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Page 1: READING COMMUNIST MANIFESTO...READING COMMUNIST MANIFESTO READING COMMUNIST MANIFESTO This book includes the articles analysing the historical book, the Communist Manifesto, in the

READING COMMUNIST MANIFESTO

READING COMMUNIST MANIFESTO

This book includes the articles analysing the historical book, the Communist Manifesto, in the experience of the 150 years of its practice.

Black Pepper BooksKozhikode

www.blackpepperbooks.com Pepper Black Pepper Black Collections of Essays

` 165/-

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Reading Communist Manifesto

Collection of Essays

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Black Pepper Books

“Vidyarthi Centre” Mananchira Tower

Calicut-01 Reading Manifesto Collection of Essays

(English)

Copy Left: Any one can reprint this book in any form.

Cover Design: Shafeek Black Pepper

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Marx and Engels

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The Communist Manifesto After 150 Years1

How can a book written in one historical epoch have a meaning for another? If the author has tried to answer the questions posed by the way of life of the people around him, what can these answers mean for those living under changed conditions and facing quite different questions?

[1] In the case of Karl Marx, we have yet another barrier to penetrate. At the end of the twentieth century, when we pick up a text like the Manifesto, we already have in our minds what “everybody knows” about it. Before we even glance at its pages, distorting spectacles have been placed on our noses by the tradition known as “Marxism”. Even today, Stalinism’s obscene misuse of the word “communism” colours everything we read.

The upholders of “Marxism” thought of it as a science, and at the same time declared it to be a complete world outlook. These claims, which clearly contradict each other, make it impossible to understand the task which Marx set himself, a task that, by its very nature, no body of “theory” could complete. For his aim was no less than to make possible “the development of communist consciousness on a mass

1Marxists, http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/smith-cyril/works/articles/cyril_02.htm

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scale”. It was not enough just to prepare the overthrow of the ruling class. This particular revolution required the alteration of humans on a mass scale ... because the class overthrowing it [the ruling class] can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages. [2]

So the first step was not a “political theory”, not a “model of society”, not simply a call for revolution, but a conception of humanity. What Marx aimed at was, simultaneously, a science that comprehended human development, an understanding of how that development had become imprisoned within social forms that denied humanity, and a knowledge of the way that humanity was to liberate itself from that prison. Indeed, only through the struggle for liberation could we understand what humanity was. In essence, it was that “ensemble of social relations” [3], which made possible free, collective, self-creation. He showed how modern social relations fragmented society and formed a barrier to our potential for freedom, while, at the same time, providing the conditions for freedom to be actualised.

If we want to understand the Manifesto, we must read it as an early attempt to tackle all of these issues, set within the framework of a political statement. More clearly than any other of its author’s works, it contradicts the “Marxist” representation of Marx as a “philosopher”, an “economist”, a “sociologist”, a “theorist of history”, or any other kind of “social scientist”. To grasp what he was doing, we have to break through all the efforts of academic thinking to separate knowledge from the collective self-transformation of humanity. Indeed, one of the tasks of the Manifesto is to lay bare the source of all such thinking, finding it precisely within humanity’s inhuman condition. Marx’s science situates itself inside the struggle to transform our entire way of living.

Of course, in the past fifteen decades, the forms of capital and the conditions of the working class have changed profoundly in innumerable ways. But we still live in the same

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historical epoch as Marx, and, if we listen to what he has to say, we shall discover him to be our contemporary. So let us attempt to remove those “Marxist” spectacles, which prevented us from seeing just how original was Marx’s conception. Then, perhaps, we shall be able to confront this product of nineteenth-century Western Europe with the agonising problems of today’s “globalised” society. The essence of the Manifesto is not merely relevant for our time; it is vital for us, if humanity is to grope its way forward.

The Communist League

The Communist Manifesto was written in a Europe that

was on the eve of the revolutionary upheavals of 1848, and that also still lived in the shadow of the revolutionary struggles of 1789-1815. It is a response to both of these, the storm to come and the one that had passed. Between 1844 and 1847, in Berlin, Brussels, Paris and Manchester, Marx and Engels had encountered the ideas of the various groups of socialists and communists, and had also studied the organisations of the rapidly-growing working class. Hitherto, these two, socialism and the working class, had been quite separate from, or even hostile to each other. The achievement of the Manifesto was to establish the foundations on which they could be united.

From this work came a new conception of communism, situated within the historical context of their time. As the Manifesto puts it, communism was not “based on ideas or principles that have been invented or discovered by this or that would-be universal reformer.” [4] It had to be seen as the culmination and meaning of working-class struggle, and this struggle itself provided the key to understanding the existing economic relations. The “Marxists” thought they found in the Manifesto a “theoretical” analysis of “capitalism” and a “theory of history”. Actually, Marx was scornful of all

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pretence of having a “supra-historical theory of history” [5], never used the word “capitalism” and spent his life writing a critique of the very idea of political economy.

Every line of the Manifesto is permeated with his conception of communism. This was not a plan for an ideal future social set-up, worked out by some reforming genius, to be imposed on the world by his followers. Instead, it was to be the outcome of the development of the working-class movement itself, and therefore arose within the existing social order. Marx had turned towards the ideas of communism in 1844, Engels preceding him by two years. For three years, they discussed – and argued – with the many socialist and communist sects in Germany, France, Belgium and England, but joined none of them. Then, in 1847 they decided to join together with some former members of one of these secret groups, the League of the Just.

The League, which was largely German, and which had mainly consisted of workers and artisans [6], had more or less disappeared by that time. Its old members had outgrown the ideas of their leading figure, the heroic founder of the German workers’ movement, Wilhelm Weitling, and come closer to Marx’s view of communism. Marx and Engels, on the basis of their new-found ideas, resolved to bring these people together in a new kind of organisation. On one thing they were quite determined: this was not going to be a secret society, like the conspiratorial sects that abounded throughout Europe. It would be an open organisation, with a clearly expounded programme and outlook. The Communist League was formed at a conference in London, in the summer of 1847. A newspaper, the Kommunistische Zeitschrift, issued by the London branch in September of that year, carried the slogan “Proletarians of all Lands, Unite!”. In November, a second conference assembled. After ten days of discussion, Marx was instructed to prepare a “Manifesto of the Communist Party”, based upon Engels’ draft “catechism”, the Principles of

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Communism. Marx’s work was not finished until early in February, 1848. (As usual, he made slow progress in carrying out their instructions, and the delay brought forth an angry letter from the Committee.) Before printing was complete, the insurrection had broken out in Paris.

What role did the Communist League play in the revolutionary events of 1848-9? As an organisation, almost none. Its individual members, of course, were to the fore in many parts of Europe. Marx and Engels, in particular were leading figures in the Rhineland, where they produced the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. But, as a body, the League itself did not function during those stormy years. In 1850, after the defeat of the movement, exiles in London made an attempt to re-form it, but soon a fierce dispute broke out among them. Willich, Schapper and others dreamed that the revolutionary struggle would soon break out again. Marx and Engels and their supporters were convinced that the revolutionary wave had passed, and that a long period of development of capital would ensue. In 1851, leading members of the League in the Rhineland were arrested and tried in Cologne. After that, the organisation was allowed to disappear. Marx deliberately cut himself off from the exile groups, and did not resume active political involvement for the next twelve years.

The Manifesto and the Class Struggle

The first thing to note about this document is that it

begins and ends with declarations of openness. It is high time that Communists should openly ... publish

their aims... The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. Marx was always totally opposed to the idea that social

change could be brought about by some secret group, working behind the back of society. This tendency, identified with the heroic but ineffectual conspiracies of Auguste Blanqui and his

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friends, was also the target of Marx’s much-misunderstood phrase “dictatorship of the proletariat”, first used by him four years later. In “Marxism”, the central meaning of this formula was badly distorted. Quite contrary to any modern connotation of tyranny, Marx wanted to stress that the entire working class must govern, as opposed to any secret group, however benevolent its intentions.

The history of all hitherto existing society has been the history of class struggles.

So runs the famous opening of the first section, “Bourgeois and Proletarians”, but what does this mean? (Engels’ 1888 footnote, excluding pre-history from this statement, does not really help. [7]) As is well known, the idea of class struggle as a way of explaining history was not invented by Marx, but had been employed by French bourgeois historians in the 1820s. Marx gives it a totally different content. For him, class struggles are an aspect of alienated society, and communism implies their disappearance.

It is quite wrong to read this section as if it presented history as a logical argument, with a deduction of the communist revolution as a conclusion. Ten years later, Marx depicted human history in terms of three great stages:

Relationships of personal dependence (which originally arise quite spontaneously) are the first forms of society ... Personal independence based upon dependence mediated by things is the second great form, and only in it is a system of general social exchange of matter, a system of universal relations, universal requirements and universal capacities formed. Free individuality, based on the universal development of the individuals and the subordination of their communal, social productivity, which is the social possession, is the third stage.[8]

Of course, in 1848, Marx was not able to put the matter so clearly, but already the essence of his point of view is

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precisely that expressed by these lines. The class struggle was for him a feature of the second of these “stages” only, and bourgeois society marked the end of this entire period. This was the phase of “alienated life”, where individuals had no control over their own lives. Only in this stage could you speak about “historical laws”, since individuals were not yet the governors of their social relations. The Manifesto’s paeon of praise for the achievements of the bourgeoisie refers to their (of course, involuntary) work, which prepares for the great advance of humanity to its “third stage”, communism. This will see human beings living as “social individuals”, “universally developed individuals, whose social relationships are their own communal relations, and therefore subjected to their own communal control.” [9] Thus Marx’s entire picture of the movement of history is bound up with his conception of a “truly human” society, and the obstacles to it within our existing way of life.

Marx does not present us with a static picture of bourgeois social relations, as a sociologist might try to do. Instead, he gives a succinct outline of the birth, development and death of an oppressive and exploitative social order. He shows how “the bourgeoisie ... has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his ‘natural superiors’, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than ‘callous cash payment’.” [10] The class struggle, which has raged over the centuries, has been simplified by the modern bourgeoisie.

Society is splitting up more and more into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat. [11]

This opening section of the Manifesto is concerned with the joint historical development of these classes, including the struggle between them, and the stages of this process are related to the development of modern industry. Thus the huge advances of human productive powers since the eighteenth

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century have taken the form of the growth of “new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones.” [12] The outcome is that “man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life and his relations with his kind”. Just as the development of these “means of production and exchange” outgrew the feudal relations within which they had developed, now, the powers of modern industry have collided with the bourgeois relations that have “conjured them up”. [13]

Now, Marx describes the growth of the proletariat, the class of labourers who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only as long as their labour increases capital. These labourers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity like every other article of commerce. ... Owing to the extensive use of machinery, the work of the proletarian has lost all individual character, and consequently all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine. [14]

The account of wage-labour given here is far from the developed analysis Marx was able to make in Grundrisse, ten years later, and, after still another decade’s work, in Capital, but it still gets to the heart of the matter.

What is unprecedented about this particular form of class struggle, Marx explains, is that it prepares the objective ground for the transcendence of classes as such, and of all forms of oppression.

All the preceding classes that got the upper hand sought to fortify their already acquired status by subjecting society at large to their conditions of appropriation. The proletarians cannot become masters of the productive forces of society except by abolishing their own previous mode of appropriation, and thereby also every other mode of appropriation. ... The proletariat cannot raise itself up without the whole superincumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air. [15]

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Throughout the Manifesto, Marx stresses the “cosmopolitan character” of bourgeois society, reflecting the development of a world market. “The need of a constantly-expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe.” It is because of this that the struggle of the proletariat, while national “in form”, is international “in substance”. [16]

Marx’s account of bourgeois society as the objective preparation for the proletarian revolution is bound up with the emergence of the consciousness necessary for the transformation of the whole of world society. The “Marxists” attributed to Marx a philosophical outlook called “historical materialism”, a way of “explaining” the world. This was sometimes presented as a mechanical model of history, in which “material conditions” caused changes in consciousness. But this directly contradicts what Marx himself was doing. After all, was he not engaged in the struggle for the development of consciousness, and wasn’t communism precisely the way for humanity to take conscious charge of history?

Bourgeois society, the last possible form of the class struggle, had also to bring forth the subjective elements needed for its conscious transcendence. Central to this is “the organisation of the proletarians into a class and consequently into a political party”, and that means its self-organisation. But that is not all. In a vitally important paragraph, Marx describes how the break-up of the old order, and of the ruling class itself, has another consequence:

A small section of the ruling class cuts itself adrift and joins the revolutionary class, the class which holds the future in its hands ... in particular a portion of the bourgeois ideologists who have raised themselves to the level of comprehending the historical movement as a whole. [17]

This is a remarkable passage. These “bourgeois ideologists” undoubtedly include Marx and Engels

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themselves. In 1847, how many others could there have been? Never before had an author been able to put himself into the picture in this way, explaining the origin of his own work in terms of the objective conditions it was investigating. Thus the objective, material development of modern industry is bound up with the development of the understanding of the need to emancipate these forces from the perverting power of capital.

When Marx speaks of the proletariat, he does not mean the members of a sociological category, the collection of those who can be labelled as “wage-earners”. He is talking about a real movement, an objectively founded aspect of modern social life. People who sell their ability to labour find themselves involved in an antagonistic relation to the owners of capital, whether they like it or not, and whatever they may think.

The proletarian movement is the independent [18] movement of the immense majority in the interests of the immense majority. [19]

Obviously, many of the details of the picture of the world presented by Marx in 1848 are hardly to be found in the world of today. As Marx himself realised a short time later, his time-scale was extremely foreshortened. But, a hundred and fifty years on, it is amazing how many of its essential features are still at the heart of our problems.

The Role of the Communists

The second section, “Proletarians and Communists”,

largely consists of an imaginary dialogue with a bourgeois objector to the idea of communism. It begins by situating the Communists in Marx’s picture of the development of the proletariat. Many of its ideas are drawn from the doctrines of previous socialist and communist groups, and also from

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Engels’ draft. But, from his standpoint, set out in the previous section, he transforms them into something quite new.

The members of the League gave their declaration the title “Manifesto of the Communist Party”. They could not anticipate how much misunderstanding this word “party” would cause for future decades, when it had so changed its meaning. For Marx and his comrades, it certainly did not mean the type of bureaucratic structure with which we associate it today, but a section of society, a social-political trend. Again stressing the open, anti-conspiratorial nature of communism, Marx declares

The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working-class parties. They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement. ... The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all the other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of power by the proletariat. ... The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property. [20]

Objects have been privately owned for millennia, so that individuals have been able to say of something, or even somebody, “this is mine”. But the latest form of private property is different. Capital is “a collective product”, set in motion only by “the united action of all members of society ... not a personal, but a social power.” [21] Abolishing this power, capital, is the only way to ensure that “accumulated labour becomes a means to widen, to enrich, to promote the existence of the labourer.”

Marx goes on to summarise the communist critique of the false bourgeois conceptions of freedom, individuality, culture, the family and education, attacking in particular the oppression of women within bourgeois society. After this, he

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outlines the nature of the proletarian revolution, “to raise the proletariat to the position of the ruling class, to win the battle of democracy”, and identifies the resulting state with “the proletariat organised as the ruling class”. [22]

The 10-point political programme for the first steps of the revolution with which this section ends, is interesting mainly for its surprisingly mild character. Clearly, Marx does not consider revolution as a sudden overnight transformation, resulting from some kind of coup d’état, however violent it might be. He refers to the situation following a prolonged historical transition, when in the course of development class distinctions have disappeared and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation. [23]

Then, he anticipates, “the public power will lose its political character”. The proletariat will have “abolished its own supremacy as a class”.

In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all. [24]

This sentence summarises a world of ideas which Marx has extracted and negated from the history of philosophy and political economy. It embodies his entire conception of what it means to live humanly. Potentially, humans can be free, but only when the freely created life of the whole of society is completely and visibly bound up with the growth of each individual. Private property stands as a barrier to such freedom.

The third section of the Manifesto deals scornfully with most of the previous socialist doctrines, all of which have by now long disappeared from history. However, its final pages refer to “Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism” with great respect. Marx attributes the limitations of the work of Saint-Simon, Fourier, Owen and others to the – unconscious –

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reflection of the “early undeveloped period ... of the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie”. While being “full of the most valuable materials for the enlightenment of the working class”, they could see the proletariat only as “a class without any historical initiative or any independent political movement”, as “the most suffering class”. Because, in their time, “the economic situation ... does not offer them the material conditions for the emancipation of the proletariat”, they could do no more than “search after a new social science, after new social laws, that are to create these conditions”. That is why they could be no more than “Utopians”, who merely painted “fantastic pictures of future society”. [25] In contrast to them, Marx insists that communism is a “real movement”, not a dream.

The Subject of History

Marx’s problem was to discover the possibility for

humanity, individually and collectively, to take conscious charge of its own life, and to find this possibility within bourgeois society. Communism would mean that humans would cease to be prisoners of their social relations, and begin purposively to make their own history. In other words, we should cease to be mere objects and start to live as subjects.

But how can history have a subject? The course of the twentieth century, especially its last decades, makes the idea seem quite ludicrous. The world presents the appearance of pure chaos, without the slightest sign of conscious direction or purpose. The lives of its inhabitants are evidently quite out of their control. At the same time as they are ever more closely bound together, they appear more and more like a collection “of single individuals and of civil society” [26], at war with each other. In other words, they are objects rather than subjects. People living under capital, both bourgeois and proletarians, are governed by it; people are treated as things,

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and things have power over people. Capital, not the human individual, possesses subjectivity. Marx starts from the conviction that this way of life is not “worthy of their human nature”. [27]

The notion of the “subject” had been central for the work of Hegel. For him, a subject was at the same time a thinking consciousness and a will. It created objects which stood in opposition to it. Then it tried to find itself in them. In this effort, it changed its relationships with them, and so made itself what it really was. This was what Hegel understood by freedom: something was free only if it produced its own conditions of existence, and was not governed by external presuppositions. Overcoming the opposition of the objects it had produced, the subject could recognise itself in a world it had made for itself. Subjects, when their individual purposes clashed at a particular phase of development, revealed that their modes of being were deficient. From knowledge of this deficiency, a new set of relations arose, and so a new subject at a higher level.

The efforts of each individual to realise his or her purpose led to results quite different from what they had intended. A higher subject called “History” played cunning tricks upon them. From civil society, that war of property-owners against each other, sprang the State, whose subjective activities reconciled the warriors on this “battlefield of private interest” [28]. All of this was the work of Spirit, “the subject which is also substance”, described as “’I’ that is ‘we’, ‘we’ that is ‘I’” [29]. Here is the starting point of Marx’s debt to Hegel, as well as Marx’s critique of Hegel.

Marx saw that Hegel’s notion of subjectivity was an upside-down reflection of something else: although humanity made itself in the course of social labour – “in changing nature, man changes his own nature” [30] – under the power of capital, this took place in an upside-down world. That is, we develop our physical and mental capacities as social beings in

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the process of production itself, but we do so only as prisoners of our alienated social relations. Trapped by the power of capital, the actual producers are prevented from comprehending or controlling either what they produce, or their own productive activity. Capital is the subject, not the individual, whether bourgeois or proletarian.

This insight into the nature of bourgeois society, and the position of the producers within it, enabled Marx to go beyond Hegel’s understanding of history. The conscious, united action of the workers against capital would lead to the abolition of private property. They could become conscious of their own humanity, and break out of that inhuman situation in which it was denied. Transforming itself from a class “in itself” into a class “for itself”, the united proletariat would become the subject of history, and in this it differed from all previous, propertied, classes. The cunning which enabled Hegel’s History to play tricks on humanity could be defeated. The way would be opened to a human society, where life would be made consciously, by individual humans who no longer clashed with the collective will of humanity as a whole.

These conceptions are hostile to any form of dogmatism. However, what “Marxists” used to call “theory” was no more than dogmatic assertion, for it could never explain its own origin. Even during Marx’s own lifetime, he saw his ideas being reduced to dogma, and later things became much worse. In the hands of the Stalinist bureaucracy and its devotees, “Marxism” became a kind of state religion. Even those who fought against Stalinism, notably Leon Trotsky, found themselves trapped inside this conception of the “Marxist Party”, which was equipped with a set of correct theories or “doctrines”. [31] They were led, often unconsciously, to see “revolutionary leadership” as the substitute for that “development of communist consciousness on a mass scale”,

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which was Marx’s aim. As we have seen, the Manifesto explicitly opposes the conception of such an organisation.

Thus the famous formulation of Kautsky and Lenin, that “socialist consciousness” had to be brought into the working class “from without”, was a barrier to the central meaning of the Manifesto. But even those who did not accept this formula lost sight of Marx’s starting-point for the movement of the proletariat, the standpoint of “human society or social humanity”. [32] Marx argued that the communists, participating in the real movement, could become its mouthpiece, illuminating the self-activity in which the class will “become fitted to make society anew”. [33]

The conception that the revolution was the work of a party, was closely bound up with the way the “Marxists” viewed state power. For them, the first step was the “seizure of power” by their “party”. They tried to portray Marx as a “state socialist”, just as his enemy Bakunin claimed he was. They often remarked that, in the Manifesto, Marx’s understanding of the state was “incomplete”. (Marx would have agreed with this, at any rate, for, as we have seen, he regarded his own ideas on any subject as essentially incomplete.) His remark that “the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of the ruling class, to win the battle of democracy”, was certainly troublesome for many “Marxists”. In fact, Marx came to envisage the rule of the proletariat as operating through local communes, not through a centralised state power. This conception, reinforced by the experience of the Paris Commune of 1871, was essential to his notion of communism as the self-movement of the proletariat. [34]

Thus “Marxism” came, in effect, to treat both the workers’ state and the revolutionary party as if these were the subjects of history. They were thought of as moral agents, operating independently of the individuals whose life-activity actually comprised them. This outlook was directly opposed

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to the view for which Marx fought. For him, only the proletariat, united as a class, could become conscious of its own historical situation, and consciously transform it. No other social formation could take its place – not the nation, not any earlier class, not the Party, not the family, and certainly not the individual genius. Such entities purported to be self-creating subjects, but Marx showed that these were illusions, which necessarily arose out of alienated life itself. In particular, living under bourgeois private property, isolated individuals were not the independent subjects they appeared to be and the state was not the community.

This, then is how Marx sees the question of subjectivity. Private property breaks up the community, and this renders it impossible for individuals to control their own lives. But, in its struggle against capital, the proletariat can transform itself into a self-conscious subject. After class divisions have been abolished, the proletariat will transcend itself, and dissolve into humanity as a whole. Then we shall have a free association of social individuals, that is, individual subjects, each of whom directly embodies the whole community, in which, the Manifesto says, “the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all”.

Look again at this famous phrase, which so clearly expresses Marx’s fundamental notion of humanity. It was a symptom of the widespread misunderstanding of Marx, that it should have been read back-to-front, as if it made the connection between individual and collective precisely the other way round. Communism means that the well-being of the individual, the possibility for him or her to develop freely all their human potential, is the condition; the good of the whole community is the consequence. While Marx criticised the political economists for their celebration of the “single individual in civil society”, his critique did not merely reject this entity. The overthrow of the power of capital will open the way for the flowering of true individuality, but now in a

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shape where it no longer precluded collective well-being, but made it possible. The individual subjects who live in a human world will not be “isolated individuals” but “social individuals”. [35]

That is why Marx’s work, both scientific and practical, was not a matter of propounding a new form, one which the world had then to adopt. Instead, it concerned the removal of the inhuman covering [Hülle] which encased a truly human life. Communism was not a new “mode of production”, to replace the existing one, but a release of individuals lives from the straightjacket of private property.

Private property has made us so stupid and one-sided that an object is only ours when we have it. ... In the place of all physical and mental senses there has come therefore the sheer estrangement of all these senses, the sense of having. ... The abolition of private property is therefore the complete emancipation of all human senses and qualities. [36]

Thus this emancipation, spearheaded by the subjective action of the proletariat, the “universal class”, implied rather more than “the overthrow of capitalism”, or a new economic and political system. It meant a new way of living, in which individual and universal no longer collided..

Marx in the Twenty-first Century

Today, millions of people await the new century with

apathy, fear or despair. A deep malaise grips world society. Science and technology bound forward, bringing new marvels at every stride, but the outcome is mass unemployment, environmental destruction and the ever-present menace of nuclear war. Those shrill cries about “the End of History” and “the New World Order”, which filled the air only a few years ago, have all died away. Soon, I hope, their authors will be forgotten.

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If Marx wrote when Europe was still coming to terms with the French Revolution, we live in the shadow of the Russian Revolution. Millions expected this great event to begin the socialist transformation of world society. But in its aftermath of civil war, bureaucratic degeneration destroyed these aspirations. Finally, the Soviet state collapsed into the chaos of modern capital. Unsurprisingly, the assertion that “Marxism is dead” has become a cliché. However, the chief result of the disappearance of the “Cold War” situation is something quite different. We used to be presented with the false choice between two alternatives: either rigidly-centralised state control, or the exploitative anarchy of the market. Now, we can break out of this false dilemma. The path has been opened for the renewed study of Marx’s actual ideas.

Just look at the world at the end of the millennium. Every aspect of social, political and economic life is dominated by the dogmatic belief in the miraculous power of “market forces”. Money and its surrogates rule supreme throughout the planet, not just in a few bourgeois states. The outcome of this development is clear for all to see. Millions of lives are spent in the shadow of poverty and insecurity, menaced by the constant threat of starvation and disease. Some of the poorest people in the world exist within sight of gleaming office buildings, which house the headquarters of transnational corporations and powerful financial institutions. The export of the latest high-tech weapons of destruction vies with the massive trade in illegal narcotics as the chief sustenance of this soulless structure. The mass media, a major part of the profit-making system, broadcast images of famine and war around the globe, carefully integrating them into the profitable business called “entertainment”.

No doubt, the world has passed through similar social crises before. One thing which distinguishes this “New World Disorder” from its predecessors is the way it is intellectually

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and culturally reflected. Whether the idea is put into words or not, there is a widespread belief that “there is no such thing as society”. The conception of humanity itself has been perverted. Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Bhopal are accepted as symbols of homo sapiens in the twentieth century. Truth, Goodness and Beauty have not merely vanished: they are loudly proclaimed to be illusions. The possibility of a world where “the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all” has, we are often told, become utterly unthinkable. The hopes of the Enlightenment, the nineteenth century certainty of Progress, the struggle for world revolution after 1917, the dreams of the student revolutionaries of 1968, all are dismissed as outmoded juvenile nonsense. To people whose horizons are limited by “market forces”, the corruption we see around us is only an accurate expression of “the human condition”, and there is nothing to be done about it.

We have seen the revival of a widespread belief that the present social relations are the only ones possible, and that the anticipation of “a free association of producers” is incompatible with human nature. But just what is that nature? Many answers are forthcoming. The practitioners of Artificial Intelligence explain that humans are nothing but rather complex machines. “Just a bundle of selfish genes, genetically-programmed talking apes”, intone the high priests of socio-biology. “Self-interested atoms”, gibber the economists. “Murderous, natural polluters of the planet, which was getting on quite well until you humans arrived”, say the Greens.

Have the forms of capital not changed enormously? Yes, indeed they have, but only into shapes far more horrific and insane than those of Marx’s day. The making of money out of money now appears to dominate those operations of capital in which use-values are actually produced, while these forms of capital suck the blood of the producers. During twenty-four

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hours of every day, billions of dollars are sent over powerful computer networks, bringing massive profits to speculators in foreign exchange. Productive capacity itself is moved rapidly to areas where labour-power is cheap. Meanwhile, in the older centres of large-scale production, factories lie rusting, and the communities who depended on them broken up and left without hope.

Thus the main questions posed by the Manifesto face us more starkly than ever. How is it that human productive power – now expanded far beyond the dreams of Marx – can take forms through which humanity’s environment is destroyed and its very future existence threatened? How can social relations like money or capital have power over the people they relate to each other? Why do the links that bind the entire productive potential of humankind into a unity, simultaneously shatter it into fragments, setting individuals, classes and nations against each other, even against themselves? Chatter about “postmodernity”, with its denial of humanity, cannot drown out such questions.

Of course, in 1848, and in a brief document like the Manifesto, Marx could do no more than point to such problems. Even his work over the subsequent 35 years did no more than begin to elaborate answers to some of them, while new dangers have shown themselves only in recent decades. When “Marxist” orthodoxy pretended that these beginnings were a complete theoretical system, it lost sight of its entire point. What Marx was looking for – not inside his head, but within the existing social forms themselves – was the way for humanity to begin its task of self-emancipation, of becoming what it really was. This is what the Enlightenment and the French Revolution had promised, but failed to deliver. Marx was able to transcend this outlook. He did not reject its promise, but revealed that the world of capital, which political economy had portrayed as “natural”, was in reality crazy

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[verrückte]. Looking at this same world today, who can deny its madness?

Many of those disillusioned with the socialist idea present their demand to “Marxism”, as if they were historical debt-collectors. “You promised us a revolution – where is it? The Manifesto told us that the proletariat’s victory over capital would open the road to freedom. We have been cruelly disappointed.” We must totally reject this manner of looking at history. Those who are disillusioned are obliged to investigate how they came to acquire illusions in the first place! In any case, there is no way we can evade the problem of how to live together on the planet. This is not a problem for a set of doctrines to solve, or for a political tendency to answer, but for billions of human beings to tackle for themselves.

The working-class movement has certainly gone through huge changes since 1848, especially over the past few decades. After the Second World War, the advanced industrialised countries set up systems of state welfare, together with a certain amount of state ownership. Sometimes this was associated with the name of John Maynard Keynes, and occasionally – and quite misleadingly – it was called “socialism”. After the period of unprecedented economic growth had come to a shuddering halt in the 1970s, the so-called “neo-liberalism” became the prevailing mood of many governments. There was an idea that state-ownership of industry, or state intervention in the economy, would provide a way to raise the standard of living. By the early 1980s, it had vanished with astonishing speed. Of course, the identification of socialism with state ownership was always false. For Marx, the state was “the illusory community” [37], a bureaucratic structure which, within the framework of the fragmented, money-driven society, falsely impersonated the community.

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A major feature of the world today is the fragmentation of the international working class and its organisations. During the 1980s, many sections of the workers’ movement retreated into purely defensive actions. The movement of capital in search of higher profits led to the decline of large-scale manufacturing industry in the older capitalist countries, considerably weakening the trade unions there. This process has led some observers to imagine that “the proletariat no longer exists”, or that we are living in the epoch of “post-capitalism”. Of course, such ideas are absurd. The substance remains: capitalist exploitation of labour; only its forms have changed.

New sectors of industry have opened up in what was once called the “Third World”. There, the widespread employment of women and children, under the harshest working conditions, have brought back many features of economic life that had been long-forgotten in the older centres of industry. At the same time, in these older countries, the work-force has been split into two increasingly contrasted sectors. On the one hand, there is a relatively well paid group, employed in high-tech industries. On the other, a large section is forced into poorly-paid jobs, or frequently unemployed. They and their families have been pushed to the margins of society, condemned to falling standards of housing, health and educational provision.

