Manifesto of the Communist Party

Of the many thought provoking and avant-garde ideas contained in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ Manifesto of the Communist Party, the core concept is explicitly stated in the opening line of the document where they wrote, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle.” (126) This concept of class antagonisms is alluded to throughout several portions of the text. They believed that the proletariat would ultimately rise up and unify, dissolving all class distinctions to create a society conducted by a tier-less working class. In the process of developing their argument, Marx and Engels described the implications of the bourgeoisie’s rise to power. In this post I seek to expand on this notion.

Marx and Engels wrote that the bourgeoisie had, “replaced an exploitation veiled by religious and political illusions by exploitation open, unashamed, direct, and brutal.”(127) These statements were in reference to how the industrial revolution had created a system of exploitation in which the owners of capital, the bourgeoisie, exploited the wage-laborers, the proletariat, by enacting exploitative labor practices. They believed that the division of labor created a situation where, “He (the worker) becomes a mere appendage of the machine, of whom only the simplest, most monotonous operations are required,” ultimately creating a situation where “the price of a commodity, and therefore of labor, is equal to the cost of its production.”(131) While it is true that the division of labor drastically improves production, Marx and Engels objected to this practice because it marginalizes the worker to the extent where his labor becomes so simplified and monotonous that they lose all bargaining power and leverage against the firm. Adam Smith, in his work An Inquiry into the Nature and Case of the Wealth of Nations, emphatically promoted this division of labor. He did not recognize the inherent pitfalls that inevitably arise with this boost of productive efficiency. Marx and Engels countered this stance by claiming that the increases in production were nullified by the working class’ horrific existence.

Marx and Engels argued that such an exploitative system could only remain in place for a limited time because “the bourgeoisie has not only forged the weapons that bring death to itself; it has also produced the men who will wield these weapons – the modern workers, the PROLETARIATS.” (130) It appears as though these “weapons” which they allude to are products of the very industrial system that has subjugated the working class: new technologies. Marx and Engels wrote, “the union, which took centuries for the burghers of the Middle Ages with their wretched highways, to establish, the modern proletariat achieves by means of railways in a few years.” (133) Once the proletariat rises up against its oppressors it is capable of commandeering the new technologies that they created with their own labor, such as the railroads, to help disperse their new ideas and help the revolution materialize at a previously unfathomable pace.


In addition to railroads, what other newly developed technologies and structures created by constantly expanding markets would prove to be valuable for the dispersion of communist ideals?

Metropolis: struggle between classes

Metropolis, Fritz Lang’s 1927 science-fiction movie, portrays a futuristic dystopian Weimar, Germany where the classes rebel and fight one another. The film follows Freder, the son to the city’s master, and Maria, a beautiful woman who works with children and belongs in the working class, as they try to diminish the vast separation between the two classes and bring them together. The distinction between the two classes is that the working class has to work long, hard hours, while the rich enjoy their lavish lifestyle above the city. The movie ends with the city crashing, but in the end Freder joins the workers (hands) and his father (the head) together.

A specific scene in the movie that I thought was particular interesting was when the workers completely rebelled and left their factories to destroy the heart machine and all the systems fail, allowing the city to crash and be destroyed. The workers completely disregard their children and leave them behind as they become violent and rowdy towards the upper class.

I think this depicts an interesting picture where the workers are very wrapped up in listening to the robot so they leave everything behind, including their children. The workers get extremely rowdy and listen to the robot, but then soon find out this robot is a traitor, so they use violence. Was complete abandonment the only solution to get what they wanted? Did they have to use violence? Did the classes come together to build the city back up?


Working Conditions in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis

Fritz Lang’s 1927 science-fiction masterpiece Metropolis depicts a futuristic dystopia ridden with class-struggle. Made in Weimar Germany, the films follows Freder, the son of the city’s overlord, and Maria, his love interest, as they try to disenfranchise the classist nature of this urban society. Throughout the film, there is a stark contrast between the scene’s of the workers slaving endlessly to power the city, and the pleasured lives of rich. The city eventually crumbles due to the rocky internal nature and ends with a reconciliation (despite total destruction) of “head” and “heart.”

The scene that stood out to me the most was when Freder explained the horrific details of an accident on of the machine rooms to his father, Fredersen. Freder was down there out of curiosity of the depths, and was following Maria. He watched in shock when a machine exploded and caused several deaths and injuries. He begs his father to fix these horrible conditions, but his father remains unaffected.

This scene paints a picture of the horrible factory conditions in Weimar Germany, as well of the rest of Europe at the time. Economic output was a top priority as modernization prevailed, even though many times it was at the expense of many workers health and safety. It also depicts how little factory owners cared about these workers. To them, workers were replaceable as everybody was looking for work. Conversely, it also shows that perhaps some wealthy people, such as Freder, were appalled by these conditions and urged immediate change.

