As we state in Our Purpose, we believe that one of the biggest reasons that the Marxist science has not taken root in Western Culture, where its principles would be most applicable, is the fact that far too many people simply don’t understand the language used. This is an attempt to modernize the Communist Manifesto into a more easily accessible, understandable, and globally inclusive literature, while still preserving the ideas and concepts of Marx and Engels in their entirety. A link to the original text (English translation) can be found in the sidebar. Part I. Part II. Part III. Part IV.
Here is where we will address a number of things, in particular our personal positions on some of the language used in the original translation of the Communist Manifesto. First, however, we’d like to take a moment to address something we will most certainly be accused of – revisionism.
Perhaps this idea of a modernized version of the Manifesto is sort of revisionist, in that the conditions of that time are a far distant memory in the reality of the conditions of today’s society. But Revisionist in the sense of changing any of the fundamental principles of Marxism and Communism? We firmly reject that accusation. We have attempted, at every instance, to adhere to the concepts laid out in the Manifesto and in Engels’ Principles Of Communism (derived from the Communist Confession of Faith which we included in Part IV).
What is the aim of the Communists?
To organise society in such a way that every member of it can develop and use all his capabilities and powers in complete freedom and without thereby infringing the basic conditions of this society.
How do you wish to prepare the way for your community of property?
By enlightening and uniting the proletariat.
The Principle of enlightening and uniting the Proletariat is particularly important to the ultimate goals of the Socialist. But it is equally as important to understand the history and development of the conditions of modern society, so that we may understand the developments still to come. Our efforts here are not to rewrite Marx. Our efforts are to make his ideas more clear and accessible for today’s Proletarian.
With all of this said, we did feel that some of the language used was problematic, and rather than omit it, we wanted to include it as a critique. This critique is not one of the science of Marxism, but rather of the language of the time, and of some of the sociological misconceptions of that time, inherent biases that even Marx may have been subject to.
Before we go further, it is important that we make the point that we in no way idolize any person, regardless of the contribution they may have made to society. As monumental as Marx’s contribution was, he was still just a man. As was Lenin. As was Castro. As was Mao. Rosa Luxemburg was just a woman. Che Guevara was just a man. Albert and Lucy Parsons were just people. While the works and efforts of these people far surpass their own mortality, that should in no way imply that they were without human flaws.
Marx was kind of an accelerationist. He supported colonization, in that it would speed up the development of the Proletariat in undeveloped lands (Third World). He was bigoted against the “Barbarian” peoples of Asia. He had his issues, and so did all the rest of them. To deny any flaw in the humanity of these people is to deify them, to idolize them. Communists, to our understanding, do not believe in superstitions, and certainly not a divinity among humans. It is the science that we have faith in. It is the science that is infallible. Marx was a great man, to be sure, and a great thinker. But apart from the immortal science that he and Engels imparted to the world, he was, after all, only human.
There is something to be said for things “lost in translation”, and there often are no actual literal translations for certain concepts between languages. This doesn’t change the fact that some of the passages of this document should be addressed. We still maintain that, once any trace of reactionary or conservative elements are removed from the language of his works, the science supporting Marxism is still sound. In fact, that science becomes reinforced as those elements are dissected and removed. This is the entire purpose of theoretical development and critical analysis. We end up, through this process, with a more complete and inclusive concept of what Socialism truly means in today’s society.
This is not an attempt at apology. The fact does remain that times were different, and language was different, but that does not justify unjust positions. To truly call ourselves Socialists, we must be readily inclusive of all members of the Proletariat, and we must identify and acknowledge when we have not been. Most of all, we work to correct those exclusions. This is our reasoning behind this Addendum. Perhaps one might see it as Revisionist, but, again, none of the core principles and concepts have been altered in any way.
In Part I and Part II, we come across the term lumpenproletariat. This was considered the “Dangerous Class”. Here is the actual language used in the English translation:
The “dangerous class”, [lumpenproletariat] the social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of the old society, may, here and there, be swept into the movement by a proletarian revolution; its conditions of life, however, prepare it far more for the part of a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue.
The Glossary at Marxists.org defines lumpenproletariat as such:
Roughly translated as slum workers or the mob, this term identifies the class of outcast and submerged elements that make up a section of the population. It included beggars, prostitutes, gangsters, racketeers, swindlers, petty criminals, tramps, chronic unemployed or unemployables, persons who have been cast out by industry, and all sorts of declassed and degraded elements. In times of prolonged crisis (depression), innumerable young people also, who cannot find an opportunity to enter into the social organism as producers, are pushed into this limbo of the outcast. Here demagogues and fascists of various stripes find some area of the mass base in time of struggle and social breakdown, when the ranks of the Lumpenproletariat are enormously swelled by ruined and declassed elements from all layers of a society in decay.
It is important to make a distinction here. There are portions of the Proletariat who are faced with a difficult choice; either they can engage in criminal activity, or become beggars, or prostitutes – or any other occupation that society in general sees as distasteful – or they can starve. That isn’t much of a choice. But that is a result of Class Antagonisms, both directly and indirectly. More than that, it is an inevitable effect of Capitalism. These are direct results of the Material Conditions of the Proletariat created by Bourgeois Society.
To clarify, we do not demonize or villainize the homeless, the impoverished, beggars, sex workers, or the like. As in all aspects of Social relations under Capitalism, people are forced to work in positions of employment that they might not really want to, but desperation and the need for a paycheck will find the most educated working the most menial minimum wage job. The same applies in the most impoverished portions of our society. Many people who find themselves robbing their neighbors or selling their bodies do so out of desperation.
Of sex workers in general, some have indeed chosen that profession, and enjoy the work that they do. We do not believe that prostitution or sexual services are inherently immoral, and we do not shame sex workers for their choice. We believe in sexual liberation of the Proletariat and the emancipation from Patriarchy, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. We respect the autonomy of the individual, insofar as it does not interfere with the autonomy of another. If a person so chooses to provide a sexual service in exchange for the means of subsistence, that is their right. We will not pass judgement.
What we do aim for, however, is building a society where no person is forced to do things they don’t want to out of desperation. We see nothing wrong with being a sex worker by true autonomous choice. We take issue with those that are forced into prostitution – by the exploitation of their conditions, by the exploitation of another, such as a pimp or a pornographer, the exploitation and abuse of children, human trafficking – and we do aim for the liberation of those people from their slavery.
But when it comes to sex workers that haven willingly chosen their profession, who enjoy their work, and who would continue that work even with the ability to find other work, we support equality among the genders and autonomy of the individual. If someone is willing to pay for a service, and someone is willing to provide that service of their own volition, and that service does not harm another party, and precautions have been taken to ensure the health and safety of both parties (such as frequent and documented STI testing, the compulsory use of condoms, etc), who are we to look down on them?
As the Material Conditions of the Proletariat improves, and people have time to spend with each other, as people become more secure in their needs and family bonds recover (although transformed as they are today – the return to the “ideal” family unit is impossible, and that “ideal” may not be ideal for everyone anyway), humanity reconnects with itself. When the pursuit of happiness – individual and collective – becomes the main occupation of the Proletarian, rather than simply working to scrape together the means of subsistence, perhaps there will be fewer customers. But in the current conditions, while there are people who will
We do believe that all members of the Proletariat, including Sex Workers, deserve legal and social protections. This is a topic that deserves much more discussion, and we intend to do that, in-depth, in the future. For now, let it suffice to say that we find issue with the language used in the original English translation, regardless of the linguistic and sociological shortcomings of the time, and our personal stance is more inclusive than that original language might imply.
Another section in Part II that was a little problematic for us, though in a completely different sense than the issue of the lumpenproletariat, was the list of general and unavoidable measures that the Proletariat would take. These measures in and of themselves are not problematic, but perhaps some are not as relevant today, and perhaps others need a little more nuance. For example:
Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
In this measure, Marx is not referring to immigrants of the Proletariat, or refugees of war, nor is he referring to any personal property that one may carry with them. What he is referring to is the Capitalist Property owned by members of the Bourgeoisie that may be fleeing a Proletarian revolution in their home lands. Rebels meant Counter-revolutionaries, the conservative and reactionary movements within a nation that fights the Proletariat. But the original wording sounds very xenophobic and conservative without such an explanation.
In another example:
…abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
Here, Marx is referring to the concentration of the population in urban areas, where most of the Capitalist wealth was also centralized. He is not stating that the town and country should be the same – of course not, rural and urban are diametric opposites. What he is saying here is that the will of the people would be spread evenly over the town and country, with rural inhabitants having the same voice as those who chose urban life.
It goes without saying that there are plenty of people living in the city who just want the peace and quiet of the country. There are, likewise, plenty of people living in the country who wish for the more lively and bustling environment of the city. Some prefer something in between. As wealth inequality is leveled, urban living will be less of a requirement of the Proletarian who searches for work to survive and necessarily travels from the country to the city. The population would gradually spread out.
Some believe that fulfillment of this measure meant that the Proletarian State, which has taken the status of Ruling Class until Class Division no longer exists, would forcefully move people from the city to the countryside as it saw fit. Perhaps, when agriculture was not as developed as it is today and it took far more hands on a farm to produce what just a few can produce today due to automation, this might have been necessary to feed a nation just after a revolution.
Today, however, we believe that the methods of production have advanced to the point where this is no longer a concern. We already produce more food than we can eat – we throw away around 33% of all food intended for consumption. In this measure, we believe that there should be the freedom of choice without losing any of the benefits that either choice may offer. City folk who prefer to live in urban areas should be allowed to, and country folks who prefer to move to the country should be free to do so. Likewise, any person who chooses to change their environment from urban to rural, or vice versa, should be able to do so. We believe that this is, in fact, what Marx was saying, though the wording could be seen as Authoritarian.
Again, none of this should be taken in any way as us speaking for any other Communists or Socialists, or for any Communist or Socialist organization or party. This is merely a statement of personal viewpoints that we hold at The Modern Marxist, and it is sad that we have to say this, but we absolutely reserve the right to adjust any of our viewpoints in the future. It is curious, this idea that people must think and feel the same way about things ten or twenty years later, or that they should “stand up for their beliefs” by shutting out other voices and viewpoints. There can be no progress along that path, and that kind of thought is both conservative and reactionary. We’ll have no part, nor be party to it.
There will be plenty of space to discuss these and other things further, and we will certainly do so as we dig deeper into Marxism and the social systems that we have seen historically and today. We are certain that we will find the need to make small additions to this Addendum as well, which additions will be noted and dated. But we will close this Addendum in it’s current form with this:
Marxist theory is not the end-all, be-all of Socialist theory. It is merely the cornerstone, the foundation, upon which all other Socialist theory is developed. Marxism is a constantly evolving social science. As such, we look forward to doing our part to spread this knowledge to as many Proletarians as we can, and to help people to better understand. It is our sincerest hope that everyone will find our efforts useful and our contribution worthwhile.