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The Ideas and thoughts of Karl Marx by: John Rising The latter part of the nineteenth century was teeming with evolving social and economic ideas. Karl Marx (1818 - 1893) was a proponent of many of the radical ideas circulating at the time about class structure. The views of the social structure of society came about through the development of ideals taken from past revolutions and the ongoing clash of individuals and organized assemblies (Mckay, 1987: 234). As the Industrial Revolution moved forward, it paved the way for growing commerce, but also led to a the widening gap between the classes.
The persecution of one class by another has historically allowed the advancement of mankind to continue. These clashes, whether ending with positive or negative results, allow Man to evolve as a species, defining himself within the social structure of nature (Haberman, 1987: 69). Mans competitive spirit allows for this evolution through the production of something which is different, not necessarily productive, but differing from the present norm and untried through previous generations. During the time of the Industrial Revolution, mankind was moving forward very rapidly, but at the price of the working-class. Wages were given sparsely, and when capital accumulation improved, the money paid for labor did not reflect this prosperity.
This, therefore, accelerated the downfall of the proletariat and progressed towards a justifiable revolt against the oppressive bourgeoisie or middle class (Marx, 1848: 1 - 56). The conclusion of this revolt was envisioned to be a classless society, one which would seem to eliminate the existing economic disparities. Again Marx was at the forefront of this philosophy. Marx believed that the overthrow of capitalism would create a socialist society eventually flourishing into communism. He was the philosophical analyses who created communism and saw it as an achievable goal. This led him to being banished from both his native land of Germany and then France.
Eventually he settled in England. (Compton's Encyclopedia, Karl Marx: 121) Through dialectical processing, Marx was able to synthesize a theory of a classless society. This society would be achievable by uniting the proletarians and overthrowing of the governing bourgeoisie. For the working-class man does not benefit from the labor for which he provides. His labor is external to himself and is not actually belonging to his essential being.
Therefore in work, the proletarian denies himself and does not validate his worthiness as an individual. (Haberman, 1987: 183) The worker has no existence except to work, which furthers the employer, but degrades the laborer and eventually results in a grasping individual. Marx did not accept Society's class discrimination. Marx hoped that with the unification of the working-class, they could be able to better themselves and their lives, and in doing so, better society on the whole. This of course, was a purely theoretical idea, but one that Marx felt was attainable. The abolition of private property would be achieved by ridding the bourgeoisie's ownership of lands, and allowing the land to become public. This would enable the removal of selfish individualism which splits society into segregated portions, and allow the rich and poor to become more economically equal in status (Ebenstein, 1970: 26).
However, in my opinion, Marx's views would probably result in a society with class disparities similar to the ones he was at odds with, due to mans basic inclination to dominate. In a capitalist society, the expansion of markets and growth of production allows for the widening gap between the classes and their economic structures. Marx states that the faster industry progresses, the weaker the proletarian becomes (Marx, 1848: 16). The proletarian would feel worthless, and with nothing to lose, revolt against their employers. This revolt would take place as a result of the demands of the laborers not being met, and wages not increasing with the increase of profit. It is understandable why Marx concluded that the current system was self destructive and needed to be changed.
However, in his analysis of the situation, Marx did not take into account the movement for workers rights within the current capitalist society, thus eliminating the need for social changes as outlined by Marx. If the working class did decide to proceed to overthrow the bourgeois, then yet another problem would arise. This problem would be in the control of the revolting populace. The communist goal is to achieve a classless society with the eventual abolition of the state itself, in order to unite all working-class men. This would be very difficult without the organization of a governing assembly which would then defeat the revolutions own purpose. In order to achieve an ultimate goal, there must be some type of plan implemented in order to successfully do this.
A spontaneous clash with an opposing minority would just reveal to that class what it is that they have done wrong, and allow them to correct their errors in order to restore the profitable production which they have to this point maintained. To properly overthrow the ruling class, an appointed assembly, within the revolting assembly, would need to direct and acquire the ideas and interests of all its followers (Ebenstein, 1970: 67). This would create the establishment of the proletarians own class society within their own people. This organization of the proletarians could enable them to attain the goals which they set out to grasp. Upon reaching these goals it would be reasonable to question whether the classes now set up within would actually dissolve and allow for equality amongst all men.
Also, the defeated bourgeoisie who were hated and envied, could not themselves be oppressed by the proletarians in order for the goals of the revolution to be met. These two groups would have to become equals and allowed to take from society as equals. Hypothetically, this would leave the door open for an eventual counter revolution in order to restore society to the previous means of operation. As well, because of his nature, man cannot simply defeat its enemy and then expect to live along side of him.
To defeat your enemy is to become your enemy, and in this case that would result in an oppressor and an oppressed, once again leaving a society polarized into economic extremes (Haberman, 1987: 145). The idea of creating an equal society is a provocative promise in order to rally people together and create a common goal, but keeping this goal is very unrealistic. Now the ruling assembly within the working-class has gained power, and like the bourgeois, they can see that this power is easily harnessed. By altering the goals of the revolution in a way that still brings about change from the previous society, this allows the small majority of the proletariat assembly to bring prosperity to their own lives (Haberman, 1987: 149). Falling under the same spell as the bourgeoisie did themselves, the new rulers can satisfy their own desires while governing a body of people who are much more subdued.
