The Communist Manifesto: A Modern Edition
Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx
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In the two decades following the fall of the Berlin Wall, global capitalism became entrenched in its modern, neoliberal form. Its triumph was so complete that the word “capitalism” itself fell out of use in the absence of credible political alternatives. But with the outbreak of financial crisis and global recession in the twenty-first century, capitalism is once again up for discussion. The status quo can no longer be taken for granted.
As Eric Hobsbawm argues in his acute and elegant introduction to this modern edition, in such times The Communist Manifesto emerges as a work of great prescience and power despite being written over a century and a half ago. He highlights Marx and Engels’s enduring insights into the capitalist system: its devastating impact on all aspects of human existence; its susceptibility to enormous convulsions and crises; and its fundamental weakness.
They are therefore not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay more, they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheel of history. If by chance they are revolutionary, they are so only in view of their impending transfer into the proletariat, they thus defend not their present, but their future interests, they desert their own standpoint to place themselves at that of the proletariat. The ‘dangerous class’,9 the social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of old
half echo of the past, half menace of the future; at times, by its bitter, witty and incisive criticism, striking the bourgeoisie to the very heart’s core; but always ludicrous in its effect, through total incapacity to comprehend the march of modern history. The aristocracy, in order to rally the people to them, waved the proletarian alms-bag in front for a banner. But the people, so often as it joined them, saw on their hindquarters the old feudal coats of arms, and deserted with loud and
irreverent laughter. One section of the French Legitimists,12 and ‘Young England’,13 exhibited this spectacle. In pointing out that their mode of exploitation was different to that of the bourgeoisie, the feudalists forget that they exploited under circumstances and conditions that were quite different, and that are now antiquated. In showing that, under their rule, the modern proletariat never existed, they forget that the modern bourgeoisie is the necessary off spring of their own form of
socialist demands, of hurling the traditional anathemas against liberalism, against representative government, against bourgeois competition, bourgeois freedom of the press, bourgeois legislation, bourgeois liberty and equality, and of preaehing to the masses that they had nothing to gain, and everything to lose, by this bourgeois movement. German socialism forgot, in the nick of time, that the French criticism, whose silly echo it was, presupposed the existence of modern bourgeois society, with
in Germany. The industrial and political supremacy of the bourgeoisie threatens it with certain destruction – on the one hand, from the concentration of capital; on the other, from the rise of a revolutionary proletariat. ‘True’ socialism appeared to kill these two birds with one stone. It spread like an epidemic. The robe of speculative cobwebs, embroidered with flowers of rhetoric, steeped in the dew of sickly sentiment, this transcendental robe in which the German socialists wrapped their