At the beginning of the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels famously wrote, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle” (pg. 9) They went on to argue that, “society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps” (pg. 9) and that because of the inherent imbalance in the system of capitalism, the creation of these two camps, the “bourgeoisie therefore produce, above all, its own grave diggers” (pg. 21). Perhaps most interesting about Marx and Engels writings is their own inability to recognize the ideological apparatuses that they themselves were trapped within—the class-reductivist standpoint that although salient today, fails to capture the whole of the institutional issues that plague our modern society and their own contemporary one.
Following the shooting death of Michael Brown in June of 2014, the Black Lives Matter movement grew to a behemoth in national media standards. Their words, activism, peaceful protests and occasionally violent riots have since come to dominate Twitter and Facebook, in addition to dominating other media outlets, as police brutality and covert and institutional racism continue to be made clearer and clearer to a hungry and angry audience. Disparity in economics, although of primary concern to Marx/Engels and Dickens alike, is increasingly viewed as merely a symptom of ideologies of hegemony and hierarchy—a mere facet of the sexist, racist and capitalist society so conceived by traditional, westernized Christian thought.
Thus, the “history of all hitherto existing society” is indeed founded in struggle. But to insinuate that this is merely economically true is an insult and a dangerous grievance to the billions of individuals who live on Earth under the tyranny of systems of privilege and repression—that the genocide, war, and violent physical and psychological oppression that occur daily are unimportant. Marx was revolutionary in his ability to look beyond the curtain at the effects of the system so produced—but his ideas were only the beginning of an interconnected larger picture. Hegemony exists in many forms, but perhaps the repressive systems of today—compounded by the speed, vitality and unforgiving nature of social media—will begin to crumble into their own self-dug graves.
Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. Manifesto of the Communist Party,. New York: International, 1948. Print.