As these changes unfolded in the 1970s and ’80s, new working-class struggles began in Asia, Latin America and Africa. New masses have been drawn into global battles against the power of capital. Important struggles to defend communities against the effects of changing technology have taken place. But how can the class be re-united? I think that the ideas of the Manifesto will prove to be vital in answering this question. When Marx looks at the struggles of workers for a higher price for their labour-power, or for a shorter working day, he sees this as a form, the content of which is

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the struggle of the dispossessed to be recognised as human beings. This demand, the essence of Marx’s communism, is the only possible foundation on which to rebuild the working-class movement. In “Marxism”, communism and the movement of the proletariat were torn apart, after the Manifesto had so brilliantly unified them. To heal this breach is the task facing us today.

It is clear that the difficulties faced by the world are bound up with the breakneck speed of technological advance, and its imprisonment with the constricting framework of capitalist exploitation. The Manifesto already compared “bourgeois society [which] has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange” with “the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells”. [38] Today, this does not merely mean that capital is beset by economic instability. Far deeper problems have emerged as a result of the conquests of science and technology. Every advance in telecommunications, information technology, biotechnology or medical science sharpens the conflict between the requirements of capital and the needs of humanity. If these powers are not to destroy us, a complete transformation of social and economic life is needed, a total change in the way that human beings relate to each other.

The threat to the environment, a direct result of capital’s uncontrolled expansion, can be answered only by the collective action of humanity as a whole. But what is this whole? Where can it be found? The “Green” movement has done important work in drawing attention to environmental issues. However, it often evades the question of just who is going to answer these dangers. Technology is not the enemy, but its perversion by the power of capital. Obviously, Marx could not have had much to say directly about issues which had hardly shown themselves in his time. But we will not be

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able to search for solutions without his conception of the potentiality of the proletariat to transform itself into a subject.

In organising itself to fulfil its historic destiny, the working class has to achieve the necessary knowledge of its situation, and face its tasks as a class with the highest degree of consciousness. As the international workers’ movement rebuilds and re-unifies itself, it must continually check its practices against the ideas of the Manifesto, not as a biblical text, but as a guide. The movement must also re-work and de-mythologise its past history, both its victories and its errors, while it grasps the changes in the way that capital organises itself. It must become aware of the latest technological developments, finding ways to answer the problems of working-class communities with knowledge of the most advanced conquests of natural science and technology. The working class movement must take the lead in fighting to halt the effects on society as a whole of capitalist exploitation of the natural environment.

But for all this, those of us who claim to be communists have to ask ourselves a question. How on earth did we, the “Marxists”, so totally misunderstand Marx? Of course, it was not just a matter of intellectual inadequacy. It was really because we forcibly squeezed Marx’s notion of what was truly human into an iron framework which was truly brutal. We examined writings like the Manifesto, as if they were academic texts, expounding a total, complete, immutable doctrine. We thought that they provided us with a “model” of history, whose components were abstract images of Marx’s categories. We were afraid to see them as the concrete expression of the lives of human beings. Only now, at the end of the century after Marx’s, do the opportunities open up for a new generation to grasp their real significance. Only now is it time to read the Manifesto.

Certainly, the working class has still to “become fitted to make society anew”. [39] That implies that, in the new

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millennium, the issues which found their first expression in 1848 face humanity with far greater urgency. Today we can say that we either learn how to live humanly, or we shall cease to live at all.

NOTES MECW = Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Collected Works. London, 1975-2005

1. That Marx himself was interested in this question seems likely, even if he never had the opportunity to discuss it at length. See the closing pages of the 1857 Introduction to Grundrisse. 2. The German Ideology, written a year earlier, but not published until the twentieth century. MECW, Vol. 5, p 53. 3. Theses on Feuerbach. Thesis 6. 4. Communist Manifesto. MECW, Volume 6, p 498. 5. See the letter Marx wrote in November, 1877, to the Russian journal Otechestvennye Zapisky. 6. Wilhelm Weitling had been a tailor, like Georg Eccarius and several others. Karl Schapper had been a student of forestry. Heinrich Bauer was a shoemaker. Joseph Moll was a watch-maker. Karl Pfänder was a painter of miniatures. Marx, Engels and Wilhelm Wolff seem to have been the only intellectuals. My account of the history of the League is based on that of David Ryazanov, which contradicts some of Engels’ reminiscences. See Ryazanov’s Edition of the Manifesto, (New York, 1930), and his lectures, Marx and Engels, (London, 1927). 7. Engels’ idea of “primitive communism”, based on the researches of Haxthausen, Maurer and Morgan, was not really shared by Marx. See The Ethnological Notebooks of Karl Marx, edited by L Krader. (Assen, 1974.) 8. Grundrisse. MECW, Vol. 28, p 95. 9. Ibid.

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10. Manifesto. MECW Vol. 6, pp 486-7. 11. Ibid. p 485. 12. Ibid. p 487. 13. Ibid. p 489. 14. Ibid. p 490. 15. Ibid. p 495. 16. Ibid. p 495. 17. Ibid. p 494. 18. A later edition inserted here the word “self-conscious”. 19. Ibid. p 495 20. Ibid. p 498. 21. Ibid. p 499. 22. Ibid. p 504. 23. Ibid. p 504. 24. Ibid. p 506. 25. Ibid. p 515. 26. Theses on Feuerbach. Thesis 8. 27. Capital, Volume 3. Penguin Edition, p 959. 28. Hegel, Philosophy of Right, para 289. 29. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, p 110. 30. Capital, Volume 1, Chapter 7. This is where the key opposition – and similarity – of Marx to Hegel, is located. The words “materialism” and “idealism” were used by “Marxists” in a quite misleading way. Marx had no concern with the “theory of knowledge”, or with the “relationship of mind and matter”. 31. Karl Kautsky wrote a book, once very popular in the labour movement, entitled The Economic Doctrines of Karl Marx – but only after Marx’s death. Plekhanov and Lenin followed Kautsky in this usage. 32. Theses on Feuerbach. Thesis 9. 33. German Ideology, MECW, Vol. 5, p 53. 34. See Notes on Bakunin’s State and Anarchy, 1875. See also The Late Marx and the Russian Road, edited Shanin. 35. I am indebted to a discussion with Professor José-Carlos

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Ballon, of San Marco University, Lima, for this important point. 36. Paris Manuscripts. MECW, Vol. 5, p 300. 37. German Ideology, MECW, Vol. 5, p 46. 38. Manifesto. MECW, Vol. 6, p 489. 39. German Ideology, MECW, Vol. 5, p 53.

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The Communist Manifesto After 150 Years2

Ellen Meiksins Wood

The Communist Manifesto is just that: a manifesto. It is not a long and comprehensive scholarly study but a public declaration of a political program, a short and dramatic statement of purpose and a call to arms, written at a time of political ferment, on the eve of what turned out to be the nearest thing the world had ever seen to international revolution.

Yet posterity has judged this political manifesto not just as a manifesto but as many other things. In the century and a half since its publication, it has been judged not only as a uniquely influential document in the theory and practice of revolutionary movements throughout the world, but also as a work of history, as economic, political, and cultural analysis, and as prophecy. The Manifesto has been judged as an account of past, present, and future—not only the present and future of its authors but those of every generation since, up to and including our own.

2 Monthly Review, Volume 50, Issue 01 (May), 1998, http://monthlyreview.org/1998/05/01/the-communist-manifesto-after-150-years

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At first glance, it seems very unreasonable to judge a small pamphlet—the product of collaboration by two young men very early in their careers, written for a very specific and immediate purpose—by such demanding measures. It is hard to think of any other classic of Western social thought that has been judged by such sweeping and rigorous standards. The Manifesto stands alone in this respect no doubt because of its tremendous role in the history of a vast political movement which has had an immeasurable influence on the shape of the modern world. More particularly, the Manifesto has been subject to uniquely critical scrutiny because people in power, and their intellectual supporters, have felt that much was at stake in debunking it.

But only a very great work—which still has much to say to us 150 years later—could invite this kind of critical scrutiny. Nothing could give more convincing testimony to the genius of the Manifesto than the energy that has been expended in attacking it. So while we have to remember the particular purposes for which it was written and the very specific historical context in which it emerged, it seems not so unreasonable after all to judge it in much larger terms.

The Historical Context of the Manifesto

Let us first consider the context in which the Communist

Manifesto was written and how the specific historical conditions of its composition affected its content.

The broad historical context of the Manifesto is, of course, the emergence of industrial capitalism and the modern industrial working class in Western Europe, together with the socialist movements that grew out of these historical developments. There had been earlier classics in what would become the socialist tradition—such as the work of Winstanley in seventeenth century England or Babeuf in eighteenth century France—but the social movements with

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which they were associated, while influential in various ways, remained on the margins of history. It was only in the nineteenth century that substantial working class movements emerged that could form a powerful political force and even socialist parties. With the appearance of this new political force came a body of socialist literature. First, there was a diverse collection of writings often treated together (largely thanks to the Manifesto itself) under the category “utopian socialism,” by thinkers such as Owen, St. Simon, and Fourier. These writings would be overtaken by the far more penetrating and systematic works of Marx and Engels, whose socialism was deeply rooted in a critical analysis of capitalism of a kind never attempted before. The Manifesto is certainly not the most substantial of these works, but it is without doubt the most well known, with a historical resonance probably unsurpassed by any other single piece of secular writing, from any part of the political spectrum.

Yet though the Manifesto was composed against the background of those larger, long-term historical developments, it had a more immediate context which helps to explain its particular shape. The pamphlet was commissioned by the German Communist League in 1847. Friedrich Engels (at age 27) first drafted Principles of Communism (also included in this edition). He handed it over to Karl Marx, then 29, for revision. Drawing on Engels’ Principles, Marx produced the theoretical and literary masterpiece we now know as the Communist Manifesto, which was first published anonymously in London in February 1848.

This was the year when revolution would sweep across Europe—almost immediately after the publication of the Manifesto (though obviously not because of it). Spreading like wildfire from France to Germany to Hungary, Italy, and beyond, the revolution covered an area that today takes in at least part of ten different European countries, with effects as far away as Latin America. In just a few weeks, one

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government after another fell. These revolutions were to be very short-lived, but it is hard to over-estimate the hopes and fears they aroused as signals of an international revolution.

The Manifesto was written just before the outbreak of the revolution. Although it cannot be said that the pamphlet played a major part in the events that followed, it is a product of that very specific time and that very specific revolutionary climate. In that historical fact lie both many of its strengths and some unresolved problems.

The revolution, or revolutions, of 1848 took place in countries with very diverse social, economic, and political conditions: from a relatively “developed” country like France, or parts of Germany (not yet a single unified state) such as the Rhineland, to “backward” areas like southern Italy or Transylvania. But one thing they had in common was that capitalism was not well advanced in any of them, and in some cases not at all. For all their differences, too, they all had predominantly rural populations. Britain, the country in which capitalism was most advanced, certainly saw eruptions of popular unrest and state repression in the 1840s, but it did not experience the revolutionary upheavals that occurred on the Continent. There was a mass political movement in Britain too, the Chartist movement, but its political struggles (for instance, the struggle for an extension of the franchise to the working class, which would be won some time later) were being overtaken by new kinds of class struggle. The growth of industrial capitalism was already shifting the central terrain of class conflict from the political arena to the workplace, the “point of production.”

If the various Continental revolutions had a common political program, it was not the overthrow of something like a capitalist system. It was rather the establishment of unified liberal or constitutional states with a degree of civil equality, inspired above all by the French Revolution in the previous century. In some cases, like Hungary or Italy, the struggle for

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a more democratic state was bound up with the fight for national autonomy.

But if 1848 was not a socialist or anti-capitalist revolution, neither was it unambiguously a “bourgeois revolution” in the now commonly understood sense: a revolution to liberate capitalism from feudal constraints. The revolutionary “bourgeoisie” was not a coherent capitalist class. Prominent among them were civil servants, professionals, and intellectuals. Even in countries where industrialization was more advanced, the industrial bourgeoisie which opposed the dominant regime was small and relatively weak, never able to act alone against the ruling elite without the support of popular forces with different material interests.

In all these cases, too, the popular forces, the people who fought and died in the streets, the people who pushed the revolution beyond the political objectives of the “bourgeois republic” or the liberal state toward more far-reaching social transformations, were not a modern mass proletariat. They included independent craftsmen, small shopkeepers, peasants in some places (like Italy, and even some parts of Germany), and the unemployed or underemployed poor in towns with undeveloped economies still unable to absorb them. Nowhere in revolutionary Europe was there a massive and developed proletariat, a sizeable class of wage-laborers employed by capital such as already existed in Britain. The nascent proletariat, especially in France and more developed parts of Germany, had an effect disproportionate to its numbers, but it could not yet provide the social base for a successful revolution.

For that matter, there may have been no solid social base even for a “bourgeois democratic” revolution. The revolutionary movements relied, to varying degrees, on mass mobilization. Yet it was precisely the dangers of mass mobilization that quickly drove bourgeois liberals and radicals

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everywhere away from democracy, or even liberalism, and back to rigid hierarchy, order, and reaction. It might be said that the revolution both erupted and failed because no single class was strong enough to sustain a stable regime of its own.

At any rate, when Marx and Engels wrote the Manifesto, they did not believe that a socialist revolution, or a proletarian revolution of any kind, was in the offing. They briefly hoped that the events, and the failures, of 1848 might lead to something more, some further longer-term development, a “permanent revolution” that would push beyond the bourgeois republic to proletarian rule and finally socialism. But any reader of the Manifesto must be struck by the fact that the revolutionary hero of its eloquent narrative is the bourgeoisie. The revolutionary victories of the bourgeoisie were, of course, deeply contradictory for Marx and Engels, combining benefits and costs in equal measure. They hoped, and confidently expected, that the bourgeoisie’s conquests would eventually be overtaken by the triumph of the working class and socialism. But even while the Manifesto calls workers to arms and foresees their emergence as a truly revolutionary force, it tells the triumphal story of the bourgeoisie.

“Bourgeois” or “Capitalist”?

It is commonly acknowledged that the “bourgeois

revolution,” with the French Revolution of 1789 as the guiding light, forms the background of the Communist Manifesto. But what exactly does this mean, and what are its consequences for the argument of the Manifesto?

We cannot make sense of this classic without understanding that the setting of its historical narrative is not an advanced capitalism. The point is not simply that the pamphlet was written in the mid-nineteenth century rather than at the end of the twentieth. It is not just that Marx and Engels were talking about an earlier stage of capitalism than

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the one we inhabit. The immediate context of their narrative is not even the most advanced capitalism of their own day. They are writing against the background of revolutionary ferment generated by social forces and struggles that have as much to do with pre-capitalist formations as with capitalist social relations: not just wage-laborers pitted against capitalist employers, but non-privileged against privileged classes, common people (including bourgeois) against aristocracy, the nation against monarchy, peasants against landlords, even serfs against masters, and everywhere the hungry poor against the rich.

This is where we come to some interesting tensions in the Manifesto. It is a manifesto of communism, of proletarian revolution against capitalism. As a call to socialist struggle, it has never been surpassed in its passion, its eloquence, its depth. It is also a powerful and prophetic analysis of capitalism, which still stands unrivalled as a portrait of the capitalist world in which we live today, even on the brink of the twenty-first century. But the Manifesto‘s immediate political inspiration belongs to a different world, very unlike the capitalist world it so vividly portrays.

Marx’s projections of the capitalist future are remarkable enough even in relation to the most advanced capitalism of his day. But if Britain was the model for his analysis of the capitalist system, it was not the inspiration for the Manifesto‘s story of the bourgeoisie as a revolutionary political force—a force that would, in turn, launch the career of the proletariat as a revolutionary class.

The narrative of bourgeois revolution portrays the bourgeoisie as a class which, at every stage of its development, was obliged to struggle against the forces of reaction. It began, says Marx, as an oppressed class fighting against the feudal aristocracy and, only after centuries of class struggle and advance, ended with its own modern representative state. In all these battles it was obliged to enlist

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the support of laboring classes, and finally to drag the modern proletariat into the political arena, giving the working class the weapons to conduct its own struggle against the bourgeoisie. This bourgeoisie also bequeathed to the working class the most progressive aspects of its ideology: critical, anti-clerical and anti-superstitious, liberal and up to a point egalitarian—in other words, the culture of the Enlightenment.

This portrait of a politically progressive bourgeoisie, anti-aristocratic to its core and more or less liberal, owes more to the history of Continental bourgeois struggles than to the development of British capitalism. The classic “bourgeois” struggle, the French Revolution of 1789, had little to do with capitalism. The core of the revolutionary bourgeoisie did not consist of capitalists, or even of commercial classes of a pre-capitalist kind, but of office-holders and professionals. The revolutionary objectives of people like this had to do not with liberating capitalism but with aspirations to civil equality and “careers open to talent.” These bourgeois objectives are not those of a society in which capitalist wealth is the highest goal. They were better suited to a society in which public office was a lucrative economic resource and the highest bourgeois career.

As for British capitalism, it was never simply, or even primarily, a “bourgeois” career. The British landed aristocracy was no less capitalist than were urban classes. Nor did capitalism establish itself in England by means of politically progressive “bourgeois” struggles against a reactionary aristocracy. Many large property owners in England, both landed and urban, had certainly fought against the king in the English revolution of the seventeenth century, when their partnership with the Crown threatened to give way to an “absolutist” monarchy; and they were obliged to resort to popular mobilization to achieve their anti-absolutist goals. In that struggle, they espoused certain principles of parliamentary rule and “limited” government, and the popular

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forces they unleashed (and soon suppressed) produced some of the most radically democratic ideas the world had ever seen. But the revolution was never a class struggle between a landed aristocracy and a rising bourgeoisie, capitalist or otherwise.

If capitalists in Britain were ever compelled to engage in class struggle to ensure their own class interests, it was not a struggle against a ruling class. In a sense, capitalists—at least agrarian capitalists—were born a ruling class in England. Even in the nineteenth century, when conflicts erupted between landed and industrial classes, they were essentially conflicts between two kinds of capital. If British capitalism required class struggle to free itself from political and economic constraints, it was primarily against subordinate classes, such as the small proprietors whose property rights (and sometimes dangerously radical ideas) interfered with capitalist accumulation.

So it was not really capitalists who supplied Marx with his principal model of a politically progressive bourgeoisie. Yet that progressive model did affect his view of capitalism. It is difficult to say how much his hopes for proletarian revolution were encouraged by this image of a politically progressive bourgeoisie which launched the proletariat onto the political stage and furthered its political development. But one thing seems clear: the picture of capitalism itself as a progressive force—which is so much a part of the Manifesto‘s story—is colored by the revolutionary career of the Continental, and especially the French, bourgeoisie.

We have to draw some distinctions in the Manifesto between the story of political, cultural, and ideological progress, on the one hand, and the analysis of material or economic development, on the other. Or, more precisely, we have to distinguish between those political, cultural, and ideological developments that are clearly associated with capitalist economic development and those that are not so

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clearly connected with capitalism. The different aspects of Marx’s narrative, conflated in his own account, are typically lumped together by commentators, often under the general heading of “modernity.” But it will make for a better understanding of capitalism if we try to disentangle some of the different strands in his narrative. This will bring out in sharper relief Marx’s own remarkable, and to this day unrivalled, insights into the nature of capitalism.

It is not at all clear that the development of capitalism required, or brought into being, the best of Enlightenment principles. For instance, that part of the French bourgeoisie which in the eighteenth century adopted as its guiding ideology the Enlightenment commitment to human improvement, the improvement of the human mind, the eradication of ignorance and superstition, or the commitment to civil equality and “careers open to talent,” was not in the main a capitalist class. It was a class of professionals, office-holders, and intellectuals, with material interests distinct from those of capitalists. It can even be argued that the mature development of capitalism has brought an end to that kind of bourgeoisie and its specific cultural formation.

In the twentieth century we know all too well that capitalism, while it certainly requires a “rational” (that is, an “efficient” or profitable) organization of production, has little need for “rationalism” in the best Enlightenment sense: the submission of all authority to the scrutiny of critical reason. Capitalism needs a disciplined and docile workforce. It has no need at all for a critical citizenry. In fact, a worker who has a habit of using her critical reason may be much more dangerous to the “rational” organization of production (not to mention the power and property of capital) than would, say, a worker committed to some irrationalist superstition or certain kinds of religious fundamentalism which repudiate Enlightenment principles. Right-wing political movements in the U.S., for instance, have without any difficulty combined

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anti-Enlightenment values with a deep commitment to capitalism.

As for political progress, it is certainly true that feudal hierarchy and aristocratic privilege did, as Marx suggests, give way to the “modern representative state.” In fact, since Marx wrote those words the “bourgeois” representative state has itself given way to something we now call “democracy.” The bourgeoisie is not now a “ruling” class in the literal sense: its class dominance does not depend on exclusive access to political rights or on a clear and legally defined division between capitalist rulers and proletarian subjects. Workers are citizens with full voting rights, and capitalism has proved itself able to tolerate universal adult suffrage in a way that no other form of class domination has ever been able to do.

But this political advance has been deeply ambiguous. The ambiguity goes beyond the obvious fact that in capitalist “democracy” wealth still means privileged access to political power, or the fact that the state, as Marx and Engels maintained, generally acts in the interests of the capitalist class. Nor is it just that capitalism can readily tolerate, and sometimes needs, authoritarian rule. There is an even more fundamental contradiction in capitalist “democracy.”

Capitalism can tolerate “democracy” because capitalists control the labor of others not by means of exclusive political rights but by means of exclusive property. Although capital needs the support of the state, workers are compelled to sell their labor power for purely “economic” reasons. Since they do not own the means of production, the sale of labor power for a wage is the only way they can gain access to the conditions of subsistence, and even to the means of their own labor. There is no immediate need for direct political coercion to make them work for capital. Purely “economic” compulsions are generally enough.

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This means that even in its best and most “democratic” forms, capitalism can, and must, confine equality to a separate “political” sphere which does not, and must not, intrude into the economic sphere or subvert economic inequality. A kind of democracy may prevail in the political sphere, but people in capitalist societies spend most of their waking lives in activities and relationships where there is no democratic accountability at all. This is true not only in the workplace, where they are likely to be under the direct control of others, but in all spheres of life that are subject to “market” imperatives.

So capitalism has created a political sphere governed by “democracy,” but it has at the same time, and by the same means, put large areas of human life outside the reach of democracy. In other words, much of what capitalism has given with one hand it has taken away with the other.

Marx’s analysis of capitalism is so rich precisely because it exposes the system’s fundamental contradictions. The tendency to conflate “bourgeois” and “capitalist,” and to tell their stories as a single story of “modernity” and progress, can obscure those contradictions. It may detract from those aspects of Marx’s analysis which give us an insight, sharper and deeper than ever before or since, into the nature of capitalist society. In his later work, and especially in Capital, Marx would provide a much more exhaustive analysis of capitalism. But in the few pages devoted to it in the Manifesto, in poetic and passionate prose yet with stark and penetrating clarity, he captures, as no one else has ever done, the essence of capitalism, with all its dynamism and destructiveness.

Capitalism and Historical Materialism

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly

revolutionizing the instruments of production, and

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thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbances of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois era from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations…are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned….

In this, one of the most famous passages in the Manifesto, Marx sums up the nature of capitalism. Unlike all other earlier social forms, capitalism demands constant change, constant improvement of productive forces to enhance the productivity of labor in a constant quest for profit. The need for profit, the need to accumulate endlessly, is imposed on capital by the very nature of the system: it must accumulate, it must maximize profit, just to survive. No earlier system was ever subject to such pressures.

This characterization of capitalism as a specific mode of production different from others is based on the principles of historical materialism, which Marx and Engels had been elaborating for several years and which they would develop more fully after 1848. Historical materialism begins with the simple proposition that human beings obtain the material conditions of their existence through specific and historically variable relationships with nature and with other human beings. The most basic fact about any form of social organization is the nature of those relationships, the specific ways in which any given society goes about providing the material conditions of existence.

There came a point in human history when the social organization of material life took the form of class divisions,

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the divisions between people who labored and those who exploited the labor of others. That division inevitably led to conflict, and since then history, the Manifesto proclaims, has been propelled by those class struggles, as exploited classes have resisted exploitation. But while class struggle has been a moving force of history since the beginning of class society, it has taken different forms in different societies. Each particular mode of production, each system of class relations, has its own internal logic, its own requirements, its own conditions of survival and success, its own dynamics, its own forms of conflict and struggle. And capitalism has very specific conditions that, unlike any previous mode of production, demand the constant revolutionizing of productive forces.

In Principles of Communism, Engels suggests that history from the beginning has been moved forward by the constant progress of productive forces, especially technological improvement, and that social relations have been compelled to adapt to these developing forces. This conception of technological progress, which owes much to the Enlightenment and to classical political economy, appears in the Manifesto too.

But in Marx’s version, the emphasis is less on some transhistorical process of technological progress and more on the historically specific effects of particular social relations. His emphasis is above all on the ways in which the distinctive conditions of capitalism, the relationship between an exploiting class of capitalists and a propertyless class of wage laborers, has been accompanied by a historically unique drive to revolutionize productive forces. Throughout history, there has certainly been a long-term improvement of productive forces; but, as Marx tells us, all societies before capitalism had a built-in tendency to keep production as it was. Only capitalism has broken that universal rule and created new pressures constantly to enhance labor productivity by technical means.

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The pressure to accumulate and to revolutionize the instruments of production is rooted in the capitalist mode of exploitation, the means by which capital extracts labor from workers. Capitalists are dependent on the market both to acquire the means of producing goods or services and to sell those goods or services. Even the labor-power of workers is a commodity, which capitalists buy for a fixed period of time in exchange for a wage. Capital then puts that labor-power to work and seeks to obtain the maximum output in limited time at minimum cost. So capital is constantly seeking new techniques, new instruments, new modes of organization and control, to increase the productivity of labor, in order to meet competition in the market. To produce “competitively” for the market inevitably means constant accumulation and profit-maximization. It also means constant change: new technologies, new commodities, new services, new needs, new forms of organization, and new social arrangements.

Marx emphasizes the historical uniqueness of a system in which the provision of virtually all human needs and wants is organized in this unprecedented way, where everything, even the most basic requirements like food and shelter, is produced for a profit. The effects of such a system on human life and social relations, not to mention nature itself, are bound to be drastic and far-reaching. In a few short passages, Marx dramatically conveys the consequences of a system in which everything—not only things, but nature and human activity—becomes a commodity to buy and sell on the market, and where human relations are reduced to “callous cash payment.”

On the eve of the twenty-first century, when the commodification of life has gone so far that it is hard to imagine how it could go any further, when everything from food to culture to health care is distorted by market imperatives, we know all too well what this means. We know how destructive these market imperatives can be to the social fabric and the natural environment. We know their costs in

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poverty, in crime, in environmental pollution, in the waste of natural resources and human lives. Yet in Marx’s day the process of commodification was far less advanced, and his prescience is truly remarkable.

Remarkable, too, is his insight into the effects of this system on labor. The exploitation of workers, their compulsion to work not only to sustain themselves and their families but to create maximum profits for their employers, is the essence of the story. But there is also the question of what happens to human labor when it is transformed from the exercise of human creativity into just a profit-making activity, or a commodity, whose value lies not in the satisfaction it gives to the worker or in its benefits to the community but in the gains it can realize in the market and in its contribution to capital accumulation.

It should be obvious that work is bound to be organized, and experienced, in different ways according to its purpose. The need to extract maximum output at minimum cost imposes very particular requirements, which inevitably have significant effects on human well-being. Marx describes the degradation of work when it is organized for the sole purpose of maximizing profit for the capitalist owners of the means of production. The effects are most visible where workers become mere “appendages” of the machine in an assembly line, but similar effects occur wherever the maximization of profit is the main motivation in the organization of work. What ought to be a creative and fulfilling activity is more likely to become just meaningless drudgery.

Yet capitalism also has, from Marx’s point of view, some positive effects. The bourgeoisie, he says, “has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals.” It has “created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together.” Its revolutionizing of productive forces

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has created an unprecedented capacity to produce the material conditions of well-being for everyone.

But here is another paradox: if capitalism has created unprecedented material wealth, the capacity to maximize material well-being for everyone remains only a capacity, not a reality. Capitalism, indeed, prevents it from becoming a reality. One of the most fundamental contradictions of the capitalist system is the huge disparity between its “colossal” productive capacity and the quality of life it delivers.

One obvious sense in which this is true is that capitalist development has been inseparable from imperialisms of various kinds, from traditional forms of colonial exploitation to the current burden of debt in the third world, or the exploitation of cheap third world labor by today’s “transnational” companies. The contradiction between capitalism’s productive capacity and the quality of life is manifest today in the growing polarization between an opulent North and an indigent South. But the same contradiction is evident within the advanced capitalist economies themselves.

In a system where all production is for profit, the allocation of resources and labor will, of course, be determined not by their contribution to the well-being of as many people as possible but by their contribution to profitability. The society’s productive capacities are much more likely to be devoted to producing, say, new model cars every year for those who can afford them, or computers designed to be obsolete as soon as they hit the market, than to providing decent affordable housing for all. So Marx would not be surprised that a society like the U.S., with the capacity to feed, clothe, house, educate, and provide health care for all its members, nevertheless has widespread poverty, homelessness, malnutrition, health care costs that many people cannot afford, and a system of education that leaves many functionally illiterate. Nor is it surprising that, in a society with such built-in inequities, there are deep social

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divisions, in which, for example, class exploitation and racism reinforce one another.

Capitalism and Socialism

Still, capitalism has produced the capacity to maximize

material well-being, and in that sense, it has laid a foundation for a different kind of society. Socialism would build on the productive forces created by capitalism, but it would eliminate the pressures for profit-maximization and capital accumulation which cause the disparity between productive capacity and the quality of life.

Capitalism has also, the Manifesto argues, created a social force, a class, with the capacity to overthrow capitalism and put socialism in its place. By giving birth to a mass proletariat, Marx maintains, capitalism has brought into being its own gravediggers. But many commentators, even on the socialist left, would now probably regard this as the most questionable assumption in the whole pamphlet. It is certainly true that capitalism has created a mass working class, both “blue collar” and “white collar” workers of various kinds who have in common their exploitation by capital. These workers are strategically situated at the heart of a system which depends on their labor, and that strategic location gives them a social power that could, as no other social force can, transform capitalism into socialism. It is also true that working class movements have fought many historic battles, won many important victories, and acted as a revolutionary force in many parts of the world. But, while Western Europe and North America have seen many episodes of mass working class radicalism, and some Western European countries may even have been brought to the brink of revolution, the working class has never yet brought about socialism in the advanced capitalist countries that seemed to Marx and Engels the most likely candidates. The result has been that even many

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socialists have become skeptical about the prospects for a new society.

We cannot assume that Marx’s own optimism about the political development of the working class was quite as unalloyed as it seems in the Manifesto. He certainly knew that there were forces dividing as well as uniting the working class, and that much organizational and educational effort would be required to turn the working class into an effective political force. But it was clearly not his intention in a political manifesto to dwell on the obstacles, and the picture is obviously a great deal more complicated than the one he paints in his rousing call to arms.