This passivity comes from the feeling of their supposed victory over the bourgeoisie which has, in reality, really just created a much more efficient work force and because of their own blindness, they cannot see that while their rulers may have changed, their oppression remains the same. The Communist Manifesto ends proclaiming: Workingmen of all countries, unite! (Marx, 1848: 54) This is to further emphasize Marx's belief that the proletarians have only each other and do not belong to a country or state. What exists as a state is only known and developed within a capitalist society by the bourgeoisie. The state is created in order to identify with trade and production techniques, and helps in creating various bounded markets. The technique which the proletarian class would use to overthrow the bourgeois would be to join all workers in a mutual interest of intent (Haberman, 1987: 129). In doing so, Marx believes the state or nation will collapse, allowing the unification of all laborers, regardless of heritage and state of origin.
Therefore clashes between nations would cease, and only one world of united people who want to live and work equally would exist. Another imperfection in Marx's theories is revealed. In the Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels applied the term communism to a final stage of socialism in which all class differences would disappear (Payne, 1968: 421). They declared that the course of history was discovered by the clash of opposing forces. These forces were rooted in the economic system and the ownership of property (Payne, 1968: 421). The struggle between the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat would end when the socialists started a revolution and attained a full communistic government (Payne 423).
If socialism, communism being the ultimate goal, was to flourish, it would not be ubiquitous (Payne, 1968: 425). Hence, some states would progress faster than others, while some would not be interested in a socialist society at all. In theory, this develops a unified nation which through joint interest becomes stronger as it strives toward its target. Through the collaboration of many, a devotion develops in the form of nationalistic views. This nationalism which strengthens the undertaking, will directly and indirectly threaten other nations or states which have not progressed at the same pace. This will obviously create tension between nations, especially those geographically bordering each other, and could lead to conflict or persecution of one state by another (Haberman 1987: 134).
This would then take the capitalist theory of the oppressed and the oppressor to a different level, again steering away from the communist goals which were to be accomplished. An example of communism's flaws can be seen in the revolution led by V. I. Lenin in Russia (Mckay, 1987: 198). Using politically left winged tactics, he sought to achieve communism through the heading of the Bolsheviks. Following his death, Stalin saw the opportunity to create an industrial state which could grow to engulf the larger capitalist states around.
Stalin's form of governing resulted in the political system known as totalitarianism, which created an ultimate power (McKay, 1987: 123). This corrupted the utopian dream of communism and again resulted with a specific figure and class living off the wealth produced by the rest of the state. Throughout history man has evolved, becoming a more and more complex thinker. This process of evolution is in order to further himself and socially adapt to the changing times in which he lives. Evolution is inevitable and will never cease, therefore man will continue learning, trying to gain more knowledge and accomplish what hasnt been done (Ebenstein, 1970: 176).
Communism does not allow for mans own gratification, that is why it is an impractical way of thought. To strive towards a society where everyone is equally represented does seem pleasant, but it becomes an inaccurate way of reasoning. For once the ideal communist society is reached, what would be the point of working? Labor and work are meant to advance society as a whole, though not all at the same rate, varying on the type of work and strength at which one strives. Therefore once communism has been reached, essentially the evolution of man ceases. This would be an impossibility.
Since man is born into an imperfect world, he too is imperfect, changing to meet his own needs within the needs of the environment in which he lives. Since the only consistency in the universe is change, then man cannot expect to become the controlling factor of change and govern its principles. In living in a communist society, man believes that all are equal, contributing to the advancement of the race as a whole. But the error here is that not all believe that all are equal. Many feel that their own personal goals are correct, and they set out to reach them. Consequently, a society of classes begins to develop, where one voice gains followers while another speaking out against the first creates his own as well.
What then results from these cries is a clash between various groups, leading to the establishment of a class system. Communism is an idealists utopian dream. It is only achievable through the unification and agreement of all who populate a state. Only when an entire populace lose their own individuality will a communist society then take form. Man continuously strives to prove his own self worth, to himself and not humanity. Humanity on a whole will continue to progress regardless of personal achievements.
Great men will rise while others fall. It is therefore seen that a communist society due to the facts regarding social evolution, cannot exist. For a communist society moves ahead together, yet remains idle when looking at an individual. This is illogical, for we are just that, individuals.
We as humans are imperfect individuals, and selfishly strive towards justifying our personal goals, collaborating with others only when knowing it will strengthen our own grip. 5 ed Communism. Academic American Encyclopedia. 1989. Marx, Karl. Compton's Encyclopedia. 1986. Socialism. Academic American Encyclopedia. 1989.
Ebenstein, William. Todays isms. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Incorporated, 1970. Haberman, Arthur.
The Modern Age: Ideas in Western Civilization. Toronto: Gage Educational Publishing Company, 1987. Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto (1848). Illinois: AHM Publishing Corporation, 1955. McKay, John P.
and others. A History of Western Society. Volume II, 3 rd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987. Payne, Robert. Marx.
Simon and Schuster; New York: 1968.
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