The Communist Manifesto at 150

The Communist Manifesto at 150

One hundred fifty years after its publication, and almost a decade after the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, can something still be learned from The Communist Manifesto?

The Manifesto is perhaps the most unabashedly rhetorical and flamboyant of Marx and Engels’s writings. At the same time, it is a theoretical tract of impressive richness, expressing a closely argued philosophy of history. It abounds with resonant phrases: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle,” “The bourgeoisie produces, above all, its own grave-diggers,” “The proletarians do not have a homeland,” “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains,” “Working men of all countries, unite!” These are among the most memorable political quotes ever used and abused; they gained an almost liturgical status and were sometimes reiterated ad nauseam by commissars and political hacks with no real grasp of their meaning or historical significance.

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