1) Marx and Engels paint an unhappy picture of nineteenth century capitalism. In describing the exploitation of workers they stated “What, therefore, the wage-laborer appropriates by means of his labor merely suffices to prolong and reproduce a bare existence” (Marx & Engels, 1). Workers devoted to their lives and time to that which did not benefit them. Still, capitalism is a necessary stage as it is needed for the development of innovation, supply chains and the shaping of the markets and economies.
2) Capitalism exploits people in general, particularly the early forms in the industrial age. Capitalism is exploitative because of the competitive pressures on business owners and decision makers. This underlying value works against the fair treatment of workers, who must be exploited to ensure maximum profit. Capitalism either must be exploitative, or it must be carried out in such a way that the participants are treated fairly. Today this is accomplished through things like labor laws, equality, supports for education and an open market that allows all to become capitalists either through purchase of stocks or by starting a business.
3) According to Marx and Engels it is not a case of government having a responsibility to keep people from being too poor, but rather the structure of society should not favor the few to the detriment of many. The government just represents the power. If the people have the power, and there are no class antagonisms, it is not a case of shrinking the gap between the rich and poor but rather ensuring that the collective capital is available to prevent poverty and allow people to earn their living and feed their families. Capitalism does not ensure this opportunity and creates devastating divides between rich and poor, therefore the people have a responsibility to “organize itself as a class, if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class” (Marx & Engels, 5).
- Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. “Nothing to Lose but their Chains.” The Communist Manifesto. (1848).