Welcome to the Communist Manifesto reading club.
1. This is a team effort. I'm doing this in conjunction with damn_registrars. I'm willing to give this tract more than a casual skim, but only if those at least posing as sympathizers with Marx & Engels are playing along. That is, I'll read this text, but not as an example of stupid human tricks, m'kay?
2. Participants shall capture the "next few" paragraphs, up to ~300 words or so, such that we're including and analyzing a small, but substantial, amount of material.
3. We'll endeavor to read this in the classically Platonic mode of dispassionate inquiry. Biases happen, but like spice in food, need not require every dish to be inedible. I'm not sympathetic toward the authors, but let's give them their due, not doo-doo.
4. Installments will be whenever, hopefully not at a frequency lower than weekly. No one is under any sort of obligation in any direction, but I'll start this. If the other half of the team turns out to be a dud, I will not accuse him of being out of character.
Manifesto of the Communist Party
A spectre is haunting Europe â" the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.
Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic by its opponents in power? Where is the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of communism, against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?
Two things result from this fact:
I. Communism is already acknowledged by all European powers to be itself a power.
II. It is high time that Communists should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of Communism with a manifesto of the party itself.
To this end, Communists of various nationalities have assembled in London and sketched the following manifesto, to be published in the English, French, German, Italian, Flemish and Danish languages.
"A spectre is haunting Europe. . ."
Marx starts off a bit 'tinfoil hat', but:
(a) this is not a boring academic text, and a ball-grabber is perfectly reasonable for an opener,
(b) there is no reason to doubt the assertion that the PTB were as keen then on stomping political expression as the IRS has done to the Tea Parties in our day.
(c) Bismarck's subsequent creation of the Social Welfare State in Germany is a tacit acknowledgment of the pressures at work.
"Where is the opposition. . ."
This is sort of like how capitalism is currently disparaged in academia and the media. There must always be an Other, no? Let me add that I'm noting this as a pattern, without supporting it. Because I'm more comfortable with the group/self dichotomy as the source of friction than I am with Us. vs. Them, which seems more subjective, and prone to manipulation by pointy-bearded losers down at the coffee shop.
Chapter I. Bourgeois and Proletarians
The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.
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, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.
In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations.
"The history of all hitherto. . ."
I'm going to stipulate right here that the C.M. is NOT a full historical treatment. Thus, I'll provisionally accept this assertion. You kind of have to, or the exercise of reading further is dead in the water. That said, it's fair to say that Marx neither justifies this assertion here, nor points to elsewhere in his emissions that this wrenching course change in historical analysis is supported. Also, the science on this one isn't settled. Disbelief is officially suspended. I will henceforth use the acronym "DIOS" whenever reading C.M. and experiencing food arriving in my mouth from a non-standard direction.
"Freeman and slave. . ."
What bothers me about this enumeration is the attempt to sell the static nature of the societal org-chart. I'm just not sure the classes that Marx is alluding to were as statically compiled as he contends. Men rose and fell continually, their women with them. That "guild-master and journeyman" existed meant more of a career path than the master/servant relationship Marx wants it to.
In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society
Yeah? So? Among the bigger modern yawners is the Myth of the Noble Savage where there is an allusion to some Edenic golden age existence where the air was filled with "Let the Good Times Roll" by the Cars, and people were all swell to each other and stuff, prior to this pesky capitalism and the technology it breeds.
Well, put your money where your mouth is, say I. If you want to live an Old Order Amish then Be. My. Flipping. Guest. Just go do it. Knock your socks off. But don't sit there in the coffee shop, sipping a latte, bemoaning the weight of technology on your iPad, and expect other than contempt from me.
So, there you have it. Over to you damn_registrars.