The abridged communist manifesto

May 20th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A reader has sent me in an abridged version of the original 1872 communist manifesto. He notes:

This is a heavily abridged version of the original 1872 document, the abridgement achieved by deletion of “political rhetoric” and political analysis, and leaving core statements of intent, role and structure.  The original has also been edited to the extent of replacing the words “Proletariat” and “Proletarian” with “labour”, replacing the words “bourgeois” and “bourgeoisie” with “capital” and “capitalist(s)”, and the addition of headings in italics.  Other than the foregoing, the words are those of Marx and Engels.

Below is the abridged communist manifesto. What is interesting is how great tracts of it can be found in the policy principles statements of a certain NZ left party. You can guess which one.

The Abridged Communist Manifesto

Modern industry established the world market.

Capital cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production.  All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilized nations.  And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature. Capital has agglomerated population, centralized the means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands.

Role of the worker

In proportion as the capitalist, i.e., capital, is developed, in the same proportion is labour, the modern working class, developed — a class of labourers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labour increases capital. These labourers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market.

Owing to the extensive use of machinery, and to the division of labour, the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and, consequently, all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him.

Hence, the cost of production of a workman is restricted, almost entirely, to the means of subsistence that he requires for maintenance, and for the propagation of his race. But the price of a commodity, and therefore also of labour, is equal to its cost of production. In proportion, therefore, as the repulsiveness of the work increases, the wage decreases. What is more, in proportion as the use of machinery and division of labour increases, in the same proportion the burden of toil also increases, whether by prolongation of the working hours, by the increase of the work exacted in a given time, or by increased speed of machinery, etc.

Modern Industry has converted the little workshop of the patriarchal master into the great factory of the industrial capitalist. Masses of labourers, crowded into the factory, are organized like soldiers. As privates of the industrial army, they are placed under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers and sergeants. Not only are they slaves of the capitalist class, and of the capitalist state; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the overlooked, and, above all, in the individual capitalist manufacturer himself. The more openly this despotism proclaims gain to be its end and aim, the more petty, the more hateful and the more embittering it is.

The less the skill and exertion of strength implied in manual labour, in other words, the more modern industry becomes developed, the more is the labour of men superseded by that of women. Differences of age and sex have no longer any distinctive social validity for the working class. All are instruments of labour, more or less expensive to use, according to their age and sex.

No sooner is the exploitation of the labourer by the manufacturer, so far at an end, that he receives his wages in cash, than he is set upon by the other portion of the capitalist spectrum, the landlord, the shopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc.

Power of the collective

Labour goes through various stages of development. At first, the contest is carried on by individual labourers, then by the work of people of a factory, then by the operative of one trade, in one locality, against the business owners who directly exploit them. They direct their attacks not against the capital condition of production, but against the instruments of production themselves; they destroy imported wares that compete with their labour, they smash to pieces machinery, they set factories ablaze, they seek to restore by force the vanished status of the workman of the Middle Ages.

At this stage, the labourers still form an incoherent mass scattered over the whole country, and broken up by their mutual competition. But with the development of industry, labour not only increases in number; it becomes concentrated in greater masses, its strength grows, and it feels that strength more. The various interests and conditions of life within the ranks of labour are more and more equalized, in proportion as machinery obliterates all distinctions of labour, and nearly everywhere reduces wages to the same low level.

The growing competition in capital, and the resulting commercial crises, make the wages of the workers ever more fluctuating. The increasing improvement of machinery, ever more rapidly developing, makes their livelihood more and more precarious; the collisions between individual workmen and individual capitalists take more and more the character of collisions between two classes. Thereupon, the workers begin to form combinations (trade unions) against capital; they club together in order to keep up the rate of wages; they find permanent associations in order to make provision beforehand for these occasional revolts.

Here and there, the contest breaks out into riots. Now and then the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lie not in the immediate result, but in the ever expanding union of the workers. This union is helped on by the improved means of communication that are created by Modern Industry, and that place the workers of different localities in contact with one another.

