Communist Manifesto

Influence

A number of 21st-century writers have commented on the Communist Manifesto‍ '​s continuing relevance. Academic John Raines in 2002 noted that "In our day this Capitalist Revolution has reached the farthest corners of the earth. The tool of money has produced the miracle of the new global market and the ubiquitous shopping mall. Read The Communist Manifesto, written more than one hundred and fifty years ago, and you will discover that Marx foresaw it all."[6] In 2003, the English Marxist Chris Harman stated:

There is still a compulsive quality to its prose as it provides insight after insight into the society in which we live, where it comes from and where its going to. It is still able to explain, as mainstream economists and sociologists cannot, today's world of recurrent wars and repeated economic crisis, of hunger for hundreds of millions on the one hand and 'overproduction' on the other. There are passages that could have come from the most recent writings on globalisation.[7]

The continued relevance of the Marxist theories found within the text has also been supported by Alex Callinicos, editor of International Socialism, who stated that "This is indeed a manifesto for the 21st century."[8] Writing in The London Evening Standard in 2012, Andrew Neather cited Verso Books' 2012 re-edition of The Communist Manifesto, with an introduction by Eric Hobsbawm, as part of a resurgence of left-wing-themed ideas which includes the publication of Owen Jones' best-selling Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class, and Jason Barker's documentary Marx Reloaded.[9]

However not all scholars have praised it. Revisionist Marxist and reformist socialist Eduard Bernstein distinguished between "immature" early Marxism—as exemplified by the Communist Manifesto written by Marx and Engels in their youth—that he opposed for its violent Blanquist tendencies, and later "mature" Marxism that he supported.[10] This latter form refers to Marx in his later life acknowledging that socialism could be achieved through peaceful means through legislative reform in democratic societies.[11] Bernstein declared that the massive and homogeneous working-class claimed in the Communist Manifesto did not exist, and that contrary to claims of a proletarian majority emerging, the middle-class was growing under capitalism and not disappearing as Marx had claimed. Bernstein noted that the working-class was not homogeneous but heterogeneous, with divisions and factions within it, including socialist and non-socialist trade unions. Marx himself, later in his life, acknowledged that the middle-class was not disappearing, in his work Theories of Surplus Value (1863). The obscurity of the later work means that Marx's acknowledgement of this error is not well known.[12]

George Boyer described the Manifesto as "very much a period piece, a document of what was called the 'hungry' 1840s."[13]

Many have drawn attention to the passage in the Manifesto that seems to sneer at the stupidity of the rustic: "The bourgeoisie ... draws all nations ... into civilization ... It has created enormous cities ... and thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy [sic!] of rural life".[14] As Eric Hobsbawm noted, however:

[W]hile there is no doubt that Marx at this time shared the usual townsman's contempt for, as well as ignorance of, the peasant milieu, the actual and analytically more interesting German phrase ("dem Idiotismus des Landlebens entrissen") referred not to "stupidity" but to "the narrow horizons", or "the isolation from the wider society" in which people in the countryside lived. It echoed the original meaning of the Greek term idiotes from which the current meaning of "idiot" or "idiocy" is derived, namely "a person concerned only with his own private affairs and not with those of the wider community". In the course of the decades since the 1840s, and in movements whose members, unlike Marx, were not classically educated, the original sense was lost and was misread.[15]


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