The prediction that the organization of production in industrial capitalism, together with improvements in transportation and communication, would increasingly unite the working class into a cohesive force has come true in some respects. And no one can deny that working class struggles have achieved major gains which have improved the quality of life for everyone, gains we now take for granted such as a shorter working day and unemployment insurance. But unifying tendencies have also been counteracted, and for the time being overcome, by other forces that fragment the working class. Workers are divided by race, gender, and many other “identities,” not to mention by the resurgent nationalisms which have defied Marx’s conviction that the global economy created by capitalism would be followed by a new kind of internationalism.

These are not the only factors that divide the working class. Paradoxically, it tends to be fragmented by the very organization of production in capitalism. Capitalist production tends to focus the grievances and struggles of workers on their individual workplaces and against their own particular employers. When Marx suggests that “every class struggle is a political struggle,” he undoubtedly means that every class struggle, even in the workplace, and even over purely

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“economic” issues, is about class power and resistance to domination. But what this proposition does not say is that capitalism has created a distinctive kind of relation between the “economic” and the “political.” Capitalism has in a sense separated “economic” from political struggles, simply because the “economy” now has a life, and a power structure, of its own. The capitalist market has its own “economic” imperatives; the capitalist workplace has its own hierarchies, authorities, and rules; and the dominant class, unlike any class before it, has economic powers that do not depend directly on political power, even though it ultimately depends on the state to sustain the system of property on which its class power rests. So workers may be, and often have been, very militant in their industrial conflicts with capital without their class struggles spilling over into the political sphere.

The Manifesto‘s optimism about the coming of socialism has, of course, been contradicted by another, truly spectacular, development: the end, in the 1980s and 1990s, of the system brought into being in the decades following the Russian Revolution of 1917. It is true that the revolution was far from the ideal test of Marx’s predictions. Russia was not an advanced industrial capitalism with a mass proletariat, the kind of society that Marx regarded as the right foundation for a socialist transformation. At the time of the revolution, there were certainly pockets of fairly advanced industry and, at least in the principal large cities, a very militant industrial proletariat. At the same time, Russia remained a largely peasant country, and many industrial workers themselves remained rooted in their peasant villages. In these and other ways, the Russian heartland itself would not have met Marx’s criteria for an advanced capitalist society—even by the standards of his mid-nineteenth century model, Britain; and if we add what might be called the “third world” regions of the czarist empire, this massive country could hardly be said to

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meet Marx’s prerequisites for a transition from capitalism to socialism.

At any rate, what eventually emerged in the Soviet Union was very different from the democratic society Marx envisaged when he talked about a socialism based on the “free association of direct producers.” In fact, it should be emphasized that much of what has gone under the name of Communism in the twentieth century has had little to do with what the Communist Manifesto meant by the term or with the Communist movement to which Marx and Engels belonged. Even when Marx began to expect some kind of revolution in Russia, he always assumed that a truly socialist revolution would have to take place in a capitalist country with more advanced productive forces and a more developed proletariat, a country like Britain or the U.S. Only in tandem with a proletarian revolution in such an advanced capitalist country could a Russian Revolution become a transition to socialism. He seems to have assumed that only well developed productive forces and a mature mass proletariat could direct production toward the fulfillment of the whole community’s needs—not for capitalist profit nor for the benefit of any other kind of ruling class, and not controlled from above by an authoritarian state but under the democratic control of the “freely associated direct producers,” the workers themselves.

Capitalism had taken centuries to create a mass proletariat and to accomplish even the development of productive forces available in Marx’s day. It had done these things with many oppressions, atrocities, and tragedies along the way. Marx never sought, nor has anyone else yet found, a democratic, socialist way of achieving that kind of development. He regarded this contradictory achievement not as the task of socialism but as its precondition.

This is not to deny that the Soviet Union did, in fact, succeed in developing productive forces far beyond what Marx could have foreseen, and with exceptional speed. The

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point is rather that it would have been very difficult to accomplish such intensive development by means of the democratic organization of production that for Marx was the essence of socialism. To attain that level of development required a process of accumulation which capitalism had accomplished, over several centuries, not by democratic means but by expropriating small proprietors and by exploiting workers to the limits of their physical endurance. It would not have been easy to devise a democratic means of achieving comparable results. A truly democratic socialist party, a party very different from the oppressive Stalinist regime, would certainly have avoided the monstrosities of Stalinism. But even the most democratic socialist party, if obliged to administer the process of accumulation and to enforce the kind of intensive labor this required, would have found itself in a very difficult and contradictory relationship with the working class it was supposed to represent.

No one would claim that Marx foresaw what might happen if a revolution in the name of communism did take place in a less developed country. It is even less likely that he could have foreseen the crimes perpetrated by Stalinism in the name of communism. But we should not underestimate the significance of his assumption that a socialist revolution would be most likely to succeed in the context of a more advanced capitalism. In that sense, it could be argued that the ultimate failure of the Russian Revolution, which occurred in the absence of those preconditions, fulfilled his predictions all too well. Yet if that failure has not by itself proved him wrong, the fact remains that, on the eve of the twenty-first century, socialists do not seem to have very much to be optimistic about.

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The Manifesto and the Future But the story is not finished. Nor have we reached the

end of what the Manifesto has to teach us. There is still much to be learned even from its predictions. Marx has been proved uncannily right about many things, but nowhere has he been vindicated more completely than in his account of capitalist expansion. It is true that he underestimated the durability of capitalism and how long it could keep on expanding. But for all today’s fashionable talk about “globalization,” it would be hard to find a more effective description of what is happening today than what he wrote 150 years ago. Capitalism has indeed “battered down all Chinese walls” (including the “walls” of “communist” China), creating a global market and compelling “all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production.” Capitalism has indeed created a world “after its own image.”

In Marx’s day, that process of “globalization” was still in its early stages. But today capitalist imperatives of accumulation and competition really do reach into every corner of the world. Many people have argued that this is the final and irreversible triumph of capitalism. Yet in the face of events like the recent financial crisis in Southeast Asia, in economies hailed only yesterday as “Asian tigers,” these triumphalist pronouncements have a somewhat hollow ring. Mainstream economists who usually like to use more benign terms like “business cycles,” or “slumps,” or “recessions” are uttering the word “crisis” with increasing frequency, and some more pessimistic commentators have gone beyond Marxists in their talk of “collapse.” Against that background, the Manifesto‘s portrayal of capitalist expansion as a deeply contradictory process is rather more convincing than capitalist triumphalism:

a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and exchange is like the sorcerer

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who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells…. It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put the existence of the entire bourgeois society on trial…. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity—the epidemic of over-production….

And, the Manifesto continues, the very methods on which capital relies to overcome these crises are the very methods by which it paves the way for more destructive crises and reduces the means of correcting and preventing them.

Capitalism, for instance, used to escape its internal crises by moving outward, into new markets and colonies. Today, having become a virtually universal system, it no longer has the same scope for external expansion which used to save it from its internal contradictions, so it has become subject to those contradictions in historically new ways. Capital today no longer seems able to sustain maximum profitability by means of commensurate economic growth. It is now relying more and more on simply redistributing wealth in favor of the rich, and on increasing inequalities, within and between national economies, with the help of the “neoliberal” state. In advanced capitalist countries, the most visible signs of that redistribution are a growing polarization between rich and poor, and the attack on the welfare state. So it is not just in the occasional dramatic crisis but in its “normal” and long-term development that capitalism has been vindicating Marx’s predictions about its contradictory expansion.

These developments may after all prove Marx right about the effects of capitalism on the political development of the working class. The conditions that led him to his conclusions about the formation of working class consciousness and organization are still present; and the working class, strategically situated at the heart of capitalism, is still the only

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social force with the capacity to transform it. At the same time, capitalism is evolving in ways that may overcome the factors that have up to now worked against those processes of class formation.

As neoliberal states step up their attacks on social provision and adopt austerity measures to enhance “flexibility,” the complicity between the state and “globalized” capital is becoming increasingly transparent. As a result, it may turn out that economic class struggles will indeed move onto the political plane, and that the working class will indeed be unified in new and unprecedented ways. In many countries, labor movements which have been dormant for some time show signs of reawakening. And we have certainly seen many dramatic examples recently of people joining together in the streets—from Canada to Mexico to France to South Korea—to protest “neoliberalism,” “globalization,” and all the policies that capitalist states today are implementing to maintain the “competitiveness” of their own national economies.

Contrary to much conventional wisdom today, “globalization” has made the state not less but more important to capital. Capital needs the state to maintain the conditions of accumulation and “competitiveness” in various ways, including direct subsidies at tax-payers’ expense; to preserve labor discipline and social order in the face of austerity and “flexibility” to enhance the mobility of capital while blocking the mobility of labor; to administer huge rescue operations for capitalist economies in crisis (yesterday Mexico, today the “Asian tigers”)—operations often organized by international agencies but always paid for by national taxes and enforced by national governments. Even the imperialism of the major capitalist states requires the collaboration of subordinate states to act as transmission belts and agents of enforcement. “Neoliberalism” is not just a withdrawal of the state from social provision. It is a set of active policies, a new form of

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state intervention designed to enhance capitalist profitability in an integrated global market.

Capital’s need for the state makes the state again an important and concentrated focus for class struggle. And the fact that the state is visibly implicated in class exploitation has consequences for class organization and consciousness. It may help to overcome the fragmentation of the working class and create a new unity against a common enemy. It may also help to turn class struggle into political struggle.

Whatever happens, the Manifesto‘s critique of capitalism and its vision of socialism will remain very much alive as long as capitalism exists. Parts of the Manifesto‘s political program have been implemented within capitalist society. Child labor in factories has generally been abolished in advanced capitalist countries, though it still exists on a large scale, for instance, in U.S. agriculture, and it is certainly widespread in third world economies—often exploited by “transnationals” based in Western capitalist countries. Progressive income tax is the general rule—though it is under growing attack from the right. In advanced capitalist countries there is free education for all, up to a point—though even this is being eroded now in various ways. Some means of communication and transportation, as well as other enterprises, are, or have been, in public ownership in capitalist societies, and some capitalist countries have state banks.

All this has happened without destroying the capitalist system. In fact, capitalism has been saved from its own destructive tendencies by the public services, the social provision, and the “safety nets” that working class movements in the past have struggled long and hard to achieve.

The kind of public ownership we know today has, to be sure, little in common with enterprises run under direct democratic control, by “free associations of direct producers.” For that matter, even public enterprises themselves—not just the means of communication and transportation, but health

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care and education—can be, and in capitalism are, subjected to the logic of the capitalist market. The objective of today’s neoliberal politics is to “privatize” anything that could conceivably be run for capitalist profit—from prisons, to postal services, to old-age pensions. But it has also set out to ensure that every public enterprise, every social service, that cannot be profitably “privatized” will still be subject to market imperatives.

Here, then, is another contradiction: capitalism today, in its efforts to remain “competitive,” is destroying the very services and institutions that have often rescued it from self-destruction. But even if neoliberalism does not completely succeed in its wrecking operations, the capitalist system will always restrict any efforts to limit the damage it does to people and nature. It begins to looks as if the logic of the system has now reached the point where the destructive force of capitalism is outstripping its capacity to repair or compensate for the harm it inflicts.

Capitalism will also always restrict the scope of democracy. It can never permit a truly democratic society where there are no oppressed and oppressing classes; where “accumulated labor is but a means to widen, to enrich, to promote the existence of the laborer” and not just to enhance capitalist profit; where reproduction, child care, and relations between the sexes are not deformed by capitalist imperatives; where no nation oppresses another; where culture is free of distortion by the market; and so on. As long as we live under capitalism, we will live in a society where the needs and actions of undemocratic and unaccountable capitalist enterprises, both by the direct exercise of class power and through the “market,” shape our social and natural environment and determine the conditions of life for every living being that comes within their global orbit.

Now more than ever it should be obvious, as it was to Marx and Engels, that a society driven by the imperatives of

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capital accumulation has to give way to a more humane and democratic social order. For such a transformation to take place, the main moving force will still have to be class struggle.

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A Note on the Communist Manifesto3

Harry Magdoff

4

All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the productions of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands. We have universal inter-dependence of nations…. All nations, on pain of extinction, [are compelled] to adopt the bourgeois

Probably the passage in the Communist Manifesto most

frequently cited these days is a portrayal of the global spread of capitalism:

3 Monthly Review, Volume 50, Issue 01 (May), 1998. http://monthlyreview.org/1998/05/01/a-note-on-the-communist-manifesto 4 Harry Magdoff is co-editor of Monthly Review.

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mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In a word, it creates a world after its own image.

Certainly, the history of the past half-century has more than confirmed that the trend described 150 years ago is still in operation. There is, however, an integral feature of the capitalist penetration just described which is missing from the Manifesto. While capitalism by its very nature lives by accumulation and geographic expansion, it does so in a most unequal fashion. Even though nothing in economics follows strict mathematical rules, there are notable tendencies which are produced by the inner springs of capitalism. An outstanding example of such a tendency is found in the distinct and marked widening of the gap between a handful of rich nations and the rest of the world. The accelerating globalization of our times demonstrates this polarization in no uncertain terms.

A recent study of the income distribution of the world from 1965 to 1990, summarized in the accompanying table, shows that in our day 20 percent of the world’s population live in countries which produce and benefit from over 83 percent of the world’s output of goods and services (the share of the top 10 percent of world population came to 56 percent) while the share of global output of the poorest 20 percent of the world’s people is 1.4 percent. Now look at the difference in the trends in income distribution between the 20 percent in the richest countries and the rest of the world. The share of the world’s income in each one of the four lowest (income) groups of countries declined steadily from 1965 to 1990. On the other hand, the share of the richest 20 percent steadily increased from about 70 to over 83 percent. All this took place when, for most of the period, the rich countries were in a stage of stagnation and when ever more capital was flowing from the rich into the poor countries, presumably to develop new

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industries and develop financial and other services. (An examination of similar data available in World Bank reports for later years indicates that the polarization continued in full force during the 1990s.)

Thus, at the end of centuries of capitalist expansion, here is how things stand: 60 percent of the world’s population has 5.3 percent of the world output and income, while more than 83 percent (see last column of table below) is in the hands of the richest 20 percent.

Shares of the World Income 1965-1990 Population Percent of Total World Income

1965 1970 1980 1990

Poorest 20% 2.3 2.2 1.7 1.4

Second 20% 2.9 2.8 2.2 1.8

Third 20% 4.2 3.9 3.5 2.1

Fourth 20% 21.2 21.3 18.3 11.3

Richest 20% 69.5 70.0 75.4 83.4

Source: Roberto Patricio Korzeniewicz and Timothy Patrick Moran, “World-Economic Trends in the Distribution of Income, 1965-1992,” American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 102, No. 4, January 1997.

Relevant to this commentary is another oft-cited sentence from the Manifesto: “The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together.” As with so much more in the Manifesto, this point

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can be made with even more emphasis 150 years later. And yet once again, we need to recognize how incredibly uneven is the distribution of the productive forces from region to region. On the one hand, the miracles of electronics; on the other hand, according to the latest UN Human Development Report, over a billion people do not have access to safe water. The list of absent productive and collateral forces needed to meet the basic needs of 80 percent of the world’s people is a long and miserable one.

There is much talk these days in radical circles about the need for a socialist vision. Too often that vision is strongly influenced by the material achievements of the rich capitalist nations and the living standards of the advantaged sectors. However, in view of the way capitalism has spread throughout the world as well as in the most advanced nations of the world, it is essential that the vision of socialism focus on a social transformation which will put first and foremost: the empowerment and meeting the basic human needs of the poorest, the most oppressed, and disadvantaged.

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The Communist Manifesto Today5

Paul M. Sweezy

I’ve probably read the Communist Manifesto a dozen

times, more or less. But it never struck me as old hat. It was always worth reading again. So I thought that in preparation for this panel, I should read it once more, this time with special attention to insights and formulations that seem particularly relevant to the problems we face in the world as the twenty-first century approaches.

Here is what I came up with, summarized under three headings: (1) The crises of capitalism; (2) Where are we going? and (3) What should we be trying to accomplish?

The Crises of Capitalism Eighteen forty-eight, when the Manifesto was written,

was a crisis year in Europe. Nineteen ninety-eight is a crisis year for a now fully globalized capitalist economy. What

5 Browse: Monthly Review / 1998, Volume 50, Issue 01 (May) / The Communist Manifesto Today, http://monthlyreview.org/1998/05/01/the-communist-manifesto-today

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Marx and Engels said about “the commercial crises [that] by their periodic return, put on its trial, each time more threateningly, the existence of the entire bourgeois society” (the Communist Manifesto, Monthly Review Press, 1998) is just as applicable to our own time. And so is the diagnosis of the basic cause: “In these crises,” they wrote, “there breaks out an epidemic that in all earlier epochs would have seemed an absurdity, the epidemic of overproduction.” Today the formulation might be better formulated to read “an epic of overproduction of the means of production.” Bourgeois economics still doesn’t get it, and probably never will.

Where Are We Going?

Marx and Engels were dedicated revolutionaries and

firmly believed that the inherent and ineradicable contradictions of capitalism would generate a growing and ultimately successful revolutionary struggle to overturn the system and put in its place a more humane and rational one. But did their analysis allow for, or perhaps even imply a different historical outcome? The answer, I think, is unequivocally yes. Early on in the Manifesto, indeed on the first page of the first section entitled “Bourgeois and Proletarians,” an oft-quoted passage reads:

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

Nothing more is said about “the common ruin of the contending classes” in the Manifesto, most likely because

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Marx and Engels did not consider it a likely outcome of the class struggle under capitalism. But if we look around us in the world today—and take into account the extent to which capitalism is destroying or undermining the natural foundations of a sustainable economy—we must surely reinstate “the common ruin of the contending classes” as a very realistic prospect in the historically near future.

What Should we be Trying to Accomplish?

We should be trying to impress on the peoples of the

world the truth about capitalism, that it is not, as bourgeois ideologists want us to believe, the “end of history,” but that its continued existence can really bring the end of history. Does the Manifesto offer any help in this respect? Perhaps—if we read it carefully and interpret it imaginatively. In a too-often neglected passage, Marx and Engels introduce a new theme into their analysis.

Finally, in times when the class struggle nears the decisive hour, the process of dissolution going on within the ruling class, in fact within the whole range of old society, assumes such a violent, glaring character that a small section of the ruling class cuts itself adrift, and joins the revolutionary class that holds the future in its hands. Just as, therefore, at an earlier period, a section of the nobility went over to the bourgeoisie, so now a section of the bourgeoisie goes over to the proletariat, and in particular a portion of the bourgeois ideologists, who have raised themselves to the level of comprehending theoretically the historical movement as a whole.

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150 years of the Communist Manifesto6

The “old Europe” was swept aside: Guizot and Metternich, the reactionary figureheads of France and Austria mentioned in the first page of the Manifesto, were swept from power within weeks of its publication. But capitalism survived the revolutions of 1848-51. Indeed its saw an amazing quarter century of expansion, posing new tasks and

1998 marks the 150th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto. Issued on the eve of Europe’s first co-ordinated wave of revolutionary struggles it remains an unparalleled exposition of the theory and practice of scientific socialism, writes Colin Lloyd

“A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of communism.” So begins the Communist Manifesto, drafted 150 years ago by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels.

Within a few decades the spectre of communism was haunting not just Europe but the world. As mass workers’ movements emerged during the upward swing of capitalist development, Marxism itself took giant steps, both in theory and programme. In the process, some of the specifics of the Manifesto became, as Engels put it, “antiquated”.

6 http://www.permanentrevolution.net/entry/515

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problems for revolutionaries. By 1872 Marx and Engels could write about the Manifesto as a “historical document which we have no longer any right to alter”.

While successive generations of socialist workers have had to confront new problems in the class struggle, and draw up new programmes and guides to action relevant to their own time, the method outlined in the Manifesto has guided them like a beacon.

Likewise, in every decade since its appearance the opening words of the Communist Manifesto have struck fear into the minds of the employers and their hangers-on.

Every decade, that is, until the present. The collapse of Stalinism, the wholesale abandonment of Marxism by parties that once paid lip-service to it, the defeats suffered by strong workers’ movements and anti-imperialist struggles have combined to convince a large part of the ruling class that they no longer need fear the “spectre of communism”.

Thus, the 150th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto will be celebrated by a much reduced band of people who identify themselves as Marxists. Reformist socialists, eco-warriors and repentant ex-Stalinists will come not to praise but to bury the Manifesto. they will claim that events have disproved its whole method and historic goal. “A great work of literature…high ideals…as outmoded as the cloth cap and the coal mine” – the academics and the journalists will churn it out.

What the commentators will not do in this year of the 150th anniversary is encourage people to read the Manifesto itself. Because, once we strip away the 19th century language and the specifics of the time, the Manifesto – on its own and without any added commentary – reads as a vivid and valid indictment of contemporary capitalism.

In the Manifesto Marx and Engels outlined the essence of capitalism – its position in history and the tasks of the working class in the struggle to overthrow it. Paradoxically,

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while the tasks of the working class have developed and increased as capitalism has developed and survived Marx and Engels’ basic outline rings even truer today than it did 150 years ago.

The aim of this article is to serve as a modern introduction to the Manifesto: to explore the basic tenets of Marxism as set out in the Manifesto; to look at the way modern capitalism confirms the Marxist analysis of history and society; and to explain why the death of Stalinism has not exorcised the spectre of communism and workers’ revolution.

The materialist conception of history The first and most important section of the Manifesto is devoted to an explanation of history from a materialist standpoint. Key to this method of historical materialism are four concepts:

All history is the history of class struggles. Each successive ruling class has stood for definite

exploitative social relations of production. These have served at first to advance the productive forces of humanity but, eventually, to restrict and retard them – provoking either social revolution or the collapse of a given type of society

The ideas, politics, culture and laws of a given class society are the products of the social relations. The dominant ideology in any period will be that of the ruling class.

Despite this, human action and thought are not totally predetermined by economic or social developments: they can — especially to the extent that they become the ideas and thoughts of large masses — bring about development and change. The motive force of history is the class struggle, during which the oppressed class can achieve a revolutionary consciousness of its own purpose and destiny.

In a commentary on the Manifesto, written at a time when the prestige of Marxism on the bourgeois intellectual scene was great, Leon Trotsky observed:

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“We can state with certainty that it is impossible in our time, not only to be a revolutionary militant, but even a literate observer in politics, without assimilating the materialist interpretation of history.”

That cannot be said with certainty today. No matter who is speaking – be it the postmodernist academic, the neo-liberal economist or the celebrity scientist – once they stray into the area of knowledge, history and philosophy the spokespersons of the modern ruling class can scarcely hide the crisis of self belief of bourgeois ideology.

Science and technological progress are seen as unsound and dangerous by large sections of the intelligentsia. The idea of an objective process in history is supported only by those who think it has, in any case, finished.

Instead of a kind of “unconscious” historical materialism there is a widespread acceptance of various forms of vulgar materialism. “Everyone I know,” writes economist James Buchan in a recent survey of the influence of Karl Marx, “now believes that their attitudes are to an extent a creation of their material circumstances…and that changes in the way things are produced profoundly affect the affairs of humanity even outside the workshop or factory.”

True, this is a kind of materialism. But it is a crude, fatalistic and a-historic materialism that ignores the development of society through the interaction of relations of production and means of production. Just what changes in production bring about changes in society and ideas? And how? And why? These are questions the modern ruling class would rather ponder in the personal columns of the Sunday papers than discuss within a theoretical framework.

The generalised “materialist” outlook Buchan refers to can encompass statements as generally true as the proposition that the rise of bourgeois social relations stimulated the rise of the novel and the dubious assertion that the invention of the video recorder has led to more violence on the streets.

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Ranged against such “pop materialism” in the sphere of bourgeois thought are the combined forces of postmodernism and neo-scepticism which distrust all attempts to explain the origin of ideas in the material world. Ideas, or “discourses” as the postmodernist calls them, “are already powers and do not need to find their material force somewhere else, as in the mode of production”.

The neo-sceptics in the philosophy of science meanwhile assert that, since no idea can be proven to bear any relation to objective truth, a belief in nymphs and unicorns is as valid as acceptance of the laws of nuclear physics.

Crude materialism – where being determines consciousness through a one-way process divorced from class and society – jostles with crude idealism where words and ideas are as solid and powerful as things.

In short, bourgeois thought is back much where it was in the decade before the Communist Manifesto. In pre-revolutionary Germany in the 1840s the world’s most advanced philosophers were divided between the dynamic “dialectical” idealism of Hegel and the mechanical materialism of Feuerbach.

Marx and Engels were forced to break from and transcend the rival schools of philosophy in order to comprehend history as it was about to unfold before them. They did this through a synthesis of the two standpoints which overcame the limitations of philosophy altogether by fusing it with political economy and social action.

In the context of today’s crisis of confidence in bourgeois thought the Manifesto’s statement of a dynamic, materialist explanation of history retains all its power and freshness.

The class struggle “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle” wrote Marx. And this idea, as Trotsky pointed out, “immediately became an issue in the class struggle”.

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Professors, politicians, policemen, priests and anxious parents have laboured to convince every new generation of socialist workers that the class struggle is either an illusion, a secondary question or a thing of the past.

Today the ruling class attempts to face both ways over the existence of the class struggle and its importance to human history.

We are told that the decline of heavy industry and manual work have destroyed the working class. We are told that mass share ownership and private pensions in the developed countries have abolished the boundaries between capitalist and worker.

We are told that, in any case, Marxism’s reduction of history to class struggle blinded it to other factors like religion and nationalism: it cannot explain Bosnia, they claim, nor can it explain the growth of Islamic fundamentalism. With glowing triumphalism the bourgeois ideologists claim that Nationalism brought down the “proletarian internationalism” of the USSR.

However, at the same time as their ideologists wage this campaign against class, the actual capitalists remain acutely conscious of the existence of class divisions, class struggles and the role of these in the production of profit. They are obliged to wage their side of this struggle. Every management trainee knows that the quickest way to boost profits is to drive down labour costs, through wage cuts or job losses i.e. to prosecute the struggle against the workers.

At the strategic level, in the boardrooms and the economic ministries, small changes in the workforce are studied in great detail – and not out of anthropological curiosity. The capitalist class worldwide has been engaged, during the last quarter of the 20th century, in an enormous end entirely conscious struggle to shift wealth from “labour” to “capital”.

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In light of this, what the Manifesto says about class and class struggle rings even truer today than when it was written.

Marx observed that capitalism had simplified class antagonisms: instead of the multi-layered structure of castes and classes known to earlier societies it had divided society into “two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: bourgeois and proletarian.”

The bourgeoisie, having struggled to impose its own form of exploitation on society had ushered in a new phase in human history, wherein the methods and means of production had to be constantly revolutionised. In doing this, it was only following its own self-interests. But at the same time it was sowing the seeds of its destruction. Not only that, it was laying the basis for a further leap in human history whereby all class antagonisms, together with all unfulfilled needs, could be abolished.

The foundations for the transition from capitalism to communism were twofold, Marx argued:

Every oppressed class fighting for power imposes its “own” new form of property and exploitation on society. But the working class has no property that really matters: it owns no factories, mines and offices, no machinery, no raw materials, no land, no banks. Therefore, if the class struggle under capitalism results in the victory of the working class, its task as a new “ruling class” would be transitory: namely to abolish class, private property and exploitation completely. Communism, which had been dreamed of by the exploited masses from time immemorial, could be a reality, a viable political goal, for the first time in history – because here was a class that could only fulfil its own historic needs by abolishing class and exploitation.

But communism would not be possible on the basis of poverty and generalised want. Only in conditions where the basic necessities of life and much more could be produced and allocated free to each individual could humanity make this

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historic step. Here too, capitalism had furnished the solution, in the shape of the fast developing system of industrial production, which – together with the defeat of the landowner aristocracy – had massively reduced the social cost of producing life’s necessities.

The era of the Communist Manifesto, then, was the first time in history when the classless society seemed like a real economic and social possibility. The Manifesto’s achievement was to set out this idea clearly to a working class audience that had been fed for decades on the political quack remedies of various social reformers and adventurers.

How does the Manifesto’s basic prognosis measure up today? Paradoxically, because of its recent triumph over “Communism” and its recent expansive phase in South East Asia, contemporary capitalism fits the description in the Manifesto more closely than at any time in the Twentieth Century.

Take the “proletarianisation” of the middle classes: this has progressed with every wave of technical innovation and reorganisation of the work process in 20th century capitalism. When Marx wrote of the simplification of the class struggle under capitalism, that description was true only in England and, perhaps, France.

When Marx, Engels and the militants of the Communist League plunged into the revolutionary struggle in Germany in 1848 they found the political landscape dominated by real forces of the revolutionary petit bourgeoisie. Even 90 years later, Trotsky could write that “the intermediate classes, to whose disappearance the Manifesto so categorically refers, comprise even in a country as highly industrialised as Germany, about one-half of the population.”

Trotsky saw this as a product of the stagnation of capitalism, which was ruining the middle classes faster than it could proletarianise them while mass unemployment

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systematically “de-classed” the poorest section of the workers. Notwithstanding the misery and unemployment capitalism has visited on us since then, the very survival of capitalism, and its expansion after 1945, has reinvigorated the process of proletarianisation.

Layer after layer of “technicians” have seen their originally skilled and privileged occupations broken down into smaller tasks and automated – a process which, with the rise of computers, extends even into the realm of mental work. More and more of the population of the most advanced countries has been drawn into the waged workforce, and from there into the trade unions and the workers’ movement. Premature as it may have been in 1848 the following passage perfectly summarises the process at work in the late 20th century:

“The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science into its paid wage labourers.”

At the same time, the industrialisation of the third world has, over the last 25 years, created massive new legions of proletarians in place of masses of small peasants and traders. And the millions who remain on the land have been forced, by debt and land hunger, out of the class position of the smallholder and into the position of the rural, landless proletarian.

It goes without saying that the stagnatory aspect of capitalism continues to retard this process. Many semi-colonial countries harbour large and growing populations of shanty-town dwellers, who have never seen the inside of a factory. But globally that is not the dominant trend. The working class, the agent of the communist revolution is, on a global scale bigger than ever, younger than ever.

The productive forces What about the second objective basis of communism: the

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development of the productive forces? Today, they are massively more developed than in 1848, massively more ripe to be seized and utlilised by the working class. If we look over the whole 150 years of capitalist development since 1848 we can see periods of dramatic progress in technique alternating with periods where the social relations of production prevent or suppress the full utilisation of such techniques.

During this period – and even during the crisis and war riven 20th century – capitalism has strengthened the objective basis, the starting point, for the march to the classless society.

It is in the first place a question of the application of new techniques: mass production, chemical engineering, electronics, nuclear physics and information technology have each reshaped capitalist production, bringing the social cost of reproducing humanity through food, shelter, education, medicine and transport plummeting.

Who benefits? Of course, the capitalist benefits as long as the profit system survives. But the technical advances of capitalism, even in the relatively stagnant imperialist epoch, have ensured that, with the working class in power, humanity could quickly move to the provision of all the basic necessities of life free, in limitless supply, throughout the world.

In addition to laying the technical basis for communism, capitalism also performs the important task of centralising, standardising and to an extent collectivising social life. Twenty years ago any revolutionary government in Britain, for example, would have had to puzzle over how to handle the hundreds of thousands if not millions of small producers and retailers involved in the supply of goods to working class communities. A whole panoply of measures and concessions would have been necessary designed to tie these petit bourgeois strata to the working class (cheap credit, exemption from certain regulations and taxes).

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Today the huge supermarket chains have driven the majority of corner shops into bankruptcy. They have created in the process a large and brutally exploited retail proletariat concentrated in huge workplaces. These wage slaves can and are being organised. Capitalist competition has forced the supermarket giants to perfect internal planning to respond to market-driven needs.

The working class would only need to nationalise and merge Sainsbury’s, Safeways, Tesco and a handful of other supermarket chains in order to create a national network for discovering and registering the changing demands of consumers; a system that would enable the quality and safety of goods to be monitored, and their distribution organised.

The same is true if we consider the famous passage in the Manifesto about the internationalisation of production. Every word still rings true today: the destruction of national industries, the creation of a global system of production, “new wants” created by the international market, incapable of being met within localised national cultures, and the mirror of this in intellectual production: “from the numerous national and local literatures there arises a world literature”.

In summary, the Manifesto – by seeing through to the essence of capitalism, its need to constantly revolutionise production – was able to predict very clearly the direction of capitalist development.

But what was the point of this paean of praise to the impact of capitalist development for Marx? It was to illustrate dramatically the socially reactionary character of this system: the inability of capitalist social relations to make progressive use of the technical forces it had unleashed.

“For many a decade past,” Marx wrote, “the history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forces against modern conditions of production, against the property relations that are the conditions of existence of the bourgeoisie…The productive

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forces of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered…”

This clash between the productive forces and capitalist social relations took the form, Marx explained, of inescapable economic crises which, for the first time in history, created “overproduction”. The bourgeoisie’s response to these crises was the enforced destruction of productive forces and the conquest of new markets: “that is to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises”.

Marx, of course, was to say a great deal more than this on the subject of the capitalist economy and its crises, in twenty-odd years of work that culminated in the three published volumes of Capital. However, what strikes us, as we read this initial sketch, is the precision with which it describes everything that has been general to capitalism in all its periods and across both the epoch of its rise and its decline.

Many revolutionary Marxists in the 20th century set out to theorise the era of decline. Hilferding, Luxemburg, Lenin, Bukharin and Trotsky all shared the view that a profound change had taken place in capitalism around the start of the 20th century.

They were right. Through monopolism, state intervention, the tendency towards stagnation and the ending of a period of unchallenged expansion into new markets, it had begun to gnaw at itself like a trapped beast. Despite their contributions to Marxist theory, most of these writers were only able to find one or two pieces of the jigsaw: the only coherent general theory of imperialist capitalism was that of Lenin.

But even he had time to produce only a “popular outline” and was not able to fully root it in the full structure of the political economy of Marx.

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Trotsky also pointed to the Manifesto’s central flaw: namely, its wrong perspective on long-term capitalist development.

Writing on the eve of a revolution, but during what turned out to be only the first phase of industrial capitalism, Marx and Engels underestimated the historical reserves of the profit system. They spent the remainder of their lives as exiles, picking up the pieces of the failed revolutions of 1848 and grounding communism in a scientific understanding of the laws of capitalist political economy.

Trotsky, in his commentary on the Manifesto, identified Marx and Engels’ error of perspective in 1848: they mistook the first generalised crisis of capitalism for its final crisis. Their error, he wrote, “flowed on the one hand from an underestimation of future possibilities latent in capitalism and, on the other, from an overestimation of the revolutionary maturity of the proletariat”. For Trotsky, writing amid the revolutions of the 1930s, that error seemed to be of only historical importance. Wracked by economic crisis, revolution and war, the capitalist system had at last consumed its final reserves:

“Marx taught that no social system departs from the arena of history before exhausting its creative potentialities. The Manifesto excoriates capitalism for retarding the development of the productive forces. During that period, however, as well as in the following decades, this retardation was only relative in nature…Only in the last 20 years, despite the most modern conquests of science and technology, has the epoch begun of out-and-out stagnation and even decline of world economy.”

With hindsight, Trotsky’s own judgement on capitalism can also be seen to have proved one sided and erroneous in its predictions of the “future potential” of capitalism. As we have explained elsewhere, Trotsky’s operative theory of imperialism caused him to mistake one aspect (and one

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period) of modern capitalism as its essence. In the Transitional Programme, written in 1938 on the eve of a new generalised crisis of revolution and war and also in the shadow of the Manifesto itself, Trotsky embodied a serious error of theory and perspective.

This was to have as little practical effect on the revolutionary actions of the Fourth International during the second world war as Marx’s error had on the Communist League in 1848-51. As with the Communist League the real detrimental effects of the false perspective were felt by the Trotskyists only after the defeat or bureaucratic deflection of the post-war revolutions, when they failed to reassess the situation, insisting capitalism was doomed and stagnant after it had been temporarily saved and was booming.

In light of the fact that revolutionary geniuses of the calibre of Marx, Engels and Trotsky all managed to make errors of analysis and perspective about the reserves of capitalism, ought we not to revise Marxism altogether, to exclude all talk of final crises and absolute stagnation? Would it not be safer to assume (as, consciously or otherwise, the Labour and ex-Stalinist politicians do) that capitalism will go on growing, faster or slower, until the working class seizes power?

No. The general theoretical framework laid out by Marx in the Manifesto remains valid: as does the enormous scientific work of Capital. Capitalism only resolves its crises by preparing the conditions for even deeper and more generalised crises. In the late 19th century capitalism’s varied palette of anti-crisis measures spontaneously fused into a new structure: instead of the “free competition capitalism” Marx had lived under, there arose monopoly and concentration; instead of national capitalism, global capitalism; instead of private capitalism, the joint stock company and state ownership; instead of the “nightwatchman state” there developed capitalist state intervention. Crucially, instead of

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unmitigated growth capitalism moved into an epoch of “mitigated crisis”.

Notwithstanding this major, qualitative change in capitalism, that set the stage for a century of war and revolution, if we survey the entire history of the system – from 1848 to today – it is Marx’s description in the Manifesto that best sums up the general and supra-epochal truth about capitalism and the productive forces: the relations of production tendentially strangle the forces of production; they always retard the potential of technology in a relative sense and, in times of crisis, prevent the application of new technology even for the benefit of the capitalists, let alone the workers.

But this absence of generalised stagnation does not preclude the possibility of workers’ revolution. There is not a single revolutionary upsurge in history since 1848 that grew simply out of a response to economic stagnation and crisis. Nevertheless the objective tendency to economic crisis forms the backdrop to political, revolutionary crisis.

The state and revolution The necessity and regularity of capitalist crises in fact formed the third “foundation” of the scientific socialism Marx outlined in the Manifesto. For it is not enough to know that the working class has an objective interest in abolishing class society, nor that capitalism has created the means to do so. We must also know in what circumstances the workers would be impelled to take the road of communism. Those conditions presented themselves clearly enough to Marx and Engels, who had seen at first hand the privations visited on the working class in the commercial crises of the early 1840s. Chartism in England, for example, had taken on a directly social and economic revolutionary character only under the impact of the cotton crisis of 1842.

This idea, that the capitalist crisis would usher in the opportunity for working class rule, was a revelation to many

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of the socialists and working class reformers of the 1840s. They had imagined a peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism, on the basis of plenty – not starvation. Likewise they had seen no need for any special political theory or forms of organisation regarding the state.

As has often been explained, the capitalist state at the time of the Communist Manifesto was very underdeveloped. In Britain the first regular police force had only just been formed under the impact of revolutionary Chartism. However, as revolutionary struggles unfolded, it became clear that the half-formed capitalist states had more than enough firepower to suppress a workers’ upsurge that stopped halfway, was an insurrection launched without the support of the masses, or took the form of an adventure. Thus, less than 18 months after the publication of the Manifesto, most of the decisive revolutionary battles of the decade had been fought and lost.

Yet even before Marx and Engels had the chance to see and learn from the workers’ revolution on practice they were able to outline, in the Manifesto, a key tenet of revolutionary socialism:

“The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”

Again this is a fact known to every industrialist and banker, but regarded as the utmost ultra-left cynicism by reformist socialists from Tony Blair to Tony Benn. Reformist socialism did not have the deep social roots in Marx’s time that it gained in the 20th century; nevertheless it existed, notably in France where the “Social Democracy” of Louis Blanc basically argued for benign capitalism, a welfare state, plus political democracy.

History was soon to teach the French working class that even a democracy, with a rudimentary welfare state, can suppress the revolution. But Marx was able to point this out in advance, adding that, to make a real revolution, the workers would have to put in place a different type of state:

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“When in the course of development class distinctions have disappeared, and all the production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, so called, is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another”

In this short passage Marx and Engels laid the theoretical basis which they were to develop over the next three decades:

The impossibility of laying hold of the bourgeois state to introduce socialism.

The need for the ruling class to impose its own rule against its enemies through “organised power” – the proletarian dictatorship.

The never to be forgotten goal of abolishing the “political” – i.e. class and oppressive – aspect of the state and its replacement by “an association in which the free development of each is a condition of the free development of all”.

The first of these points is only hinted at in the Manifesto. The abolition of the “public power” is seen as a natural outcome of the abolition of want under communism. But during the Paris Commune of 1871 Marx and Engels learned and spelled out for the working class a more concrete lesson: that the abolition of the bourgeois state has to begin during the revolution. The workers cannot take hold of the capitalist state and rule through it: they have to smash it and replace it with a state of a different type: a state that must then actively fight to abolish itself.

Party and Class There are many discontinuities between the words of the Manifesto and the actions of Marx and Engels during the revolutions of 1848, most of them arising from the acute underdevelopment of class differentiation and consciousness in Germany at the time. But one principle that Marx and Engels stuck to, from the isolation of exile to the torrent of

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revolution, was the need to base the revolutionary party on the actual development of working class consciousness – not the schemes and timetables of conspirators. Hence the famous phrase:

“The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working class parties. They have no interests separate and apart from the proletariat as a whole. They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement.”

If, when they wrote this Marx and Engels were all too aware of the danger of quack-doctor sects in the workers’ movement, the revolution and counter-revolution of 1848-52 was to teach them about it even more. After initially getting their fingers burnt with the conspirators Marx and Engels refused to be drawn into elitist conspiracies. They laboured to base their tactics on the objective needs of the situation even to the point of breaking with the only real mass workers organisation in Germany (the Cologne Workers’ Union) when it took a sectarian abstentionist position toward the bourgeois struggle against the Prussian monarchy.

But Marx and Engels’ words about “no separate party” have continually been flung in the face of 20th century revolutionaries as disproof of the need to organise the subjective communist vanguard into a conscious, fighting organisation. This quote has been used by people as varied as Eduard Bernstein and Ted Grant to justify their failure to break with the reactionary conservative forces within the workers’ movement and organise the vanguard for action.

But that is entirely unjustified. In the very same passage, Marx and Engels explain that the communists are “the most advanced and resolute section of the working class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others”. It was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, after capitalism had literally bought-off whole sections of the workers’ union and party leaderships, that the revolutionary

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heirs to Marx and Engels realised the need for a really separate “revolutionary party”: when, as in Germany 1919, the “working class party” was led by those wh were responsible for the death of revolutionary Marxists like Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht there was little alternative.

The split that took place in the workers’ movement during the first world war was not merely an argument over peaceful versus violent methods for abolishing capitalism: it was a split between those who in the name of “peaceful overthrow” would actually defend capitalism and fight to overthrow the world’s first workers’ state.

Despite this, the most far sighted Marxists of the Third and Fourth internationals never forgot the basic principles outlined in the Manifesto: communism is not an intellectual invention it is the expression in ideas and action of an objective movement in history and society. Whilst the communists had to act as a vanguard they also employed flexible tactics to maintain unity in action with the rest of the working class within the unions and in other working class parties. The major revolutionary tactic of the 20th century: the united front was born directly out of the principles of the Manifesto.

The revolutionary programme The Communist Manifesto contains just two pages of actual political demands, summed up in a ten point programme. Shortly after it was published its this list of demands was practically superseded for Marx and Engels by the 17-point programme “Demands of the Communist Party in Germany”, which they took in armfuls of leaflets as they travelled from revolutionary Paris to the Rhineland in April 1848. Within days of beginning their revolutionary work Marx and Engels realised that their programme was so far ahead of the consciousness of either the working class or the revolutionary middle classes that, as Engels put it, “If a single copy of our

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seventeen points were distributed here, as far as we were concerned, all would be lost”.

Despite its short career in practice, this programmatic section of the Manifesto has proved a priceless guide to action for every generation of workers since then faced with the task of mobilising the working class for power.

When Marx and Engels wrote the Manifesto, the unsolved questions of bourgeois democracy loomed large: not just political democracy, but all the social grievances of the middle classes against the feudal aristocracy, ranging from corn prices and taxes to censorship and the absence of national unity and integration. Many socialists at the time believed that the working class could and should simply tack on its demands to this bourgeois-democratic programme.

The Manifesto, on the contrary, begins from the principle that, within the forthcoming struggles, with in 1848 were to involve tactical alliances with the middle class, the workers must, nevertheless, advance their own class programme. Instead of a utopian vision to be brought in years in the future, communism was for the first time concretised in the Manifesto as a series of transitional measures fought for within and against capitalism, and whose achievement would give the working class all the tools it needed to build a classless society:

“In the beginning this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore, which appear economically insufficient and untenable but which, in the course of the movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionising the mode of production”.

The Manifesto then lists ten demands: nationalise the land; tax the rich; abolish inheritance rights; confiscate property of “emigrants and rebels” form a revolutionary

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republic; one national state bank with a monopoly on lending; nationalise communications and the transport industries; extend nationalised industry; everybody has to work; free education in state schools, no child labour, education combined with training for work.

During the late 19th century the successive programmes of the growing workers’ movements tended to relegate these revolutionary transitional demands to the sphere of a “maximum programme” to be achieved after the revolution. In their place the mass parties of the Second International put a series of reforms.

During the imperialist epoch, the spontaneous state-isation of the economy, combined with the conquest of various welfare measures by the working class made the revolutionary demands of the Manifesto seem even more irrelevant. At the height of the post-war boom a favourite trick of AJP Taylor, the pro-Labour historian, was to list the demands of the Manifesto and prove how they had been “won already” under capitalism in the mid-20th century.

Twenty-five years of neo-liberal onslaught on the very fabric of working class life across the globe make Taylor’s words seem like a sick joke – but they give the Manifesto’s demands a stinging relevance: nationalisation, state credit, planned centralised production, taxing the rich to pay for services: free education: these demands have a decidedly revolutionary ring when no section of any of the reformist workers parties across the globe seriously believes they can be fulfilled.

Even child labour – abolished in the imperialist countries – has come back to haunt modern capitalism: many of our third-world produced luxury goods – from oriental rugs to Nike trainers – are produced by children, deprived by work of childhood.

Abandoned during the long class peace of the late 19th century, the programmatic method of the Manifesto was

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rediscovered and applied by the revolutionary Marxists at the beginning of the 20th, and embodied in transitional action programmes like those produced by Lenin in 1905 and 1917, by the Comintern in the years 1919-23 and by Trotsky and the Fourth International in the 1930s.

The revolutionary action programme cannot be divided into maximum (communist) goals and minimum, democratic and social reforms for the present. It has to advance the element of working class self organisation, ownership and control in every struggle; to prepare the working class for the seizure of power through every partial and minimal struggle. This was the method Trotsky used consummately in the production of the Transitional Programme.

The inadequacies of the Manifesto Despite its unparalleled contribution to the development of the working class programme, the Manifesto does contain flaws: predictions about capitalism which were falsified by events, or omissions and simplifications which proved insufficient to guide the workers’ movement as capitalism developed.

Trotsky, in his 1938 introduction, identified several areas of inadequacy in addition to the question of perspective outlined above. First, there was Marx and Engels’ supposition that the bourgeoisie of the mid 19th century would at least go some way toward making its own political revolution. 1848 was to be the first in a long series of revolutionary crises which proved that the bourgeoisie is always more frightened of its own working class than it is of decaying feudalism.

They themselves criticised the supposition in 1850 and produced a sketch of the future theory of Permanent Revolution. In the 20th century this was to mean that the proletariat had to come to the head of the struggles against not only feudalism but also imperialist domination and oppression. Out of this understanding Trotsky was able to fashion his own great contribution to Marxism, the fully developed theory of Permanent Pevolution.

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Secondly, while predicting and demonstrating that capitalism would draw all undeveloped countries into a worldwide capitalist system, the Manifesto, as Trotsky pointed out, made no specific mention of the underdeveloped countries.

It even suggested that national consciousness per se would be undermined by capitalist development:

“National differences and antagonisms between peoples are daily more and more vanishing owing to the development of the bourgeoisie …”

The unfolding century and a half of imperialist conquest and domination that followed the publication of the Manifesto has obliged revolutionaries to develop specific tactics and methods for the national struggle: most of them can be deduced from the principles of the Manifesto but one of them – the need for the proletariat of the imperialist heartlands to support the struggles and wars of the oppressed nationalities against the armies of the imperialist oppressors, is one that had to be spelled out by the revolutionaries of the early 20th centuries in the teeth of opposition from Marxists who claimed that the Manifesto predicted a “civilising” role for capitalism.

Third, on the question of women’s oppression, women’s liberation and the family the Manifesto failed to anticipate one of the strategic counter-crisis measures of the latter part of the 19th century. Marx and Engels had observed how the factory system served to destroy the family unit within the working class. Thus, with a flourish, the Manifesto declares:

“The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation”.

“The proletarian is without property; his relation to his wife and children has no longer anything in common with bourgeois family relations”

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The implication was that the family would be confined to the bourgeoisie, that it was a thing of the past. In fact the mid-19th century bourgeoisie responded to the real threat that rampant capitalism would abolish the family: they recognised it as a vital instrument of social control. Women’s unpaid domestic labour, in the family household, was built into the system of production for profit and has remained there ever since.

In times of severe crisis capitalism has, traditionally, thrown women out of the workforce and back into the home. In times of boom and labour shortage it has drawn them into paid work. And for most of the 20th century the watchwords of the most reactionary politicians have been “the sanctity of the family” and “the place of women is in the home.” Both the exclusion of women from social labour and their grossly unequal and insecure inclusion in it have made the family the key instrument for keeping women in a position of subservience and social inequality.

Fourth, there is the question of the “immiseration of the working class” raised by the Manifesto’s often attacked claim that capitalism tends to reduce workers’ wages :

“The various interests and conditions of life within the ranks of the proletariat are more and more equalised, in proportion as machinery obliterates all distinctions of labour, and nearly everywhere reduces wages to the same low level”.

This tendency to deskill and cheapen labour power, real enough in the early days of capitalism, and operating today, was partly offset by other tendencies in the later nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Of course the development of new methods of capitalist production continued to create new divisions of craft and skill within the working class.

But in addition the bourgeoisie realised, as the wage workers became a majority in society and the old middle classes declined, that they needed social support within the workforce. They realised that they could buy off a skilled and

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privileged layer of the working class in the imperialist countries through higher wages and selected social reforms.

Thus certain general predictions of the Manifesto that the objective process of capitalist development would overcome the family, nationalism, and divisions of craft and income within the working class have been found wanting. In fact these were all revived in the crystallisation of a labour aristocracy from the late 19th century onwards. This stratum manifested a deep attachment to the bourgeois family, to its craft privileges and an enthusiasm for imperialist jingoism.

Nevertheless the last two decades of neo-liberalism, which can be looked on as capitalism returning to its essence as a measure of averting crises built up in the post-1945 system of state monopoly capitalism, have proved that Marx and Engels—even on these points— were not 100% wrong, even if they were not 100% right. Modern capitalism has massively swelled the ranks of the very poor in the last 20 years, it has deskilled traditional labour aristocrats in the media and communications industry.

To meet its demands for a more flexible reserve army of labour, in the form of semi-employed women workers, it has once more seriously undermined the nuclear family in all strata of the working class. And, while it has not abolished national chauvinism– in its quest for global markets and regional economic blocs – it has with its constant propaganda about the globalisation of markets and capital massively advanced the awareness that “the working class has no country” which can or will ensure jobs, social security, or decent retirement.

150 years later 150 years on what does the Manifesto offer us? What can it teach the proletariat in the decade of the internet, the century of the nuclear bomb? The answer is: a lot. Not only is the Manifesto a historical part of the legacy of the working class; it encapsulates the essential method from which the rest of

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Marxism could be developed even if all the works of Marx, Engels and theirsuccessors were obliterated.

And more than that, because it offers a picture of the essence of capitalism, clothed in literary generality instead of the “facts and figures” format in which it would have been written today, it shows us both the horrors and the immense potential of the industrial society which capitalism has created.

Right here and now, the Manifesto says, humanity has the means to free itself. Capitalism’s recurrent crises threaten doom for humanity not simply an endless cycle of recession and recovery.

All that is lacking is the consciousness and organisation within the class that has the power to effect that change. The crisis of humanity – expressed today in falling stockmarkets, crumbling infrastructure, wanton poverty, racism, women’s oppression, the threat of war, rampant child labour, unbridled pollution and the threat of global warning – all of this is ultimately reducible, as it was in 1938 and in 1848, to the crisis of leadership of the working class.

The task of resolving that crisis rests on thousands of working class activists taking the message of the Manifesto to millions of workers who, today, believe socialism is dead. If socialism is dead, then humanity is condemned to death.

But the selfless struggles of the working class across the globe, which will intensify as the crisis deepens, propelling workers who have not yet even heard of Marx and Engels towards revolutionary conclusions and towards the revolutionary organisations, prove it is not dead: as long as there is a working class it cannot die because, as the Manifesto teaches, socialism and communism are only the living expressions of the objective, historic interests of the class itself.

Thu 24, August 2006 @ 22:59

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150 Years of The Communist Manifesto7

Lew Higgins

The Communist Manifesto remains a good introduction in their own words to the ideas of Marx and Engels. Here we summarise its contents and put it in its historical context.

It was not until the 1870s, when Marx gained some notoriety, that interest began to be expressed in his earlier works, including the Manifesto. It was first republished in German in 1872, then several other languages before the 1888 English edition. Marx refused to re-write it for the changed circumstances because, reasonably enough, he claimed that it had become a historical document which nobody had a right to alter. However, for the reader lacking an understanding of the context in which it was issued, it is all too easy to suppose that it was entirely a communist Manifesto. Yet if we are careful to distinguish the historically specific from the universal we can then see the communism (socialism) in the Manifesto.

7 Socialist Standard, No. 1122 February 1998, http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/1990s/1998/no-1122-february-1998/150-years-communist-manifesto

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It was translated into English by Samuel Moore (who had translated volume 1 of Capital) and "revised in common" with Engels for the "authorised" 1888 edition. However, this "authorised" version contains a large number of small but important alterations to Marx's original text. Compare the published version with translations of the original wording reproduced here, especially in section two. (See The Communist Manifesto, a Norton Critical Edition edited by Frederic L. Bender, 1988. Contains Prefaces, annotated text, sources and background information.)

The original title, Manifesto of the Communist Party, indicates that it was written for a particular organisation with particular purposes, at a particular time and place. Karl Marx (but not Engels) was commissioned to write the Manifesto by the Central Committee of the Communist League, a small London-based organisation of German refugees, in November 1847. The Manifesto was published in late February 1848, at about the same time as the revolutions of 1848 began-first in Paris, then in Berlin and many other European cities. The occurrence of widespread uprisings throughout Europe owed nothing to the Manifesto, though members of the League were not alone in anticipating such an event. The contributory factors were food shortages and starvation brought about by the spread of potato blight, chronic unemployment and falling wages caused by recession, frustration at the feudal bastions of reaction in government, and revolutionary nationalism. In most cases it fell to members of the "petty bourgeoisie" (shopkeepers, artisans, small farmers) to organise revolution. They had suffered economic hardship in the previous few years, had the most to gain from a more progressive regime and potentially had the political clout to bring it about. The big capitalists had not as much incentive, having done well in the industrialisation sweeping Europe, and so often tended to ally themselves instead with the forces of conservative

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reaction. It was in this context that Marx and the League issued their Manifesto.

The famous opening declaration, "A spectre is haunting Europe-the spectre of Communism", was something of an exaggeration. Marx borrowed this already well-known imagery from Lorenz von Stein's book on communism in France, published in 1842. After the opening the Manifesto is then divided into four sections:

Bourgeois and Proletarians; Proletarians and Communists; Socialist and Communist Literature; Position of the Communists in Relation to the Various Existing Opposition Parties.

Bourgeois and Proletarians

The bourgeoisie (capitalist class) "historically, has played

a most revolutionary part". They have pursued their class interest by gaining political control of the state, which "is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie." The bourgeoisie, by pursuing its own self interest, has brought about great advances in technology and production. "The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe." But the bourgeoisie has also created the proletariat (working class) and this class will in turn become the "gravedigger" for the bourgeoisie by recreating society in the proletariat's interests. "All previous movements were movements of minorities, or in the interests of minorities. The proletarian movement is the independent movement of the immense majority, in the interests of the immense majority" (original wording).

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Proletarians and Communists The Communists (meaning members of the Communist

League) are distinguished from the other working class parties by the way "they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality."

The Communists are "the most resolute section of the working-class parties of every country" (original wording). Theoretically, "they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement".

The Communist League wants to eventually abolish "bourgeois property" (private ownership of the means of production) and this also entails "the abolition of buying and selling." The bourgeois family must also be abolished ("prostitution both public and private") and nationality ("working men have no country"). The first step in the revolution by the working class is "to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, which is the struggle of democracy" (original wording). The proletariat will use its political power to take, "by degrees", all capital from the bourgeoisie, "centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the state" and "increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible".

The practical measures for achieving this "will of course be different in different countries." Nevertheless, "in the most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable." There then follows ten measures, including the "Expropriation of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes" (original wording), "a heavy progressive or graduated taxation" (original wording), "abolition of all right of inheritance", "centralisation of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with

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State capital and an exclusive monopoly", "centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State", "extension of factories and instruments owned by the State", and "free education for all children in public schools".

When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and "all production has been concentrated in the hands of the associated individuals, the public power will lose its political character" (original wording). Political power is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another. When the proletariat, organised as the ruling class, "abolishes the old conditions of production" (original wording) it "will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class."

In its place we will have communism: "an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all."

This second section of the Manifesto is controversial, with the measures at the end being mistakenly interpreted by some as communist (socialist) measures in themselves when clearly they are not. Two points should be made by way of clarification. First, the Manifesto was written with Germany in mind (though not exclusively). This was made explicit when the Central Committee of the Communist League issued its "Demands of the Communist Party in Germany" in late March 1848. This seventeen-point programme expands on the Manifesto's ten-point programme to the changed German conditions. It starts: "All of Germany shall be declared to be a single and indivisible republic." It adds at the end, above the signatories (which included Marx and Engels): "It is to the German proletariat, the petit bourgeoisie, and the small peasantry to support these demands with all possible energy." In short, Marx, the League and the ten measures in the Manifesto were encouraging a bourgeois-democratic revolution.

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In the circumstances of the time it seemed logical to Marx and the League that they should accept that for the moment their interests coincided with those of the bourgeois democrats, until such time as the absolutist regimes had been overthrown, and should then continue their struggle against the new bourgeois regimes. It was assumed that "the bourgeois democratic governments" could be placed in the situation of immediately losing "all backing among workers" (Marx's address to the Communist League, 1850). Second, when the Manifesto was reprinted for the first time in 1872, Marx and Engels stated in the Preface that "no special stress is laid on the revolutionary measures proposed at the end of Section II. That passage would, in many respects, be very differently worded today." For instance Germany had become a unified bourgeois state the year before. In fact, many of the measures have since been implemented within capitalism.

Socialist and Communist Literature

In this section Marx discusses various other

contemporary types of "socialism" and "communism". The Critical-Utopian Socialists (St. Simon, Fourier, Owen) are praised for revealing the class division in society, but are utopian because they refuse to advocate a class politics. This is understandable, given the level of development at the time the utopians wrote in the early nineteenth century. Nevertheless, their practical measures point to the abolition of class antagonisms: "the abolition of the distinction between town and country, of the family, of the carrying on of industries for the account of private individuals, and of the wage system, the proclamation of social harmony, the conversion of the functions of the state into a mere superintendence of production". The reference to the abolition of the distinction between town and country, and family, in the former case is evidence of an ecological critique of the

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way capitalism centralises and concentrates living space, in the latter case it is evidence of a critique of the gender roles imposed on women and men in a class society.

Position of the Communists in Relation to the Various

Existing Opposition Parties

The Communist League fights for "the attainment of the immediate aims, interests of the working class; but in the movement of the present, they also represent the future of the movement" (original wording). The Communist League "turn their attention chiefly to Germany, because that country is on the eve of a bourgeois revolution." The Communist League "openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all social orders up to now. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose in this but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!" (original wording).

The final injunction to forcibly overthrow the old social orders was framed within the context of absolutist regimes with little or nothing in the way of a franchise. In such circumstances it did seem that force was the only way of bringing about change. Later in life Marx argued that the universal franchise meant that the working class might be able to bring about change peacefully by force of numbers.

The Manifesto was also written before Marx had sufficiently worked out his theory of value. A reference to wages tending to the bare physical subsistence level should not be taken as a theoretical proposition, but rather as a rhetorical flourish. The latter applies to some other phrases, such as the inevitability of workers' power.

Setting to one side the capitalist measures at the end of section 2, we can extract Marx's ideas on communism (or socialism, since Marx made no distinction between the terms

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as systems of society) which remain valid as a Manifesto for the twenty-first century:

• Communists (Socialists) want to abolish private ownership of the means of production, buying and selling, the wages system, the economic enforcement of the family unit, the concentration and centralisation of living space and the state.

• Communists (Socialists) want to replace this with democracy and a free association in which the self-development of each individual is the condition for the development of everybody.

• Communism (Socialism) must be world-wide, because it is replacing a system which is world-wide.

• It must be brought about by the revolutionary political action of the working class.

• It must be brought about by the majority of the working class, not minorities.

• Communists (Socialists) are the most determined and politically organised section of the working class, but they are not a vanguard leading the working class.

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The Communist Manifesto: A flawed pamphlet – but still better

than its good reputation today8

I. A spectre haunts Europe – the love of the Communist Manifesto

If Marx and Engels’ old agitational paper had not turned 150 this year, nobody would have given a hoot today. But the critical intellects of free public opinion couldn’t simply ignore the fascination of the anniversary: retrospectives and critical appreciations of the early work by the “ancestral fathers of communism” line up. Certainly, its sequels are less than ever considered: since the Soviet power disbanded, that system increasingly matters only as a crime. The occidental spirit, as a victor of history, can however find interesting again something that until recently it felt threatened by and therefore had to take more seriously than it would have liked:

“But now, because there is no longer a Marxism to be taken seriously, the opportunity exists to impartially consider the pages of Marx's work, that which he surely got right.”

8 http://www.ruthlesscriticism.com/CommunistManifesto.htm, [Translated from Gegenstandpunkt 2-1998]

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(Nicholas Piper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, [the largest German national daily newspaper - trans.] February 21, 1998)

With the greatest matter-of-factness, this representative of the absolutely non-partisan and independent “fourth estate” confesses to following a party-line in the service of his authorities. As long as there was a really existing alternative to the marvelous system of market economy and democracy, the critical expertise residing in western editorial offices had absolutely no chance of impartially analyzing the writings of the left. At that time, propaganda against the left opposition to the system was just a requirement of freedom. Now that the dangerous spectre is past, one can, first of all, calmly admit it and, secondly, turn quite uninhibitedly to the question as to what the “specter” in the Communist Manifesto has to say to us today. The answers are analagous.

