View Full Version : How applicable is the Communist Manifesto today?

04-11-2015, 01:59 PM
Started reading today. Penguin are selling copies for 80p as part of their little black classics series. Penguin did sell a similar range of books with rather fancier covers, but they cost 5 a pop, which was quite costly for such thin books for which the material is out of copyright.

The first chapter was remarkable. It reminded me slightly of the secret book that Winston Smith received from O'Brien in 1984. For the first ten pages, if you just swapped neo-liberal for bourgoisie, it all still seemed remarkably applicable to the present day, e.g. venture capitalism always looking for the next disruptive technology, globalization, ever-increasing productivity, erosion of national and regional identities, MacDonalds on every high street.

The second half of that chapter seemed a little out of date. Partly this was because the trade unions have been busted in this country. Up to the 1970s they were very powerful, but Margaret Thatcher gutted them. But also, I don't think the living conditions for present day British proles are anywhere as bad as they were back in the C19th. When I read of the conditions of the working classes in books by Elizabeth Gaskell, George Gissing and Robert Tressell, they seem very much worse than that section of society today has to face. Few people have to pawn their clothes or go without food. I expect partly that is because of globalization. Not so much of that de-skilled, production line work still exists here; it was mostly undercut by industries in foreign countries, such as China. I expect it's the workers in those countries that are more comparable to the proletariat described by Marx and Engels.

04-11-2015, 02:41 PM
It's really really dated. Marx considered himself a scientific socialist and he lived during the industrial revolution, when working conditions were totally abysmal; he made a set of reasonable predictions and none of them came true. This should be your clue to stop following him now, most scientific theories are wrong, his were wrong, study him as a philosopher or whatever, but not as an economist or as someone to model your society around.

04-11-2015, 04:25 PM
Yeah, but just about all economic theorists are wrong, at least they are only partly right. The dominant economic theory over the last thirty years has been neo-classical theory, and that is most definitely wrong. Marx and Engels were right up to a point. Their predictions went astray, but one of the complicating factors of social science is that the things being studied, i.e. people, can read the analyses. Maybe the reason some of the predictions did not come to pass in the West was because these ideas gained traction, and the governing classes realized they had to give ground to the proles, however slowly and grudgingly.

04-11-2015, 04:48 PM
His predictions were based on living standards remaining bad, they didn't, they soared to heights totally unimaginable at the time.

04-12-2015, 11:05 AM
One of the other predictions they got wrong was that the revolution should have occurred first in a more developed industrial society, not in an agrarian feudal society like Russia.

I don't like the rest of the manifesto as much as the first section. It is as if the first section was written by a left-wing economist, like Joseph Stiglitz maybe, the rest by Russell Brand. Particularly ridiculous was an allegation that the Bourgeois like seducing each others wives. They are very scornful of other forms of Socialism, yet very certain of their own. Marx and Engels predict that the proletariat will overthrow their masters and take charge, but they did not say who exactly will run things after that: elected leaders, randomly selected representatives, or is everyone to be consulted on every decision? Assuming the Proletariat had leaders, how were these leaders to be appointed and removed?

There was one quote which made me snigger: Ultimately, when stubborn historical facts had dispersed all intoxicating effects of self-deception, this form of Socialism ended in a miserable fit of the blues.