In part one of this article, I began my discussion on communism by detailing the history of central banking and taxation in the US and UK following the publication of The Communist Manifesto in 1848. I demonstrated how both have become a dominant feature in the modern State apparatus, and how key economic planks to the manifesto are today being fulfilled.
Let’s now examine some of the leading motivations for its publication.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels began the manifesto by writing about the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat.
The Bourgeoisie were “the class of modern capitalists“, owned all the means of social production and were the leading employer of wage labour.
The Proletariat were the opposite. A “class of modern wage-labourers” who possessed no means of self production and so had no other option but to sell their labour in order to feed and sustain themselves.
From the outset, the intentions of the authors are clear. A battle between “Capitalism” – the thesis – and that of its antithesis, “Communism“.
Marx and Engels then went on to explain how Modern Industry was responsible for establishing the world market, and how it prompted the development of primarily commerce, navigation and communication. The very first elements of the bourgeoisie superseded what was then the feudal system of industry.
Feudalism was a concept borne out of medieval Europe. It allowed for society to be organised around the premise that the holders of land – those of nobility – would provide protection for “Vassals” (poor people) by granting them possession of the land in exchange for the vassal’s labour. As a result they became known as “Serfs“, and once possession had been granted the land became known as a “Fief“. Marx interpreted this form of Feudalism as the dominant social order before the progression to bourgeoisie capitalism.
According to Wikipedia:
The English Civil War (1642-51), the American War of Independence (1775-83) and the French Revolution (1789-99) were partly motivated by the desire by the bourgeoisie to rid themselves of the feudal and royal encroachments on their personal liberty, commercial prospects and the ownership of property.
In the 19th century, the bourgeoisie propounded liberalism, and gained political rights, religious rights and civil liberties for themselves and the lower social classes.
The Feudal system was no longer proving sufficient due to the growth of various markets including a rising demand in steam and machine technology. Hence the rise of Modern Industry, to which replaced traditional forms of manufacture.
In short, the bourgeoisie’s existence was borne out of feudal society. It would not have come to fruition without it.
Important to understand is that the modern bourgeoisie was a long time in development. It came about after many decades, and with it grew the bourgeoisie political class. This is a crucial aspect. According to Marx and Engels, the bourgeoisie gained exclusive political sway – the “executive of the modern state was a committee for managing common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”
In relation to this, a footnote in The Communist Manifesto went on to mention that the economical development of the bourgeoisie was largely born out of England. It’s political development, however, was predominately the product of France.
Through its conception to full implementation, the bourgeoisie were recognised as a revolutionary class. Nothing about their make-up could be considered reactionary. Indeed, “the bourgeoisie could only exist by constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, thereby the relations of production, and with that the whole relations of society.” The thing to remember here is that the means of production and exchange, to which the bourgeoisie modernised to their own advantage, were first developed out of feudal society.
To maintain their foothold over the majority of society, the bourgeoisie had to “disturb routinely all social conditions – uncertainty and agitation distinguished the bourgeoisie epoch from earlier manifestations of a ruling class.” The expansion of markets enabled the bourgeoisie to spread their sphere of influence across the entire world – they had to “nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.” This gave them a global, even cosmopolitan identity when it came to matters of production and consumption.
Because of this, the social conditions to which had previously reigned dominant in feudal society were being destroyed, replaced by newer industries. “In place of old local and national seclusion and self sufficiency came intercourse in every direction, a universal inter-dependence of nations.”
Marx and Engels highlighted how the intellectual creations of individual nations were quickly becoming the common property of the world as a whole, in so much as “the bourgeoisie compelled all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt their mode of production.” They “created a world after their own image.”
Now we come to the nub of the bourgeoisie’s ambition. Under their dominance they both sought and managed to centralise the means of production, and in turn concentrate property and power in the fewest possible hands. But perhaps more important than that, the necessary and, one could argue, intended consequence of their actions was political centralisation.
