A Manifesto So Compelling, Intriguing, Controversial, and Most Importantly, Still Relevant Today

The Communist Manifesto (1848)

Author: Karl Marx (1818-1883)

  • One of the most important and influential intellectuals of the nineteenth century
  • Economic situation was very volatile, but usually in poverty
  • Banned from entering many locations due to his radical ideas


  • Published in 1848
  • Industrial Revolution is either in full swing or starting to take hold, depending on location
  • The Communists has become feared by many in Western Europe, yet the group itself does not have a clear purpose, direction, or organization
    • Many of its members are not that knowledgeable of the complexities and history that Marx was able to notice
  • Western Europe is on the verge of revolution in many different locations – especially Germany


  • The Manifesto seems to be split into two in this regard:
    • Some sections are very dense with heavy academic wording and style → hard to read
    • Some sections are very straightforward and easy for everyone to understand
      • The list Marx made towards the end of the second section
      • The last words of the Manifesto, which are in all caps and are in simple terms
    • Marx, who ran his own newspaper, likely did this on purpose. Newspapers could publish excerpts from the Manifesto that were clear and easy for everybody to understand. Meanwhile, academics and the well versed could read through the denser sections and understand Marx’s intentions.


  • The workers of the world, academics, and political elites were all likely part of the target audience of Marx.
  • Current Communists at the time of Marx’s writings were also part of Marx’s audience because it was in this document that Marx tried to shape the direction of the Communist Party/League.


  • Marx was trying to spread the idea of Communism to the rest of Europe and was trying to organize the Communist Party/League.
  • Marx also has a few other motives:
    • Rebuke the Communist Party/League’s critics and return the challenge back in their direction
    • Explain how Communism is different from the varying strands of socialism
    • Explain the history of the bourgeois and the proletariat – highlighting constant class struggle
    • Establish the current state of Communism and revolutionary possibilities across Western Europe


  • The factory workers, or the proletariat, are the latest in a constant series of class struggle throughout history. The bourgeois are also part of this cycle, and they currently are in a revolution against the feudal powers of old. (These revolutionary beliefs come to fruition in the revolutions of 1848.) For the time being, the proletariat should help the bourgeois in these revolutions. Eventually, the proletariat will revolt against a bourgeois ruling class.
  • It lays the framework for the Communist Party/League, setting it apart from other Socialist groups.
  • All the workers in the world should unite against the capitalism and bourgeois class that oppresses them.


  • The Communists have been recognized as a threat by many of the Western European powers, and as such, Marx thinks it fitting that he set a standardized position of the Communists and provide leadership to a relatively incoherent movement.
  • Marx likely developed these views after seeing the horrors that capitalism and the Industrial Revolution have caused throughout Western Europe. On top of his own being witness to these situations, he likely has read the writing of many of those before him who also shared some of his thoughts.

Relationship to Previous Readings:

  • Marx alludes to a couple of the writers we have read before, such as Owen and St. Simon. However, despite likely agreeing with their assessment of the negatives of the Industrial Revolution, he distances the Communists from them. In short, in Marx’s perspective, Owen and St. Simon wanted to work within the system and improve all classes, not just the working class. Meanwhile, Marx clearly favors the working class and wants an overthrow or overhaul of the system.
  • Marx is advocating for a complete one hundred eighty degrees from Adam Smith. As opposed to allowing the economy to run its course, as Smith advocates, Marx desires from the state to completely control, balance, and equalize the economy.


  • What is the appeal of the Communist Party/League and/or Marxism?
    • Placing yourself in the context of a factory worker, would you want to join?
  • Although we will likely touch upon this later, in what ways did the Soviet Union (USSR) and the People’s Republic of China veer away from the Communist Manifesto?

Are children raised by nations?

My task for class tomorrow is to lead a discussion on the relationship between the “nation” and the child, and so I will begin that discussion in this post. After reading Stearns book “Childhood in World History” I walked away with two major conclusions, and many minor ones.

