The Philosophy of Karl Marx

Reference: MANIFESTO OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY

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A spectre is haunting Europe—the spectre of Communism.

All the Powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Czar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.

Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as Communistic by its opponents in power? Where is the Opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of Communism, against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?

COMMENT: Karl Marx was observing the dissatisfaction of common people of his time. The powers knew that such dissatisfaction could be inflamed to create problems for them. The Communist agitators could do it.

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Two things result from this fact.

I. Communism is already acknowledged by all European Powers to be itself a Power.

II. It is high time that Communists should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of Communism with a Manifesto of the party itself.

To this end, Communists of various nationalities have assembled in London, and sketched the following Manifesto, to be published in the English, French, German, Italian, Flemish and Danish languages.

COMMENT: With the advent of the Industrial Age, considerable destabilizing forces were unleashed into the society of the time. Communism was a reaction to this situation. Karl Marx set out to formulate a philosophy to explain that reaction.

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I. BOURGEOIS AND PROLETARIANS

The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles.

COMMENT: The assumption of class struggle is based on the conflict between those who exploit and those who are exploited. In the absence of exploitation there is no class struggle. In this manifesto, the bourgeoisie (the wealthy middle class) is identified with exploiters and the proletariat (the industrial working class) is identified with those exploited.

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Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, 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.

COMMENT: The problem is with greed and exploitation on one hand and with lack of education and indolence on the other. It is not a universal problem with classes. It may only appear to be so in certain societies at certain times.

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In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations.

COMMENT: The occurrence of classes in a complex society is natural because many different functions become necessary. People also have different ambitions, education and skills. Not everybody is alike. When ambition, education and skill are matched with functions in the society, and appropriate compensation is provided to meet the needs for different stations, then there remains no cause for any conflict or struggle.

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The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. 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.

COMMENT: Here I see a complex situation being oversimplified, instead of being broken down to its basic parts, so logic could be applied. Logic cannot be applied in crude black and white form to complex situations as such. Like the binary principle of computer logic, it may only be applied after breaking a complex situation down to its basic parts. 

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From the serfs of the Middle Ages sprang the chartered burghers of the earliest towns. From these burgesses the first elements of the bourgeoisie were developed.

The discovery of America, the rounding of the Cape, opened up fresh ground for the rising bourgeoisie. The East-Indian and Chinese markets, the colonisation of America, trade with the colonies, the increase in the means of exchange and in commodities generally, gave to commerce, to navigation, to industry, an impulse never before known, and thereby, to the revolutionary element in the tottering feudal society, a rapid development.

The feudal system of industry, under which industrial production was monopolised by closed guilds, now no longer sufficed for the growing wants of the new markets. The manufacturing system took its place. The guild-masters were pushed on one side by the manufacturing middle class; division of labour between the different corporate guilds vanished in the face of division of labour in each single workshop.

Meantime the markets kept ever growing, the demand ever rising. Even manufacture no longer sufficed. Thereupon, steam and machinery revolutionised industrial production. The place of manufacture was taken by the giant, Modern Industry, the place of the industrial middle class, by industrial millionaires, the leaders of whole industrial armies, the modern bourgeois.

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, to navigation, to communication by land. This development has, in its time, 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.

COMMENT: These are good observations made by Karl Marx. There were definitely big changes in the European societies as raw material poured in from colonies in the undeveloped world, and steam and machinery revolutionized industrial production. Feudal societies gave way to industrial societies. World market came about with overall increased prosperity. Capitalism seems to be the natural outcome of these factors.

The purpose of capital was to fuel the engine of progress when there were plenty of resources and entrepreneurs.

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Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding political advance of that class. An oppressed class under the sway of the feudal nobility, an armed and self-governing association in the mediaeval commune; here independent urban republic (as in Italy and Germany), there taxable “third estate” of the monarchy (as in France), afterwards, in the period of manufacture proper, serving either the semi-feudal or the absolute monarchy as a counterpoise against the nobility, and, in fact, corner-stone of the great monarchies in general, the bourgeoisie has at last, since the establishment of Modern Industry and of the world-market, conquered for itself, in the modern representative State, exclusive political sway. The executive of the modern State is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.

