Study Guide

The Communist Manifesto Competition

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The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. (Section1.18)

That each business has to compete against other businesses means that to stay profitable, each one has to become more efficient by inventing new ways to produce. This in turn changes all of society, since people are constantly laboring to produce, or they're exploiting others to make them produce. When the ways people produce change, so does society. For example, workers under capitalism must always strive to become more efficient. How does this drive for efficiency change people in their personal lives and in their relationships with their employers? How might work change if there weren't a constant push for efficiency?

The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere. (Section 1.19)

In competition with other capitalists, each capitalist must always provide a new product to tantalize the consumer with, in order to make more profit and stay in business. This pushes the bourgeoisie to expand across the planet to find or create more customers and to acquire more labor and raw materials. But what is the shiny new thing you want, and where is it made? What are the conditions there like? See child mining in Africa, for example.

[The proletariat is] a class of labourers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labour increases capital. These labourers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market. (Section1.30)

Workers have to sell their labor as a commodity. If the total supply of available labor increases, the cost of hiring any single person goes down. That's why keeping the unemployment rate high is in the interest of the bourgeoisie, unless there is so much unemployment that no one can buy their products, or the poor decide to remove the rich from power.

This organisation of the proletarians into a class, and consequently into a political party, is continually being upset again by the competition between the workers themselves. But it ever rises up again, stronger, firmer, mightier. (Section1.40)

Marx seems to be arguing that what's actually in the best interest of the workers is to come together in full cooperation against the bourgeoisie. Yet this does not occur, because the market requires workers to compete against each other. So to what extent does competition harm us by keeping us from cooperating?

The bourgeoisie finds itself involved in a constant battle. At first with the aristocracy; later on, with those portions of the bourgeoisie itself, whose interests have become antagonistic to the progress of industry; at all times, with the bourgeoisie of foreign countries. In all these battles it sees itself compelled to appeal to the proletariat, to ask for its help, and thus, to drag it into the political arena. The bourgeoisie itself, therefore, supplies the proletariat with its own elements of political and general education, in other words, it furnishes the proletariat with weapons for fighting the bourgeoisie. (Section1.41)

It might seem like the bourgeoisie would only be interested in subjecting the proletariat. But because the capitalists are constantly in competition with each other, they also have to use their own workers to advance their individual interests during these battles. That means training for the workers. Is Marx right that the ways workers are trained by the bourgeoisie also gives them the tools to fight back? Consider the contrasting view of civil rights activist Audre Lorde. She wrote, in her words, that the master's tools can never be used to dismantle the master's house.

Further, as we have already seen, entire sections of the ruling classes are, by the advance of industry, precipitated into the proletariat, or are at least threatened in their conditions of existence. These also supply the proletariat with fresh elements of enlightenment and progress. (Section1.42)

Even if a person is born rich, there is always the possibility of losing that money. Imagine that happening to someone. How might it help the poor or the workforce? How might it not?

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