Scalmanini – The Communist Manifesto

Class struggle is a recurring theme throughout history, defined by power and money. According to Karl Marx, a German philosopher well known for his works The Communist Manifesto and The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, there are four major classes in France. These classes include the bourgeoisie, the petty bourgeoisie, the proletariat, and the peasants. The bourgeoisie includes those who own means of production and therefore have economic power, the petty bourgeoisie includes small business owners and landlords, the proletariat refers to the industrial working class, and the peasants refer to those who work the land. Between these classes lie class struggles, as every class has either power over another class or is ultimately powerless. Karl Marx is especially interested in these class struggles as he states “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” (The Communist Manifesto, 14). Marx believed that history is defined by class struggles and the power imbalance that stems from it. 

The bourgeoisie class is defined by those who own the means of production, and therefore had economic power during Industrialization. They controlled the wages, giving them direct power over the proletariat, and therefore they controlled the institutions. However, Marx believed that it was inevitable that the bourgeoisie would be overthrown by the proletariat, as the bourgeoisie was past the point of necessity to the evolution of society. He explained this belief when he stated, “And here it becomes evident, that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society, and to impose its conditions of existence upon society as an over-riding law” (The Communist Manifesto, 20).  However, although Marx obviously disliked the bourgeoisie and blamed them for the majority of the struggles of the proletariat, he did credit them for a lot of the progress made towards modernization. Specifically, he credited them with industrialization and urbanization as well as ridding society of the feudal system and mercantilism. 

Marx believed that both the main goal and the main motivator of the bourgeoisie was power, both politically and economically. Marx believed in the concept of economic determinism, or the idea that everything in one’s life is entirely driven by economic circumstances and nothing else. Consciousness within families, individuals, classes, and societies as a whole was dominated by modes of production. He stated that “The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation” (The Communist Manifesto, 16). According to Marx, the bourgeoisie was especially driven by economic power and enforced that belief onto the rest of society. The bourgeoisie directly increased the societal importance  of money but kept it all to themselves, thus establishing and maintaining economic power over the other classes. 

This theme of the bourgeoisie wanting total power also translated to the political realm. Marx explained this belief when he wrote, “The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere” (The Communist Manifesto, 16). He explained that the bourgeoisie would never be satisfied, and would not stop until they had control over the entire globe. In this process, they would run over anything and anything in their way, all for personal benefit. The bourgeoisie wanted both complete economic control and political power and would not stop until they obtained it. 

In his work The 18th Brumaire, Karl Marx explained the political motives of the French Bourgeoisie, which came down to economic interests. The bourgeoisie supported any person or group that would result in the most profit, forming ineffective alliances as long as it led to immediate monetary gain. Marx described the temporary alliance of the Legitimists and the Orleanists when he wrote “Here, in the bourgeois republic which bore neither the name Bourbon nor the name Orleans, but the name Capital, they had found the form of state in which they could rule conjointly” (The 18th Brumaire, 36). The bourgeoisie supported Napoleon simply because it would allow them to keep and make the most money, however, this ultimately led to their downfall in 1848. 

The bourgeoisie had pluses and minuses, although at the stake of the proletariat, or the working class.  At one point in time, according to Marx, the bourgeoisie was necessary to society as they facilitated urbanization and industrialization. However, past this point, the existence of the bourgeoisie was no longer imperative to progress, and Marx believed that it was inevitable that they be overthrown by the proletariat. The bourgeoisie was strictly motivated by money, both hoarding wages and finding new ways to make more profit. This ideology was passed down to the classes that the bourgeoisie had power over, creating a society in which money meant power. 




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