The New Communist Manifesto

Why Marxism is on the rise again
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With its moderate demands, it seems to have been designed for the German workers' movement, which was still allied with the middle classes against the aristocracy. Hence even the most socialistic of the ten demands, the seventh, prudently called for the "extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state" rather than the collectivization of the economy p. In a long-range perspective, part II of The Manifesto projected the concentration of all productive facilities, including the land, in the "hands of a vast association of the whole nation" p.

Actually, this last phrase, "a vast association of the whole nation," was specific to the English translation; the original German spoke of "associated individuals," a somewhat Proudhonist formulation that would have made the document more acceptable in Germany at the time. After classes disappear and property has become socialized, The Manifesto says, the "public power will lose its political character," that is, its statist form:. Political power [the state], properly so called, is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another.

If the proletariat in its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by force of circumstances, to organise itself as a class, if, by means of a revolution it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away the old conditions of production by force, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of class generally and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class.

In place of the old bourgeois society with its class 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 Communists who try to achieve these aims, says the document, have no interests "apart from those of the proletariat as a whole" p. They constitute the most resolute party in the struggle for promoting the welfare of the proletariat, but always viewing the contours of the struggle as a whole, they "everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things.

Given its analysis of capitalism as a doomed social order within which reforms must always be placed in the service of revolution; its resolute commitment to generally violent revolution; its view of communism as an associative rather than a state system "in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all," it is only fair to ask what Marx and Engels meant by "political power" in The answer—idiosyncratic in the light of what the two men were to write in later years—is surprisingly libertarian.

In The Manifesto , the proletarian "state" that will replace the bourgeois "political power" and initially make the most "despotic inroads on the right of property" will consist of the proletariat raised to "the position of ruling class. The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i. This can hardly be called a state in either the usual Marxian or the social anarchist sense of the word.

In fact, the implications of this extraordinary formulation have vexed even the ablest of socialist theorists, anarchist as well as Marxist—and they dogged Marx and Engels themselves as a problem up to the last years of their lives. How could an entire class, the proletariat organized as a "movement" that would eventually speak for society as a whole, institutionalize itself into a "political" or state power? By what concrete institutional forms would this class, whose revolution in contrast to all previous ones would represent "the interest of the immense majority" p.

Until the Paris Commune of , Marx and Engels probably intended for the "political power" that the proletariat would establish to be nothing more than a republic, that is, a representative form of government, albeit one rooted in political rights such as recall. Anarchist critics of Marx pointed out with considerable effect that any system of representation would become a statist interest in its own right, one that at best would work against the interests of the working classes including the peasantry , and that at worst would be a dictatorial power as vicious as the worst bourgeois state machines.

Indeed, with political power reinforced by economic power in the form of a nationalized economy, a "workers' republic" might well prove to be a despotism to use one of Bakunin's more favorite terms of unparalleled oppression. Marx and Engels had no effective response to make to this criticism, as we can tell from their correspondence with their German supporters. This tradition, which lingered in France through most of the 19th century, found no echo in the Marxist literature.

But the Paris Commune of came as a breath of fresh air to Marx and Engels, who, a generation after The Manifesto was published, embraced the Commune as the institutional structure that the proletariat would produce between a capitalist and a communist society, or as Marx put it in his Critique of the Gotha Program, "the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.

A new Communist Manifesto

The economic achievements of the Commune were very limited; not only did it fail to socialize the economy, it brought much-needed reforms to the working class only because the more radical Internationalists, who formed a minority of the Communal Council, had to overcome the obstruction of the neo-Jacobins, who supported bourgeois legalities.

In its political institutions the Commune was much more of a municipalist entity, with strong affinities to anarchist notions of a confederation of communes. It essentially challenged the existence of the French nation-state, calling upon the thousands of communes that dotted France to unite in a Proudhonist contractual network of autonomous communes rather than subject themselves to a centralized state.

Marx embraced this municipalist Commune, and in substance its call for a confederation of communes without using the compromising word confederation, which his anarchist opponents employed , as a political structure in which "the old centralised government in the provinces" would, following Paris as a model, "have to give way to the self-government of the producers"—presumably a proletarian dictatorship.