In the words of Marx and Engels, “independent provinces with separate interests, laws, governments and systems of taxation were lumped together into one nation – with one government, one code of laws, one national class interest, one frontier and one customs-tariff.”
In the end the bourgeoisie class completely supplanted feudal society, and as Marx and Engels pointed out, it was they who “created the economical and political sway of the bourgeois class“.
The role of the proletariat in all this was simple in the minds of the bourgeoisie – they were there to produce goods and services which, incidentally, were the property of the bourgeoisie, who subsequently went on to sell all goods made by the proletariat for a profit.
This, according to Marx and Engels, was the unacceptable face of exploitative capitalism. They argued that the “conditions of bourgeois society were too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them through the proletariat. The bourgeoisie created too much civilisation, commerce, subsistence and industry.”
It was through this understanding that the authors wrote of increasing hostilities between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, in that given how entities such as commerce and industry were once “the weapons by which the bourgeoisie curtailed Feudalism“, they were now “being turned against the bourgeoisie by the proletarian.”
This set the stage for the introduction of The Communist Manifesto. Prior to its publication, a document called the Draft of a Communist Confession of Faith was conceived by Friedrich Engels in 1847, and came about after the First Congress of the Communist League. It was presented in the format of a series of questions to which Engels provided the answers. It was, in effect, a first draft of the upcoming manifesto.
The first question asked was, “What is the aim of the Communists?” Engels replied,
To organise society in such a way that every member of it can develop and use all his capabilities and powers in complete freedom and without thereby infringing the basic conditions of this society.
From here he outlined some of the key components of his Communistic vision. He spoke of eliminating private property and replacing it with a “community of property“, and stated that “the happiness of the individual is inseparable from the happiness of all“.
Engels’s desire was unification of the proletariat through enlightenment. In order to cease being oppressed by the bourgeoisie, the proletarian had to “free himself by doing away with property, competition, and all class differences.” But this could not be achieved overnight as Engels reasoned:
The development of the masses cannot be ordered by decree. It is determined by the development of the conditions in which these masses live, and therefore proceeds gradually.
A signature of communism was beginning to develop through the words of Engels, a signature that was also a leading staple of the bourgeoisie. Namely, that the growth of a new movement or ideology cannot be reactionary in nature. As we shall learn in more detail, the authors of The Communist Manifesto did not favour rolling back the bourgeoisie development of commerce, the world market or the uniformity of production. Instead, they saw this as batting against progress. In other words, one should not attempt to try and arrest history. The progress of communism should begin from the present moment and not the past, and most importantly, from the social order and conditions which that present moment embodies.
Further in, Engels gave some preliminary detail as to what the first act of a communist regime would be. “Guaranteeing the subsistence of the proletariat” he declared. He would do this by,
limiting private property in such a way that it gradually prepares the way for its transformation into social property, e. g., by progressive taxation, limitation of the right of inheritance in favour of the state, etc., etc.
II. By employing workers in national workshops and factories and on national estates.
III. By educating all children at the expense of the state.
In terms of a social harmony under communism, Engels warned that,
We will only interfere in the personal relationship between men and women or with the family in general to the extent that the maintenance of the existing institution would disturb the new social order.
The ambition for a ‘new social order‘ was eventually designed to bring the proletariat as a whole together under the single banner of communism, regardless of nationality and the nation to which they inhabit.
The nationalities of the peoples who join together according to the principle of community will be just as much compelled by this union to merge with one another and thereby supersede themselves as the various differences between estates and classes disappear through the superseding of their basis – private property.
Following the Draft of a Communist Confession of Faith came The Principles of Communism, which also originated in 1847. Although presented in the same question and answer format, this was a far more substantial document, and served to add greater detail as to how a communist society would be fashioned. Both Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were its authors.
When presented with the question of, “What will this new social order have to be like”?, the authors replied:
Above all, it will have to take the control of industry and of all branches of production out of the hands of mutually competing individuals, and instead institute a system in which all these branches of production are operated by society as a whole.