This organization of the proletarians into a class, and, consequently, into a political party, is continually being upset again by the competition between the workers themselves. But it ever rises up again, stronger, firmer, mightier. It compels legislative recognition of particular interests of the workers, by taking advantage of the divisions among capital itself. Thus, the Ten-Hours Bill in England was carried. 

Communist Aims

The essential conditions for the existence and for the sway of the capitalist class is the formation and augmentation of capital; the condition for capital is wage labour. Wage labour rests exclusively on competition between the labourers.

The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: Formation of labour into a class, overthrow of the capitalist supremacy, conquest of political power by labour.

The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.

We Communists have been reproached with the desire of abolishing the right of personally acquiring property as the fruit of a man’s own labour, which property is alleged to be the groundwork of all personal freedom, activity and independence. To be a capitalist, is to have not only a purely personal, but a social STATUS in production. Capital is a collective product, and only by the united action of many members, nay, in the last resort, only by the united action of all members of society, can it be set in motion. Capital is therefore not only personal; it is a social power.

When, therefore, capital is converted into common property, into the property of all members of society, personal property is not thereby transformed into social property. It is only the social character of the property that is changed. It loses its class character.

Let us now take wage labour. The average price of wage labour is the minimum wage, i.e., that quantum of the means of subsistence which is absolutely requisite to keep the labourer in bare existence as a labourer.

What, therefore, the wage labourer appropriates by means of his labour merely suffices to prolong and reproduce a bare existence. We by no means intend to abolish this personal appropriation of the products of labour, an appropriation that is made for the maintenance and reproduction of human life, and that leaves no surplus wherewith to command the labour of others. All that we want to do away with is the miserable character of this appropriation, under which the labourer lives merely to increase capital, and is allowed to live only in so far as the interest of the ruling class requires it.

In capitalist society, living labour is but a means to increase accumulated labour. In communist society, accumulated labour is but a means to widen, to enrich, to promote the existence of the labourer.

deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labour of others by means of such appropriations. 

Education

The Communists have not intended the intervention of society in education; they do but seek to alter the character of that intervention, and to rescue education from the influence of the ruling class.

How will communism be achieved?

We have seen above that the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise labour to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy.

Labour will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the capitalists, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state, i.e., labour organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.

In most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable. 

  1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
  2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
  3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
  4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
  5. Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.
  6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state.
  7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
  8. Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
  9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
  10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc.

When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. In place of the old capitalist society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all. 

Now have a read of this.

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42 Responses to “The abridged communist manifesto”

  1. redqueen (563 comments) says:

    I think every sensible person, deep down, knows that the Labour Party (let alone the Greens) are just a bunch of commies. Just be glad they haven’t caught onto the idea of collective farms yet…although I think the Greens may be pondering it. Who needs to export anything when we’ll all have ‘green jobs’? (making the most advanced stone tools the world has ever seen).

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  2. jp_1983 (213 comments) says:

    If children are their treasures why don’t they restrain their children in their unwarranted unsafe cars…

    Also on the treaty I thought it was a two way street. Guess we will have to keep on paying for ‘redress’

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  3. Danyl Mclauchlan (1,069 comments) says:

    If you abridge Beowulf and replace terms like ‘mead-hall’ with ‘capital-markets’ and ‘magic sword’ with ‘fiscal prudence’ it sounds just like the 2014 Budget Economic and Fiscal update.

    [DPF: LOL]

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  4. Yoza (1,875 comments) says:

    “Our Party was formed in 1916 by working New Zealanders determined that the contribution of all people to our nation should be respected and valued. They strove then, as we do now, for a fair share for all, support for the vulnerable, and hope for a better tomorrow.”

    Bloody pinkos, how dare they attempt to strive for a society based on common human decency.

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  5. lilman (959 comments) says:

    Treaty is a farce.

    Maori before the treaty were in a constant state of flux,war,hiding and conquest.This is why the Maori Chiefs asked the Queen to come and rule and protect them.
    Seems things arent as they seem,honor the treaty when infact the main point of the treaty was protection and that every citizen would be treated equally,not one section treated differently.

