Manifesto study

Welcome to SL Marxists study of the Manifesto of the Communist Party, written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1848.
It has since been recognized as one of the world’s most influential political manuscripts.
Commissioned by the Communist League, it laid out the League’s purposes and program. It presents an analytical approach to the class struggle (historical and present) and the problems of capitalism, rather than a prediction of communism’s potential future forms.
Find the Manifesto online at

5 May, 2011
Chapter 1

Matathia: basically the first chapter outlines the
transition from feudalism to capitalism
Matathia: it describes the 2 antagonistic classes under
capitalism: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat

RobertLocksley: which type of capitalism is meant?
Matathia: industrial capitalism
RobertLocksley: crony capitalism, then
Matathia: the modern bourgeoisie came from the artisans
of feudalism. they toppled the feudalist paradigm and
effectively removed the institutions of the monarchy and the

Mercurius Jacobus: The first half of the chapter is a
simplistic history lesson of the birth of industrial capitalism,
in terms of the class relations.

Matathia: but they did not destroy class antagonism
RobertLocksley: I don’t think that is possible even if you try, and they don’t seem to
have tried
Matathia: to remove class antagonism?
Mercurius Jacobus: Precisely – that was never the goal
RobertLocksley: right
Matathia: the goal was to revolutionize industry

Bexy (becca.lexington): well every society contains
antagonisms, and their resolution is the birth of a new society
with new antagonisms
RobertLocksley: the goal was to escape oppression from
the man
RobertLocksley: the sherrif if nottingham
Bexy (becca.lexington): not the goal of capitalism

Matathia: the goal of capitalism was to increase
productivity of society
RobertLocksley: the escape came first – the labels were
added by historians

Matathia: serfs who were tied to their master’s land no
longer sufficed the growing needs of society
Matathia: although many societies even today have a
peasant population, the majority of the peasantry of feudalist
times have now become the industrial proletariat
RobertLocksley: the middle class

Mercurius Jacobus: It was not a conspiracy (the
aristocracies tried to pin the blame for the ill-effects on
scapegoats like the Masons), it was a simple matter of the modes
of production yeilding the best results uprooting the
Matathia: yes. there still exists a middle class today.
they are referred to a petitie bourgeois. as the first chapter
of the manifesto points out, they eventually rise to become
bourgeoisie or, more frequently, fail in the currents of
competition and join the ranks of the working class
RobertLocksley: evolution of systems

Bexy (becca.lexington): not the middle class no, that’s
a modern re-definition of classes. According to Marx, the three
key classes were the working classes; urban proletarians and
peasants, the Bourgeois (middle) class that controlled the
industrial sector, and the Upper aristocratic class that was in
the process of being usurped by the bourgeoisie

Mercurius Jacobus: “The cheap prices of commodities are
the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese
walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate
hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on
pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production;
it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into
their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves.”

Matathia: yes, that is a great explaination of economic
RobertLocksley: that is the way capitalism has worked
in practice but it is not part of the theory
Bexy (becca.lexington): yes it is Robert

Matathia: we are talking about the manifesto at this
point in time
RobertLocksley: so my concern about the difference
between Marxist theory and practice
RobertLocksley: ok, sorry
Matathia: we are only covering a basic history of class
Matathia: i know there are many things we can talk
about, but we really need to stay focused

Matathia: ok, so we all know the basics of the history
of modern class struggle
Matathia: is there any parts of the first chapter that
you would like to discuss in more depth?
Matathia: i mean anyone
Bexy (becca.lexington): nope (nope)

Mercurius Jacobus: We’ve only looked at the first half
so far
Mercurius Jacobus: halfway through it switches from
retrospective analysis to present commentary
Matathia: we must also cover the way in which
capitalism reduces all the old institutions into mere money
Matathia: this makes the social position of the
bourgeoisie unstable. they cannot appeal to some ossified
institution to protect their power.

Mercurius Jacobus: “The bourgeoisie, wherever it has
got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal,
idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley
feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has
left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked
self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the
most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous
enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of
egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into
exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible
chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable
freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by
religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked,
shameless, direct, brutal exploitation. ”

Mercurius Jacobus: “All fixed, fast-frozen relations,
with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and
opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated
before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all
that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face
with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations
with his kind. ”

Matathia: please feel free to add your own thoughts
everyone, this is a discussion not a lecture

Mercurius Jacobus: Lots of reactionaries bewail the way
capitalism makes life materialistic, and declare religion or
nationalism or whatever to be the solution to the inhumanity of
the system.
Matathia: but capitalism cannot survive without
constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production. it
must do away with any anchors
Matathia: yes. conservatives have embraced capitalism,
but seek to prevent it from destroying their idea of society
Matathia: capitalism has given rise to fervent
Matathia: capitalism itself does not care who is
exploited and who is the exploiter. individual societies try to harness capitalism but also protect themselves from it.

