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Communist Manifesto

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Tyler Zimmer

on 17 February 2017

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Transcript of Communist Manifesto

Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels
Background on Marx and Marxism
Marx and the Cold War
We shouldn't confuse Marx's ideas with what brutal, authoritarian regimes like those of Stalin or Mao said or did.
Neither should we confuse Marx's ideas with what witch-hunting Cold Warriors like Joseph McCarthy said.
The best way to understand any thinker is to
read what they actually said and think critically about it for ourselves.
The same is true of Marx.
"There can be no doubt about the task confronting us at present:
the ruthless criticism of all things existing
, ruthless in the sense that it will shrink neither from its own discoveries, nor from conflict with the powers that be."
Marx on how to do philosophy:
Letter to Ruge, 1848
What is justice?
How should society be organized?
Who has power and authority in our society? Is this power and authority rationally justified?
What Descartes asked us to do for knowledge, Marx is, in a sense, asking us to do vis-a-vis power and authority in society.
Examine every power relation in society and ask: is this rationally justified? Should it continue to exist? Or should it be swept aside and replaced by something else?
Modern Political Philosophy
Karl Marx
Born in 1818 in Trier, in what is now Germany.
Completed his Doctorate on ancient philosophy in 1841.
Edits radical newspapers advocating for democracy in Germany and abolition of the monarchy. Forced to flee to Paris and then Brussels as a result.
Participates in the revolutions of 1848 but is forced into exile in London after they are defeated.
Remains in London as an exile for remainder of his life, continues to write and be politically active.
Dies in 1883.
Friedrich Engels
Born in 1820 in Barmen, Prussia (now Germany).
Unlike Marx, comes from affluent background.
In 1845 writes landmark work,
The Condition of the Working Class in England
, meets Marx and a lifelong political/intellectual relationship ensues.
Like Marx, works as a journalist as well as a political activist and is eventually forced into exile in London as well after the failed revolutions of 1848.
Later writes one of most important feminist works of the 19th century:
The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.
The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, 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.

In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations.
"...oppressor and oppressed,
stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight
, a fight that each time ended in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large or in the common ruin of the contending classes."
What are they saying here?
Class struggle is
throughout the history of class societies.
Where there is subordination of some people by others, there is resistance.
Human beings don't like to be oppressed, have a boot on their neck; they are going to resist this one way or another.
Examples of
open, overt
class struggle in history?
Examples of
"hidden" or subtle
forms of resistance by oppressed classes?
Examples of "hidden" class struggle
The Old Testament of the Bible promises the coming of the messiah who will vanquish the rich and liberate the poor.
From the Book of Isaiah, for instance, it is proclaimed that the messiah would come "to preach good tidings to the meek...to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound."
Similar sentiments are expressed in other religions.
Throughout the Middle Ages in Europe, the legend persisted that some day a new liberator would come to slay the sinful rich and free the poor.
An Ethiopian proverb states: "When the great lord passes the wise peasant bows deeply and silently farts."
More "hidden" class struggle...
Deliberately slowing down work, feigning sickness, breaking tools, sabotaging production, stealing, hoarding.
Flight from plantations, from fiefdom.
Practices, rituals, tales, songs of resistance.
Open, overt class struggle
There is documentation of more than 250 revolts against "New World" slavery and servitude.
Bacon's Rebellion (1676)
Haitian Revolution (1791-1804)
Nat Turner rebellion (1831)
John Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry (1859)
Slave revolts occurred in antiquity and many peasant uprisings occurred during feudalism.
How to analyze class structure:
(1) who labors to produce the wealth of society?
(2) who owns and controls that wealth?
If these two groups are different, we have a class society, i.e. a society divided into a dominant ruling class and a subordinate laboring class of producers.
"In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations."
We find in all cases dominant, non-laboring ruling classes, on the one hand, and laboring exploited classes under them.
Ancient Rome
Ruling oligarchs in Senate
Slaves produce social wealth
Various gradations in rank and status
Social wealth produced by labor.
Who built this and other wonders of Roman civilization? Who produced the basis for the empire's dominance, i.e. food, olive oil, wine, mining for precious metals, etc.?
The slave mode of production breaks down and eventually gives way to the feudal mode of production.
Instead of relying on chattel slaves to do the work of producing society's wealth... a laboring class of serfs/peasants do the work.
Eventually, feudal social relations are overthrown and the epoch of capitalism begins. How does this occur? Through class struggles.
Key Terminology
Social relations of production.
Forces of production.
Mode of production.
Class society.
Ruling class.
Direct producers.
Social relations of production
This refers to the way that the production of goods and services are organized in a given society. It is basically another term for "class relationships."
What relations of production do we find in Ancient Rome?
What about in feudal societies, e.g. in Medieval Period in Europe, Ethiopia, China, etc.?
A key question for us will be: what are production relations like in societies like ours, i.e. under modern capitalism?
The Forces of Production
Refers to the instruments, tools, technologies and techniques used to produce goods and services.
Over the course of human history, the productive forces of society tend to grow and develop.
Mode of Production
This refers to the specific social relations of production and the productive forces at work in any given society.
Slave mode of production.
Feudal mode of production.
Capitalist mode of production.
Socialist mode of production?
Direct producers
The laboring class that does the hard work of producing the social surplus, the goods/services society consumes, e.g. slaves, serfs, workers, etc.
Ruling class
A non-laboring class that owns and controls the social surplus; the economically and politically dominant class, e.g. the Roman oligarchy, the feudal lords, capitalists, etc.
Class Exploitation
Exploitation refers to the process whereby a non-laboring ruling class appropriates the wealth produced by the laboring producers.
If the group that produces social wealth is not the same group that controls and owns it... there must be exploitation.
If you produce far more than you consume, and others consume far more than you but produce nothing... there must be exploitation.
In ordinary speech, what does the word exploitation typically mean?
Bourgeois and Proletarians
"The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society
has not done away with class antagonisms.
It has but established
new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle
in place of the old ones."
What is capitalism? What's distinctive about it when compared to earlier modes of production?
Is capitalism a class society?
Is capitalism a class society?
How do we test this? What do we look for?
GDP = Gross Domestic Product
That is, the total amount of wealth produced each year, i.e. the total value of goods and services produced in a year's time.
What is produced in the US? Let's make a list of different categories of goods and services and then determine who labors to create them.
Who owns and controls the wealth produced in the US?

