Karl Marx wrote that a specter was haunting Europe: the specter of communism. A lot of people think they know everything they need to know about what Karl Marx wrote in “The Communist Manifesto” based on what was done in his name in countries across the world from Cuba to Russia to China. A lot of people naturally assume that what “The Communist Manifesto” contains is the wacko scribblings of a nutjob due only to the fact that when something is done in the name of someone else, that someone else must absolutely be to blame. But is that so?
Just about everything that Karl Marx wrote in “The Communist Manifesto” has come to fruition except for the widespread acceptance of communism as the only fair system of economics. That failure is more likely due to a sustained ratio of increasing access to leisure products and decreasing intelligence than to any failure on Marx’s part to divine the course of the future based on his principle tenet that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” (Another thing Marx failed to see was just how easy it would become to blind people with consumerism and credit so that they believe they are doing better than they really are, but feel free to read Thorstein Veblen is you want to see how that someone living in the 19th century could predict the lives most Americans lead in the 21st century.)
Karl Marx begins “The Communist Manifesto” by outlining the history of economics and how it has come to result in two distinct classes of parties which he terms the bourgeois and the proletariat. Marx explains how the history of society is really nothing more than the history of these two classes continually struggling over power and property. Just in case you weren’t keeping score, in the virulently capitalist arena of American in the 21st century, the bourgeois is winning by such a wide a margin that the proletariat might as well be termed the Buffalo Bills. And just in case you were wondering how those countries with an economic and political system that actually come closest to qualifying as Marxist are doing in comparison, you might be surprised to learn that the gap between the richest and the middle class is nowhere near as obscenely expansive as the gap that exists between the richest and the middle class in good old capitalist America.
The bourgeois owners, in order to continually expand their markets, nestle everywhere across the globe, turning as much of the population as is possible into consumers. They have successfully commodified everything and in the process alienated the worker from that which he produces (and now, even from that which he consumes.) Karl Marx saw clearly that in order for for the capitalist system to survive, new and mostly false desires would have to be created once everyone had enough to actually survive. In order for the capitalist mode of free-market trade to expand, of course, it must push, by force and aggression if necessary, into those markets which are resistant to the capitalist mode of thought. Hence, why there have many so many unnecessary wars undeclared in the name of purposes actually having little to nothing to do with why poor soldiers were being slaughtered.
Karl Marx later outlines exactly what a communist is and it might surprise the modern reader very much to find out that a communist is nothing at all like the evil character created by Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his ilk. This section of the Communist Manifesto clears up the fallacy regarding the fear that communists are bent on taking away every man’s property and sharing it with others. Marx points out that capital is not a personal power at all, but a social power. Paragraph by paragraph, Marx explains the communist thought behind doing away with the illusion of private property, with oppression of women and children, with countries and nationalities and nationalism.
Marx then goes on to subdivide socialist and communist literature into 1) Reactionary literature as exemplified by a) feudal socialism, b) petty-bourgeois socialism and c) German, or true socialism; 2) Conservative, or bourgeois, socialism, and 3) Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism. He gives a short history and an analysis of each of these types of socialism and literature.
The Communist Manifesto ends with section 4: Position of the Communists in Relation to the Various Existing Opposition Parties. Here Marx outlines what exactly the communists support both in various individual countries and globally. The manifesto ends with the famous, though usually misworded, call to arms: Working Men of all Countries, Unite!