Applicability of Marxism in Modern Society and

The Failure of The Proletarian Revolution
Veselin Pehlivanov
One of the main reasons for the failure of the proletarian revolution
was Marx’s idealistic forecast of what was to come. He founded his theory
of the class struggle on some basic assumptions about the working class but
he underestimated the bourgeoisie. He believed that the proletariat would
focus their energies together against the present state of affairs. Because
as the bourgeoisie gathers more and more capital, the number of proletariat
increases exponentially. Marx stated that eventually the oppression from
the bourgeoisie would be so great that the proletariat would eventually get
so angered that they would band together and overthrow the bourgeoisie.

Throughout “The Communist Manifesto” there are certain observations
that, even though it was written 100 years ago, are very relevant today.

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Marx noted the exploitation of developing nations as an aspectof
capitalism. He held that capitalism will attempt to exploit every worker on
earth and spread its principles to every corner of the known world. And
that the bourgeoisie will attempt to move from place to place in a never
ending search to seek cheap human labour. This is a tendency, still valid
for every corporation involved in some kind of production using manual
labour, in the contemporary business environment without boundaries.

So, what exactly went wrong? Why hasn’t the proletarian revolution
occurred? Marx overlooked one of the very issues which he mentioned as part
of his dialectic: the action – reactionrelationshipbetweenthe
bourgeoisie and proletariat. As the bourgeoisie got more aggressive they
needed a method of keeping the proletariat at bay. They have been able to
relieve the social tension by providing the working class with small number
of gains. By allowing the formation of what Marx defines as “combinations
against the bourgeoisie”, namely the trade unions, they supplied the
proletariat with just enough means of protection of their self-interest to
confine 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 with
the assistance of the unions turned the efforts of the working class into
less radical direction.

Another reason for the failure of the revolution was the spread of an
ideology which seemed appealing to the proletariat. The ideology was
actually rather simple: if you work hard and faithfully you will be
successful. In America this was coined “the American Dream.” In this way
the bourgeoisie made the workers believe that they could become something
with enough hard work.

This gave rise of what is called the “middle class” and altered the
applicability of Marx’s concepts in the 20th Century. Even if a two-class
analysis 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 an
analysis obsolete. Some of the main arguments that Marx used to support his
theory were no longer valid. He wrote that “All previous historical
movements were movements of minorities. The proletarian movement is the
self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the
interest of the immense majority. The proletariat, the lowest stratum of
our present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, without the whole
superincumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air.” But
they did raise gradually until reaching the present condition when most of
the people belong to the “middle class.” This proved such statements wrong
and prompted other questions about the communist theory. Another argument
against the Marxist concept of class concerns changes in the structure of
capitalism. Marx maintained that the capitalist class was defined in terms
of the ownership of the means of production. But, the rise of the limited
liability, stock issuing company in the 19th Century – which became the
dominate form of business in the 20th- has meant that control over
corporate capital has come to be separated from ownership because ownership
is widely distributed among thousands, even millions of stockholders. Such
changes further undermine the Marxist concept of class. He stated that “By
bourgeoisie is meant the class of modern capitalists, owners of the means
of social production and employers of wage labour. By proletariat, the
class of modern wage labourers who, having no means of production of their
own, are reduced to selling their labour power in order to live.” But today
virtually everyone is waged including those who run the corporations and
everyone who owns some kind of stocks can be viewed as


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