Comparison of “The Communist Manifesto” and “On Liberty”
Philosophy is in demand in many areas of human life. It has a profound impact on human worldview and sometimes helps to justify one’s actions. Politics is also in need of a good philosophy that would justify the actions of the state. New laws can be passed with a good explanation of how they will benefit society. When politics finds its grounds in some kind of philosophy, the political ideology emerges. Different countries accept different political ideologies most suitable for their government. These may vary from communism to conservatism, liberalism, to fascism and anarchism. Nevertheless, two ideologies are of particular interest for this paper, Marxism, and liberalism. The main points of both ideologies are well reflected in the books “The Communist Manifesto” by Marx, Engels, and “On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill. While, these books display some similarities, they reflect many opposite views.
To start with, the abovementioned books have a number of similarities. Even though Marx and Engels try to distance themselves from liberalism as an ideology alien to a proletariat, some of their ideas seem to have a direct link to the essence of the liberal worldview. Among these is the idea of a personal freedom as a premise of freedom of all, a correlation between the rights and the duties and transformational power of freedom. According to Marx and Engels, “the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all”. The abovementioned examples and many alike confirm that both ideologies have similarities even when they are unnoticeable at the first glance.
While all Marx, Engels, and Mill see freedom as their main goal, the authors of these books see different ways of realization of one. Therefore, the first difference between the books is about the freedom. First idea of liberalism is the idea of the individual freedom as its universal purpose. Liberalism usually accompanies humanism, self-worth and pluralism of views. To Mill, liberty is a freedom from political, religious and social control exerting by the government. Freedom in Marxism has a special sense. Its political meaning is related to some kind of messianic concept. It is about the belief that the working class will liberate humanity from economic dependency and lead society from the kingdom of the necessity to the kingdom of freedom. Therefore, the dictatorship of a proletariat is thought as its own freedom, the freedom of majority and all supporters of a new society. It implies socialistic choice.
Comparison between the books by Marx and Engels together with Mills reveal there is an inbuilt contradiction between initial premise of liberal ideology (that is human freedom) and social results of its implementation (that is human inequality). It appears that freedom leads to social inequality, the condition when all are free but not equal. Hence, the socialistic opposition to liberalism emerges, which claims an establishment of equality and justice in human relations as its main goal. Nevertheless, the attempt to reach technical equality of all people lead to limitation of individual freedom when everyone is equal, but no one is free. Thus, Mill defends the freedom to the prejudice of equality, and Marx defends equality to the prejudice of freedom. This opposition between freedom and equality has separated liberals and Marxists for a long time.
Second difference between the two books is their interpretation of collectivism versus individualism. Liberalism is rooted in the notions of personal freedom, self-worth and individual responsibility, personal property as a precondition for individual freedom, principles of free trade, free competition and free enterprise, equality of opportunities, an idea of legal state, tolerance and defense of rights of minorities, guarantee of main rights and freedoms. So, people should try to do good to themselves, not the society. The book by John Stuart Mill supports the notion that society has a right to govern itself without the help of higher authority. State cannot dictate people what to do in religion, philosophy, culture and economic life. Thus, individual becomes the center of power and independent unit of social action. John Stuart Mill thinks that people should be independent and make efforts to get maximal profit with their abilities. People should strive for separation from the state, maximizing economic claims and putting maximum energy into gaining economic profit. In other words, liberal worldview implies life race, which is the maximal fulfillment of human abilities in the economical area while neglecting other areas of life.
From the Marxist point of view, an individualistic motive is interpreted as an egoistic and self-interested. In this context, a human being is a being of a higher order, able to follow high ideals. These ideals include social justice and social equality that implies equality of property, opportunities, and start capital. All that excesses the limits of an average standard is suspicious. Comparing to liberal views, the Marxist position is about the unification of political participation and agreement with the institution of political power, neutralization of all other efforts and minimization of economic claims and individual economic efforts.
Third difference between two books is the attitude towards the private property. One of the powerful concepts of liberalism is the principle of identification of freedom and private property. Individualism that ensures this identification is the driving force of formation and strengthening of political democracy. In such a context, private property serves as guarantee and measure of freedom. Idea of freedom can develop only with the idea of property. Hence, economic freedom gives rise to political and civic freedoms.