1. An important part of world literature

Consensus prevails in the world of professional literary-criticism: Marx, he could write! With “almost biblical eloquence,” the text which the two socialist agitators wrote 150 years ago should at least be “a masterpiece of world literature” (Umberto Eco), “one of the most wonderful prose poems of 19th century German literature” (Marcel Reich-Ranicki). A text like a symphony: “It begins with a drumbeat, like Beethoven’s fifth” (Umberto Eco once again) ... One can produce textual analyses page by page, one can ramble on about the “terse sentences” with their “creative eruptions” and “unforgettable aphorisms” (a specter haunts!, chains to lose ... a world to win!), one can recommend the text as training material for advertising experts, allegedly because its compelling power as literature can’t be ignored, without being keen on the content of the writing at all. Never mind that this content can’t be ignored. The enthusiastic posturing in saying: “they said it so beautifully!” is conceivably the furthest

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distance one could take from the old agitational writing. Because Marx and Engels did not want to write another poem, but to rouse the workers to a proletarian revolution.

Not only in the literary field, but also in the field of economics, the authors of the Communist Manifesto are said to have performed magnificently. Avowed anti-communists discover in the Communist Manifesto:

2. The best economic prediction the world has ever seen

Marx and Engels allegedly did not foresee the future of

global capitalism with crystal clarity and were, besides, sparing in their praise for its grandiose acts. Nevertheless, this is to have been an astonishing achievement when

“Industrial capitalism, only at the beginning of its own extremely dynamic world revolution, was praised in the Communist Manifesto ... In 30 pages the text correctly forecast the process of economic concentration at the expense of the former petite bourgeois, small industrialists, craftsman and farmers. With the thundering voice of Old Testament prophets, it announced globalization 150 years ago.” (Friedjof Meyer, Der Spiegel, March 16, 1998).

“Capitalist globalization was never more grandly celebrated than when it had hardly begun in February 1848.” (Mathias Greiffrath, Die Zeit, February 5, 1998)

Even a business journal must pay tribute to the predictive power of Marxism:

“ ... some of its predictions have been confirmed by developments and today can even be reread as descriptions of conditions ...” (Hans Mundorf, Handelsblatt, February 25, 1998)

Precisely in this first inflammatory piece of writing against international capitalism, they want to constitute nothing less than their own idle chatter about globalization, with its dangers and opportunities for the investment site

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Germany. This enthusiasm from all the fans of the globalization ideology arises from the following passage:

“The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere. The bourgeoisie has, through its exploitation of the world market, given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of reactionaries, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilized nations… In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations.” (Quoted in ibid., but similarly found in all the other eulogies to the predictive Marx)

Further down in the text of the business journal: “Could this not have been said by the President of the

Federal Association of German Industry, Hans-Olaf Henkel, in one of his location speeches, namely not as a prediction, but as a warning to the reactionaries who still stick to autonomy in bargaining, to the welfare state, the nationality of a currency, the economic regulatory system? And who in 1998 wants to contradict Marx's statement from 1848 that there is a law of concentration in the economy, 'that the earlier petite bourgeois, the small industrialists' fall victim to the competition of the large-scale enterprises? In place of the industrial bourgeoisie steps big industry, the 'chiefs of whole industrial armies'.”

No, we must not allow it to be repeated that old Marx’s text would make a successful speech model for today’s capitalist boss. As opposed to all the modern investment-location speakers and editorial writers who swear to a

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phenomenon called “globalization” that is supposed to be our fate and which nobody – no politician, no entrepreneur, no trade union leader – can avoid, and which leads therefore always to that small, primary capitalistic objective constraint: the terms of trade for capital must be improved, wages must be lowered drastically ... – as opposed to types like Henkel and company, the Communist Manifesto designates, first of all, a subject which re-shapes the globe according to its conditions. When Marx writes: “the bourgeoisie [chases] over the entire surface of the globe,” the capable modern friends of the “globalization debate” read it only selectively as: “ ... if globe = chases over the surface of the globe = globalization = we all sit in the globalization trap = wages must go down then!” While the modern apologists of international capitalism want to know nothing about the active agents and beneficiaries of this mode of production, but only affected persons, the Communist Manifesto explains, secondly, the necessity for the conflict of interests between capital and the working class. In a period in which the capitalist mode of production was imposed by force against the remnants of feudal interests, Marx and Engels recognized the nature of the new, irreconcilable conflict of interests that was established with the victory of the bourgeoisie over the feudal social order. They wanted to rouse the proletariat, a class of property-less wage-laborers who were only recently produced by the bourgeois revolution, to battle against the new ruling class which “creates a world after its own image.” Because it was clear that a hitherto unseen barbarism was imposed internationally by the newly advancing mode of production:

“In these crises, a great part not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity – the epidemic of over-production. Society suddenly

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finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed. And why? Because there is too much civilization, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce.”

Here Marx and Engels ventured not a prediction forecasting the economic and financial crises of the end of the 20th century, but called for a battle against a social order in which the creation of wealth necessarily produces misery. A mode of production in which poverty is no longer the result of scarcity, but the inevitable result of an unbridled increase of capitalist wealth. The monstrousness of this new relation of production was clear to them the moment capitalist private property was established: it is based on the constantly reproduced exclusion of the masses without property from the wealth growing in never seen before dimensions which forces them as wage earners to work for their factory masters.

The Communist Manifesto wanted to point out to “proletarians of all countries” that, with the victory of the bourgeoisie, this new class conflict becomes all decisive, that before it “all that is solid melts into air” and all other social conflicts and problematic situations become secondary. It was the demand that the masses, who were involved in all kinds of struggles, should not be the means for the immediately occurring struggle of the bourgeoisie against the feudal order, but should immediately make the transition to the all-important class struggle against private property.

It demands a considerable level of illiteracy to read the old Communist Manifesto, which calls for the abolition of private property and an attack upon the capitalist relations of production, and to just eliminate Marx's diagnosis of class conflict and instead pick out a successful description of the difficult position of our current leading industrialists with their “location concerns.”

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But it gets even better: the economic expert of the business journal sighs for a “new Marx” so that he and the likes of him can find their way through the – always praised by him and his peers – “free play of the markets” which functions so marvelously without any design, as is well known, and corresponds so inimitably to human nature – or could at least receive a few tips on where investments are still worthwhile...

“Marx and Engels understood a lot about the economy of their time. If they lived today, they would probably not be communists, but liberals, that is, official professors of economic science. In this they would certainly have done better than ceaselessly reproducing quotes from Adam Smith. However, perhaps they would have had the courage to look directly into the future and develop at least a theory of globalization. Because if production and consumption must always become cosmopolitan when the ground is pulled from beneath the feet of national industries, if all that is solid must melt into air, from the national currencies up to the national rate systems and social systems: why is there no ‘general theory’ of such transformations? Why are there no concepts for what could take the place of autonomy in bargaining in Germany, how can social security be financed with sinking wages, which necessary services should be transferred to Europe when the competition of currencies is repealed? And why must the world always be surprised by monetary crises like in South America, Mexico or the Asian tigers? Why is the available knowledge about the frailty of such governments always only after the fact and never in time?”

Certainly, the business journalist was sure a few lines earlier that “Marx and Engels were certainly good diagnosticians, but incompetent therapists” – but what the hell: the small adjacent contradiction no longer occurs to a person who reports indifferently that the economic mode, which he supports one hundred percent, functions according

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to laws which its participants or ideologists can't see through. Therefore, to this nervous economic expert, it is also completely natural that a “theory of globalization” never ever comes down to a fundamental criticism of an economy that produces such crazy conditions. No, the business journalist is at home in market-economy realism, and for him “theory” is about the same as a concept for “socially acceptable lowering of labor costs” in the investment-location Germany or a few good tips for finance capital as to which “emerging market” will still be one the day after tomorrow .... Such concepts are now really produced en masse by “liberal economics professors” and economic research institutes; one should not have to dig out old Marx too and give him the status of a civil servant posthumously! But, strictly speaking, the man from the business journal longs for neither a “theory of globalization” or topical economic concepts and predictions, but for an unbeatable strategy for the success of the economic location Germany in international competition. There he will probably be able to busy himself in the future also with his incessant whining that, in view of the “free competition of the markets,” one always knows only after the fact whether a business has been profitable or not. If, in the improbable case that he someday wants to know why this is, he should perhaps simply study a little Marxist theory...

This would also not hurt another critical thinker who claims to have read not only the Communist Manifesto, but also Capital in order to come to the following realization:

“At least Capital, as even economists understand, is not a program for the abolition of capitalism, but on the contrary a kind of Bible of capitalism, like many prophetic books in which the development of the world economy becomes frighteningly exactly accounted for in advance, including globalization and the money trade insanity. And insanity is thus only a journalistic gaffe; Marx, cool at heart, stated that this must be so. And the little word 'unfortunately' is not even

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used, anyhow not in Capital. The analytic part of the Communist Manifesto is also not stupid. If only its peculiar concluding sentence was not: 'Proletarians of all countries, unite!' Yes, for what then, heaven?“ (Rainer Stephan, Süddeutsche Zeitung March 3, 1998)

Quite stupid, the analytic part. But we will gladly spell out one more time for the illiterates of all countries: this “peculiar concluding sentence” is arrived at this way: after the class enemy – the bourgeoisie – is characterized, their necessary victims – the “proletarians of all countries” – are called upon to wage class warfare against the international rule of private property and its political guarantors. We only doubt that this explanation is useful in view of Mr. Stephan’s considerable intellectual achievement of simply whiting out from Marx's writing the opposition to private property. Or, as usual, should one see a kind of “Bible of capitalism” in Capital that explains “only,” even “coolly,” that in capitalism everything must be the way it is? Yes, if the little word “unfortunately” had been used, at least now and then, one could imagine that Marx, as a moral person, perhaps had some fundamental objections to capitalist conditions. But he “only” analyzed the systematics of the capitalist mode of production and explained the necessity for the misery of a whole class. And because he analyzed these necessities of the system, Marx also knew that the misery of this world is not to be considered “unfortunate” with a heart-rending sigh – he leaves that to the clerics and the system reformers. Because – directly because – of capitalism, as long as it exists, it must then just function as it functions, is why Marx insisted that this system must not be improved, but abolished. Mr. Stephan preferred not to know all that. Instead, he notes that he is for life: “Capitalism is an amoral system” – but what must be, must be, unfortunately, unfortunately...

On the other hand, it cannot be stressed often enough that the “unfortunate conditions of Manchester capitalism,” which,

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according to the current reviewers of the Communist Manifesto, were quite rightfully denounced in that time, have long since been overcome. If one reads it correctly, the Communist Manifesto is:

3. A social charter long since redeemed by the social

market economy Not only in their diagnoses – or more exactly: in their

alleged prognoses – but also in their suggested remedy, the authors of the Communist Manifesto receive copious praise from their modern fans. They enthusiastically seize its 10 demands, which are listed at the end of the 2nd chapter, as fitting next steps for the proletarian revolution: a slightly peculiar, motley collection of demands: some interesting material is offered here for modern ideologists by the expropriation of property and the use of ground rent for public expenditures, the introduction of a progressive tax, centralization of credit in the hands of the state and the removal of the difference between city and country... One does not necessarily want to accuse every one of the erudite commentators on the Communist Manifesto of not having read the foreword to its second edition from 1872. But then they would have known that Marx and Engels quite soon after the appearance of the Communist Manifesto had better, leveler heads and dissociated themselves from these 10 demands. Concerning the Communist Manifesto, however, again a distinct weakness in the reviewers' interpretation must be pointed out. Because these demands are nevertheless characterized there as “measures ... which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionizing the mode of production.” The two revolutionaries could imagine “real

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partial successes” on the way to the real aim of the proletarian revolution – one of the worst ideas of the Communist Manifesto, but more on that later. The authors clearly wrote that the fulfillment of these demands should not be confused with the final goal of the revolution they wanted to incite. But what can be done if posterity does not want to read, but to praise itself?

“The true executors of the Communist Manifesto were the social democrats who conquered universal electoral rights and with it the state... The democratic socialists – even if they were not always called that – subordinated property to the welfare of the general public, and half of the Gross National Product to management by the democratic state. They did not orient the wage any longer to the lowest maintenance cost, but to the merit principle – according to Marx (1875), the distinguishing feature of a socialist social order, while the targeted paradise of a 'communist social order' should assign to each according to his needs much later. This applies at the lowest level in Germany already to the social assistance recipient, an achievement with the force of gravity. In any case, the proletarians have for a long time had more to lose than their chains, they ask themselves only whether they can still keep them. The emergency program of the Communist Manifesto is almost realized de facto, even if a new Manchester period tries to turn it backwards – from the strong progressive tax up to public free education and the overcoming of the conflict between city and country.” (Friedjof Meyer, Der Spiegel, March 16, 1998)

What can one still say? Has this man who is presented in Der Spiegel as an authority on the subject, i.e. as a “young socialist in 1961,” ever read one line of the chapters on wages in the first volume of Capital? If so, it surely speaks only against his mental health. There Marx explains piece wages by no means as a step in the right direction to the “transitional society” in which “each receives from the total social wealth

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what he contributes to it,” but as a means of wage lowering for the dependent wage-laborers who, from the beginning, are excluded by the wage form from disposing over the wealth that they produce. It is also a quaint idea that German social welfare support – with its sumptuous “baskets” – 1 movie ticket per month, 1 pair of shoes per season, 1 box of cigarettes per week – should be celebrated as initiating the principle of “to each according to his needs” – even if “at the lowest level” this might do for a man whose need horizon succumbs to the “gravity” of the level of need satisfaction defined by the West German social welfare offices. An enlightened mind knows the way to Jedem das Seine [translator’s note: literally, “to each according to his merits”; a phrase at the entrance of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp]. He goes into raptures about the beautiful conception of an association “in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all” and writes a few lines farther down that, anyhow, he can imagine a worthwhile “paradise” – which, incidentally, was never in Marx and Engels’ program – as nothing else than one big social welfare office which assigns “to each” what is entitled to him. This really does not need a socialist revolution; here the man is exceptionally correct.

Other original commentators also make the same virtuoso equation “communism = paradise = FRG social policy”:

“The Communist Manifesto describes a social paradise after the conquest of the political rule by the proletariat and the expropriation of the bourgeoisie as follows: introduction of a progressive income tax; the use of ground rent for public expenditures; abolition of the law of inheritance; the centralization of credit by a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly; centralization of transportation in the hands of the state; free and public education for all children, the banning of children from factory work ... The

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progressive income tax, the real estate tax, the death tax, the Central Bank, the state railroad, the prohibition of child labor, free education for children: now all these are self-evident facts in a democracy with universal electoral rights. For these achievements, which were still utopian for Marx, no communist revolution was necessary.” (Hans Mundorf, Handelsblatt, February 25, 1998)

We refrain again from pointing out that these demands are by no means exhausted in the Communist Manifesto as the final goal of the revolution. And we refrain from a few small misinterpretations of the demands quoted by the writer in the business journal – e.g., public and free education of all children is something slightly different than free instruction in public schools; as far as we know, the burdens of raising the young, including the not insignificant costs of “higher” education, are furthermore fully and completely the private concern of the happy parents; and surely the abolition of inheritance, gently said, is a somewhat more radical intervention into the agenda of private property than the collection of a death tax; anyhow, we can anticipate the screams about expropriation from the editorial staff of the business journal if a single government authority were to consider for a minute abolishing the law of succession... But as said: if one refrains from all this, we can assume confidently that Marx and Engels would today be guest commentators for the business journal.

If they were not so busy writing Sunday sermons. Because, despite all its excesses, the Communist Manifesto is exposed as

4. A valuable scripture for moral edification

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung permits an

American philosopher to praise the Communist Manifesto,

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along with the New Testament, as “documents of hope” which can contribute a lot to the moral education of the youth today:

“Parents and teachers should encourage young people to read both books. The young will be morally better for having done so. We should raise our children to find it intolerable that we FAZ-readers who sit behind desks and punch keyboards are paid ten times as much as people who get their hands dirty cleaning our toilets, and a hundred times as much as those who fabricate our keyboards in the Third World. We should ensure that they worry about the fact that countries which industrialized first have a hundred times the wealth of those which have not yet industrialized ... It is as true as it was in 1848 that the rich will always try to get richer by making the poor poorer, that total commodification of labor will lead to the immiseration of the wage-earners, and that 'the executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.'... It would be best, of course, if we could find a new document to provide the children with inspiration and hope – one which is as free of the defects of the New Testament as those of the Manifesto. It would be good to have a reformist text, one which lacks the apocalyptic character of both books – which does not say that all things must be made new, or that justice 'can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.' It would be well to have a document which spells out the details of a this-worldly utopia without assuring us that this utopia will emerge full-blown, and quickly, as soon as some single decisive change has occurred – as soon as private property is abolished, or as soon as we have all taken Jesus into our hearts.” (Richard Rorty, FAZ, February 20, 1998)

We like this: prepare the children only for “grief and worry” about the poverty of the world, suggest that this has something to do with the “collective affairs of the bourgeoisie,” only to then land on the wise admonition that

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nothing could be more fatal than an overthrow of the social relations which supply so much material for grief and worry. And what then do the children do with all their grief? No question: they become worried moralizers who allow the rest of humankind to be blessed with their dreams of a worldly paradise – if they have the luck to get hold of one of those rare well-paid jobs with a keyboard. For somebody for whom “abolish private property” and “allow Jesus into our hearts” are about the same, the re-conversion of Marxism from science into utopia is one of the easier exercises.

If he had not skimmed the Communist Manifesto only in search of his humanity-uplifting inspiration, perhaps the American professor would have tripped over the criticism of certain moral cranks that the two communists wrote 150 years ago:

“A part of the bourgeoisie is desirous of redressing social grievances in order to secure the continued existence of bourgeois society. To this section belong economists, philanthropists, humanitarians, improvers of the condition of the working class, organizers of charity, members of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, temperance fanatics, hole-and-corner reformers of every imaginable kind. This form of socialism has, moreover, been worked out into complete systems.”

It is hot off the press, really, again, old Marx... The reviewer who Der Zeit assigned the occasion of the

round birthday of the Communist Manifesto sets on this: he just picks his special “system of bourgeois socialism” from the paper:

“History rolls backwards. Policemen expel beggars from the shopping malls, reform of the education system is demanded, the Chancellor reminds the churches to care more about the souls of lambs than the justice of the markets. The sociologist Ulrich Beck propagates the re-establishment of medals for public work, and the leading intellectual force of

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the CDP, Klaus Haefner, suggests supplying the superfluous third of the population, instead of with money, with state-produced, cheap, natural produce (clothes, dinner, housing). Piece by piece, an order disappears in which the status of worker-citizen gave self-development, security and justice.” (Mathias Greiffrath, Der Zeit, February 5, 1998)

Here we see how the former years of West Germany’s “economic miracle capitalism” are glorified. We firmly hold that the conditions this man thinks he cannot tolerate and interprets as history “rolling backwards” are produced by capitalist society. Why then does he think a few lines later that the following Nietzsche quote sums up the point?

“But progress 'is possible', wrote the skeptic Nietzsche, if a 'conscious culture' administers 'the earth as a whole economically' and 'man has to set himself ecumenical goals embracing the whole earth.’ Today this means bringing about unequal development in a politically democratic system of the world: one compatible with the survival of the natural basis, sustainable growth in the south, an ecological disarmament of the energy- and raw material-gorging north... Today the word 'proletariat' is as worn out as 'class struggle', but in the idea of a global learning movement, not in an earthly paradise, lies the still valid idea of the 'Manifesto': in the postulating of a humanity in which each and everyone thinks, feels and also acts as a species being.” (ibid.)

It is so simple: by simply saying that words can be “worn out” (by too frequent use?), the thing they designate is also removed from the world. The result: “proletariat” and “class struggle” are out, “learning movement” and “species being” are in. What is annoying is that “humanity” expresses more or less the opposite of what was determinate with Proletariat. Because, on the contrary, “species being” probably means: “we” – “entrepreneurs” and “workers,” “politicians” and “subjects” – all sit in the same boat – the “spaceship earth” or something and, finally, must make ecology the “learning

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movement” .... No, Marx was not so silly. Certainly, he already criticized, over 100 years ago, the ruining of the environment – although it was not called that at that time. However, he always promised that the commercial principles of the capitalist economy would ensure the growing misery of the masses and the poisoning of their natural living conditions.

* The authors of the Communist Manifesto wanted to

appeal not to a collection of “responsible species beings,” but to make clear that the capitalist production of wealth leads to the international pauperization of the workers. They held it to be an intolerable contradiction that demands dissolution. But a dissolution that does not take place inevitably; otherwise, they could also have saved themselves the trouble of composing a Communist Manifesto. They were convinced of the necessity of a proletarian revolution in the sense that it must be made.

However, precisely in this respect the Communist Manifesto is quite criticizeable.

II. The Communist Manifesto – a revolutionary

program: badly reasoned, a little bit deceiving and politically rather misleading

Chapter 1: “Bourgeois and proletarian” a) The characterization of the bourgeoisie The Communist Manifesto begins with an overview of

the social conditions that extended over the world with the capitalist mode of production. The intention of the authors is clear: to define the class enemy. A new ruling class remodels the world “after its own image.” Their materialism of money drives them not only to overcome all traditional relations, but

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also to constantly revolutionize their own self-established relations:

“Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones.”

Even the state authority becomes a mere “committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.” And the whole thing happens at the expense of the equally new working class: the wage-laborers are the necessary victims of a mode of production in which the creation of gigantic wealth is based on the poverty of those who produce it. A never seen before class conflict enters the world: a completely new “brazen” form of “exploitation.”

So far, the depiction of the state of affairs. How then do the authors of the Communist Manifesto arrive at the idea of offering a short passage about the history of humanity to explain these conditions, one in which all the correct statements about the bourgeoisie are packed into a theory about an allegedly perpetual principle of historical development – because: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”? This is the assertion:

“We see, therefore, how the modern bourgeoisie is itself the product of a long course of development, of a series of revolutions in the modes of production and of exchange.” Even if it has been true that “oppressor and oppressed stood, in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes” – what would be gained with this for the apprehension of modern class society?

Indeed, this classification by Marx and Engels of the new bourgeois rule into a universal history of human exploitation actually does not even fit what they have to say about the

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subject. Not only cannot the eloquently sworn-to triumph of the capitalistically producing bourgeoisie over the old feudal relations truly be said to be a revolt by the suppressed against their oppressors: they also communicate completely different things about the new class conflict opened by the triumphant bourgeoisie, that it would be a new version of the old story of “freeman and slave, patrician and plebian,” etc. The capitalistically produced wealth strikes them as producing a never seen before sort of poverty:

“In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity – the epidemic of over-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism … And why? Because there is too much civilization, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce.”

The authors correctly note the capitalist absurdity that the production of abundance leads directly to distress. So they know, for the moment, that with the imposition of the new production relations, the worldwide poverty which private property necessarily produces has absolutely nothing to do with the absence of food, unlike the famines of past epochs. They subsume this knowledge, however, under the assertion that, in the end, this has always been so, and they make the abstract corny joke:

“At a certain stage in the development … relations of property became no longer compatible with the already developed productive forces.”

This contradiction is supposed to have previously led to the fall of feudalism; now the same contradiction is to be the final cause of the fall of the bourgeoisie:

“The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them… The weapons with which the bourgeoisie felled feudalism to the ground are now turned against the bourgeoisie itself.”

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In capitalist crises – over-production, on the one hand, and hunger on the other – the authors of the Communist Manifesto want to recognize a historical inevitability, according to which the bourgeoisie, through the assertion of their power, pursues their own overthrow as well.

In his critique of political economy, Marx provides the criticism of this idea. In the 15th chapter of Volume 3 of Capital, when he analyzes the regularities of capitalist crises, there is no more talk of “bourgeois conditions becoming too narrow for the wealth created by them.” There he analyzes the fact that, in times of overaccumulation, capitalist wealth is destroyed, so that the whole circus then begins anew “under expanded conditions of production, with an expanded market and increased productive forces.” Overaccummulation periodically leads to the depreciation and destruction of the productive forces, and this is the condition for the next cycle, for the “conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones,” as it also already says in the Communist Manifesto – however, this is not the same as a crisis of capitalism or even the beginning of its inevitable end owing to a definite incompatibility between the productive forces and “bourgeois ownership structures.”

However, the Communist Manifesto puts a lot of importance precisely on the assertion of an historically inevitable failure of the bourgeoisie because of their own achievements – precisely the Communist Manifesto that wants to give the impetus to a proletarian revolution, that hence assumes the rule of the capitalist class does not finish itself off automatically. The question, one more time: how did the two authors, who had written better, arrive in 1848 on the idea that the revolution to which they wanted to rouse the workers is, actually, already completely automatically on the way and on schedule?

Obviously, for them, it was an encouraging justification for the worker revolts taking place all over Europe at that

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time. The fighting proletarians should be given a picture about the real meaning of their struggles: no matter whether they saw it as such or not, they were welcomed as executors of a historic necessity. They could draw courage – according to the logic of the Communist Manifesto – from this historical classification because the best chance for success was thereby certified to their labor disputes by a quasi-higher control room: the victory of their cause cannot be far away because the interest in their struggle does not lie with themselves, but stands in harmony with the historic tendency, namely with the – ultimately – inevitable self-destruction of the bourgeoisie.

Now, however, this is a rather warped way of instigating an exploited class to revolution. Accordingly, this turns out to be questionable as the text continues:

b) The characterization of the proletariat “But not only has the bourgeoisie forged the weapons

that bring death to itself; it has also called into existence the men who are to wield those weapons – the modern working class – the proletarians.”

One hundred fifty years later, this sort of metaphor still compels the united “popes of literature” of all cultured nations to sing hymns of praise about its “eloquence” and “magnificent prose.” However, one could easily overlook the bombastic mode of expression if the message was at least correct – if it thus meant: “All appeals to something like a necessary failure of the bourgeoisie, that their self-produced contradictions lead by an automatic ‘course of history’ to the proletarian revolution, are a rhetorical game; everything depends on the modern workers, this characteristic product of the capitalist mode of production, drawing the correct conclusions from their hopeless position and defeating the bourgeoisie by refusing the services they are needed for.” However, it does not exactly continue like this. Some

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references follow the statement that the proletariat is the class of wage-laborers that is itself the product of the capitalistically economizing bourgeoisie, such as – complementary to the international, revolutionary machinations of the bourgeoisie – what modern exploitation and the exploited class looks like: that the “modern working class ... live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labor increases capital”; that in the enterprise they are used as “appendages of the machine”; that the wage which is paid to them does not make them rich, but a whole bunch of other figures – “house-owner, shopkeeper, pawnbroker” ... etc. However, it is worth no other consideration for Marx and Engels that this miserable class is grasped and organized as a means of capitalist enrichment of the bourgeoisie, as an immanent component of the new social relations. At least, they do not consider it necessary in their agitation – as they did later, e.g., in the critique of the Gotha program of German social democracy – to attack the miserable interest in jobs and wages that binds the working class to their exploiters. They make it clear that the wage is not a suitable means of survival; however, they see no reason near or far to take on the people “called into existence” by the bourgeoisie – never mind to address them appropriately – who position themselves, for want of a better means of living, on the point of view of money acquisition by wage labor and who thereby make themselves the exploited foot-soldiers of the bourgeoisie. They consider the fact that the proletariat is a product of the bourgeoisie as directly equivalent to it being the born fighter against the bourgeoisie:

”The proletariat goes through various stages of development. With its birth begins its struggle with the bourgeoisie.”

They can’t help it, the good proletarian “men,” from rising against the bourgeoisie; their affiliation to capitalist relations is equivalent to their abolition. They are the

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personified realization of the contradiction that the bourgeoisie prepares its own downfall by the development of the productive forces: this is the meaning that the authors of the Communist Manifesto make of their finding that the bourgeoisie produces the modern proletariat. All the references to the necessity for the injuries to the working class in this system serve this main and universal thought: the proletariat is the executor of the anyway inevitable downfall of the bourgeoisie.

Expressed in a different way: Marx and Engels here play a dishonest game with the category of “historic necessity.” In capitalist society, there is an automatically functioning objective constraint – precisely the exploitation of a class of wage laborers; and precisely, therefore, no objective constraint exists which would put an end to it. Instead, there is a historic necessity for the proletarian revolution – in the practical sense that this class arrives at relief in no other way: their political economic role, to serve the capitalist bourgeoisie as dependent, exploited tools of its enrichment, cannot be gotten rid of any other way than by the radical abolition of its employer-employee wage relationship. The proletarians have nothing at all – they have no other choice: to escape from their exploitation they must make the proletarian revolution that overthrows the capitalist mode of production. However, this necessity is not enough for the authors of the Communist Manifesto; they still want to infer from the fact that there is no alternative to a proletarian existence that the whole of capitalist exploitation therefore inevitably approaches its “natural” end, pursues to a certain extent its self-liquidation. Also the sentence which emphatically cites the “weapons” that the proletarians “are to wield” does not talk at all about the weapons that the workers would have to seize, but again means the “contradiction between the productive forces and relations of production” which Marx and Engels press idealistically into the fighting fists of the

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proles. Whenever the Communist Manifesto begins to talk about the position of the working class, it strives for an explanation of a “historic necessity for class struggle” in the sense of a mechanism that pushes the proles, allegedly perforce, on the revolutionary path. And this mechanism should be the work of the class enemy.

After this default, the Communist Manifesto constructs its picture of the “necessarily” fighting – and in the end victorious – working class:

“But with the development of industry, the proletariat not only increases in number; it becomes concentrated in greater masses, its strength grows, and it feels that strength more... the collisions between individual workmen and individual bourgeois take more and more the character of collisions between two classes. Thereupon, the workers begin to form combinations (trade unions) against the bourgeois; they club together in order to keep up the rate of wages; they found permanent associations in order to make provision beforehand for these occasional revolts… The real fruit of their battles lie not in the immediate result, but in the ever expanding union of the workers. It was just this contact that was needed to centralize the numerous local struggles, all of the same character, into one national struggle between classes… This organization of the proletarians into a class, and, consequently, into a political party, is continually being upset again by the competition between the workers themselves. But it ever rises up again, stronger, firmer, mightier.”

