The eighth plank of the Communist manifesto (English)(German) refers to the creation of industrieller Armeen. What does this actually mean? What is an "industrieller Armeen" and did it exist when he was writing?

Since most of Marxism is people attributing their own opinion to marx, I want an actual marxist answer backed by things Marx actually said.


I assume that these are the paragraphs to which you refer:

Meantime the markets kept ever growing, the demand ever rising. Even manufacturer no longer sufficed. Thereupon, steam and machinery revolutionised industrial production. The place of manufacture was taken by the giant, Modern Industry; the place of the industrial middle class by industrial millionaires, the leaders of the whole industrial armies, the modern bourgeois.


Modern Industry has converted the little workshop of the patriarchal master into the great factory of the industrial capitalist. Masses of labourers, crowded into the factory, are organised like soldiers. As privates of the industrial army they are placed under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers and sergeants. Not only are they slaves of the bourgeois class, and of the bourgeois State; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the overlooker, and, above all, by the individual bourgeois manufacturer himself. The more openly this despotism proclaims gain to be its end and aim, the more petty, the more hateful and the more embittering it is.

The use of "army" is a metaphor in these extracts. Marx is not advocating the formation of an industrial army, he is observing that the hierarchical nature of factory work is analogous to the ranks in an army, with the producers (ie the workers) being on the lowest rank. The army of industry is the workers in "average" jobs

Marx considered those who are in irregular, badly paid, temporary work together with unemployed to form a pool of people who could be "called up" in times of economic growth and dropped in recessions.

This is extended in other works to the observation that in bourgeois society there are often unemployed people (it was rare to be unemployed in feudal society) and the unemployed (and underemployed) fill the role of the "army reserves". Unemployment is a consequence of the bourgeois view of workers as a resource to be exploited, and would be eliminated in the Communist utopia.

This then ties back to the grand thesis: Work should be fulfilling, and it can't be unless workers control the means of production.


TL;DR: When Marx advocated "industrial armies" he meant world-wide Gulag. This was made pretty clear by the hard-core communist teacher when we discussed the text during History classes in a Moscow high school in early 1980-ies. The word "Gulag" was not used, of course, but the need for military-style industrial organization was emphasized.


First and foremost, one cannot analyze the Manifesto of the Communist Party out of context. This is not an abstract text. It contains polemics with the critics of communism, especially when talking about "community of women".

Second, one has to look at how the Communist Program was implemented by the most orthodox Marxists - Lenin's bolsheviks (of course, their claim of orthodoxy has been widely disputed by their less successful brethren).

Third, one has to remember the wider context of political philosophy, specifically, the Plato's theorem that no society can be simultaneously

  1. Free
  2. Fair
  3. Equal


  1. People are naturally different in their abilities, so in a Fair society the more able will be rewarded more
  2. In a Free society, wealthier people will give their children better education and bequeath them their wealth
  3. This will make the society UN-Equal, because some people will enjoy un-earned advantages.


Here is the official program:

  1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
  2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
  3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
  4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
  5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
  6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
  7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
  8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
  9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
  10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.

(The list omits abolition of family, which is discussed in detail before the list.)

The common theme of these 10 points is total state control over both the economy and private lives of people with the express goal of making it Equal at the expense of Freedom and Fairness.

(NB: What is left out is who will be administering all these novel and numerous state functions. The "Classic Marxist" answer is that the role of the state will be continuously increasing until the state will disappear when communism is established. This flies in the face of the familiar reality of no one ever relinquishing power voluntarily (counterexamples of Cincinnatus and Washington, being so rare, only support the point).)

Thus there is little doubt that the society envisioned by the Manifesto consists of separate individuals who do the work assigned to them by "the state" (which, according to Marx, is run directly by all the proletarians in the style of direct democracy), and the "industrial armies" are the units that are sent to fulfill the task at hand, whether building a plant or collecting a harvest.

This is pretty close to what was in fact implemented in the USSR, except that they failed to abolish the family completely (although party committees had authority to punish sexual escapades).


It means "unemployed people". The concept of unemployment was known before Marx and Engels (see the works of A. Smith and Ricardo). So unemployment existed when the Manifesto was written and earlier. The Wikipedia article describes the history and Marx's involvement well. One of the main Marx's idea was that the Capitalism brings about its own gravedigger, Proletariat, and the industrial army plays a big part in gravedigging.

You must log in to answer this question.