A primary programmatic document
On the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Communist Manifesto: Mercan Koklu of the Communist Party of Turkey
Everyone agrees that the Communist manifesto is the primary programmatic document for communists all over the world. It is still a guiding text. I assume that everyone has read it, so I will not say a lot about the contents. I will rather limit myself and concentrate on the world market, the organisation of the world today and what Marx explained in the Communist manifesto. I am more interested in what Marx and Engels wrote, rather than the interpretations of the modern Marxist theoreticians.
The epoch of bourgeoisie
The first issue I would like to mention is the character of our epoch which has been widely discussed among Marxists. Marx and Engels wrote in 1848 in the Communist manifesto that the epoch was the epoch of the bourgeoisie, an epoch which possessed distinct features: "Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms.
Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other - the bourgeoisie and proletariat" (K Marx, F Engels Communist manifesto Marxists Internet Archive, pdf file, p3). Engels repeated this idea in the 1883 preface to the German edition, when he wrote: "The economic production and the structure of society of every historical epoch necessarily arising therefrom constitute the foundation for the political and intellectual history of that epoch" (p35).
We should remember that Marx gave us in Capital the means of distinguishing the different economic epochs from one another. He wrote: "It is not the articles made, but how they are made, by what instruments they are made, that enables us to distinguish different economic epochs. Instruments of labour not only supply a standard of the degree of development to which human labour has attained, but they are also indicators of social conditions under which that labour is carried on" (K Marx Capital Vol 1, p175).
He had a much clearer understanding of the epoch when dealing with Proudhon. In The poverty of philosophy, on the same topic, he pointed out that the hand mill gave us a society with the feudal lord and the steam mill a society with the industrial capitalist: "The same men who establish their social relations in conformity with the material productivity produce also principles, ideas and categories, in conformity with their social relations. Thus the ideas, these categories, are as little eternal as the relations they express. They are historical and transitory products. "There is a continual movement of growth in productive forces, of destruction in social relations, of formation in ideas; the only immutable thing is the abstraction of movement - mors immortalis" (K Marx 'The poverty of philosophy' MECW Marxists Internet Archive, Vol 6, p165).
You may clearly see here that, Marx concentrates his attention on three points. He says that there is continual movement in the growth of the productive forces, the destruction of social relations and the formation of ideas. So, for me, the Communist manifesto is all about the growth in productive forces under bourgeois rule, the destruction of social relations, again under bourgeois rule, and the formation of ideas with the creation of the proletariat.
Remembering that modern industrial production is still based on machinery which is both the condition and the product of bourgeois rule, and since surplus value is created by labour and expropriated by the bourgeoisie, and since the proletariat is still an appendage of the machine, I agree with Marx's definition of the epoch as "the epoch of the bourgeoisie" - despite many attempts made since 1848 by the working class to change it throughout the world.
It is, though, a declining one because, with the birth of the proletariat, the bourgeoisie acquires both a revolutionary and a reactionary character, which develops more as the proletariat grows bigger and stronger. That is why, when we read the Communist manifesto carefully, we understand that the fundamental duties and demands of the communist movement have not changed.
Assuming that we are still in the epoch of the bourgeoisie (and I appreciate that this is disputed), the question is, 'How will this epoch change, and how will the new epoch, the epoch of communism, arrive?' This is an issue that must be explored. In order to find an answer we should look at the essence of the bourgeois mode of production - hence the character of and the role played by the bourgeoisie.
The bourgeoisie, the world market and the productive forces
The Communist manifesto gives us several clues. First, it notes the capacity of the bourgeoisie as a force for change. It says: "Modern industry has established the world market, for which the discovery of America paved the way. This market has given an immense development to commerce, to navigation, to communication by land. This development has, in its turn, reacted on the extension of industry; and in proportion as industry, commerce, navigation, railways extended, in the same proportion the bourgeoisie developed, increased its capital, and pushed into the background every class handed down from the Middle Ages.
"We see, therefore, how the modern bourgeoisie is itself the product of a long course of development, of a series of revolutions in the modes of production and of exchange. Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding political advance in that class" (K Marx, F Engels Communist manifesto Marxists Internet Archive, pdf file, p4).
