The spectre of communism

On December 12 of last year, the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) and the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) organised a joint day school on the significance of the Communist manifesto of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. It was held in the apt venue of the Marx Memorial Library in London and the majority of the 60 or so present were from the CPGB and TKP.

The Communist manifesto remains, 150 years after being written, a seminal work of modern scientific socialism - not an "early agitational pamphlet", as the leader of a late, unlamented sect once put it. With the collapse of the Soviet Union's so-called socialism and the headlong rush of other 'workers' states' towards capitalist restoration, this is an appropriate time to return to such fundamental texts.

Despite attempts to present Marx's pre-Capital works as the immature, semi-Hegelian writings of a callow youth, we must grasp the profundity of this document and recognise its maturity, far-sightedness and inspiring radicalism. In many ways, the contributions from the floor following the introductions we reproduce here were unfocused and reflected the fact that the remit of the meeting was perhaps a little too broad. However, the main theme to emerge was the relationship between the heterogeneous anti-capitalist 'movement' and contemporary Marxist politics.

CPGB national organiser Mark Fischer stressed that the role of communists needs to be to "bring clarity" to all spontaneous political developments. In this context, he concluded that a key lesson of the Communist manifesto was that it embodied - in contrast to the other 'socialisms' which the work mentions and briefly critiques - a "programme of positive anti-capitalism".

In his summing up, comrade Hillel Ticktin stressed that the fundamental task of our epoch remains the taking of power by the proletariat. Failure to do so would lead to the "disintegration of society", as we see in Russia and Africa today. Just as in 1848, when the Communist manifesto was written, the spectre of communism - the programme for the positive supersession of capitalism - haunts our world.