What everyone would agree on is that Marx discusses social classes, class struggle, revolution, and therefore peace and economic equality. The most significant conflict stands between the working class (proletariat) and the rich (bourgeoisie) because the first executes jobs on minimum reimbursement (monetary or otherwise), while the latter enjoys the benefits of owning means of production and the profit. This article will convey a brief assessment on whether Marx’s ‘instructions’ are currently applicable for the West and, if not, why. The assessment will be done by looking at the changes in the social systems. The reason for focusing on the Western World is because evaluating this book to a global level would implicate a complexity that a single essay could not cover. So, Marx and Engels write a clear 10-points instruction list, directing the system to what changes it would need, asking the proletariat to take the actions.
What are today’s social classes?
To begin with, the key to understanding the relations between people is, according to Marx and Engels, class structure (Giddens and Held, 1982: 12-39). However, the “classes are a creation of history” (Held, 2006) and thus it is essential that we note the changes that affected our West since Marx’s categorisation. We no longer look at a singular society. We encounter pluralism since the ease movement of people developed enough to generate mass-migration and individuals’ stabilisation in the country of destination. Therefore, migrants today are rather called ‘foreigners’, and there is no stigma attached to one’s status in a country. Equal access to jobs is a fundamental policy as well. Non-discriminatory laws are put in place and taken very seriously in all states too. It can be argued that there is no longer an unbreakable correlation between identity and nationality (Bauman, 2011: 36). Roughly, one can claim that being a foreigner is no different from being a native regarding access, treatment, or capital reimbursement. However, being a foreigner makes a big difference when analysing cultural values. Although the West hybridised itself (cultures mixing, resulting in an amalgam of practices and mutual understandings), the micro-level analysis shows significant differences regarding understanding. Having thought on how Marx split the society and assessing the argument above, we are looking at four social classes: migrant/foreigner: working-class or wealthy. However, these classes do not satisfy my analysis enough.
I have previously argued that the West would be split into ten social classes: unemployed minorities and nationals, poor blue collar working minorities and nationals, higher blue collar working minorities and nationals, white collar working minorities and nationals, and high-class minorities and nationals. The blue collar working class is split in poor and less poor because the first refers to individuals working in sanitation services and services like cleaning, while the latter refers to manual labour in construction or better-paid labouring jobs. The latter category, high-class, refers to families who inherit their economic and social status (commonly known as VIPs) (Bucur, 2018). Considering this categorisation, it is somewhat hard to establish what Marx called a common goal. It can be justly claimed that lower classes will opt for improvements in the economic system, but immigrants’ classes are likely to look more at the political standards and their ease of movement, leaving the economic standard as a second interest. Moreover, the West is highly individualistic. Customization is everywhere: jobs, laws, social norms. Therefore a classes’ goal would rather be one person’s goal and the other person’s goal – making the whole trial to satisfy every need complex and almost impossible (see Bauman, 2011: 71-95).
Differences in understanding and individuals’ self-assessment are problematic concepts that we must relate to when assessing each of Marx’s instruction points. Therefore, the arguments that will follow are looking at the present factors.
What cannot be executed
Firstly, Marx suggests the abolition of private property in the sense that land should be rented, not owned (Marx and Engels, 2015: 33). This action supposes that the State would own the country’s land and rent it to the population according to its needs. The system should work in a way in which every person would have enough economic capital to afford it, which would mean an evenly distributed economic capital that comes from the State. It is, indeed, a theory. Afterwards, he proposes a “centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State” (Marx and Engels, 2015: 34), that is, deducible, public and industrial transport and communication. Marx’s indication is inexecutable because of democratisation in a consumerist age where corporations own more than any state. Marx’s next suggestion was the extension of industrialisation owned by the State, i.e. “factories and instruments of production” (Marx and Engels, 2015: 34).