As we see here, the bourgeoisie itself was a child of a series of revolutions. And itself historically has played a most revolutionary role. That is what the Communist manifesto says. As it created, it destroyed everything that went before the bourgeois rule. It put cash payment, naked self-interest, exchange value before everything which was previously regarded as sacred. It substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.
That was and is bourgeois rule: "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 no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous 'cash payment'. It has drowned out 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" (K Marx, F Engels ibid p5). My point here is this: the bourgeoisie is politically counterrevolutionary because of the birth and rising up of the proletariat. However, it is still capable of revolutionising production and productive forces all over the world.
Marx and Engels wrote this in the Communist manifesto, and I think what they have written is the core, the key, to the understanding of the present capitalist globalisation: "The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. 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 condition of life and his relations with his kind" (K Marx, F Engels ibid p5).
Let us now remember our quote from Marx, that "the growth in the productive forces, the destruction of social relations and the formation of ideas" all happen under bourgeois rule. From the formulation given above, we understand that the bourgeoisie cannot exist without this revolutionisation. So, if the productive forces are still being revolutionised, then we have to admit that the bourgeoisie's ability to revolutionise the productive forces still exists, even at present, in the 21st century.
As we may observe from daily developments, the bourgeoisie is expanding and burrowing more deeply into the world market. Competition amongst rivals forces the bourgeoisie to continually expand worldwide, with commodities priced according to the requirements of this competition on a world scale.
The Communist manifesto explains this point as follows: "The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere. "The bourgeoisie has, through its exploitation of the world market, given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of reactionaries, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-fashioned national industries have been destroyed or are daily been destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zone; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. "
In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal interdependence of nations. And, as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible" (K Marx, F Engels ibid p6).
What the bourgeoisie is doing in its search for the expansion of capitalist production and capitalist relations of production everywhere in the world carries with it profoundly radical and severe consequences. These grim consequences are described in Marx's well known articles on British rule in India (see, for example, K Marx, 'The British rule in India', MESW Vol 1, pp492-493; or K Marx, 'The future results of British rule in India' MESW Vol 1, pp494-498).
The Communist manifesto describes the bourgeoisie's actions as follows: "The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation. The cheap prices of its 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."
And significantly: "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: ie, to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image "¦ Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilised ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the east and the west" (K Marx, F Engels Communist manifesto Marxists Internet Archive, pdf file, p6).
Now, in the Communist manifesto Marx does not praise the bourgeoisie, nor does he favour them. He explains that our world under the bourgeoisie will day after day become more and more integrated, interconnected and interdependent. And, once started, there is no turning back the clock (except through wars, which may delay the further development of this process for some time). All countries, all economies will be and must be interdependent within this world market, this creation of the bourgeoisie. That is what the capitalist system is all about.
Marx does not say, 'Too bad.' He does not pity the Indian weavers. He does not give credit to British bourgeoisie. He just tells the story. We must observe it like a scientist, then take note of the political consequences. He expects us to see what is in the Communist manifesto. You do not find any normative statements - you must do this, you must do that, you must protest about this or that. He tells us that this fact creates that reaction and so forth.
In the end, it is the role and duty, the mission of the proletariat to make revolution: "Of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a genuinely revolutionary class. The other classes decay and finally disappear in the face of modern industry; the proletariat is its special and essential product".
All the preceding classes that got the upper hand sought to fortify their already acquired status by subjecting society at large to their conditions of appropriation. The proletarians cannot become masters of the productive forces of society except by abolishing their own previous mode of appropriation, and thereby also every other previous mode of appropriation. 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" (ibid p11).
And the revolution will come, the economic conditions will be there, the political education provided by communists will be in place. The Communist manifesto, therefore, lists the duties of communists. Their immediate aim is "the formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat" (ibid p13). For the theory aims "to abolish private property, bourgeois property. But the modern bourgeois property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few."
In order to do this, Marx and Engels try to understand how the bourgeoisie operate through the market. We are repeatedly told in the first section of the Communist manifesto, how "the bourgeoisie keeps more and more doing away with the scattered state of the population, of the means of production and of property. It has agglomerated population, centralised means of production, and 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".
It is now over 150 years since the Communist manifesto was written. However, in my opinion, what it contains about the world market is still valid today, on a different level, with the productive forces and the proletariat more developed. There is one world and one world market. The bourgeoisie continually tries to expand into that world market and penetrate more deeply in order to create surplus value, just as it did 150 years ago.
