As we state in Our Purpose, we believe that one of the biggest reasons that the Marxist science has not taken root in Western Culture, where its principles would be most applicable, is the fact that far too many people simply don’t understand the language used. This is an attempt to modernize the Communist Manifesto into a more easily accessible, understandable, and globally inclusive literature, while still preserving the ideas and concepts of Marx and Engels in their entirety. A link to the original text (English translation) can be found in the sidebar. Part I. Part II. Part IV. Part V – Addendum.
The essays contained in this section of the original text dealt with the recent history and development of some of the main Socialist (used here in the sense of “Anti-Bourgeois”) leanings and the literature supporting these positions that was circulated during Marx’s time. These essays were critiques of those positions and aims stated in such literature, and the ultimate destination of those paths of thought. As such, much of what was written in this section is not quite as relevant today, although the history of Class Struggle is still very important to understand.
In our efforts to make a more up-to-date version of this timeless and significant document, we found that some of the subject matter would hold little significance in the lives of the modern Proletarian without also demonstrating how these events and developments still affect our lives today. As such, the following section is where we took the most freedom. We attempted to retain all of the pertinent information contained in the original text in a somewhat shorter synopsis. We then took modern-day correlations and, by comparing them and examining their general developments, attempted to show how Marxism is more relevant today than ever. This was very much a learning experience for us, and it increased our sense of urgency for revolutionary action and social reform. We encourage everyone to read the original text, which can be found through the link in the sidebar, and draw their own correlations.
III. Socialist and Communist Literature
1. Reactionary Socialism
A. Feudal Socialism
As the moneyed Aristocrat families of Feudalism fell from their Ruling Class status, the main occupation of those Aristocracies was writing and distributing literature against the rise of the Capitalist Class. Where they once fought against each other, sending armies under Banners of Lordship to contest Land Ownership and fealty to various Crowns, they now fought a similar battle against the Bourgeoisie to contest the political and social dominion they had recently been removed from. Through social revolutions and reformations, the thought of a significant political struggle between the Aristocracies and the Capitalists was laughable. In the end, those Aristocracies could do nothing more than lament the loss of their old status, and to ridicule the methods and means of production of the Capitalists in hopes of weakening Capital’s hold over the Working Class.
It became evident that the fall of the Aristocracy was of little concern to the Working Class. In a last resort effort, the Aristocracy framed their condemnation of Capitalism as if they were concerned about the exploitation of the Proletariat. On the contrary, this was nothing more than a case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, as the Aristocracy tried to regain the favor of the Working Class against the Bourgeoisie, and to appeal to the Proletariat by working to restore the less uncertain economic balance of Feudalism. This reactionary movement ended in failure, as the Proletariat still remembered the exploitation they had just been removed from (but had not yet found out about the exploitation they had just fallen into). As the Aristocracy pointed out that the modern Proletariat had not existed during the Feudalistic age, they ignored the fact that neither had the Bourgeoisie, and that both had been birthed from the conditions and the developments of Feudalism itself – that both the modern Proletariat and the Capitalist Class were not only the creations of Aristocratic Rule, but also the very demise of Feudalism itself.
When taken at its core concepts, after removing the decorative speech and all of the pomp and circumstance that the Aristocracies were so fond of, their chief complaint was no so much that the Bourgeoisie was creating a new Proletariat, formed from the compression of all Feudal Classes into the modern Working Class, but that the Bourgeoisie was creating a revolutionary Proletariat. The main criticism of the Capitalist Class at that time was that they were brewing a recipe for their own demise – a stance that the Aristocracies did indeed have correct, if only from their own experience with the rise of the Bourgeoisie.
Today, and over the past 100 years or so, we can see the developments of much the same – satirical literature, propaganda, McCarthyism and other policing and legislative actions, corporate media outlets, and social conditioning. In the modern age, however, these are not directed against the Bourgeoisie, but instead directed by the Bourgeoisie against the progress and development of the revolutionary Proletariat, as foreseen by those long-gone Aristocracies.
