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What do Marx and Engels mean by the term “proletariat”

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1. What do Marx and Engels mean by the term “proletariat”?

            “The lower strata of the middle class – the small trades people, shopkeepers, and retired tradesmen generally, the handicraftsmen and peasants – all these sink gradually into the proletariat…” (Marx, p.7)

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            The proletariat according to Marx and Engels are the working classmen in the bourgeois society. They are the group of people that the capitalist exploits to attain their own economic and political ends. The proletariat, even though skilled and able, lacks the economic resources to compete with large industries, are forced to sell their hard labor to provide for their own needs, all without having the advantages and the indulgences that the bourgeoisie has.

In a Communist’s perspective, the proletariat is the oppressed class as the bourgeois as their oppressors.

2. What historical stages do the proletariat go through?

            From Engels and Marx, the proletariat goes through various stages of development. Lines of battle are drawn since the creation of the economic differences of both social classes.

(Marx, p.7)

            At first, an individual rise up against oppression until he is joined by another, then another until they have created their own union; at a singular factory at first or a single proletariat community. In time, another, creating a larger group of proletarian movement, will join such union, which will then be joined by a union from another industry, then from another, all with the same goal, freedom, freedom from oppression.

            As they grow in number, in greater masses, their strength grows. From time to time they will win battles against the oppressors, like getting a wage hike for all the laborers in a particular community, but victory have never been absolute. Thus, throughout history, since the creation of the difference previously mentioned, constant struggle ensues.

3. What drives the bourgeoisie forward in their revolution?

            The driving force for the bourgeoisies in their revolution is the development of their lot their so-called “civilization.” 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. (p.3) Self-centered bourgeois use their capital; exploit the working class, using civilization and development as an excuse, to attain their political advancement in their “ruling class.” To rule the rulers, to be the richest among the rich and be the Primus enter pares, or the first among equal are the reason why the bourgeois continue their revolution in changing the course of history and the whole world.

4. In what ways do the bourgeoisie change the world?

            First and foremost, the bourgeois created numbers of freedom, freedom for themselves, most importantly, freedom to oppress the lower classes of society, especially the proletarians.

            They created new things in replacement of the old but effective with the new and more beautiful. They created needs and wants that were never needed or wanted before. They changed the means of production that can make a group hardworking of people to be less important than before and a man to be as important as he have never been.

            The bourgeoisie paved the way for the destruction of the world.

5. What do they mean by  all fixed . . . relations . . . are swept away . . . All that is solid melts into air.”?

            From what has been discussed earlier, (question #4) capitalism changed everything. What have been important before became of no importance today and what have been not important became essential, as it has never been. In the statement “… All that is solid melts into the air,” the context of the family and religion, which was before the concrete foundation of society, especially the family, had been broken down to a mere financial relationship.

6. What is Marx’s attitude towards the bourgeoisie?

            Marx views the rise of the bourgeoisie in Europe as the result of a couple of factors; firstly, he believes that, the chartered burghers who evolved from the serfs of the medieval ages developed the initial elements of the bourgeoisie. Next, following the great colonization of the 16th and 17th centuries the market expanded, leading to a great need for increased production. This great demand could not be sufficed by the feudal guilds; as such they were replaced with manufacturing.                                                     However, the markets and the demand kept increasing and the manufacturing system could no longer keep up, as such, Modern Industry also replaced it. The Industrial Revolution of the late 18th century and the early 19th century which lead to great advances in technology, energy sources, and communication, combined with the ever expanding new markets, allowed for the creation of a powerful bourgeoisie class. The bourgeoisie’s ever increasing wealth was, Marx believed, proportionally followed with increasing political advance. As such Marx believes that the governments of Europe were “but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie” (27). The bourgeoisie, Marx claims, destroyed all the relations between men, except for ‘naked self interest’; the bourgeoisie has transformed personal self worth into exchange value. Marx notes that, the exploitation previously veiled by religious and political ‘illusions’ is now direct, brutal and blatant.

