That Gurjot

Witness the normal

My Take on The Communist Manifesto

02 Aug 2014

I just finished reading The Communist Manifesto by Carl Marx and Fredreich Engels. The version I read was the very original print with a long introduction at the beginning and preface to all the subsequent editions at the end. To sum up my first take on it in a word - “Hmm.”

Well, technically my first take, or my first communist idea was many years ago, around 2009 when I wrote this on my deviantart page -

"Sometimes I go into a weird state of mind. The Save the World state of mind. I feel sad about the stupid things that happen all over the world. Terrorism, Global Warming, Economic Crisis, Racism,Illiteracy, Hunger, et al. It's really depressing at times. Global Warming and the dying Mother Nature are the most depressing of all. I am a hardcore water conservator, people at home fear me. I want to change the world. Beginning with the end of the Money and Economy component. No Money No Worry. Then there needs to be spread of education. Education about how to live life and progress as a Human Race and not as a caste, creed, religion or country."

Wow. Much intelligent. Smart boy.

Anyway. The 50-page book took me exactly a week to read; I was busy, but also it was really tough to read. ‘Bourgeoisie’ and ‘proletariat’ aren’t really part of my active vocabulary you see. It took me some time shifting between the text and notes by Engels at the back.

The historical context in the part 1 was especially important. I really liked the idea about the bourgeoisie being a derivative of the feudal system and the distinction brought out between the proletariat and other non-bourgeoisie classes. I was surprised by the longevity of Marx’s arguments, like that the bourgeoisie needs the proletariat to fight the bourgeoisie. What he said back in the mid-19th century, stands true today as well.

The ten commandments of the communists that he lists at the end of Proletarians and Communists -

Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

Agreed. Always wanted this.

A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

Tricky. Don’t know what it means.

Abolition of all right of inheritance.

All smart people acquiesce to this sooner or later.

Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

What. No.

Centralisation of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.

Don’t know what it means.

Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.

If it works well, okay.

Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

Of course, good stuff.

Equal liability of all to labour. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

Don’t know what it means.

Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equitable distribution of the population over the country.

I disagree slightly. I would still want my old country retreat.

Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labour in its present form and combination of education with industrial production.

Agree-disagree. Free education, okay. Last bit, true in 1848, not now.

My knowledge of communism so far was based entirely on hearsay and there were so many new ideas in the manifesto that I had no idea about earlier. The idea of relinquishing private property and the rationale provided for it stood out particularly -

"In your existing society, private property exists solely due to its nonexistence in the hands of nine-tenths of the society."

Add to that the reply to the non-communist argument that a Marxist utopia would not survive since everyone would just be lazy about working -

"That way the capitalist system should have gone extinct a long time ago, given how those who work don't make any money and those who make money hardly work."

I think the entire idea of the manifesto is indeed slightly utopian, to say it mildly. Even Marx says so in the preface to the 1882 edition - “these ideas stand falsified by the change in the political situation.” The society we live in now is obviously different from then, but in the positive sense. We have more academics now, more people with radical thoughts, more people frustrated by the bourgouis, more people demanding a change in the political construct. Bringing about a change in the social construct, however, is probably the most difficult to bring about. How do you convince a tea-shop owner to give up his right to property? Let alone the billion-dollar fatsos.

In summation, were the ideas in the manifesto profound? Yes. Am I totally convinced about it? Not yet. But then, judging communism by the manifesto is like judging artifical intelligence by morse code.

I’m going to read more literature on political and social thought. That big fat book really needs some dusting, I guess.

Workers of the world, unite!