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The Communist Manifesto

Read to accompany Francis Wheen’s biography of Marx and because the British left is debating what it stands for at the moment.

(Incidentally, when David Miliband came to Ipswich during the leadership campaign, he made an interesting aside in his speech: The Labour party is more methodist than Marx.)

Original Communist Manifesto cover

The cover of The Communist Manifesto. Boasts its own typeface – printers and typesetters were always politically radical.

Well, Marx was wrong. Partly. The proletariat didn’t overthrow the bourgeois. Instead, the bourgeois made concessions and became more dispersed. The nature of work changed and, as a consequence, so did societal relationships (a perfectly Marxist process). You could say that the conservative socialists won.

Still, most of the Manifesto’s ten demands came to be. And now they’re disappearing. So it goes.

What we can take from Marx

  • Philosophy, art, politics etc. are derived from the social relations of any given point in time. Universal, higher truths do not exist. Useful, as it provides a way of deconstructing bullshit such as The Big Society. Ask: who is gaining from this? Whose power does it uphold?
  • Lionising or vilifying Marx does his work a disservice. On the other hand, he does serve as a useful radical cipher and as a middle class bogeyman (just as Nietzsche pops up periodically to tell us God is dead)
  • The state is the best way to ensure equality and fairness
  • Marx was good on modern forms of communication and transportation and how they could affect/be used for revolutionary purposes. Would be easy to relate to the modern world.
  • An example of unremitting radicalism. There’s no compromise in Marx. Again, a useful, sometimes inspiring perspective.

Marx was a good writer. Lots of stirring rhetoric.

Finally (very ironically enough) this was the first text I read on my new Kindle.