Almost the same arguments can be made for these three points. The West is governed by mass consumption factors, which lead to corporations owning more than any State does. Privatization has been established to the point where companies and wealthy individuals own almost all the land and properties. The democratic systems of Western countries do not allow States to interfere or change private properties to public service. To clarify: democracy means the rule of law (rationalisation, secularisation). It refers to the freedom of speech, freedom to form associations, enjoyment of underlying economic, social, and political rights of all citizens. It also refers to the equitable distribution of wealth, income, and resources, restraining privileges of elites, the right to dissent and choosing alternatives, and security for minorities in a pluralist society (Singh, 2005: 99). Multiple States own properties, give housing benefits or provide public housing that is all accessible by individuals with small economic capital or unemployed. An exact application of the first ‘instruction’ in The Communist Manifesto is currently impossible. A way around it has already been established. Therefore we can conclude that Marx’s point was viable, and the system shows consideration to renting land rather than owning, but only to the extent to which democracy lets it.
Following the same argumentative logic, no State could rightfully municipalize the means of communication and transportation. Companies of logistics can be both private and national in the Capitalist West. Globalisation also brought the possibility of international business which means that there is no industrial activity at a national level only. Companies can conduct businesses in any country and consequently use their means of communication and transport. For example, corporations like Vodafone or EE/Orange will never ‘surrender’ their wealth in a country to that State. However, the idea itself is applicable. Shutting down all communication and transport companies would trigger a massive economic breakdown, but it can theoretically be done. After that, each State could launch their systems and have a contract, or an international business plan to ensure that migration will not be affected. Excluding the possibility of a brand new economic depression, centralising the means of communication and transport could be an option. I will argue that it would not be profitable for the world, nor for the States which should then solve the economic tragedies. The same argument can contradict Marx’s proposition to “[extending] factories and instruments of production owned by the State…” (Marx and Engels, 2015:34). For this extension to be possible, the State should own the larger part of the industry, which stands against the capitalist fact of privatisation being the core of the economy. However, the latter idea that he gives in the same ‘instruction’ point is roughly applied. He talks about “…the bringing into cultivation of wastelands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan” (Marx and Engels, 2015: 34), which I can pinpoint to matters such as recycling and environmental care.
After these debated ideas, the fourth point is that of “confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels” (Marx and Engels, 2015: 33). This phase is conceptually impossible in the present capitalist West, and its argument is highly sophisticated and would need an article on its own. As explained in the previous paragraphs, democracy and freedom of movement and globalisation and multiculturalism make the enforcement of a law that denies emigration rights impossible. So long as immigration is well-seen and embraced, emigration must have the same status: clear. If one leaves their country, their properties are kept in their name. They do not contribute to the country’s taxation system, but they are taxed in the country of destination. Moreover, owned property is taxed, that means that no matter where you are if you own something in a country, then you will pay for that. Moreover, the sole idea of confiscating property stands against the capitalist freedom. In Marx’s time, when emigration was stigmatised, and rebellion was a daily issue, the idea of confiscation would have helped in the sense that individuals would remain in their countries and pay their dues.
Rebellion today is changed as well. Unfortunately, freedom is a blade cutting both sides that gave way to extreme liberalism. Regardless if one opposes a particular political issue, political system, a way of thinking or personal choice, the rebels are nothing more than liberals in the present West. I will argue that this extreme liberalism is adding contradiction to the world. Rights have been both expanded and chained. Individuals are told about freedom, yet through this movement, they are also being told what to think and socially obliged to behave and speak in different ways (see contemporary fundamentalism, Bucur, 2018). We see us having the right to be different and indifferent to difference. However, it is highly relevant to note that although the right to difference is given, the right to indifference is taken off “by those very people who give this right [i.e. to difference] to others” (Bauman, 2011: 59). Therefore, resuming to the principal argument, the confiscation of property from migrants and rebels would be slightly illegal today and thus Marx’s point cannot be applied, and no changes can be made for it to be applied. Evacuation of all immigrants and changing liberal views are impossible so long as these ‘rebels’ (liberals) are covered through the freedom of speech (which yes, they break by telling everyone what to think and say, but that would be a different discussion).