Marx s assertion that the central government would retain "few but important functions" was brave but hardly credible—and even James Guillaume, one of Bakunin's closest associates, regarded Marx's favorable appraisal of the Commune's libertarian features as the basis for a reconciliation between Marxists and anarchists in the First International.

Engels, in an letter to August Bebel criticizing the Gotha Program which had just been adopted by the German Social Democrats , even urged that instead of "People's State," the program use a "good old German word," Gemeinwesen, "which can very well do service for the French 'Commune,'" although he said little about its substance. In time, and not without vacillation, Marx went back on his favorable account of the Commune. But the extent to which he thought a worker's state should be centralized and how much authority he thought it should enjoy remained unanswered questions upon his death.

Republican institutions, however much they are intended to express the interests of the workers, necessarily place policy-making in the hands of deputies and categorically do not constitute a "proletariat organised as a ruling class. The powers that people enjoy under such circumstances can be usurped without difficulty. Some anarchists will always find fault with any form of institutional social organization, but if the people are to acquire real power over their lives and society, they must establish—and in the past they have, for brief periods of time established—well-ordered institutions in which they themselves directly formulate the policies of their communities and, in the case of their regions, elect confederal functionaries, revocable and strictly controllable, who will execute them.

Only in this sense can a class, especially one committed to the abolition of classes, be mobilized as a class to manage society. Apart from their writings in erstwhile support of the Paris Commune, neither Marx nor Engels ever resolved the problem of the political institutions for proletarian rule that they set for themselves in The Manifesto: In the Russian workers came up with their own solution to the question of a political institution for class power: This citywide soviet, which emerged in the Russian capital in the Revolution, was an approximation of the assemblies that had appeared in the Great French Revolution.

Had it remained merely a municipal council, it would have differed little from the Paris Commune, although it was much more working class in character. But the Petrograd Soviet also sank deep roots in the city's factories and was guided, through strike committees and shop committees, directly by the workers themselves.

More than Lenin, it was Leon Trotsky, one of its last and certainly its most prominent chairmen, who saw in the soviet not only the institution that could mobilize the proletariat as a class but provide the transitional political and economic bridge from a capitalist to a socialist society. Lenin's view of the soviet was more instrumental: Not until did Lenin decisively change his view about the soviets and come to regard them as institutions of working-class power.

1848: The Publishing of the Communist Manifesto

Even so, he wavered during the July events, when the Bolshevik leaders were imprisoned as a result of a premature spontaneous insurrection, but by the autumn of he had returned to the goal of a soviet government. For a time he suggested that a soviet government might include all the soviet parties—Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries of all kinds as well as Bolsheviks—but by the end of , the Bolsheviks ruled the newly established soviet state entirely alone and eventually turned the soviets into docile instruments of their party apparatus.

The question of the institutions of political and social management by a class as a whole—and eventually by citizens in a classless society—has no easy resolution. Plainly it is not answered adequately by Proudhon's system of federalism, which is too incoherent and vague and retains too many bourgeois features, such as contract and individual proprietorship, to provide a truly revolutionary solution. The solutions that later anarchists, more collectivist than the Proudhonists, offered are pregnant with possibilities, but they too suffer from a lack of definition and articulation.

For their part, anarchosyndicalists have offered workers' control of industry as the most viable revolutionary alternative to the state, adducing the takeover of factories and agricultural land as evidence of its feasibility. An adequate account of its possibilities and limitations would require another article.

Mere economic control of plants and factories is only one side of the coin of a revolutionary transformation, a lesson the Spanish anarchosyndicalists learned only too dramatically in , when, despite the greatest collectivization experiment in history, they failed to eliminate the bourgeois state—only to find that it returned in May , forcibly demolishing the powerful anarchist enclaves in Catalonia and Aragon.