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  6. berend (1,709 comments) says:

    If you look at those 10 points, it’s amazing how many we have in NZ (and other countries):

    1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

    Tick 50%. The state owns most of this country, isn’t it 90% (or 50%?) of the South Island?

    A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

    Tick. As soon as you work over a certain numbers of hours, you have to give up 1/3.

    Abolition of all rights of inheritance.

    That one didn’t happen.

    Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

    I love how emigrants and rebels are put in the same sentence. Not much has changed, it’s scary how emigrant bashing has now been taken on by the Labour Party. Given that globalization has bypassed New Zealand, we probably have practically implemented this.

    Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.

    Tick.

    Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state.

    Partial tick: we have cars, but roads are state owned. And obviously that’s why the left loves rails.

    Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

    How many companies does the state own? How much percentage of our industry is owned by the state? A lot.

    Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

    Equal obligation of all to work definitely didn’t happen.

    Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.

    It seems the socialists forgot this one!

    Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc.

    Tick.

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  7. EAD (1,087 comments) says:

    Don’t let the above fool you that NZ is not already a heavily Communist country. Just because different words have been used and it has been done progressively doesn’t mean we don’t incorporate a good chunk of the 10 planks of the communist manifesto. Very quickly off the top of my head:

    1. “Abolition of private property in land and application of all rents of land to public purpose” – Have you heard of The Public Works Act provides the Crown with the statutory authority to acquire land for a public work? What about Agenda 21 that is stealthily being implemented across government local and central and there iss not a thing you can do about it?
    http://www.spectator.co.uk/columnists/james-delingpole/7045153/communitarianism-is-a-freedomhating-totalitarian-philosophy-like-any-other/

    2. “A heavy progressive or graduated income tax” – Working for Families or worker tax credits that kills the incentive to advance yourself and get payrises as your marginal tax rate can be over 80%!!

    5. “Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly” – The Reserve Bank of NZ, created by the Reserve Bank of NZ Act in 1934, is indeed such a “national bank” and it politically manipulates interest rates and along with what are now foreign owned banks, holds a near monopoly on legal counterfeiting in New Zealand. This is exactly what Marx had in mind and completely fulfills this plank, another major socialist objective. Yet, most New Zealanders naively believe that Central Banks are designed to work for the average citizen when in reality they enrich the wealthy. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-02-01/how-central-banks-cause-income-inequality

    6. “Centralization of the means of communication and transportation in the hands of the state” – Kiwirail, Air NZ? Transport controlled by the Department of Transport? How many here could tell me how potentially sinister the Electronic Transactions Act, 2002 is?

    8. “Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of Industrial armies, especially for agriculture” – We call it the Welfare State and The Department of Labor. High Government and Personal debt levels and inflation caused by the Central Bank has caused the need for a two “income” family. And I almost forgot…The Human Rights Act means that women should do all work that men do including the military.

    9. “Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the population over the country” – This process is caused urbanisation. The reason fans of big government love people in cities because it reduces their independence, it leaves them no time to think, it reduces their involvement in communities and makes them subconsciously unaware of how things are produced.

    10. “Free education for all children in government schools” – I don’t think this even needs critiqued.

    DPF – you warn us of Labour planning a communist society but the reality is we are so far removed from a classical liberal society that we may as well declare it the Peoples Republic of Aotearoa now.

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  8. Scott1 (552 comments) says:

    I think Kiwi in America had a good post a while ago about how the Labour party had moved to the left of it’s support base.

    Now you have a situation where the party activists are eager to talk about all sorts of things that they just can’t make happen because the public doesn’t support it. One has to wonder when they will get completely frustrated and just defect to the Greens or something.
    —-

    But looking at Labours vision it reminds me that there does seem to be a bit of a lack of vision from National.

    I see the Labour and national as serving two potentially complementary roles (in some areas). Labour can institute some sort of policy (like an education or health policy) and when National gets in they can cut off the bit’s that don’t work and keep the stuff that does. I don’t know if this works in practice – but in theory it could.

    Ideally in this model when National is in they should be like the coalition in Australia and make tough choices in order to get the country on a sounder footing. If they don’t do it them those decisions will never be made (for example with superannuation, but the same is true everywhere).

