Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Random thought on The Communist Manifesto

The closing lines (1) of the Communist Manifesto are well quoted:

The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.
Those fond of flinging such rhetoric about - and all disciples or alleged disciples of Marx - should first consider an almost as famous passage (2) from the opening of the pamphlet:

Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight ...
All well and good and very revolutionary,comrade.

But the line immediately following warrants some thought by every revolutionary, whether papered middleclass students playing at radicalism or those in less fortunate circumstance, where violence and revolution are legitimate, necessary choices:

... a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

It is no revelation that revolution and violence often backfire - the tiresome objectivists and their ilk are for ever banging on about how every socialist revolution has resulted in a tyrannical bloodbath. What is intersting, and usually overlooked by fervent young Trots, is that Marx foresaw all this and warned against it in the very first lines of the Manifesto.

Sometimes it is necessary to fight. In Zimbabwe, it will be necessary. There, it may work. In the PRC it would be necessary, but given the size of the country and the strength and resources of the Bastards of Beijing, it is unlikely to succeed - at most, it will only replace one set of tyrants with another, which is what happened when the Maoists took over, anyway.

The disaster of the USSR, the PRC and almost any other avowedly Marxist state are testament to the dangers of armed struggle. The Russian Revolution doomed both contending parties - the old aristocracy was ground under the heel of totalitarianism, but so was the supposedly victorious proletariat. Fighting for freedom or liberation - under the guise of any ideology or idea - is a risky business. They rarely end well, no matter how necessary they are. Perhaps Marx, if he had been more honest, would have admitted such in the final lines of the Manifesto.
1 - From The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx and Fredreich Engels , Published in 1848. This quotation originates in Chapter Four, Position of the Communists in Relation to the Various Existing Opposition Parties. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch04.htm)
2 - From The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx and Fredreich Engels, published in 1848. This quotation originates in Chapter One, Bourgeois and Proletarians. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch01.htm)

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