Thoughts on the Communist Manifesto

14 Mar

A friend suggested I read Marx’s “The Communist Manifesto” before putting together the ‘revolution’ issue of Square. I had read his German Ideology in Philosophy at school, but can’t remember if I’ve ever read The Communist Manifesto (hereon known as the CM), either in school or university. This friend appeared to be accusing me of being a hypocritical philistine for saying that I knew about communism, but wasn’t sure if I’d ever read the CM. This same friend, only around a year ago, before the last UK general election, sometimes gave the impression that they had some support for the British National Party. It just goes to show how fickle some people can be! When the news was full of stories about immigration figures and bad-ass Muslim terrorists, “Yes, perhaps I should vote for the Nazis.” Following the revolution in Egypt, uprisings in Syria and Libya and the protests in this country, “That’s it, I’m going to become a hardline communist!” And I’m the one who gets accused of hypocrisy!

Certainly, for anyone who does have far-left tendencies, recent events in some parts of the world, and the frequent use of the word “revolution” on news bulletins has had them jumping up and down in glee. Anyone who has such people as friends on facebook will have seen frequent posts espousing the downfall of Western Civilisation.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to sound too cynical, I am left-wing myself with (I thought) some latent Communist tendencies. His Bruce Forsyth moment (not in the CM), “From each according to their means, to each according to their need” always resonated with me. But it’s just the repetitious, and to me, out-dated language that is always trotted out. Marx himself spoke of being anti-dogmatic, but I think too many people have a dogmatic approach to his texts and resort to simply copying what he himself has said in ritualistic fashion

The most common thing you will ever hear whenever anyone mentions the word communism is:

“It sounds great in principle, but it would never happen.”

This is precisely what the second-hand bookshop owner said when I finally found the CM after going to first, The Works, hoping to pick up a cheap copy, then the bookshop in the market (mostly fiction, inhabited at the time by two large Americans buying puzzle books and seeking a pub where they sell Brains? beer), then the Oxfam bookshop, which I think had one or 2 related books, followed by the library – a couple of communist books, and lots of fascist books – Waterstones, and 1 or 2 other second hand bookshops. In none of these places, except the shop where I finally found the book did I ask for assistance – although I checked the computer in the library – feeling for some reason slightly embarrassed to ask for it. On the one hand, I perhaps did not want to appear to be stark raving mad, and on the other hand, I thought they would probably think “Oh, another one of those communist bandwagon jumper-oners.” I only asked in the last shop because I was downstairs, away from the main shop, in front of probably the right section, when the owner passed by, and picked it from another section to my left where I probably would have found it myself.

So anyway, we had a short dialogue, the shopkeep and I, but to be honest, the phrase, “It sounds great in principle, but it would never work” is a bit of a conversation stopper.