    Now I can imagine people will say that National has been “careful” with the finances – but despite this there does not appear to be much in the way of tough decisions that I have seen (besides selling assets). Someone should be complaining about feeling pain because if they are not then you haven’t really challenged any of the real issues.

    The same sort of situation occurs with the private sector where companies get a bit fat and lazy and then at some point switch CEO (probably during a downturn) and the new CEO cuts out the fat that the old one built in.

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  9. Psycho Milt (2,412 comments) says:

    If you look at those 10 points, it’s amazing how many we have in NZ (and other countries):

    And

    Don’t let the above fool you that NZ is not already a heavily Communist country.

    So, communism turned out to look a lot like liberal capitalist democracy as practiced in most of the developed world? Makes you wonder what all the fuss was about…

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  10. mjw (396 comments) says:

    Watch out! Reds under the bed! I happen to know of 205 government employees who are members of the communist party. What’s more, they are passing on information to the Soviet Union.

    Oh, hang on. That was last millenium.

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  11. itstricky (1,832 comments) says:

    What is interesting is how great tracts of it can be found in the policy principles

    If you are serious I think you’ve just hit a new low in politicking DPF. Oh how f’ing silly they are claiming dead people donate to National BUT… Well, me myself and I can prove they’re the reincarnation of communism from 1872. Sessh you’re tiresome sometimes.

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  12. itstricky (1,832 comments) says:

    A reader has sent me in an abridged version of the original 1872 communist manifesto.

    Dotcom, then?

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  13. itstricky (1,832 comments) says:

    Watch out! Reds under the bed! I happen to know of 205 government employees who are members of the communist party. What’s more, they are passing on information to the Soviet Union.

    Red Dawn, Red October what not. Good movies. Pretty sure igm thinks they’re non-fiction.

    Oh, hang on. That was last millenium.

    Pretty sure igm thinks this year is nineteen-eighty-fourteen

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  14. OneTrack (3,107 comments) says:

    Psycho – but the greens will have much more power this time. Allied with the new hard left labour under Cunliffe and we could be looking at something approaching a communist nirvana.

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  15. OneTrack (3,107 comments) says:

    Labour can’t even think up their own policies. They have to cut and paste them from someone else.

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  16. itstricky (1,832 comments) says:

    Treaty is a farce.

    And was to be expected, the writer’s opening to the floor quickly degenerated into a free-for-all rant by bored talk back radio denizens.

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  17. OneTrack (3,107 comments) says:

    itstricky – don’t worry, he will be first up against the wall when the revolution comes.

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  18. kowtow (8,487 comments) says:

    It’s all well and good to poke at the Labour Party ,it is understable that a left party takes on left policy.

    What is unforgivable and what should be up for debate is how far to the left Notional has gone.

    I note many are happy to call themselves ‘progressive” which is simply code for commie!

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  19. kowtow (8,487 comments) says:

    onetrack

    National can’t think up their own policies either,they just support private membrs’ bills of the radical left and anti private property bills of the anti tobacco maoris.

    Labour Lite?

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  20. lolitasbrother (698 comments) says:

    I spent a long time reading about Mao and collectivism. Terrible, sad and insane it was .
    We can be thankful that in our democracy we have a say before the Government is chosen and after.
    I stress the point that we have a say after the elections, we get to make power over direction of the Country, by what we write and say to our own..
    In Thailand where I go for half of each year Democracy has been hoodwinked by one family who have massive influence over
    all Bureaucracy, Police and Army..
    It is not what happens before you vote, it is what happens after.

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  21. OneTrack (3,107 comments) says:

    kowtow – they definitely are labour-lite. But that is still much better than labour-heavy :-)

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  22. Dave Mann (1,222 comments) says:

    @Danyl: Nice one. You are always witty. You are wasted on the left, mate!

    @berend: Nice comment, except that you took ‘emigrant’ for ‘immigrant’. The two are totally different, if you understand the english language sufficiently.

