Wednesday, December 14, 2022


This paper aims to reimagine social relations in a society where private property has been abolished, based on a close reading of The Communist Manifesto as written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. For this paper, we will be making reference to the pages of the course readings packet, which includes the Manifesto.

Marx and Engels write that under capitalism, proletarians essentially live and exist in constant survival mode. This is first exemplified in the passage (132) where the proletariat is described as “a class of labourers, who live only so long as they find work… labourers, who must sell themselves piece-meal, are a commodity…” They also illustrate the very real and common day-to-day living scenario (133) in which “no sooner is the exploitation of the labourer by the manufacturer, so far at an end, that he receives his wages in cash, than he is set upon by the other portions of the bourgeoisie, the landlord, the shopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc.” Another prime example of this basic survival mode of existence is portrayed (134) in “the growing competition among the bourgeois, and the resulting commercial crises, make the wages of the workers ever more fluctuating. The unceasing improvement of machinery, ever more rapidly developing, makes their livelihood more and more precarious.”

Given the three examples above, one would be right to conclude that under capitalism, working-class labourers embody a precarious sort of existence, in which they are unable to forecast what their life could look like in a month, let alone a year later or longer. Such conditions are not conducive to dating and building relationships, nor for a traditional family nucleus, as the time required for all working-class people to sustain themselves on minimal wages, essentially means a lack of time for nurturing interpersonal relationships, or at least makes it significantly more challenging to do so. Members of the proletariat more often than not, even observably so in current society, lack the capacity to give of themselves to any other pursuit when their brains are focused on procuring basic necessities to ensure their own survival.

In direct opposition to capitalism, with the abolition of private property, everyone would then be a working and functional member of society. Workers would be reaping the fruits of their own labour, and not a single bit of their labour can be exploited to contribute to anyone else’s capital, and the idea of capital would be abolished. All that time that a proletarian had previously spent at work, only for the bourgeois class to squeeze and reap from their labour and profits, now turns into time that people can spend with their families, friends, and anyone they desired. What currently exists as high rates of isolation and a lingering sense of mistrust will be replaced with healthier and stronger relationships in community, as instead of perpetually experiencing the unending stressors of life in capitalist society, one can then feel like there is much value in spending time on building relationships, without having to consider the opportunity cost of that period of time.

Marx and Engels also expound on the idea (135) that the “proletarian is without property; his relation to his wife and children has no longer anything in common with the bourgeois family-relations; modern industrial labour… has stripped him of every trace of national character. Law, morality, religion, are to him so many bourgeois prejudices, behind which lurk in ambush as many bourgeois interests.” This can also be seen (135) in “The proletarians… have nothing of their own to secure and to fortify; their mission is to destroy all previous securities for, and insurances of, individual property.” This paper explores this idea in terms of housing, which is a basic human right that everyone deserves and should be able to afford. Unfortunately, in a statistic that is sadly needless to bring up, only 25% of young Canadians would be able to afford buying a home. The longer capitalism is allowed to happen, the worse this situation deteriorates. Families require basic security before they can thrive, which begin with a foundation of having a roof over their heads. In current times, the lack of property strips away the right to having healthy and happy families, from the proletariat.

By contrast, in a world without private property, all people who benefit from private ownership, such as landlords and hyper-rich building owners who buy out residential developments with no real need of living space would no longer be able to do so. Instead, people who want to start families and have children may feel much freer and inclined to do so. There is much more security that people can provide each other in terms of married life and family life, without the threat of your home being removed from you.

In another line of thought, Marx and Engels elucidate that within capitalism, proletarians are only able to have surface-level relationships. One such example (132) is found in “owing 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 an appendage of the machine.” The workman seems to have less, if any, of an identity, because he is accustomed to his work having lost all charm, and as he has been shown to spend more and more time at work, this reflects a lack of depth of character to the proletarian. When workers have no access to time for exploring their real desires and likes, the relationships they form will then be on a superficial level, as they are not even completely aware of who they are as people. These surface-level relationships can happen in all the forms, whether it is a romantic courtship, or even in terms of friendship. The proletarian would not be able to develop sincere friendships as none of them can build real connections.

This is fairly distinguishable from the scenario that we can imagine if private property were to be abolished. In our current state of extremely high productivity, and if all labourers are not shackled down producing capital for the bourgeoisie, these former labourers can also enjoy the fruits of their own labour. They would have the time and independence to explore all the things that pique their curiosity in the world, they will be closer to their real and natural souls, and they will know better what they like and dislike. From there, they would all be equipped with a better knowledge of whether their romantic or platonic interests are healthy, genuine, and deep, instead of based on superficial and insignificant things, simply due to ignorance. Marx and Engels also highlight the difference (138) that “in bourgeois society, living labour is but a means to increase accumulated labour. In Communist society, accumulated labour is but a means to widen, to enrich, to promote the existence of the labourer.”

Another visible feature of capitalism that Marx and Engels heavily criticise is the presence and promotion of hypercompetition and hyperindividualism. One such example is when they write (140) that the bourgeois “has not even a suspicion that the real point is to do away with the status of women as mere instruments of production.” In today’s society, many liberal capitalists are under the impression that having more women business owners is something to be celebrated, and we toast to the idea of “girlboss queens”, who seem to “have it all.” However, whilst these successful businesswomen may have broken through some form of glass ceiling, it also emphasises the idea that everyone should necessarily work so hard. It pretends that if everybody competed with each other, it would be to everyone’s benefit as it promotes “innovation”, instead of hyperindividualism. In Communism, because all class struggle is resolved, all oppression would be non-existent, and women will no longer have to compete with men to prove themselves.

On the final point, Marx and Engels also denounce the imperialist cultures of extraction and exploitation that are commonplace within capitalism. The first passage in which they shed light on this (130) is in, “all old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones.” Another example (129) of this is, “It has resolved personal worth into exchange value. In one word, for exploitation… naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.” The final nail in the coffin (131) is found in, “Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture.”

We believe that Marx and Engels may have looked badly upon the extraction and exploitation of natural resources, as the daily occurrence of it might be internalised by everyone in society, whether proletariat or bourgeoisie. When one is so accustomed to exploitation being naturalised and normalised, perhaps that is a model for interpersonal relations that take place in capitalist society. Marx and Engels did believe that all things are materialist, and so as people observe behaviours in society, we might be inclined to act and think in the same way, and believe that it is justified to be exploitative even in interpersonal relationships.

To contrast with this idea, in a Communist society, where there is no competition, no class struggle, no need for hyperextraction and exploitation of finite resources in nature, people would emulate such behaviours in their dealings with one another. There would be more mutual respect, and at the very least, a core belief that everybody has inherent worth beyond what they can produce and contribute to someone else’s capital.

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