The Conservative nature of Capitalism is seen here as the Bourgeoisie attempt to fight back against the development of the revolutionary Proletariat, whose very existence was created by the development of Modern Industry that the existence of the Bourgeoisie in turn depended on. The Bourgeoisie is railing against the very forces it has created, the very forces that have sustained the Capitalist method, the inevitability of the final result of the downward spiral of Capitalism.
Modern methods of this today are seen in Anti-Labor legislation and the silencing or decimation of Labor Movements around the globe. Imperialism emits propaganda through corporate mass media outlets, propaganda that elevates Capitalism in such a way that we see media pundits praising unprovoked actions of war in foreign lands as “job security” and “economically stimulating”. Yet more evidence of the cold and callous cash-payment that has replaced human empathy – for the Working Class, survival of self and family takes precedent over concerns for the Proletarian population of foreign lands, understandably, but only as a result of Capitalist sociopathy. This sociopathy corrupts the empathy of the Working Class towards itself, the result of the divide of Nationalism and xenophobia. Nowhere is this more evident than in the US today, but we can see the exact same phenomenon in varying degrees in almost every land and people.
The Conservative and Reactionary elements in modern society, just as those that came before them, will not be able to withstand the progress of society towards the collapse of Capitalism and the liberation of the Proletariat. The rose-tinted idolatry of the Capitalist Dream – once thought of as attainable for even the most disadvantaged – has been waning over the past several decades, especially among the outraged and disillusioned youth movements around the world throughout recent and modern history.
The more apolitical the youth, the more corruption and abuse, and the more injustice and exploitation will prevail in class societies.
– Fidel Castro
Today’s youth are no different, voicing their outrage and discontent periodically. The Occupy demonstrations, held in the heart of Commerce, were one such example. Each time the Proletariat rise up, they are beaten back into slavery by the forces of Capitalism. But, just as the Crises created by Capitalism grow harsher and more destructive with each occurrence, so too grows the Labor movement, in determination and in strength, each time it rouses itself into action.
In the end, we see that the cries of the Bourgeoisie to maintain the status quo, to reverse the development of the Proletariat, to reclaim their role as the Ruling Class, are meaningless in the face of the expansion of the World Market, the development of Modern Industry and Automation, and the need for accumulation of wealth. These cries of wealth do nothing but fan the flames of revolution burning within the Proletariat.
B. Petty-Bourgeois Socialism
The Aristocrat families of Feudalist society were not alone in being removed from their social status by the rise of the Bourgeoisie. The rise of the Capitalist Class ruined all class relations before it, and replaced those relations with that of the Capitalist v the Wage-Slave. The small shopkeepers and Upper Middle Class Elite of the time (those who enjoyed full privileges of citizenship, such as the ability to own land and/or property) became the modern Petty-Bourgeoisie.
The evolution of the Petty-Bourgeoisie took shape differently in various lands, some lands being more developed in modern Industry and Agriculture. Today, those differences are tougher to see. The expansion of the World Market has driven Capitalism into the farthest corners of the globe, and there are virtually no lands or people left on the Earth that have not been ensnared in the exploitation and slavery of the Bourgeoisie. We can see gradients in status among the Proletariat of those lands, and between the Proletariat of different lands, but in every case we still see the same class struggle. Likewise, in each case we also see a development of the Petty-Bourgeoisie.
The Petty-Bourgeoisie is unique in that it supplements the Ruling Class with new elements and new Capital, but it also supplements the Working Class with new elements as a result of competition between each other and against the Bourgeoisie, and as Modern Industry continues to develop and their position as an independent section of society becomes obsolete.
Today, we are seeing the results of this Late-Stage Capitalist Cycle, where massive multinational corporations have completely eradicated many small business owners. The Petty-Bourgeoisie often have the Capital to appropriate Surplus-Value and create Profit, but not on a scale that can compete with the Corporate Ruling Class. The Petty-Bourgeoisie exist in a precarious balance, like a tight-rope acrobat; always aiming to cross the gap, to leave the Working Class, but always one wrong move – one financial crisis, one medical emergency, one poor investment – away from stumbling into financial ruin and a sudden plunge to the lower echelons of the Proletariat.
Today, we hear lots of talk about the “Shrinking Middle Class”, where some of the Petty-Bourgeoisie have risen in status, but exponentially more have found themselves relegated to the Wage-Slavery of the Proletariat. This is the exact and inevitable result of the development of the Bourgeoisie and Modern Industry, and of the Proletariat. This is the only path that Capitalism, with it’s unquenchable thirst for wealth accumulation and market expansion, could take.
As the number of the Wage-Slave Class grows, we hear further laments about losing status as Petty-Bourgeoisie, and even the Middle Class is at times forced to move to action that would not only benefit their own status as intended, but that would ultimately benefit the Proletariat as a whole. This form of Socialism, which pits the Petty-Bourgeoisie against the Ruling Class in defense of the Proletariat as a whole, has taken a peculiar path in its development.
Where the Petty-Bourgeoisie once actively, if unintentionally, pressed the Ruling Class in favor of the Proletariat as a whole, the Ruling Class today has convinced the Petty-Bourgeoisie that their inability to rise in status is the fault of the poorest among us. The Capitalists, who appropriate surplus-value without contributing to that value, who accumulate wealth and hoard it away, who avoid social financial contribution, have convinced the Middle Class that the poor, who have nothing, no Property, no Land, no Capital, and therefore no Political or Social Power at all, are to be blamed for the ills in the Middle Class.
The Middle Class laments the exact forces that are responsible for the enslavement of the Proletariat as a whole, yet blames the Proletariat as a whole for the very conditions that created it, like blaming the puddle in the road for the rain rather than blaming the cloud. The Petty-Bourgeoisie lament automation and division of labor, monopolies of Capital and Land, overproduction and the crises that it causes, the inevitable ruin of both the Petty-Bourgeoisie and the Wage-Slave, the hardship of Working Class survival, the lordship of the Capitalist Class over the State, wealth inequality, war profiteering, and the destruction of personal, social, and family relations.
But Petty-Bourgeoisie Socialism – which tries in vain to reconcile Socialism with Capitalism – aims to continue with the current Methods of Production and Modern Industry. It aims to maintain the current status quo as the most ideal for all, though it is hardly ideal for any but the Ruling Class. It aims to revive the Petty-Bourgeoisie as an independent section of society. This false Socialism is both Conservative and Reactionary. Capitalism requires accumulation of Property and Capital, of wealth, and the development of Modern Industry and the expansion of the Market requires that the Petty-Bourgeoisie be compressed into the Proletariat – to become the Wage-Slave to the Ruling Class. When the facts of the historical development of the Bourgeoisie and of the Proletariat, and therefore also of the Petty-Bourgeoisie, remove the self-deception of the Middle Class, we see that this form of Socialism is in reality a continuation of the same path.
When the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich.
– Jean Jacques Rousseau
C. “True” Socialism
Note: This section was a critique of the development of a particular form of Socialism in Germany, from origin to the current state of things at that time. Obviously there have been many developments since then, two World Wars among them, that have changed the face of Class Struggle in all lands. While the original critique is still very important to understanding the historical development of the modern Bourgeoisie and Proletariat, it is certainly a critique of past conditions that do not exist today, or at the least have developed far beyond the conditions of that time. We include it here to highlight the similarities and differences in this form of Socialism to other Proletarian movements we see today.
Socialist literature emigrated from France, where the ideas that have developed into modern Socialism were first put into the printed word, into Germany during the time of the Class Struggle between the Feudal Aristocracy and the rising Bourgeoisie in Germany. But, having gone through a revolutionary period, the social conditions in France were much different than in Germany, where the Proletariat was still forming.
At that time, German intellectuals and philosophers eagerly grasped this literature, which had immediately lost all practical value when it was applied to the current social conditions in Germany. It was no longer an action or process to undertake, it was now a subject of study. Rather than the demands of a Proletarian uprising, these became romanticized as the demands of Practical Reason, of pragmatism, and the current condition in Germany was the law of Human Nature and Will.
