Believing that a reading of The Communist Manifesto makes one a virtuous member of society is as absurd as believing that a reading of The Bible makes one a Christian. And yet it is upheld, in intellectual circles, that ownership of a volume of The Manifesto is the passport to legitimising one’s political views. In fact, it is enough to insert the adjective ‘Marxist’ in the recital of one’s political convictions to be validated as a member of society worthy of the right to freedom of expression.
Cynics encounter more trouble when it comes to what has now become the “earning” of the right to expression. One must conform, or be labelled as “bourgeoisie”, as final as lowering the crimson drapes at the theatre, just with a little more force. Within this dialogue, if one can call it that, it is evident that “bourgeoisie” is no longer tethered to its definition, to “middle class.” This characteristic has now, if it had not already, become something like madness; it is something one sees in others, but not in oneself. It means “one who opposes popular opinion” as much as “one who is unafraid of truths.” But what is this alarming truth that is commonly ignored?
It is that Marxism has failed. The “bourgeoisie” – that is, the middle class – are no longer the elite minority they were classified to be in the mid-19th century. In the 21st century, in Britain, the middle class has become the growing majority, with people striving for careers over the constancy of dependable jobs. The Manifesto has only been kept alive through the metamorphosis of its terms: the “bourgeoisie” are now those who accept the reality of their middle-class status, whilst those who revere Marxism struggle to come to terms with the fact that they must now hate themselves.
To question the principles of Marxism has become as detrimental to the individual as questioning the ten commandments in 16th century Europe. When one is named “bourgeoisie” one may as well be labelled “witch”; the sentence is the same: absolute and immediate isolation from society without the privilege of a defence. Whoever knew that such an inclusionary policy could be so exclusionary? And what is more, that this exclusion, in its original sense, would now mean the disenfranchisement of most of the population? That in mobilising “the revolution”, one would simply be demobilising liberty and freedom of choice for much of the populace?
The gravest error is the pervasive belief, circulated primarily by press and professors alike, that Marxist theory still holds relevance to this day. Let us assess this claim. The Manifesto is 170 years old. Of course, its age does not make it irrelevant – in fact, that would be an even graver error to believe – but this is a manifesto, a declaration of policy relevant to time and place, however much two exceptionally furry men thought otherwise. Yes, they eternalised the “struggle” that they themselves had realised, but this “struggle” appears to have outlasted the issues that were addressed; it’s very components. (At least, that is, in western society).
Publication of The Manifesto has had much the same impact as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, which led many lovelorn fans to the same fate as its protagonist, Werther – that is, to suicide. The Manifesto has instead led many forlorn fanatics to their deaths. On the one hand, the researcher’s, the strife of the last centuries is a symptom of The Manifesto’s success. On the other hand, the survivor’s, Marxism is itself the “sorcerer” who has poisoned the people, the nation, hand and heart. And yet, Marxists continue to dismiss the realities of implementation as failures of implementation, asleep to the world of suffering is has invoked.
Marxism has failed. The middle classes are taking over. The “bourgeoisie” has been redefined as “those one wants to imitate”, a compliment previously reserved for the upper class, by a society that wants more and not the same (despite the facetious remarks offered concerning the “middle-classness” of every object, quality and behaviour known to mankind). Or has Marxism succeeded? The object was always to produce a classless society, after all, and the middle class is certainly the forerunner. The “workers” – that is, the unskilled labourers, the artisans, the outworkers, the factory workers – are incomparable with the “working class” of the modern day.
And while the number of the voluntarily unemployed decreases, it is plausible to suggest that, in some way, we do live in a society of “workers”, that Marxism has succeeded in producing a one-class state. But this is not the same as a classless society. It has not taught the people to tolerate those whose assets they covet, since the light turns green for more than the monetary and material capital central to The Manifesto. Indeed, nothing is more capitalist than the belief that outrage springs only from property and class.
Clearly, Marx and Friedrich Engels did not appreciate that inequality is independent of class. Neither did they appreciate that some form of hierarchy is essential: if everyone were treated the same there would be no incentive for education, for research, for progress. Society would stall, the economy crash. Survival relies on the overthrow of the capitalist system, which in turn relies on international compliance, which itself relies on the miracle of unanimity between 195 countries, each with their own distinct governing body, economic system and culture. Argue, then, that the fruits of one’s labour will be reaped in time, but that is to wager one’s happiness on a vision which future generations may not even have and will not be forced to share.
Marx and Engels are dead. The Manifesto is but an heirloom. So why does it maintain its appeal? Because it offers an uncomplicated assessment of society, a Manichean narrative of “us” and “them” and the prospect of transformation in fewer than a hundred pages. Marxism is over. Put down those antique tools provided by Marx and Engels for our ancestors. Scrawl out the enchanted words forged by the true “sorcerer” to bewitch us. Leave behind that sacred volume of The Manifesto and reach instead for the truth.