The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part.

The bourgeoisie, 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 fervour, 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 and indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom—Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.

COMMENT: Here feudalism is being described as “natural” and bourgeoisie as an aberration that is motivated by cold, calculated self-interest. This resulted in the large scale exploitation of proletarians. Marx is equating bourgeoisie with free trade, and free trade with exploitation.

Marx seems to be aware of the power that the exploited proletarians could exercise if they could only be united in their dissatisfaction.

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The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers.

The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.

The bourgeoisie has disclosed how it came to pass that the brutal display of vigour in the Middle Ages, which Reactionists so much admire, found its fitting complement in the most slothful indolence. It has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades.

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. 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.

The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.

COMMENT: Marx is reacting against the fast pace of constant change in the modes of production that seem to be destroying the traditional character of society. This was quite unsettling and was looked upon as dilution of the quality of life.

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The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world-market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the productions of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. 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.

COMMENT: Marx is reacting against the globalization of industry and commerce that seem to be destroying the national industries and threatening the self-sufficiency and the boundaries of individual nations.

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The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation. The cheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.

The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilised ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West.

The bourgeoisie keeps more and more doing away with the scattered state of the population, of the means of production, and of property. It has agglomerated production, and has concentrated property in a few hands. The necessary consequence of this was political centralisation. Independent, or but loosely connected provinces, with separate interests, laws, governments and systems of taxation, became lumped together into one nation, with one government, one code of laws, one national class-interest, one frontier and one customs-tariff. The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground—what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?

COMMENT: Marx seems to be lamenting the loss of the traditional independence. He sees globalization resulting in increasing inter-dependence. This mode of production is leading to concentration of property in the hands of a few. The situation is moving toward political centralization.

It seems that Marx did not want the very conditions, which then came about in Russia and China under the name of Communism. This contradiction points to the  weakness of the conjecture of class struggle, which this philosophy starts out with. We are dealing with complex human nature that cannot be addressed through simplistic conjectures, such as, class struggle.

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CONCLUSION

As pointed out above,

The problem is with greed and exploitation on one hand and with lack of education and indolence on the other. It is not a universal problem with classes. It may only appear to be so in certain societies at certain times.

What happened in Russia and China under the name of communism did not alleviate the problem identified above.

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SOLUTION

The solution of this problem is a universal application of Mindfulness. The following processes are recommended.

  1. The Intention to Harm

  2. Subject Clearing

  3. Viewpoint Expansion

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Comments

  • Chris Thompson  On September 4, 2012 at 7:21 PM

    The actual problem with capitalism is it’s root pyramid construct. In effect, capitalism at it’s heart the original Ponzi scheme from which Mr. Ponzi got the idea to scheme.

    Karl Marx, a true social scientist, has been much maligned for noticing this ever since.

  • Chris Thompson  On September 4, 2012 at 7:27 PM

    Is there any true golden age when man respected man which resulted in people living side by side in harmony without “trying to get ahead?”

  • vinaire  On September 4, 2012 at 10:28 PM

    As I wrote:

    “The purpose of capital was to fuel the engine of progress when there were plenty of resources and entrepreneurs.”

    That purpose of capital seems to have been abandoned. It has become focused on “selfish progress” rather than on social progress.

    Capitalism is what it is. There is nothing wrong with it. Abandoning its original social purpose for personal greed is all that has gone awry.

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  • Chris Thompson  On September 6, 2012 at 9:34 PM

    Vinaire: “Capitalism is what it is. There is nothing wrong with it.”

    Chris: Let’s don’t make it about right and wrong. Let’s make it about the maths. There is not enough money in the world to continue to fuel capitalism into perpetuity. It isn’t that it is bad because of this or good that it makes millionaires out of entrepreneurs.

    What I do each day is buy at wholesale materials and labor and then resell the same at retail. I’ve done it for an entire adult life (except in the Sea Org where I sold, hell gave away my labor for free after which it was used and resold at retail. Good margin that for CST and COS. Anyways I do what I do as it is the pattern I’ve learned to survive. But sometimes I ask myself if this is the only way?

