CommunismCommunism-The Ideal Society? Society is flawed. There are critical imbalances in it that are causing much of humanity to suffer. I suppose that this would be the driving force behind humanity’s relentless search to plan and create a perfect society. An essential part of having an unflawed society would be having a perfect government.
Throughout history, we have always strived to find different types of governments that would work more efficiently and more fairly for the greater good of masses. Needless to say, communism is not often revered as an “ideal” form of government. There is almost a unanimous sense of hatred that is emitted from all non-communist countries when the topic of communism is brought up. Many countries and societies have enacted communism and some still uphold it to this day. This very controversial issue of communism strikes a major chord in people who have lived under it. Though I am no advocate of communism, I’d like to bring about the question of whether there maybe the possibility that there are benefits to this system of government.
In, The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx is reacting to the quest for an ideal society by describing his vision of a perfectly balanced society, a communist society. Simply put, a communist society is one where all property is held in common. No one person has more than the other, but rather everyone shares in the fruits of their labors. Marx is writing of this society because, he believes it to be the best form of society possible. He believes that communism creates the correct balance between the needs of the individual, and the needs of society.
He also believes that sometimes violence is necessary to reach the state of communism. This paper will reflect upon these two topics: the relationship of the individual and society, and the issue of violence, as each is portrayed in the manifesto. Before embarking upon these topics, it is necessary to establish a baseline from which to view these ideas. It is important to realize that in everything, humans view things from their own cultural perspective, thereby possibly distorting or misinterpreting work or idea. Marx mentions that, Your very ideas are but the outgrowth of the conditions of your bourgeois production and bourgeois property, just as your jurisprudence is but the will of your class made into a law for all, a will, whose essential character and direction are determined by the economical conditions of existence of your class (Marx 37). With this in mind, some perspective on the society of that time is vital.
During Marx’s time the industrial revolution was taking place. There was a massive movement away from small farms, businesses operated out of homes, and small shops on the corner. Instead, machines were mass-producing products in giant factories, with underpaid workers. No longer did people need to have individual skills. It was only necessary that they could keep the machines going, and do small, repetitive work.
The lower working class could no longer search for a tolerable existence in their own pursuits. They were lowered to working inhumane hours in these factories. This widened the rift between the upper and lower class-called bourgeois and proletariat, respectively-until they were essentially two different worlds. The bourgeois, a tiny portion of the population, has the majority of the wealth.
Meanwhile the proletariat, the huge majority, has nothing. It is with this background that Marx begins. First, the topic of the individual and society will be discussed. This topic in itself can be broken down even further. First, the flaws with the current system in respect to the bourgeois and proletariat will be shown, thereby revealing the problems in the relationship between individual and society.
Secondly, the way that communism addresses these issues, and the rights of the individual, as seen through the manifesto. Quite clearly, Marx is concerned with the organization of society. He sees that the majority of society, that is, the proletariat, exist in sub-human conditions. Marx also sees that the bourgeoisie has a disproportionate abundance of property and power, and that because of what they are, they abuse it. He writes of how the current situation with the bourgeoisie and proletariat developed.
The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles (Marx 41). There have always been struggles between two classes, an upper and lower class. However, Marx speaks of the current order saying, It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones. Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinctive feature: it has simplified the class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat (Marx 42).
The very nature of the bourgeoisie causes it to grow in size and power while the proletariat shrinks. Therefore the rift between the two is increased. Marx goes on to describe how this situation came about, with the industrial revolution and other factors. Modern industry has established the world-market, for which the discovery of America paved the way. This market has given an immense development to commerce, navigation, and communication by land.
This development has, in its turn, reacted on the extension of industry; and in proportion as industry, commerce, navigation, railways extended, in the same proportion the bourgeoisie developed, increased its capital, and pushed into the background every class handed down from the Middle Ages. We see, therefore, how the modern bourgeoisie is itself the product of a long course of development, of a series of revolutions in the modes of production and of exchange (Heilbroner 56). With these thoughts in mind, a more defined view of the individual classes can be attained. First, the proletariat: in several places Marx speaks of how the proletariat is oppressed.
He speaks of past societies and the current society when he says, Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed… (Marx 41). Bourgeoisie and proletariat could quite comfortably be added to this list of oppressor and oppressed. In every way the proletariat is oppressed, with no hope of improving the lot they have been given, or of raising themselves up. Rather, they are forced to march on hopelessly, knowing that they will not be released from their labors till death.
Marx also writes of the relationship between the proletariat and the machines, which is a result of the split between the bourgeoisie and proletariat. He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simply, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him…Not only are they slaves of the bourgeois class, and of the bourgeois State; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the overlooker, and, above all, by the individual bourgeois manufacturer himself (Marx 55). Marx draws a picture of how the majority of the population is in an oppressed situation of slavery. The lot of the proletariat is not to be envied.
From here, Marx moves on to describe the oppressor, the bourgeois. “The bourgeois, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his ‘natural superiors,’ and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment. ‘ It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation.