Mercurius Jacobus: Nationalism is addressed directly:-
“It has agglomerated population, centralised the means of
production, and has concentrated property in a few hands. The
necessary consequence of this was political centralisation.
Independent, or but loosely connected provinces, with separate
interests, laws, governments, and systems of taxation, became
lumped together into one nation, with one government, one code
of laws, one national class-interest, one frontier, and one
customs-tariff. ”

Matathia: “A similar movement is going on before our
own eyes. Modern bourgeois society, with its
relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society
that has conjured up such gigantic
means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is
no longer able to control the
powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells.”

Mercurius Jacobus: That’s the point where it switches
from retrospective analysis to present commentary
Matathia: i feel that this is one of the single best
explainations of modern capitalism. the sorcerers apprentice
analogy fits it perfectly
Matathia: the modern bourgeoisie are not secured in
their position — this is a very important point.
Matathia: not like the aristocracy of feudal times, who
could always assert their dominance
Matathia: the bourgeoisie is losing numbers as wealth
becomes more and more consolidated

Mercurius Jacobus: For almost every country, the income
distribution plot (showing how much wealthier the upper
percentiles of the population are) gets sharper and steeper
every decade.
Xiko (xikotenkatl.ethaniel): It is so refreshing to go
back to the Manifesto. We usually focus on Capital and
Matathia: yeh, those are serious books to cover
Xiko (xikotenkatl.ethaniel): But the manifesto is
sometimes relegated

Mercurius Jacobus: Toward the end of the chapter, the
special revolutionary character of the proletariat is talked up.
I fail to see how the argument leads to the conclusion.
Matathia: the proletariat are revolutioary because they
are the foundation of all modern society
Xiko (xikotenkatl.ethaniel): While we were discussing
the transition from Feudalism, I was thinking how we should
sometime discuss Luddites

Matathia: “The proletariat, the lowest stratum of our
present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, without
the whole superincumbent strata of official society being sprung
into the air.”

Matathia: the Luddites fit into this quite well.
Matathia: is there something about them you would like
to add?
Xiko (xikotenkatl.ethaniel): But the Luddites were not
technically proletariat
Mercurius Jacobus: Maybe what makes the proletarian
revolution so special is the fact that, unlike other victorious
classes who became the new masters, the proletarian condition is
one without property… A triumphant proletariat would not
merely take over, because ownership of industry is alien to
Xiko (xikotenkatl.ethaniel): They were not selling
their labour
Matathia: yes, they were not proletariat, they were bourgeois

Xiko (xikotenkatl.ethaniel): The ones who destroyed
machines were craftsmen that were being affected by the new
price structure
Matathia: they were artisans who were at risk of being
reduced to waged workers. they wanted to resist this
Xiko (xikotenkatl.ethaniel) nods

Mercurius Jacobus: “The proletariat goes through
various stages of development. With its birth begins its
struggle with the bourgeoisie. At first the contest is carried
on by individual labourers, then by the workpeople of a factory,
then by the operative of one trade, in one locality, against the
individual bourgeois who directly exploits them. They direct
their attacks not against the bourgeois conditions of
production, but against the instruments of production
themselves; they destroy imported wares that compete with their
labour, they smash to pieces machinery, they set factories
ablaze, they seek to restore by force the vanished status of the
workman of the Middle Ages. ”

Xiko (xikotenkatl.ethaniel): Luddites
Matathia: yup

Matathia: “They have
nothing of their own to secure and to fortify; their mission is
to destroy all previous securities
for, and insurances of, individual property.”
Matathia: in other words, they have nothing to lose
Mercurius Jacobus: So would that support my suggestion?
Matathia: the artisans had something to lose
Matathia: yes
Matathia: artisans were conservative, they wanted to
prevent change
Xiko (xikotenkatl.ethaniel): Yes
Xiko (xikotenkatl.ethaniel): The same way that peasants
do. Like Zapatistas today.

Mercurius Jacobus: On a less substantial note, the
first time I read this book briefly, I didn’t appreciate the
great poetic english of Engels and Marx

Matathia: we might wrap things up now, if there is
nothing else anyone wants to cover
Matathia: next week we will return to a usual schedule.
we will have Wilhelm presenting a lecture. i am not sure what
the topic is yet, but we will send out a notice.

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