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communist-manifestoSince May Day commemorates a significant step in “workers’ rights”; and since I have been exploring different manifestos, I thought it would be interesting to take a quick look at The Communist Manifesto – a document that ignited a revolution against obvious injustice and unfairness. But where are Marx and Engels now, and what about the ruins of their offspring?

Wherever Communism has spread, so has corruption, dictatorship, and new forms of injustice – – and let me be just as quick to add, “just like capitalism.” The difference is, this manifesto hearkened to some higher calling, some greater revolution with the intent of justice. Capitalism makes no such claim; it is easy to see that if let go to become feral, capitalism ruins every ecosystem and every economy just like communism.

In Viet Thanh Nguyen’s masterful and Pulitzer Prize award winning novel, “The Sympathizer”, we find the narrator/confessor endure the confusion of being a communist spy during the Vietnam War. He also endures torture at the hands of his comrades in the name of “re-education.” At the end of the novel, the narrator has nothing left but disturbing questions:

What do those who struggle against power do when they seize power? What does the revolutionary do when the revolution triumphs?

Why do those who call for independence and freedom take away the independence and freedom of others.

“Why?” indeed.

Because, I contend, neither Marx nor Engels accounted for the the coal vein of selfishness that runs through the heart of every person. Without this awareness, they could not account for the human tendency to contaminate and/or hoard whatever it so magnificently imagines.

(Consider how Nguyen’s questions can be asked just as easily of modern day revolutionaries: from the sexual revolution to the Islamic State.)

The History of Class Struggle?

It is a wonder that such a small worldview document captivated such an influential portion of the planet. History betrays though, that this is a philosophy too weak to hold up under the realities of the machinations of human nature and human greed.

The desire to redistribute the wealth at any cost only managed to redistribute the poverty where-ever it landed. It is ironic that embedded in its opening paragraphs is the awareness of how revolution ends in “the common ruin of the contending classes.”

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

Nothing to Lose?

With the open declaration that their ends can only be attained by “the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions”, is it any wonder that such a philosophy would be doomed to violent struggle repeated in every jurisdiction of its reach?

It is a groundless hope with false promises for the proletarian (the working class) to have “nothing to lose but their chains.”  Sadly, chains were not lost; new burdens were encumbered. What was lost in most cases were human dignity, motivation, and justice.

The Manifesto ends:

The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.

Note: marxist.org

By way of [profound] contrast:

While Marx and Engels were in London – during that same period Charles Dickens had just completed his well loved “A Christmas Carol“. It is no doubt that Dickens experienced the same injustice as Marx & Engels – but saw something redemptive through an entirely different worldview (note “The Real Reasons Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol“, Time magazine).

Dickens originally intended to write a pamphlet about poverty – instead [he decided] to embody his arguments in a story, with a main character of pitiable depth. So what might have been a polemic to harangue, instead became a story for which audiences hungered.

Dickens set out to write his pamphlet-turned-book in spring 1843, having just read government report on child labor in the United Kingdom. The report took the form of a compilation of interviews with children—compiled by a journalist friend of Dickens—that detailed their crushing labors.

Everything to Gain!

The Christian worldview on the other hand, has substance and transcendence to bear up under the weight of injustices and crushing burdens. Jesus does not invite us to another system – He invites us to Himself – in whom true freedom is found:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on [dogmas]? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

Matthew 11: 28-30, The Message

This is more of Jesus – more of the One who made us for Himself – more enigma than dogma.

For more about Jesus, see Jesus Manifesto.

Addendum

Coincidentally on May 3, Professor Graham Murdock of Loughborough University gave a lecture on the state owned CGTN (China Global Television Network, the Chinese Government’s news arm to the English speaking world). Professor Murdock is also the elected Distinguished Global Scholar at Peking University, one of China’s leading academic institutions. This is because he is one of the few academics that actually thinks Marxism has something positive to influence today’s economies. It is breathtakingly obtuse for such a distinguished academic to somehow ignore or intentionally forget the oppression and genocide of the Chinese people under Maoist Marxism in order to promote Marxism as a economic philosophy ready to be reinvigorated in the world.

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