As an avid Capitalist, it never occurred to me to read the classic “Communist Manifesto” by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. I have always considered myself to be open-minded, so why had I not been willing to read the philosophy of the competition. I was a bit paranoid about ordering the book, thinking that it might put on a person to watch list. I overcame that paranoia purchased the book, and read it. I found it a difficult read. The basic point was the downtrodden Proletariat would violently rise as a social group and take economic power from the Bourgeois class. At this point, I decided that I need good definitions of the Proletariat and Bourgeois.
In Marxism, the proletariat is the working class, including farmers and low-skilled factory workers. They do not own any means of production. The bourgeoisie are the capitalist class, the wealthy, who own most of the means of production.
When reading, it is important to remember that it was written in the context of the times (1847). It was the very early stage of the Industrial Revolution, and most of the lower wage working class was agrarian-based. The book recognizes the emergence of the Industry based workers and assumes that they will transition from the fields to a similar factory based existence. At the time is there was considerable proof that this is was the case.
The Robber Barons were in the process of validating the predictions of Marx & Engels. A Robber Baron was a person who becomes rich through ruthless and unscrupulous business practices (originally concerning prominent US businessmen in the late 19th century). There is no question that businesses created an uncertain work environment for low paid workers, ignored reasonable working schedules, and often employed children. Labor abuse gave rise to labor unions. Unions began forming in the mid-19th century in response to the social and economic impact of the Industrial Revolution. National labor unions began to form in the post-Civil War Era. In my opinion, unions were created by company mismanagement.
The book addresses the possibility of unions and efforts to transition government to other Socialist systems peacefully. The authors contend that the Bourgeois will still control these systems and that any improvement in wage distribution will only move a small portion into that class. Still, the vast majority of the Proletariat will not benefit. The only way to establish a fair balance of wage distribution is for the Proletariat to take control and make the rules. The only way that can happen is through a violent overthrow.
The book says almost nothing about how the government would work. Considering the conditions for labor in Russia at the time, it is understandable why the masses would support the idea of Communism. It is also understandable why the owners of capital in many countries would see that movement as a threat to their power and control.
Marx & Engels would not be around to see the rise of the middle class that slowly occurred along with improvements in technology. I doubt that would change their view, but it did provide a means for the Protelariat to improve their conditions, eventually.
The formation of labor unions was a decent first step in providing a more equitable working environment for workers in Industry. Unfortunately, unions developed their brand of Bourgeois. While workers did benefit, a disproportionate amount of the benefit ended up with the very few that controlled the purse strings. Over time most companies installed Personnel Departments, now titled Human Resources and implemented benefits. Federal legislation also established minimum wages, mandatory work and overtime hours, and employee safety measures. All of these steps lessened the influence of unions. In the past 25 years, the percentage of union members in the workforce has declined from 20% to 10.5%.
One tenant of the Communist movement is the renunciation of Nationalism. “Workers of the World Unite”. Communism has been a significant factor in the past:
Formerly Communist countries (by current name):
- Formerly part of the Soviet Union: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
- Other Asian countries: Afghanistan, Cambodia, Mongolia, and Yemen.
- Soviet-controlled Eastern bloc countries: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany (East), Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia.
- The Balkans: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Rep. of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia.
- Africa: Angola, Benin, Dem Rep. of Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, and Mozambique.
In the 1980s, almost a third of the World’s population was Communist. Today the percent is still nearly 20% (primarily due to China’s massive numbers).