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    The Manifesto being our joint production, I consider myself bound to state that the fundamental
    proposition which forms the nucleus belongs to Marx. That proposition is: That in every historical
    epoch, the prevailing mode of economic production and exchange, and the social organization
    necessarily following from it, form the basis upon which it is built up, and from that which alone
    can be explained the political and intellectual history of that epoch; that consequently the whole
    history of mankind (since the dissolution of primitive tribal society, holding land in common
    ownership) has been a history of class struggles, contests between exploiting and exploited, ruling
    and oppressed classes; That the history of these class struggles forms a series of evolutions in which,
    nowadays, a stage has been reached where the exploited and oppressed class -- the proletariat --
    cannot attain its emancipation from the sway of the exploiting and ruling class -- the bourgeoisie --
    without, at the same time, and once and for all, emancipating society at large from all exploitation,
    oppression, class distinction, and class struggles.
          -Friedrich Engels, Preface to the English Edition of 1888

It's common practice these days to begin any discussion of Karl Marx by first noting that Marxism hasn't turned out to well in practice, but then to give him credit for the unique power of his critique of Capitalism.  Here's a representative sample of this technique (found on the page where this book is sold, see link above):

    This new edition of The Communist Manifesto, commemorating the 150th anniversary of its
    publication, includes an introduction by renowned historian Eric Hobsbawm which reminds us of
    the document's continued relevance. Marx and Engels's critique of capitalism and its deleterious
    effect on all aspects of life, from the increasing rift between the classes to the destruction of the
    nuclear family, has proven remarkably prescient.

This is, of course, purest balderdash.  The book is relevant only in the sense that Mein Kampf or The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is relevant, which is as a case study in the truly horrific ideas that masses of people can come to believe in.

As to the deleterious effect of Capitalism on all aspects of life, this assertion borders on the absurd.  The 150 years since the publication of this book have conclusively proven that free market capitalism is the most effective system yet invented by man for the creation of wealth, improvement of living standards and fostering of liberty.  Take just the two examples cited above: the rift between the classes and the destruction of the nuclear family.  In the first place, there is really no such thing as a "class" in modern liberal capitalist democracy, certainly not in the sense that Marx meant: a semi permanent grouping of people with similar political interests based on their shared economic status.  One of the defining features of capitalism is the ruthlessness with which it sorts each succeeding generation of individuals, with social status determined by ability and sustained hard work, rather than by inherited privilege or bondage.  One of the many ways in which Marx (and Engels) fundamentally misunderstood capitalism was his failure to perceive that attraction it would have to the lowest classes, the proletariat he imagined himself to be championing.  While the divide between rich and poor remains--and may even have grown, thanks to the enormous creation of wealth we've experienced in recent years--proletarians not only don't begrudge the rich their wealth, in fact, they tend to believe that they or their children have an excellent chance of being rich themselves.

Meanwhile, the breakdown of the nuclear family, though lamentable and in truth partially traceable to the effects of capitalism, stems from the beneficial effects, not the deleterious.  The simple truth is that the rising standard of living made possible by capitalism have also made it possible for the very old, the very young, women, the handicapped, etc. to survive on their own for the first time in human history.  While there are obvious familial and societal benefits to having multiple generations living under one roof, capitalism has, by and large, removed the financial pressures that made the extended family necessary.  In recent years we have begun to appreciate just how mixed a blessing is this atomization of the family, but even if it is determined that the nuclear family should be revived, it will be for cultural reasons and not because capitalism has somehow failed.

It is odd that folks today so blithely accept the idea that Marx's arguments retain their validity. Just take a look at the ten point program that Marx and Engels proposed in the Manifesto:

    1. Abolition of private property and the application of all rent to public purpose.

    2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

    3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance

    4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels

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

    6. Centralization of the means of communication and transportation in the hands of the State

    7. Extention 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.

    8. Equal liability of all to labor. Establishment of Industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

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

    10. Free education for all children in government schools. Abolition of children's factory labor in
          its present form.  Combination of education with industrial production, etc. etc.

These proposals, though disparate, are unified by their common reliance on centralized planning and central authority for their implementation and administration.  How often have we heard the canard that true Marxism has not been attempted yet, that the USSR and Red China and other countries were imperfect experiments?  In fact, as Friedrich Hayek demonstrated over fifty years ago, in The Road to Serfdom, any system which depends for it's existence on central planning inevitably leads to exactly the type of tyranny which we saw in these unfortunate countries and in Nazi Germany.