They developed on the term “society as whole” by saying,
that is, for the common account, according to a common plan, and with the participation of all members of society. It will, in other words, abolish competition and replace it with association.
The use of the word “common” is one that is utilised today in terms of the State. In the US, the Common Core State Standards Initiative is an educational program in which 42 states are beholden to. It is, according to Wikipedia,
an educational initiative that details what K–12 students should know in English language arts and mathematics at the end of each grade, and seeks to establish consistent educational standards across the states as well as ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit-bearing courses at two- or four-year college programs or to enter the workforce.
Returning to The Principles of Communism, one of its main themes centers on the subject of private property, which under Marx and Engel’s communism would be gradually eliminated. In their own words, this could only be achieved “when the means of production are available in sufficient quantity.”
The pair maintained that,
private property cannot be separated from competition and the individual management of industry. Private property must, therefore, be abolished and in its place must come the common utilization of all instruments of production and the distribution of all products according to common agreement – in a word, what is called the communal ownership of goods.
The authors desire for the abolition of private property was consistently and carefully presented as a necessity for the health and wellbeing of the proletariat. It was central to what Marx and Engels dubbed the “revolution”.
The course of the revolution included several key conditions. Amongst these were demands for progressive taxation, a heavy inheritance tax, and even the abolition of inheritance through “collateral lines (brothers, nephews etc).” Another was for confiscating the possessions of “all emigrants and rebels against the majority of the people.”
Given that the quest to abolish private property would require time, Marx and Engels were clear in that there needed to be “an equal obligation on all members of society to work until such time as private property has been completely abolished.”
The vehicle through which the bulk of the authors demands ran through was that of centralisation. As we explored in part one, they wanted the complete “centralization of money and credit in the hands of the state through a national bank with state capital, and the suppression of all private banks and bankers.”
But they were always keen to stress throughout that it would not be possible to conduct all of these measures immediately. It had to be a process:
Once the first radical attack on private property has been launched, the proletariat will find itself forced to go ever further, to concentrate increasingly in the hands of the state all capital, all agriculture, all transport, all trade. All the foregoing measures are directed to this end; and they will become practicable and feasible, capable of producing their centralizing effects to precisely the degree that the proletariat, through its labor, multiplies the country’s productive forces.
To overthrow the bourgeoisie would require all nations to come together as one through the proletariat. This is something that Marx and Engels fully understood and embraced. Their quest was not to do away with “big industry“, but rather to change the dynamic of who and what ideology presided over its continuing function:
By creating the world market, big industry has already brought all the peoples of the Earth, and especially the civilized peoples, into such close relation with one another that none is independent of what happens to the others.
It follows that the communist revolution will not merely be a national phenomenon but must take place simultaneously in all civilized countries.
The revolution, therefore, had to be universal, with a “universal range“. The communistic ideology of “all for one and one for all” meant that no one country could avoid becoming ensnared by it. An oppressed proletariat would no doubt see the appeal in this, especially if that oppression stretched beyond borders and thus throughout the world. Uniting together to defeat the common foe of the bourgeoisie is precisely what Marx and Engels were aiming for.
There was a degree of finality to what they were espousing in the name of communism. When asked the question, “What will be the consequences of the ultimate disappearance of private property?“, they replied:
Society will take all forces of production and means of commerce, as well as the exchange and distribution of products, out of the hands of private capitalists and will manage them in accordance with a plan based on the availability of resources and the needs of the whole society. In this way, most important of all, the evil consequences which are now associated with the conduct of big industry will be abolished.
No longer would society be plagued by the calamities of old. Instead, once the proletariat was liberated from the bourgeoisie, it would open up a swathe of new demand meaning over production during the reign of the bourgeoisie would cease to become a problem.
Overproduction will reach beyond the elementary requirements of society to assure the satisfaction of the needs of all; it will create new needs and, at the same time, the means of satisfying them. It will become the condition of, and the stimulus to, new progress, which will no longer throw the whole social order into confusion, as progress has always done in the past.
