Thursday, July 08, 2010

A thought on the Communist Manifesto: the Proletariat

Have been reviewing the Communist Manifesto after not having read all of it for a few years. The part that I tended to focus on before was the historical part entitled "Bourgeois and Proletarians", but instead of that I looked at the latter parts that talked about more commonplace ideas about how all of this should be applied to the world. What struck me was that the emphasis was not so much on the working class in general but on Marx's pet notion of the Proletariat. You'd expect that a socialist would be for the improvement of the situation of workers as a whole, and in proposing a program for change and for the eventual takeover of society by the workers make the call broad, but instead Marx creates a notion of a class called the Proletariat that's separate from the everyday notion of the working class, that specially fits in with his economic theories, and anoints them as the leaders of the Revolution. The fact of the matter seems to be that this comes less out of a sense of compassion for people who have nothing on Marx's part than out of the fact that conceptually these people are important for Marx's scheme of where society is going to work.

It's not enough to be workers, you have to be Marx's kind of worker in order to be in the vanguard. And to resist being taken down to the lowest possible level through the pursuit of reforms designed to actually improve peoples lives, so that the nightmare that the idea of a mass proletarianization of society implies doesn't come to pass, is to promote a false solution standing in the way of the inevitable motor of history, one which supposes that people should have everything taken away from them and become completely miserable in order that they might more completely transform society into a Marxian socialist state. Union activity presumably only stalls the Revolution from happening, even though Unions have made the difference in life in actually preventing a sizable number of people from either sliding into or remaining in the type of state that Marx describes as being the Proletariat. Because of course you can't be revolutionary if you're actually fighting for practical everyday improvement in the lives of people.

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