What seems necessary are the institutions of a democratic politics—to use the word politics in its Hellenic sense, not as a euphemism for modern-day Republican statecraft. I refer to a politics that would create local assemblies of the people and confederate them in purely administrative councils, in order to constitute a counterpower to the nation-state. How such a counterpower could be established and could function falls outside the province of this article; far too many important details, both historical and logistical, would be lost in a brief summary of this "assemblyist" position.

That the issue of the institutions of class rule was even raised in The Manifesto of the Communist Party is one aspect of the document that makes it as living in as it was in That Marx and Engels, with their theoretical depth, foresaw the trajectory of capitalist development, in terms that are even more relevant today than in their own day, would be enough to make the work a tour de force in the realm of political thought.

Ami Presents: Communist Manifesto or Democratic Party Platform?

Both its great insights and its vexing problems live on with us to this day. The tragedy of Marxism is that it was blind to the insights of social anarchism and that later revolutionaries failed, at crucial moments in history, to incorporate the insights of both forms of socialism and go beyond them. With the later emergence of welfare states and their ability to manage crises, capitalism seemed able to prevent itself from sinking into a deep-seated economic crisis, causing this notion of "immiseration" to seem questionable.

But the volatility of modern, "neo-liberal" capitalism and the erosion of its methods for crisis management have brought into question the ability of capitalism to be a self-correcting system. It is far from clear that, in the years ahead, economic collapse as well as ecological disasters will be avoided. Maybe you could have fish once a week. Not every day, certainly. What genuinely necessary goods are these countries simply too poor to produce?

The question, obviously, is the one asked by Adorno and Horkheimer. What system do we use to organise society? But you seem to be suggesting instead that a level should be fixed at which all human needs should be declared met. Who decides the level, and how? Beyond that level, is progress abandoned?

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If not, how are resources allocated to achieve shared goals? As for the creation of demand, I think mds places far too much weight on advertising. The kinds of objects that enrich us through our encounter with them are not the kinds of objects I feel comfortable discussing on this kind of blog. There are material needs — for food, protection from the elements, mobility, etc. Love and work, basically. So if we think — and we really should think — that there is a declining urgency of material needs, whether or not we can identify a point of absolute satiation, then as we grow richer we should reorient our institutions from producing more, to supporting more fulfilling lives.

We should ask less, what organization of production will maximize the amount of stuff our labor produces, and more, what organization will maximize the opportunity for people to derive satisfaction in their working lives, conditional on some adequate level of total output. To misquote Emma Goldman: Can a GDP really be used in this way?

So a BMW gets counted the same as pairs of sneakers, on the assumption that we can choose either of them. If we stopped making BMWs at all, can we really assume that the freed productive capacity could produce a similar value of more widely spreadable goods?

At an individual level, you have the freedom to trade off material comfort and deeper personal fulfilment. At a societal level, a similar tradeoff is perhaps possible along the lines you suggest. Someone mentioned organic food upthread. To me, the clearest obstacle to this kind of change is the disproportionate influence of business lobbies on the political process. I can imagine if we carried on long enough, we might come up with a common programme we could both live with.

You can stick your second piece of snark up your arse. The smog itself seemed more exotic than threatening, even though it did literally turn the air orange on a summer afternoon, especially in the western parts of the city. No matter what the fogeys said, it was clear to me that all things were possible in this paradise — all you had to do was reach out your hand. And yet until recently LA was the armature on which we hung all the heroic drapery of our hopes and dreams. Far too many of the worst practices pioneered there were adopted as a model in the developing world, most notably in places like Brazil, and now China.

Even if we do finally get the desired revolution in thinking, reconstructing our entire infrastructure to match is going to be an evolutionary process, and at this point, we have no idea how much longer it will be before we begin on it in earnest. Although that has to cover all public goods like education, policing and health as people have pointed out. Life in middle-income countries is much more liveable on a modest income equivalent to minimum wage in the North because most middle-income countries are very unequal and therefore labour-intensive services are cheap.

Very nice for local middle class people and expats. But if the world was more equal then these kind of services would be expensive, as they are in places like Switzerland and Sweden — obviously still better for the poor in middle income countries though! This is the problem with this kind of static comparison — it assumes that prices would remain constant after redistribution. In actual fact because of the inelasticity of demand for primary commodities, in a more equal world the prices of many staples such as fossil fuels, grain and cooking oil would rise significantly.

