The Failure of The Proletarian RevolutionVeselin PehlivanovOne of the main reasons for the failure of the proletarian revolutionwas Marx’s idealistic forecast of what was to come. He founded his theoryof the class struggle on some basic assumptions about the working class buthe underestimated the bourgeoisie. He believed that the proletariat wouldfocus their energies together against the present state of affairs. Becauseas the bourgeoisie gathers more and more capital, the number of proletariatincreases exponentially. Marx stated that eventually the oppression fromthe bourgeoisie would be so great that the proletariat would eventually getso angered that they would band together and overthrow the bourgeoisie.
Throughout “The Communist Manifesto” there are certain observationsthat, even though it was written 100 years ago, are very relevant today.Marx noted the exploitation of developing nations as an aspectofcapitalism. He held that capitalism will attempt to exploit every worker onearth and spread its principles to every corner of the known world.
Andthat the bourgeoisie will attempt to move from place to place in a neverending search to seek cheap human labour. This is a tendency, still validfor every corporation involved in some kind of production using manuallabour, in the contemporary business environment without boundaries.So, what exactly went wrong? Why hasn’t the proletarian revolutionoccurred? Marx overlooked one of the very issues which he mentioned as partof his dialectic: the action – reactionrelationshipbetweenthebourgeoisie and proletariat.
As the bourgeoisie got more aggressive theyneeded a method of keeping the proletariat at bay. They have been able torelieve the social tension by providing the working class with small numberof gains. By allowing the formation of what Marx defines as “combinationsagainst the bourgeoisie”, namely the trade unions, they supplied theproletariat with just enough means of protection of their self-interest toconfine the growth of the anti-capitalistic movement to safe proportions.Through the unions the workers were able to strive for wage increases,amenities and benefits. The belief that they could achieve something withthe assistance of the unions turned the efforts of the working class intoless radical direction.
Another reason for the failure of the revolution was the spread of anideology which seemed appealing to the proletariat. The ideology wasactually rather simple: if you work hard and faithfully you will besuccessful. In America this was coined “the American Dream.” In this waythe bourgeoisie made the workers believe that they could become somethingwith enough hard work.
This gave rise of what is called the “middle class” and altered theapplicability of Marx’s concepts in the 20th Century. Even if a two-classanalysis was applicable at the time when Marx wrote his significant work,say in the 19th Century, the rise of the middle class has made such ananalysis obsolete. Some of the main arguments that Marx used to support histheory were no longer valid. He wrote that “All previous historicalmovements were movements of minorities. The proletarian movement is theself-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in theinterest of the immense majority. The proletariat, the lowest stratum ofour present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, without the wholesuperincumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air.
” Butthey did raise gradually until reaching the present condition when most ofthe people belong to the “middle class.” This proved such statements wrongand prompted other questions about the communist theory. Another argumentagainst the Marxist concept of class concerns changes in the structure ofcapitalism. Marx maintained that the capitalist class was defined in termsof the ownership of the means of production. But, the rise of the limitedliability, stock issuing company in the 19th Century – which became thedominate form of business in the 20th- has meant that control overcorporate capital has come to be separated from ownership because ownershipis widely distributed among thousands, even millions of stockholders.
Suchchanges further undermine the Marxist concept of class. He stated that “Bybourgeoisie is meant the class of modern capitalists, owners of the meansof social production and employers of wage labour. By proletariat, theclass of modern wage labourers who, having no means of production of theirown, are reduced to selling their labour power in order to live.” But todayvirtually everyone is waged including those who run the corporations andeveryone who owns some kind of stocks can be viewed as