Although I already suspected this, I concluded that the nation (meaning, for the most part, the government) has an incredible influence on the concept of childhood within its borders. Stearns outlines several shifts in global history that heavily impacted childhood across the globe, and I think that governments were responsible for many of these shifts. Industrialization, for instance, was the reason that in the 19th Century  children began working jobs just like adults, and industrialization was strongly supported by governments.  So too were further technological advancements in mechanization, which resulted in machines displacing children from the work place. And so childhood shifted yet again to emphasize school rather than labor. Governments had a huge role ushering in this new age of childhood that focused on schooling. Japan created a mandatory education system by the turn of the 20th Century. The Japanese government believed that their population would be of no value if it was illiterate, therefore the future wealth of the country depended on the education of children. Governments also sought to control how adults conducted “parenting,” especially because these cultures believe in the innocence of children at birth. The corruption of a child comes from ill-treatment at the hands of adult and bad societal influences.

My second conclusion is this: because of the influence a government has on childhood within a nation, it is only logical that the concept of childhood differs from country to country. In some cases, like amongst Western countries, these differences may be slight, however I am certain they exist. This ties back to readings from last week that highlighted geography as a key determinant of childhood. Each government, backed by cultural traditions, has tried to maintain some aspects of their traditional way of life or their ideological thinking that they believe is important for society to keep, and these cultural nuances are different everywhere. For the Soviet Union, they wanted to stress Marxism in the classrooms and instill a sense of duty towards the collective good, meaning the state. China, Japan and the Soviet Union all, to a certain degree, stressed a sense of loyalty or duty to the state, however in Japan it was more in line with nationalism than with Communist ideology.

The role of the state with regards to the development of childhood should not be overlooked; in fact, I think the answers to many “whys?” and “hows?” can be found by looking towards the nation.

The “Nature” of Communism

A key aspect of the Soviet Union’s quest for true Communism was becoming waste-free and efficient. Every single resource was utilized for the common good of the state; this included people, materials, machines, and even nature. Unused land was waste, and waste had no place in the Party’s strategy.

Looking back, particularly with today’s heightened emphasis on preserving the environment, it is easy to see the ways in which these policies of brutal extraction from the land would lead to future consequences. The desiccation of the Aral Sea has not only caused serious environmental repercussions, but has also been linked to an increase in medical problems, such as cancer.

I was reading the excerpt on the Aral Sea thinking, “whew, so glad we know better now,” when I realized that thought was dead-wrong. We don’t really know any better. And the biggest environmental offender today? China, the other communist powerhouse from the 20th Century. Chinese cities have some of the worst air and water pollution ratings in the entire world, yet when it was approached with the Kyoto Protocol, which would require it to curb its actions that are so detrimental to the environment, it refused. China’s reasoning was that it was still a “developing nation” and shouldn’t be subjected to such environmental restraints—restraints that other, now-developed nations did not have to adhere to on their path to modernity. Russia would be one such example.

When using this China-parallel it would be easy to conclude that destroying the environment to the states’ benefit is a common facet among Communist states. I’m not sure I can soundly make that assertion, but I don’t think it is a coincidence that the two largest Communist (or near-Communist) countries have committed some of the worst atrocities towards the environment.

Perestroika and 100 wilted flowers

Perestroika and glasnost  were terms Gorbachev used to embody his cultural reforms and openness to Western influence. The Chinese, too, had a period of openness. In 1956 Mao said that,  “The policy of letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend is designed to promote the flourishing of the arts and the progress of science.” This “100 Flowers Movement” was ended in 1957 with political persecutions. Both Communist powers handled political dissonance in the second half of the 20th century differently, with the USSR embracing and the Chinese silencing controversy.  Though, to look at it all now, the USSR has been disbanded and China is still heavily controlled by a limited ruling class.

In 2009, Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov with a button that said “Peregruzka — Reset.” The word peregruzka, presented in the Latin and not the Cyrillic alphabet, would translate as “overload” instead of “reset”. Lavrov noticed the error immediately. Given this anecdote, should the United States continue to remain closed to foreign influences and cultures? Russia had a period of openness and voluntary consumption of foreign goods, whereas China had tried to limit all culture through administrative measures. Can the United States thrive on their genetically modified single-crop harvests, or will they eventually need to open themselves up to the world’s hundred flowers?