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Q: Karl Marx and the Communist Dream ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: Karl Marx and the Communist Dream
Category: Business and Money
Asked by: tracy_0224-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 15 Apr 2004 03:14 PDT
Expires: 15 May 2004 03:14 PDT
Question ID: 330559
Who were the proletariat? Who were they going to revolt against? What
would the proletariat gain through their revolution?
Subject: Re: Karl Marx and the Communist Dream
Answered By: till-ga on 15 Apr 2004 03:53 PDT
a) the proletariat
There is a general definition of the word:

"the lowest or one of the lowest economic and social classes in a society.

In ancient Rome the proletariat consisted of the poor landless
freemen. It included artisans and small tradesmen who had been
gradually impoverished by the extension of slavery. The proletariat
(literally meaning "producers of offspring") was the lowest rank among
Roman citizens; the first recognition of its status was traditionally
ascribed to the Roman king Servius Tullius (fl. 6th century BC). In
some periods of Roman history it played an important role, not as as
an independent force but as a mass following, in the political
struggles between the Roman patricians and the wealthy plebeians.
Because it had little opportunity for productive work, which was
performed in the main by slaves, its existence was largely parasitic
on the Roman economy. On occasions it was quieted by doles of bread
from the state and diverted by spectacles--"bread and circuses." "

For Karl Marx 

"the term proletariat designated the class of wage workers who were
engaged in industrial production and whose chief source of income was
derived from the sale of their labour power. As an economic category
it was distinguished in Marxian literature from the poor, the working
classes, and the Lumpenproletariat. Because of its subordinate
position in a capitalist society and the effects of periodic
depressions on wages and employment, the proletariat as described by
Marxists was usually living in poverty. But it was not therefore
identified with the poor, for some members of the proletariat, the
highly skilled or labour aristocracy, were recognized as not poor, and
some members of the entrepreneurial class were not wealthy. Despite
synonymous use in agitational literature, the term proletariat was
distinguished from the working class as a generic term. The former
referred to those engaged in industrial production, whereas the latter
referred to all who must work for their living and who received wages
or salary, including agricultural labourers, white-collar workers, and
hired help occupied in the distribution services. The
Lumpenproletariat consisted of marginal and unemployable workers of
debased or irregular habits and also included paupers, beggars, and
both from
( The Encyclopedia Britannica Deluxe CD ROM Version 2001 )

b) the revolution and the proletariat´s gain through the revolution

The question´s focus should be more against what not against whom the
revolution was.

"Marx inherited the ideas of class and class struggle from Utopian
socialism and the theories of Saint-Simon. These had been given
substance by the writings of French historians such as Adolphe Thiers
and François Guizot on the French Revolution of 1789. But unlike the
French historians, Marx made class struggle the central fact of social
evolution. "The history of all hitherto existing human society is the
history of class struggles."

In Marx's view, the dialectical nature of history is expressed in
class struggle. With the development of capitalism, the class struggle
takes an acute form. Two basic classes, around which other less
important classes are grouped, oppose each other in the capitalist
system: the owners of the means of production, or bourgeoisie, and the
workers, or proletariat. "The bourgeoisie produces its own
grave-diggers. The fall of the bourgeoisie and the victory of the
proletariat are equally inevitable" (The Communist Manifesto) because
the bourgeois relations of production are the last contradictory form
of the process of social production, contradictory not in the sense of
an individual contradiction, but of a contradiction that is born of
the conditions of social existence of individuals; however, the forces
of production which develop in the midst of bourgeois society create
at the same time the material conditions for resolving this
contradiction. With this social development the prehistory of human
society ends.
When man has become aware of his loss, of his alienation, as a
universal nonhuman situation, it will be possible for him to proceed
to a radical transformation of his situation by a revolution. This
revolution will be the prelude to the establishment of communism and
the reign of liberty reconquered. "In the place of the old bourgeois
society with its classes and its class antagonisms, there will be an
association in which the free development of each is the condition for
the free development of all."
But for Marx there are two views of revolution. One is that of a final
conflagration, "a violent suppression of the old conditions of
production," which occurs when the opposition between bourgeoisie and
proletariat has been carried to its extreme point. This conception is
set forth in a manner inspired by the Hegelian dialectic of the master
and the slave, in The Holy Family. The other conception is that of a
permanent revolution involving a provisional coalition between the
proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie rebelling against a capitalism
that is only superficially united. Once a majority has been won to the
coalition, an unofficial proletarian authority constitutes itself
alongside the revolutionary bourgeois authority. Its mission is the
political and revolutionary education of the proletariat, gradually
assuring the transfer of legal power from the revolutionary
bourgeoisie to the revolutionary proletariat.
If one reads The Communist Manifesto carefully one discovers
inconsistencies that indicate that Marx had not reconciled the
concepts of catastrophic and of permanent revolution. Moreover, Marx
never analyzed classes as specific groups of men opposing other groups
of men. Depending on the writings and the periods, the number of
classes varies; and unfortunately the pen fell from Marx's hand at the
moment when, in Das Kapital (vol. 3), he was about to take up the
question. Reading Das Kapital, one is furthermore left with an
ambiguous impression with regard to the destruction of capitalism:
will it be the result of the "general crisis" that Marx expects, or of
the action of the conscious proletariat, or of both at once?"

"in Marxist thought, rule by the proletariat (the economic and social
class consisting of industrial workers who derive income solely from
their labour) during the transitional phase between the abolition of
the capitalist system and the establishment of communism. During this
transition the proletariat is to suppress bourgeois resistance to its
socialist revolution, destroy the social relations of production
underlying the class system, and create a classless society."
Both quotes from the same source as above.

The utopia of the classless society is the most important thing to be
reached by the communist revolution. Marx thought that the working
class would get much better living conditions after such a revolution.

As the subject is rather complex let me propose the following
additional information sources for further reading:

Big archiv on Marxism
( )

Historical contexts
( )

Sociological Theory
( )

Many more intersting ones at:
( ://

I hope this answers your question. If anything should still be unclear
please post a Clarification Request before you rate my answer.


Search strategy
Internal search function of the Encyclopedia Britannica CD ROM Vesrion 2001
( ://
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