Amber Tucker's Reviews > The Communist Manifesto

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
3772259
's review
Dec 30, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: christmas-or-spring-break, to-come-back-to, i-feel-rebellious-reading-this
Recommended to Amber by: The Amanda in my head
Recommended for: Everyone should read this at least twice.
Read from December 28 to 30, 2010 , read count: 1

(This ended up much longer than I expected it to. If you like, skip over paragraphs nine through twelve, which are less review than one-sided debate. I published them anyway to make provision for two-sided debates. Jump in.)

Hmmm. I don't feel right about reviewing this, considering I read it immediately after Christmas, which can no longer (if it ever did) hold deep meaning in itself for anyone except a) the bourgeoisie or b) devout Christians, who tend to be misled if well-meaning folks, brainwashed within and/or by the bourgeoisie.

(Notice I said in itself. Yeah, Xmas is now synonymous with a time of togetherness and blah blah blah, but none of that is closely related to the original point of the holiday.)

So, to continue. Hmmm. Yeah, I felt rather disconnected from this during much of the reading. Maybe I'm just not much for political philosophy. What observations can I make... the second chapter is much more fun than the first. The first sets up the purported historical basis for Marxist theory, though I found it less insightful about the past than about the future, i.e. our own present. I was impressed by Marx's statements about what we now call globalization, a dangerously seductive program if ever we've witnessed one. It's amazing to me that 160 years ago he could not only see it coming, but see the negative upshot for "barbarian" societies and for all nations, the bourgeoisie carbon-copying its own patterns all over the world.

But I think I digress. I also like his notion of the bourgeoisie God-complex: "In one word, it creates a world after its own image." (He says "in one word" continually, always following it with what appears to be well over one word. What's been lost in translation...?)

Section the Second has a good old classical exordium (establishing the reliability of the speaker) and a refutatio. I found the refutation to be convincing, and equally enjoyable is the authoritative, often jeering tone.

"The Communists are further reproached with desiring to abolish countries and nationality -- The working men have no country" (still true, in most countries). "

"But you Communists would introduce community of women, screams the bourgeoisie in chorus.... the real point aimed at is to do away with the status of women as mere instruments of production" (still a worthy aim, esp. if you're a feminist).

"It has been objected that upon the abolition of private property, all work will cease, and universal laziness will overtake us [Atlas Shrugged much?]. According to this, bourgeois society ought long ago to have gone to the dogs through sheer idleness; for those who acquire anything, do not work" (oh, so true... variantly, since not everything in our day depends upon inheritance, we work toward the eventual CEO-dom, that happy state of making others work for and instead of us).

Section Three is a critique of socialist and communist literature. My only comment on this part of the Manifesto is about that which made me feel damn guilty and unfairly attacked both at once. This bit reminded me of a passage in Freedom and Necessity:

"... we shall begin at the beginning [says Friedrich Engels]. Our first duty is to our class, yes?'
'No,' said James, still hidden. 'Bugger our class, our nation, and the horses they rode in on.' " (p.352)

According to Marx, James would be in denial about his reasons for consorting with Chartists and Communists. Are we all being attacked here? Of course, and rightly so. He lumps together "economists, philanthropists, humanitarians, improvers of the condition of the working class, organizers of charity, members of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, temperance fanatics, hole-and-corner reformers of every imaginable kind" (all bourgeoisie, of course) and says their respective efforts to address social problems are motivated by nothing more than self-interest. Talk about a question deserving lifetimes of study. I know he's right in a very, very big way. However, I cannot fully agree with Marx on this one. Of course we're self-interested; we're human beings. Wasn't self-interest the reason for the neonate bourgeoisie to overthrow the feudal lords? And for the proletariat to fight to overthrow the bourgeoisie? Apparently, the essence of history is self-interest. I believe it.

Still. Label me a soppy soft-headed sentimentalist, but I'm only speaking from my own experience. When I get involved in efforts to 'help others', I do so with the awareness that I am luckier than 99.5% of conscious beings on this planet, that that isn't fair, and that I can try to give back from where I am. I can't imagine why, when any of us could make a great deal more in provincial government jobs – I get up at 7 a.m every summer day to clean shitty cages at the animal shelter, or a friend worked with battered women, or another works herself to the bone rehabilitating abused horses, in order to keep our privileged social positions. As undeniably as greed runs in my human blood, so does compassion. So does empathy. We are not simple creatures. For many of us, at least, more than emotional gratification is at stake.

Oops. Boy, can I rant. I doubt seriously whether humanitarianism, etc as these movements currently exist will be THE solution to every-or-anything. But I don't like Marx's generalization that individuals' morality is determined by their social class of birth.

Finally I've run out of steam on this, for now. If you have issues with anything I've said, please comment. I'd positively love to hear other, likely wiser ways of understanding the Manifesto. It's a fun trip, and it does make some damn good points. This innocently small work has, indeed, endured. WORKING [HUMANS] OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!
4 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Communist Manifesto.
Sign In »

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Scribble (new)

Scribble Orca Amber wrote: "Still. Label me a soppy soft-headed sentimentalist, but I'm only speaking from my own experience. When I get involved in efforts to 'help others', I do so with the awareness that I am luckier than 99.5% of conscious beings on this planet, that that isn't fair, and that I can try to give back from where I am. I can't imagine why, when any of us could make a great deal more in provincial government jobs – I get up at 7 a.m every summer day to clean shitty cages at the animal shelter, or a friend worked with battered women, or another works herself to the bone rehabilitating abused horses, in order to keep our privileged social positions. As undeniably as greed runs in my human blood, so does compassion. So does empathy. We are not simple creatures. For many of us, at least, more than emotional gratification is at stake."

Lovely. Please continue being soft, soppy and sentimental and doing your bit to improve the lives of others. Regardless of your social class.

I bow to you, Amber. Thank you.


Amber Tucker Wow. Thank you, G N. I am touched to find someone who feels similarly to the way I do about this.


message 3: by Dana (new) - added it

Dana Garrett I enjoyed your review and style. You now how combine off-handedness and intelligence in an analysis.

Marx also recommended ameliorative efforts to meet human needs, ones short of having the ability by themselves to cause the revolution he desired. One of Marx's many contradictions.


message 4: by Amber (last edited Jun 15, 2012 11:15AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amber Tucker Thanks - glad you liked it, Dana. Perhaps the recommendations you bring up show the evolution of Marx's thought over his lifetime. He does contradict himself, but that seems inevitable in most if not all "great thinkers," doesn't it?


back to top