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The Communist Manifesto is one of the defining works of communist ideology. It outlines the main philosophical positions of communism as a whole and critiques feudalism, capitalism, and reactionary types of socialism. This paper will touch upon various aspects of the manifesto related to production and ideological differences.
Mode of Production
Marx describes the term “mode of production” as a combination of productive forces (means of production and human labor power) and relations of production (various types of relations including property, work, and ownership relations). According to Marx and Engels, the mode of production is one of the main differentiating factors between eras and ideologies. For example, feudalism utilized an exploitative mode of production based on the possession of the land and human beings who had to work on that land by the ruling class.
Complex agricultural systems were the primary means of production of feudalism as well as the increase in specialization among artisans (Marx & Engels, 2002). During the later feudalism period, the means of production were updated by the use of machineries such as wind-mills and clockwork devices.
The mode of production introduced by capitalism may appear similar to feudalism, but it has some important differences that made it a more modern and more appealing ideology in comparison. The mode of production for capitalism is primarily based on the practice of industrialization. Factories, transportation, and the introduction of private property are some of the elements that encompass the mode of production in capitalism.
The ruling class becomes the bourgeoisie, who own the means of production, and who exploit the working class of the proletariat through wage labor. The main difference between feudalism and capitalism lies in the possibility of the non-aristocratic people to become the bourgeoisie through owning the means of production.
Marx and Engels considered the emergence of the bourgeoisie class revolutionary because it destroyed the previous structure of the world. The power of the aristocracy was negated through the ability to buy and sell the land, and property that was previously unavailable to anyone but the aristocratic classes. Guild masters lost their power due to the introduction of competition where anyone could enter into any type of industry if they had the required capital.
The industrialization that enabled capitalism to take over feudalism has also forced it to become a global phenomenon. The prices of products produced in factories are much lower than those created by individuals, which prevents the feudal way of life from competing with the capitalist one (Marx & Engels, 2002). Therefore, to compete, other countries were forced to industrialize.
Relations and Means of Production in Capitalism
Relations of production are described as social, technological, and economic relationships, and their means are tools that are used to create objects. The contradictions between the relation of production and means of production are considered almost inevitable by the authors due to the constant changes among productive forces in any ideological system. However, in capitalism, these contradictions may be antagonistic, and cannot be resolved.
The improvement of means of production often leads to changes in relations, where some become unnecessary. The creation of a new machine that manufactures products faster and more efficiently without the need for human labor removes people from their previously held jobs. This contradiction often results in massive amounts of poverty due to unemployment. Class conflicts arise due to these contradictions and eventually make the existing mode of production unsustainable. In the case of capitalism, the crisis of surplus results in unemployment due to the low wages not allowing people to purchase the product they create.
The product is then seen as a problem, but instead of being distributed to those who could use it, it is destroyed. This situation leaves both the bourgeoisie and the proletariat in a negative situation (Marx & Engels, 2002). For example, the phenomenon of ghost cities and buildings in developed countries (Zheng et al., 2017; Moreno & Blanco, 2014). Thousands of apartments are left empty because nobody can afford them, while homelessness still exists in those countries.
Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat
The bourgeoisie and the proletariat are inherently at odds with each other due to the nature of capitalism. The goal of the bourgeoisie is to create the maximum profit on their means of production. To achieve this goal, the work provided by the proletariat becomes valued lower than the end product. Essentially, the bourgeoisie has to pay less to the workers than they deserve to make money for themselves.
This practice results in the exploitation of the labor force which puts the two classes against each other (Marx & Engels, 2002). For example, in countries without strict labor laws, people may be forced to work for dangerous amounts of time, without proper safety measures utilized at the factory. Due to the global nature of capitalism, the bourgeoisie class outsources work to these places to create more profit (Vora, 2015; Ontiveros, 2017). The proletariat is also dependent on the work provided by the industry, but due to the technological progress, their work can be replaced by more efficient means of production.
Socialism and Capitalism
The socialist mode of production that Marx and Engels propose is different from the capitalist one. Private property in a communist mode of production is abolished, and the product manufactured by the people is then distributed to the people according to their contribution. The proletariat becomes the owner of the means of production through cooperative enterprises, public ownership, or privately owned tools.
The issue of the surplus is then solved through its benefits to the society, instead of becoming its burden. The use-value of products is the priority, rather than the profit that they might generate. Capitalism is an international ideology and to combat it socialism has to be international too. Only when united, the proletariat can cause a revolution (Marx & Engels, 2002). The subsequent history shows that this notion was correct and the united forces of workers have caused revolutions in Russia, China, and other countries (Hill, 2016), often with the help of already established socialist governments.
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Other Types of Socialism
The Communist Manifesto contains a section where the authors critique the other types of socialism that were present at the time. Three types of reactionary socialism are criticized. The first is feudal socialism, and the authors state that it would only serve to change the type of exploitation and no socialist additions would make it a viable ideology. The second is petty-bourgeois socialism, which despite its analytical values, also promotes regression into the old ways.
The third is German socialism which the authors blame for the same issues as petty-bourgeois socialism. Then conservative socialism is examined as a belief in capitalist advantages but without the revolutionary elements caused by conflicts. However, the role of the proletariat stays the same in this system. Critical-utopian socialism is also criticized for its fantastical nature that was not substantial (Marx & Engels, 2002). The purpose of this critique is to show the issues in existing ideologies and propose a new solution that does not have the same issues.
Marx and Engels wrote a lot of inspirational literature. The communist manifesto is one of the most important of their works. Although new ideas were created since its publication, it was used to form the majority of the communist nations.
Hill, C. (2016). Lenin and the Russian revolution. London, UK: Read Books Ltd.
Marx, K., & Engels, F. (2002). The communist manifesto. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
Moreno, E., & Blanco, Z. (2014). Ghost cities and empty houses: Wasted prosperity. American International Journal of Social Science, 3(2), 207-216.
Ontiveros, M. L. (2017). H-1B visas, outsourcing and body shops: A continuum of exploitation for high tech workers. Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, 38, 1.
Vora, K. (2015). Life support: Biocapital and the new history of outsourced labor. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Zheng, Q., Zeng, Y., Deng, J., Wang, K., Jiang, R., & Ye, Z. (2017). “Ghost cities” identification using multi-source remote sensing datasets: A case study in Yangtze River Delta. Applied Geography, 80, 112–121