7. What is bourgeois freedom?

            The bourgeoisie becomes the ruling class – which means it also owns the bulk of the means of production (land, factories, offices, capital, resources) as well as the means of coercion (national armed forces, prison systems, court systems). Ownership of the means of production enables it to employ and exploit the work of a large mass of wage workers (the working class), also known as the industrial middle class, who have no other means of livelihood than to sell their labour to property owners; while control over the means of coercion allows intervention during challenges from below. That means that they have given themselves the freedom and total control over the the other classes.

            8. How do the bourgeois deceive themselves?

            The bourgeoisie deceive themselves because Marx thought he knew that the fall of the bourgeois is inevitable as the victory of the proletarians. The bourgeoisie is very dynamic with their movement, constantly changing the process of production, constantly changing society and the civilization. But, as said earlier, to Marx, the fall the bourgeoisie is predestined.

9. What is Marx’s view of nationalism?

“The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.” (4)

Marx’s description of European society as driven by economics and divided by class lines is correct. However he fails to see the great influence of nationalism and he does not entertain the idea of compromise between the classes, because of this he wrongly predicts the destruction of the capitalist system and the bourgeoisies by the proletariat.

Marx sees the struggle of the proletariats will go beyond one particular country in Europe. The struggle of the proletariat will be the struggle of the whole world just as the bourgeois have revolutionized the world before and today.

10. What are the various kinds of socialism? State the main features of each.

            Part III of Manifesto discusses the various forms of socialism, reactionary socialism, bourgeois socialism, and critical utopian socialism.

Reactionary Socialism is the first discussed in the manifesto. Reactionary socialism, according to Marx has three kinds, the feudal, petty bourgeois, and German or “true” socialism.  These kinds of socialism are created to maintain their particular class in society, the aristocracy in feudal socialism (p. 18), class bellow the bourgeois but above the proletariat in the petty bourgeois socialism (p. 19) and the liberals of “true” socialism.

Bourgeois socialism arises from bourgeois, but holds up the standard of the proletariat, with whom the bourgeoisie are a shared enemy.  They wish for a bourgeoisie without a proletariat. (p. 22) This is a claim that once the proletariat achieve political power, the eventual result will be a classless society. Abolishing bourgeois modes of production undermines the continued existence of class hostility, and without class hostility, the proletariat will lose their own class character.

Lastly, Critical-Utopian Socialism is  “the young state of the class struggle, as well as their own surroundings, causes Socialists of this kind to consider themselves far superior to all class antagonisms. They want to improve the condition of every member of society, even that of the most favored. Hence, they habitually appeal to society at large, without distinction of class; nay, by preference, to the ruling class. For how can people, when once they understand their system, fail to see it in the best possible plan of the best possible state of society?. Hence, they reject all political, and especially all revolutionary, action; they wish to attain their ends by peaceful means, and endeavor, by small experiments, necessarily doomed to failure, and by the force of example, to pave the way for the new social Gospel.” (p. 24) This kind of Socialism is the kind that chooses neither side. It is more inclined to the betterment of the society as a whole and not only to the success of one and the abolition of the other.

11. Is Marx’s theory of labor movements and social change relevant today?- (¼ to half page in length)

            The labor movements, described in the Communist Manifesto still exists today, although the social change that is the goal of communism is hard to obtain, I believe that it is still very relevant. But there are things that I think that Marx’s conclusion about the inevitability of the proletariat victory, and the unsustainability of modern industry overlooks some factors.

            Marx predicted the fall and destruction of, the bourgeoisies, capitalism and modern industry. He believed it would happen in a relatively short time following the writing of the Manifesto. The reason for Marx’s premature prediction, and for the fact that it has not yet, or maybe never will happen is primarily that Marx saw society solely in the terms of a class struggle driven by economics, to him everything was black and white. Therefore he did not take into account the possibility of compromise by the state, and the moderation of the revolutionary parties.

Such reformations, the increase in the power of unions and the ability of the workers to vote led to sustainable compromises between the classes, as such no class war took place.

Cite this What do Marx and Engels mean by the term “proletariat”

What do Marx and Engels mean by the term “proletariat”. (2016, Sep 12). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/what-do-marx-and-engels-mean-by-the-term-proletariat/

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