Book review of The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
I knew Karl Marx was an unwashed, financially irresponsible, bourgeois twit who knocked up his unpaid servant and refused to acknowledge his son.
But what was communism all about?
My usual policy is to read the Big Books. However, I satisfied myself with summaries of Das Kapital rather than tackle the whole thing. Life is short and it didn’t seem worth my time.
Instead I had a look at the much shorter Communist Manifesto:
[In our epoch] Society as a whole is more and more splintering up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other – Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.
Hmm. Things got much more complicated after he wrote that, and are now simplifying again, with the strange caveat that the ‘Left’ now represents the interests and values of the most educated and remunerated while the ‘Right’ increasingly finds its support among laid-off factory workers, rural and regional voters and those with low incomes and education in general.
As has been noted, the main ‘left-wing’ agitation today is among the overproduced elite who fear above all becoming working class. Did Marx see that one coming? Did it in some way apply to himself? Maybe.
Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch . . . prejudices and opinion . . . are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify.
That sounds more like our time than his, with the modern Bourgeoisie able to seize new opportunities while the Proletariat are left stunned and demoralized by economic upheaval. Accepted values evolve rapidly and are used as a test of class belonging: if you can’t remember the proper nomenclature for black people this month or all the letters in the gay acronym, you reveal yourself to be an unworthy prole.
Here’s an interesting view on globalization in which the reader may spot areas of relevance to today’s world:
The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilization. The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.
The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilized ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East and the West.
The modern Left continues to see inhabitants of rural areas as idiotic.
From the end of the Cold War until recently, only a few nations have attempted to escape Western-led global capitalism and they have suffered for it: North Korea, Cuba, Eritrea, Libya, Iran etc. Almost the whole world was eventually drawn into the Bretton Woods/WTO system.
However, there is now a serious rival for global economic dominance for the first time since 1990; a hybrid state that is bringing many nations into its orbit one way or another.
The American Empire itself is becoming Sinoficated. Large companies are beholden to the government, often do their dirty work for them to dodge the pesky Constitution, and open cronyism is now the norm.
Here’s an interesting comment on alientation:
Owing to the extensive use of machinery, and to the division of labour, the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and, consequently, all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him.
This seems very 50s, doesn’t it? Now we look back fondly upon the era of working-class jobs in unionized factories. Marx never envisioned that these workers might enjoy the camaraderie and reasonable incomes of such jobs once productivity increased, nor that such workers would miss their old workplaces after being replaced by robots or cheaper labour in the ‘barbarian’ countries.
What we see now is a much more profound alienation, with men who formerly would have made things now floundering in lowest end of the service economy and unable to raise a family, or on welfare, or involved in crime. Whichever way they go, substance abuse is widespread among the lower classes and social decay almost ubiquitous.
Marx goes on:
The less the skill and exertion of strength implied in manual labour, in other words, the more modern industry becomes developed, the more is the labour of men superseded by that of women. Differences of age and sex have no longer any distinctive social validity for the working class. All are instruments of labour, more or less expensive to use, according to their age and sex.
That turned out to be true. He didn’t make the next leap into wondering what that would do to culture and birthrates, though, nor predict that women would begin to supersede men in some areas of education.
For those looking for something that might relate to Antifa, there’s this tidbit:
The “dangerous class”, [lumpenproletariat] the social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of the old society, may, here and there, be swept into the movement by a proletarian revolution; its conditions of life, however, prepare it far more for the part of bribed tool of reactionary intrigue.
If like me you count Woke Capital and the state/NGO oligarchy as reactionaries against working class interests, that’s still true as ever.
It is odd to read Marx talk about how family relations differ between classes and how subjection to capital “has stripped [man] of every trace of national character.” In Coming Apart, Murray demonstrates how stable marriage is becoming an bourgeois trait. Meanwhile, national characteristics have further frayed as populations have relocated. If there was no such thing as an Englishman in the 1800s, what about now?
In relation to property rights, Marx says:
You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population . . .
When people bring up ‘property rights’ we think of rich libertarians trying to dodge tax. In much of the world, however, strengthened property rights would mostly benefit the poor who cannot afford to loose the little they have.
In the Philippines, for example, it is ridiculously hard to get ‘free title’ to your own farm, which reduces incentives to improve it or sell it in order to take advantage of better opportunities elsewhere. Very moderate land reforms to improve people’s rights to their own property is a low-hanging development fruit that’s been rotting on the vine for decades, and will continue to do so.
In many Third World countries I’ve visited or read about, a lack of property rights is used by the rich to pinch stuff from the poor.
Returning to the family:
Abolition of the family! Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the Communists.
Marx doesn’t explain in detail what would replace this exploitative bourgeois system. I’m unaware of any Communist countries that have seriously tried to abolish families, at least for very long. Family is what keeps a man under control. Without traditional fatherhood he becomes a baby daddy, not a productive worker, unless a court order enslaves him. Or even worse, a fellow may become a childless, rootless Single Man beholden to nobody.
One abolishes or undermines the family among a group one wishes to destroy, not a group one seeks to harness for its productive capability.
Here Marx mentions the paleo-Woke:
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, organisers 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 . . .
They wish for a bourgeoisie without a proletariat.
That last describes well the modern Left. They don’t want to create a workers’ paradise. They don’t want to be empowered workers who own the means of production. They want high-status jobs in .gov or the noble not-for-profit sector. They want those yucky, low-status workers to disappear from the face of the Earth or be replaced by alien ethnicities too diverse and divided to challenge the status quo.
No wonder our elite love distant Chinese factories that keep the proletariat far away. Now they need only eliminate the remnants of their domestic working class.
That The Communist Manifesto exists at all demonstrates another difference between classical Marxism and the new Church of Woke.
The Manifesto makes Marx and Engels’ intentions clear enough: they wish to seize control of land and industry, install a dictatorship of the proletariat and remake society without capital, the family, nationalist sentiment or other bourgeois cultural artifacts. To an extent, later Socialist republics really did attempt to achieve some of these ideals.
On the other hand, Woke is a movement without a manifesto or sacred text. It doesn’t even have a proper name. Books used by the movement change rapidly as previous thought leaders are cancelled. The overall agenda is ever-changing and opaque.
There is no clear endpoint: overcoming systemic discrimination appears to be an eternal chore for white men to be nagged about. I am unaware of any New Left exposition of what an ideal future would look like, and even if one were published it would soon become out-of-date and verboten.
Which makes for the stronger movement? Communism made itself an obvious target with the publication of this pamphlet and the formal establishment of political parties, but nevertheless conquered large parts of the world for decades.
Woke is amorphous and attacking it is like sword-fighting a fart. Many claim Woke doesn’t even exist and that use of the term is a Nazi tell. It is a perfect example of anti-fragility.
However, Woke has no overarching aim. Some within it seek to cancel those above them in order to grasp precious roles in the Twitocracy. Others are in it for the bullying. Big Business uses it to avoid normal left-wing criticism and to market its slave-produced goods. Big Tech supports it as a feint to distract attention from their workforce which is dominated by male Ice People.
But then, the totalitarian regime in 1984 had no goal either, except its own perpetuation. Like an organism mindlessly replicating its genes.
Perhaps nature tends that way and irrational social trends like Woke, Prohibition and Witch Panics, unlike formal ideologies like Communism, are Lindy.
Modern class in America as seen through the eyes of a Tucson taxi driver. See my review of 6 to 6 here.
The book is also available direct from Terror House.