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Marx – Engels: German Ideology & The Manifesto

January 27, 2009

The evolution of socioeconomic systems naturally creates tension and in turn struggle.  The appropriate question may center on which type of dimension struggle erupts.  Is struggle centered upon class, race, gender, or perhaps another universal construct?  Can it be that class struggle is the optimum form of tension and that gender and race are only factors that may enhance or detract from the causal effect of class?  No doubt, tension and struggle do lead to a “sorting out” of differences, ways and those who seek power to “call the shots” of which the remainder of society must either abide by or seek to continue to frustrate or overturn.

            These tensions and struggles Marx would say have led to the ordered evolution of society from the primitive toward the civilized.


In his manuscript published as The German Ideology Marx with exactness, picks apart the theoretical concepts of young Hegelians such as Saint Bruno and Saint Max as he refers to them.  In Volume 1 he gives further great attention to the writings of Feuerbach.  Marx laboriously and with continual exactness emphasizes the role of the history of man, or perhaps better stated he explains his concept and theory of how history comes to be accounted for, and explains the cause and effect relationship that defines history as understood in each social age.  Within this context, Marx addresses the materialist’s conception of history as based upon certain “real premises” which are set forth for the reader beginning at page 36 and following.  The first premise, Marx tells the reader is that “all human history is…the existence of living human individuals” (37).


Human history began in its primitive stage as a tribal communal system.  Over time it evolved through stages which he calls ancient and feudal (38).  To these there he later adds the industrial or capitalistic age in which at his writing was in flux and debatably continues today even though there is current argument for a post-industrial world or an information society.  In the industrial age property and division of labor are uniquely tied together in establishing power groups and determining who, how, and when power is allocated.  Other transitional stages may be discussed such as the age of migration of tribal individuals to the town which led to the establishment of the guild/artisan system which matured in the feudal age.  Another transition is the migration of individuals from guildsmen and artisans to the merchant class and thereby led to manufacturing not only in towns but between towns.  In the progressive growth of manufacturing towns began to trade with other town.  Merchants connected towns and manufacturers. 

Division of labor.  Some towns became known for their products and manufacture.  Eventually this matured to states and countries trading with each other and led to some being know as primary manufacturers of certain properties.  This came to establish the division of labor and the formation of a capitalist society in which the bourgeois exercise power over the proletariat.  In other words society builds upon itself and productive people advance society (41).  As society grows more production is required, and what humans produce will dictate what humankind is; the mode of life (37).

            Within Marx’s concept society would advance further because of the above statements.  The need to exist creates in humans certain needs, food, housing, and clothes, etc.  Hence, production to create these needs occurs.  Without production there is no existence.  Hence, production is essence of human existence.  Marx lists three aspects regarding human existence (47,48).  All three co-exist in society and help the process of production.

            This process works together in the capitalist society whereby production is defined as division of labor.  Division of labor brings with it fragmentation (95).  A by-product is opposition, which may be classified perhaps as a type of competition.   This division of labor lends itself to development of private property and the state.  As people compete and specialized manufacturers come to exist there is also established an irony.  The irony is that mutual interdependence comes into play (49-52).

Production defines humankind.  Those in power are the ruling class and those that control material production also control intellectual production or ideas (67).  Hence, those with power shape the history of ideas for that particular age of humankind.  In this way the capitalist through production comes to regulate society.  Therefore, production regulates individuals and human history.  Production dictates the definition of humankind.  This is not as it should naturally be.  Humans were initially communal in the tribe.  What is called for is a return to the communal; the perfection of communism.  The communist human is distinguished from the capitalist.  The opposite cause effect relationship exists between the communist and capitalist society.  In the communist society humans (society) regulates production (53).


            From this point it is capable to predict the future of society and human history yet to be.  Marx states that in the capitalist social individuals ultimately become estranged.  This state of humanity must revolt in order to overcome being estranged.   But this can only be successful in a universal revolt.  Sporatic and isolated revolution will not  be successful.  Before such a revolution will be successful there must be widespread subjugation to “unendurable power” which has created in the majority of people a state of “propertylessness” (54).  Only will this universal revolt abolish the present state of humankind.  In this way revolution will end private ownership of property and division of labor and hence will end the power structure that in the capitalist system controls both the material production and the intellectual production of property.  Marx at page 71 makes a good argument and analysis of this point in the natural vs. the created instrument of production. 


