In the Manifesto of the Communist Party
, Karl Marx
and Frederich Engels
clearly outline what they believe communism to be. “…the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property
” (Marx, Engels).
This form of communism also dictates the abolition of inheritance and the confiscation of all property of those who emigrate from the country (Ibid). This makes the individual a non-entity. In fact, Marx and Engels refuse to discuss the idea of the individual as pertaining to all people. “You must…confess that by ‘individual’ you mean no other person than the bourgeois…the owner of property.” (Ibid). By this definition, in a communist society, there is no individual. Yet, this is the very thing that Marx and Engles are accusing the middle class of doing.
Marx and Engels say that capitalism has killed the individuality of the working class; “Owing to the extensive use of machinery and to division of labour, the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character” (ibid). This fundamental contradiction would seem to be one of the reasons that communism does not work well in practice. another reason could be summed up in the words of John Dickinson, a member of the American Continental Congress just prior to the revolutionary war: “People would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor” (Edwards).
Liberalism is a very broad term, in one sense liberalism can be construed as true freedom for the individual, a kind of laissez-faire liberalism, if you will. Where the individual is free to do as he pleases as long as his actions don’t infringe upon another’s well being. “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant” (Mill ‘On Liberty’).
More often, however, liberalism refers to a society that strives to make everyone equal before the law and give everyone an equal chance to earn a living sufficient to care for himself and his family. “The right to work and the right to a living wage are just as valid as the rights of person or property…the central point… is the equation of social service and reward” (Hobson ‘on liberalism’). While the degrees of liberalism can vary, one thing remains: the rights and private property of the individual are sacrosanct.
Interestingly, Feminism seems to be closely related to communism in that it brings to light a group that is being treated as non-citizens. Like the proletarians, women have been marginalized. Like the working classes, the franchise was not extended to women. They have been exploited as workers, either inside or outside the home. In fact, in America, they have been purposefully left out of the fourteenth amendment to the constitution, “The basis of representation shall be reduced…to the number of male citizens twenty-one years of age…” . It also parallels communism in its revolutionary undertones. “Whatever the obstacles that are put in your way, it is in your power to overturn them” (Gouges “On the Rights of Woman and the Citizen”). There were women who were willing to die for the cause. “…either women are to be killed or…are to have the vote” (Pankhurst).
Conversely, The difference between feminism and communism is also staggering. Whereas the goal of communism (according to Marx and Engels) is to overthrow the bourgeios and put the proletariat in power, The feminist movement had the initial goal of bringing women on equal footing to men. “…The speedy success of our cause depends upon…securing to woman an equal participation with men in the various trades, professions, sic and commerce” (Seneca Falls).
John Stuart Mill - On Liberty
Emiline Pankhurst - Public Speech
Marx and Engels - The Manifest of the Communist Party
Olympia de Gouges - On the Rights of Woman and the Citizen
"Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, Seneca Falls, 1848"
Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone - 1776