I was very impressed with the beginning of this book. Marx does an excellent job, in Part I: Bourgeois and Proletarians, analyzing and explaining the historical anthropological cycle of the plutocracy and the downward spiral of the working class in the free market. The way Marx describes the corruption and greed of the business owner is prophetic of the crony Capitalism of corporate America today. I believe he was spot-on in his interpretation of this cycle of abuse and profit and the devaluation of the blue-collar worker; however, his solution to the problem (Part II: Proletarians and Communists) is entirely too radical, and quite frankly, scary. Marx’s vision of Communism assumes an honest and benevolent leadership, which is not likely if we look at historical evidence.
For example, Marx calls for the complete abolishment of land ownership, including personal homes, not just private businesses, “centralization of credit in the hands of the state,” and “centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state.” The last two, in particular, sound like nothing more than a means of controlling the population. But what I really don’t understand is why Marx thinks that the abolishment of land ownership and private wealth will automatically result in the dissolution of religion and the family unit. This makes no sense to me since neither is dependent on wealth or ownership for their survival. Marx does not specify that the state be required to raise the children as part of the manifesto. He does state that there should be a free public school system, which we have, and which hasn’t dissolved the family unit. I think modern Socialists and possibly even Communists would be horrified at this “Brave New World.” However, in the next section, Marx criticizes the Socialist movements of the day, including the German Socialism, which led to Nazi control. He even predicts, to some extent, the brutality of this movement.
Finally, in Part IV, Marx encourages a violent uprising to achieve these changes, which modern Socialists, at least Democratic Socialists, condemn. I can see why many Socialists today do not align themselves with Marx.
Even though much of this manifesto is repulsive, I give the work 3 out of 5 stars for the insight and explanation of the social problems inherent in a free market run by the wealthy elite.–Christina Knowles
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Marx identified a lot of the problems that existed (and some that continue to exist) very effectively, but his solutions- several of which are now universally accepted, as you point out- varied in desirability. He was right about what needed changing, but wrong about the change itself. His work is still fascinating though.