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Political Parties and Struggles During the European Revolutions (page 3)

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Feb 3, 2012

Marxism

The political philosophy known as Marxism is based on the Communist Manifesto (1848), written jointly by Prussians Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. They argued that the history of Europe was the history of the struggle for supremacy between classes. First the aristocrats had ruled, next the monarchs had seized dictatorial powers, and in the nineteenth century the middle class was growing stronger. Finally, wrote Marx and Engels, it would be the turn of the proletariat, or the working class, which would have to use violence to take over society.

In Das Kapital (1867–1894), Marx wrote that all goods should be priced according to the amount of work that went into them. The worker who produced goods, Marx argued, was a far more valuable member of society than the owner, who produced nothing.

Naturally, the wealthy dismissed Marx’s arguments as the ravings of a mad- man. For many centuries, a small percentage of Europeans—the upper class— had possessed and enjoyed most of the money, while the vast majority—the working class—possessed and enjoyed almost none of it. This was the settled order of society and it had always been so. Marx’s suggestion that workers should enjoy the profits of their own labor was truly revolutionary.

Marx’s ideas angered political thinkers across the spectrum. Conservatives opposed him because he suggested overturning a social order that they wanted to maintain at all costs. Liberals opposed him because he did not believe in the rule of the few or even of the educated; he was much more democratic. Nationalists scorned him because he insisted that one’s country of origin counted for nothing; what mattered was whether or not one worked for a living. Capitalists despised him because he insisted that workers, not owners or management, should enjoy the profits and run the industries themselves.

Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:

European Revolutions Practice Test

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