The Rise of Socialism
In the first half of the nineteenth century, the pitiful conditions created by the Industrial Revolution gave rise to a movement known as socialism. Socialism is a system in which society, usually in the form of the government, owns and controls some means of production, such as factories and utilities. Early socialism was largely the idea of intellectuals who believed in the equality of all people and who wanted to replace competition with cooperation in industry.
In 1848, The Communist Manifesto was published. It was written by two Germans, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who were appalled at the horrible conditions in factories. They blamed the system of industrial capitalism for these conditions. Their solution was a new social system. One form of Marxist socialism was eventually called communism.
Marx believed that all of world history was a “history of class struggles.” According to Marx, oppressor and oppressed have “stood in constant opposition to one another” throughout history.
One group of people- the oppressors- owned the means of production (land, raw materials, money, and so forth) and thus had the power to control government and society. Indeed, government itself was an instrument of this ruling class. The other group, which depended on the owners of the means of production, were the oppressed.
In the industrialized societies of Marx’s day, the class struggle continued. According to Marx, “society as a whole is more and more splitting into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat. The bourgeoisie- the middle class- were the oppressors. The proletariat- the working class- were the oppressed.
Marx predicted that the struggle between the two groups would finally lead to an open revolution where the proletariat would violently overthrow the bourgeoisie. After their victory, the proletariat would form a dictatorship (government in which a person or group has absolute power) to organize the means of production. However, since the proletariat victory would essentially abolish the economic differences that create separate social classes, Marx believed that the final revolution would ultimately produce a classless society. The state- which had been an instrument of the bourgeoisie interests- would wither away.
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