Who owns and controls the process of wealth production?
How Marx and Engels describe changes brought about by capitalism:
"An immense development"
"...rapid development..."
"...a series of revolutionary changes."
"...an impulse never before known."
"Steam and machinery revolutionized production."
What do we make of this? Is this praise?
Dynamic, grows quickly.
Technologically innovative.
Geographically expansive.
Transforms all of social life.
Capitalism is new and distinctive.
"The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society
... All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify.
All that is solid melts into air
, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe.
It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.
Marx and Engels see increasing productive power and increasing internationalism in economics and culture good things.
But "globalization" also involves the expansion of economically (and therefore militarily and politically) dominant states across the globe, resulting in colonial subjugation and imperialism.
The growth of capitalist social relations also means the growth of exploitation and capitalist dominance, as well as the expansion of the logic of "profit for the sake of profit."
Globalization and the economic growth generated by capitalism have contradictory consequences.
"The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarcely one hundred years,
has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together.
Subjection of nature's forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalization of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground -- what earlier century had even a hunch that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labor?"
Modern work life under capitalism
Monotonous, machine-like, repetitive, mindless... in a word

"Masses of laborers, crowded into the factory, are organized like soldiers. As privates in the industrial army they are placed under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers and sergeants. Not only are they slaves of the bourgeois class and of the bourgeois state; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the overseer... the more openly this despotism proclaims ethics to be its aim, the more petty, the more hateful and the more embittering it is."
Capitalism is a contradictory system.
Like the slave, produces the bulk of social wealth.
Unlike slave, the serf is not owned outright by the lord.
The serf, unlike the slave, has access to fertile land with which to grow their own food.
But, like the slave, the serf is required (forced) to work a certain amount of time for the sole benefit of the lord.
Serfs are "bound to the land," meaning they may not leave the estate where they reside. If the estate passes into the hands of different lords, the serf remains and owes allegiance to whomever holds the title and status of lord.
It has revolutionized the
forces of production.

