You are on page 1of 5

Carrillo1

Juan Carrillo
Dr. Rodney Koeneke
HST106
May 15, 2015
Marx Essay
In 1848 there was widespread revolutions around Europe. In the same year Karl Marx
and Friedrich Engels published the Communist Manifesto. Marx was influenced by the
industrialization and revolutions of his time. The political atmosphere of the 19th century set the
stage for Marxs ideas. He was heavily influenced by German philosopher Hegel, whose
dialectic he followed and changed to support his theory. He said that history consisted of class
struggles as the catalyst for change. Before 1848 there was the French Revolution that abolished
the landed aristocracy and along with that came revolutions in Latin America that shared the
same ideals as well as the American War of Independence in 1776. The French Revolution left
lasting ideals of liberty, freedom, and equality. This would later on influence Marxist theory on
socialism and would lead to his writings on communism. Marxist theory states that revolution is
inevitable due to class struggle, he would understand the French Revolution and American
revolution as a struggle between the oppressed Bourgeoisie and the oppressor aristocracy.
Marx states, that there will always be a class struggle until capital, or the means of
production are publicly owned. Marx shows examples of social classes in history in the quote.
In the earlier epochs of history a.. arrangement of society into various orders, a
manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians,
slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters
Marx theorizes that along with these classes, the main center of power will always oppress the
classes under it. He states that class struggle is inevitable until power is equally distributed

Carrillo2
amongst the people. Marx argues that every class with the most power will not give it away
willingly and because of that there will need to be revolution.
In the first section of the Communist Manifesto, Marx speaks of every individual in a
society being a part of a social class that vies for power against others. He states that in every
society there is an oppressor and the oppressed. This fits into the French revolution, because the
bourgeoisie there, felt oppressed by the aristocracy due to all the taxation without representation.
Because of the Estates General system, the largest population of France, the Third Estate had a
disproportionate amount of votes when the minority being clergyman and nobility had more
votes. This struggle between bourgeoisie and aristocracy in France, as seen by Marxist theory
was bound to lead to revolution. The American War of Independence is very similar to the
French because of the same ideals, but also in the same system of struggle. The colonists in
America believed they were being unfairly taxed by the United Kingdom and revolted because of
it. In both cases, the aristocracy used taxes to oppress the bourgeoisie and in doing so led to
revolutions and class struggle.
Marx believed that the French revolution was a force for progress. What he saw as the
next step of the change, was for the working class or Proletariat, join together to revolt against
the Bourgeoisie. Some would argue that because the peasants and working class of France took
part in the revolution that it was also a Proletariat revolution. However, that was not the case
because after the revolutionaries disposed of the King, the new rulers were strictly wealthy and
influential Bourgeoisie. After all the talk of freedom and equality, there came a reign of terror
and little was actually done to help the working class or peasants. The Bourgeoisie reaped the
most benefits of the revolution. The Proletariat were still taxed and working and social

Carrillo3
conditions changed very little. Marx envisioned a Proletariat revolution where the means of
production were taken from the Bourgeoisie by force.
Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto as a reaction to what he saw during his time.
He had hurriedly published it with his partner Friedrich Engels during an age of revolution in
Europe. The French Revolution had left lasting ideals of liberty, freedom, and equality. Along
with that the Industrial revolution brought in a great societal change.
Marx said that history is made of class struggles. He would pinpoint the revolutions of his
time, the French and American being two of greatest impact, as a revolution of the bourgeoisie.
The French revolution consisted of wealthy individuals who wanted to get rid of the landed
aristocracy. The American War of Independance was a revolution of the same for similar reasons.
Both monarchies had placed taxes that the bourgeoisie disliked which caused an uprising. Marx
says in the communist manifesto that this was bound to happen. He says that the next step is for
the working class or the proletariat to revolt against the bourgeoisie and take control of the state.
Marx knew that the industrial revolution had been changing the world and that it would leave
some states that were not yet industrialized to be considered unmodern. Marx praises the
Bourgeoisie for getting rid of the aristocracy in France and sees the change as a force for
progress. Marx, being a revolutionary says that there are contrary views on socialism and he sees
some of them being disruptive to the progress of change.
The French Revolution was not brought about by the proletariat or the working class, as
you can see by the national assembly being created at the tennis court oath. Marxist theory works
just as well in the American Revolution. In America, the revolution was led by wealthy
landowners, who had enough of the taxes imposed upon by the British aristocracy.

Carrillo4
In revolutionary France, there was three classes called estates who were under the king's
rule. The first two being the clergy, and nobility. The largest estate was everyone else in France,
including, peasants, merchants, and artisans. When Louis XIV called a meeting of the Estates
General the third estate stated the changes they wanted. When the king did not meet their
demands they executed him. Then the wealthier and more influential members of the third estate
created the national assembly. There was no real change for the peasants in France. They were
still hungry, and they had little role in politics. This shows that the revolution was not led by the
Proletariat, but instead the wealthy factory owners, the Bourgeoisie. The French revolution was
largely in part a class struggle and it influenced Marx greatly on his work on the Communist
Manifesto.
The American Revolution was led by a group of wealthy landowners. These people were
not considered bourgeoisie and wanted to revolt not for the working class. They took many
ideals from the French, like liberty and freedom.
Marx thought saw the problems that came with industrialization. An excerpt from
Friedrich Engels, Industrial Manchester 1844 shows the unsustainable living conditions during
this time.
. . . Here, as in most of the working-men's quarters of Manchester, the pork-raisers rent
the courts and build pig-pens in them. In almost every court one or even several such pens may
be found, into which the inhabitants of the court throw all refuse and offal, whence the swine
grow fat; and the atmosphere, confined on all four sides, is utterly corrupted by putrefying
animal and vegetable substances....1
Engels criticized the problems that industrialisation. Marx shares this view and it contributes to
his theory that the way the Proletariat would handle it would be in revolt. Marx was not against
the industrial revolution, but he saw it as a change that needed to happen in order for a modern
communist society to come about. Industrialization made many people leave their farms and go
1 Friedrich Engels, Industrial Manchester 1844. http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1844engels.asp

Carrillo5
to factories for work. This led to a much larger poor working class that was discontent due to
long working hours for low wages. Marx states in the Communist Manifesto that this lead to
pauperism being rampant in urban areas. A big problem of having factory owners being the
minority and the majority being factory workers was that the workers were dependant on the
factory owners for their livelihood. They didnt have much say in their wages and received little
for their work.
Revolution is inevitable due to class struggle, Marx said this in 1848 and he would
understand the French Revolution and American revolution as a struggle between the oppressed
Bourgeoisie and the oppressor aristocracy by using this theory. The French and American
revolutions can be seen through this understanding as part of the first stages of revolution led by
the Bourgeoisie against the Monarchies. The Communist Manifesto would later on play a large
role in world history. Communist nations would spring up in the following twentieth century, and
it would lead to a cold war with the western ideology of capitalism. Marxist theory of class
struggle still can be seen today through Occupy Wall street protests, the Baltimore riots, and the
Hong Kong protests.