Date: Wed, 13 Jan 1999 14:51:22 -0600 (CST)
From: "Dale Wharton" <1@dale.CAM.ORG>
Subject: Review: Communist Manifesto
Birth of the Communist Manifesto
Text of the Manifesto reviewd by Dale Wharton,
Montreal <firstname.lastname@example.org>, 28 December 1998
With text of the MANIFESTO, all prefaces by Marx and Engels, early
drafts by Engels, and other supplementary material. Edited, with notes
and introduction, by Dirk Jan Struik, 1894-. New York City,
International Publishers, 1971; 224 pages, illustration, endnotes,
index. SBN 7178 0320 1 (paperback).
STILL in their twenties, Marx and Engels put years of study and debate
into the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO; it came out in 1848. For decades a dual
tumult had wrung Europe. The youthful authors meant to arouse workers,
trace conflicts among social strata, offer an economic theory of
history, focus the image of socialism, urge a fresh order of society.
The French Revolution, mainly a political revolt, broke the power of
the feudal order. No longer could a noble class hinder the growth of
capital and the bourgeoisie (middle classes). In 1789 the latter
joined with the needy masses to defeat king, barons, and clergy. The
middle ranks then took the lead in a new social order. They marched to
triumph over lordly sloth, entail, privilege, superstition. France set
creeds of the Enlightenment into its constitutions. The Code Napoleon
laid a legal base to uphold middle-class reign. For the first time in
history a bourgeoisie took command, sole rulers of a great land.
That French bourgeoisie acted as a revolutionary element of society.
What was its origin? The word itself stems from the castle (Burg in
German) that became a city with citizens: Burger, burgess, bourgeois.
From serfs--slaves of the Middle Ages--sprang burghers of early towns.
As self-sufficient freemen they worked at trades, crafts allied in
guilds, exchange. By degrees this middle class did thrive and unfold;
medieval commerce spread from the Baltic to the Levant.
Then came the voyages of Columbus and da Gama. A global market--East
India, China, colonies in America--burst open to Europe's eager
bourgeoisie. The new markets gave a mighty surge to foreign trade, to
navigation and transport, to industry--to a radical middle class.
From its native England ranged the second tumult, the Industrial
Revolution--applied natural science. It lacked the plain terror of a
guillotine but it lopped ancient means of living with its instruments:
flying shuttle 1733, coke oven and cast steel 1735, sheet iron 1754,
spinning jenny 1767, steam engine 1769, power loom 1785....
Modern industry with its costly new hardware demanded entrepreneurs
(owners of private capital), markets for goods made in mass, and a
supply of labor to tend machines driven at first by water, later by
steam. Big business early wanted free competition (free from feudal
guild monopoly). Where large-scale industry could replace manual labor
--such as artisans weaving homespun on hand looms--capitalists moved
in, wiping out small manufacture. The first trades and hand-industries
to collapse were textile, book-printing, ceramic, metalware.
Marx was of two minds toward the bourgeoisie, his own social group. On
the one hand it was the dynamo of creation without equal in history.
In two centuries the forces it guided made mountains of goods, filling
human needs at home and abroad. Was that not progress? The wonders of
its factory system outdid all preceding generations put together. It
made of the modern state's executive a committee to manage affairs of
the whole middle class. Enrich yourselves! cried a premier of France.
On the other hand the modern capitalist class--bankers, wealthy
industrialists, speculators--bore heartache in its train. Nothing
could satisfy its mania for private gain. It abused nature, it used
people. It ignored the homely virtues and the many ties that bound
humankind; it left only the link of cash payment. It reduced a
person's worth to exchange value--to price. It sliced jobs into tiny
tasks to do again and again, it split worker away from final output,
it degraded labor into travail. Sweeping wealth into fewer hands, it
spread poverty ever wider. Constant shakeup and retooling of
production meant civil society could hardly settle before the new
relations were out-of-date. Overproduction caused economic breakdown
every few years. But the bourgeois epoch--Technology Century (XIX)--
called into being an industrial working class: the proletariat.
Proles formed a wide, deep sector in a nation. Herded into mills,
mines, and slums, they might become aware of their common sorry lot.
Here could lie hope to oust profit-seekers and end social classes.
For the League of the Just, Engels composed a catechism (nowadays a
FAQ file--25 Frequently Asked Questions--Appendix II). As he wrote the
MANIFESTO Marx consulted Engels's second draft, titled "Principles of
Communism" <www.marx.org/Archive/1847-Prin/intro.htm>. In it, Engels
answers, for example, how a slave differs from a prole (p 172):
"The slave is sold once and for all. The proletarian must sell himself
by the hour or by the day. Each...slave...has his existence assured...
if only because of the interest of the slave owner. Each ...
proletarian, the property as it were of the whole bourgeois class ...
has no security of life. ... The slave is [exempt] from competition;
the proletarian is ... prey to all its fluctuations. ... The slave
frees himself by rupturing, of all relations of private ownership,
only one, the relation of slavery and by this act becomes himself a
proletarian; the proletarian can only achieve emancipation by
abolishing private property in its entirety."
In his review of the MANIFESTO's birth Editor Struik suggests why the
12,000-word tract lives on. Struik was born in Rotterdam, Netherlands,
a teacher's son. He studied mathematics and physics at Leiden, Delft,
Rome, and Gottingen, where he met Norbert Wiener. Struik taught math
at MIT from 1926 to retirement in 1960. During the McCarthy Era Red
scare, an FBI informer accused him of membership in the Communist
Party and of having taught Marxism. Suit was never brought, for want
of evidence. Struik's other books include A CONCISE HISTORY OF
MATHEMATICS (Dover, 1948--translated into 13 languages).