The Communist Manifesto Section I – Bourgeois and Proletarians


This post is the first of a series of my thoughts on The Communist Manifesto.  I plan on discussing each section of The Manifesto, of which there are four.

A SPECTER IS HAUNTING Europe – the specter of communism,

is how Karl Marx opens the manifesto of the Communist Party.  One of the most important arguments of this section is the history of class struggles, in particular, between the Bourgeois and the Proletariat.

According to Friedrich Engels:

The bourgeoisie is referred to as the owners of the means of social production and employers of wage labor.  The proletariat, on the other hand, are the wage-laborers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labor power in order to live.

Marx goes on to argue that the bourgeoisie, even though they have successively expanded the ability to be successful, have placed themselves at risk by widening the gap between themselves and the proletariat.  They support this argument with historical examples, such as feudal economic conditions.

What I find fascinating about this historical account is the fact that Marx and Engels only discuss economic history and factors as being the driving factors affecting the current economic system.  They do not discuss social, cultural, political, nor individual conditions as a factor into the argument.  Some would argue, including myself, that these factors indeed play a significant role in any economic system, past, present, or future.

However, what I do find telling is the argument that:

Society as a whole is splitting up more and more into two great classes facing each other:  Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.

What’s telling about this statement, to me, is that it cannot be solely tied to these two particular classes for the communist system to work.  All class warfare would need to cease for this system to function properly.  A nice theory on paper, but how likely is this to occur in practice?

This historical argument of class warfare reminds me a bit about what’s transpiring in this country regarding auto bailouts, bank bailouts, and Wall Street/financial reform.  In the case of auto bailouts, the argument was that we needed to save jobs, the poor union labor force would be unemployed, they were, in a sense, exploited.  So what happened?  The UAW now has a large controlling interest in GM.  The “exploited” worker now has an interest in the means of production.

Regarding bank bailouts, the government, through these bailouts, complained about banks “exploiting” consumers on home mortgages that went into default.  The government blamed these bankers for the housing crisis, and made it a case of fat cats exploiting poor innocent people.  Not once were the “exploited” held responsible.  The underlying theme here was the rich got richer and the rest got left holding the bag.

It’s the same issue with financial reform.  The President and Congress is blaming the big Wall Street bankers and using the “exploited” working class as their argument.  Wall Street needs to be punished because it’s solely the “bourgeois'” fault, ordinary people are excused for their role.

The first section of The Communist Manifesto, in my opinion, especially concerning the area of class struggle, clearly still applies today, here in America, but most likely around the world as well.  Marx and Engels clearly made very compelling arguments here that have stood the test of time.

Up next, my thoughts on Section II, Proletarians and Communists.

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About Jeremy

Husband, book lover, Civil War Buff. If I could read for a living I would, but unfortunately, it doesn't pay the bills!

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  1. Tweets that mention The Communist Manifesto Section I – Bourgeois and Proletarians « Beltwayliterature -- Topsy.com - May 7, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeremy Hodgkin. Jeremy Hodgkin said: Reading The Communist Manifesto, looking at applicability in today's current political climate. http://wp.me/pKWsw-3P […]

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