On February the 21st, 1848, the Communist Manifesto was published in London. In a Europe that was going through a deep economic crisis that dragged millions of workers and farmers into misery, the working class was taking its first steps towards organization and consciousness, embracing the revolutionary ideas. The dominant classes were trembling before the “ghost of communism”. The Manifesto gives a voice and a body to the ghost, providing the working class with a program to face capitalism and fight for socialism. Since then, it has been one of the most translated and edited texts in history. Although it has been thought dead or outdated more than once, it still is a fundamental tool for those of us who face capitalism and fight to transform reality.
By Martin Poliak
The pandemic of covid-19 exposed the decay of capitalism. The health crisis, together with the brutal crisis we are going through, added to the terrible environmental crisis, shows that we are facing a system that has nothing good to offer to humanity except for misery and destruction.
When capitalism was still in its infancy, Marx and Engels captured its core features and it’s dynamic. Fast-forward to 172 years later and this text is still completely relevant. It is true that many things have changed since then, but as true as that is, in long passages, the Manifesto seems to be a contemporary work describing to us the current world. Let’s think for example that in 1948, when the word globalization did not exist yet and capitalism was consolidated in only a few European countries, they were already describing its tendency to spread throughout the world:
“The need of a constantly expanding markets for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere […] The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country […] In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations.”
In turn, they indicate us that this capitalist expansion comes with periodical crises that drag the masses into misery. Crises like the current one are not exceptions but a typical feature of the functioning capitalist. Unlike previous societies, in which crises occurred because humanity was not producing enough to meet basic needs, the current crises are due to the features of capitalism itself: private ownership of the means of production, the anarchy in production and capitalist income as the goal. But these crises that show the limits of capitalism open in turn the possibility to overcome it.
Turn everything around
Marx and Engels admit in the Manifesto that capitalism meant progress for humanity as it generated a rise in social wealth, which makes moving to a fairer world possible. However, the social structure and the functioning of capitalism are an obstacle for that to happen, private ownership of the means of production, the absence of an economic plan and the production put at the service of capitalist profits block society from moving forward.
As Trotsky said 80 years ago, the characteristic scientific and technological breakthroughs of capitalism, instead of being a step forward, are moving towards the opposite direction.
Nowadays, the global food production is enough to feed the population of the world twice. However, millions of people die of starvation each year, as the ten multinationals that control the world’s food industry privilege their profits.
Breakthroughs in medicine during the time of the rise of the bourgeoisie were monumental, but nowadays they are being stopped by the pharmaceutical industry. The pandemic of Coronavirus shed light on how private property (in this case, of health) endangers the life of humanity: investigations of years suspended due to cuts or lack of profitability, a career for vaccines that instead of cooperation and working together is based on competition, thinking of future profits and not in human lives.
The same is shown in the destruction of the environment. Nowadays it is possible to produce all the energy we need through non-polluting means. However, those means are not profitable and the oil industry is a bastion of the capitalist economy that the bourgeoisie cannot abandon. They are the opposite, as the accessible oil reservoirs are running out they develop more destructive methods of extraction like fracking.
To sum up, capitalism is increasingly more incompatible with human life. It drags us to a growing misery in the midst of the hoarding by a very few of the most abundant wealth of all history. This cannot be changed if we do not attack the interests of those multinationals, in other words, the core of capitalism.
The struggle is political
Each day we see how the people face the capitalist barbarism. The world is plagued with workers’, environmental, democratic, gender-related and students’ struggles. Each one of them faces the consequences capitalism lead us to. But as the Manifesto warned us: “every class struggle is a political struggle.”
As long as capitalism exists, everything we achieve with our struggle on one side, the bourgeoisie recovers it on the other. If we get a salary raise, the bourgeoisie recovers what it lost through inflation and we lose what we achieved. The class struggle is political because the purpose of the workers is to move forward from the assertive struggles to the dispute for power. That is only possible with the “organization of the proletariat as a class, as well as a political party.”
A program for revolutionary action
Marx and Engels wrote the Manifesto by commission of the League of Communists, one of the first political organizations of the working class, in which they played a leading role. Their efforts were targeted at providing the working class with a program on scientific grounds.
Nowadays, Marxism is studied many times in Universities as a social theory, separated from its compromised and revolutionary nature. Marx and Engels are presented as theorist scholars, and not as the political activists they were.
But the Manifesto is a program for the action of a political organization of the working class. It is a call to arms that is still fully relevant for those who see the ruin to which capitalism is leading us and seek to fight for a different way for humanity.