The historical progression of humankind keeps pushing forwards, in technology, science, philosophy, and economics. In the last 300 years the world has seen a drastic increase in interconnected global networks from imperialistic empires, banks, trade as well as communications. In the last 200 years the exponential growth in production as well as population have gone hand in hand, even inspiring revolutionary thoughts of economic and social thought to emerge.
Some of the most profound impacts have come from the writings of Karl Marx as well as Friedrich Engels in respect to their work covering concepts like socialism, communism, class antagonism, as well as concepts of classes like the bourgeoisie and proletariate. Many of the ideas covered by Marx and Engels specific to The Communist Manifesto are fundamentally different from how the current global capitalist market operates. It is important to understand the true meaning of different ideologies, especially if we are choosing to support, demonize or discredit said ideologies.
Ideology was first coined by the French writer A. L. C. Destutt de Tracy who explained it as the “science of ideas”, or a system attempting to understanding concepts and ideas as well as categorizing them with their familial concepts. For example there are many differing ideologies about what happens to humans post death, the varying spiritual, scientific, and religious as well as philosophical ideologies try to explain and understand what happens to us through their own respective framework. This is to say that ideologies aren’t bad or good, right or wrong, but rather simply subject to interpretation. The major way humans relay these frameworks is through socialization, through family, institutions, circumstance, as well as coercive or consenting participation of individuals. Since almost all humans are subject to socialization, there is no way to be escape ideology unless one is free of socialization too. This does not always mean that humans are victims to their socialized ideologies, once made aware of these frameworks individuals can critic and restructure them to be interpreted as a more accurate representation of the individuals world. Alternatively individuals confronted with new ideologies must either reject them due to their current personal framework proving said new ideology to be incompatible, or must figure out how to integrate or replace it in relation to held beliefs. It is theoretically possible to deconstruct all of one’s ideologies but that would also require the individual to be aware of all conscious and subconscious beliefs held, and that in practice is impossible.
To better understand these revolutionary ideas let us first examine the conditions in which these ideologies emerged, as well as distinguish what is meant by ideology not only by current standards but by the standards set by Marx and Engels in the manifesto. Simplifying a rather large concept into tangible traits is characteristic of ideology, they shape our way of thinking and processing the world around us. Many times people are indoctrinated into ideologies such as religion, capitalism, true love and so on by extremely young ages. It is due to that involuntary consumption and internalization of ideologies that makes it difficult to process the world of information unbiasedly. It is this specific flaw and gift of humans to be victims of our beliefs that narrow and expand our understanding of our world through frameworks in which we can make sense of it all. The Manifesto’s use of ideology is steeped in a negative image, likely to Marx and Engels frustrations with current European ideologue that would make it difficult for people to consume and accept their ideas as they intended them to be understood.
Several events in European history occurred in the beginning of the 1600s that showed people that they were not just subject to rulers of their nations or religions but of their own lives as well allowed socialism and ;subsequently, communism to evolve. England in the 1640s was a transformative time in Europes predominantly monarchy system, the Common Wealth was created and it was settled through civil conflict that the ruling monarchs of England could not use their powers without government consent. Populations increased in the 1700s cities and villages saw growth that lead to a concentration of wealth and cheap labour never seen before. It was this environment that lead to the production of capitalism and exploitation. The Communist Manifesto and it’s authors were heavily inspired by the French Revolution of 1764 and the British Industrial Revolution of 1775; this literary and societal module for change being specific to a Eurocentric understanding of human development and social structure. The French Revolution allowed the progress of the creation of the bourgeois class with the abolition of the monarchy. The English Industrial Revolution and invention of mechanical means of production saw workers flood cities as life expectancy went down, but the opportunity to reduce poverty went up. These were important events because European societies had not instilled in their citizenry the collective confidence of the commoners to change their society or circumstance.