The German literati – educated elites that were interested in this sort of romanticized historical literature – worked tirelessly to integrate these new ideas into their current conditions, to assimilate those ideas into their philosophy. This attempted reconciliation ignored the fact that the Capitalist Class would continue to exploit, to expand, to accumulate, and that the conditions of their time would not endure. In the end, this form of Socialism was as conservative as the rest.
Like various Holy Texts today are far removed from their original versions, the translation of the French literature into German gave it an entirely different effect. Philosophical pondering within these translations took these ideas out of the realm of action and into the realm of pure rhetoric. The Socialist and Communist literature that had come from France into Germany was stripped of its motivating effects.
These translations, which failed to demonstrate Class Struggle and instead supposed that the Natural Law of Humanity required these classes, then reached the hands of the German Proletarian. The German philosophers felt superior in that they had “overcome” the one-sidedness of the French arguments, that they represented a higher purpose – not the practical and tangible interests of the Proletariat, but the mystical Human, which has no Class divisions and therefore exists only in the realm of the philosophical. This was a lofty “feel-good” form of Socialism that aimed at maintaining the current status quo as simply the way things were supposed to be. Uplifting the Proletariat and the Petty-Bourgeoisie against the Ruling Class, but not overthrowing them completely, was in the best interests of everybody – the Class Divisions were reinforced.
In practical application, however, the German socialism that arose was of a much less pedantic nature. The rising Bourgeoisie against the Aristocracy found stronger conviction in their aims than the philosophers did. This German socialism was useful for many things; the Aristocracy saw it as an effective deterrent against the rising Bourgeoisie, and it served to represent a reactionary interest of the Petty-Bourgeois Class in Germany, upon which the current conditions of German society at the time were based.
The preservation of the Petty-Bourgeoisie was a preservation of the status quo. This Class was threatened from above, with the Industrial and Political power of the Capitalist Class, and the rise of a revolutionary Proletariat from below. German Socialism appeared to address both of these problems simultaneously.
This philosophical Socialism claimed German society to be the model that other nations should follow. It was used to justify every selfish villainy as a part of some greater Socialistic purpose, in contrary to the actual material conditions that was its result. It ultimately opposed Communism and a revolutionary Proletariat, and proclaimed itself to be contemptuous of all Class Struggle.
Today, we see a mirror of this sentiment in much of the Capitalist world, and especially in the United States. As the leading Capitalist superpower on the planet, the international crimes of the US government, carried out in defense of Capitalist Interests throughout the Earth, are justified to the domestic Proletariat by false notions of liberation, of democracy, of humanitarianism. The US form of Socialism in practical application uses the status of the most impoverished of the population – which are in general better conditions than the most impoverished in Africa or South America for example, as justification that Capitalist exploitation is the right path, and that wealth accumulated by the Capitalist Class somehow magically benefits all.
The overbearing sentiment in the US is one of “don’t upset the apple cart”. There is a fear of conditions getting worse for the US Proletarian – like the conditions in those other lands – and that fear overshadows the knowledge that conditions can greatly improve and the determination to make them so. It serves to appease the Proletariat just enough to continue enduring their slavery, but does nothing to address the excesses and avarice of the Bourgeoisie. It is a sentiment that wishes to reinvigorate the Middle Class, to return to a time when the Middle Class flourished, and therefore is reactionary. It is a sentiment that wishes to keep things as they are for fear of things getting worse, and is therefore conservative. Rather than assault the Bourgeoisie for the benefit of the Proletariat as a whole, it is a sentiment that still believes that everyone can “make it” if they just work hard enough.