    Capitalism is not recognized as wrong and neither is fiberglass insulation (which I consider wrong) and neither is slavery considered wrong in places in this world at this time.

    When watching “Star Trek” did you ever hear them discuss the quality of janitorial on the Enterprise? . . . or the budget problems with purchasing more di-lithium crystal? . . . or of out of a thousand crew members why only the Captain and his A team got to have fun beaming down to adventure? What is everyone else doing while the elite get to have space adventure? Monitor processes and avert mechanical problems? and White glove the ship? And what of pay? Is this old-hat 500 years from now?

    Maybe man is meant to subjugate man. Maybe this universe is truly and always will be and conform to “eat and be eaten.” Maybe that’s just the physics of it. But man contemplates other philosophies and other means of getting along.

    What do you think?

    • vinaire  On September 7, 2012 at 7:49 AM

      What we have in the name of Capitalism today looks more like gambling to me. True Capitalism is based on directing resources to where the progress is needed the most. If everyone is just thinking of oneself when investing, and not in terms of the progress the society as a whole needs to make then we do not have true Capitalism.

      Capitalism has to do with investing resources to achieve progress. This started with the arrival of Industrial Age in the middle of 18th century. That is when the western society progressed by leaps and bounds when resources from the outside their bounds start pouring in. These resources were not just in terms of raw materials, but also in terms of new philosophies.

      The mechanism that underlies Capitalism is that of wise investment of resources. The intention that lies behind true Capitalism is one of progress for all as individuals in a society and not of individual progress at the expense of others through exploitation and personal greed. Capitalism has gotten a bad name whenever greed and exploitation has entered into the picture.

      When there are no actual products and equitable exchange is missing then there is no Capitalism. Now we are at the beginning of the Information Age. Can we apply the true spirit of Capitalism to it?

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  • vinaire  On September 7, 2012 at 11:05 AM

    From Industrial Revolution:

    The Industrial Revolution was a period from 1750 to 1850 where changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times. It began in the United Kingdom, then subsequently spread throughout Western Europe, North America, Japan, and eventually the rest of the world.

    The Industrial Revolution marks a major turning point in history; almost every aspect of daily life was influenced in some way. Most notably, average income and population began to exhibit unprecedented sustained growth. In the two centuries following 1800, the world’s average per capita income increased over tenfold, while the world’s population increased over sixfold. In the words of Nobel Prize winner Robert E. Lucas, Jr., “For the first time in history, the living standards of the masses of ordinary people have begun to undergo sustained growth … Nothing remotely like this economic behavior has happened before”.

    Great Britain provided the legal and cultural foundations that enabled entrepreneurs to pioneer the industrial revolution.[4] Key factors fostering this environment were: (1) The period of peace and stability which followed the unification of England and Scotland, (2) no trade barriers between England and Scotland, (3) the rule of law (respecting the sanctity of contracts), (4) a straightforward legal system which allowed the formation of joint-stock companies (corporations), and (5) a free market (capitalism).

    So, Capitalism started with the advent of the Industrial Revolution.

    Also, please see Second Industrial Revolution

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  • vinaire  On April 15, 2016 at 10:23 AM

    Karl Marx – (1818–83), German economist, philosopher, and socialist

    Matternich – (1773–1859), Austrian statesman and diplomat

    Guizot – (1787–1874), French historian and statesman

    Bourgeoisie – the class of modern capitalists, owners of the means of social production and employers of wage labour.

    Proletariat – the class of modern wage labourers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labour power in order to live.

  • vinaire  On April 15, 2016 at 10:52 AM

    August von Haxthausen (1792-1866) — a German agricultural scientist, economist, lawyer, writer, and collector of folk songs, best known for his account of conditions in Russia as revealed by his 1843 visit.

    Georg Ludwig von Maurer (1790 – 1872) — a German statesman and legal historian from the Electoral Palatinate.

    Lewis Henry Morgan (1818-1881) — a pioneering American anthropologist and social theorist who worked as a railroad lawyer.

    Friedrich Engels (1820 – 1895) — a German philosopher, social scientist, journalist and businessman. He founded Marxist theory together with Karl Marx.

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