The labor of the proletarians was their only product. This product was also a weapon, and Marx suggested it should be used to overthrow the industrial system by violent means if necessary. Marx and Engels suggest that as capitalism has developed, the bourgeoisie has sown the seeds of its own destruction. Yet, many critics point to the undeniable fact that capitalism still exists and communism has struggled to survive. Where do you fall? The United States,. Ashford University. SOC The bourgeoisie played a revolutionary part by being. Uploaded By jlpierce They were the masters of their own downfall, simply by provoking the proletariats to revolution.
The bourgeoisie were producing workers who could not produce anything themselves. In the process of exchange the buyer and seller must be empty vessels through which the commodities owned by them can assert themselves in the marketplace. In short, the buyer and seller have to be recognised as entirely equal to one another, even if in reality they are not.
This equality is the nature of the legal relationship between individuals in a system of commodity exchange. It should come as no surprise then that legal equality is one of the rallying cries of the constitutional state. The origin of this legal idea which seems unquestionable to us today is tied up with the birth of the capitalist system. Equality before the law is essential to the smooth-running of commodity exchange and the capitalist system as a whole.
Much of modern law, including concepts of individual ownership, can be traced back to ideas and principles present in Roman and ancient Athenian law. This is because commodity exchange developed to a fairly high level even in these societies based on slave economies. But precisely because of this economic basis, commodity exchange and therefore a legal system based on commodity exchange could never become generalised in ancient Rome — legal rights could never apply to slaves for example.
The generalisation of commodity exchange that characterises capitalism has allowed the development of the concept of equal legal rights to its highest point. In order for individuals to confront each other in an open marketplace as legal owners with equal rights, certain guarantees need to be in place regarding the safety and security of the individuals and their commodities. Without these guarantees of rights to personal safety and property ownership, exchange could not take place and commodity production would grind to a halt. But as the forces of production were developed and a surplus of goods was produced on a regular basis, commodity production became a more common phenomenon.
As the seeds of an exchange economy took root, force or the threat of force had to be used by those with wealth and power to guarantee the rights of the traders without whom commodity production could not continue.
For example, as commodity exchange developed, it fell to the individual feudal lords to guarantee the security of trade in the marketplaces on their land. For example, at the great international trade fairs that began to take place in Western Europe throughout the twelfth to fifteenth centuries, the local rulers offer traders safe passage to and from the fair. Below is a proclamation from by the ruler of Champagne, a region in what is now France, concerning the fair:. But, in a society in which commodity exchange plays an increasingly important role, and becomes increasingly generalised, the use of force to guarantee the security of exchange transactions is not a role that can be played by any of the parties to these transactions.
This is because if one particular capitalist is both the trader and the guarantor of the security of his trading partner, the threat of force wielded by this capitalist is likely to distort the relationship between the parties to the transaction — the equality between them would be upset. If both capitalists are entitled to use force to guarantee the transaction, as perhaps they might have done in pre-capitalist times, then the exchange will no longer be based on the exchange value of the commodities, but rather on the basis of the relative combat strengths of the different capitalists.
Clearly, if commodity exchange is to function properly then force cannot, in theory at least, be allowed to enter the equation. As a result, the power that guarantees security for those capitalists engaging in commodity exchange must be a public power, independent of any one particular capitalist, but nevertheless in the service of the capitalist class in general. This is the role of the bourgeois state and its function is to defend the system of commodity exchange.
See a Problem?
A set of rules is required to guarantee the independence of this state from any one individual capitalist or group of capitalists, and to guarantee its loyalty to the capitalist system as a whole — these rules are constitutional laws. This constitutionalism is referred to by Lenin in State and Revolution. A democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism, and, therefore, once capital has gained possession of this very best shell… it establishes its power so securely, so firmly, that no change of persons, institutions or parties in the bourgeois-democratic republic can shake it.
Lenin: "democratic republic is What Lenin is explaining here is that a democratic republic, or a constitutional state, builds capitalism into the foundations of the state — into the very rules within which it operates. This is because, as explained above, it is based on commodity exchange and equal individual legal rights.
Like everything, this has certain limits, because there are times under capitalism when the ruling class has to resort to unconstitutional means to keep itself in power, such as the fascist regimes of the 20th century, and the technocratic governments that were installed in Italy and Greece following the capitalist slump in In Britain, the ruling class has retained the monarchy as an undemocratic constitutional safeguard around which to rally in the event of revolutionary developments.
However, technocratic governments, fascism and feudal relics are the exceptions, while the general rule of bourgeois democracy and constitutionalism remains. The point is that constitutional law and a constitutional state are phenomena peculiar to a capitalist mode of production, although some of their characteristics are visible in older modes of production ancient Athens, for example , which developed commodity exchange to a certain extent.
The concept of individual private ownership as a legal right is part of the foundations of capitalist society. Upon this foundation is constructed a constitutional scaffold that re-moulds the old feudal, aristocratic state into a new bourgeois one. What does all this mean when it comes to the fight for socialism?
The bourgeoisie played a revolutionary part by being the motivation for the
Whilst it may be true that, here and there, we may be able to exploit loopholes in the bourgeois legal system to win victories for workers, Marxists must remember that the bourgeois state is hardwired against the interests of the working class. Based on their understanding of the Paris Commune of , Marx and Engels explained that the task of the socialist revolution is to completely smash the bourgeois state, leaving not one stone upon another of the old state institutions.
This is what makes the socialist revolution different to all previous revolutions which have simply refined the pre-existing state machine. This raises the question of what would the state look like under socialism? Would there be a constitution? What would constitutional law look like?
A Weapon Of The Bourgeoisie
What would law in general look like? Like all states, the Soviet state was an instrument of class oppression. But unlike all previous states, the Soviet state was a weapon of the exploited masses to be used against the tiny handful of aristocrats and capitalists who wanted to oppress them, instead of the other way around. It later became the model for the constitution of the Soviet Union.
This was a document that openly described the class basis of the state, without recourse to impenetrable legal language or gaudy legalistic decoration. This gives us an idea of what the state and constitutional law under socialism might look like, at least at first.
The proletarian state will not be a reformed version of the capitalist state.
The working class will not simply co-opt the parliamentary structures and rules of the bourgeoisie and wield them for its own purposes. Instead, the working class will develop and use its own methods through which to assert political power and control over society, such as soviets: councils of elected worker delegates.