The Destruction of Capitalism
Under capitalism, said Marx, workers knew only poverty. They worked long hours for low wages, suffered from periodic unemployment, and lived in squalid, overcrowded dwellings. Most monstrous of all, they were forced to send their young children into the factories.
Children of nine or ten years are dragged from their squalid beds at two, three, or four o'clock in the morning and compelled to work for a bare subsistence until ten, eleven, or twelve at night, their limbs wearing away, their frames dwindling, their faces whitening, and their humanity absolutely sinking into a stone
like torpor, utterly horrible to contemplate.
Capitalism also produced another kind of poverty, according to Marx
poverty of the human spirit. Under capitalism the factory worker was reduced to a laboring beast, performing tedious and repetitive tasks in a dark, dreary, dirty cave, an altogether inhuman environment, which deprived people of their human sensibilities. Unlike the artisans in their own shops, factory workers found no pleasure and took no pride in their work; they did not have the satisfaction of creating a finished product that expressed their skills. Work, said Marx, should be a source of fulfillment for people. It should enable people to affirm their personalities and develop their potential. By treating people not as human beings but as cogs in the production process, capitalism alienated people from their work, from themselves, and from one another. Marx wrote:
The worker ... does not fulfil himself in his work but denies himself, has a feeling of misery rather than well-being, does not develop freely his mental and physical energies but is physically exhausted and mentally debased.... His work is not voluntary but imposed, forced labour. It is not the satisfaction of a need, but only a means for satisfying other needs. Its alien character is clearly shown by the fact that as soon as there is no physical or other compulsion it is avoided like the plague....
... The more the worker expends himself in work, . . . the poorer be becomes in his inner life, and the less be belongs to himself... The worker puts his life into the object, and his life then belongs no longer to himself but to the object.
Marx believed that capitalist control of the economy and the government would not endure forever. The capitalist system would perish just as the slave society of the ancient world and the feudal society of the Middle Ages had perished. From the ruins of a dead capitalist society, a new socioeconomic system, socialism, would emerge.
Marx predicted how capitalism would be destroyed. Periodic unemployment would increase the misery of the workers and intensify their hatred of capitalists. Small businesspeople and shopkeepers, unable to compete with the great capitalists, would sink into the ranks of the working class, greatly expanding its numbers. Society would become polarized into a small group of immensely wealthy capitalists and a vast proletariat, poor, embittered, and desperate. The monopoly of capital by the few would become a brake on the productive process. Growing increasingly conscious of their misery, the workers - aroused, educated, and organized by communist intellectuals would revolt. "Revolution is necessary," said Marx, "not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because only in a revolution can the class which overthrows it rid itself of the accumulated rubbish of the past and become capable of reconstructing society."'- The working-class revolutionaries would smash the government that helped the capitalists maintain their dominance. Then they would confiscate the property of the capitalists, abolish private property, place the means of production in the workers' hands, and organize a new society. The Communist Manifesto ends with a ringing call for revolution:
The Communists ... openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling, classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workingmen of all countries, unite!
Marx did not say a great deal about the new society that would be ushered in by the socialist revolution. With the destruction of capitalism, the distinction between capitalist and worker would cease and with it the class conflict. No longer would society be divided into haves and have-nots, oppressor and oppressed. Since this classless society would contain no exploiters, there would be no need for a state, which was merely an instrument for maintaining and protecting the power of the exploiting class. Thus, the state would eventually wither away. The production and distribution of goods would be carried out through community planning and communal sharing, replacing the capitalist system of competition. People would work at varied tasks, rather than being confined to one form of employment, just as Fourier had advocated.
A revolutionary change in the conditions of life, Marx predicted, will produce a radical transformation of the human being. No longer debased by the self-destructive pursuit of profit and property and no longer victims of capitalist exploitation, people would become finer human beings altruistic, sensitive, cooperative, and creative. United with others in a classless society free of exploitation and no longer divided by divergent interests, individuals would become truly communal beings and truly free beings (Surpassing the merely political freedom achieved in the bourgeois state), that is, they would become truly human.