Marx describes many different types of socialism including Feudal Socialism, Petty-Bourgeois Socialism, German “True” Socialism, Conservative/Bourgeois Socialism and Critical-Utopian Socialism, these aforementioned branches are described as reactionary due to their nature of responding to social inequality and societal structuring and institutions. These schools of thought would not have existed without the conditions in which they came to be, which is a consistent concept carried thought the manifesto by Marx. He expresses communism as the destination of humankind, and socialism as the vehicle of change from current capitalistic economic processes to those of communistic ones. In this way Marx is making a case for the fact that human progress could not happen without the consistent reshaping of society, therefor certain ideologies could not have existed without the information provided by previous progress. The information in this case was to stop reacting to societal inequality and simply stop it at it’s root causes, learning from our mistakes rather that reacting to our mistakes. Humans could not have built the aqueducts of the Roman Empire without first developing rural communities to pull populations from for the cities in which the aqueducts provided water too, and similar to that future progress is inherently dependent on past and current ones.
Socialist and Communist Systems
Socialism looks to reduce economic and social inequality by creating one class system made of proletarians, although not all forms of socialism are this extreme. Marx criticized most versions of the existing socialism as being incoherent, disconnected and seeking only pragmatic outcomes that were bargains with oppressive structures rather than abolishing them. Often the bureaucratic or military state powers in socialist proclaimed communities often have easier access to monopolize the resources resulting in a vulnerability for a two class system, therefor oppressive system. As a concept it has existed long before Engles and Marx, the known first us of the term was in 1827 England yet only five years after it was published it was picked up by a French publication, and it was from then on that the term was used more commonly. The. Difference in the way the manifesto approaches socialism is as a transitional system to be used to change from capitalism into communism, rather than ending at socialism. Socialist idea’s have existed so long as humans have grouped in families and communities, the term distinguishes its self by the structural characteristics that have been ascribed to it as its definition evolves alongside the humans who use it.
This economic structure does not remove the class system, can be both for, against, or neutral the open market, although more democratic than capitalism it is less than communism. Members of a socialist community will democratically elect representatives that will be responsible for organizing the means of production in the best interest of the community. This system dispenses goods and services to individuals based on their productivity. Under socialism there are mainly two types of property, industrial property used for production which is owned by the collective under the representative democracy, then there is personal property which is allowed to be retained so long as it is not an oppressive or exploitative instrument.
Unlike other economic systems communism is an economic as well as a political system and to separate it from other forms of socialism Engles called it ‘scientific socialism’, particularly because unlike situational inventions like capitalism or feudalism; communism requires an intentional societal change that would not accidentally occur without active intent. It is structured so that each individual can access goods and services based on the individual’s needs and to their ability. Marx foretold of the fall of capitalism, although a little earlier than it begins. People would be forced to turn to communism when their labour would no longer provide the minimum for labourer’s to sustain a tier economic slavery. Marxism would abolish all private property including private property rights including rent, lease, or borrowing. Marxism in the twentieth century lead to successful mandatory workplace legislation like the English ten hour bill that quantified a full work day. Later creations of workers unions was also another prediction made in the manifesto as a necessity of survival. Workers saw social insurance and healthcare all funded by their taxes for the first time in Bismarcks Germany.
Unionization occurs when mechanization has resulted in the reduction of wages for the workers. There is only one type of property in a communist community and that is public property, although it should be made clear that does not mean one cannot have personal property even though ownership at the end of the day in communism is still debated. Possessions acquired through the direct profit of another individuals labour are not permitted, however that is not the only way to acquire possessions. In capitalism labour is sold to earn wages that is intern used to acquire private property, in socialism and communism labour is a method of achieving common interest that intern acquires partial or full communal property. The abolition of sold labour being bought with capital intern makes the original method of the oppressive system obsolete, capital. Capital meaning wealth in the form of assets which are unique to every culture. It is because of this radical call in the manifesto that it can be said True Communism has never existed on this planet is because all communities exist within some context using capital. Capital meaning wealth in the form of assets which are unique to every culture.