Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Communist Manifesto. Have You Read It?

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired
The Capitalist Pyramid

"The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere."

This short excerpt from the Communist Manifesto is important in that it explains the madness we are witnessing around us. The school shootings, the wars, the starvation. We are animals, and animals are conditioned by our environment. What this passage describes is an environment that is unhealthy, insecure and savage. Chickens on the range are chickens of one type. In the industrial farms they are chickens of another. Change the environment and you change the chicken. The same with humans. We are just chickens with an advanced consciousness. This is why Marx is demonized.

Workers can plough through pages upon pages of religious texts written millennia ago, (Millennia is not the name of Trump’s trophy wife) the Judeo Christian bible, the koran, themselves connected to older texts, the Sumerian, the Epic of Gilgamesh and who knows what else. Humans have attempted since our beginnings to explain the world around us and ancient texts are interesting, but tales nevertheless. But mention the Communist Manifesto and most will never have read it, particularly in the US.

But what of this passage above that has its roots firmly planted in reality, the material world. It is a description some 160 years ago of historical development and the human organization. Unlike religious mythology it is hated, demonized, savaged and most importantly feared by the ruling classes.

I was taught that a supernatural creature impregnated a Jewish woman without physical sex and she gave birth to its son and that's why were here.  Some time before that, this supernatural being had spoken to another man and made some sort of deal with him that promised him a territory and special favors if he did some nasty stuff to his male children. It’s a nice story but it’s not real. I know people that accept it don’t like this, but I cannot with all honesty say otherwise. I believe people have a right to believe this, and I have a right not to.  It is not that individuals accept this doctrine, it is that the state and its institutions give it credibility. Marx wrote very little about religion and for Marxists believing in a supreme being is a personal and very private matter.

I have a friend who is somewhat religious. She had broken from some of its worst trappings but we are taught that message from the minute we leave the womb so it’s hard for sure. We are terrorized with threats of retribution, pain  and suffering if we don’t toe the line. God is always watching you.  And the state and all its institutions back it up.  She has never read the passage above or the book from which it is taken, the Communist Manifesto, she cannot entirely caste off the hold the religious doctrine has over her and the prospect of being ostracized from this community in some way. Most importantly, she cannot overcome the stop in her mind, her own consciousness; she cannot liberate herself from it. 

It is a short book, not much more than a pamphlet really that attempts to explain how human society developed and each era is part of a connected process, a historical materialist view of the real world. It is not a perfect piece, but it strikingly prophetic when you look at where we are today. And what beautiful use of language. I should add that it was reading this little book that made me realize Stalinsm was not communism and Marx would not have fared well in Stalin's Soviet Union.

It doesn’t promise a heaven for good behavior and a hell for bad behavior but explains how human society develops and most importantly that things are not predestined, governed by some supernatural forces. It explains the forces at work in society gives a general outline as to how a conscious intervention in events can shape the future and how humanity organizes itself. “Philosophers have only interpreted the world…” wrote Marx, “….the point is to change it.” Heresy.

The struggle between classes based on their role in the production of the necessities of life is key. Which social grouping (class) owns the means of producing and distributing these necessities and which class, through its life activity and labor power actually makes them.

For the capitalist class (the bourgeois-- from the old term for urban communities----burghs) this little book is very dangerous. It is a key to the emancipation of humanity and a road to us developing our true human potential. We are not born sinners, evil people as Christian mythology teaches. There is not such a thing as a fixed “human nature” and a greedy one at that as we are taught.

"It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness." Marx wrote.

Every class-conscious worker should read the Communist Manifesto.


ranknfile said...

Most carpenters love corporate America

Richard Mellor said...

If they have a job. But I don't think your statement is correct anyway. I was involved in the 1999 wildcat strike here in a supporting role and the union carpenters anyway weren't exactly in love with corporate America then, not in the Bay Area. How about you?

bob cannell said...

with our recent royal wedding you can see how older forms of social organisation can comtinue. The UK the oldest industrial capitalist state is still essentially, feudal - landless, land owners and monarchy.

Terry in Dorset said...

2018 UK Feudal obscenity = £387,000 on a dress when homeless people in Windsor sleep on the streets.