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Communist Manifesto 165 years old today February 21, 2013

Posted by Oireachtas Retort in Communism.

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

and Hobsbawm,

How will the Manifesto strike the reader who comes to it today for the first time? The new reader can hardly fail to be swept away by the passionate conviction, the concentrated brevity, the intellectual and stylistic force, of this astonishing pamphlet. It is written, as though in a single creative burst, in lapidary sentences almost naturally transforming themselves into the memorable aphorisms which have become known far beyond the world of political debate: from the opening ‘A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of Communism’ to the final ‘The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.’ Equally uncommon in nineteenth-century German writing: it is written in short, apodictic paragraphs, mainly of one to five lines — in only five cases, out of more than two hundred, of fifteen or more lines. Whatever else it is, The Communist Manifesto as political rhetoric has an almost biblical force. In short, it is impossible to deny its compelling power as literature.


But then, the Manifesto — and this is not the least of its remarkable qualities — is a document which envisaged failure. It hoped that the outcome of capitalist development would be ‘A revolutionary reconstitution of society at large’ but, as we have already seen, it did not exclude the alternative: ‘common ruin’. Many years later, another Marxian rephrased this as the choice between socialism and barbarity. Which of these will prevail is a question which the twenty-first century must be left to answer.


1. fergal - February 21, 2013

Will probably get slaughtered from my Marxist comrades on this blog but here goes…William Morris and not Marx is the greatest socialist thinker of the 19th century..News from Nowhere anybody?


Frank Hayes - February 22, 2013

Hi Fergal,
The differentiating characteristic of Marx’s approach is that it is based on a scientifically proven theoretical foundation. Previous socialist thinkers based their conceptions on moral and humanist grounds, but could not identify how they could be mwade real, Joseph Dietzgen, a German worker and comrade of Karl and Frederick, coined the phrase Scientific Socialism to describe their joint approach based on scientifically verifiable truths, rather than just good intentions for societal improvement.
William Morris is to be admired, and as an art worker, has great importance. As a socialist thinker, we must cherrish his aims, but we should not forget that it was Marx and his comrades who identified the possible way forward, and who developed philosophy and logic in that process. Educated people recognise that his Materialst Dialectical model of reality is the most advanced model we have connecting the motion of matter with its reflection into human thought. And Dialectical Logic (with a capital L) is the modern science of the motion of matter, Formal Logic limitinmg itself to only the appearance of phenomena.
Comradely greetings


Damien Muldoon - October 18, 2013

Are you the same Frank Hayes who was supervisor on a FAS course for young musicians in the late 1980s? I was a singer on that that course and I remember you well. I’m glad to see that you are on the right side in this current war of rich against poor. Keep up the good fight!

Damien Muldoon


2. CL - February 22, 2013

The Communist Manifesto,-the greatest testament to the productive power of capital ever written.


3. eamonncork - October 18, 2013

It does have an extraordinary revelatory power when you encounter it for the first time. Whatever your opinion on his theoretical claims it can’t be denied that Marx was a polemicist of genius. I always thought his book on the Civil War in France was tremendously exciting as well though I’ve never managed to penetrate far through the thickets of Capital.
By the way, are either the David Priestland or Archie Brown histories of Communism worth reading? I gave up on the Robert Service Comrades because it was too much like reading an elongated indictment.


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