Ah, the Communist Manifesto, one of the most oddly beloved and understandably hated booklets of all time. It’s only about 42 pages long, depending on the version, with roughly 17,000 words in it, which makes one wonder how exactly it’s supposed to support the worldview for the ideology it does; one would think an ideology as sophisticated as communism requires much more than 42 pages, at least 100. Mein Kampf is over 600 pages long, surely Marx and Engels could have expanded on their ideas.
But, I digress. The manifesto is written in 1848 by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, a pair of disillusioned atheists with bold and simplistic views of the world. For the purpose of simplicity, I will refer to Marx as the author and omit Engels as Marx was the primary contributor to the manifesto. It begins with it’s very first sentence oversimplifying world history. They immediately claim, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”(50). This is simply untrue. Let’s think back to the American Revolution, a war still fresh in the minds of Europeans at that time, though it was growing less fresh with every passing year. The war was fought primarily by aristocrats (which Marx would call Bourgeoisie) who were rebelling from the king of England, another high ranking aristocrat. How exactly is that a class struggle? Maybe if you stretched it you could call it one, so let’s again think back to the 2nd Punic War (with Hannibal Barca) which was undeniably nothing more than two feuding nation states going at each other. How is that a class struggle? It’s not and this is how Marx pushes his over simplistic worldview, by simply overlooking the many wars that were fought and the many eras the various nations went through that had nothing to do with classes. But alas, I have digressed yet again, so let us move on.
But before we go on, it’s important to understand the context of the book and the sort of society is came out of. It was written in the middle of the industrial revolution when factories employed thousands of workers, paid them only as much as they needed to stay alive, and gave no regard for their safety in said factory. Proper precautions for dangerous machinery was not taken. As you can imagine, tales of little girls getting their hair stuck in machinery only to later have their heads crushed conjured up negative images of the whole affair which led to many people adhering to Marx’s ideas and agreeing with him that the bourgeoisie were indeed exploiting the proletariat. Back then there was almost no middle class and the wealth gap between the classes was immense. Next, we must understand that it’s from a German perspective. Europe has been overcrowded since the Middle Ages and because of this, the land ownership has been restricted, for the most part, to the rich aristocrats. This is why when Marx says that land is not controlled by the proletariat we cannot respond by saying “Yes it is, look at America!” It is in America, but back in the day, in Europe, it was not. Lastly, we must define the two terms Marx and Engels so often refer to, the bourgeoisie and proletariat. The former were the rich capitalists that ran the factories while the poor proletariat were the workers who manned them.
Marx goes on to claim that free trade is exploitation but we simply must ask, how is it exploitation if both parties agree and can withdraw said agreement at any time? Marx continues by saying that the bourgeoisie have an innate desire to further revolutionize the means of production by improving and expanding them. This is true but it’s not just the bourgeoisie that want that; everyone wants that, especially the proletariat whose jobs are made easier, more productive, and less taxing on their resources. Look at farming. Farmers are undeniably proletarian , yet they constantly wish to revolutionize their methods in order to bring about a greater yield, and have done so for centuries.
What Marx says next is honestly something we can agree with. He continues, “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 rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life”(55). Why Marx has a pessimistic attitude to rural living (maybe it’s because of the bourgeois lifestyle he so loved), I do not know, but I do know that the rest of those sentences are correct, especially today. Entire states are controlled by large metropolises. Because of this, they vote democrat and the rural population is forgotten and left in the dust until their area is inevitably overcome by urban sprawl and crowding. New York and California are infamous for this but even some of our own states behave this way or will very soon; namely Georgia, Virginia, and North Carolina. Thank God for the electoral college, else the entire country would be this way. Marx rambles on until he complains about the need for capitalism to expand its markets and take over new ones. While this is true, it has been practiced by all societies. The competition for resources has always gone on and even socialist societies have participated in it. Throughout the manifesto, Marx disregards the fact that humans are greedy and that will never go away, not on a large scale at least.
The next point Marx makes is simply illogical and strange to say the least as he obviously didn’t think about it too hard. Marx claims, “But the price of a commodity, and therefore also of labour, is equal to the cost of production. In proportion, therefore, as the repulsiveness of the work increases, the wage decreases. Nay more, in proportion as the use of the machinery and division of labour increases, in the same proportion the burden of toil also increase, whether by prolongation of the working hours, by increase of the work exacted in a given time…”(59). What Marx is saying is that the more sophisticated a job gets, the more work has to be put into it and thus the wage the worker gets is less. This is not true and I’ll give you an example. Farming has gotten increasingly more sophisticated with more and more machines involved and less work needed. Three men can now work an entire field of crops, whereas, that kind of work needed ten men, at least, a hundred years ago. Now, Marx also claims that more toil=less pay but that is the opposite of the way things are. The more work you do, the more you get paid, simple as that. Marx then describes the workers as slaves to their bosses. Apparently Marx does not understand the definition of a slave or the fact that thanks to capitalism, anyone can rise to the top, which slaves can’t typically do.
A few paragraphs later, Marx again makes another false claim, that being that the proletariat grows with the development of industry. Now Marx didn’t live in the proper time to witness this, but actually the proletariat declines as industry develops and the middle class comes about. Not but a sentence later he again falsely claims that machinery reduces wages.
That is the end of what I care to discuss in the first section of the manifesto. The second section is titled “Proletarians and Communists”. It’s the more revolutionary chapter of the manifesto and perhaps the one that needs the most coverage. It explains not only the proletarian-communist relationship (according to Marx at least) but also includes a guide for what they aim to achieve.
It starts off by establishing communism as a worldwide movement or at least a movement that aims to “liberate” the whole world’s proletariat from the yoke of the bourgeoisie: “In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality”(66). Given this, it’s easy to see why the “domino effect” was believed to be real, because it was. Communism spread itself to every coordinate of the globe, from Africa, to America, to South America, etc. Marx then boasts that the communists pushes forward all sections of the working class even though Marx’s ideological grandchildren also put down many and destabilized its enemies for the sake of having no competition, oppressing many other working classes of the world, notably through the destruction of the family.
Marx continues: “the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property”(67). Now, I say, we’re getting somewhere! He continues: “…does wage labour create any property for the labourer? Not a bit”(67). Wrong. After a little more rambling, he claims, “To be a capitalist, is to have not only a purely personal, but a social, status in production. Capital is a collective product …”(67). Marx reasons that since capital is made through social and collective means, that everyone is entitled to it. Throughout the whole manifesto, Marx assumes that capitalists and the bourgeoisie do not work and simply tell people to and live off of that. This is woefully untrue however. Sure, they may not work as hard as the proletariat physically, but their jobs are just as, if not more emotionally and mentally taxing. They must arrange and attend meetings, organize finances and resources, maintain their relationships as well as their workforce, not to mention be smart enough to know how to do those things. The rich work for a living just as you and I. Marx then clarifies that Communists do not seek to eliminate personal property such as personal belongings, just property, such as ownership of land, businesses, etc.
Perhaps one of Marx’s worst assumptions about the rich happens a few pages later. He starts it off like this, “On what foundation is the present family based, the bourgeois family, based? On capital, on private gain” (71). Before and after this quote, Marx continues claiming that the only family that exists is the bourgeois family. He pretends as if the proletariat have no family whatsoever and as if the family structure of the proletariat has been stripped away. There is no founding for this logic however, and all evidence suggests that during his time the proletariat did indeed have strong, prosperous families, much more than they do today. Hell, today socialist practice like welfare has destroyed the family structure by giving incentives for women to be single-mothers. Meanwhile, marxist propaganda touts the nuclear family as unnecessary, useless, and even destructive. Yes, Marx, you are attempting to destroy the family and you can’t dismiss that fact by claiming that the proletarians don’t have families in the first place because they most certainly do and did. Here’s another scary quote: “Do you charge us with wanting to stop the exploitation of children by their parents? To this we plead guilty” (71). We know how Marx uses the word “exploitation” so that could be perceived as using them for child labour like how was common back then or it could be advocating the end of parental discipline and guidance towards their children. Hell, he probably wanted both. Historically we know that socialists and communists (the difference is vague and may not even exist) have sought to make children the property of the state, not the family.
After more rambling about bourgeois marriage, Marx reluctantly or eagerly levels his gun to insult Christianity, proclaiming that it was overcome by rational thoughts. Any Christian should immediately stop following Marx or Christ at this point as Marx and Christ do not mix. Decide where your loyalties lie I suppose.
Finally we reach the point where Marx actually lists his list of actions that should, in his opinion, be taken to bring about the ideal society, though we know this is not all. They go as follows:
- Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes
- A heavy progressive or graduated income tax
- Abolition of all right of inheritance
- Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels
- Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly
- Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state
- 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.
- Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
- Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the population over the country.
- Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production etc.
Let’s break a few down. Three is not surprising but scary and infuriating nonetheless. When you die you naturally want to pass your wealth and belongings down to those who deserve it and who you care about. To communists this does not matter; remember, your possessions are ultimately the state’s. Four is interesting because Marx wants rebellion yet call for the confiscation of all property from them as well as emigrants which is just strange. Nine is also scary because it means that people would be forcibly redistributed across the country. This would be chaotic, to say the least. Ten is the only moderate point which not many people would disagree with, except for the last sentence. None of this establishes how the state is to be run and so, we get the Soviet Union where the elite class still existed and, dare I say, thrived. Who would overlook the redistribution of the society and the management of factories?
Section II ends after the ten points of action Marx makes. Since Section III is largely irrelevant, I have decided to omit it from the article and preserve the focus of the article toward just the first two, much more important, sections
In conclusion, the Communist Manifesto is a collection of ramblings by two disillusioned imbeciles who were lamenting at the horrors of rampant 19th-Century capitalism and got carried away with it. They are ignorant of the true nature of human greed as well as the nature of the bourgeoisie who do not enslave the workers or live freely while doing little to no work. I would advise you to abstain from reading the Communist Manifesto as I have done as there is little knowledge in it and it is highly obnoxious how Marx and Engels constantly oversimplify history and do not expand on the points that should be expanded on. It is much too short and is not convincing to a rational, sane person. Communism has proven to be the single worst killer of humans on this planet, constantly disposing of political enemies and being the chief outlet for corruption due to the nature of the ideology. For communism to work, it must have someone overseeing it and as such, it can only exist in small tribal groups with an extremely low population, or in its corrupt, horrid dictatorship form. True communism on a worldwide scale is unachievable, not that the ideology is just in the first place. Capitalists work for their wealth and do earn it, either by birthright or by hard work and an ambitious and industrious attitude. Taking all of that away is theft just because you don’t have enough is theft and as such is unjust in the eyes of the LORD.
The entire manifesto is built on the bratty desire to advance yourself at the expense of others. You are not oppressed, not by the bourgeois. You must work to make a name and life for yourself. You can do it Southern Man. Your ancestors were some of the greatest, strongest, hardest working, people to walk this earth. Follow their path and resist the temptation and unjust desire to steal from those more privileged than you because once you are on top, after working hard, the last thing you want is to have your wealth stripped away.
Reject socialism and communism. Embrace the grit.
Note: this is my version of the Communist Manifesto that I have cited throughout the article.
- Marx, Karl. The Communist Manifesto. The sesquicentennial edition with an introduction by Martin Malia ed., Signet Classics, 1998.