Recently I have read the following book. Its main points and my comments are:
Karl Marx (1848) (Frederic Bender ed.). The Communist Manifesto. Colorado Springs: University of Colorado.
History and Theoretical Backgrounds of the Communist Manifesto
1. Karl Marx wrote the Manifesto in 1847-8, it was an outline of his theory of historical materialism (p.1). The decade preceding the revolutionary outbreaks of 1848 witnessed a rapid growth of industry, widespread famine, and intense political conflicts in many parts of Europe. Industrial revolution destroyed traditional social institutions and beliefs. A second source of revolutionary unrest was nationalism. People tried to recover their national languages and past glories. From 1830 to 1848, the Socialism ideal was transformed into a political movement. One of the ideas of Socialism was that a just society would emerge from capitalism through the very conditions created by capitalism itself (p.8). This set apart Marx from his rejection of a faith in the bourgeoisie and proletariat would cooperate (p.8). Socialist insisted that the society had the responsibility for the welfare and development of all its members (p.9). Marx argued that it was capitalism’s very success that produced a constantly growing proletariat. The latter would establish a genuine democracy: the rule of the majority (p.9).
2. In contrast to anti-industrial sentiment of the revolutionary artisans in those days, Marx was developing his critique of capitalism from a different viewpoint. He thought that it was the workers, not the artisans that would be the enemy of the proletariat (p.12). Marx and Engels perceived a two-staged transformation: from feudalism to socialism (communism) through capitalism (p.12). The revolutionary class must act in the name of general human interest was well as in its own particular interests. Such a class would have to be one that was totally dehumanized and had nothing to lose (p.18). The most fundamental condition embodied in the social relations under capitalism was that workers were reduced to commodity. Also, their price would fluctuate according to production changes (p.19).
3. A striking feature about the Manifesto was its claim that all previous history was history of class struggle. This materialistic interpretation of history was created jointly by Marx and Engels (p.24). They believed in the interaction of human and the nature (p.26). This was in contrast to the belief in an idealistic view of society: man was viewed as a spiritual being that created society and made history as he willed (p.26). In Marx/Engels views the fundamental basis of history was material production, and social life depended on class dynamics of production process (p.25). The productive forces etc. would decide the superstructure of society i.e. the politics, laws, religions etc. (p.26).
People’s ideological consciousness was shaped by social relations; the consciousness of an individual would depend on one’s position in relation to mode of production (p.29). The problem was that most proletariat had no proletariat outlook, rather they had bourgeois class outlook (blinded by ideology) (p.30).
Marx and Engels stressed on the need for a social revolution (p.30). But the bourgeoisie stood in the way. The social struggle was the self-consciousness of the revolutionary class (p.31). Marx interpreted history in terms of class and class struggle, not the physical forces of production of economics (p.31).
The significance of the Communist Manifesto:
It presents a truly comprehensive vision with immense historical significance about capitalism’s rise and projected fall (p.34). The manifesto was accepted by the Communist League, signifying a break with the artisan-oriented outlook in the workers’ movement (p.34). As workers were threatened with starvation etc. in the 1840s, Marx believed that it would bring workers to revolution. Communist sought to abolish bourgeois property, i.e. the private ownership of capital, not private property in general (p.36). Manifesto regarded ‘economic freedom’ i.e. the ownership of capital as a specifically bourgeois freedom that had to be abolished. In the society with alienated labour, the wealthy bourgeois did not work but lived on his investment. Marx criticized several types of socialist: ‘feudal socialist’, ‘Christian socialism’, the ‘reactionary socialism’ i.e. those skilled craftsmen, merchants, artisan etc., and the ‘True Socialism’ i.e. those German scholars who were using imported ideas and had lost focus on reality (p.38). There was also the ‘critical-Utopian socialism’ first suggested by Saint-Simon who was aware of the transformation of the class base within a bourgeois society (p.39).
Preface to the German edition of 1872:
- however much the state of things may have changed during the past 25 years, the general principles laid down in this Manifesto were in the whole as correct to-day as ever (p.43).
Manifesto of the Communist Party:
I. Bourgeois and Proletariat:
- the history of all hitherto existing society was the history of class struggles (p.55). The epoch of the bourgeois had simplified the class antagonism: bourgeois versed proletariat. Trading had open up fresh ground for the rising bourgeois, the feudal system was no longer suffice for the growing wants of the new markets. Places of production were taken up by modern industries (p.56).
- the bourgeois had torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and had reduced the family relation into a mere money relation. Industries no longer worked up indigenous raw material, but raw materials were drawn from the remotest zones (p.58).