Even if we set aside the specific program proposed and the current claims made for the book, we are still left with Engels's statement in the epigraph above: that all of history consists of naught but the struggles between classes for superiority.  But even this assertion has faired poorly in the century and a half since the authors made it.  During that time the lowest classes and the least empowered members of all classes have certainly experienced a revolutionary rise to power, but in nearly if not all cases this has been a result of generosity on the part of the bourgeoisie, not of any concerted effort on the part of the "oppressed".  The abolition of slavery, emancipation of the serfs, ending of imperialism, and so forth were by and large effected by the bourgeoisie itself.  And in the cases where members of oppressed groups did organize themselves, for instance the Women's Movement, Civil Rights Movement, Independence Movement in India, and so on (note that in all cases the organizers were middle class activists, not actual proletarians), they rarely faced much of a struggle; all they really had to do was to remind the bourgeois class of it's own ideology and ideals and point out that they weren't living up to them and the bourgoisie in each case agreed and rapidly instituted the necessary reforms.  The struggle in the West has been not between oppressed and oppressor but between the oppressor and the realization of his own beliefs.  The resiliency and expansiveness of liberal democratic capitalism has been little short of astounding, even to it's adherents, perhaps Marx and Engels can not be judged too harshly for failing to anticipate just how successfully the bourgeoisie would accommodate the political and economic desires of the underclasses, but we must always keep in mind that nothing could ever justify the coercive alternatives that they proposed.

It is long past time to stop flagellating ourselves about the supposed irremediable flaws and built in contradictions of capitalism, time now to speak the truth:  this is an evil book and Marx was an evil man.  Together they were responsible for much of the murder and mayhem of the Century just ended.  To pretend otherwise, even in a mere attempt to be charitable to Marx, is to dishonor the hundreds of millions of innocent people who were murdered in the brutal process of proving that Communism is an inherently homicidal totalitarian utopian mirage.


Grade: (F)


Book-related and General Links:
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA: Your search: "karl marx"
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA: "Marx, Karl" (b. May 5, 1818, Trier, Rhine province, Prussia [Germany]
    -Karl Marx, 1818-1883 (The History Guide) Internet Archive
    -Marxism Page (Rick Kuhn, Department of Political Science at the Australian National University)
    -DISCUSSION: Marx, Karl Forum Frigate
    -ETEXT: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848)
    -Study Guide for The Communist Manifesto (Paul Brians, Department of English, Washington State University)
    -PSN SEMINAR:  The 150th Anniversary of the Communist Manifesto Hosted by Manjur Karim
    -150 Years of the Communist Manifesto
    -150 Years after the Communist Manifesto: Is it Relevant Today? (Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism)
    -ESSAY : Howóand How Notóto Love Mankind (Theodore Dalrymple, Summer 2001, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: Marx's Masterpiece at 150  (Steven Marcus, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: A Manifesto for the 21st Century: 150 years of the Communist Manifesto (Alan Woods)
    -ESSAY: 90 years of the Communist Manifesto (Leon Trotsky)
    -ESSAY: THE PROLETARIAT SHRUGGED (Shlomo Avineri, NY Times Book Review)
    -ARCHIVES: "Karl Marx" (NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of KARL MARX FRIEDRICH ENGELS Selected Letters. The Personal Correspondence, 1844-77. Edited by Fritz J. Raddatz (Ann Oakley, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: Murray Kempton: K. Marx, Reporter, NY Review of Books
       The American Journalism of Marx and Engels
    -REVIEW: of A Requiem for Karl Marx  by Frank E. Manuel Shame & Loathing    (Edward Alexander, Commentary)
    -REVIEW: of  Karl Marx A Life. By Francis Wheen (Sylvia Nasar, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Karl Marx: A Life by Francis Wheen   Let Marx Be Marx  (GERTRUDE HIMMELFARB, New Republic)
    -REVIEW: Karl Marx: A Life by Francis Wheen The Devil in Mr. Marx  (ANDY MERRIFIELD, The Nation)
    -REVIEW: of MARXISM AND MORALITY By Steven Lukes (Eugene Kamenka, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of MARXISM The Science of Society. An Introduction. By Kenneth Neill Cameron and MARXISM Philosophy and Economics. By Thomas Sowell (Brigitte Berger, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW:  of Possibilities for Prosperity. By Michael J. Piore and Charles F. Sabel BEYOND MASS PRODUCTION (Robert Heilbroner, NY Times Book Review)

    -ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA:  Your search: "friedrich engels"
    -ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA: Engels, Friedrich (b. Nov. 28, 1820, Barmen, Rhine Province, Prussia)

    -In Defence of Marxism
    -Young Communist League of America
    -Marxism List Home Page
    -The Notebook  for Contemporary Continental Philosophy
    -Episteme Links
    -ESSAY: The Age of Social Transformation (Peter Drucker, The Atlantic)
    -ESSAY: The Future Did Not Work (J. Arch Getty, The Atlantic)
    -REVIEW: of STRANGER ON THE SQUARE By Arthur and Cynthia Koestler. Edited and introduced by Harold Harris (Hilton Kramer, NY Times Book Review)