Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto And The Industrial Proletariat

1408 words - 6 pages

Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto and the Industrial Proletariat

Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto was most appealing to and revolutionary for the industrial workers of 1848 (and those to come after that time). The call for unification of the proletariat and abolishment of the Bourgeoisie was an urgent one during a time of rapid progress in all aspects of industrial life. This urgency of The Communist Manifesto and the desire for change of political ideologies (to match the exponential rate of progress of wealth and industry) created not only a spate of revolutions, but a long lasting change in political ideas for industrialized European nations. The Communist Manifesto created a sense of unity and class awareness throughout the proletariat, thus they were able to recognize their power politically, socially and economically.

Naturally, with the sudden rise of industry (particularly in England) other sectors of the European economy were affected. Cottage industries were put out of business by competition from manufactured goods and agricultural workers migrated to the cities. Not only did the farming economy change drastically, but the urban setting where migrants came for employment expanded rapidly. These changes in labor practices and the economic landscape as a whole were most unsettling and unfair for the industrial workers of the 184 0's. Conditions were often poor and a very distinct line was drawn between rich and poor, factor owner and factory laborer. "Industrial workers, increasingly tied to the pace of machinery, found it more and more difficult to control their work processes; they had to work ten or twelve (or more) hours nearly every day on schedules fixed by factory owners."(1)

The oppressed industrial working classes, or proletariat in 1845, according to Fredrick Engles existed as "a piece of capital for the use of which the manufacturer pays interest under the name of wages."(2) They worked grueling hours, endured beatings from factory managers, were often ill as a result of working conditions, and were paid enough for only the most meager existence. For example, in the Saddler Committee report of 1832 (which aimed to investigate factory labor practices in England) the interviewee is asked how they (the workers) managed to remain alert and attentive at their machine. The worker responded "They strapped us many times, when we were not quite ready to be doffing the frame when it was full."(5) In response to another question about the former worker's destroyed appetite, he responds "It destroyed the appetite, and I became so feeble, that I could not cross the floor unless I had a stick to go with; I was in great pain, and could find no ease in posture." (5). This excerpt form the Saddler Committee is but one case of a worker crippled by labor, rather than a laborer benefiting from the fruits of his trade. Marx's vision of Communist society offers the depraved with the hopeful message that "in Communist society,...

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