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Karl Marx played a crucial role in Philosophy by propounding what is expected of communist leadership, thus making the communist manifesto a very popular document in the 20th Century. The questions that this paper is going to grapple with is whether the issues were only representative of what happened then and not at all the mirror of what was to happen later.
Communist Manifesto and social issues
Though the communist manifesto clearly elaborates what a communist organization intends or should do, the manifesto has proved to go well beyond this. In fact he expose has presented issues that actually show the genesis of the communist and socialist thought.
According to Marx, history is rife with issues of class struggle. He felt that society is full of groups antagonizing each other for either social or perpetuation of their selfish ideals. Thus, there is deep rooted struggle between the haves and the have-nots, the slaves and their masters, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie etc. Actually, one can easily see that what the manifesto set out to obfuscate was the capitalist leadership as far as social relations were concerned.
Also the reason why the manifesto could be said to be based on reaction to events then is the fact that society was faced by exploitation. Marx and Engels did greatly succeed in mirroring the society then. The social matters that border on material have been elevated as ones that will eventually give birth to a revolution.
Competition in society is something that is inherent. For Marx this urge to rule and remain above others is something that has made those with control of the means of production to wish to remain there while riding on the backs of the laborers. It is against this awakening that the manifesto candidly declares, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” (Wootton 798).
The Manifesto, nonetheless, has made the proponents of revolutions all over to clearly make them aware of their oppression. Thus, it can be said to have assisted in the development of class consciousness, something that members of society grapple with everyday, though silently, most of the time. This could be well orchestrated to enable them to abolish this expression through making sure that that class society is made to disintegrate.
Private property is an issue the manifesto dwells upon. The primary issue of the manifesto is the vagaries in which the bourgeoisie subject and subjugate the proletariat, all in the struggle for private property. Private property is an issue that clearly affects the society even today. But what one wonders is whether the situation lies in the total abolition of it as the manifesto proposes.
The communist manifesto unequivocally declares that for there could be other prudent ways through which owners of means of production could be put into check. What is more, Marx and Engels do concur that it is not the Bourgeoisie alone who sustain this relationship (Wootton 799). They in fact conclude that one group needs the other for the status to be maintained.
The Manifesto goes ahead and declares that property will at last be socialized once the classes get abolished. But this assertion needs careful analysis. For instance if the proletariat succeeds in abolishing the class and hence the very power that has been used to frustrate it will also go and this will in essence mean that the proletariat will have destroyed itself since the proletariat will have, ironically, also have organized itself as a class.
In fact once the proletarian group manages to dethrone the bourgeoisie out of power, the proletariat will definitely ascend to very level to which the bourgeoisie was; hence still furthering the vicious cycle. This is because the proletarian state will grab all the capital from the haves.
So many questions about the above scenario abound. For instance it is crucial to ask ourselves how the proletariat will manage to dethrone the ruling bourgeoisie without having organized itself into a class.
This is because of what could be like moving from one interest group to the other and the new emergent proletarian state would be just as despotic as that of the bourgeois regime, or even worse. This is reminiscent of what transpired during the French Revolution in which the forces dethroned the monarchy and ruled with consolidated power that bordered on the dictatorship.
Was the Communist Manifesto time bound?
The biggest question has been whether the communist manifesto only addressed the issue without an accurate eye on the future. Also one wonders whether it is the class struggle that is the greatest influence of things in the world presently. Since Marx wrote his work it has taken so many years; but history has proved that what he has propounded has never clearly come to be.
Though there have been arguments as to why this particular situation came to be, there has been strong suspicion that perhaps all the assumptions that formed the basis of this communist thought were actually mistaken, or, rather based on the wrong premises. My feeling is that what perhaps Marx did not clearly figure out the specific class that would subsume the rest.
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To him the laborers taking over means of production would guarantee the death of the other class. This is not true as it can easily be noted that the proletariat will still assume that very position that the bourgeoisie took, coupled with new desire to still control all those means of control.
Another issue is that Marx did not at all envisage a situation where, due to technological advancement, the means of production would become even cheaper. Technology has managed to bring with it clear efficient means through which high production can be achieved. In most cases technology has meant even at times reduction in human labor, still making the laborers also own means of production.
It can be seen that as technology has advanced, workers have also engaged in entrepreneurial ventures especially in free societies. The computers have made it possible for the majority to get information and means to start small entrepreneurial ventures. This has converted many a worker into owner of means of production.
Unlike long time when there were few corporations monopolizing markets majority of the people can still compete for these markets at micro level. So, Marx’s assertion that the dominance of the bourgeoisie would lead to a revolution that would bring everybody down is not true (Wootton 803).
It is now even common knowledge that many have exploited their talents from humble backgrounds to become multi-millionaires. Perhaps the wrong premise that may have misled Marx was the conflict that he saw in his time. He might have erroneously linked such conflict to capitalism. But far from it, history has shown that society has always been at one time or the other been involved in conflict. What is more, social-economic issues have always led to social conflict over time.
This is unlike Marx’s view that all conflict emanates from economic considerations. I find the consideration that conflict as solely emerging out economic issues rather simplistic (Wootton 801). Another flaw that can be traced to Marx’s communist manifesto was the suggestion that the proletariat will grow in misery as the wealth concentrates in fewer and fewer people. This prediction has also with time been proven inadequate.
Though Marx’s writing of the Communist Manifesto must have been written in the heady days as society was fast industrializing, its predictions have not actually come to be as expected. This reduces us to the conclusion that whatever he talked about was only specific to that time and would not have been used to generalize the future.
It can therefore be suggested that Marx should have been cognizant of human nature’s inherent nature for motivation that accrues out of ownership of property. Just like an engineer tweaks a problem once identified, it is not only against best practice to replace whole system as he wished shall happen to the bourgeoisie. Human society is an complex structure which needs a combination of strategies to remedy not just simplistic replacement of a particular group with the other.
Another issue is that the world is faced with different issues that are influencing events unlike what he must have propounded. All in all, his suggestion that a whole group or class be abolished altogether is not only impractical but one of the best practices.
Wootton, David. Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. Indianapolis, Hackett Publishing, 1996. Print.