Thursday, May 25, 2006

Working men of all countries, unite!

The socialism that Karl Marx and Frederick Engels advocated in the Communist Manifesto became infamous in what was, the former Soviet Union. It was a fatally flawed document which is purported to be scientifically based in the objective study of history. The Communist Manifesto represents, first of all, a reaction to the utopian socialists’ movements that existed at the time. Marx and Engles believed that only a highly structured socialism could vanquish the great capitalist foes. Just as feudalism had naturally evolved into mercantilism and then capitalism, so capitalism would inevitably give way to its logical successor, communism as the necessary result of class struggle.

Second and probably most important, the Communist Manifesto represents a reaction to the unrestrained greed and exploitation of working people. The beginning of the industrial revolution brought millions of simple agrarian workers to work in the factories. These easily exploited millions became indentured servants to their new capitalist masters. As the noose of servitude tightened, workers all around the world reacted. Intellectuals and common men alike looked for solutions and ways to break free from the growing capitalist power that was engulfing the industrializing world.

The Communist Manifesto was first published in 1848. In the years since its publication, the world has seen the rise and then the fall of basic worker rights and protections. The capitalist robber barons of the 19th Century would applaud their 21st Century counterparts. For they, with the help of their ownership of the mass media, and with the complicity of governments around the world, have been able to export exploitation.

It’s amazing that over 150 years after the publication of the Communist Manifesto, the reincarnated capitalists of the 21st Century seek to travel down the same road. The same stirrings of dissatisfaction run through the minds of millions again. And the questions are slowly rising in the consciousness on the multitude: “Why must I be sacrificed on the altar of free market capitalism? Does my suffering serve the good of all or just the good of the wealthy? Why is my labor worth less every day? Am I a slave or am I a free man?”

Perhaps, Marx and Engles did get one thing right, in their now infamous document. Their call for unity and action still has great power and relevance in the year 2006. Maybe we should modernize the words. But we should never modify the message.
"Working men of all countries, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!"

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