The Guardian • Issue #2043

The Communist Manifesto turns 175

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2043

In Sydney, comrades are getting ready to demonstrate at Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s office against the government’s plan to spend an insane amount on preparations for war. In Perth communists are attending “Bridges of Love,” a monthly event to highlight the unjust US blockade of Cuba. In Melbourne last weekend CPA members turned out in a group to demonstrate against a gym in Sunshine which is being used as an organising centre for neo-Nazis. Soon, comrades in many cities will mark International Women’s Day. What’s the connection between all these activities and a book published 175 years ago? February 22 marked the 175th anniversary of the publication of the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The comrades attending the various events are all part of a movement inspired and organised by the Communist Manifesto and other works of the minds behind it.

Marx and Engels didn’t invent communism and socialism. A myriad of thinkers before them had been appalled by inequality and wondered if the world could be better organised. Marx and Engels’ contribution was to put socialism on a scientific footing, looking objectively at history and economies to come up with an analysis of human society, and the forces that changed it over time. The Manifesto came at exactly the right time, a time when workers throughout Europe were beginning to sense that they were in a class with shared interests. Marx and Engels explained in concrete terms exactly how classes had related. But it was far more than just a coherent explanation. The Manifesto was written for a purpose, the purpose being to guide revolutionaries. In photographs, Marx and Engels always look relaxed and dignified. Their lives were anything but. They strove from early on to promote revolution, and to produce theoretical work which would help inspire the revolutionary movement, and guide that revolutionary movement to be more than just anger and energy. As Harold Laski said, Marx and Engels “laid the foundations of a world movement which had a well-integrated philosophy of history, and a clear method of action for the future directly born of that philosophy.”

That energy, combined with the understanding of the situation that the Communist Manifesto fostered is what caused the Chinese Communist Party to create the largest increases in literacy and prosperity in human history. The “clear method of action” the Manifesto laid down led to the USSR taking a ruined feudalistic empire and creating a scientific superpower. It’s also what leads our comrades in Perth to be attending the “Bridges of Love” event, in solidarity with working people in Cuba, and to communists all around the country being active members of their trade unions.

If you move in “progressive” circles, you will inevitably meet people who know that there is massive inequality, that military spending is excessive, that working people are exploited, but who think this can be fixed by just telling everyone how wrong it is. The Communist Manifesto explains how the inequality comes about and exactly what needs to be done. To quote our comrades in the Workers’ Party of Ireland, the Manifesto exposes “the illusions of those who called themselves socialists but refused to confront the vicious reality of capitalism and of class power, and who served only to mislead workers and divert their struggles into dead-ends.” It deals with arguments that are still being made in Australia on a weekly basis. If you’re at all public about being a communist, you will meet people who ask: “What about freedom?” The Manifesto explains that “freedom” often means “free trade, free selling and buying” (for those who can do it). If you’re feeling bewildered by the pace of change, the book that coined the phrase “all that is solid melts into air” has an explanation.

The Communist Party of Australia (CPA) follows the analysis and plan of action in the Communist Manifesto as developed by Lenin, and consequently “has no aims separate from those of the working class and all exploited people,” to quote its Constitution.

Whatever your politics, if you haven’t read the Communist Manifesto, do yourself a favour and read it. It’s an eye-opener. It’s also a guide to action, so read it, then consider joining the Communist Party of Australia!

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