- the cheap prices battered down all Chinese walls. It compelled nations to adopt the bourgeois way of productions and to become bourgeois themselves (p.59).
- the bourgeois subjected the country to the rule of the towns, it created enormous cities. Barbarian countries depended on the civilized ones, peasants on bourgeois, East on the West. Bourgeois subjected nature’s force to man, to machines, to the application of chemistry to industry and agriculture etc. (p.59).
- Feudal relation was destroyed and replaced by free competition. Too much civilization, means of subsistence, industry and commerce brought disorder into the bourgeois society (p.60).
- the weapons with which the bourgeois fell feudalism now turned against the bourgeois themselves: it called into existence the proletariat (p.61).
- the ‘dangerous class’ were the social scum: beggars, thieves, and criminals (p.65).
-the proletariat movement was a self-conscious movement of the majority in the interest of the immense majority (p.65).
- the bourgeois was unfit to be the ruling class because it was incompetent to assure the existence of the slave under his slavery (p.66).
II. Proletariat and Communists:
- the Manifesto explained the relationship between the proletariat and the communists. The aim of the communist was same as the proletariat: to form the proletariat into a class (p.67). The theory of the communists could be summarized into one single sentence: abolition of private property (p.68).
- to abolish the bourgeois independence and its ‘freedom’ brought along was the aim. By freedom, it meant free trade, free selling and buying (p.69). When individual property could not be transformed into bourgeois property (capital), individuality vanished from that moment (p.70).
III. Socialist and Communist Literature:
1. Different kinds of reactionary socialism:
a. feudal socialism: their half lamentation, half lampoon, half echo of the past, half menace of the future, had stroked the bourgeoisie. They were incapable to comprehend the march of modern history (p.76).
b. Petty-bourgeois socialism: this school of socialism dissected with great acuteness the contradictions in the conditions of modern production. It proved the disastrous effects of machinery and the division of labour, and the concentration of capital and land in a few hands (p.78). They aspired to either restoring the old means of production, or to cramping the modern relation of production. In either case it was both reactionary and Utopian.
c. German or ‘True’ Socialism:
- Socialist and communist literature of France entered Germany at a time when the bourgeoisie began its contest with feudal absolutism (p.79).
- in German social condition, this French literature lost all its immediate practical significance.
- the work of the German literati consisted solely of those bring in the new French ideas into harmony with their ancient philosophical conscience. The German socialist was against representative government, against bourgeois legislation. They preached to the masses that the latter had nothing to gain and everything to lose in a bourgeois movement. While the ‘True’ Socialism served the government as a weapon for fighting the German bourgeoisie, at the same time, it directly represented the reactionary interest of German Philistines. Most of the so-called Socialist and Communist publication in Germany up to 1847 were foul literature (p.81).
2. Conservative, or Bourgeois Socialism:
- they were a part of the bourgeoisie who wanted to redress the social grievance (p.81). These included philanthropists, humanitarians, and organizers of charity. They conceived that the proletariat should remain with the bounds of existing society. They did not understand that a change in bourgeois production relation could only be achieved through a revolution (p.82)
3. Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism:
- the undeveloped state of the class struggle caused the Socialists of this kind to consider themselves as far superior to all class antagonisms. They wanted to improve the condition of every member of society. They habitually appeal to society a large without distinction of class. They rejected all political and revolutionary action, the wished to attain their ends by peaceful means. They had ways to improve the working class e.g. through the wage system, solely for the purpose of the disappearance of the class antagonism. But these proposals were of purely Utopian characters (p.84).
IV. Position of the Communists in relation to the various existing opposition parties:
- In France the Communists allied themselves with the Social-democrats against the bourgeoisie
- in Switzerland the Communists supported the Radicals. In Poland Communists supported the party that insisted on an agrarian movement.
- in Germany they fought with the bourgeois whenever it acted in a revolutionary way. They were focusing on Germany as the latter was on the eve of a bourgeois revolution.
- the Communist openly declared that their ends could be attained only by the forcible overthrown of all existing social conditions (p.86).
1. The Marx’s model of proletariat revolution only appeared in Russian in 1917 and did not happen in Britain, US, or India (due to the works of the socialists?).
2. In 1949 in China, the proletariat revolution was led by the peasants instead of the workers.
3. The Manifesto view human history as class struggle and relation of material production.
4. It seems that socialism had already been practised in 1840s in Europe, long before Communism appeared in Russia in the 1920s.