In the last 150 years, I’m sure The CM has been picked over several times, and most of the criticisms I’ve made have probably been raised many times. I’m actually surprised that now, in later life, I’m finding so many criticisms myself, as I was a fan of Marx when I read him in school. I was an atheist then, whereas I now believe in God, if that makes any difference.
There are still further things I’d like to pick on however. Does it really make sense to abolish all nations in favour of one global nation? What about sport, where competition is essential (although saying that, my sister-in-law recently tried to get me into a “communal” board game involving each player working together towards a collective goal, and there was definitely potential). What about the simple naming of areas – would each section have to be named “Section NW102” or something equally formal – surely Norway is prettier? (And one additional point – Marx mentions confiscating the property of all “emigrants and rebels” – how can there be emigrants if there is only 1 global nation? And rebels? Well, perhaps he did foresee some people objecting to the new system).
There are two things that have surprised me about the first 10 years of this century. The first is the continuation of guitar-based bands (and even the rise of folk, ffs!) – I thought it was going to be all synths and techno (space rock?), and along with that, the favouring of a “traditional” look in pubs (although I did read somewhere that at the start of a new century, there is often a switch to nostalgia in culture).
The other thing that took me completely by surprise was the increase in racism. Back at the turn of the millennium, it seemed like everyone was living as one. Maybe it was the drugs, but everyone seemed to be getting on fine, and I never thought racism would ever become accepted again like it is now. Maybe it didn’t help when Britain went to war again. Six years ago, when still not (just about) everyone was online, and a while before facebook of course, I reported to my boss at the call centre I worked at, in a kind of hushed tone, that someone before me had been checking out the BNP website. Even people when smoking outside would sometimes mention the BNP and I just could not believe what I was hearing.
These days, the BNP is rife, and accepted, and no longer seen as abhorrent, which personally, I think is a disgrace. But is does just go to show that people involved in a class struggle are as likely to turn to the far-right as to the left, so unifying a class as one is always going to take a lot of work. I just hope that recent events around the world turn more people to the left (It is also worth mentioning that even Marx himself apparently saw a difference between people of developed nations and “barbarians” (that’s the translation anyway) who he hoped could be converted to communism. Again, we’re talking about a 19th century writer, but still, if he was unable to recognise a united human race, then this was going to be an obstacle for him).
My very final query is – what happens after the revolution? What happens if things don’t go the way Marx might have foreseen or hoped? George Orwell of course famously depicts the way any power that overthrows another can quickly become like those they opposed (New Labour anyone?). I’ve often thought Labour are better as an opposition party, but does it make sense to always be in opposition? It’s a bit like saying Cardiff should remain in the Championship rather than gain promotion to the Premiership (2nd in the league, with 4 games to go as I write). Is life really all about struggle? Even the most down-and-out has got to have fun sometimes!
Perhaps the best point Marx makes is the simple fact that the only reason we have money is because it became universally accepted as a means of currency, and in a sense the same applies to all property. Take away this principle and well….but is communism the inevitable result or just one possibility? If a system has been in place for so long, completely abolishing it will never be easy (think of the paperwork! Although saying that, the internet has revolutionised so many things, including doing away with a lot of paperwork!). Maybe it’s better things are revised and tweaked along the way. Occasionally if things are not going so well, maybe it’s time for a bit of a clear out, but completely turning the world upside down? I don’t know!
Personally, I think a new Industrial Age would be a good thing. We’ve had an age of the mass production of consumer goods – PCs, Ipods, and other ways of showing how wonderfully flat images can glide across flat screens – but these are just being modified and repeated now. How about some completely new 21st century products? It might sound expensive, but I think there’s a need for economics to be revised somehow. Everything it seems is becoming too expensive. And with any new production brings more employment which we do need. Enough of nonsensical “virtual” internet jobs, let’s have some more good old fashioned stuff being built! And how about greater utilisation of our greatest energy source, the sun?
Going back to the phrase, “It sounds good in principle, but it would never happen”, having re-read the Communist Manifesto, I actually wonder if it is all good, even in principle, particularly in relation to the proposals to do away with families, and its apparent refusal to accept individual will (I’m afraid I can’t accept the view that only once a system is in place that allows the individual to be free can an individual be truly free – under any system, I believe each person’s mind is still individual). It certainly is an amazing book of ideas, however. It quite accurately charts the history of labour until Marx’s day, and definitely gets the brain excited about all kinds of possibilities.
I was left to wonder, well if I’m not a communist, what am I? I believe in looking out for people, which I suppose makes me a socialist, but to be honest, all I could really come up with was that I must be a hedonist! I live for pleasure, and that’s about it. I increasingly think about the world as being a kind of super-advanced virtual reality computer game, and the best thing in any computer game is to have a “cheat” giving you infinite lives. That might be quite good fun – just need to invent some kind of time machine thing (Fisk drifts into fantasy here…definitely gets you thinking the book though!).
I have no truck with liars, and given that there is so much dishonesty in politics these days, modern politics really does leave me pretty cold. Saying that, with revolution in the air, and me always being a kind of revolutionary, I must admit, I was dead impressed with what took place in Egypt. Two weeks the people camped in that square – 2 weeks! That shows commitment, compared to all the London protestors shuffling back home, a bit embarrassed probably, after 1 night. When Mubarak announced he would not stand down, and was proud of his people (a surprisingly brave speech in fact), I thought, oh well, it’s all come to nothing. But when the next day it was announced that the military had removed him, I felt quite proud for them – they’d done it!
But the question is still there – has a better system actually been put in place, and how can you achieve this kind of revolution on a global scale? And to the man sitting at the end of the bar with his bottle of wine and a paper, does it really make any difference?
This article was first published in Issue 10 of Square magazine.