But as their note that they know nothing of Asia suggests, the fact that huge parts of the world remain underdeveloped means that issues of material scarcity and distribution are going to remain with us for a very long time. That is indeed a problem with static comparison. The awesome thing about this is that it retcons all the current literature to be non-gender specific. And it would make me a wereman. Not to get off track but I always found this to be a particularly confusing complaint. What exactly is the problem? I have been trying to replace it with humankind.

For example, one person worries about the viability of organic agriculture with flattened income distribution. But if organic agriculture is implicitly always a niche choice for high-income people, what is the point?

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Though the opening and closing sections of the new Communist economic manifesto pay respect to the principles of democracy, individual. [Editor's note: “If Karl Marx were alive today and asked to write a new edition of The Communist Manifesto, how would it be different from the.

We only have the one planet. Income flattening is going to tame those costs even if it raises the prices of most consumer goods.

This in turn should improve how things are generally done in addition to how they are compensated. Would toilet exteriors retain so many muck-trapping features if even doctors and senators were expected to clean them or pay someone else for cleaning at the same rate they are paid? If equalized consumption drives up the prices of fossil fuel, good.

It will make it easier for non-fossil alternatives to displace them. For that matter, I understand that in poor rural areas of the world fossil fuels are often used as an expensive, hazardous compensation for the lack of reliable electrical infrastructure. The poorest people may pay several times what middle-class Americans do for basic things like a liter of clean drinking water or an hour of reading light at night. Who would tolerate this insane state of affairs, other than people too deprived to have any other option?

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Show me the comments! For younger people too, Francis Fukuyama's triumphalism in his book The End of History — in which capitalism seemed incontrovertible, its overthrow impossible to imagine — exercises less of a choke-hold on their imaginations than it does on those of their elders. Today, years after Marx and Engels wrote about grave-diggers, the truth is almost the exact opposite. If he were alive today, he would campaign for economic democracy. Marx believed that positive change would come through a working-class revolution. Both traditions contain strands that point in the direction of emancipation but a self-styled orthodoxy has labored tirelessly to suppress those possibilities.

And each one of us can decide how best to advance their own life using the means of production available to all. Increasing the standard of living in the third world will increase the income to everyone, because we will waste fewer people. What a strange launching pad this particular exchange is for a vitally important conversation to be had about work as activity as well as product , about social relations, about individual aspirations and their sources , about the social conditions that construct our frameworks limiting them without utterly limiting them — think how infinity sets work , and much more including equity , most of these being questions both men engaged passionately.

Sucks to be you, society! You know, if that waste liquor only contaminated land that was only going to be yours I would be hard pressed to see this as different from having a messy room. But that was the dream of capitalism: The radicalism of capitalism is the big insight of Marx. The history of the world is a history of famine. It is only now that famine is truly manmade, that we can conceive of ending hunger.

Deeply humanistic and concerned with human and non-human suffering, but only able to offer their rather obtuse and sometimes tortured reflections because of the highly privileged place they occupied in society. The position they attempt to occupy with regards to the USSR in the excerpt is an excellent example of how difficult they found it to situate their critique in the historical circumstances they found themselves in.

History at least has vindicated their position on remaining silent on the East because Stalinism was a tyrannical dead end whilst relentlessly critiquing the democratic West precisely because it fails to live up to the principles it lays claim to. Well, those of us in families of four might. How does everyone do that at once? Chris and Steven, you are missing the point. The claim is that a society whose per capita income has reached that level has sufficient resources to meet all of its pressing material needs and can be organized to reduce the amount of alienating and unpleasant work instead.

MPAVictoria seems to be suggesting that there will be a price fall, but are we sure? Will it be enough? Nick has already made this point. This is why using PPP estimates instead of direct currency conversions have people in places like Brazil making a little bit more than they would otherwise. The only service that you really need where the deliverers of that service are paid really high salaries is health care.

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