The Communist Manifesto vividly describes the proletariat or the “modern working class” (Marx, & Engels, 2005, p. 8) as a group of laborers that can sustain life by finding work and their ability to locate work is made possible only if “their labour increases capital.” (Marx, & Engels, 2005, p. 8) Marx and Engel’s imagery portrays the proletariats as “piecemeal” or “a commodity, like every other article of commerce” (Marx, & Engels, 2005, p. 8) that is consistently “exposed to all the vicissitudes of competitions, to all the fluctuations of the market.” (Marx, & Engels, 2005, p. 8) In Marx and Engel’s vision, this process causes the proletarians to lose all “individual character” and lessen their desire to produce quality work; therefore, the workman becomes an “appendage of the machine” to perform the “most easily acquired knack, that is required of him.” (Marx, & Engels, 2005, p. 8)
Society’s love for Modern Industry converted such individualism into “masses of labourers” that are “crowded into the factory like soldiers” and ultimately destroyed the “little workshop of the patriarchal master.” (Marx, & Engels, 2005, p. 8) The proletariats are also described as being “slaves of the bourgeois class and of the bourgeois State” and because of this relationship the working class becomes a slave to the machine. (Marx, & Engels, 2005, p. 8)
However, the degradation and exploitation of the skilled worker only increases the number of proletariats, as this class is joined by other lower-middle class people who are being affected by the growth of huge factories of mass production. As a result they are inspired to work together to “form combinations against the bourgeois.” (Marx, & Engels, 2005, p. 8-10) The manifesto describes this mass movement different than others, as it is not a movement of minorities; rather it’s an “independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.” (Marx, & Engels, 2005, p. 11) It is also described as the “more of less veiled civil war, raging within existing society.” (Marx, & Engels, 2005, p. 11)
Eric Hoffer’s book True Believer criticizes Marx and Engel’s theories, using the French Revolution as an example; the author states that Marxists had an “extravagant conception of the omnipotence of man’s reason and the boundless range of his intelligence.” (Hoffer, 1951, p. 8) He goes on to describe the historical behavior as a “universal thirst for change which came unbidden to every mind” and based upon that foundation history proved that these individuals “plunged recklessly into the chaos of creation of a new world had blind faith in an infallible leader and also faith in a new technique” through the “omnipotence of the Marxists doctrine.” (Hoffer, 1951, p. 8) A mass movement, in Hoffer’s opinion would not include that which is described in the Manifesto of the Communist Party. According to Hoffer, a mass movement “attracts and holds a following not because it can satisfy the desire for self-advancement, but because it can satisfy the passion for self-renunciation.” (Hoffer, 1951, p. 8) As the proletariat’s desire is to rise up against the bourgeoisie and provide the “opportunities for self-advancement” Hoffer would categorize this movement as a practical organization. (Hoffer, 1951, p. 12)
The future of the movement lies in the communist’s ability to further the cause of removing themselves from the oppression they are currently enduring at the hands of the bourgeois. In order to ensure the future success of this revolutionary movement, the proletariats must not miss any opportunity to encourage others, as well as teach others about the hostilities between the bourgeois and the working class individuals. Marx and Engels believed that a true Communist is someone who openly expressed “that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.” (Marx, & Engels, 2005, p. 31)
According to Hoffer’s theories of religious and nationalist movements, though it may be not so obvious these movements have “some kind of widespread enthusiasm or excitement” that is “apparently needed for the realization of vast and rapid change.” (Hoffer, 1951, p. 3) Yet common to all mass movements, no matter the particular style of movement is that “men who rush into undertakings of vast change usually feel they are in possession of some irresistible power.” (Hoffer, 1951, p. 8) Mass movements as a whole attract a following because of its ability to “satisfy the passion for self-renunciation.” (Hoffer, 1951, p. 12) All protestors taking part in mass movements see their lives as unattractive; therefore their “craving is for a new life – a rebirth.” (Hoffer, 1951, p. 12) Yet another quote can be found within Hoffer’s theory that reveals Marxism’s similarity to all other mass movements as its “in a sense a migration – a movement towards the promised land.” (Hoffer, 1951, p. 12) The Communist mass movement described in Marx and Engel’s theories also has a commonality with all mass movements as its purpose “concerns itself with the frustrated” and a successful conclusion “offers the distant hope, the dream and the vision.” (Hoffer, 1951, p. 116)
Hoffer, E. (1951). The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements. New York, New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.
Marx, K., & Engels, F. (2005). Manifesto of the Communist Party (A. Blunden, Ed.). Marxists Internet Archive.