The authors of the Communist Manifesto know quite well that the workers must overcome their competitive point of view against each other in order to organize something against the bourgeoisie. It is well known to them that the wage-laborers are forced by capital into conditions in which they stand against each other for their vital interests. They do not even make anything of their previous point that this

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necessity “continually upsets” the “organization” of the wage-laborers “as a class.” The reason for it – evidently, the workers fighting for wages relate to the living conditions forced on them in such a way that they see their lives as being in the service of capital – however, they do not want to notice this; and the announcement of a few good reasons as to why the proletarians should repeal their competition against each other and decide to unite together in a front against capital seems completely dispensable to them in their Communist Manifesto. Instead, the authors spread the consoling assurance that the bourgeoisie drives the workers again and again, on a much higher scale, into a revolutionary combination. They take the liberty of seeing in wage conflicts, not the periodic interruption of competition, but a consistent line by the fighting revolutionary class that is interrupted only sporadically by relapses into competition. The program, which the addressed proletarians would have to see and put into practice, becomes in the light of this interpretation a process of development that is automatically ensured by the machinations of the bourgeoisie:

“The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie” – in the first part of the chapter this class is still quite a go-getting revolutionary association! – “replaces the isolation of the laborers, due to competition” – as if this was a question of the productive technology! – “by the revolutionary combination, due to association” – as if the workers did not only have to decide on it! “The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.”

One does not need to explain the basic reasons for this to the proletarians at all; their struggle automatically aims at the correct thing; for victory over the bourgeoisie, it needs only

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the union of its victims, and finally makes itself automatically ...: in their characterization of the proletariat, the authors of the Communist Manifesto assume it to be the most self-evident fact that everything that is clear to them about modern capitalist exploitation and the struggles for survival of the working class stand without further ado clearly in front of everyone’s eyes, and to the affected persons directly. In this sense, in the first sections of their writing on the world-shaking achievements of the bourgeoisie, they already granted the mode of exploitation the advantage of absolute unmistakeableness: nobody who looks at the society should still be able to hold illusions about the main front between exploiters and exploited.

“In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation…. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind.”

Here effects are ascribed to bourgeois society in the area of consciousness-raising which are simply not correct: precisely in capitalism, in the relation of factory owner and free wage-laborer, or in modern terms – employer and employee – exploitation should stand naked and shameless before everyone’s eyes! It may be correct that the bourgeois subject shifts the whole world to their materialism of money and all the rest of society to the status of paid wage servants. But it cannot possibly be true that there would therefore no longer be false consciousness and ideologies about this relation of production, with its “meritocracy” and its “free market economy.” This is exactly what is maintained, however, by the same man who later explained commodity fetishism in Chapter 1 of Volume 1 of Capital:

“Let us now transport ourselves … to the European middle ages …. Here the particular and natural form of

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labour, and not, as in a society based on production of commodities, its general abstract form is the immediate social form of labour. Compulsory labour is just as properly measured by time, as commodity-producing labour; but every serf knows that what he expends in the service of his lord, is a definite quantity of his own personal labour power. The tithe to be rendered to the priest is more matter of fact than his blessing. No matter, then, what we may think of the parts played by the different classes of people themselves in this society, the social relations between individuals in the performance of their labour, appear at all events as their own mutual personal relations, and are not disguised under the shape of social relations between the products of labour…. Those ancient social organisms of production are, as compared with bourgeois society, extremely simple and transparent.”

The “old” Marx was smarter than the “young” – but he was not stupid either. How did he come to state that, with the victory of the bourgeoisie, “naked, shameless exploitation” would be so clear to anyone with eyes like himself? It had evidently become clear to him and his comrade Engels, from the bitter workers’ battles, that the proletariat could absolutely not survive without defending itself against the bourgeoisie. The recently appeared working class responded with resistance to those living conditions that the ardent supporters of our modern “social market economy” also condemn as “Manchester capitalism.” It could not be overlooked that the absolute rule of private property leaves the workers no chance of survival, so that their battle against the bourgeoisie is a condition for their survival. From this, Marx and Engels drew the incorrect reverse conclusion: that the survival of the proletarians as a class, basically of class society in the interests of the ruling class, would also be incompatible with their class rule:

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“It [the bourgeoisie] is unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery, because it cannot help letting him sink into such a state, that it has to feed him, instead of being fed by him.”

Therefore, every worker's fight, every success in the battle for the preservation of the proletariat, could only be another step in the abolition of the bourgeoisie:

“All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority. The proletariat, the lowest stratum of our present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, without the whole superincumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air.”

The objective for which the proletariat “rises” here appears to the authors of the Communist Manifesto as completely insignificant – although this only depends on whether, with such a revolt, the whole “official society [is] sprung into the air” or, exactly vice versa, the proletarians are functionalized into the employer-employee relationship. They paint a rather mechanical picture of a revolution in which the “raising” of the “lowest,” quantitatively strongest “stratum” must inevitably blow away the higher, thinner “strata.”

“In depicting the most general phases of the development of the proletariat, we traced the more or less veiled civil war, raging within existing society, up to the point where that war breaks out into open revolution, and where the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat.”

So the Communist Manifesto propagates a revolution-expectant version of a very modern self-satisfied counter-revolutionary mistake: the creation and preservation of a useful working class is the same thing as its abolition. Today bourgeois ideologists want to be able to discover far and wide no more proletariat because there is, finally, an absolutely

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viable work force – even social welfare assistance for those who are sustained “by capital” must be done away with because capital does not need them for its propagation; and “Manchester capitalism” does not predominate anywhere in the capitalist metropolises anyhow, or at least not in the nicer quarters… In reverse, the authors of the Communist Manifesto regarded it as impossible for capital to be forced to respect its own all-important condition for success, namely the preservation of a functional working class – by forcing a functional survival from paid wages, namely by the welfare state authority ordering it from the proletariat: nevertheless, they believed that the self-fought for survival of the working class would coincide with its victory over their exploiters...

At this point, it is necessary to reproach the otherwise esteemed comrades Marx and Engels not only for a false conclusion, but for a proper “blackout”: the same authors who were continuously confronted in practice by the government authority and its machinations, and who were, besides, also state-theoretically fully at their height – e.g. in the debates with Hegel and Bruno Bauer they knew how to differentiate correctly and clearly between “citizen” and “bourgeois”: just nothing intelligent occurs in the Communist Manifesto about the political rule of the bourgeoisie. They mention that the modern bourgeois government authority is nothing but a “committee” which has the collective affairs of the whole ruling class under control. On that point, however, everything that this committee performs, as opposed to the narrow-minded bourgeois class interest in private enrichment, in which the above-mentioned “collective affairs” of the ruling class as such actually exists; why they need comprehensive force for its administration; what service the public authority produces for the maintenance of the capitalist system of rule: they remain silent about all this – so that today every welfare state apostle can point out triumphantly that now everything is regulated in the best way in the interests of the workers. What

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occurs to them then, however, about the political rule of the bourgeoisie is just one more point where they again switch to their theory of the self-caused downfall of bourgeois class rule: the bourgeoisie could need – and actually one day did need – the support of the proletariat for their struggle for state power against the old feudal relations of rule, as well as for the interests of the new bourgeois community; therefore, it would have to supply a lot of “elements of political and general education” that would then inevitably benefit the proletarians in their class struggle. That the bourgeoisie also actually got this support, and to be sure without it their rule would have gone straight into the pillory, does not disturb the authors of the Communist Manifesto in the least. They do not stray from their view that the revolutionary cause would be thereby advanced quite well in principle. On the contrary! The fatal circumstance that the proletariat has too often fought for its new bourgeois masters – and not too seldom! – is easily integrated into the general verdict: the bourgeoisie works on its decline.

“Altogether, collisions between the classes of the old society further in many ways the course of development of the proletariat. The bourgeoisie finds itself involved in a constant battle. At first with the aristocracy; later on, with those portions of the bourgeoisie itself, whose interests have become antagonistic to the progress of industry; at all time with the bourgeoisie of foreign countries. In all these battles, it sees itself compelled to appeal to the proletariat, to ask for help, and thus to drag it into the political arena. The bourgeoisie itself, therefore, supplies the proletariat with its own elements of political and general education, in other words, it furnishes the proletariat with weapons for fighting the bourgeoisie.”

Proles can be used by the bourgeoisie against the aristocracy; they line up as “allied comrades” against the bourgeoisie “of foreign countries” – but no queasy feeling

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overcomes the authors of the Communist Manifesto. They welcome the political service of the proletariat in the state of the bourgeoisie, like a “cunning of reason” for the consolidation of the proletariat by its class enemy. And the small side contradiction does not even strike them, that their statements about the absolutely non-existing interest of the bourgeoisie in sustaining the proletariat cannot be the whole truth, or at least requires modification, if the wage-laboring masses are depended on not only as a production factor and cost factor, but also as a people serviceable to the state: certainly, the bourgeoisie have no excess interest in the sustenance of the proletariat; but to the extent that they need the proles, they provide for their foot-soldiers under the higher viewpoint of national self-preservation...

It is not just that the Communist Manifesto lacks a sophisticated theory of the state. It is worse: Marx and Engels know about the functionalization of the proletarians for the political rule of the bourgeoisie – and want to know nothing other than the expected and not occurring positive effect: the revolutionary class would thereby only be even bigger and more powerful...

Marx and Engels do not descend from these mistakes in their Communist Manifesto.

Chapter 2: “Proletarians and communists” If this is how the society, the class struggle and the

proletariat now stands: then what do the communists want? The answer of the Communist Manifesto is peculiar: first of all, they allegedly want nothing different than all the other workers' parties! If that were really the case, then they would not need their own party. How necessary they find this, however, and why their agreement in principle with the rest of the labor movement does not go very far, Marx and Engels emphatically clarify when they criticize the leading thinkers

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of the other socialist movements, more or less widespread at that time, in the 3rd chapter of the Communist Manifesto.

The second assurance is still dubious: “They [the communists] have no interests separate and

apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mold the proletarian movement.”

Here the leading theoreticians of communism write a Communist Manifesto, meaning that they have something to communicate to the workers which they should take good head of, and deny at first every real difference between themselves and the addressed masses. They want only one difference to pertain: that communists “always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole” and actually have the advantage of “clearly understanding the lines of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement” ahead of the rest of the team. Which is it: one fights more or less without ideas, the other knows where it is headed in the long run – but the main thing is that one does not differ in principle?! If communists are not needed to represent the “interest of the whole movement”, then there can hardly be talk of a “whole movement” and their “interest” does not exist at all – except in the heads of the communists: as their program which they intend to make accessible to the workers. In the meantime, what exists on the side of the fighting workers are evidently only individual interests, which proves that there is still no revolutionary “movement as a whole.” With their construction of an overarching general interest, over which the communists watch as “practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties,” Marx and Engels also admit, on the one hand, that the labor disputes of that time defended quite different interests than a proletarian revolution in their sense. On the other hand, they deny exactly this difference between their point of view and

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the goals for which the workers fight when they argue “simply” for the improvement of their conditions as wage laborers. They broadmindedly ignore the competitive point of view of the wage-laborers that they find in the struggles for individual interests and easily state that these act as parts of the big battle for the whole. If they state that only the communists “clearly understand the lines of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement,” then it is probably correct that the rest of the team pursues other objectives than the communist revolutionaries. With their doubtful praise of the fighting workers – who have, certainly, no idea, but somehow are already on the right track – they assume a conflict between their program and the will and consciousness of the proletariat, and explain it at the same time as insignificant.

In the 4th chapter of the Communist Manifesto, which gives in detail the “relations of the communists to the various opposition parties” in various countries, the authors sum up this mistake, one more time, as follows:

“In short, the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things. In all these movements, they bring to the front, as the leading question in each, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time.”

If one must constantly emphasize the “property question” because it is evidently more or less “undeveloped” in the various opposition movements, then one should better note immediately that these movements are concerned with other “basic questions” than the abolition of private property. Then, however, it is also nonsensical to act as if communists only have to remind all members of the opposition all the time, all the same, what they fight for, and only of the fact that for them too, nevertheless – ultimately – it is also about the property question.

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How do communists arrive at such well-meaning self-denial? Obviously, at that time Marx and Engels noticed a lot of working class struggles whose immediate aims they did not share, but which they also did not want to criticize. Instead, they welcomed them under the abstraction “class struggle” and presented to the proletariat the reassuring offer that the communists always keep the correct overview about where the fighting proletariat must go and wants to go. Instead of agitation and criticism, they shifted to a kind of public relations: communists trust that the proletariat is on the right track completely by itself already – vice versa, the proletariat can rely on the communists as a “signpost.” Altogether, this denial of the difference between communists and proles is a hypocrisy – and with just such a sucking up to the addressees, who they still concede have no notion of the aims of the revolution, the authors of the Communist Manifesto believe they can inspire the workers to a revolution!

The position that Marx and Engels take here to the proletariat shows which “intellectual school” the two had recently said goodbye to. Obviously, as good communists, they recognized not only the class struggle of the proletarians against their exploitation as a practical necessity for a decent life, but as idealists of a progress for humanity they interpreted a deeper meaning in the struggles actually taking place. Only then would someone on the path “from utopia to science” think the following worth communicating:

“The theoretical conclusions of the Communists are in no way based on ideas or principles that have been invented, or discovered, by this or that would-be universal reformer. They merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from a historical movement going on under our very eyes. The abolition of existing property relations is not at all a distinctive feature of communism.”

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Anyone who protests with the realism of his ideas is reminiscent of all modest intellectuals who always want their ideas to only be an expression of reality – and tacitly assumes that “reality” is nothing else but the expression of their ideas. Thus the historical-teleological talk about the search for a really existing executive agent for their idea – or expressed somewhat friendlier: this is how someone talks who is forging ahead from the “poverty of philosophy” to scientific economics. A communist diagnosis which bases its judgments not on philosophic ideas, but on the analysis of social reality, does not have to insure its proximity to reality – with the stupid methodological “argument” that “reality” has not been purged from this analysis. The recommendation to the wage-laborers, that they should overturn the wage system because otherwise their material interests have no chance, gains nothing from the assertion that it would only be “an expression of” a subversive movement which is taking place in the society anyway – and only too surely nothing from the statement that, in earlier epochs of history, social relations were also overturned and to that extent “the abolition of existing property relations is not at all a distinctive feature of communism.” However, in the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels regard this announcement as eminently important: they held it as a crucial message that communists differ fundamentally from philosophic cranks who think that ideas change the world; as if their methodical insight that philosophy has been “turned off its head, on which it was standing, and placed upon its feet” would be a message which the fighting proletariat eagerly awaits. It is to Marx and Engels' credit that they said goodbye to philosophy, thus also to this point of view, and dedicated themselves instead to the criticism of political economy – and to the wrong objectives of the social democratic workers’ movement.

After the world-historical meaning of the ongoing worker's struggles is clarified in this respect, the authors busy

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themselves with the rejection of unjustified accusations against communists. It should not be mistaken that here they are arguing against objections that were raised only by the bourgeoisie, who they directly address polemically. Their answers to the usual anti-communist accusations are basically a point for point confession as to how little the communists are actually in agreement with the demands of the fighting proles, much more so than their talk would indicate – and exactly the same for their many incorrect disclaimers.

On property, it occurs to them that: “The distinguishing feature of communism is not the

abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property… When, therefore, capital is converted into common property, into the property of all members of society, personal property is not thereby transformed into social property. It is only the social character of the property that is changed. It loses its class character.”

The distinction between property in general and its social character poses an enigma to Marxists. Because this is what constitutes property: the exclusive control over objective wealth has general validity only owing to state decree, and this is the basis of the capitalist relations of production – the authors can’t possibly have had this in mind if they wanted to make a distinction between an almost eternal property and a social form of property that exists apart from it. (They were probably thinking of Hegel’s idea: the “will which must give itself an exterior reality through labor” and similar insights from philosophy.) Obviously, Marx and Engels, in writing the Communist Manifesto, have not yet stood their Hegel so completely “from his head onto his feet”...

Otherwise, the following antithesis in the figure of the capitalist would not have occurred to them:

“To be a capitalist, is to have not only a purely personal, but a social STATUS in production. Capital is a collective product, and only by the united action of many members, nay,

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in the last resort, only by the united action of all members of society, can it be set in motion. Capital is therefore not only personal; it is a social power.”

The discovery that capitalist property is a “collective product” and, as means of production, part of a social production process, may be adequate for breaking the spell of the idea of a personality that is realized in one’s property and for making a fool of the capitalist. However, it just does not follow from the finding that the proletarians only need to chase away the capitalists like a superfluous addition to the long-ago realized total social division of labor, and the “true” social nature of capital would appear and assert itself against its “alienation” in the light of an individual relation between the capitalist and production. The “social position” of the capitalist “in production” consists rather in that he disposes over it completely personally, by the force of legally protected property. The fact that one “collectively” produces does not stand in – revealed – conflict with the privacy of capital; his private power is rather social in that it is the whole mode of production. And, therefore, communism also does not have in mind only a modification of the “social character of property” if, as the Communist Manifesto announces, it demands the “abolition of private property”: it is already against property itself, not because it has one or another “social character,” but because it causes the “character” of the whole society, i.e. its mode of production.

From their doubtful theory of property, the authors go on, without a break, to a bad wage theory:

“The average price of wage labor is the minimum wage, i.e., that quantum of the means of subsistence which is absolutely requisite to keep the laborer in bare existence as a laborer. What, therefore, the wage laborer appropriates by means of his labor merely suffices to prolong and reproduce a bare existence. We by no means intend to abolish this personal appropriation of the products of labor, an

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appropriation that is made for the maintenance and reproduction of human life, and that leaves no surplus wherewith to command the labor of others. All that we want to do away with is the miserable character of this appropriation, under which the laborer lives merely to increase capital, and is allowed to live only in so far as the interest of the ruling class requires it…. 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 labor of others by means of such appropriations.”

This sounds a little bit like a reassurance: communists certainly don't want to take anything away from the workers! And a wage theory of limited appropriation is attempted for this. The authors here should have first clearly decided: the wage is an acquisition of the means of subsistence which communists do not want to take away from the workers; – or wage labor means that the worker “lives merely to increase capital, and is allowed to live only in so far as the interest of the ruling class requires it”? If the latter, then the wage is not only the subsistence of the workers in a very cynical sense, i.e. it is not at all their means; then it is rather, first of all, a means of capital – and one can confidently expect the message to the workers in a Communist Manifesto: communists abolish the wage, by the way.

Somehow, this is also in there – “there can no longer be any wage labor when there is no longer any capital”; the Communist Manifesto calls this a “tautology.” But Marx explained only later in his “critique of political economy” that, in the normal case, the wage does not split into an appropriation of the vital necessities by the worker and a “miserable character of this appropriation,” namely the conditions set by the bourgeoisie for appropriating a wage. The wage is a part of capital – “variable capital”; on the side of the workers, it presupposes propertylessness and reproduces it. The wage-laborer actually gets none of the

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work product at all; absolutely nothing belongs to him of the products that he produces. Hence, all the so nicely appeasing “onlys” that are put in the text of the Manifesto are incorrect: with the abolition of capital, not “only” is a “miserable” form of appropriation of labor products replaced by a better one, but a sort of labor is abolished which, from the start, produces nothing but capitalist private property – thus wage labor itself. And, therefore, it is also not correct that “communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society” but only “deprives him of the power to subjugate the labor of others by means of such appropriations”: what is “social” in the products of capital is precisely that they are not at all available for anyone to appropriate, but are from the start capitalist private property; production by wage-labor and appropriation through capital are one and the same; therefore, the “power to subjugate the labor of others” is not added on to a “normal” way of appropriating goods, but is the whole economic content of the whole appropriation process, the starting point and the end point of all commodity production. The removal of this power is thus surely no “only”, and it also lets no customary type of “personal” appropriation of “social products” exist – rather communism creates for the first time such a relation...

The comments in the Communist Manifesto about personality and freedom are also not top performances in Marxist theory. We find out that communists allegedly have nothing against these high values in themselves, but have in mind only the “abolition of bourgeois individuality, bourgeois independence, and bourgeois freedom.” It was obviously not yet quite clear to the authors of the Communist Manifesto that the bourgeoisie exists not only on exchange value, but that bourgeois freedom actually has no other content than the unconditional acceptance of exchange value, thus the bondage of “personality” to property as its sole provision. In the 2nd chapter of Volume 1 of “Capital,” this is no longer

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ambiguous: the person is nothing other than the “guardian of commodities,” the trustee of the price form; the mutual acknowledgment of individuals as private owners is almost objectively given by the economic relationship established by the commodity character of wealth:

“The persons exist here for one another only as representatives of commodities, therefore as commodity owners. As we proceed to develop our investigation, we shall find, in general, that the persons’ character masks are mere personification of the economic relations, as whose carriers they confront each other.”

This is how personality lives and breathes in bourgeois society: as personifications of the price form, its members always line up against each other. Everyone stands under the premise that he is only in it for himself, just trying to do the best for himself and his life with his means. Everyone, including the proletarian, stands only in a commodity relation with the rest of society – also to the entrepreneur who employs him. Modern personalities are so thoroughly representatives of the price form that they bring this up in every situation in which they interact with each other: everything – up to their love life – becomes a question of the acknowledgment and investigation of the other personality's market value – according to the pattern: “What do I get from you for what I invest in you?” So the self-confident members of bourgeois society deal with each other without having the slightest consciousness of the fact that they are nothing other than “character masks of the economic relations.” The wage-laborers also do not go into the factory to serve capital, but to provide for their own living costs. The working class exists in capitalism as proudly free, thinking-only-for-themselves personalities. Therefore, communism abolishes not only the “bourgeois personality,” but also the proletarian personality, because all worthy persons in bourgeois society behave as nothing other than “personifications of economic relations.”

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On the family: it might once have been quite nice to box the ears of the bourgeois who pretends to be a keeper and savior of family life for hypocrisy in regard to conjugal loyalty and morality. The limit to this sort of polemic becomes clear when it is no longer quite clear whether someone who raises the reproach of hypocrisy sides with the ideal with which he knocks the “hypocrites.” It might be refreshing if the Communist Manifesto expressed itself for an open, honest polygamy. Its not in order, however, to go against it by saying: finally, nevertheless, we communists complete “only” a destruction of custom and behavior that the was begun long ago by the bourgeoisie – even if only secretly. In the end, it still comes off as if the bourgeois, with his morally-denied immorality, was just a model and forerunner of the communist criticism of family life.

This pattern of argumentation becomes particularly fatal with the polemical treatment of the reproach: “communists want to abolish the fatherland, the nation.” One could simply say: exactly, we want to do this, and we also have good reasons for it... Instead, the Communist Manifesto strives even here to prove that the bourgeoisie already – only! – works on the disappearance of nations:

“National differences and antagonism between peoples are daily more and more vanishing, owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to freedom of commerce, to the world market, to uniformity in the mode of production and in the conditions of life corresponding thereto. The supremacy of the proletariat will cause them to vanish still faster.”

The worldwide leveling of living conditions by capital is one thing; Marx and Engels are correct about the “national differences between peoples.” However, the “antagonisms between peoples” are another thing altogether: they do not disappear at all “owing to the development of the bourgeoisie”; they generally receive only a more solid foundation in the growing competition of the national state

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powers, whose wealth is based on their respective capitalist economies. This is even suggested a few lines further down in the Communist Manifesto:

“In proportion as the exploitation of one individual by another will also be put an end to, the exploitation of one nation by another will also be put an end to. In proportion as the antagonism between classes within the nation vanishes, the hostility of one nation to another will come to an end.”

If, in order to end the hostilities between nations, the abolition of class antagonism is necessary internally – thus requiring nothing less than a revolution – then the fact that the modern nation state is how the bourgeoisie rules politically suggests that this form of rule includes lots of reasons for strife between nations. Then, however, in this question one better not state that communists want “only” to complete a historic tendency that the bourgeoisie has already introduced.

Finally, the concern with “eternal truths like freedom, justice, etc,” which communists are charged with undermining. It is already extremely tangled to protest against this reproach that new rulers have always cleared away old ideologies, and that is why the advance of the class struggle only continues and completes the destructive work of the bourgeoisie in the world of ideas of feudalism. This reply is introduced with a rather crude theory of false consciousness:

“The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class.”

If one looks around the world of the higher nonsense, this cannot be the whole truth. In any case, the actual ruling ideas are often so confusing that the ruling class has difficulties understanding them. But if it should be about the ruling ideas, Marx and Engels would have to offer more in criticism – in other writings they provided it – than the general reference “that the social consciousness of past ages ... moves within certain common forms”. And to explain the communist aversion to religion and morality by stating that this is “no

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wonder” given that they want “the most radical rupture with traditional relations” is almost more an excuse than a contribution to the fight against false consciousness.

* “But let us have done with the bourgeois objections to

communism.” Only the last page of the 2nd chapter of the pamphlet

really represents anything like a Communist Manifesto. Here programmatic demands are raised – only for what!

As the first step, we find out that the proletariat must seize political supremacy. Here one can only say: what else! Even if we, after our knowledge of modern democracy, would never ever equate this with “winning the battle of democracy”. But anyway:

The following economic program is outlined conspicuously less clearly. If it says there:

“The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie…”

then, nevertheless, one would like to insist that “wresting away” and “abolishing” are not exactly the same. No question also about the loss of power of the bourgeoisie.

“Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production.”

But why in the world should these “measures” “appear economically insufficient and untenable” and justify themselves only by the fact that they inevitably “necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionizing the mode of production”? Should the power of the state conquered by the proletariat initiate yet again a self-regulating economy, a historical mechanism that helps the goals of the proletarian revolution break through virtually “behind the back” of the active subjects? A final goal which nobody wants: the abolition of capitalism should be initiated by means of “partial

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victories” which have nothing to do with a communist revolution for which one looks for some allied comrades, at least in the “most advanced countries.”

This vision corresponds to the 10 demands at the end of the 2nd chapter, which today’s ideologists of the “social market economy” refer to so enthusiastically, because they see them fulfilled in modern capitalism – with the necessary “realistic” reductions, to be sure ...:

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. Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by

means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.

6. Centralization 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 obligation 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 labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc.

It speaks well for Marx and Engels that they later dissociated themselves from this “emergency program.” However, during the composition of the Communist

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Manifesto, they were convinced that striving for radical demands, which simultaneously try to undo the given relations and to make corrections to them, would be an adequate opening for a total revolution of the society. And however radical the demands may also be – they are still somewhat extreme for a modern bourgeois community, in any case completely subversive in 1848: they are thoroughly opportunistic. Existing reform movements agree and set at the same moment on the fact that, with every bourgeois reform, nothing less would be accomplished than another step toward the abolition of bourgeois society. However, a “strong progressive tax” on capitalist wealth is not a particularly appropriate combat measure to snatch all capital away “from the bourgeoisie gradually”; let alone that it would initiate the replacement of the capitalist mode of production by a rational social plan – at most, the government authority may assume the role of the capitalists, which, to be sure, most of the other demands also aim at. As if the state, when it merely centralizes the wealth of the society and replaces the capitalists with itself, was aiming at what communists want with their criticism of political economy, or at least a good condition for it and exactly what a triumphant proletariat would have to create with its conquered power!

In short: it shows that routes to the proletarian revolution “that outstrip themselves” are no guarantee. Because this is what the whole thing should result in:

“When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character… In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”

The final goal of this ”development” is rather the only step in the history of the world which quite definitely

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happens, not as an objective constraint “behind the backs” of the social character masks, but only when individuals really “associate themselves” with will and consciousness for what they plan. If anything, then such an association, in which the “free development of each is the condition for the free development all” – we let this count as a communist “answer” to the bourgeois ideal of the “freely developed personality” – is not an unconscious “self-surpassing” of a “historical development,” but only the common plan of people who know what they are doing.

Chapter 3: “Socialist and communist literature” Given. The authors themselves explained in the foreword

to the 2nd edition of the Communist Manifesto their reckoning with contemporary reactionaries and progressives was outdated. As well as

Chapter 4: “Position of the communists in relation to

the various existing opposition parties” “Further, it is self-evident that the criticism of socialist

literature is deficient in relation to the present time, because it comes down only to 1847; also that the remarks on the relation of the Communists to the various opposition parties (Section IV), although, in principle still correct, yet in practice are antiquated, because the political situation has been entirely changed, and the progress of history has swept from off the earth the greater portion of the political parties there enumerated.” (Marx/Engels, Foreword to the 1872 German Edition of the Communist Manifesto)

* The last section of the text still remains. Certainly, it

could do with a little less theatrics; then, at least, later representatives of the “ruling ideas” would not extol its

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beautiful oratory instead of “trembling before a communist revolution.” But to essentially adhere to this concluding avowal of the communist maxim of denying nothing and varnishing nothing:

“The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”

If only, in the preceding pages of their Communist Manifesto, the authors had kept to their maxim!

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90 years of the Communist Manifesto9

As early as their joint preface to the edition of 1872, Marx and Engels declared that despite the fact that certain secondary passages in the Manifesto were antiquated, they felt that they no longer had any right to alter the original text inasmuch as the Manifesto had already become a historical document, during the intervening period of twenty-five years. Sixty-five additional years have elapsed since that time.

Leon Trotsky

It is hard to believe that the centennial of the Manifesto of the Communist Party is only ten years away! This pamphlet, displaying greater genius than any other in world literature, astounds us even today by its freshness. Its most important sections appear to have been written yesterday. Assuredly, the young authors (Marx was twenty-nine, Engels twenty-seven) were able to look further into the future than anyone before them, and perhaps than anyone since them.

9 Sunday, 03 October 1937, In Defence of Marxism, http://www.marxist.com/trotsky-90-years-of-the-communist-manifesto.htm

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Isolated passages in the Manifesto have receded still further into the past. We shall try to establish succinctly in this preface both those ideas in the Manifesto which retain their full force today and those which require important alteration or amplification.

1. The materialist conception of history, discovered by Marx only a short while before and applied with consummate skill in the Manifesto, has completely withstood the test of events and the blows of hostile criticism. It constitutes today one of the most precious instruments of human thought. All other interpretations of the historical process have lost all scientific meaning. We can state with certainty that it is impossible in our time to be not only a revolutionary militant but even a literate observer in politics without assimilating the materialist interpretation of history.

2. The first chapter of the Manifesto opens with the following words: "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." This postulate, the most important conclusion drawn from the materialist interpretation of history, immediately became an issue in the class struggle. Especially venomous attacks were directed by reactionary hypocrites, liberal doctrinaires and idealistic democrats against the theory which substituted the struggle of material interests for "common welfare...... national unity," and "eternal moral truths" as the driving force of history. They were later joined by recruits from the ranks of the labour movement itself, by the so-called revisionists, i.e., the proponents of reviewing ("revising") Marxism in the spirit of class collaboration and class conciliation. Finally, in our own time, the same path has been followed in practice by the contemptible epigones of the Communist International (the Stalinists): the policy of the so-called People's Front flows wholly from the denial of the laws of the class struggle. Meanwhile, it is precisely the epoch of imperialism, bringing all social contradictions to the point of highest tension, which

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gives to the Communist Manifesto its supreme theoretical triumph.

3. The anatomy of capitalism, as a specific stage in the economic development of society, was given by Marx in its finished form in Capital (1867). But even in the Communist Manifesto the main lines of the future analysis are firmly sketched: the payment for labour power as equivalent to the cost of its reproduction; the appropriation of surplus value by the capitalists; competition as the basic law of social relations; the ruination of intermediate classes, i.e., the urban petty bourgeoisie and the peasantry; the concentration of wealth in the hands of an ever-diminishing number of property owners, at the one pole, and the numerical growth of the proletariat, at the other; the preparation of the material and political preconditions for the socialist regime.

