Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels: Das Kommunistische Manifest (English title: The Communist Manifesto) ISBN 978-3-88619-322-6 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Why should one read a Communist manifesto, written more than 150 years ago and decades after the obvious failure of Communism throughout the world? Today Marx would call his book “Capitalism for dummies”. He anticipated the human drama on the stage of a globalized economy, and, as he intended to speak to workers with limited education, he explained in simple yet powerful words the pitfalls of the capitalist economy. Although his systems analysis was based on a limited and not necessarily representative volume of information available in 1847, Marx isolated certain distinctive features of capitalism that have not changed over time.
It is those distinctive features that movements like “Occupy Wall Street” in New York or the “Gilets Jaunes” recently in France pointed their fingers at: the widening income gap between a handful of really, really rich people and a growing number of lower middle class people, the neglected infrastructure in rural areas, the increasing number of low paid jobs, the lack of access to education for certain parts of the population, the systematic discrimination of migrants in terms of employment.
None of these phenomena is new, they existed already in the 19th century and encouraged Marx to explore how these came about. He developed the theory of class conflicts: master against slave, feudal landowner against peasant, worker against company owner. In “Das Kommunistische Manifest” Marx and his associate Friedrich Engels postulate for the first time that this conflict is a necessary element of the human condition and thus unavoidable. Capitalism – and with it the class conflict – has to reach a climax and will break down right after that. That moment would be the beginning of the proletarian dictatorship. Classes would disappear and all means of productions (workforce, tools, factories, transport…) would come under collective ownership. It would be the birth of a new, more equal society.
In this respect Marx and Engels obviously where wrong. Capitalism proved to be adaptive and the fact that the two political thinkers published their ideas in the manifesto, and expanded it later in the monumental work “Das Kapital” may have contributed to it. The much despised capitalist bourgeoisie took Marx very seriously, they saw the signs on the wall. Anticipating revolutions in Europe, politicians and businessmen managed to forestall the proletarian dictatorship. Marx had deemed it impossible that the capitalist class would voluntarily raise workers pay, allow unions to negotiate salaries and contribute to a social security system. But that what capitalists all over Europe did, proving that there were alternatives to scenario Marx had sketched.
The only Marxist revolution that created a new type of society happened in Russia, an agricultural country with almost no proletariat. And the population had to be manipulated a coerced to participate in the creation of this new society – it had nothing at all of a historically unavoidable process as Marx had predicted it. The Communist manifesto is worth reading not only to see on a few pages where Marx was right, but also where he was wrong. Besides this, the German edition is wonderful to read, with almost every third sentence an aphorism.
The composer Dmitry Shostakovich initially believed in building a better world under the flag of Communism. While Nazis seemed to triumph over the liberal democracies in Europe, he like many other Soviet citizens were convinced that Communism was a bulwark against Germany’s expansionism. In 1929 he conceived his Symphony No. 3 “First of May”: