Communist Manifesto: Abaisse Summer Reading #1

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Communist Manifesto: Abaisse Summer Reading #1

Postby Gervais » Mon Jun 17, 2013 5:07 pm

Some of the Musain regulars decided, a few months ago, to try a book club. The first book on the list is the Communist Manifesto.

Anyone can join in the conversation at any time, though I believe we only have a week between books on the list, so maybe keep that in mind for pacing your reading.

The full text is online for free (yay! free stuff!) here: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/wo ... manifesto/ and you can probably get it or free or really cheap for eReaders, too.
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Re: Communist Manifesto: Abaisse Summer Reading #1

Postby Acaila » Mon Jun 17, 2013 7:00 pm

Thank goodness I already know this one rather well, because I have my monster review to write. I can probably throw in some Marx/Engels facts too :D
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Re: Communist Manifesto: Abaisse Summer Reading #1

Postby freedomlover » Tue Jun 18, 2013 4:56 am

I personally did not agree with his propositions as being completely accurate, and while his dream society looked beautiful on paper--- sadly it did not work (USSR)

Nonetheless, it was clearly thought out and it offered a beautiful glimpse into what made so many people in the 20th century (and even some now) believe and think that way. It is a political theory classic whether we agree or disagree with his propositions.
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Re: Communist Manifesto: Abaisse Summer Reading #1

Postby Acaila » Tue Jun 18, 2013 8:09 am

The thing is, aside from the fact that the USSR was really state capitalist rather than communist, that was never the sort of country Marx and Engels imagined it taking hold in. It was once pointed out to me to take a look at the languages it was initially translated into to get more of an idea of where it was aimed. Russia was too big and rural for a lot of these concepts to truly make sense. My critical theory tutor always used to complain about people misusing the term working classes to a non urban industrial context for example.

I love the focus on class personally. Certainly here it's an issue that is downplayed a lot nowadays and I think it's massively relevant where in the west, the biggest indicator of your success in life is how wealthy your parents were. It emphasises that class and basically everything in our lives are economically determined and that's a really important thing for people to realise.
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Re: Communist Manifesto: Abaisse Summer Reading #1

Postby saminana » Wed Jun 19, 2013 8:58 am

i read a lot about czechoslovakia and the ideas they had there in 1968.. it would have been interesting to know how their idea of socialism and democracy had worked. i mean wothput the intervention of the ussr
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Re: Communist Manifesto: Abaisse Summer Reading #1

Postby redmiserable » Wed Jun 19, 2013 6:20 pm

I enjoy the attention on the classes as well. That they never really go away, and when they do things are disrupted. For some reason it reminds me of a Kingdom Hearts moral - the balance of darkness and light.

I find it interesting that they refer to Germany... as, well, Germany, instead of the papal states it was at the time and not an actual country. Considering Germany was *officially* unified 23 years after the Manifesto was written. Though, I suppose they could have been implying "German states" and not "German country".

And I agree with what Acaila said about class today and the money of our parents, along with this quote:
The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.
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Re: Communist Manifesto: Abaisse Summer Reading #1

Postby Gervais » Wed Jun 19, 2013 6:34 pm

You know, if we have time once we're done with the list, it would be interesting to read 1984. Because the entire B/P section kept reminding me of one of the lessons we did with it: the three classes--rulers, middle class, "proles"--never stay in place. One takes over, and people are scattered based on the new system. If a man is rich under one regime, a revolution occurs, and he may be imprisoned as an enemy of the state in the new system, and so on. I don't believe it happens as often as our teacher was making it out to be, but over hundreds of years or after large wars, especially, I think it happens.
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Re: Communist Manifesto: Abaisse Summer Reading #1

Postby Acaila » Wed Jun 19, 2013 7:30 pm

The history of all hitherto existing societies is that of class struggles 8)
It's interesting though, if you remove unequal dynamics of power that are caused by class, then you remove a huge source of conflict.

redmiserable wrote:And I agree with what Acaila said about class today and the money of our parents, along with this quote:
The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.



Mmm, I find the alienation stuff very interesting! And I think a lot of the alienation stems from the Industrial Revolution. Before that, people crafted entire items with their labour and skill. With the rise of factories, they were only ever responsible for one part of a whole, they had no investment in the final product, and were alienated from the results of their labour.

But specifically on family, think of the parallels in Les Mis too - the Thenardiers treat their children and Cosette too like commodities, and Magnon does likewise.
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Re: Communist Manifesto: Abaisse Summer Reading #1

Postby LauraLeZunzu » Wed Jun 19, 2013 11:43 pm

Well, I finally read the Manifesto today.
I had studied so much this Manifesto on History that I think it has disappointed me a little :?
Although its beggining is marvelous, all the History about classes' fight, I think it becomes kinda... I dont know, at half of the Manifesto.
I mean, it seemes like it is written with too much anger. It is normal to have anger, but you can reclaim things without that kind of hate I overview on the Manifesto.
Of course, if nowadays this still being a classes society, on that time it would be incredibly worse. But the main reason I don't agree with Marx is his lack of faith on goodness on humanity. Or all humanity, at least. Obviously bourgeois opressed proletariat, but...they were humans too. I mean, he spends half of the Manifesto attacking idealist and utopic philosophers for believing in "goodness of everyone, including bourgeois' pocket". It gives to me the feeling that he writes about them as if they were a different race or something like that.
And... Marx was a bourgeois as well haha so I thought he would believe in capability of bourgeois to change to the proletarian band selflessly. Don't get me wrong, he says that bourgois class has changed a lot of things, but when he talks about the prletarian revolution, every time he talks about a bourgeois getting in proletarian side, it is always for some selfish reason. I think intellectual people have always moved the world (students, leaders...). I'm sure every proletarian leader started to read, as Pablo Iglesias (socialist leader here in Spain when it was founded, he was one of the proletarian).
But I found the Manifesto very interesant, as well for the way he (they) described History, differences about Comunism and Socialism, how they fight back people who talked badly about comunism...
Understand every time I said Marx I meant Marx and Engels :lol:
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Re: Communist Manifesto: Abaisse Summer Reading #1

Postby between4walls » Mon Jun 24, 2013 7:49 am

redmiserable wrote:I find it interesting that they refer to Germany... as, well, Germany, instead of the papal states it was at the time and not an actual country. Considering Germany was *officially* unified 23 years after the Manifesto was written. Though, I suppose they could have been implying "German states" and not "German country".
[/quote]

Germany wasn't the Papal States (those were in central Italy). Maybe you are thinking of the Holy Roman Empire, which ended in the early 1800's?

But at that time the drive to unify Germany, which was later done by Bismarck who was of the right, was a goal of both liberals and leftists in order to end the petty tyrannies of the smaller states' governments many of which were absolutist and reactionary. That's why the Manifesto says, "In Germany, they fight with the bourgeoisie whenever it acts in a revolutionary way, against the absolute monarchy, the feudal squirearchy, and the petty bourgeoisie."

Also, lots of people referred to both Germany and Italy before they were unified. The concepts are older and bigger than the unified states, and also had geographic and linguistic meaning. And especially in this era, nationalism was on the rise so people would think of themselves more as part of a larger nation than they might have in the past.

Sorry if you knew that stuff or I got it wrong- I don't know much about pre-unification Germany.
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Re: Communist Manifesto: Abaisse Summer Reading #1

Postby between4walls » Mon Jun 24, 2013 9:04 am

I made a bunch of posts in this thread and then deleted them. Sorry, that will teach me to post on no sleep.

To the substance:

An important thing to keep in mind, that MmeBahorel always points out, is that the Communist Manifesto and Marx didn't become really famous until after the Paris Commune in 1871- more than twenty years after the Manifesto was published.

So the Manifesto isn't written in the expectation of a large audience, but rather on behalf of a fairly small secret society.
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Re: Communist Manifesto: Abaisse Summer Reading #1

Postby LauraLeZunzu » Tue Jun 25, 2013 7:22 pm

between4walls wrote:So the Manifesto isn't written in the expectation of a large audience, but rather on behalf of a fairly small secret society.

Agree with that.
Oh what happened to The Social Contract? I actually loved the idea of commenting those books... what a pity :|
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Re: Communist Manifesto: Abaisse Summer Reading #1

Postby MmeBahorel » Wed Jun 26, 2013 3:33 am

Thanks, between4walls, one thing already covered! :)

The other thing I want to say is that one needs to always keep in mind the idea of the nation-state in reference to Germany is a very late phenomenon. Same with Italy. Germany is a geographic and cultural region composed of many different states with varying forms of government. The reason German nationalism is blood and language based is because that's what defines Germany as opposed to Prussia and Saxony and Hanover. German nationalism goes back at least to the 1790s, as long as French nationalism, but France had a state by then. Both are in a way unifying - that's the point of nationalism, after all - but in the study of nationalisms, you generally separate the top-down, adherence to a state with a culture appended to it of France (also known as Western nationalism) from the bottom-up, culture should become a state of Germany (also known as Eastern nationalism). Italy is a different thing because it's a geographic entity but with different languages (Sicilian and Tuscan are more different than the different German dialects, plus the very different medieval histories, complicated Italian unification).

So Marx is talking about a real entity, just not the entity we currently think of as Germany. The shared language and culture of these different polities are why German unification always seemed a plausible project (the final expression would be the Anschluss - thanks, Hitler, for finishing that project), but the differing histories and government structures of the various polities (and the complication of the German-speaking regions of the Austrian Empire) put up significant blocks.

The various revolutions in Germany in 1848 were done by leftists who sought unification. Same in Italy - a unification push by the left, to unite a fractured geographic area in order to bring together a greater number of people of similar culture outside of traditional monarchical/ducal rule. Of course, 1848 failed everywhere in Europe.

One also needs to keep in mind that Marx was articulating little to nothing new in this document. Communism as he is describing it already existed, minus his weird little hangups (there's something in there about bourgeois and other men's wives that is a total WTF). It's a statement of communism, but communism exists prior to and independently of Marx. He merely hijacked it about twenty years later.

And obligatory Coast of Utopia reference: the hobgoblin of communism is best translation ever. "I don't want it to sound like communism is dead." (Seriously, Shipwreck has some great analysis of 1848 on the ground among the intellectuals. Stoppard did a phenomenal job of explaining it while making it entertaining as hell. "What did you want? Bread? I'm sorry, bread was left out of the equation. We are a bookish people with bookish solutions." The words are Herzen's, but no one in that crew was any better, including Marx.)

There's some additional discussion on Marx and how he fits (or really doesn't fit) into Hugo's period in the thread Gleams Which Pass. Rather than rehash, I'll just point anyone curious about that aspect over there.
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Re: Communist Manifesto: Abaisse Summer Reading #1

Postby between4walls » Thu Jun 27, 2013 8:15 pm

MmeBahorel wrote:And obligatory Coast of Utopia reference: the hobgoblin of communism is best translation ever. "I don't want it to sound like communism is dead." (Seriously, Shipwreck has some great analysis of 1848 on the ground among the intellectuals. Stoppard did a phenomenal job of explaining it while making it entertaining as hell. "What did you want? Bread? I'm sorry, bread was left out of the equation. We are a bookish people with bookish solutions." The words are Herzen's, but no one in that crew was any better, including Marx.)


I love Coast of Utopia and especially Shipwreck ("It will be bloody, swift and unjust, and leave Europe like Bohemia after the Hussites. Are you sorry for civilization? I am sorry for it, too") and was impressed by how well he pulled off the 1848 parts. I didn't think he'd be able to get across what a disaster the failure was, and he did. Though his Marx is mainly there as a foil for Herzen and as foreshadowing, and the foreshadowing got on my nerves. (I guess he had to be included because of Bakunin, though).

Of course, 1848 failed everywhere in Europe.


Nit-picking: Except in the Netherlands. And (disputably) Piedmont, which suffered a massive military defeat but came out of 1848 with a constitution, having gone into it as an absolute monarchy, and with the groundwork laid for its role in the unification.

Re: Italy and languages- the differences are huge, but language/dialect was less fraught of an issue there than it was in France, afaik. A major complicating factor in Italian vs. German unification was foreign powers in parts of Italy- whereas the Germans mainly had to contend with the regimes of the various German states, plus the question of Austria-Hungary, Italian unification also had to deal with Austro-Hungarian domination of parts of the country, the independent-but-Spanish-linked Bourbons, and the independent-but-French-defended Pope.

The various revolutions in Germany in 1848 were done by leftists who sought unification. Same in Italy - a unification push by the left, to unite a fractured geographic area in order to bring together a greater number of people of similar culture outside of traditional monarchical/ducal rule.


And after 1848 in Germany, and even earlier than that in Italy, it becomes an important debate among pro-unification leftists (like the authors of this manifesto) to what extent a more right-wing unification under one of the existing monarchies (Prussia in Germany and Piedmont-Sardinia in Italy) fulfills those aspirations and to what extent it co-opts and betrays them to aggrandize the monarchy.

obligatory Bismarck quote: "Germany is not looking to Prussia's liberalism, but to its power; Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden may indulge liberalism, and yet no one will assign them Prussia's role; Prussia has to coalesce and concentrate its power for the opportune moment, which has already been missed several times... it is not by speeches and majority resolutions that the great questions of the time are decided – that was the big mistake of 1848 and 1849 – but by iron and blood"

He merely hijacked it about twenty years later.


It's more complicated than that imo. Marx and Engels had a strong influence on people who would become leaders in the SDAP and subsequently the main German socialist party, the SPD, for a long time largest and most important socialist party in the world. Organizational genealogies are as important as ideological ones. Even though Marx and Engels are primarily associated with communism (and later Communism), a lot of their impact is in Social Democracy (which obviously meant something different then). A lot of people forget that the Russian Communists started out as nothing more than one faction of the Russian Social Democrats. The political scientist JP Nettl had very good explanation of why the Communists overemphasized Marx in an effort to dissociate themselves from what they saw as the corruption and betrayal of the Social Democratic and Socialist parties. Sort of a jump-back-a-generation-to-criticize-the-present attitude. Unfortunately, I don't have the book with me or I'd copy it out- it was a very succinct and interesting explanation, but I can't summarize it properly. But from the overemphasis on Marx by the Communists comes our overemphasis on him, even though the Communists technically had no claim to consider themselves more Marxist than most other Marx-influenced socialist parties.

The other big influence on the SPD, much more influential in its founding though many of his ideas were later discarded, was a rather interesting guy called Ferdinand Lassalle, who started his career as a lawyer in an extremely convoluted celebrity divorce case, participated in the revolutions of 1848, and later founded the ADAV (General German Workers Association) which merged with the SDAP to form the SPD. Then he was killed in a duel.

In part 3 of the Communist Manifesto, there's an attack on certain German socialists who concentrate on attacking liberalism without realizing that they haven't even got that far in Germany yet, thus making themselves tools of the reactionaries. I think this section anticipates Marx's critique of Lassalle, who was controversially willing to work with Bismarck to achieve universal suffrage, and who hated and distrusted liberals more than he did Bismarck.
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Re: Communist Manifesto: Abaisse Summer Reading #1

Postby between4walls » Thu Jun 27, 2013 8:51 pm

Anyway, I don't have much to say about the Communist Manifesto proper because the Second International is much more my thing, but if you guys want some 1848 connections:

Marx's and Engels's articles in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, a newpaper Marx edited during the 1848 revolutions

Engels's memoirs of the fighting in the Palatinate in 1849. Some of the people mentioned later fought in the American Civil War, including Willich and Blenker. I mainly include this link because of the "story of the conquest, of Landau with three mortars and a 24 lb. cannon-ball that never happened."

The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte is Marx's take on 1848 in France and Napoleon III's rise. Which, according the Gleams That Pass thread (thanks MmeBahorel!), wasn't translated into French until 1900.
Here day embraces night, and says: I will die with you and you will be reborn with me. From the heavy embrace of all desolations springs faith.

The real name of devotion is disinterestedness.


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