This illusion of Meritocracy, giving the appearance that Bourgeois society offers equal opportunity to everyone and that a lack of individual success is as simple as “poor work ethic”, is held with holy reverence. Like so many false idols before it, this illusion crumbles easily under the scrutiny of an honest analysis of Class Struggle. Without expansion, exploitation, enslavement, and accumulation, Capitalism implodes. This requires oppression of the many in favor of the few. We often hear the praises of Capitalists as “job creators” – this is nothing but a more attractive way of saying that they find opportunities to exploit the Worker for their own profit, or for the profit of their shareholders. Job creation comes not from the Capitalist, who seeks to reduce the cost of their Labor Force at all times, which is the only way to increase profit. Job creation comes from the Consumer, without which the Capitalist would have no Market to sell their appropriated product.
This “True” German Socialism, and the virtually identical current US form of Socialism, took this aim, and above all else is nothing more than the representation of the interests of the Petty-Bourgeoisie, seeking to rise to Ruling Class status.
Bourgeois class domination is undoubtedly an historical necessity, but, so too, the rising of the working class against it. Capital is an historical necessity, but, so too, its grave digger, the socialist proletariat.
– Rosa Luxemburg
2. Conservative or Bourgeois Socialism
There is a portion of the Bourgeoisie that seeks to remedy many of the social grievances that the Proletariat holds against that Class. Among them you will find philosophers, economists, sociologists, philanthropists, charitable society members, and social reformers of all kinds. The form of Socialism advocated by this part of the Ruling Class has often been worked into actual implemented systems. However, this form of Socialism is intended to do nothing more than secure the existence of the Bourgeoisie.
The Socialistic Bourgeoisie sees the danger to their own Material Conditions that results from Class Struggle. They wish to continue to benefit from the current state of things, but without the revolutionary elements of a rising Proletariat. They wish for a Ruling Class without the Wage-Slave. The Bourgeois Socialist naturally sees a society in which they remain in the status of Ruling Class to be ideal for all, and their form of Socialism develops this comforting vision of the state of things into systems of charity or philanthropy, or of social or political reform. At the same time, this form of Socialism is meant to be carried out by the Proletarian, and in real application requires that the Proletariat remain exactly where they are in social status, and to continue allowing themselves to be exploited without feeling so exploited. The Bourgeois Socialist just wants the Proletarian to not feel angry and hateful towards the Bourgeoisie.
These placating systems serve to continue the existence of the Bourgeois in a second, less systematic way. It aims to take the momentum from any revolutionary movement by convincing the Proletariat that it is not any political reform or social realignment that will benefit them, but rather a change in the Material Conditions of the Wage-Slave. But simply changing Material Conditions does nothing to address the system that created those Conditions in the first place and does not understand the need to abolish the current Relations of Commerce and Production under the Capitalist regime. They do not understand revolutionary abolition of Class Antagonisms, but rather seek administrative reforms in the State against the Bourgeoisie, reforms that, in practice, rely on the continued existence of those Antagonisms. These reforms do nothing at all to affect the relation between Capital and Wage-Slavery, between the Bourgeois and the Proletarian.
The proper and complete expression of Bourgeois Socialism is nothing more than a figure of speech. It is Socialism only in that it attempts to convince the Proletarian that it is in the best interests of the Working Class that the Bourgeoisie exists; that they need the Bourgeoisie to carry out the functions of those systems that are in place, and would carry on just fine without any intervention of the Capitalist whatsoever in the process of production, sale, and profit distribution.
Ultimately, the claim of the Bourgeois Socialist is clearly laid out as so much utter nonsense – that the Bourgeoisie is the Bourgeoisie for the sake and the benefit of the Proletariat.
I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.
– Eugene V. Debs
3. Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism
It’s important to make a distinction between the literature that gives voice to the demands of the Proletariat, which is necessary and inevitable in any revolutionary Class Struggle, and the literature of Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism.
At the end of the Feudalist Age, as the Aristocracies were being overthrown by the rising Bourgeoisie, the Proletariat also attempted, in vain, to elevate their own social status. This was due to the undeveloped state of the Proletariat and of the relations of Commerce. The Material Conditions that would allow the emancipation of the Proletariat had not yet been produced, and could only be produced by the coming Age of the Capitalist. The literature that was born from these earliest movements was reactionary in nature, instilling a general avoidance of excess and a return to a more level yet less contemporary social structure.