What could be executed
Another point on Marx’s list is the abolition of “all right of inheritance” (Marx and Engels, 2015: 33). In the previous paragraphs, I named a class ‘high-class’ for the sole reason that they inherit their wealth and social status. To apply the latter proposition, the State should confiscate all the wealth of those families who inherit it. These actions mean not only break the concept of capitalism itself but would mean undermining that family’s long-time work to gain the wealth. Undebatable, not all families worked for their wealth, some had confiscated it from others in times when it was possible to do so. For example, in undeveloped countries today, families that are part of the government are corrupt enough and ensure wealth for themselves – therefore their children will inherit wealth that is not their at its roots so that one could abolish the right to inherit in this situation. However, the main issue would have a transparent enough legal body. This institution would follow the line of corruption, taking families’ unfairly gained wealth and transfer this capital to the uncorrupted parts of the State. Usually, this unfairly gained wealth would belong to all the people of a country. Typically, the corruption system operates by raising taxes and hiring low-charging or family-owned companies for different jobs and keeping the difference in fees. Marx’s suggestion would be half-way applicable. Abolish the right of inheritance for those who did not acquire the wealth legally while not undermining the freedom of others who inherit family businesses for which someone worked long-time and hard.
Marx also suggests the “combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equable distribution of the population over the country” (Marx and Engels, 2015: 34). The proposal would refer to the merge between agriculture and industrialisation in such a way that the latter would not require individuals to move to cities so that the population concentration would be even on the territory. Because today we no longer see agriculture as separate, rather marketisation has taken over it, and there are companies of agriculture rather than the early individual business, we can say that the combination is established. Countries in the West still have local agriculture and local farms, but due to globalisation, the tendency today is finding products on the market that are grown in industrial weight and conditions, while fewer and fewer people grow for sale and only a few practice agriculture for their consumption. Nevertheless, the shift from rural areas to the city is still evolving. The reason for this migration is still industry-related since individuals today travel to cities for higher education (that leads to better jobs) and for better-paid jobs. The “equable distribution” today is far from being established. In Western developed countries, fewer and fewer individuals live in rural areas. To give brief statistical support from the World Bank, the UK rates 17% rural inhabitants, Sweden 14%, Germany 24%. On the other hand, undeveloped countries have more rural inhabitants, Romania rates 45%, Lithuania 33%, Bulgaria 26%. Even so, the differences are not as high as one would think. The USA has 18% of its population stabilised in rural areas. As a general commentary, this point is partially applied and applicable. A way to equally distributing population would be the better development of rural areas regarding school systems and jobs, roughly meaning the transformation of rural areas to look and function more and more as cities do. Regardless, this solution would tightly depend on each country and its economic situation, investment power.
What has been executed
We need to look at the highest developed countries, and we will know how Marx’s instruction point is beneficial. Income is in rapport with the job, white collar workers have a higher salary than the blue-collar workers, and taxation is itself in rapport to one’s income. “A heavy progressive or graduated income tax” (Marx and Engels, 2015: 33) is what less developed countries in the West are bound to establish as law. One cannot argue to the contrary. Not a single issue should rise from this point. It can be said that, individually, rich people would rather not pay more in favour of the less fortunate having better healthcare (as an example), but on a socio-political level this is a great idea and should be put in practice everywhere. Another argument in favour of this idea is that migrants have poorer classes and richer individuals as well. Thus, no native should be opposing graduated taxes because he/she would pay for the less fortunate foreigners. Therefore, this step is fully applicable and would be a benefit for the whole West if every country would enforce it. Alike is the fifth point of Marx’s list that of “Centralization of credit in the hands of the State using a national bank with State capital and exclusive monopoly” (Marx and Engels, 2015: 33). This system is the way each country functions today. Moreover, having the European Union, we see an even more significant monopoly that is the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Marx has seen a right path when saying this. Apparently, this system has its troubles and issues arise from IMF and each country’s National Bank, but the general idea, when put in practice, is somewhat better than not having this type of economic centralisation. Thus, this point shall no longer be debated.
