Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Communist Manifesto - Chapter 1 Summary: Bourgeois and Proletarian

Chapter 1 of The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels sets forth the theoretical paradigm of dialectical materialism, the thought the history progresses through class struggle over the means of production (see also Marx's materialist theory of history or our definition of dialectical materialism). The Manifesto proclaims and demonstrates that societies were always divided into ruling and ruled classes. After an historical account of the feudalist system of production the text moves on to discuss capitalism and the relationship between the Bourgeois and proletariat. The chapter analyses the way the bourgeois came to rule over the means of production and exploit the proletarian and how capitalism came to be the dominant mode of production.  Marx and Engels argue that capitalism relies on the accumulation of capital in private hands through the concept of hired labor that allows for the exploitation of workers. Marx and Engels confess in their Communist Manifesto that this mode of class division brought about the greatest period of growth in human history but it is not everlasting and will come to its historic end.

The important function of chapter 1 of the Communist Manifesto is that the stage is set for the next historical revolution, the next stage of the dialectics. Marx and Engels hold that the Proletariat will eventually overthrow the bourgeois and lead European society into the next phase of history which will also be the last one since it would be a classless society in which there is not conflict. Despite being a Manifesto, a call for action of sorts, Marx and Engels do not intend that their analysis be understood a something which should happen but rather as something that will inevitably happen since that is the direction in which the mechanisms of history are directed at: communism. This is why the famous opening of the Communist  Manifesto reads: "A spectre is haunting Europe—the spectre of communism", and although all the old powers join hands in fending it off, they will not succeed. 

An Extended Summary of The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels (chapter 2chapters 3 and 4)

More summaries of Marx's writings and ideas: