The Communist Manifesto: A Modern Edition
Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx
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In the two decades following the fall of the Berlin Wall, global capitalism became entrenched in its modern, neoliberal form. Its triumph was so complete that the word “capitalism” itself fell out of use in the absence of credible political alternatives. But with the outbreak of financial crisis and global recession in the twenty-first century, capitalism is once again up for discussion. The status quo can no longer be taken for granted.
As Eric Hobsbawm argues in his acute and elegant introduction to this modern edition, in such times The Communist Manifesto emerges as a work of great prescience and power despite being written over a century and a half ago. He highlights Marx and Engels’s enduring insights into the capitalist system: its devastating impact on all aspects of human existence; its susceptibility to enormous convulsions and crises; and its fundamental weakness.
mass Marxist social-democratic party was not expected to pass examinations in theory. Conversely, the 70 pre-Revolutionary Russian editions represented a combination of organizations, illegal for most of the time, whose total membership cannot have exceeded a few thousand. Similarly, the 34 English editions were published by and for the scattering of Marxist sects in the Anglo-Saxon world, operating on the left flank of such labour and socialist parties as existed. This was the milieu in which
centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class, and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible. Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore, which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the movement, outstrip
it was natural that writers who sided with the proletariat against the bourgeoisie should use, in their criticism of the bourgeois regime, the standard of the peasant and petty bourgeois, and from the standpoint of these intermediate classes should take up the cudgels for the working class. Thus arose petty-bourgeois socialism. Sismondi15 was the head of this school, not only in France but also in England. This school of socialism dissected with great acuteness the contradictions in the
French original. For instance, beneath the French criticism of the economic functions of money, they wrote ‘alienation of humanity’, and beneath the French criticism of the bourgeois state they wrote, ‘dethronement of the category of the general’, and so forth. The introduction of these philosophical phrases at the back of the French historical criticisms they dubbed ‘philosophy of action’, ‘true socialism’, ‘German science of socialism’, ‘philosophical foundation of socialism’, and so on. The
French socialist and communist literature was thus completely emasculated. And, since it ceased in the hands of the German to express the struggle of one class with the other, he felt conscious of having overcome ‘French one-sidedness’ and of representing, not true requirements, but the requirements of truth; not the interests of the proletariat, but the interests of human nature, of man in general, who belongs to no class, has no reality, who exists only in the misty realm of philosophical