The world market and the movement of labour
Although it seems that there is no great difference between today and 150 years ago, there is one big change. For the first time in history, we can talk about the emerging productive forces of communism. That makes a big difference. What are these objective, material productive forces of communism? They are any productive forces which take labour out of the productive process, thereby stopping the creation of value and surplus value.
Without the expropriation of surplus value, there is no meaning to bourgeois production, hence no need for the bourgeoisie. This has begun to happen for the first time in history, with the advances of the scientific-technological revolution in the last couple of decades. That is why we talk of communism as a real possibility - or rather we do so more realistically than our comrades did 150 or so years ago.
Although we have one world market, and although the proletariat has tried many times to overthrow the bourgeoisie, the reason why they have not succeeded was also explained by Engels in the foreword to the various editions of the Communist manifesto. The conditions were not ripe: "The first direct attempts of the proletariat to attain its own ends, made in times of universal excitement, when feudal society was being overthrown, necessarily failed, owing to the then undeveloped state of the proletariat, as well as to the absence of the economic conditions for its emancipation, conditions that had yet to be produced, and could be produced by the impending bourgeois epoch alone" (ibid p28).
"Everywhere that revolution was the work of the working class; it was the latter that built the barricades and paid with its lifeblood. Only the Paris workers, in overthrowing the government, had the very definite intention of overthrowing the bourgeois regime. But conscious though they were of the fatal antagonism existing between their own class and the bourgeoisie, still, neither the economic progress of the country nor the intellectual development of the mass of French workers had as yet reached the stage which would have made a social reconstruction possible. In the final analysis, therefore, the fruits of the revolution were reaped by the capitalist class" (F Engels, preface to 1893 Italian edition Communist manifesto p44).
As Marx says very clearly in The German ideology, "People cannot be liberated as long as they are unable to obtain food and drink, housing and clothing, in adequate quantity and quality. 'Liberation' is a historical, not a mental act. It is brought by historical conditions, the development of industry and commerce, and the cultural conditions of intercourse" (MESW Vol 1, p27).
The proletariat will fight for communism, it will fight for the abolition of bourgeois property, and the proletariat's immediate aim is the conquering of political power. But it will be the economic conditions that will decide whether they can succeed, whether they can reach communism or not, on a world scale. At the London European Social Forum in October 2004, I read leaflets from various left groups and met communists from several countries. I find it amazing that so many 'communist' groups talk today about 'national sovereignty', 'popular sovereignty', 'the national market', and 'patriotism'.
The Communist manifesto's writers would not share the sentiment behind these expressions. Yes, capitalist globalisation is a burning issue also in Europe. The bourgeoisie is aware of the fact that they have to create the conditions for the free circulation of capital: whatever the cost, they must do it - it is a matter of the existence of capitalism.
On the other hand, the bourgeoisie are trying to construct a conservative fortress around Europe, so that the entry of labour from other countries is tightly controlled. I find it equally amazing and shameful that many communist parties do not oppose this. However, under these conditions of capitalist globalisation, it is the duty of the communist parties of Europe to say no to fortress Europe - in their own interest, not only to win favourable conditions for migrant workers. They must demand the free movement of labour because migrant workers are and will be part and parcel of the working class in Europe. Instead of defending the local, sectional and short-sighted interests of their 'own working classes', the communist parties must defend the general interest of the working class and, because there is free movement of capital all over the world, they must demand also free movement of all labour.
It has always been our party's demand that migrant workers be given citizenship after three months, and should enjoy all the rights of their comrades from the host country. There must be a united fight for equal wages for equal work for everybody, including women workers as well. Globalisation, with its positive and negative effects - that is where we should concentrate our minds.
Current developments make this all the more urgent. Using offshoring, outsourcing and other new management techniques, globalisation will move jobs to or from India, Malaysia, Hungary and eastern Europe - all over the world, whenever and wherever it suits their interests. They are already doing it right in front of our eyes. In order to defend jobs, in order to defend the working class, we must arm ourselves with the slogan of the free movement of labour. That is what the Communist manifesto would require of us, when it proclaims: "The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of all countries, unite!".