Socialist and Communist systems sprang up in various locations during that time of undeveloped struggle between the Proletariat and the Bourgeoisie. The founders of those systems understood Class Antagonisms and the destructive elements that would dissolve the current social structure. But the Proletariat of that time, still being born from the rise of the Bourgeoisie, had little to offer those systems except as a demonstration of a Class with no ability to historically assess their own Conditions, with no independent Political power.
The development of Class Antagonisms is proportional to the development of Modern Industry, and as such, the economic situation as they found it did not provide the material conditions necessary for the emancipation of the Proletariat. So they set off in search of a new social science that would be able to create these conditions.
The necessary historical development of those conditions would be replaced by their created or forced development. In this form of Socialism, the founders carried on under the assumption that the organization and development of the Proletariat could be created or forced rather than allowed to develop gradually with the expansion of the World Market and of Capitalist exploitation. The historical development of the Proletariat and of Modern Industry, which had not yet come to pass, would ultimately reconcile itself with the aims in their propaganda and literature, and would carry out the plans of their economic and social Promised Land. In short, to the founders of these Socialist and Communist systems, an acceleration of the means would justify the ends.
The undeveloped state of the Proletariat at that time gave some Socialists a romantic notion that they were above any Class Antagonisms. They seek to improve the conditions of every member of society, including those which were most favored by the current social structure. This Utopian conception required an appeal to society at large with no distinction of Class separation, but where the Ruling Class was still favored. The prevailing though was that any person who would fully understand their system would find it to be the best possible system in the best possible state of society.
They reject all political and revolutionary actions, preferring to lead by example of their virtue and to reach their goals through peaceful means. This wholly unrealistic Utopian ideal follows the assumption that the Bourgeoisie would also see that this system, in which the Bourgeoisie is no longer supreme and does not exist, is also ideal for the Bourgeoisie and that they can be convinced to willingly and peacefully relinquish that supremacy. They will do no such thing.
The ideas of these systems of Socialism and Communism, and the literature that was spawned from them, did have some Critical elements, making it useful for the enlightenment of the Working Class. These publications challenged every aspect of society at the time. They advocated for abolition of the separation and distinction between Urban and Rural populations, and the supremacy of one over another. They advocated for abolition of Wage-Slavery, of Industrial Expansion for the benefit of one over many. They proclaimed social harmony within their territory, and advocated the conversion of the function of the existing State apparatus from social governance to a function of directing production. However, because all of these proposals were introduced at a time when these Class Antagonisms were just forming, and ignoring the current undeveloped state of the Proletariat were, therefore, purely Utopian.
The significance of the Critical-Utopian Socialist and Communist position has decreased in proportion to the actual reality of the development of historical conditions. As Class Struggle developed into the definite shape and character we see today, the romantic notion of separating themselves from Class Struggle, and their implausible attacks on that Struggle, have lost all practical value and any theoretical justification. Despite the fact that the founders of these systems were, in their own right, revolutionary, their disciples today have been converted from revolutionary to conservative sects, clinging to the original views of those founders, without the development of those ideas according to the historical development of the Proletariat.
Their endeavors aim only to deprive the Class Struggle of its vitality, and to reconcile Class Antagonisms rather than abolish them. They still dream of founding Socialist Utopian experiments whose ideals would spread – peacefully by the virtuous leadership of their example to the rest of the world. And to realize their fantastic ideals, these castles in the sky, the must appeal to the morality of the Bourgeoisie, and to their deep pockets. Little by little, they become just as the Conservative and Reactionary Socialists previously discussed, differing only by the superstitious belief in the magic of their social science.
Ultimately, they oppose all political action on the part of the Proletariat – such action goes against the scripture of their new Social Gospel.
The state is not abolished, it withers away.
The proletariat uses the State not in the interests of freedom but in order to hold down its adversaries, and as soon as it becomes possible to speak of freedom the State as such ceases to exist.
– Friedrich Engels