Comparing to that, Marx and Engels view private property as a hindrance to freedom and equality of all people. According to them, the issue of attaining both equality and freedom is insoluble within the limits of private property. The existence of the latter implies sacrificing either freedom or equality. According to Marx, the accomplishment of the link between individual and public property will solve the issue of freedom and equality of people. Self-development and self-fulfillment according to one’s natural inclinations and talents, is the solution. The right that is a premise of successful human life makes all people both free and equal to each other.
When having received an opportunity to live “according to their abilities,” people find themselves in equal position in front of their human nature. Consequently, having “according to his contribution” or “according to his needs” or living “according to his abilities” constitutes two different formulas of human vital activity. They draw a line between individual existence of human being and existence as a free personality. Crossing that line changes human attitude to the property and all achievements of economic and cultural wealth. As a private citizen, an individual is in need of some part of wealth, which he can use privately or make an object of private use. Nevertheless, as a free individual, he needs an access to the common wealth and above all, he needs an access to the cultural wealth of society. Thus, equality is possible only when everyone has unlimited access to the common wealth and public property.
Fourth difference between the books is the idea of relations between the state and individual. As people have individual freedom, the state cannot invade their freedom. The sphere of individual activity of a person cannot be invaded by the outer powers because it is a sphere of actualization of a personal freedom and as a result natural rights. State has a right to regulate free trade for the sake of equal opportunities for everyone. Therefore, political system has to contain some elements of social state. The way of transformation of society is the way of reforms, not revolution.
Comparing to that, the idea of Marxism is the idea of classless structure and life organization deprived of the state. Marx and Engels ground their teaching in an idea of a special mission of the working class. Marx thinks that the working class has to replace capitalism with the type of society free of exploitation by any of its members. By liberating itself, the working class should liberate other classes from all forms of oppression, as well. Accomplishment of this historical task is possible via united efforts of the workers around the world. According to Marx, this mission of proletariat corresponds to the main line of humanity development consisting in society without the classes and class struggle.
Therefore, proletarian democracy should have temporary framework during the transfer of the capitalistic society to the communistic one. Marx and Engels suggest that new society has to undergo through two stages of development. First stage is socialism where everybody gets what he deserves for his contribution. Second stage is communism when everyone gets according to his needs. It means that Marx and Engels also support equality of rights and social equality and liberation from all kinds of oppression and exploitation. It is possible via alienation from the private property and the government. In turn, it would ensure balanced social life and development of personality. According to Marx, transfer to the new society requires socialistic revolution. This revolution ought to be logical outcome of the increasing of the contradictions inbuilt in capitalistic relations. According to the authors of “The Communist Manifesto,” socialistic revolution should occur in all civilized countries simultaneously. First step of such revolution is grabbing the political power by proletariat.
As for me, both these books justify grabbing the power of one people over another. Mills justifies limitation of state power over people with the concept of freedom. According to him, only free competition can liberate people and achieve them personal independence. Nevertheless, Mill’s understanding of freedom seems to be limited to a purely financial aspect of life. Accordingly, human beings act selfishly and rationally thinking only about maximizing one’s profit. If behavior of a person is purely self-centered, then ethics seems to be redundant. Nevertheless, hardly would free competition make people happy. At the same time, Marx and Engels support abolishment of elite in the name of freedom. Thus, working class will be the one to determine who deserves what. Accordingly, ethics would serve the interest of the ruling class, as well. Hence, the main good would be economic welfare. Furthermore, everyone should be happy equally, otherwise, he or she would be considered suspicious. I would not like to live within such a theoretical framework.
To conclude, the books “The Communist Manifesto” by Marx, Engels, and “On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill have one similarity and four differences. The only similarity between the two books is the concept of freedom as the main goal of successful society. At the same time, both authors suggest different ways of attaining this freedom. Other differences between the two books are related to the concepts of collectivism and individualism, private property, and relation between the state and individual. According to Marx, the principle of public property is based not on wealth distribution, but on the right of everyone to possess all undivided wealth. As everybody’s freedom is a premise of freedom for all, right of everyone to possess a common wealth is a premise of public property, common wealth. Freedom as a main goal of culture is a principle of public property that is real equality of people in their right to property. The latter is the solution that Marx sees the solution of the issue of combination of freedom and equality. Thus, Marxism can be viewed as historical descendant of liberalism, that is as the carrier of the idea of freedom that fulfills itself in the course of history. Even though socialism and liberalism are opposed to each other, they are closely related. The unifying element of both ideologies is their social ideal, which is the freedom of an individual. Who knows, maybe the next stages of historical process when free development of an individual will empower free development of an individual, will remove the differences between these two concepts of sociopolitical thought.