The private capital of old would be replaced by the State having full jurisdiction over the lives of the proletariat. This, according to Marx and Engels, would ensure both continuity and equality amongst the proletariat class.
But what about when it comes to maintaining this newly developed social order? To that end, the authors said,
The division of society into different, mutually hostile classes will then become unnecessary. Indeed, it will be not only unnecessary but intolerable in the new social order.
Industry controlled by society as a whole, and operated according to a plan, presupposes well rounded human beings, their faculties developed in balanced fashion, able to see the system of production in its entirety.
When speaking of a revolution against the bourgeoisie, Marx and Engels often referred to those oppressed by the current order as the “Proletariat” rather than the “Proletarian“. By stating that society as a whole must control industry using a set plan and structure, which “presupposes well rounded human beings“, it affirms that communism could only be successfully implemented under a collective guise and sustained through majority rule. In other words, the power is in the group, not the individual. Individualism was a sacrifice that must be paid for the greater good of all. Any one person who deviated from that script would, one assumes, either be forcibly brought into line or destroyed, given that they would present a danger to the cohesion of the “new social order.”
To complete part two of this series, we now come to a document entitled, Demands of the Communist Party in Germany, which was published in 1848, the same year as the manifesto. Authored by Marx and Engels, this was the first time that a series of demands had been put together to illustrate fully the intentions of the Communist Party.
The significance of the demands being presented through the vehicle of Germany is important. The authors looked upon Germany as a revolutionary country. Possessing the trait of a revolutionary is one of the key tenets of communism.
Incidentally, Germany was the birthplace of the Bavarian Illuminati, a secret society founded by Adam Weishaupt in 1776. It was also the home of philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, a man who is recognised as having a substantial influence on Karl Marx in particular.
Turning briefly to the manifesto itself, Marx and Engels wrote:
In Germany, they (Communists) fight with the bourgeoisie whenever it acts in a revolutionary way, against the absolute monarchy, the feudal squirearchy, and the petty bourgeoisie.
After the fall of the reactionary classes in Germany, the fight against the bourgeoisie itself may immediately begin
The Communists turn their attention chiefly to Germany, because that country is on the eve of a bourgeois revolution that is bound to be carried out under more advanced conditions of European civilisation and with a much more developed proletariat than that of England was in the seventeenth, and France in the eighteenth century, and because the bourgeois revolution in Germany will be but the prelude to an immediately following proletarian revolution.
The desires of the German Communist Party were largely in keeping with the principle demands outlined in the manifesto. They demanded that all princely and feudal estates, along with mines and pits, become the exclusive property of the State. They demanded that mortgages on peasant lands be declared the property of the State and paid back with interest. They demanded that all means of transport – be it railways, canals, steamships or roads – be taken over by the State. And they demanded that the right of inheritance be curtailed and for the implementation of “steeply” graduated taxes.
Further to the economic side, they insisted that a state bank, whose paper issues be legal tender, replace all private banks:
This measure will make it possible to regulate the credit system in the interest of the people as a whole, and will thus undermine the dominion of the big financial magnates. Further, by gradually substituting paper money for gold and silver coin, the universal means of exchange (that indispensable prerequisite of bourgeois trade and commerce) will be cheapened, and gold and silver will be set free for use in foreign trade. Finally, this measure is necessary in order to bind the interests of the conservative bourgeoisie to the Government.
Number 12 out of the 17 demands centered on salaries. Civil servants as a whole would receive identical pay. The German Communist Party would allow only one exception to this, that being if you had a family to support as opposed to a civil servant who did not have such responsibilities. A higher salary would be granted under these circumstances.
The demand for equal pay amongst civil servants was not, however, an explicit demand amongst the ten leading commandments in the final presentation of The Communist Manifesto. The “equal liability of all to work” was included, but not specifically under what terms.
In part three of this series, we will be looking at some of the content of The Communist Manifesto, and seeing how it evolved from the earlier drafts publications.