The human condition to class struggle
In addition to reading Kierkegaard I have also had the chance to read Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto
. Coincidentally Kierkegaard and Engels sat together in at leach one seminar (the lecturer was Schelling). I am largely sold on SK’s insight into the human condition. Addressing the human condition is an element of Marxist thinking that I have found to be extremely underdeveloped. However, there remains much to be appreciated in reading TCM. For those who have not read it I offer here some highs and lows (bear in mind this work was published in 1848). For those who have read it, feel free to criticize.
Chapter 1: “Bourgeois and Proletarian”
The opening line:
“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle.”
“The bourgeoisie have resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom – Free Trade. . . . The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its wage-labourers.”
“The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society.”
“The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.”
“The cheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all . . . walls.”
“Just as it made the country dependant on the towns, so it has made barbarian [sic] countries dependent on civilized ones.”
Speaking of a commercial crisis “In these crises there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity – the epidemic of over-production.”
“Owing to the extensive use of machinery and to division of labour, the work of proletarians has lost all individual character, and, consequently, all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine.”
“The essential condition for the existence, and for the sway of the bourgeois class, is the formation and augmentation of capital; the condition for capital is wage labour. Wage labour rests exclusively on competition between the labourers.”
And here I am a little more critical,
“But with the development of industry the proletariat not only increase in number; it becomes concentrated in greater masses, its strength grows, and it feels that strength more.”
“Now and then the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever expanding union of the workers. This union is helped on by the improved means of communication that are created by modern industry and that place the workers of different localities in contact with one another. It was just this contact that was needed to centralize the numerous local struggles, all of the same character, into one national struggle.”
This approach has a type of social evolutionary thinking that I simple don’t think it tenable anymore.
“All previous movements were the movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.”
This assumes a unity based on economics which I do not believe does justice to the spiritual and social nature of humanity.
“In depicting the most general phases of the development of the proletariat, we traced the more or less veiled civil war, waging within existing society, up to the point where that war breaks out into open revolution, and where the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat.”
The chapter concludes apocalyptically in the following,
“The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the labourers due to competition, by their revolutionary combination, due to association. The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, is its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.”
Chapter 2 to follow . . .