But the
social relations of production
it is based upon prevent those powerful forces of production from being used in a liberating way.
The Contradictions of Capitalism
Laboring classes have been exploited throughout history: in slave societies and feudal societies.
Capitalism destroyed feudalism and has created a completely new terrain, both good and bad.
: it has revolutionized production and given us a superb technology and productive power, it also did away with feudal social relations.
: it has not done away with class exploitation nor does it use its own superb technology in a liberating way.
What's needed, then, is further development to a new form of society that preserves the good, does away with the bad, and makes possible further growth.
The only modern class with the ability and interest in doing this is the working class, the proletariat.
Marx's Theory of History Summarized
Capitalism has advanced humanity closer to liberation than it has ever been. But it has not gone far enough.
What are the advantages to being a wage worker in a modern capitalist society as compared with being a serf or a slave?
What are the disadvantages of being a worker in a modern capitalist society?
(Keep output constant)
(Keep toil constant)
When there is an increase in productivity because of a technological innovation...
It means that it is now possible to produce more output per unit labor-time expended.
Suppose at a given level of technological development, we can each produce about 2,500 calories worth of food per day.
Suppose, then, that a technological advance enables us to produce 5,000 calories worth of food per day.
What should we do? How (if at all) should our work schedules change?
Notice that technological advances that increase productivity are
potentially liberating,

that is they have the potential to be
, i.e. to reduce the amount human beings have to toil to produce the necessities of life.
Notice that capitalism is structurally biased in favor of increasing output, not reducing toil. Why?
"Capitalism brings humanity to the precipice of liberation, but then slams the door shut."
"Modern bourgeois society with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, is like the sorcerer, who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells... It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodic return put on trial, each time more threateningly, the entire existence of bourgeois society... "
Capitalist Production
The motive force for production isn't use, but profit.
There is no system-wide coordination or steering.
Individual capitalist firms compete with other such firms in the marketplace, and each is driven only by a desire to maximize it's own short-run profit.
The 2007-08 Collapse of the Housing Market
Economic Inequality

Political Inequality
Study by Gilens and Page (of Northwestern and Princeton) found that U.S. is an oligarchy, not a democracy http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-27074746
Harvard Business School did a study on wealth inequality and in the U.S. and what people think about it. http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2016/02/the-costs-of-inequality-when-a-fair-shake-isnt/
This is the key controversial claim Marx & Engels aim to defend in the
"In [capitalist] crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity--the epidemic of overproduction. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilization, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce."
Agri-Mark, a 1,200-dairy cooperative in New England that had $1.1 billion of sales last year, started pouring skim milk last month into holes used for livestock manure. It was the first time in five decades, and farmers so far have unloaded 12 truckloads, or 600,000 pounds (272 metric tons). While having small amounts of milk spoil or go unsold isn’t unusual, Northeast dairies dumped 31 percent more this year through May than the same period of 2014, government data show.
Class Analysis
Who produces the goods and services that society consumes?

Who owns the majority of that wealth and how do they get it? Who controls the process of wealth production?

What relations of power and authority exist between these two groups?
Class Structure of Capitalism
What is Communism?
Although the book is called the "Communist Manifesto," you'll notice that Marx and Engels have very little to say about what communism would be like.

They focus most of their energies on properly understanding how capitalism works.
We do get some hints, however, as to what it would be like:
The first hint has to do with their argument that capitalism is a
That means it's not 100% bad -- it has some freedom-enhancing aspects, but also some freedom-limiting aspects. It gets rid of some class inequalities but also produces new ones.
So, whatever "communism" is, it's supposed to build on what's good in capitalist society, and leave behind what's bad.
What's good?

What's bad?
Communism, by definition, would have to be:
A society in which there is no class division between direct producer and non-laboring ruling class.
A society where people are neither exploited nor dominated by others.
A society in which there is highly developed technology which is used in a liberating way -- which is under the control of the direct producers.
"In bourgeois society (capitalism), living labor is but a means to increase accumulated labor (capital). In communist society, on the other hand, accumulated labor is but a means to widen, enrich and promote the existence of the laborer."
What does this mean?
"In place of the old bourgeois society (capitalism), with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free development of each individual person is the condition for the free development of all."
What are they saying here?
Is the sketch of "communism" that they give attractive? Is this a society we should aspire to live in?
Why not?
Is it possible to get there?
"Capitalism creates its own gravediggers."
Capitalism creates a new social class that never existed before in large numbers: free wage laborers.
This class, unlike earlier producing classes, works in dense areas with hundreds of other workers. For any worker to advance her class interests, she has to unite with other workers and wage a collective fight against the boss.
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