“The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”
Karl Marx firmly believed that society is comprised of two opposing social classes. These are no other than the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The two are in constant struggle against each other. The conflict between the two has been going on for years and until now, the success of the proletariat on the global level is still being awaited. Although it cannot be denied that there are several communities or states, such as the ones that are established by Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong, it can be seen that the triumphs of socialism is nonetheless short-lived. Capitalism is still very much evident and practiced in other parts of the world. The number of the proletariat continues to increase. However, the exact opposite occurs in as far as the bourgeoisie is concerned. The struggle is still existent and the proletariat seems having a difficulty in achieving control and authority. Basically, this is what the quote “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win” There is the intention and the strong encouragement by Karl Marx to push the masses to liberate themselves against capitalism’s fatal claws.
The divide between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat basically stems from the economic gaps between the two social classes. Karl Marx, a renowned historical materialist elucidated that the moment that primitive accumulation sets in, this also signals capitalism’s rise (Morrison 114). Capitalism is considered as a major transition from feudalism (Bottomore 487). In feudalism, land ownership sets the trend (Bottomore 487). However, this has eventually changed when it comes to capitalism wherein it is capital that readily determines one’s social class and functions. Primitive accumulation then occurs once that the workers are being dispelled of the goods and commodities that they have produced and made available to the market. This situation frequently occurs in capitalism.
Marx readily argues that historical changes occur because of the changes felt in the modes of production (Bloch 89). The modes of production are basically consists of two aspects, these are the forces of production and the other one pertains to the relations of production (Bloch 89). The forces of production are comprised of skills and technology that are being used to produce a good or commodity (Bloch 20). Basically the forces of production are the material components that are involved in the whole production process. However, when it comes to relations of production, this aspect will determine which parties will get the lion’s share (Boch 14). Yet, aside from determining who will get most of the production’s share, the relations of production will also dictate the types of commodities that shall be offered in the public.
For Karl Marx, more than anything else, it is the relations to production that shall set one’s social class. In this case, it is the capitalists which will have the upper-hand of the matter. Once and for all, they have the capital. They have the means to purchase the necessary materials needed in the overall production. Because of their capital, the machineries and tools that are being utilized are maintained—and if needed, to further improve or increase production levels, the capitalists can always shed an extra amount in purchasing yet another production tool or machine. Because capitalists provide the necessary tools and materials, it would not come as a surprise if they would get much of the control of the profits and investments. The absence of the capital makes it difficult for production to continue and materialize.
In the meantime, the proletariat has nothing to offer but their labor power. Since they do not have the means to purchase the much needed production materials, the best thing that they can do is to offer their labor power. They are nonetheless compensated by the salaries or wages that they get. However, in a much deeper context, it can be seen that the worker’s wages do not really compensate anything on the worker’s part. Rather the proletariat simply gets a fraction of what they have worked for. Their efforts are the very reason behind the existence of particular product. Because of the time that they have rendered, a commodity may not come into the whole picture. While it is true that there are machines which can readily see to it that production shall continue, still, the presence of human labor is still an important prerogative. Workers acquire meager amounts for all the hard work and time that they have rendered. Their salaries are way too low that they cannot even the goods or commodities that they themselves produced and made available. In this aspect, it is pretty apparent that inequality and economic divisions or gaps are highly manifested. While it is true that if not for the worker’s blood and sweat, companies or business establishments would never grow and developed, still, these individuals are denied of what they should really get.
Generally speaking, it is cheap labor that allows the capitalists to retain their positions in the economic hierarchy. In addition to that, these individuals have a reserved army of the unemployed. It is easier for the capitalists to replace a worker who wishes to quit their respective jobs. On the other hand, for the proletariat to sustain a steady income source, many refuse to leave their hostile working conditions. The dominance of the bourgeoisie extends beyond economic control for it has also penetrated the ideological scope.
With all the abuses and maltreatments that the workers or the proletariat experiences from many capitalists, Karl Marx sees no other solution but a revolution. The workers cannot afford to remain passive or submissive. When it comes to size, the proletariat basically outnumbers the capitalists. The latter has no match when the proletariat’s forces are merged or joined. This is why Karl Marx stresses that the workers should unite. They should unite their sentiments and interests. Together, they should pursue their goals; transform their individualistic concerns into collective ones. The moment that this event materialized, the revolution can be now launched and all the chains, economic or ideological it could be, can be now destroyed. Equality and justice shall be achieved and a just and highly dynamic community, working for the good of each and every member shall be achieved.
Bloch, Maurice. Marxist Analyses And Social Anthropology. New Fetter Lane, London: Routledge, 2004
Bottomore, T. B. A Dictionary of Marxist Thought. USA: Blackwell Publishing, 1991
Morrison, Kenneth. Marx, Durkheim, Weber: Formations of Modern Social Thought. London: Sage Publications, 2006