Though it will not be discussed in this paper Marx’s analysis of the material and mental labor, the migrations from country-side to city and then to the establishment of the merchant class and capitalism is most interesting (75-83).  His analysis of the weakness of the unorganized groups of migrants leading to capitalism and power through division of labor and property is quite interesting.  Communism to Marx is the ultimate (89,90).


The Communist Manifesto serves to put into succinct terminology the further developed concepts which Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels premised in The German Ideology.  Important concepts relate to class struggle leading to conflict and the resolution in the form of a new type of revolution or a pure revolution that will end property ownership and the need for class.  Essentially what makes this a pure revolution is that unlike in the past in which revolt established only a reform or reclassification of property this pure revolution will be a reform of society without property.


The history of mankind is the history of class struggle (Marx and Engels 1906:2).  In this way Marx digresses to the basic concepts of the stages of society that he before established in The German Ideology.  However, in The Communist Manifesto he elaborates greatly on a more developed concept of the widening void between the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat ( ).  Relevant sections to compare this analysis are set forth in The German Ideology (Marx 1998:38-83).  In developing the line of argument Marx makes several primary points regarding the relationship of the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat, the complementary function between the Proletariat and communism, the later role of socialism, and opponents to communism.

Laborer and Communism.

It seems that Marx says is asking the reader a question.  The question may be stated as who do you labor for?  He may say for the capitalist or for the laborer.  In the capitalist system the answer is that the laborer labors for the sake of labor.  In the communist system the laborer labors for the laborer.

            The Bourgeoisie and Proletariat will inevitably clash.  Society is an order of diametric scheme in the form of oppressed and oppressor (Marx and Engels 1906:2).   This is nothing new, however it must be understood that this form of antagonism between classes is ever growing and will erupt.  This growing change is the result of numerous revolutions in the form of modes of production and exchange.  As each age develops the modes of production and exchange have lead to the greater influence or power of the propertied Bourgeoise and less influence of the propertyless Proletariat. 

            Marx evidences to the reader that the Bourgeoise as it has gained power and property has been the spear point for these revolutions which have only led to greater centralization of power in themselves and reduction of the value of the laborer to that of his wage, a money relationship (1906:3).  As such, the conditions of production and exchange have evolved and created an ever increasing burst circular growth of the Bourgeoisie, which has become world dominating (Marx and Engels 1906:5).  Comically imaginative is the picture Marx paints of the sorcerer who has created more than he/she can handle and finds that the creation is in control of the creator.  Likewise, the global growth of production and exchange has now outgrown the control of the Bourgeois society and it will be their downfall at the behest of the Proletariat.    

            The Proletariat and communism roles, a call to arms.  Within this section is the inspiration for and the defense of the revolution.  Marx gives the reader insight in how to implement the revolution.  In addition, perhaps of greater importance he attempts to answer the objections that appear against the revolution.  In particular, he lends support to why a propertyless society is practicable and necessary.  He also sets forth reasons for why economics call for revolution regardless the strength of religion.  While these two arguments appear rational, his arguments regarding family and nationality seem slimly supported.

            Other socialists fail to see the absolute outcome through revolution.  Marx addresses three major types of then modern socialists, the reactionary, the conservative and the Critical.  Each of these Marx dispels with argument regarding their fallacies, inept understanding, or corrupt premises.

            Other opponents.  Keep the goal in mind Marx leads the reader.  This is his final call to rally.  He seems to say read everything said thus far and now put it to action.  The reader is not the only one that will act but rather all communists everywhere will support this revolt.  It is inevitable and it is sure to succeed.


Apparently all social change is based upon economics.  They seem to give very little credit to change being initiated through religion or individual humans.  However, in particular The Communist Manifesto must be read for what it is; as an inspiring document drafted for purpose to propagandize a particular mode of change during a particular era of history.  In this it does an excellent job of cutting to the point and inspiring readers to “act”. 


In review of the above and after return to a few select pages from the German Ideology and the German Manifesto it is most aptly stated that Marx became a cynic of what became the new interpretation of Hegel’s concepts as set forth by the young Hegelians.  He also concluded that power is rooted in property and division of labor, which is to say in land, money and manufacturing. 


Marx, Karl. 1998. The German Ideology. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

Marx, Karl and Frederick Engels. 1906. Manifesto of the Communist Party. Chicago, IL: Charles H. Kerr & Company.

One Comment leave one →
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