4. The proposition in the Manifesto concerning the tendency of capitalism to lower the living standards of the workers, and even to transform them into paupers, had been subjected to a heavy barrage. Parsons, professors, ministers, journalists, Social Democratic theoreticians, and trade union leaders came to the front against the so-called "theory of impoverishment." They invariably discovered signs of growing prosperity among the toilers, palming off the labour aristocracy as the proletariat, or taking a fleeting tendency as permanent. Meanwhile, even the development of the mightiest capitalism in the world, namely, U.S. capitalism, has transformed millions of workers into paupers who are maintained at the expense of federal, municipal, or private charity.

5. As against the Manifesto, which depicted commercial and industrial crises as a series of ever more extensive catastrophes, the revisionists vowed that the national and international development of trusts would assure control over the market, and lead gradually to the abolition of crises. The close of the last century and the beginning of the present one

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were in reality marked by a development of capitalism so tempestuous as to make crises seem only "accidental" stoppages. But this epoch has gone beyond return. In the last analysis, truth proved to be on Marx's side in this question as well.

6. "The executive of the modem state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie." This succinct formula, which the leaders of the Social Democracy looked upon as a journalistic paradox, contains in fact the only scientific theory of the state. The democracy fashioned by the bourgeoisie is not, as both Bernstein and Kautsky thought, an empty sack which one can undisturbedly fill with any kind of class content. Bourgeois democracy can serve only the bourgeoisie. A government of the "People's Front," whether headed by Blum or Chautemps, Caballero or Negrin, is only "a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie." Whenever this "committee" manages affairs poorly, the bourgeoisie dismisses it with a boot.

7. "Every class struggle is a political struggle." "The organisation of the proletariat as a class is consequently its organisation into a political party." Trade unionists, on the one hand, and anarcho-syndicalists, on the other, have long shied away-and even now try to shy away-from the understanding of these historical laws. "Pure" trade unionism has now been dealt a crushing blow in its chief refuge: the United States. Anarcho-syndicalism has suffered an irreparable defeat in its last stronghold - Spain. Here too the Manifesto proved correct.

8.The proletariat cannot conquer power within the legal framework established by the bourgeoisie. "Communists openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions." Reformism sought to explain this postulate of the Manifesto on the grounds of the immaturity of the movement at that time

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and the inadequate development of democracy. The fate of Italian, German, and a great number of other "democracies" proves that "immaturity" is the distinguishing trait of the ideas of the reformists themselves.

9. For the socialist transformation of society, the working class must concentrate in its hands such power as can smash each and every political obstacle barring the road to the new system."The proletariat organised as the ruling class" - this is the dictatorship. At the same time it is the only true proletarian democracy. Its scope and depth depend upon concrete historical conditions. The greater the number of states that take the path of the socialist revolution, the freer and more flexible forms will the dictatorship assume, the broader and more deepgoing will be workers' democracy.

10. The international development of capitalism has predetermined the international character of the proletarian revolution. "United action, of the leading civilised countries at least, is one of the first conditions for the emancipation of the proletariat." The subsequent development of capitalism has so closely knit all sections of our planet, both "civilised" and "uncivilised," that the problem of the socialist revolution has completely and decisively assumed a world character. The Soviet bureaucracy attempted to liquidate the Manifesto with respect to this fundamental question. The Bonapartist degeneration of the Soviet state is an overwhelming illustration of the falseness of the theory of socialism in one country.

11. "When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character." In other words: the state withers away. Society remains, freed from the straitjacket. This is nothing else but socialism. The converse theorem: the monstrous growth of

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state coercion in the USSR is eloquent testimony that society is moving away from socialism.

12. "The workingmen have no fatherland." These words of the Manifesto have more than once been evaluated by Philistines as an agitational quip. As a matter of fact they provided the proletariat with the sole conceivable directive in the question of the capitalist "fatherland." The violation of this directive by the Second International brought about not only four years of devastation in Europe, but the present stagnation of world culture. In view of the impending new war, for which the betrayal of the Third International has paved the way, the Manifesto remains even now the most reliable counsellor on the question of the capitalist "fatherland." Thus, we see that the joint and rather brief production of two young authors continues to give irreplaceable directives upon the most important and burning questions of the struggle for emancipation. What other book could even distantly be compared with the Communist Manifesto? But this does not imply that after ninety years of unprecedented development of productive forces and vast social struggles, the Manifesto needs neither corrections nor additions. Revolutionary thought has nothing in common with idol-worship. Programmes and prognoses are tested and corrected in the light of experience, which is the supreme criterion of human reason. The Manifesto, too, requires corrections and additions. However, as is evidenced by historical experience itself, these corrections and additions can be Successfully made only by proceeding in accord with the method lodged in the foundation of the Manifesto itself. We shall try to indicate this in several most important instances.

1. Marx taught that no social system departs from the arena of history before exhausting its creative potentialities. The Manifesto excoriates capitalism for retarding the development of the productive forces. During that period, however, as well as in the following decades, this retardation

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was only relative in nature. Had it been possible in the second half of the nineteenth century to organise economy on socialist beginnings, its tempos of growth would have been immeasurably greater. But this theoretically irrefutable postulate does not invalidate the fact that the productive forces kept expanding on a world scale right up to the world war. Only in the last twenty years, despite the most modem conquests of science and technology, has the epoch of out-and-out stagnation and even decline of world economy begun. Mankind is beginning to expend its accumulated capital, while the next war threatens to destroy the very foundations of civilisation for many years to come. The authors of the Manifesto thought that capitalism would be scrapped long prior to the time when from a relatively reactionary regime it would turn into an absolutely reactionary regime. This transformation took final shape only before the eyes of the present generation, and changed our epoch into the epoch of wars, revolutions, and fascism.

2. The error of Marx and Engels in regard to the historical dates flowed, on the one hand, from an underestimation of future possibilities latent in capitalism, and, on the other, an overestimation of the revolutionary maturity of the proletariat. The revolution of 1848 did not turn into a socialist revolution as the Manifesto had calculated, but opened up to Germany the possibility of a vast future capitalist ascension. The Paris Commune proved that the proletariat, without having a tempered revolutionary party at its head cannot wrest power from the bourgeoisie. Meanwhile, the prolonged period of capitalist prosperity that ensued brought about not the education of the revolutionary vanguard, but rather the bourgeois degeneration of the labour aristocracy, which became in turn the chief brake on the proletarian revolution. In the nature of things, the authors of the Manifesto could not possibly have foreseen this "dialectic."

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3. For the Manifesto, capitalism was - the kingdom of free competition. While referring to the growing concentration of capital, the Manifesto did not draw the necessary conclusion in regard to monopoly, which has become the dominant capitalist form in our epoch and the most important precondition for socialist economy. Only afterwards, in Capital, did Marx establish the tendency towards the transformation of free competition into monopoly. It was Lenin who gave a scientific characterisation of monopoly capitalism in his "Imperialism."

4.Basing themselves on the example of "industrial revolution" in England, the authors of the Manifesto pictured far too unilaterally the process of liquidation of the intermediate classes, as a wholesale proletarianisation of crafts, petty trades, and peasantry. In point of fact, the elemental forces of competition have far from completed this simultaneously progressive and barbarous work. Capitalism has ruined the petty bourgeoisie at a much faster rate than it has proletarianised it. Furthermore, the bourgeois state has long directed its conscious policy toward the artificial maintenance of petty-bourgeois strata. At the opposite pole, the growth of technology and the rationalisation of large-scale industry engenders chronic unemployment and obstructs the proletarianisation of the petty bourgeoisie. Concurrently, the development of capitalism has accelerated in the extreme the growth of legions of technicians, administrators, commercial employees, in short, the so-called "new middle class." In consequence, the intermediate classes, to whose disappearance the Manifesto so categorically refers, comprise even in a country as highly industrialised as Germany about half of the population. However, the artificial preservation of antiquated petty-bourgeois strata in no way mitigates the social contradictions, but, on the contrary, invests them with a special malignancy, and together with the permanent army of

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the unemployed constitutes the most malevolent expression of the decay of capitalism.

5. Calculated for a revolutionary epoch the Manifesto contains (end of Chapter II) ten demands, corresponding to the period of direct transition from capitalism to socialism. In their preface of 1872, Marx and Engels declared these demands to be in part antiquated and, in any case, only of secondary importance. The reformists seized upon this evaluation to interpret it in the sense that transitional revolutionary demands had forever ceded their place to the Social Democratic "minimum programme," which, as is well known, does not transcend the limits of bourgeois democracy. As a matter of fact, the authors of the Manifesto indicated quite precisely the main correction of their transitional programme, namely, "the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes." In other words, the correction was directed against the fetishism of bourgeois democracy. Marx later counterpoised to the capitalist state, the state of the type of the Commune. This "type" subsequently assumed the much more graphic shape of soviets. There cannot be a revolutionary programme today without soviets and without workers control. As for the rest, the ten demands of the Manifesto, which appeared "archaic" in an epoch of peaceful parliamentary activity, have today regained completely their true significance. The Social Democratic "minimum programme," on the other hand, has become hopelessly antiquated.

6. Basing its expectation that "the German bourgeois revolution... will be but a prelude to an immediately following proletarian revolution," the Manifesto cites the much more advanced conditions of European civilisation as compared with what existed in England in the seventeenth century and in France in the eighteenth century, and the far greater development of the proletariat. The error in this

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prognosis was not only in the date. The revolution of 1848 revealed within a few months that precisely under more advanced conditions, none of the bourgeois classes is capable of bringing the revolution to its termination: the big and middle bourgeoisie is far too closely linked with the landowners and fettered by the fear of the masses; the petty bourgeoisie is far too divided and in its top leadership far too dependent on the big bourgeoisie. As evidenced by the entire subsequent course of development in Europe and Asia, the bourgeois revolution, taken by itself, can no more in general be consummated. A complete purge of feudal rubbish from society is conceivable only on the condition that the proletariat, freed from the influence of bourgeois parties, can take its stand at the head of the peasantry and establish its revolutionary dictatorship. By this token, the bourgeois revolution becomes interlaced with the first stage of the socialist revolution, subsequently to dissolve in the latter. The national revolution therewith becomes a link of the world revolution. The transformation of the economic foundation and of all social relations assumes a permanent (uninterrupted) character.

For revolutionary parties in backward countries of Asia, Latin America, and Africa, a clear understanding of the organic connection between the democratic revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat - and thereby, the international socialist revolution - is a life-and-death question.

7. While depicting how capitalism draws into its vortex backward and barbarous countries, the Manifesto contains no reference to the struggle of colonial and semi-colonial countries for independence. To the extent that Marx and Engels considered the social revolution "in the leading civilised countries at least," to be a matter of the next few years, the colonial question was resolved automatically for them, not in consequence of an independent movement of oppressed nationalities but in consequence of the victory of

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the proletariat in the metropolitan centres of capitalism. The questions of revolutionary strategy in colonial and semi-colonial countries are therefore not touched upon at all by the Manifesto. Yet these questions demand an independent solution. For example, it is quite self-evident that while the "national fatherland" has become the most baneful historical brake in advanced capitalist countries, it still remains a relatively progressive factor in backward countries compelled to struggle for an independent existence.

"The Communists," declares the Manifesto, "everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things." The movement of the coloured races against their imperialist oppressors is one of the most important and powerful movements against the existing order and therefore calls for the complete, unconditional, and unlimited support on the part of the proletariat of the white race. The credit for developing revolutionary strategy for oppressed nationalities belongs primarily to Lenin.

8.The most antiquated section of the Manifesto - with respect not to method but to material - is the criticism of "socialist" literature for the first part of the nineteenth century (chapter III) and the definition of the position of the Communists in relation to various opposition parties (chapter IV). The movements and parties listed in the Manifesto were so drastically swept away either by the revolution of 1848 or by the ensuing counter-revolution that one must look up even their names in a historical dictionary. However, in this section, too, the Manifesto is perhaps closer to us now than it was to the previous generation. In the epoch of the flowering of the Second International, when Marxism seemed to exert an undivided sway, the ideas of pre-Marxist socialism could have been considered as having receded decisively into the past. Things are otherwise today. The decomposition of the Social Democracy and the Communist International at every

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step engenders monstrous ideological relapses. Senile thought seems to have become infantile. In search of all-saving formulas the prophets in the epoch of decline discover anew doctrines long since buried by scientific socialism.

As touches the question of opposition parties, it is in this domain that the elapsed decades have introduced the most deepgoing changes, not only in the sense that the old parties have long been brushed aside by new ones, but also in the sense that the very character of parties and their mutual relations have radically changed in the conditions of the imperialist epoch. The Manifesto must therefore be amplified with the most important documents of the first four congresses of the Communist International, the essential literature of Bolshevism, and the decisions of the conferences of the Fourth International.

We have already remarked above that according to Marx no social order departs from the scene without first exhausting the potentialities latent in it. However, even an antiquated social order does not cede its place to a new order without resistance. A change in social regimes presupposes the harshest form of the class struggle, i.e., revolution. If the proletariat, for one reason or another, proves incapable of overthrowing with an audacious blow the outlived bourgeois order, then finance capital in the struggle to maintain its unstable rule can do nothing but turn the petty bourgeoisie ruined and demoralised by it into the pogrom army of fascism. The bourgeois degeneration of the Social Democracy and the fascist degeneration of the petty bourgeoisie are interlinked as cause and effect.

At the present time, the Third International far more wantonly than the Second performs in all countries the work of deceiving and demoralising the toilers. By massacring the vanguard of the Spanish proletariat, the unbridled hirelings of Moscow not only pave the way for fascism but execute a goodly share of its labours. The protracted crisis of the

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international revolution, which is turning more and more into a crisis of human culture, is reducible in its essentials to the crisis of revolutionary leadership.

As the heir to the great tradition, of which the Manifesto of the Communist Party forms the most precious link, the Fourth International is educating new cadres for the solution of old tasks. Theory is generalised reality, In an honest attitude to revolutionary theory is expressed the impassioned urge to reconstruct the social reality. That, in the southern part of the Dark Continent, our co-thinkers were the first to translate the Manifesto into the Afrikaans language is another graphic illustration of the fact that Marxist thought lives today only under the banner of the Fourth International. To it belongs the future. When the centennial of the Communist Manifesto is celebrated, the Fourth International will have become the decisive revolutionary force on our planet.

October 30, 1937

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Trotsky on the 90th Anniversary of the Communist Manifesto

Pablo Guadarrama González (Cuba)10

Leon Trotsky

A little more than 70 years ago a Russian revolutionary whose career was marked by both clarity and confusion, a characteristic of all social warriors, dedicated his life to the realization of the teachings of the Communist Manifesto. By 1938, ninety years after the first edition of the Manifesto, this revolutionary believed a reassessment of the main ideas contained in this historic document essential.

1, exiled by the country that had launched the world’s first socialist revolution, in which he had been one of the outstanding leaders, attempted to highlight those concepts he believed still held relevance in the middle of the 20th century. At the same time he proposed corrections and additions to the original document in keeping with the

10 MARX AHORA #15, 2003 , http://www.walterlippmann.com/trotsky-90.html

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changes that had taken place around the world, nine decades after publication.

At the beginning of the 21st century, more than 50 years after Trotsky’s study, it is both pertinent and necessary to analyse that reassessment. This is not for mere philological curiosity, but rather to reopen the debate on the validity of the Manifesto regarding the transformation of capitalist development under current circumstances, not forgetting that prevalent attitudes towards socialism after the collapse of the Soviet model are very different to when that model was at least superficially stable2.

Future researchers of current times will most certainly be interested in attitudes towards the Manifesto at the beginning of a new century in which communist ideology has lost much of its attraction after the fall of the Berlin wall.

It will always be both a political and cultural duty to pay respect to the validity of Marxism and to commemorate important events in socialist thinking and praxis, as occurred in 1998 on the 150th anniversary of the Manifesto3 or in 2003 on the 120th anniversary of the death of Marx. These occasions reaffirm the belief that the struggle to change the predominant economic and social reality should never cease.

First to clarify an ethical and professional moot point. 24 years after the first edition of the text the authors themselves recognised that “some points should be re-examined”4 and that “this programme has aged in some places”5, although they maintained that “nevertheless, the Manifesto is a historical document we no longer have the right to modify”.6 The natural respect they felt for the fundamental ideas born of their fruitful early years7 persuaded them to preserve the original text and merely add new prefaces as a means of rectification and renovation.

Such an attitude should form a basic premise for later analysis of the document, although this doesn’t negate critical reflections arising from the transformations in modern

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society.8 This also applies to later texts such as Capital, written by the same two authors, themselves fervent critics.9 Trotsky expounded that “revolutionary thought has nothing in common with idolatry. The programmes and predictions are tested against actual experience, which is the supreme tool of human reason. The Manifesto also requires corrections and additions”10. In Trotsky’s opinion, these corrections should be formulated using the methodology that provided the basis for the original text.

Although Trotsky does not specify precisely to which methodology he refers, it is logical to presume that this was no abstract dialectic that would solve all doubts with a wave of a magic wand. Rather, the methodology was what the Russian leader referred to, when stating that the first “idea contained in the Manifesto maintains all its vigour to this day”11 as “the materialistic conception of history, discovered by Marx a little earlier and applied with consummate mastery in the Manifesto”,12 which in his opinion “has perfectly resisted the verification of events and the blows of hostile criticism”13.

Of course, such a claim was and remains controversial in that it is not a simple matter to determine with acceptable certainty which are the key components of such a materialist conception of history or of the possible core14 of Marxist theory.

Some of Trotsky’s other opinions often hyperbolise the epistemological value of Marx and Engel’s ideas. He states for example: “all other interpretations of the historical process have lost all scientific significance”15. This denial of the value of other contributions to the study of historical development is not in keeping with the founding spirit of the authors of the Manifesto, characterized by the frank dialectic engagement advised by Marx, Engels and even Lenin, with the objective content of many products of bourgeois thought. One must not

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forget that the document in question is a manifesto which, owing to the normal characteristics associated with this sort of text, can be considered as a kind of call to action with grandiose phrases through which the authors explain the basic ideas, objectives and aspirations of the relevant programme. This type of convocation is usually formed in simple terms to enable its easy understanding by the broadest sectors of society. It is not designed for an intellectual elite who would naturally demand more profound reasoning and deeper theoretical foundations.

“If a manifesto is by definition schematic and purposeful”16 - as Francisco Fernández Buey claims in the prologue to the Spanish edition of the classic text published to commemorate its 150th anniversary – analysis of such a text need not conform to the rigors of critical brevity, although this remains a worthy goal.

The authors of the Manifesto used only 23 pages in the original German edition to express the basic characteristics of historical evolution, with particular reference to capitalist society, and the Communist programme that would avoid the resultant social alienation. Trotsky used a mere 11 pages in the Spanish version of his analysis of the original text that was published in 1938 in honour of the Manifesto’s 90th anniversary under the title “The programme of transition for the socialist revolution”.

Neither the original authors nor the critic attempted to write a treaty on the subject. Rather they outlined the fundamental theses of revolutionary transformation based upon serious and analytical examination of social development. This examination was contained in other texts and was merely touched upon in the Manifesto and required future and further amplification.

In its just over 150 years of existence countless detailed studies have been written in many languages on such a quantitatively small work as the Manifesto. There are many

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reasons why the dangerous ideas contained in this brief text have caused and continue to provoke unease amongst the kings of capitalism. For this reason we must also consider the literature produced by the Manifesto’s fiercest critics bent on erasing the text from the canons of world literature.

Marx and Engels accepted the responsibility of writing the Manifesto above all out of political conviction. Herein lies a great deal of its fundamental value, to which we must add its scientific and intellectual richness.

Any analysis of the Manifesto always adopts a political stance before the text, although some academics superficially claim otherwise. Trotsky was not so coy about the strong political beliefs that motivated his analysis of the document. Therefore, every one of his 12 conclusions on the relevant ideas contained in the Manifesto 90 years after its conception, as well as the eight additions and corrections he made, were motivated by his desire to carry forward the revolutionary project towards socialism which he, together with Marx and Engels, saw as a historical world project. His analysis was simultaneously a criticism of what he saw as a break from the founding socialist movement that led to the October Revolution.

In his second conclusion, supporting himself with the thesis that “the history of every society that has existed until today is the history of the class struggle”, he considers pure revisionism any actions of conciliation or collaboration between classes. He accuses those “disgraceful acolytes of the Communist International (the Stalinists)” of following the same path as the so-called Popular Front. In Trotsky’s opinion this group “arises utterly from the denial of the laws of the class war; when it is precisely the imperialist age that puts social contradictions under the most extreme tension, thereby giving the Communist Manifesto its ultimate victory”17.

On this point it seems that Trotsky completely ignores Part IV of the same Manifesto that offers advice to the

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communists when dealing with different opposition parties, and not simply those in existence in Marx and Engels’ time. The Manifesto declares that “the communists work everywhere for union and agreement between democratic parties in all countries.”18

Such necessary alliances should be formed under specific circumstances which favour gains for the proletariat. This was put into practice by Lenin whom Trotsky, despite initial disagreements, greatly admired. For Trotsky, “Lenin’s school was one of revolutionary realism”19. Lenin’s acceptance of Trotsky into the Bolshevik ranks in the immediate run up to the launch of the socialist revolution in Russia is clear proof of the validity of this policy.

Therefore, opposition to the essential alliance between democratic forces and communists against fascism in the 1930s demonstrated that such extreme leftists views as those held by Trotsky on the role of the class struggle were not only foolishly romantic but also endangered the future of the first socialist revolution the world had ever seen.

Trotsky’s third observation is accurate in a general sense. Here he claims that although the anatomy of capitalism was thoroughly examined in Capital (1887): “in the Communist Manifesto the principal lines of future analysis are already outlined”20. Amongst other advanced ideas he highlights the process of “concentration of wealth amongst an ever smaller number of owners in one pole and the numerical growth of the proletariat in the other; the preparation of the material and political conditions necessary for a socialist regime.”21

It is precisely through the huge profits made through this international economic disorder that enables the capitalist intelligentsia to “unconsciously” bribe the working and under classes and thus creates escape valves to prevent social explosions that could lead to revolutions.

These protection mechanisms engendered by capitalism for its own survival were not completely apparent in their full

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magnitude at the time the Manifesto was written. Although by the time Trotsky was writing his analysis these techniques were more universally applied, they were still not accorded sufficient importance by the Russian revolutionary.

This is the only way in which we may understand his fourth conclusion on the theory of pauperisation, in which he considers the formation of a working class aristocracy as a transient tendency rather than an established phenomenon. Experience has demonstrated that capitalism seeks to permanently reproduce the mechanisms of division amongst the populace including the creation of a working class aristocracy or the favouring of the employed with privileges not available to the under and unemployed. This can be seen both in underdeveloped and developed countries, although a certain degree of homogenisation can be observed due to the increase in destitution the world over.22

Defending the validity of the growing pauperisation of the working class and other intermediate classes as expressed in the Manifesto , Trotsky minimizes the importance of the resources invested by capitalism to ensure its own survival, even when such investment entails certain “sacrifices” and a relative reduction in the profits taken by large and medium-sized businesses. Trotsky also pays scant attention to the numerous methods of ideological manipulation whose aim is to convince the proletariat and the middle classes that they live in the best possible of worlds.

This underestimation of capitalist self-protection mechanisms led Trotsky to hyperbolise the possibility of the triumph of the socialist revolution on a global scale. This mistake, combined with an exaggerated faith in the prestige and influence of the IV International (which for Trotsky was the sole bastion of Marxist thought at that time), led him to proclaim that when the Communist Manifesto reached its centenary the International would have become the decisive revolutionary force on the planet. This claim is interesting in

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that it demonstrates the exiled Russian leader’s conviction in his interpretation of Marxist thought as well as the excessive optimism that characterizes many revolutionaries.

Trotsky’s fifth point was that “reality has been seen to support Marx”, in terms of the increase in commercial and industrial crises suffered by capitalism. This constant instability challenged the revisionists who believed that the existence of trusts could lead to market control and eliminate economic boom and bust.

We could add that reality not only supports Marx and Engels, but also Lenin,23 Trotsky, Fidel Castro24 and innumerable other social scientists regardless of their ideological position25 in their belief that capitalism is unimaginable with out crisis. This is true of commercial and industrial as well as financial crises as capitalism enters its monopolization phase with the accompanying uncontrolled levels of financial speculation that have defined contemporary development.

History clearly demonstrates that if capitalism were able to eradicate crises, it would be forced to invent new ones because they are central to its reproduction and growth. If we adhere to the celebrated phrase: “all that is solid melts into air” then ever more reason to think that the flimsy trans-national financial structures will some day disappear.

The sixth thesis from the Manifesto that Trotsky examines is that which holds: “the executive power of the modern State is nothing more than a committee protecting the common affairs of the entire bourgeoisie”.26 In this aspect Trotsky believed that “democracy created by the bourgeoisie is not, as Bernstein and Kautsky thought, an empty sack than can be calmly filled by any type of class content. Bourgeois democracy will only ever be at the service of the bourgeoisie”.27 The truth of this statement does not justify Trotsky however in his fresh assault against the Popular Front

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governments that were coming into being in the 1930’s as a means of fighting the rising fascist tide.

Whilst being certain that a powerful bourgeoisie will never permit the implementation of democratic formulas that would jeopardize the survival of its class hegemony, this does not necessarily mean that the working class and other popular sectors can not have significant social and economic successes that will benefit the revolutionary process in the long run if they are adequately defended and gradually perfected.

The rash belief that the fight for democracy must be under the banner “all or nothing”, ignores the fact that although bourgeois society perfected and refined democracy as a means of class domination through which to shore up capitalist society, since time immemorial democracy in its very essence has been an achievement of all human kind. This will remain so provided the bourgeois expression of democracy is dialectically overcome. This will be through the creation of a superior democracy that assimilates some of the achievements of the earlier form but does not seek to discard everything in an act of pure nihilism. In such cases ultra-left wing attitudes, despite their good intentions, can lead to results far distant from the original objectives.

Nevertheless, Trotsky sought to revalidate, in his eighth conclusion the fact that: “the communists openly declare that their goals can only be achieved through the overthrow by force of all existing social conditions”.28 This statement, so controversial when studied in the light of the different experiences of socialist struggle in the 20th century, clearly shows that those revolutionary processes that have been victorious, including through electoral victory, have had to defend themselves with popular support and force against the machinations of reactionary elements.

In a radical statement, opposing any expression of reformism, Trotsky maintained that “the proletariat cannot win power within the legal framework established by the

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bourgeoisie”.29 This statement, accepted as an unalterable Marxist principle, justified Trotsky’s irreconcilable attitude before any benefits offered by bourgeois democracy. Such an attitude misinterprets Marx and Engel’s thesis which accepted the possibility of the working class using parliamentary mechanisms in their struggle.

When the Manifesto speaks of the essential nature of force, this is usually interpreted as revolutionary violence. In reality, it does not exclusively and absolutely presuppose the launching of an armed insurrection. This had certainly been the predominant experience at that time from the Paris Commune to the storming of the Winter Palace in the October Revolution of 1917 in which Trotsky had played a decisive role as commander of the Revolutionary Military Committee. We must also consider his active participation in the Petrograd soviet during the failed revolution of 1905.

The 70 years after Trotsky’s death have witnessed new experiences in the fight for socialism. In the Eastern European countries occupied by the Red Army after the Second World War revolutionary transformation was guided from the Soviet Union and used parliamentary methods. Electoral struggle also led to the success of the Popular Unity party in Chile, although it was to later fall because of its failure to adequately prepare against a latent fascist threat.

The failure of these attempts in no way rules out the possibility of constructing socialism by utilizing any and all opportunities offered by political struggle.

Another issue is the defence of the successes won in revolutionary processes - regardless of how these were achieved - through force and armed defence.

The fact that up to the present day none of those countries that have attempted to build socialism through electoral processes have succeeded does not constitute irrefutable proof of the future impossibility of such struggles.

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If the communists of the 20th century had been demoralized by the defeat of the Paris Commune, none of the social victories from the October Revolution until the present day would have been possible. These triumphs have often forced governments highly critical of socialism in capitalist countries, particularly in the most developed of these, to adopt measures favourable to the working class.

In his ninth conclusion Trotsky stated that “the proletariat organised as a dominant class” that would constitute a dictatorship in his opinion, made up “the only true proletarian democracy”.30 He suggested that “the more states that take the path of socialist revolution, the freer and more flexible will be the forms assumed by the dictatorship, and more open and advanced will be the resultant working class democracy”.31 evidently, Trotsky’s thesis was historically conditioned by the existence of just one country such as the USSR in the process of constructing socialism. According to a Trotskyist interpretation of the necessity of the global and permanent revolution the Soviet Union was condemned to failure if socialist revolution was not successful in the rest of the world, or at least in the main developed countries as Marx and Engels had originally claimed in their futuristic vision of history.32

Addressing the theories contained within the Manifesto on the international development of capitalism, Trotsky, in his tenth conclusion, held that “this has predetermined the international character of the proletarian revolution”33 and therefore, in his opinion, “has completely and decisively acquired a global spirit”.34 He accused the Stalinist bureaucracy of attempting to erase this fundamental question from the Manifesto in what he considered a Bonapartist bastardisation of the text that starkly proved the impossibility of socialism in only one country.

It seems that Trotsky was closer in his analysis of the Manifesto to the original theses of Marx and Engels than

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Stalin and the leaders of the Soviet Union of the day. Historical analysis should not be swayed however by bare hermeneutics of the objective content of the text that stubborn theorists, as Lenin suggested, will insist on making.

This is not a study of the path taken by the Soviet Union after the death of its founder and the rise of Stalin. That is a topic for future investigation. Here we are merely evaluating whether Trotsky’s interpretation of the Manifesto was accurate and whether he had considered the transformations that occurred within capitalism in the imperialist age.35 The acceleration of unequal development led Lenin to envisage the revolutionary socialist project in terms of renovation and directly counterpoised to the fatalistic predictions of Kautsky and the acolytes of the II International. In this struggle Lenin was able to involve even Trotsky himself.

A further issue for pure speculation is to reflect on what would have occurred within 20th century socialism if Stalin, rather than Trotsky, had been the leader deported from the Soviet Union. But such feats of historical juggling lend nothing to our present analysis.

Neither is it a question of justifying Stalinist methods. Rather a simple process of evaluating what were the options for the first socialist experiment in the circumstances of the day: to consolidate and develop even at the risk of disobeying the exact letter of the text whilst still identifying with the essential spirit; or to disqualify such attempts for their variance with the exact words of Marx and Engels back in the mid 19th century. This fails to consider what would have been the attitude of the original authors had they witnessed an event of the magnitude of the Soviet Revolution in a country that no one had considered the birthplace of the first movements towards a socialist society in the 20th century.

This is not mere academic speculation. We must learn from historical experience. Marx had not predicted the Paris Commune and, although he may not have agreed with some

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of its methods, he gave it his unconditional support. After the collapse of the socialist camp many theorists, including some on the left wing, saw this as confirmation of Marx and Engels’ theory of revolution on a global scale. Some even suggested that history had proved Trotsky right on the question of the impossibility of building socialism in just one country.

On the basis of these opinions some even foretold the end of the Cuban Revolution after the fall of the Berlin wall. These critics ignored not only the specificity of the Cuban historical process but also the existence of other countries around the world with socialist tendencies. It is true that the world has changed radically 150 years after the publication of the Manifesto36 and yet Lenin’s thesis on the winners and losers in society remains wholly valid. Retreat from the difficult task of fighting for socialism of their own free will is not the best option for the people or their revolutionary leaders without first attempting some of the experiments, with their necessary risks, that the new epoch offers.

