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The Manifesto of the Communist Party in 2006

posted by Debb Thorne

One of my favorite pieces to read (and reread) when I teach the theory component of my social inequality class is the "Manifesto of the Communist Party," written by Marx and Engels in 1848. My students are always floored at how applicable the manifesto is in today's world--they can't believe that it was written more than 150 years ago. My favorite passage talks about how the survival of the bourgeoisie (or capitalism) depends upon constant revolutionizing, constant change. Marx and Engels insist that it is imperative to the survival of the capitalist system that olds wants be replaced with new ones--and the more rapidly this happens, the better.

Every holiday season, the barrage of advertising reminds me just how right Marx and Engels were. For example, if you bought an IPod this past autumn, you are utterly uncool. The new IPod is so much better that using the old model is unthinkable (and to some young people, unbearable). The same goes for the GameBoys. And cell phones (god forbid that one's phone cannot take photos). And Christmas lawn decorations. And Elmos. And big screen tvs. And laptops. And, and, and....

Certainly, this keeps capitalism chugging along. But what does it mean for our sense of self, our relationships, and our wallets? Even Marx and Engels recognized that, financially, it would be impossible for consumers to maintain this pace: As soon as a laborer collected his wage, he "is set upon by the other portion of the bourgeoisie, the landlord, the shopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc." (I would argue that the modern version of the "etc." would be the credit card lender or the bill collector.)

I understand that most Americans have been encouraged (to put it lightly) to believe that Marx was a bad guy, and that Marxism is evil and dangerous. Consequently, most folks in this country have never actually read what Marx wrote. I would encourage you to take an hour or so, put up your feet, pull up a copy of the Manifesto from the internet, and enjoy a very good read. My guess is that you will be as amazed as my students.


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