Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels lived in an interesting time. The world around these two men had changed rapidly during the years prior to their birth and after their birth. People were forced to reconsider the structure of their societies and the way individuals were treated by society. Marx and Engels dealt directly with this problem. Their theories dealt directly with the new economic realities of a rapidly industrializing Europe. Their beliefs were grounded in a class struggle between the people who owned the means of production, the bourgeoisie, and those people who were exploited by the bourgeoisie, the proletariat. Their proposed plan was to ameliorate the problems associated with the new economic arrangement.
A point has been made that a great number of changes had occurred in Europe before Marx and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto.The Communist Manifesto was written to combat these new forces. A manifesto is a set of definitions that define how the world runs and who is involved. It classifies people into groups to allow them to identify their allies and enemies. It also states the goals of a political movement. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels collaborated to write this document for the Communist League, which met in London during the latter part of 1847 and early part of 1848. It was meant to define the historical circumstances that led to the development of the modern era and the eventual triumph of communism which the dialectic of history predestined to occur.
The nature of human relations has never been peaceful. Since the beginning of time humans have struggled amongst one another trying to satisfy their desires.Engels claimed,
all history has been a history of class struggles, of struggles between exploited and exploiting, between dominated and dominating classes at various stages of social development; that this struggle, however, has now reached a stage where the exploited and oppressed class can no longer emancipated itself form the class which exploits and oppresses it (472).
People at one time in history had the opportunity to overthrow their oppressors and make a better life for themselves. This was no longer true. The oppression became so harsh and omnipresent that people had no escape. This raises some interesting questions. What was the nature of the oppression? Why were people becoming more and more oppressed? What could be done about the oppression? These will all be answered later in the paper.
A natural state exists in which the bourgeoisie and the proletariat are in competition with one another. The capitalists are in business to make money. Marx and Engels said, These labourers, who must sell themselves piece-meal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market (479). The proletariat is only worthwhile as long as they are earning money for their employers. When they are a burden they are left to fend for their livelihood. Therefore, the workers as a commodity will attempt to a make as much money as they can, while the bourgeoisie will try to maximize profits.
People are becoming more oppressed because of the work they perform compared to the work that they performed in an earlier time. Marx and Engel asserted, Owning to the extensive use of machinery and to division of labour, the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and consequently, all charm for the workman, he becomes and appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him (479). Work in factories was unlike work that was rendered in the small workshops and in their homes. People had taken pride in their work and in return received a feeling of self-worth.