Marx and the Rise of the Proletariat

 The Rise of the Proletariat Karl Marx changed the world with his Communist Manifesto. He observed the gap between the rich and the poor and wanted the world to know that capitalism does not benefit everybody, and that it would not be permanent. Marx believed the proletariat will triumph over the bourgeoisie because the self-interest of the bourgeoisie exploits and alienates the proletariat to the point where they become class conscious and politicized, and they would revolutionize society.

This revolution would lead to a very different stage in history where private property would not exist, which would lead to social classes not existing, ending the dialectical flow of history. Marx was influenced by the great Enlightenment thinker Immanuel Kant. Both of the men were Germans who lived in modern day Russia. Kant’s view on human nature was that people act in self-interest. He came to the idea of the hypothetical imperative, which means that people will do whatever is necessary for their self-interest.

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He believed that people have duties, though, and that people should work for the common good, which is called the categorical imperative. The categorical imperative was just barely being utilized with the Factory Acts passed by the UK Parliament during Marx’s time. He lived in a time of globalization and when capitalism was booming. He witnessed firsthand what self-interest and capitalism can do with very few to no regulations. Nobody cared about doing their duty, because everything became about money.

The bourgeoisie, Marx wrote, “has resolved personal worth into exchange value,” and even went as far to say that it “ has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation,” (P 66). This relentless self-interest led to a heavy amount of exploitation. The proletariat was defined by Marx as, “a class of laborers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labor increases capital. These laborers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity,” (P 72). They were very disposable and worked in horrible conditions as children into adulthood.

They were paid barely enough to eat, and nothing else, because in economics the producer always wants to cut production costs. These people worked an incredible amount of time for little money just so they could survive. The proletarians were being alienated. Marx wrote, “The work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and consequently all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine,” (P 72). He is saying that they do not have any enthusiasm for work, which means they won’t be happy. He is also saying that the workers become a part of the machinery.

Their labor is a commodity, and they just become another gear of the machinery. As industry grew over time, so did the proletariat. Marx wrote, “With the development of industry, the proletariat not only increases in number; it becomes concentrated in greater masses, its strength grows,” (P 75). Because there are only two classes, the “proletariat is recruited from all classes of the population,” (P 74), meaning that some of the proletariat is educated. With capitalism come recessions and depressions that lead to business failures. As these businesses fail, more of the bourgeoisie becomes the proletariat.

This class struggle becomes “one national struggle between classes. But every class struggle is a political struggle,” (P 76). Eventually, the proletariat would become politicized. The government, according to Marx, “is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie,” (P 66); however, as the proletariat gains more people and strength, it gains more political power as a class. An example of the proletariat gaining political power is the Ten-Hours Bill in England (P 76). In fact, Marx says that the bourgeoisie will “drag it [the proletariat] into the political arena,” (P 76).

The bourgeoisie is in a constant conflict. It conflicts with the aristocracy, with “itself, whose interests have become antagonistic to the progress of industry; at all time with the bourgeoisie of foreign countries,” (P 76). In all of these conflicts, the bourgeoisie asks the proletariat for help, which “furnishes the proletariat with weapons for fighting the bourgeoisie,” (P 77). The proletariat would become class conscious at this point. Because there would be more educated people in the proletariat, they would realize that they have more numbers and power to do what they want, and they have not been living happy lives.

They want to end their alienation, and Marx believes that “the proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the majority,” (P 79). The proletariat is so different from previous classes because they have nothing to lose and their motive is to revolutionize, by destroying individual property (P 79, 111). Marx had a dialectic view of history. “The history of all hitherto existing society,” Marx wrote, “is the history of class struggles,” (P 62). He believed that all history was a struggle between classes. Each class rose from the ashes of its predecessor, and had its own problems that would lead to its demise.

Marx categorized history into five epochs, or stages. The first was primitive communism, when there was no private property and the categorical imperative was often utilized. They didn’t have many belongings and worked for the good of the tribe. The slavery stage, or the ancient world, came after that, when private property and social classes were born. The Middle Ages, or feudalism, came next, after which capitalism followed. Marx predicted that socialism would follow and mankind would come back to communism, where history would stop. Once the proletariat revolutionized and abolished private property, there would be no more classes.

If there would be no more classes, then class struggles would be nonexistent, ending history in Marx’s perspective, because if there are no class struggles, there is nothing to improve. It would be a communist utopia. He believed that people should live in almost autonomous communes, where they worked on what they wanted to do. This is where the slogan, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” comes in. Karl Marx believed that the proletariat would triumph over the rich bourgeoisie because they had more power; they just need to realize it.

Capitalism allows anyone to fall into the proletariat, which means they would become more educated. Their alienation and exploitation would go so far that they would finally revolt. They would revolt by gaining more political power. In their revolution, among other things, they would abolish private property, which is the root of all capital. There would be no more classes, and so history would not progress any longer, it would be a peaceful utopia. Karl Marx believed he was witnessing the end of capitalism, when in reality he just witnessed its beginnings.

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Marx and the Rise of the Proletariat. (2017, Jan 11). Retrieved from