Jones- The Communist Manifesto

In “The Communist Manifesto”, Marx conceives that what makes history is the struggle of classes; one is always the oppressor and one is the oppressed. One of the classes of society he mentions is the “proletariat”. They are a class of diversity, and consist of many groups of people. He describes them as “the lower strata of the middle class – the small tradespeople, shopkeepers, and retired tradesmen generally, the handicraftsmen and peasants – all these sink gradually into the proletariat” (The Communist Manifesto 18). It is a class with members from all groups of the population. With this, he contends that they are a class because not only are they all slaves to the machines, but above all, slaves to the Bourgeoisie. Their capital is not enough for the scale on which the Modern industry is on. They work so long as their labor increases capital and depend on this to live. They are an asset to the industry, and their work has no individual character, their skill is useless hence they are “instruments of labor”. To Marx, what makes them a class is their strength and sharing of the same problem. What makes them so important is that they are a self-conscious independent movement which acts in the interests and good of the majority. 

The material interests of the proletariat are to keep up the rate of wages. They own no property and have no wealth or means of production in the society. They survive off of the selling of their labor. Their interests include means of control over their work lives, and the wealth they produce. Marx explains they took out their anger physically on the materials of production as well; “They smash to pieces machinery, they set factories ablaze, they seek to restore by force the vanished status of the workman of the Middle Ages” (The Communist Manifesto 18). They strive for better wages to restore this status, and their interests ultimately bring the members of the Proletariat into a unified class who share the same desires. 

Marx discusses the political interests of the Proletariat to be expanding their union and ultimately, overthrowing the Bourgeoisie. In light of increasing competition in the Bourgeoisie and the improvement of machinery, there is a greater divide in the social classes and the Proletarians gain their strength; they begin to form combinations (Trade Unions) against the Bourgeoisie. They continue to exert their strength and become conscious of the power that they hold. Marx states that they share similar aims of communists, of “the formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the Bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat” (The Communist Manifesto 22).  The interest in this stems from their oppression as a class and their shared need to remove power from the capitalist class. He wants to make it clear that they do not strive to become a higher social class, but rather dismember and eliminate social classes once and for all. Along with overthrowing the bourgeoisie , their political aim is to destroy the social relations of production  concealed in the class system, and establish a new society without the cruelty that comes from classes. 

The political interests of the proletariat advance its material interests because class members act in ways to advance their material interests that better the class as a whole. As an example of this, he mentions that they are benefited by the “improved means of communication that are created by modern industry, and that place the workers of different localities in contact with one another. It was just this contact that was needed to centralize the numerous local struggles, all of the same character, into one national struggle between classes” (The Communist Manifesto 19) For example, the railroad was a useful thing for them, and the connection and communication that it can provide has furthered their interest in it, in now they can help their goal of the ever expanding union of the workers. The similar political motives create loyalty within the members of the class, and they make decisions that better serve the objectives of the class as a whole. The connection between political and material interests is that the people of the classes form political beliefs and opinions about their material interests, which causes them to act intelligently to further advance and take action on those interests. There are specifically formed feelings and views on different forms of social conditions, and these views further the involvement in a classe’s universal material interests. 

The proletariats are truly a revolutionary class, though coming with this are times where they fail in their objectives, an example being the June Insurrection. The bourgeois succeeded with many on its side, but “on the side of the Paris proletariat stood none but itself…with this defeat the proletariat passes into the background of the revolutionary stage” (The 18th Brumaire, 23). Though they have their weaknesses, they have the opportunity to rise again bigger than ever and exert their strength once more, which is what it means to be  proletariat in Marx’s eyes. 

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