The Communist Manifesto

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published The Communist Manifesto on this date in 1848.

Frye in “Varieties of Literary Utopias” takes note of the similar dark underlying assumptions of revolutionary American and Marxist views:

The terms of this argument naturally changed after the Industrial Revolution, which introduced the conception of revolutionary process into society.  This led to the present division of social attitudes mentioned above, between the Marxist Utopia as distant end and the common American belief in the Utopianizing tendency of the productive process, often taking the form of a belief that Utopian standards of living can be reached in America alone.  This belief, though rudely shaken by every disruptive social event at least since the stock market crash of 1929, still inspires an obstinate and resilient confidence.  The popular American view and the Communist one, superficially different as they are, have in common the assumption that to increase man’s control over his environment is also to control over his destiny. (CW 27, 209)

Glenn Beck’s wild chalkboard fantasies connecting Obama to the rise of a new Caliphate funded by George Soros may have an indirect relation to reality — but only  as a paranoid and inverted projection of the interests he represents.  The increasingly hysterical cohort on the right and the dirty Commies it associates with even modestly left-of-centre politics have much in common: a revolutionary outlook that promotes unrestrained industrialism and ruthless exploitation of the environment, resulting in the illusion of mastery which only enhances degraded social conditions.  We are currently seeing this in the U.S. as the Republican agenda in Congress and at the state level becomes more obvious: massive unemployment accompanied by the rending of the social safety net and cynical efforts to roll back hard won collective bargaining rights. This is yet another way of obscuring the unprecedented theft of public and private wealth through government-abetted Wall Street scams, and then transferring the blame to undermine the unionized middle class whose share of national wealth has been flat since Reagan/Thatcher.  We know about the economic collapse of the old Soviet Union overseen by an insular ruling elite not answerable to the will of the people or the rule of law.  What might be the equivalent here?  Maybe something like the 2008 collapse of the financial markets engineered by the greed and incompetence of a kleptomaniacal ruling class always in need of bailouts and tax cuts.

Perhaps Beck might trace this out on his blackboard.  It’s completely doable.

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