The socialist movement assumed a new direction with the publication of Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx in February 1848. He produced this manifesto at the asking of the Communist League. Later on he wrote Das Kapital in three volumes.
The first volume was published in 1867 and the remaining two volumes were published after his death. Karl Marx (1815-83) gave a new direction to socialism and his socialism fundamentally differs from the French Socialism. Unlike the French socialists he advocated revolutionary socialism which anticipated the break up of the old system.
His socialism was addressed exclusively to one class viz., the proletariat. Above all his socialist ideas possessed scientific basis and had been drawn from the study of impartial study of laws of social development. According to Arthur Birnie Marx’s work is “on the one hand an exposition of economic theory and on the other interpretation of history”. He provided the working men with a social philosophy and programme for social reform.
Marx asserted that all wealth is produced by human 4abour and all capital is the result of labour in the past. In other words, it can be described as ‘stored up’ labour. This has been stored up because under the capitalistic system the labour gets only a small portion of what he actually produces and the surplus wealth is taken by the capitalists, who are the owners of machines. He argued that this unjust system would ultimately come to an end because capitalist system contains seeds of self- destruction. Under the capitalist system every industrialist tries to make his industry bigger to make more profits.
As a result in course of time the capital will become more and more concentrated and a number of small capitalists would be pushed to the ranks of the proletariat. At the same time the mass of people would be reduced to the status of wage-slaves and their condition would become so miserable that ultimately they would dispossess the capitalist and take over the wealth and the means of production in their hands.
Marx held that the cause of conflict can be resolved only when private ownership of means of production is abolished. This would be achieved only when a classless society is established.
According to Arthur Birnie the facts have refused to conform to the theory of Marx. “In industry, the law of capitalist concentration has operated upto a certain point but has not led, as Marx believed, to the complete disappearance of small business. In agriculture, on the other hand the working of the law is hardly visible. Over the greater part of Europe the small agricultural producer is in possession of the field.
Nor is the proletariat becoming progressively impoverished. On the contrary, it is increasing in comfort, while the general distribution of wealth is changing unmistakably in favour of the lower classes. There is hardly a particular in which the Marxian thesis has not been falsified by the history of the last fifty years”.
Though the principles of Marxian Socialism have been described by the critics as ‘illogical’ and ‘dull’, they have exercised profound influence on the minds of men and through them the events of history.