The Communist Manifesto - Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Gareth Stedman Jones

   The word "communism" has always seemed like a big, dirty forbidden word. Maybe it was because of the fact that my country both generally hates it and generally fears it. Where I come from, "commie" is not only an insult, but something I consider something of a hateful slur. Whatever the context, for yeas, I was terrified that communism, this big bad wolf of American fairy tales, would end up sounding good to me. 


   But, with thought, I lost the impression that something could ever truly be good or bad, I and I ended up opening my mind to ideas that less than sixty years ago, would have gotten me arrested, or at the very least beat up on the streets if I expressed them publicly. 

   I read the communist manifesto--and a part of me, of which I am no longer ashamed, agreed with it. (The ideas, themselves, at least.) 

   Despite the limited volume of the document, it took me quite a while to get through (you know, by frequent reader standards). The language is rather difficult to stay focused on, which would be quite nice if I were looking for a work of prestigious literature, but I prefer my political documents blatant and concise. George Orwell once said that whenever an opportunity arises to use a simpler word, an author should take it, and while I disagree with him when it comes to stories, I think laws & political statements should adhere to a principal of general simplicity. When they don't I have to read through one page a dozen times just to be entirely sure of what I'm reading. Still, despite the obstacles it presents to the common, modern-day reader, the manifesto remains stirring, bold, and powerful, a few specific points even going so far as to almost say, "sue me." The final lines are an excellent call-to-arms, demonstrating Marx and Engels' true skill for crafting stirring, well, manifestos. 

   As a political enthusiast myself, seeing movements that truly define what they mean by 'everyone' and 'common man' is actually incredibly exciting. It might even be all the more reason for this to appeal to 1910's Russia, and any other monarchic/empirical country for that matter, as the aristocracy could be called a perfect example of humanity's ever-persisting owning class. If Marxism were around during the days of the American revolution, I don't see it as unlikely that colonists sick of being controlled by a king would latch on to the concept of a society where no one really owned anything like they latched onto capitalism & libertarianism. In my opinion, the idea is presented that well, especially in areas where the text doesn't obsess over the justification in history. (*cough**cough*chapter two*cough**cough*

   Communism has a tendency to get ridiculously warped and misinterpreted, being abused as an ideology to justify the brutal reality of countries that tried the philosophy and failed, but I think it's worth mentioning that communism isn't all one thing. There is communism that's used to justify the worst of government, just like there's christianity that's used to justify homophobia or the Spanish conquest. I don't doubt that if people opened their minds and interpreted communism for what it really is, more people, Americans most of all, could find it to be actually appealing. 

   I was moderately disappointed by the fact that the communist manifesto wasn't as completely straight-forward as I expected it to be. Where the ideas themselves are prevented, Marx and Engels are fine, but when things get caught up in history, the message phases in and out of being diluted. I must say that as someone who is hoping to write a party doctrine like this sometime in the next fifty years, I was almost expecting bullet points. At the same time I was glad things were written in powerful, stirring prose, I was disappointed that some of that prose strayed. 

   The manifesto reads like an essay, which, if anything, makes me insecure about my own political writing skills. (Perhaps bullet points are not, in fact, the best option.) 

   One thing I didn't very much appreciate was the abundance of commentary about things outside of communism. People often forget that they are writing for anyone that happens to pick up their book, not just the people that are already hardcore communists or conservatives or whatevers. The fact of the matter is, if I'm not already into communism, I'm probably going to be rather unappreciative of a complete history of civilization as it pertains to capitalism. Sum it up, make your argument; that's fine. But the longer it draws on, the less attention I have. 

   Marx and Engels' writing also speaks about the political world in general, but that is mostly in extremes. Talking about capitalism was on the right track when it was just criticized, but portraying it as the epitome of all evil was hardly convincing. (And so is talking about communism as if it's an all-eradicating necessity.) 

   I will say, though, that if you're thinking about reading the manifesto to broaden your political perspective or to better understand the world of far, far left ideas, do it. I know the parts that express, purely, communism itself and its power in the world, have enriched my dominant philosophy of moderate economic & personal socialism and part of where it came from. Reading it has made me think about other ideas in my philosophical neighborhood, and the fact that I'd be moderately okay with them. (Like, if I lived in a communist country that adhered to the communist ideology properly, unlike Cuba and its reputation ruining "communist" cousins, I wouldn't be miserable, but I'd probably want to move.) But what I would consider the most compelling reason to read this is seeing where revolutions of the past have gone wrong, and where possible revolutions of the future may go right.