Fortunately, international solidarity with the Cuban revolutionary process tends to support current realities. There will be time for re-evaluation of ideas that far from contradicting themselves, rather confirm a materialistic vision of history.

In general the anti-socialist literature criticizes the excessive interventionism of the state in this new type of society, ignoring the fact that one of the supreme goals of communism is to eradicate the State altogether. Trotsky addressed this same issue in his 11th conclusion on the Manifesto in which he concurred with the theory that erasing class distinctions and concentrating production in the hands of the entire nation, would result in political power losing its political character. This reasoning led him to declare that once the state was abolished society would be freed from its

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political straight jacket and “this would mean socialism. As an inverse theorem, the monstrous growth of state coercion in the USSR is clear proof that the society is distancing itself from socialism.”.37

This attitude is paradoxical if we consider that in adverse conditions of isolation and hostility on the part of the capitalist countries it is logical for a country to strengthen its state apparatus rather than weaken it. The belief is once again confirmed that to implement ideas that are utopian, at least under current circumstances, can be totally counterproductive and bring about the worst possible scenario.

In open criticism of the anarchic-unionism and forms of “pure unionism”, Trotsky reaffirmed in his seventh thesis that “all class struggle is a political struggle”,38 basing his opinions on the experiences of the union movement up to that time in Spain and the United States. Over 50 years later the experiences of many other countries could be added, including the former two which confirm the indissoluble nexus between the two types of struggle.

The twelfth point which Trotsky selected from the Manifesto for analysis was the emancipation of working class participation. This has been polemically debated in recent times, even amongst leftist thinkers39 addressing the claim that “workers have no country”. In accordance with his internationalist vision of socialism Trotsky blamed the II International for violating this principal which he saw as leading to the devastation of Europe during the First World War. On the cusp of the Second World War, Trotsky extended the accusation of treason to the III International for betraying the appropriate posture before what he called the ‘capitalist nation’.

From a current perspective it is much easier to assess this conflictive issue when we consider the extraordinarily positive effect that the creation of socialist patriotism had amongst the ranks of the Red Army facing the Nazi invader.

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This patriotism did not contradict the countless acts of solidarity and internationalism on the part of the Soviet people over the seven decades of its existence. In this same way patriotism has been crucial in the defence of the socialist projects in Cuba and Vietnam against the capitalist internationalism used by North American governments as an excuse for intervention across the globe.

In neither of these examples of people threatened by the United States did the patriotism that was cultivated and actively encouraged by the revolutionary leaderships of these two countries affect the genuine sentiment of socialist internationalism that both have given to the world.

This leads us to conclude that Trotsky’s selection of the twelve ideas from the Manifesto that he beheld as relevant and durable 90 years after original publication must be examined in the light of meticulous analysis of his deep belief in the validity of Marxism and the socialist cause he maintained until the day he died. In this same light must the eight corrections and additions he formulated in 1938 also be studied.

The first of these was based on the thesis that no social system will disappear until it has exhausted all its creative potential. Despite the criticism the authors aimed at capitalism for its retardation of the productive forces and the creation of relative backwardness, this system nevertheless continued to expand up until the First World War.

Trotsky believed that Marx and Engels expected capitalism to expire well before it underwent a transformation from a relatively reactionary regime to a totally reactionary regime. This metamorphosis has only reached its conclusion in our age which has been marked by war, revolution and fascism”.40

The revolutionary impatience so typical of Trotsky’s beliefs regarding the coming of a global revolution led him to hypothesise that: “where the organization of the economy on

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socialist principles were possible in the second half of the 19th century, growth rates would undoubtedly have been immeasurably greater”.41 Despite the revolutionary pretensions of the Russian leader, historical analysis cannot be conducted on the basis of supposition, but only on the basis of fact. In this respect the positivist methodology has at least some core of validity.

Trotsky’s second correction, attributes “an overestimation of the revolutionary maturity of the proletariat” to Marx and Engels, together with the allegation that they underestimated capitalism’s future potential. This has been the error of many representatives of Marxist thought throughout history.

At times, those analysts who have formulated excessively optimistic theories on capitalism’s potential for recovery and perfection have been accused, at best, of being revisionists and at worse as agents of imperialism, with the obvious consequences of such accusations.

The end result of this failing was that the revolutionary movement has oftentimes been excessively convinced of the ultimate triumph of socialism and communism in the short term resulting in insufficient preparation for a long struggle against a society with such potential to lure fragile consciences.

The third shortcoming that Trotsky pointed to was that “for the Manifesto, capitalism was the king of free competition. Even when referring to the growing concentration of capital the Manifesto did not reach the necessary conclusion concerning the monopolies that have emerged as the dominant form of capitalism in our age and the most important precondition to a socialist economy”.42

Trotsky recognizes that in Capital, Marx examined the tendency towards the transformation of free trade into monopoly and Lenin went on to scientifically characterize monopoly capitalism in his study of imperialism. Such

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criticism is just and is explained not simply by an appreciation of the fledgling knowledge the young authors had of capitalism, but also because capitalism’s tendencies towards the formation of monopolies in the first half of the 19th century (the reference point for Marx and Engels) had not begun in earnest.

“Based on the example of the ‘industrial revolution’ in England (Trotsky states in the forth error he perceives in the document) they described an excessively unilateral dissolution of intermediate classes through the large scale proletarianization of the artisans, small businessmen and peasants”.43 Trotsky rather claims that “in reality the elemental forces of competition are far from having completed this both progressive and barbaric task”,44 aside from the fact that “concurrently capitalist development has greatly accelerated the development of legions of technicians, administrators, employees, in short, the so-called “new middle class”.45

A consideration of the question in the present day leads to agreement with the Russian leader in terms of the permanent reproduction of such intermediate classes, particularly the petit bourgeoisie, as highlighted by Lenin. Nevertheless, even when we accept that the idea of the capitalist process of social polarization is unilaterally presented in the Manifesto, we must not ignore the fact that such a tendency can be seen in contemporary capitalism, and the proletarianization of the middles classes is an unquestionable fact (more so in the developing countries of course) even when in quantitative terms these classes are seen to burgeon.

Marx and Engels themselves made certain amendments in the preface to the 1872 edition to the ten measures recommended for the proletariat to achieve political domination, but these were considered antiquated only 25 years later, especially the point drawn from the experience of

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the Commune stating that the proletariat could not simply take over the existing state apparatus and use it for their own benefit. Trotsky used this very self-rectification to attack social democratic reformism and the so-called “minimal programme”.

With current appreciation of the development of social democracy, especially where this has assumed government and has functioned as a means of patching up capitalism rather than seeking the establishment of a socialist society based on Marxist ideas,46 we can confirm that Trotsky’s criticism of the social democratic distortion of Marx and Engels’ own amendments in no way implied that such corrections should be disregarded all together, as the reformist interpretations advocated.

According to Trotsky, “there can be no revolutionary programme today without soviets and workers’ control. Therefore, the ten amendments to the Manifesto, that seemed ‘archaic’ in an era of parliamentarian passivity, have recovered their true significance”.47 Of course, when the Russian leader formulated these ideas he was greatly influenced by the positive experience in his country up to that point in the formation of the councils, or soviets, to implement socialist transformations. This opinion is no longer tenable, although it remains certain that no revolutionary programme will be possible without workers’ control, regardless of the different forms this may take between countries.

When a balance is drawn between the successes and failures of the socialist transformations implemented in the 20th century, attention must be paid to the attitude towards such measures proposed in the fundamental text of the communist project, whose ultimate aspiration after all was an effective conclusion to modernity.

The sixth error that Trotsky observes in the Manifesto was the mistaken prediction that the long-awaited bourgeois

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revolution in Germany would be the immediate precursor to the proletarian revolution.

“The error of this prediction – Trotsky maintained – was not simply temporal. The revolution of 1848 revealed, after only a few months, that even in the most advanced conditions no bourgeois class is capable of carrying a revolution to its conclusion. The high and middle bourgeoisie are too firmly tied to the landowners and too afraid of the masses; the petit bourgeoisies is too divided and too reliant on their superiors for direction”.48 Trotsky concluded therefore that no purely bourgeois revolution could take place in Europe or anywhere else in the world.

He went on to infer that “complete elimination of the feudal remains from society will only occur where the proletariat, freed from the influence of the bourgeois parties, places itself at the head of the peasantry and established its revolutionary dictatorship. Under these circumstances the bourgeois revolution becomes intertwined with the first stage of the socialist revolution to later dissolve itself within this. The national revolution in this way becomes one step towards the world revolution. The transformation of the economic base and of all other relations acquires a permanent (uninterrupted) character”.49

Such beliefs led him to recommend that “the revolutionary parties of the backward countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa must clearly understand the organic connection between democratic revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, and therefore with the international socialist revolution. This is a question of life or death”.50

We must not ignore that at the time of writing Trotsky was living in Mexico and was well up to date on the historical development of Latin American countries, as testified by the selection of books from these countries carefully preserved in the library in his house in Coyoacán as well as several studies

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he dedicated specifically to the revolutionary possibilities in the region.

Nowadays, it is very easy to rule out a Trotskyist interpretation of the permanent revolution simply because it has never occurred. But if we get to grips with the rational seeds of such a theory we will at least conclude with the critical assessment of the Manifesto in that “no bourgeois class is capable of carrying a revolution to its conclusion”. It has been socialist revolutions such as the Chinese, Russian and Cuban that have taken on the full responsibility of shaking off the pre-capitalist bonds in their respective countries precisely because these revolutions took place in such underdeveloped areas.

If the course of history had been different and the Manifesto’s prediction that the bourgeois revolution in Germany would be the precursor to a proletarian revolution, this would not invalidate Trotsky’s belief that the sweeping away of the last vestiges of feudalism in the so-called Third World would remain the task of socialist and not bourgeois revolutions.

The bourgeoisie in underdeveloped capitalist countries have no great interest in the consummation of modernity, benefiting as they do from relations of servitude, even slavery, from intolerance, authoritarianism, clericalism, ignorance, violation of human rights, etc. First World countries have an even greater incentive to postpone modernity, although they preach otherwise whilst building ever greater walls against immigration so that the barbarity they themselves have created and perpetuated does not leak in and contaminate their ‘civilization’.

But a Marxist such as Trotsky – regardless of the debate amongst those who have stripped him of his Marxist credentials considering themselves the sole and unique authorities on ‘official’ Marxism – was greatly interested in the consummation of the successes made by bourgeois society

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in its struggle against feudalism in underdeveloped countries. Trotsky stated that “although it describes how capitalism drags its holocaust over the backward and barbaric countries, the Manifesto makes no reference to the struggle of the colonial and semi-colonial countries for their independence (…) the question of a revolutionary strategy for the colonial and semi-colonial countries is not addressed anywhere in the Manifesto”.51 He goes on to say that “praise for the development of a revolutionary strategy for the oppressed nations goes directly to Lenin”.52

Trotsky seems to understand that such a shortcoming in the Manifesto was due to the authors conviction that the colonial problem would be automatically resolved upon the launching of the revolution in the principal civilized countries. Adhering more to the spirit than the letter of the document, however, he could not ignore such an important issue upon which the destiny of socialism in the 20th century came to rest when it became obvious that the revolution would not begin in any of the more advanced capitalist countries as predicted in the Manifesto.

Trotsky’s creative and positive attitude towards the possible shortcomings of the Manifesto, added to his great appreciation for the document, allowed him to address broader themes such as the fight against racial discrimination in his own era.

Adhering to the ideas contained in the original text which states: “communists everywhere uphold revolutionary movements against the established social and political order” he supported the coloured races’ struggle against their imperialist oppressors and demanded complete, unconditional and unlimited support from the white proletariat against racism. Not forgetting of course that Trotsky was of Jewish origin and in his frequent periods in exile, both before and after the revolution, he had suffered personally from acts of discrimination.

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We could also add a whole range of problems from our contemporary world that remain unconsidered in the Manifesto such as sexual equality, generational tensions, manipulations of culture and conscience, ecological devastation, the consequences of the accelerated scientific and technical development, especially in communications, etc. None of these, or the many other contemporary topics were within the scope of the original text but have been addressed more recently by the social sciences including those of Marxist tendencies.53 This is the task facing those who agree with the objectives of the authors of the Manifesto and seek to find solutions to the world’s new problems and the old problems that have been ignored. As Wolfgang Haug suggests, Marx has undoubtedly contributed in an extraordinary way to the fundamental understanding of the general development of the historical process, but despite this it is unthinkable to align oneself to Marxist thought without accepting the central role of criticism.54At the same time it is interesting to note the premonitory ideas contained in the Manifesto that point to new forms of post-capitalist development such as globalisation. Some authors claim that this phenomenon was already outlined as a tendency in the historical text.55

Finally, in his eighth observation Trotsky accurately points out that the most dated part of the Manifesto is logically that which refers to the criticism of socialist literature in the first half of the 19th century and assesses the attitudes of the communists to the opposition parties of the day that gradually disappeared over time.

Nevertheless, Trotsky believes that this final and supposedly most dated part of the Manifesto is more resonant with his own rather than with the previous revolutionary generation. In the age of the blossoming of the II International in which Marxist ideas truly took root, the ideas of the

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utopians and reformists of the first half of the 19th century were considered definitively overcome.

But in Trotsky’s opinion “things are very different today. The decomposition of social democracy and the Communist International engenders ever greater and more monstrous ideological errors. It seems that senile thought has become infantile”.56 For this reason Trotsky recommends that the Manifesto be amplified to include the documents from the first congresses of the Communist International, the basic literature of Bolshevism and the decisions taken in the conferences of the IV International.

Such an attitude is to be expected from a warrior such as Trotsky, convinced of the accuracy of his attitudes on socialism. He defended Marxism and the ideas of communism to the very day of his assassination in 1940, even when these led him into open hostility, for theoretical and practical differences, with the leaders of the first socialist State in history.

Today things are very different to when the Manifesto celebrated its 90th anniversary. But above agreeing or disagreeing with Trotsky on the outmodedness of this section of the document above others, the most important thing is to rescue the value of the ideas therein.

For example, is Marx and Engels’ criticism of the speculative German socialist thought and its self-defeating attitude to French socialist and communist literature not still valid? This thought occupied “in place of the interests of the proletariat, the interests of human essence, of men in general, of humans belonging to no class nor reality that exists anywhere other than the cloudy sky of philosophical fantasy”.57

This analysis is of remarkable importance today when new and old artificial philanthropic formulas that portray themselves as predestined to emancipate humanity with the

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simple don of the most beautiful words through which they also fruitlessly attempt to bury Marxism.

Whilst in many universities around the world Marxism is presented as an obsolete and outdated theory, a growing number of academics from several countries, coordinated by the Institute of Critical Theory and the Faculty of Philosophy of the Free University of Berlin under the direction of Wolfgang and Frigga Haug, have been compiling a Critical and historical dictionary of Marxism whose weighty first five volumes have already been published to be followed by ten remaining volumes of a total of one thousand pages that will be released up until 2013.

Many and fertile are the ideas that may still be extracted from the works of Marx, and particularly from the final part of the Manifesto. But this is a task for future study. As is the examination of some ideas that are no longer relevant today but held great importance at the time of first publication.58

This study was an intellectual exercise aimed at appreciating the act of validation of the principal ideas of the Communist Manifesto as well as the highlighting of some of its defects by Leon Trotsky on the 90th anniversary of its appearance.

In the present analysis, six decades after Trotsky’s study and a little more than 150 years after the publication of the historic text, it is not easy to come to the same conclusions in all aspects, especially concerning the contemporary validity of the original theses,59 but concordance has still been reached with many of the ideas. Trotsky drew a fundamental conclusion that seems to be reconfirmed after the collapse of Soviet socialism, although Trotsky’s criticism was not the only cause of this crisis.

After close examination of the respective leaderships of the I and II Internationals, Trotsky conclude that: “the prolonged crisis in the international revolution that leads ever more to a crisis in human civilization, is reducible in its

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essence to a crisis in revolutionary leadership”.60 The issue at hand is not to judge Trotsky’s claim that the only solution to this crisis was to be found in the thesis and programme of the IV International, this would merely open old wounds between Trotskyists and Stalinists.

History in this sense did not favour Trotsky’s proposals, regardless of the solidity of their fundamental logic. Nor did history preserve Stalin’s theories and practices, regardless of how justified or otherwise they were at a certain historical juncture.

What we aim towards is to learn from history and its analysts, not simply to generate new academic interpretations, but to stimulate revolutionary action in the fight for a more beneficial socialism.

150 years ago Marx and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto. Ninety years later Trotsky attempted an appraisal of this document highlighting its merits and deficits just as other revolutionaries, before and after him have also attempted. Is it not perhaps time to use all these invaluable ideas to begin new documents for this age and for the ages to come?61

NOTES

1 Leon Trotsky (Lev Davidovich Bronstein, 1879-1940), leader of the Petrograd in the Russian Revolution of 1905 fought amongst the Mensheviks against the Bolsheviks before finally joining Lenin with whom he led the organization of the October Revolution in 1917. He commanded the Red Army of the infant Soviet Union and was the People’s Commissar (Minister) of Foreign Affairs. He was exiled for his opposition to Josef Stalin on the issue of constructing socialism in just one country and due to partisan activity in the bosom of the Communist Party. In exile he created the IV International

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under the banner of the continued fight for permanent revolution that would lead to the triumph of socialism the world over. He was assassinated in Mexico. He left an important and polemic body of work at the very heart of Marxist political and social thought. 2 “...socialism remains an ideal that must be pursued and a genuine possibility in the real world (...)the Soviet model of the socialist society has died, but this does not mean that other forms of socialism, as yet untried, should be buried as well”. Roemer, John E.: A Future for Socialism, Editorial Grijalbo, Barcelona, 1995, pg. 9. 3 “150 years is a long time for a text to retain validity. The Communist Party Manifesto is one of the rare examples. It indicates the beginning of a historical epoch and participates at the very heart of it. It organizes the world from one point of view and elaborates a ‘common sense’: but it also shows a way in which to understand history and guides understanding of the possibilities to come”. Gutiérrez, R.: “Reading the Manifesto 150 years on” in Gracias, A. Prada, R, et al: The insomniac ghost – a reflection on the present from the Communist Manifesto, Muela del Diablo editors, La Paz, 1999, pg. 11 4 Marx, K. And Engels, F.: Preface to the 1872, German edition of The Communist Manifesto. Marx, c. and Engels, F: The Communist Manifesto, El Viejo Topo, Barcelona, 1997, pg. 73. 5 Ibid, pg.74. 6 Ibidem. 7 “He (Marx) and Engels were still young at 29 and 27 respectively and yet they understood the nature of their epoch much more than any of their contemporaries and perhaps more than anyone since. Just 25 years after the first edition of the Manifesto the authors, were able to display, as we also must, the limitations of the text for a different era. Of course, they made it clear that the main principles contained in the

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document could be maintained to a large degree, whilst at the same time affirming that some details needed adjusting due to different conditions, due to the advance in large industry in the previous 25 years. They pointed to the important progress made by the working class of the day, the important experiences they had lived, not just in the February Revolution, but across the Paris Commune, that put, as they said, political power in the hands of the proletariat for two months for the first time, leading them to say that such conditions made them think that the programme had aged in some places”. Moncayo, V. M.: The Communist Manifesto Today” in Marx Lives, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogota, 1999, pg. 21. 8 “ in the last 150 years, the objectively existent world and above all the social reality and our knowledge of the universe in every sense has undergone radical change. Is it not therefore natural that antiquated ideas on these questions must change also? Is it not also normal that Marxism, simply because of its age, must change as well, rejecting theses that have lost their relevance and that are merely part of history, and assimilating new ideas emerging from the new milieu, from phenomena that did not exist when Marxism was born? This is a natural and normal evolution in every scientific theory, in every discipline of knowledge and it would be a true shame, from the point of view of Marxism acting as a scientific theory (in this fact is the ideology rooted), if the doctrine were to reject this possibility of evolution. This would mean that its followers (the “unmovable orthodox Marxists” live on) would condemn Marxism to survive as a religion that may influence the emotions and behaviour of individuals based on an inspiration of passion, but could never aspire to join the ranks of the sciences”. Schaff, A.: Marxism at the end of the century, Editorial Ariel, Barcelona, 1994, pg. 32.

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9 “...it is possible to classify the different Marxisms into two major groups: on the one hand into those who – like the dominant Marxism (this text was written in 1984 P.G.) arise from an artificial selection which petrifies or freezes only one of Marxism’s forms or results, ignoring the unresolved and incomplete project and discourse that Marx himself put forward. This is the group that adopts certain Marxist texts as written in stone, identical in all respects, robbed of all conflict, and on these rocks they raise their theoretical and practical churches. On the other hand there are those Marxists who arise from a selection that respects the unfinished search for unification that binds the diverse and spontaneous theories on identity that existed in Marx himself. These Marxists accept the fundamental teachings of the revolutionary project in as far as this, owing to its concrete universality and originality, can be critically perfected with the intention of harmonizing the discourse of the rebellious factions against capitalist history, whilst nevertheless remaining quizzical and contradictory (…) The Marxism that seems able to achieve rebirth form its current crisis belongs to the heterodox tradition”. Echeverría, B.: A critical discourse of Marx, Ediciones Era, Mexico, 1996, pg. 15. 10 Trotsky, L.: The programme of transition for the socialist revolution. 90 years on from the Communist Manifesto. Editorial Fontamara, Barcelona, 1977, pg. 20. 11 Ibid, pg. 15 12 Ibidem. 13 Ibidem. 14 “the scientific character of the explanation of the fundamental laws that govern historical development, particularly that of capitalist society. The clarification of the factors that influence the production of the human conscience; the place of practice in the theory of knowledge; the action of the objective laws that govern eco-social factors, particularly the dialectic of the correlation between the productive forces

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and the relations of production; the appropriate weighting of the determination of economic elements in their correlation with the divergent and dynamic action of social conscience; the driving force of the class struggle which, through social revolution , will lead to a society dedicated to the elimination of class tensions; the mechanisms of alienation that are reproduced in capitalist society with the basic objective of prioritising surplus value above all else, all constitute some of the principal components that could be considered the firm core of Marxist theory, paying due attention to its universally recognised significance and validity”. Guadarrama, P.: Humanism, Marxism and postmodernity, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, La Habana, 1998, pgs. 249-250. 15 Ibid, pg. 16. 16 Fernández Buey, F.: “Reading the Communist Manifesto” in Marx, K. and Engels F.: Communist Manifesto, El Viejo Topo, Barcelona, 1997, pg. 17. 17 Trotsky, L.: op. cit., pg. 16. 18 Marx, K. Engels, F.: op. cit., pg. 70. 19 Trotsky, L.: History of the Russian Revolution. The October Revolution, Cenit, Madrid, 1932, vol. II, pg. 232. 20 Trotsky, L.: The programme... pgs. 16-17. 21 Ibid, pg. 17 22 “...the rapid growth in unemployment brings gradual equality between the developed countries and the Third World in terms of poverty. Far from the promised propagation of prosperity we are witnessing the globalisation of misery…” Forrester, V.: The economic horror, FCE Mexico, 1997, pg. 115. 23 “the suppression of the crises by cartels is a fable invented by bourgeois economists whose entire energies are spent on beautifying capitalism. On the other hand, the monopoly created in various branches of industry augments and aggravates the chaos inherent in the capitalist system of production in its entirety”. Lenin, V.: “Imperialism, the

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highest stage of capitalism” in Selected Works, Foreign Languages, Moscow, 1960, pg. 743. 24 “The current capitalist situation is part of a more prolonged historical evolution – comprising at least several decades – in which complex processes have taken place that block capitalism’s potential for growth in the medium and long terms. These processes have led to profound and seemingly insurmountable inequalities and the emergence of critical situations in decisive areas of economic activity”. Castro, F.: The world economic and social crisis, Publications Office of the Council of State, Havana, 1983, pg. 16. More recently the Cuban leader has addressed the logical historical limitations of the Manifesto in terms of analysis of the later stages of capitalist development: “When Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848 it seemed that practically the only limit to the unquenchable spring of wealth that would make the existence of a truly just and dignified human society possible was the exploitative and cruel capitalist system born of the bourgeois Revolution. Not even his genius was able to comprehend just what harm capitalism would yet bring to humanity”. Castro, F.: Speech in Ciego de Ávila, 26 July 2002, Granma, year 38, no. 179, 27 July 2002, pg. 4. 25 Amongst these Noam Chomsky is notable for whom “ as for the new world order, it looks remarkably like the old order, but with a new disguise. New phenomena are produced, principally the increased internationalisation of the economy with the resultant consequences, including the intensification of the global class differences and the extension of this system to the ex-soviet territories. But there are no substantial changes, nor are “new paradigms” necessary to understand what is happening. The basic rules of the world order remain the same: the rule of law for the weak, the rule of force for the strong, the principles of economic rationalisation for the weak, the power and intervention of the state for the strong”,

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Chomsky, N.: The new world order (and the old)” Critica, Barcelona, 1996, pg. 344. 26 Trotsky, L.: The programme…, op. cit., pg. 17. 27 Ibid, pg. 18. 28 Ibidem. 29 Ibidem. 30 Ibid. pg. 30. 31 Ibidem. 32 “ if it is indeed the case that from his youth Marx was opposed to an interpretation of human development in its entirety from a priori preconceptions of a universal philosophy of history, the following year in the Communist Manifesto, he made certain claims that brought him dangerously close to this universal philosophy he had earlier criticised, above all when he refers to the direction of historical development”. Kohan, N.: Marx in his (Third) world, Editorial Biblos, Buenos Aires, 1998, pg. 230. 33 Trotsky, L.: op. cit., pg.19. 34 Ibidem 35 “Labriola, Korsch and Trotsky, the great theoretical commentators on the Communist Manifesto gave impetus to a study such as the one described (we refer to theoretical reflection on the historical significance of the Manifesto and not simple clarifications of terminology, etc. as David Riazanov had previously undertaken in his Explanatory notes on the Communist Party Manifesto Ediciones de Cultura Popular, Mexico, 1978) but fell far short because they failed to perceive the radical problematic of the historical development of capitalism, but rather sought to amend this or that notion of it. At times they believe the Manifesto has erred and that they themselves see everything more clearly because they live in a new age. They fail to see that the issue of ages is exactly what capitalism dominates (the ages belong to it) and it arranges and composes them at will and specifically against us and against any possible understanding of them we could

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hope to have. This means that the observer should criticize his own epochal premises if he wishes to reach a true historical understanding, rather than mere criticism of the truths of other ages from the basis of his own flawed historical interpretations…” Veraza Urtuzuástegui, J.: Reading our time. Reading the Manifesto. 150 years after the publication of the Communist Party Manifesto, Editorial Itaca, Mexico. 36 “Because the Manifesto, in some ways, is a text that transcends the historical era in which it was written, and in that sense it retains great value for us. Nevertheless, the Communist Manifesto is undoubtedly linked to the historical conditions under which it was produced and for this reason it necessarily contains, as Marx and Engels recognised, circumstantial aspects.” Trias Vejerano, J.: Historical framework of the Manifesto. Theory of the proletarian revolution”, Utopías, Nuestra Bandera, Madrid no. 175, vol. 1, 1998, pg. 70. 37 Trotsky, L.: op. cit., pg. 19. 38 Ibid pg. 18. 39 “How can a revolutionary political discourse be reactivated in such a situation? How can a new materialistic teleology gain credence and someday fill an eventual manifesto? How can we build an apparatus to unite the subject (the masses) with the object (cosmopolitan liberation) within postmodernity? This of course cannot be done, even supposing we wholly accept the arguments of the immanence camp, simply following the instructions given by Marx and Engels. In the cold light of postmodernity, what Marx and Engels saw as the co-existence of the productive subject and the process of liberation is completely unthinkable” Negri, T and Hardt, M.: Empire Ediciones desde abajo, Bogotá, 2001, Pg. 100. 40 Ibid Pg. 21. 41 Ibid Pg. 20. 42 Ibid Pg. 21

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43 Ibid Pg. 22 44 Ibidem. 45 Ibidem. 46 “...Marxism remains the theory that offers the most rational foundations to socialism and contributes most to the raising of awareness of the possibility of such socialism as well as the necessary organization and action...” Sánchez Vázquez, A.: The value of socialism, Itaca, México, 2000, pg. 88. 47 Trotsky, L.: op. cit. Pg. 23 48 Ibidem 49 Ibid, Pg. 34 50 Ibidem. 51 Ibidem. 52 Ibidem. 53 “Finally, if we consider Marxism to be a science it is therefore logical that its development should be continuous and that if it should ever cease we could quite accurately say that the science was in crisis. If its object of study is society and its changes – and no one doubts that it has produced important changes in this society, from Marx until the present day – it is also logical that new instruments will be created to analyse new realities and these will be based on the most recent scientific discoveries in all disciplines of knowledge. This is precisely what has not been done with sufficient profundity in the area of economics, which is the key to understanding the changes in the modern world”. Harnecker, M.: The left at the dawn of the 21st century, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, La Habana, 1999, pg. 281. 54 Haug, W. F.: Dreizehn Versuche marxistischen Denken zu ernuern, Karl Dietz Verlag, Berlin, 2001, pg. 7 55 “The diagnostic outlined in the Manifesto on the ‘cosmopolitan character’ acquired by the ‘world market’ 150 years ago does not simply demonstrate the pre-existence of this phenomenon which today, under the label globalisation, sells itself as an end-of-the-millennium panacea and defender

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of all things new and innovative, that was already inherent to the development of the market itself, but what is more, through this assessment Marx reminds us of the depth and relevance of his historical focus, capable of foreseeing with remarkable accuracy more than 100 years before time, current world tendencies in contemporary capitalism”. Pernett, E.: 150 years of the Communist Party Manifesto in Utopías 150 years after the Communist Manifesto, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín, 1998, pg. 171. 56 Ibid. Pg. 35 57 Marx, K. and Engels, F.: Manifesto… pg. 61. 58 “Marx is a classical author. This means that while his work may contain some theories that are no longer valid there are also those that remain relevant. His contemporary validity lies in the fact that he offered the most profound criticism ever written of capitalism as a system based on exploitation, alienation and social inequality”. Vargas Lozano, G.: Beyond the collapse, Editorial Siglo XXI, México, 1994, pg. 35. 59 “Marx is back. But he is back as a classic, not as an authority that speaks directly from the world’s problems that surround us. Marx as a classic has developed the foundations of a mode of criticism that we must follow, if we want humanity to have a future”. Hinkelammert, F.: “The market as a self-regulated system and Marx’s critique” in Will Marxism survive?, Editorial de la Universidad de Costa Rica, San José, 1991, pg. 75. 60 Trotsky, L.: The programme..., pg. 26. 61 “Empire is the Communist Manifesto of the 21st century, Slajov Zizek has declared…” Acosta, F.: “Political theory of the anti-imperialist revolution” Introduction to Toni Negri and Michael Hardt’s book: Empire, Ediciones Desde Abajo, Bogotá, 2002, pg. 7

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