"Bourgeois and Proletarians":
Capitalist Power, Nation-State and the World Economy
1. The theoretical actuality of the Manifesto
When dealing with the Communist Manifesto, one has to comprehend what makes this text preserve its hermeneutic and ideological power a whole 150 years after its first publication. The answer to this question is to be found in its revolutionary-scientific character, i.e. to the fact that it constitutes an analysis of the typical features of the capitalist mode of production, as it emerged from the history of class-struggles, and was consolidated into a system of class power and class exploitation with historically unique structural characteristics. This scientific character of the Manifesto, its ability to reveal the real character of a social order which presents itself as a regime of “freedom” and “human rights”, makes it also an ideological weapon in the hands of the working class, i.e. all those who are subjected to capitalist power and exploitation. And as Louis Altusser argued, "It is absolutely necessary for one to have adopted proletarian class positions, in order, very simply, to see and understand what is happening in a class society. It is based on the simple finding that (...) one cannot see everything from everywhere. One can discern the texture of this reality of conflict only if one adopts within the conflict itself, certain positions and not some other ones, because to passively adopt some other positions means that she/he has caught up in the logic of class illusions, which shall be named ruling ideology. Naturally this pre-condition opposes the entire positivist tradition -through which the bourgeois ideology interprets the practice of natural sciences" (Althusser: “Für Marx und Freud”, in Louis Althusser: Ideologie und ideologische Staatsapparate, Hamburg/Westberlin, pp. 89-107, 1977).
The Manifesto demonstrates the element of class antagonism, of the conflicting interests between the two main classes of capitalist society, the capitalists and wage-labourers. Even further, it grasps the unity between the competing classes of society, the unity and coherence of society, in terms of social-class power:
Power does not constitute the "right of the sovereign", or the "power of the state" in relation to (equal and free) citizens, but a specific form of class domination. Power is always class-power, the power of one class, (or a coalition of classes), of the ruling class, over the other, the dominated classes of society. This power, which stabilises on the basis of dominant social structures, is reproduced within class antagonism, within the struggle of the classes. The specific unity of society is, therefore, inseparable from the unity of the specific class power, which is insured within the class-struggle.
The Marxist theory of classes introduced by the Manifesto thus constitutes a theory of class-power within class-struggle. The classes are, therefore, defined exclusively on the field of class-struggle. They do not pre-exist class-struggle, and consequently they cannot be defined separately one from the other, but only through the social relations of an antagonism, which brings the one class in confrontation with the other. This means that the classes shall be perceived mainly as social relations and practices and not as "groups of individuals". "Capital is (...) a social power (...) The condition for capital is wage labour" (p. 97, 93).
The Manifesto does not refer to some particular capitalist society of its time, but to the structural characteristics of the capitalist relation per ce, to the capitalist mode of production. In other words, Marx and Engels focus on those elements of social relations which: 1) Comprise the unique character of capitalism, of each capitalist society, of capitalist class domination generally and discern this from the corresponding elements of other types of class domination (and of the corresponding social...
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