There are multiple theories about the nature of politics itself that underline the Communist Manifesto throughout. The biggest theory Marx states in the beginning of the Manifesto is that all historical developments can be traced to class struggles. That conflict and strife throughout history can be summed up in terms of class struggles, as Marx mentions, serfs vs. feudal lords, and in the industrial age, the conflict between the working class, or proletariat, and the ruling class, or bourgeoisie. Simply put, struggles between the powerful and the powerless, the oppressor, and the oppressed. Marx saw this pattern of historical developments, and where it was at now, to theorize that the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is part of the final stage of capitalism before revolution brings communism to fruition. In an attempt to hold onto power, the bourgeoise will continue to develop and advance the instruments of production and give the proletariat little bits of their demands here and there until the proletariat is finally strong enough to rise against the bourgeoisie using their own tools. The claim here is that all major changes in history, major shifts in class dynamics, have been the result of revolutionary reconstruction or the total ruin of the common class. This is no different for this final stage as Marx sees it, however, this time the very concept of classes and ruling classes will be shattered. This, to Marx, is communism. It is these deterministic theories of history and the development of capitalism that give Marxist theory a feeling of inevitability in its claims. Theoretically, Marx’ idea of the evolution of capitalism is somewhat reminiscent of W.W. Rostow’s book on the stages of economic growth, not to compare in communist ideals, as it is just the opposite, but the simple idea of capitalism evolving from the traditional society of agriculture to the late-stage development of high consumption, and increased attempts to include welfare into society in order to try and benefit everyone (Rostow 1960). Marx would refer to such an attempt as conservative or bourgeois socialism. There does seem to be a connection in the way many see capitalism evolving into a somewhat hyper-consumption society.
As alluded to in the last section, Marx does not really take a solid empirical stance with the Communist Manifesto, instead relying on logical argumentation and analysis. Marx firmly disagrees with critiques of his points, to the point where he mentions them as essentially holding no weight and should be ignored. In some ways its argumentative stance works well and serves to support his claims, but in other ways it leaves one wanting for a more solid empirical foundation for such a broad reaching claim and theory. Perhaps it is work he believed would best be left to latter communist theorists using his ideas as its foundation. After all, this was long before any governments took to claim communism as their governmental philosophy. To loop back to the concepts mentioned earlier of the most specific policy claims we get, we will look at what they mean. Most importantly, Marx talks of the abolition of private property, which has come with much backlash at the time and since. Without explanation, the concept of the abolition of private property sounds insane, but Marx explains and defends It further by stating, “Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society” (Marx 1848). Essentially, Marx is not stating that no one will be allowed to own anything privately, rather that no one will have the right to own the means of production that define capitalism and drive such vast economic inequalities. The proletarian state would centralize credit in a national bank, make education free for all children in public schools, institute heavy progressive income taxes, and eliminate the right to inherit wealth. While these ideas themselves let you see a little of what this would look like, there is not much defining done to what this would look like in practice. For instance, how heavy an income tax system, what does this look like exactly? What exactly does the combination of the manufacturing and agriculture industries mean in effect? How will laws looks surrounding private property and confiscation of property? The point of this Manifesto was clearly not to lay out specific policy prescriptions, however there are a few critical issues with the big claims Marx makes that are at the heart of this book. For one, he seems to be rather certain of capitalism’s development to this inevitable point of revolution and communism, but does a violent revolution need to happen necessarily to achieve such success? Also, how can Marx be so certain of the working class’ government wanting to establish these new rules of communism. Given human history, one would be more inclined to believe that they would simply replace the ruling class and enrich themselves as the previous class did. Marx seems overly optimistic in this regard.
Marx uses critiques of contemporary socialism and historical analysis to support and develop his theory. First, by pointing out that history indeed follows the pattern Marx claims it does, that of class struggles between oppressor and oppressed. From feudal lords and serfs, to slave and master, patricians and plebeians, and his concepts of ruling bourgeoisie and working-class proletarians, which is distinctly the industrial age evolution of that struggle. Marx, however, does not get too in depth about specific historical examples or periods to illustrate the concept in depth, even thought it seems that this concept of historical inevitability and deterministic outlook seem to be vital to understanding how capitalism has developed and where it will end up in Marx’ words. The stronger portion in Marx’ methodological approach is his critique of then-contemporary socialist theory. Marx’ problem with it is that in his view, the cycle of oppression will never cease under current state formation. Meaning that current governments aim to advance bourgeoisie interests, so any appeasements made from the ruling class to the proletarians is simply serving to extend their own rule and not actually fixing the inherent problem of oppression and class struggle. Marx mentions several types of socialism and dissects them and critiques their positions under his communist lens. Types like Reactionary socialism, conservative/bourgeois socialism, and critical-utopian socialism and communism. It is important to note that socialist thought and theories had existed for many years before Marx advanced the idea of communism. Quickly, the can be summarized as 1) the middle class fighting against bourgeoisie, industrialization, and change, 2) bourgeoisie addressing small social and working issues in order to appease the common class, and 3) the more visionary and idealistic theory of socialism that offers little in the way of actual reforms or ideas of the practical sense, in that respective order. Overall, Marx’ outline of the theory of communism does not get too detailed on specific points regarding historical analysis, which would be a strong method of analysis, but instead offers strong critiques of current socialist thought and also how he believes a communist party should operate in relation to the working class in his last section.
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