    @itstricky: You seem to be rather smug. Listen to Sean Plunkett and Willie & Ally and you’ll hear a range of really intelligent, well informed and articulate callers.

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  23. kowtow (8,487 comments) says:

    one track

    I’ll concede that!

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  24. peterwn (3,273 comments) says:

    Fortunately for Labour, the 1872 Communist manifesto is out of copyright.

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  25. Simon (724 comments) says:

    Class cooperation means that capitalists will never again treat the workers as mere economic components. Money is but one part of our economic life, the workers are more than machines to whom one throws a pay packet every week. The real wealth of Germany is its workers.

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  26. tom hunter (4,853 comments) says:

    A reader has sent me in an abridged version of the original 1872 communist manifesto.

    Excellent. Just in time for this year’s political battle between Kamenev and Zinoviev.

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  27. Ryan Sproull (7,153 comments) says:

    So, communism turned out to look a lot like liberal capitalist democracy as practiced in most of the developed world? Makes you wonder what all the fuss was about…

    Yeah, apparently the overthrow of capitalism is cool with the capital wealth of people like John Key, Kim Dotcom and David Cunliffe.

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  28. Ryan Sproull (7,153 comments) says:

    Didn’t the Labour Party explicitly start off as the parliamentary wing of the socialist revolutionary movement?

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  29. thePeoplesFlag (245 comments) says:

    I think this post shows how worried the neo-libs are that the intellectual wheels are falling off their scam. The reason the right is so afraid of Thomas Piketty isn’t because he provides empirical proof of what we all already knew about the tendency of capitalism to monopoly and wealth concentration but because he has brought out into the mainstream the rehabilitation of Marxism as more than just a cogent criticism of capitalism but also as an economic system with solutions that offer more – much more – to the common people than capitalism ever will.

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  30. Odakyu-sen (655 comments) says:

    “Class cooperation means that capitalists will never again treat the workers as mere economic components.”

    But the workers are economic components, as are the capitalists.

    “Workers” (in the narrow sense) don’t take risks with their own money nor do they innovate or create new business. That would be the role of the “capitalist” (or businessman).

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  31. Ryan Sproull (7,153 comments) says:

    “Workers” (in the narrow sense) don’t take risks with their own money nor do they innovate or create new business. That would be the role of the “capitalist” (or businessman).

    1. Innovation is work.
    2. Creating new business is a task performed by (some) capital owners in a capitalist society, yes, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways that new business could be created in a non-capitalist society.
    3. The risks and incentivisation of new ventures is definitely a challenge that alternatives to capitalism have to address.

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  32. Manolo (13,780 comments) says:

    Be serious and come clean, DPF. A hacker stole that document, their political platform, from the Green Party archives.

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  33. berend (1,709 comments) says:

    @Dave Mann, one country’s emigrant is another’s immigrant, if you get what I mean :-)

    Pure communism never had the right to leave (that’s the manifesto’s perspective), but if you want to give someone the right to leave, they need somewhere to go.

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  34. Scott Hamilton (298 comments) says:

    There have been thirty-three comments in this thread, and nobody has pointed out that DPF started his post with a howler, when he claimed that the Communist Manifesto was published in 1872. The document appeared rather earlier than that, in 1848. If you can’t get the most basic facts about the text right, then there isn’t much hope for an interesting interpretation.

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  35. hj (7,023 comments) says:

    The real struggle going on here is property developers vs community resistance.
    As Dr Greg Clydesdale says in Growing Pains

