This month, I’m reading a collection of explicitly political works. Hopefully each of them will touch on different political treatises, so if you don’t like one of them, stick around for another.
The Communist Manifesto
Author: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
Project Gutenberg Link
What red-blooded American hasn’t heard of this… red… um…
What true American hasn’t lambasted this Pinko, commie book!? Every one of us, down to the smallest child and up to the eldest living in our nation, have been instilled with the lessons of the Cold War and the evils of COMMUNISM.
So, if pure, raw capitalism didn’t win you over last week, you’re invited to feast your traitorous eyes on this review.
NSA please don’t put me on a list.
4/5 Discoball Snowcones
Review: As Reading Material
This was an extremely short read – I think one could carry this in a pocket if they wanted! While other manifestos and political premises are also short, this one is (especially for the time it was published) powerful and well-written. The first section, especially, has very persuasive language in the English version.
The section about communist history and comparison of different types of communism was a bit drier. I had to try a little harder when I didn’t recognize the names of early French communists and socialists, but it added to the pamphlet in a more academic way than a persuasive one. It showed thought rather than feeling, which offset much of the strong emotions in the rest of the book, but it also seemed slapdash and an intentional fling to make an argument that their treatise was logical as well as good-feeling. So I liked the front end better.
Review: As a Political Treatise
I am fairly familiar with 19th century developments. Politically, historically, militarily, and scientifically, the 19th century was a time of surprisingly rapid change. Though science is advancing quickly now, that quick, forward progress is expected rather than a surprise. By the time Marx and Engels wrote the Manifesto, opinions on growth and human progress were undergoing mammoth shifts.
As such, I found it great that the book included information about both proletariat vs. monarchy in addition to the well-known proletariat vs. bourgeousie conflict. Though the Marxists were in an era of monarchs, they saw the tide turning toward the bourgeois and assumed their eventual, inevitable enemy.
Also interesting were two movements simultaneous with communism and that have gained more traction: feminism and decolonialism. The manifesto acknowledged the status of women and addressed the stripping of colonies’ wealth as bad. I was interested to see the authors look – even with just a glimpse – outside their own hegemony.
The biggest issue, to me, was the lack of positive suggestions for how a proletarian government would work. The pamphlet had very persuasive fear mongering about what was bad, but it was unclear on the form of an alternative. It thus seemed that it could be equally likely the authors were men trying to gain power as much as men trying to spread wealth more fairly.
Review: Cultural Importance
Communism isn’t present in the form we knew it best in the 20th century – the USSR – but this book is still very much alive in current political movements. Socialism, which has evolved from a less-violent branch of communist thought, appears in many political parties of several nations.
Though modern movements almost all reject the bloody revolution, the idea of security for all penetrates many factions (sure, you Maoists out there might believe in the bloody uprising, but then again the Iron Rice Bowl worked out well, huh?). Some of the more emotionally pleasant pieces of the Communist Manifesto are showing up in the left-leaning parties, but in America – of course – even the good ideas from the manifesto are lost behind the label of our greatest enemy: COMMUNISM.
A great book to read if you’re interested in politics or the 19th century. Not interesting for those seeking fantasy, though.
Whew, that was a close one! Now, onward to absolute dictatorship and monarchism with Machiavelli’s The Prince!