Politics. Nonfiction. HTML: Commonly known as The Communist Manifesto, the Manifesto of the Communist Party (in German "Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei") has been one of the most influential political documents in the world, having a far-reaching effect on twentieth-century political organization. In this 1848 publication, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels expound the program and purpose of the Communist League who commissioned the work. A critique of the Capitalist order of the time, the Manifesto gives a vision of a stateless, classless society, achieved through the overthrow of bourgeois social systems and the abolition of private property - the revolution of the proletariat..
How could they have taken such an extreme position? As Pozner says in the introduction: “Few people today have even the remotest idea of the horrors of mid-nineteenth-century labor. … Marx was sickened by what he saw, as were many others, among them Charles Dickens. But differing from everyone else, Marx set out to discover whether there was any rhyme or reason for this situation, any basic underlying motive for this state of affairs, anything resembling a law. … Where Marx differed from Thomas Jefferson and most other thinkers was in his certainty that a decent livelihood (the pursuit of happiness) was not possible without two basic elements: political equality and economic equality. … He may have been an idealist in believing that once the conditions of human existence were changed, once private ownership of property was abolished, once exploitation disappeared, people would change as well. He believed that in a society where there were no have-nots, where one’s livelihood did not depend on struggling to make money, where instead of competing against one another people worked together…”
In his list of ten measures to be taken by all nations, there are some that I agree with unequivocally and which you may take for granted today (progressive income tax, free education for all children in public schools), some that are arguable (abolition of inheritance, equal liability to all in labor), and some that I disagree with (abolition of private property, centralization of production by the State).
As Capitalism was extreme in 1848, so was Marx and Engel’s counter. They swung the pendulum too far the other way, and were too idealistic in doing so. Furthermore, they could not have foreseen what perverted forms their theories were to take in practice in the following century, where private ownership was replaced by state ownership, not public, and individual liberties were crushed by totalitarianism.
It was dangerous in its time to declare “Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. WORKING MEN OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!.”, and it was dangerous more than a century later. Being branded a communist during the Cold War in America led to loss of work, black balling and exportation; the communists were “the enemy”, without much thought outside of intelligentsia as to what communism actually stood for. Read it for that.
“You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society.”
“Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labour of others by means of such appropriation.”
I remember in high school I had heard so much negativity about communism and socialism; I cracked open my textbook to
Finally, I had some answers. This is a volume that I think everyone should read before they spout off misinformed ideas and opinions over communism and socialism. So many base their opinions off of fundamentalists--after all, we don't judge all Christians on the slight margin of fundamentalist Christians, don't we? (Well, we shouldn't.) And so on. Many have taken Marx's ideas and twisted and distorted them to their own agendas. This has led people to mistrust and dislike communism and socialism upon just hearing the words.
However, if you read Marx's ideas, they are fundamentally logical and sound. Maybe not exactly plausible, but definitely something worth thinking about.
That those who brought about socialist revolution in the 20th Century took this book as their guide has closed many minds to it. Of course, if you are starting a revolution, you can point to things in this book and claim you are acting in accordance with Marxist thought. It is more honest to acknowledge your debt to those who have gone before and stand in the name of your own ideology (as indeed Marx did); but people don't do that, because it means that they might have to take responsibility for their actions. It is far easier to say 'I only did what it said in the Manifesto/the Bible/the Qur'an/Mein Kampf/(insert other sacred text of choice)". So this book and Karl Marx gets wrongly blamed for much that happened long after he died.
Do not let that colour your reading of 'The Communist Manifesto'. Rather, read it, challenge its application to our times, use what seems appropriate and disregard what seems inappropriate. And yes, cry "Working men of all countries, unite!"
The writing overall was fabulous - easy to understand and follow for the most part. But more writing is needed to fully understand the concepts Mark and Engels are advocating.
Really, if you like Marx, read The Culture Industry, in Dialectic of Enlightenment, by Horkheimer and Adorno (of the Frankfurt School).
We are driven away from the necessary and the difficult by our inadequacies and fears, and so rarely move ourselves any closer to fulfillment. In a perversity of justice, those who do achieve the things which we imagine would fulfill us (wealth, fame, beauty, genius) are no more fulfilled than the average man, and just as beset by inadequacy and fear. Often, more so.
Transhumanism represents a hope that we can escape this pattern of ignorance and self-destruction but only by escaping the human bodies and minds that cannot control themselves.
The Manifesto always seemed little more than a sad reminder of our failings, though it did motivate people and provided a test of the mettle of humanity. Beyond that, it does more to rile than to increase understanding of the economy and our role within it. It is sad that a work which is at least based on some worthwhile principles falls to the same simple fears and ideals that plague our everyday lives.
The manifesto tries to take all of the economic theory of its authors and create from it a story that will excite the common man. They did not expect that most of them would pick up Das Kapital and start really thinking about their role in things. It was enough to engage their greed and sense of injustice without intruding much on their understanding.
The average man does not want to understand, he would prefer to believe. It is unfortunate that the main effect proven by the Communist movement is that any and every political system simply shifts wealth and power from one group to another, and little aids the serf or the unlucky.
We Americans are in little position to stand over the 'failure of Communism', since democracy has not proven any kinder to mankind, nor can it deliver justice equally to the poor and the rich.
Reading this is a matter of knowing your enemy.
What undoes this book, however, is the pitiful introduction by A.J.P Taylor. This introduction, unlike Marx's work, is an unimportant quibble of its time (1967). He rails on and on for 47 pages (longer than the manifesto itself!) about how 2
A.J.P. Taylor wrote this in 1967, and one cannot understand why on earth such an introduction could be commissioned or approved to accompany the Manifesto. I can only imagine what the public opinion of communism must have been like at the time - fear and loathing of the USSR alongside complete and total faith in capitalism. In an amusing passage, Taylor takes a break from criticizing Marx to "disprove" his critique of capitalism in the light of modern history, arguing that capitalism has proven itself after the little hiccup of the '30s. Well, it's 2011, and today economists like Nouriel Roubini are questioning capitalism altogether and the world is mired in collective contemplation on how to save the world economy. It seems that despite all of Taylor's fluff, Marx and Engels turned out to be far more timeless thinkers than he was.
Read the Manifesto, just don't read this version. It is nothing more than publishers wanting to make more pennies by pawning Marx's writings off with fluff-filler as an addendum.
This version comes with a bunch of
It's a compelling and fascinating though short text, a look backward in time.
Revolutionary ideas wrapped in tortured prose