    The housing boom has meant good profits for many New Zealand companies supplying
    materials and building services, but it implies investors would rather invest in their country’s
    homes rather than its businesses (Bollard 2005). The high returns for property has attracted
    finance and reduced the capital available for productive investment (Moody, 2006). The
    consequence is investment is going in to industries with limited capacity to increase per capita
    incomes. For example, real estate and building are domestically bound and do not have the
    market potential of export industries. They also have less opportunity to increase productivity
    through new processes and products. The irony is, as these sectors grow, they have incurred
    skills shortages which in turn has increased demand for skilled immigrants. The Department
    of Statistics ‘Long Term Skill Shortage List’ of 28/3/2006 includes carpenter/joiner, plumber,
    electricians, fitter and turners, fitter welders; all indicative of a nation building its
    construction/property sector.
    There is a danger that a sector of the economy is being augmented that is totally reliant on a
    small domestic economy. Not only do these industries have limited potential for per-capita
    growth but ‘deriving growth via factor inputs such as labour places pressure on infrastructure
    such as transport and land supply, and ultimately have a further negative impact on growth
    (ARC 2005). Finally, as the sector gets larger, it gains in lobbying/political strength and can
    lobby for immigration regardless if it is the best interests of the economy as a whole. This
    could be seen in Canada where the development industry has lobbied hard for high sustained
    immigration levels (Ley and Tutchener 2001).

    A sad fate for God’s Own Country.
    It’s just a fact: there are limits to growth (note DPF appealing to Julian Simon and calls of xenophobia)

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  36. emmess (1,428 comments) says:

    The Labour Party forgot about principle eight, though

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  37. dime (9,972 comments) says:

    emmess – i was just about to say the same thing!

    i guess they need all the bums to keep voting them in, dragging the economy down etc then when we are really fucked they can blame our “capitalist” system and get what they want – other peoples shit for free!

    cause stealing other peoples money is “fair”

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  38. Scott Hamilton (298 comments) says:

    Alright, I can’t resist: here’s my two cents’ worth. The Communist Manifesto is a fascinating and in many ways very contradictory text, which is capable of making both the political left and the right uncomfortable. To read the document itself, as opposed to some summary or parody of it, is to be confronted with the tremendous complexity, creativity, and instability of Marx’s thought.

    Conservatives who read the Manifesto are often surprised to find that many of its opening pages are given over to a paean to capitalism. Marx celebrates the dynamism of capitalist industry and the spread of capitalist markets, and alludes favourably to the penetration of societies like India and China by the capitalist West. His remarks about the ‘idiocy and backwardness’ of rural life and his celebration of modern technology, which makes ‘everything that is solid melt into air’, make the Manifesto a classic document of modernist thought, a forerunner of texts as different as The Futurist Manifesto and Atlas Shrugged.

    But Marx’s praise for capitalism is mixed with a vision of the system’s contradictions and limits. Marx modelled the Communist Manifesto on his favourite literary work, Goethe’s Faust, and he makes capitalism, like Faust, into a heroic character who ends up doomed by a mixture of hubris and fate. Capitalism’s dynamism leads it into crisis, as production exceeds demand, and the international working class it has created begins to organise and act across borders.
    It is easy enough to find mistaken predictions and misplaced optimism in the Communist Manifesto. Marx’s vision of an international working class revolution, for instance, has gone unrealised, partly because the national and religious differences which he thought capitalist expansion would destroy have persisted.

    But it is worth pausing and considering how prescient Marx’s discussion of capitalism was in 1848. In the middle of the nineteenth century capitalism had only recently begun to spread out of its stronghold in northern Europe, and only the tiniest fraction of the world’s population were employed by capitalists. The global trade networks and mass organisations of workers that we take for granted in the twenty-first century were almost unthinkable.

    Many scholars have argued that Marx moved away from the heroic vision of capitalism and contempt for pre-capitalist societies that are a feature of the Communist Manifesto. In 1871 Marx watched the world’s first working class revolution, the Paris Commune, fail to spread through Europe; in the remaining twelve years of his life he spent thousands of hours studying peoples – the Russians, the Javanese, the Arabs, and the Polynesians – who lived either outside or on the fringes of capitalism, and made a series of statements expressing solidarity with the efforts of these peoples to resist colonisation and the privatisation of their common lands.

    In a preface to the Communist Manifesto written in 1882, the year before his death, Marx insisted, rather dubiously, that the text was not a prediction of the path that capitalism would take everywhere in the world, but instead a vision of the way the system had developed in Western Europe. He also stated that Russia, which was at the time still mostly a pre-capitalist society, could avoid passing through a stage of capitalist development and build socialism directly on agrarian, communal foundations, if it got help from a socialist Western Europe. Marx’s positive view of Russia’s rural economy represents an enormous shift from the gleeful celebration of the destruction of pre-capitalist societies by colonialism in the 1848 text of the Communist Manifesto.