It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom-free trade (Heilbroner 57). Here Marx is speaking of how the bourgeoisie controlled society takes every aspect of society and puts them in terms of an exchange value. They reduce all that is noble and admirable about humanity to monetary matters, all in the name of capitalism. Again, All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind (Marx 49). The bourgeois creates a system in which anything and everything is measured by its strict cash worth. Now that the roles of the bourgeoisie and proletariat have been established, it is possible to reconsider the communist ideal.
Clearly, Marx believes that it is wrong for the majority of society, the proletariat, to suffer so. He believes that individuals should be equal, not divided into two distinct worlds. Marx describes the current individual in society saying that, In bourgeois society, capital is independent and has individuality, while the living person is dependent and has no individuality (Marx 59). He also makes the distinguishing point that it is important for the reader to realize that objections they have more than likely rise up from their own bourgeoisie background. You must, therefore, confess that by ‘individual’ you mean no other person than the bourgeois, than the middle-class owner of property.
This person must, indeed be swept out of the way, and made impossible (Marx 60). Marx (and communism) wants to correct society so that all individuals benefit without a particular ruling and enslaved class. Marx speaks for communism saying, All that we want to do away with, is the miserable character of this appropriation, under which the laborer lives merely to increase capital, and is allowed to live only in so far as the interest of the ruling class requires it (Marx 70). Marx declares if communism is implemented that, In proportion as the exploitation of one individual by another is put an end to, the exploitation of one nation by another will also be put an end to (Marx 63).
With all of this established clearly, Marx thinks it is wrong that a small group of people should profit so much to the detriment of so many. Any society that encourages this, or allows this to develop is wrong, and should be changed. He believes that society is incorrect and corrupt to allow so many people to suffer. As a result he writes this manifesto that lays out the problems, and explains why he believes that communism will correct the balance of society and create an existence where every person is valued, and no one can raise themselves up by oppressing another. This brings up the topic of violence.
As declared before, the bourgeois will not be readily willing to forfeit their position, so stronger measures will be necessary to create the change that is necessary. Marx has two things to say on this subject. First, violence in and of itself is not a good thing. Second, it may at times be necessary to achieve a greater good. First, let’s establish Marx’s position that violence in general should be avoided.
Marx speaks of constant upheaval and violence in several places. “…oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary re-constitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes (Marx 45). Constant opposition, or violence results in the destruction of both forces, according to Marx. Constant upheaval and violence is not a good thing, it is detrimental to both the individual and society. However, in order to institute communism, (which is the greatest good according to Marx) a revolution is necessary.
Revolution does not necessarily mean violence. However, in this case violence will be difficult to avoid, and Marx states that violence may be necessary. Marx wrote several passages regarding this. What is being described here is clearly nothing less than a revolution, a complete reversal in thought and society. Marx describes the first step in this revolution.
We have seen above, that the first step in the revolution by the working class, is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy (Marx 64). So it is clear that the first step is to raise the proletariat to the ruling class, but how is this done? Marx writes that …we traced the more or less veiled civil war, raging within existing society, up to the point where that war breaks out into open revolution, and where the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat (Marx 56). He speaks directly of violence when he says that, If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organize itself as a class, if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old condition of production… (Marx 75). If the proletariat is forced to violence, then violence should be taken, because it is for the greater good. Marx puts it all together in one final statement.
In short, the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things. (Marx 86). Putting things back into perspective again, it is vital to realize that this violence should be short lived, and only continue until the proletariat is in position to make some changes to society. Marx uses terms like ‘despotic inroads,’ ‘necessitate,’ and ‘unavoidable’ to describe the necessary violence.
Violent acts are terrible things in and of themselves, but must be used at times for a greater good. However, in his ideal society, once communism has been reached there will be no more violence. History has shown and proven over and over again that communism is far from any concept of an “ideal” society. The demonstrations in Tienamen square and the Vietnam war are obvious examples that people who live in communism are not happy. Marx was not alive to witness either one of these occurrences (Internet source). After all this, however, it is clear that Marx makes some rather remarkable assumptions regarding human nature.
First, he believes that it is inevitable that the proletariat will realize that things are not as they should be, and that something needs to be done about it. Secondly, he believes that people will know the correct amount of violence necessary to achieve their goals, and will not exceed that. Finally, he assumes that once the state of communism is reached, that there will be no dissenters that will try to take advantage of the situation and raise themselves up. The rule of Stalin and Lenin are good examples of people taking an opportunity to exploit and oppress.
The idea of communism would appear to be just that, an idea, an ideal. It may not necessarily be bad to try to approach it, but because human nature is necessarily flawed in all likelihood communism will never be reached in full. However, even with all of this, the idea of communism has some good to it. Clearly it caused some reform in the area of capitalism, toning it down from what it was during the time of Marx. It has helped by acting as a mirror in which it is possible to see where society is making mistakes, and where a new balance must be struck between the needs of the individual, and the needs of society.
Even an idea such as communism which may not be fully applicable can still have, and has had, a profound effect on future society and humankind.Politics Essays