Marx is also saying that the proletariat needs “equal liability of all labour. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture”. His proposal refers to equalising security of all jobs by having a group of people who stand for their rights in this sense. It refers to what we call now a syndicate. He argues for agriculture since that was the main occupation, but we do see these organisations today, and they fight for the workers’ rights within companies. A syndicate operates, usually, in a certain field, e.g. accountants or dentists, and mediates the relationship between employers and workers so that both sides are happy, tending to protect and argue for workers’ benefits more than the other way around. Therefore, I can argue that Marx’s “industrial armies” have been established in our capitalist West and are flourishing in gaining workers’ rights.
Then, The Communist Manifesto proposes that there should be “free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c., &c.” (Marx and Engels, 2015: 34). Marx’s ‘instruction’ has been partially enforced. Children in the West are forbidden labour and encouraged to education, most countries having compulsory education for a set number of years. Children can also opt for industrial schooling, i.e. machine operating, sewing while they can also opt for academic-oriented schools which then lead to further educational options such as colleges and universities. Since there is no specification, one can assume that in saying “children” Marx refers to individuals around 13 years old. The world today sees great improvement and education is attainable by almost all social classes.
“Class divisions arise only when a surplus is generated, such that it becomes possible for a class of non-producers to live off the productive activity of others” (Held, 2006). Contradicting the system of profit is impossible in a capitalist society, thus Held referring to Marx’s theory is incorrect in saying that “…in the future, they [classes] will disappear” (2006). The simple freedom of ownership contradicts class abolition. What capitalism enforces is, on the other hand, equality of ownership and a slight meritocratic system to capital distribution. Moreover, through the logic of all arguments in this article, we can claim that The Communist Manifesto is both inapplicable and applied. We can stretch two of them to become a reality, and the actions could lead to prosperity. Those not applicable are tightly related to the fact that capitalism is strongly rooted in the West and changes to that may lead to economic and political destruction. Also, one can argue that the sole reason for democracy in some countries is to avoid Communism (take Romanian or Bulgarian1989 revolution). If the West as we live in now would leave its guard down, diminish political tension, and diminish the extreme liberalism, order and fairness could be easily enforced. Education, jobs, and wealth, in general, could be part of a meritocratic system. The transparent body against corruption could be a viable possibility if the West would become politically trustworthy in the eyes of the population. In a sense, globalisation and modernity are a “ready-made package” that closely resembles the Marxist idea of a world market (Pieterse, 1995: 46)
I can argue that part of our Capitalism stands on some points made by Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto and that communism stands for equality and municipalization. However, a full establishment of the manifest would be impossible. Equality is legally established throughout countries of the West. Nonetheless, globalisation brings and means migration, stabilisation, international economic support, bureaucracy, marketisation, corporations, and most importantly freedom of choice and expression along with liberalism. Moreover, these are rooted in our world enough not ever to allow municipalization.
Bauman, Z. 2011. ‘Culture from nation-building to globalization’ and ‘Culture in a world of diasporas’, Culture in a Liquid Modern World, pp. 32-70. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Bucur, A. 2018. 1. ‘Social Classes. The Western Contemporary Situation’ https://bit.ly/2qdnRjz .
Bucur, A. 2018. 2. ‘Liberal fundamentalism: a contemporary paradox’ https://bit.ly/2GLfAhe .
Held, D. 2006. ‘Direct Democracy and the End of Politics’, Models of Democracy, pp.96-120. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Marx, K. and Engels, F. 2015. The Communist Manifesto. UK: Penguin Random House
Pieterse, J. N. 1995. ‘Globalisation and Modernity’ in Featherstone, M., Lash, S., and Robertson, R. 1995. Global Modernities, pp. 46-49. London: SAGE Publications.
Singh, K. 2005. ‘Globalisation of Democracy’, Questioning Globalisation, pp. 101-104. London: Zed Books.
World Bank. 2016. ‘Rural population (% of population)’ https://bit.ly/2E9ihHe .