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Will the Proletariat Ever Take Over?

December 6, 2010

In The Communist Manifesto Karl Marx says:

Masses of labourers, crowded into the factory, are organised like soldiers.  As privates of the industry army they are placed under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers and sergeants.  Not only are they slaves of the bourgeois class, and of the bourgeois State; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the overlooker, and, above all, by the individual bourgeois manufacturer himself.

As you can see in the cartoon above, the working class, also known as the Proletariat,  have become slaves to the captains of industry.  It seems that the bourgeoisie have gotten rid of their sentimental veil and have become money-hungry beasts, treating the workers as appendages of their machines rather than human beings.  Many workers, especially in factories, work in conditions that should not be tolerated under any circumstances.  They are forced to work long hours, receive less than minimum wage, and work in unhealthy environments.  However, how much is enough?  When will this mistreatment of the Proletariat come to an end?

Marx said:

…with the development of industry the proletariat not only increase in numbers; it becomes concentrated in greater masses, its strength grows, and it feels that strength…The workers begin to form combinations (Trades’ Unions) against the bourgeois.

[The bourgeoisie] furnishes the proletariat with weapons for fighting [them]…[they] also supply the proletariat with fresh elements of enlightenment and progress…

It is a matter of time until the working class gains more power.  It definitely is necessary to have leaders who can lead the masses and oversee industries, but the inequality between the classes should slowly begin to disappear.  The proletariat are no longer weak, but have in fact gained significant power throughout the years, especially with the formation of unions, which have forced the bourgeoisie to listen to them.  In addition, due to the competitive and selfish nature of the bourgeoisie, some of them are constantly being forced into the proletariat, providing the working class with members that have necessary inside knowledge to cripple the bourgeoisie.

Furthermore, the existence of the bourgeoisie society could be in crisis.  Considering the immensity of today’s industrial world, overproduction could become a major problem, providing the proletariat with an opportunity to take over.  Marx says that if such a thing was to happen:

Society [would] suddenly find itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed…Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce…[and it would] endanger the existence of bourgeois property.

The proletariat are a result of this fear.  However, they are the weapon that will bring down the bourgeoisie.  In order to avoid overproduction, consumption needs to take place, and the only way for that to happen is if people have money.  Additionally, in order to have capital to spend people need to work, placing the bourgeoisie into an endless cycle and making them dependent on the working class, bestowing a power in them that they can never take away.

While the gap between the rich and the poor has been widening throughout the years, I believe, like I said before, that the working class will eventually gain enough power to narrow the difference between the classes.  The fact that most of the United States’ wealth is controlled by about 1% of the population seems unfair, especially considering it’s the proletariat that do most of the hard work.  Will this wealth ever be distributed among the masses?  Will our nation go from being a bourgeoisie State to one run by the working people?  Only time will tell.

  1. Alec Lessner permalink
    December 6, 2010 7:58 PM

    I’m not sure its a realistic assumption that there will be a rising up of the “proletariat” in the United States anytime soon. The United States’ industries are hardly factory-based nowadays, rather, most Americans are engaged in the private sector. Also, fair labor laws have been in place for many years now in an effort to protect the people who do in fact work in factories. I would agree that the gap between the rich and the poor has been widening over the years, but I would disagree with the idea that the wealthy elite fear those underneath them and are secretly dependent on them. The United States is far from being an industrial nation, and I’d have to say that the possibility of a redistribution of the wealth or a rising of the masses is slim.

  2. Katelyn Salowitz permalink
    December 6, 2010 8:02 PM

    Interesting post. I am honestly doubtful about the wealth being distributed among the masses since the bourgeoisie seem to control so much of society now and most of the common people, aka proletariat, are just trying to get by. Of course, not everyone is scrounging around for food, but times are tough and many people are at the liberty of their employers. They need jobs and want to keep them. In my opinion, this fact alone makes it unlikely there will be an upheaval. However, on the flipside, if such an event like this did occur, I could see people theorizing about an “end of days” theme. As Marx said, potential widespread famine and wars could ensue. This sounds very similar to signs of the end of the world as discussed in Revelations Chapter 6 of the Bible. The “end of days” theme seems to be very popular now as 2012 approaches and there is continuous theorization about what will happen. Some argue that it is already happening. There is famine throughout much of the world and it seems like every time one turns on the evening news there is discussion about what country might invade another country. Perhaps Marx is right and the proletariats are beginning an upheaval now.

  3. yequan permalink
    December 6, 2010 9:43 PM

    The point is that proletariats, according to Marx, are people without property. But the situation in America and other nations is that although the distribution of wealth seems unequal, people like workers do have their own properties now and they are becoming stronger group. I don’t think proletariats will take over in my life time LOL. Also, redistribution of wealth and property may lead to sever problems, similar problems happened in China before.

  4. xiaoyzhang permalink
    December 6, 2010 9:47 PM

    The proletariat will never rise and overthrow the bourgeoisie in the United States. If we look at history, most revolutions have occurred because the working class were fighting for a common cause. Many were denied freedoms and tried to overthrow corrupt rule. If we look at our situation here, Americans have plenty of freedoms. In general, we don’t have a corrupt government. Americans are really independent too and don’t really strike me as the type of people who would unite together under a common cause to overthrow our government.

  5. Jenbiz permalink
    December 7, 2010 2:25 AM

    It hardly seems necessary that the so-called American Proletariat “rise up.” While it is true that a large majority of the country’s wealth is concentrated in a surprisingly few individuals, these individuals are too far relied upon by the masses for a revolution to occur. For example, when a low-earning family seeks out a mortgage, who do they turn to? Why, JPMorgan Chase, of course, whose CEO, needless to say, earned a hearty $41.2 million salary in 2006. When Average Joe takes his daughter to see Tangled, a new animated film produced by Disney, it contributes to CEO Bob Iger’s $42 million salary.

    Meanwhile, the American Middle Class is said to be “exploited.” It may be undeniable that workers of nineteenth-century Germany were exploited, in Marx’s time, or even workers in nineteenth-century America, but today it is the consumers of this country whose purchasing decisions exploit themselves. The widening gap of wealth distribution only reflects people’s willingness—and ability—to purchase goods and services they increasingly cannot produce themselves, due to the advanced research and technology necessary to do so. And since the American people are not only financially able (as reflected by, say, the number of smart-phones purchased last quarter—14.7 million), but also willing to engage in this market, they are merely exchanging their own ability to revolt, for the goods and services they deem necessary for living in our modern American world.

  6. December 7, 2010 1:47 PM

    This is a very intersesting topic for discussion. Karl Marx was a conflict theorist and he believed that money will essentially, in the end, drive people to do what they do. He believed that people found meaning in their lives through their work, or speciality. In the past century mass production of consumer items has become overwhelmingly popular in the U.S. and in other countries around the world. According to Marx, the way countries run their government and decide to distribute their wealth runs in a cycle. This means that capitalism will eventually turn into a form of communism (through revolution) and will eventually return back to capitalsim. However, I do not think this theory is logical in our modern society. Globalization and neoliberal politics have gained a considerable amount of popularity and are currently two big contributing factors to the economic success experience in the United States. While it is obscured that only a mere 1% of the general populaiton controls our nations wealth, it is the reality. Only through an extreme (most likely unrealistic) revolution will our nation’s wealth be distributed equally among the people

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