the ideology of Marxism carry both the names of Marx and Engels as the authors, Marx was still be more powerful thinker behind the ideology of Marxism. Since Engels was the better stylist, most of the eloquent writing in the documents such as the "The Communist Manifesto" can be contributed to Engels, but since Marx developed the theories of Marxism, the ideology carries his name.

            One of the basic concepts in the ideology of Marxism is the concept of class struggle. In the first chapter of "The Communist Manifesto", named Bourgeois and Proletarians, Marx states that the history of humanity has been a history of class struggle, the "oppressor and the oppressed, stood in constant opposition against each other". In order to support his idea, Marx gives many examples of class struggles during the history of mankind. During the ages the ruling class was replaced by another class through revolutionary action. The last revolution of this kind took place in the 18th century, when the aristocracy was overthrown by the bourgeoisie. This revolution lays the foundation for the society of the 19th century.



            After the revolutions of the 18th century the bourgeoisie became the new ruling class replacing aristocracy. According to Marx, the bourgeoisie managed to strengthen its ruling position through constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production and political advance, leading to the conditions of the 18th century. Marx splits the 18th century society into two "hostile camps", the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. He defines the bourgeoisie as those who own the instruments of production and consequently have a great amount of wealth and the proletariat as the working class of wage laborers. Although those are the major social classes defined in the Manifesto, Marx also mentions two other classes: the Petty-Bourgeoisie and the lumpent proletariat. The members of the Petty-Bourgeoisie are the small businesses. However, the Manifesto states that most of the members of the Petty-Bourgeoisie will "all gradually sink into the proletariat" or might be become members of the Bourgeoisie. In any way, Marx says that the Petty-Bourgeoisie will cease to exist. Marx only states that the lumpent proletariat has to be considered as below welfare. He call them the "dangerous class", the "social scum". Marx adds that they will be swept into the proletarian movement.

            According to Marx, the influence of the bourgeoisie is great on all aspects of society, but the influence on the economy is by far the greatest. Marx states that the Bourgeoisie has developed the concept of modern factory labor, that it has developed the small workshops of the 16th and 17th century into enormous factories. Consequently it has also converted the small laborers in the workshops into large "industrial armies" led by the ruling class of a few, the bourgeoisie. The advent of the new concept of production, obviously, changed the economy forever. After these changes had been made the influence on the economy was even greater. The Bourgeoisie introduced the system of free global trade enabling the expansion of the bourgeois power worldwide. In Marx eyes global trade has a grave negative effect. The old system of national self-sufficiency no longer exists because the system of Global trade has created new wants which require "the products from distant lands and climes" in order to satisfy the consumer. This has created a system of "universal  inter-dependence of nations". Another aspect of the Bourgeoisie which is criticized by Marx is the "epidemic of overproduction", as he calls it. He argues that from time to time the industrial leaders driven by greed produce more than needed which results in economic crises.

            The influence on society has also been great, which is logical because the economic system is closely related to society. According to Marx, the Bourgeoisie has turned most of the workers, skilled or unskilled, in the economic world of the 19th century into wage laborers, people motivated only by wages. The competition for higher wages has changed nations from rural societies into more urban societies due to the migration of workers into the cities. Marx also believes that the Bourgeoisie has given consumption a "cosmopolitan character" which it never had before.

            The oppressed class, the proletarians, do not have a great influence on the way the economy is run, however they are vital to the success of the oppressing class, the Bourgeoisie. Without its wage laborers the leading class would not have the power to produce anything. However, because the proletariat  does not own the factors of production it does not influence economic decisions all the time. Marx admits that unions had victories of the Bourgeoisie but those only eased the working conditions for a brief period of time.




            The changes in the proletarian way of life have greatly influenced the society because the Proletariat form the major part of society. According to Marx, the family in the 18th century has been reduced to a money based relationship. Personal worth has been exchanged for value of exchange, value of labor. Old values have vanished and money is the only thing that counts now.

            After describing the class struggle of the 18th century, Marx draws the conclusion that the Proletariat will rise to overthrow the Bourgeoisie and become to ruling class. The Proletariat will accomplish this goal by a revolution and either destroying the instruments of production or taking them. After the "violent overthrow" of the Bourgeoisie, the Proletariat own the instruments of production. Marx also predicts that the Bourgeoisie will be overthrown in every country in a worldwide revolution and that the Proletariat will abolish the borders of the countries and create a global proletarian community. The ruling Proletariat will then form a new society by ten measures set by Marx through a form of dictatorship. These goals are: abolition of property and all rights of inheritance; heavy income taxes; confiscation of the property of all traitors, centralization of banking, communications, and transport; extension of property owned by the state; obligation to work; distribution of population over the country; free education. In Marx eyes, this will lead to a new society with no classes and no class struggle, the ultimate goal of Marxism.

Sources:

1.     "Das Kommunistische Manifest" by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Published in February 1848 in London for the Communist League, an organization of German workers. Translated from German into English by Samuel Moore in 1888.

2.     "Study Guide to the Communist Manifesto"  by Paul Brians, Department of English, Washington State University.










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