    In the 1950s and ‘60s, when Keynesianism ruled supreme in the West and advocates of market liberalism like Hayek were confined to the fringes of discussion, it was common for social democratic politicians to dig up the list of short-term demands Marx included in the Communist Manifesto and claim that most, if not all, of them had been achieved as a result of Labour governments. In the twenty-first century, the programmes of the Labour Parties of countries like New Zealand and Britain are almost devoid of words like nationalisation.

    It is even harder to connect New Zealand’s Green Party to the Communist Manifesto. Where Marx’s text celebrated economic expansion in almost febrile language, the Greens have talked about a ‘limit to growth’. The young Marx’s support for the colonisation of non-capitalist societies sits uneasily beside the Greens’ support for Maori land claims and the Treaty process.
    Marx and his texts have a complexity that defeats the sort of superficial parallels DPF has tried to draw in this post.

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  39. dime (9,972 comments) says:

    Marx was a bum who didnt pay his staff. He really was a piece of shit human being.

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  40. Scott Hamilton (298 comments) says:

    Here’s a part of what I called the paean to capitalism in the Communist Manifesto:

    ‘The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.

    The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers.

    The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.

    The bourgeoisie has disclosed how it came to pass that the brutal display of vigour in the Middle Ages, which reactionaries so much admire, found its fitting complement in the most slothful indolence. It has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades.

    The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

    The need of a constantly expanding market 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. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.’

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  41. stephieboy (3,094 comments) says:

    First class Scott Hamilton for a decent attempt at a reasoned analysis of this highly influential document.Yes its disappointing to see it subject to such a facile and superficial analysis by DPF ,but much more so by some of the more moronic elements that infest and post on this blog.Actually many of Marx’s and Engels ideas still form an important component of most modern and civilized economies, notably the idea of graduated income tax and various regulatory mechanisms that have mitigated many of the worst excesses of untrammeled 19th century capitalism.
    A more recent trend has been a rise in hysteria and paranoia that seeks to label and demonize anyone a” commie” or “leftie” and as you observe link the Greens to the Communist Manifesto .In fact their core philosophy would incur the displeasure of Marx denouncing them as “reactionary ” reflecting “bourgeois” class vested interests etc.
    Of course the Communist manifesto ultimately failed to come up with all the goods in a similar way that the Libertarian equivalents have done. An underlining idealism that failed to account for human nature and its propensity for greed and avarice.

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  42. Fentex (978 comments) says:

    Marx was a superb observer, but lousy prognosticator. Like anyone his interpretation of the future ran in line with his wishes and hopes. He saw life was harsh and unforgiving, especially for the poor and exploited and wanted it to be better. He could see how things could be made better in some ways but some of what he imagined would be criminal to attempt for those ambitions flew past the possible into the fanciful, imaginative and destructive.

    Numbers 6 through 9 of that documents trailing summary of predictions are the most obviously flawed through wishful thinking and ignorance of the future.

    And the people who acted, those with the political will and commitment in his tracks did not have Marx’s understanding nor I think empathy. And so they could not see, and did not care about, his errors – ultimately using him, his observations and his theories to their own ends.

    Engels, Lenin and on to Stalin. These were not people who cared about the proletariat except as a means to their ends. Tsars by any other names.

    People who really wanted to improve things, who took Marxs observations and worked from them but kept empathy and honesty to hand so would question and refine the theories would have not done much different than the liberal democracies – education, progressive taxation, central banking (all in that list) but also hopefully balked at the erroneous thought born of the culture of Tsars that the people are also property of the state to be deployed in it’s interest.

    That error, born of Russian history and more eastern than western culture was a mistake easy to make within the confines of it’s thinkers lives.

    It isn’t a mistake we are compelled to make. And we are able to distinguish between the useful tweak and modification of policy that engenders and maximises return on cooperation from forceful appropriation of personal property and labour.

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