Maria prophesized a mediator that would bring the classes together and help the workers, could this be Adolf Hitler?

Philosophy and Metropolis

Metropolis, created in 1927, is the grandfather work of the dystopian genre and reminds me of the epistemology of Rene Descartes and The Matrix (1999), which has deep philosophical roots which revolve around skepticism. The central theme of this movie is about capitalism, and the stark contrast it can create between the working class and the elite, and class relations in general.

Rene Descartes, a famous 17th century French philosopher who questioned the legitimacy of our sensory perception in relation to what was considered “real”, may have had influenced Fritz Lang, the writer and director of Metropolis. What led to this thought was how Freder, the protagonist, did not even know the underground half of the society existed before he unknowingly travelled there.

There are two sides to Metropolis: the above ground and below ground. Above ground lays a vast, utopian city with a thriving economy and beautiful gardens. It is depicted as a dreamscape, with the primary color being white which gives a luxurious, heavenly vibe. Metropolis’ power source comes from underground, where the working class industrialists slave over machines in life threatening working conditions. Freder, who is the protagonist, spends his time dwelling in a beautiful garden, until he follows Maria, a woman which he is immediately taken with, underground. Freder’s initial response to this unfamiliar realm is fright, especially when he witnesses the explosion of a machine which results in the injury of many workers in black uniforms. His initial shock to exposure to a world which existed but he was unaware of lays considerable groundwork for reoccurring themes in the entire science-fiction genre, and undoubtedly had influence on the Wachowski Brothers, the writers and directors of The Matrix.

The scene in which Freder reacts upon his submergence into the industrial, dystopian world is closely mirrored in The Matrix, when Neo passes out from a combination of fear and inability to grasp world he could never sense, but always existed. Although I believe The Matrix’s main themes have more biblical roots, I could not help but draw the connections it had with Rene Descartes and Metropolis.

What connections does this movie have with the fear of the evolution of science and Bertrand Russels ICARUS or the future of science?


Starting from scratch, Magnitostroi, a Soviet Union steel plant in 1929, evolved from an premature industrial environment to a site with 250,000 people in three and a half years. (64) Located in the remote Urals, the plant was entirely dependent on long distance train for its imports, including labor force. The labor force in Magnitostroi was mixed, ranging from educated urbanites to peasants and proletariat. The problems that these workers faced, despite the rough working conditions, was their lack of prior experience with industrial machinery. The relationships between the different classes were disjointed, and crash courses were taken by inexperienced peasants to equip them with four years work experience within six weeks. The Soviet Union at the time had a hyper rationalized economy with heavy industry as the top priority, and the working conditions were extremely poor.

The ideologies of the socialists caused inner turmoil at the steel plant, people were considered traitors if they did give maximum relative effort in comparison to their fellow workers, which caused them to turn or one another and even have each other arrested. As socialist competition increased, so did the pace, which caused many mistakes and setbacks to due sloppy management.


The Cherry Orchard: Foreshadow of the Russia to Come?

While reading Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard I found examples of the many types of struggles Russia would face in the 20th Century. There were so many seemingly direct allusions to these struggles that when I remembered the play was written in 1904, I was shocked. Many of these foreshadows are related to sustainability, and The Cherry Orchard touches on sustainability in multiple ways: preserving the environment, maintaining economic prosperity and keeping old traditions and ways of life alive.

Right away the family is facing the critical choice of whether to auction off their family cherry orchard and leave their home or create a development of summer villas to rent out to vacationers. The first option would leave them debt-free but homeless; the second would essentially keep them in their home, but the beloved cherry orchard would be destroyed. The essence of the problem is one that the future Soviet Union would know well: sacrificing the environment to continue gaining economically. Madame Ranevsky resisted this idea of land parcels and cottages through the entire play, however in the end the wealthy neighbor Lopakhin bought the property with the intention of cutting down the orchard and building villas. This symbolized the transition from focusing on the past to looking towards the future, but also underscored the class tensions present in the story.

The undercurrents of animosity between the wealthy and the lower class characters were evident in the relationship between Madame Ranevsky and Lopakhin, son of a serf. Her relationship with Trophimof was also fluctuating, particularly in Act 3 when she gives him a hard time for his idealized thinking yet limited accomplishments. 20th Century Russia will be characterized by Marxism and the idea of class struggles. Chekhov gives glimpses of how the current system will prove to be unsustainable for the future, evolving Russia.

Trophimof is the true voice of the future Russia in the play, making grand speeches on the laziness of the educated and how they must work harder if Russia is to grow stronger and attain all that it wants. He predicts the future of mankind as a march towards truth and happiness, free from the restrictions of property and money. The overall theme of the play could be consolidated into the theme of past versus future. Different characters represent different times, and through the dialogue the reader can ascertain characters’ opinions on matters such as the changing importance of property, the emerging middle class, the industrialization and evolution of Russia’s economy and the future of the class system.