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The Communist Manifesto

September 21, 2007 | Pages 6 and 7

ANTHONY ARNOVE is the author of Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal, and coeditor with Howard Zinn of Voices of a People's History of the United States. He is also on the editorial board of the International Socialist Review.

At the Socialism 2007 conference last June, Anthony spoke on The Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels almost 160 years ago. Here, we print his remarks.

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THE SUBTITLE of the new Haymarket Books edition of the Communist Manifesto, edited by Phil Gasper, is: "A Road Map to History's Most Important Political Document." Now, you could certainly accuse Phil and the editors of Haymarket of trying to sell a few more books with a catchy title. But the statement, I think, is an accurate one.

More people certainly have read and have been influenced by the Bible--which is also a political and a historical document--than by The Communist Manifesto. In fact, the New Yorker magazine published an article in December 2006 with staggering statistics about how many Bibles sell each year in the United States alone, in various editions and adaptations.

The article notes: "The familiar observation that the Bible is the bestselling book of all time obscures a more startling fact: the Bible is the bestselling book of the year, every year. Calculating how many Bibles are sold in the United States is a virtually impossible task, but a conservative estimate is that in 2005, Americans purchased some 25 million Bibles--twice as many as the most recent Harry Potter book. The amount spent annually on Bibles has been put at more than half a billion dollars."

What else to read

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels' The Communist Manifesto remains the best introduction to Marxism. The new edition of the Manifesto, edited by Phil Gasper, provides full annotation, clear historical references and explanation, additional related text and a full glossary.

Paul D'Amato's The Meaning of Marxism is a new book that provides a lively and accessible account of the ideas of Marx and the Marxist tradition, using historical and contemporary examples. For a book that give an introduction to socialism and the socialist tradition, read The Case for Socialism, by Socialist Worker editor Alan Maass.


The Bible, though--whatever else one may think of it--offers a vision of the resolution of injustice and oppression in the next world. The Communist Manifesto, by contrast, presents a concrete program for emancipation in this world.

And in contrast to earlier documents of religious or political reform, the Manifesto doesn't set forth a program for individual salvation or advance the interests of some small minority.

In the words of the Manifesto: "All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority. The proletariat, the lowest stratum of our present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, without the whole superincumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air."

As Karl Marx's friend and collaborator, Frederick Engels, put it, "[O]ur notion, from the very beginning, was that 'the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself.'" That is, the working class is the first class in history that represents a universal interest, and that in making a revolution can abolish all forms of undemocratic rule and class antagonism.

It can do so not because of the dreams of Karl Marx, but because of the historical role that workers play in producing and reproducing the capitalist system through their labor, and the fact that capitalism concentrates workers at the point of production, bringing them together into a collective with increasingly international interconnectedness.

Their form of oppression and exploitation is a novel one in human history, and their emancipation can create heretofore unthought-of changes.

For most writers and thinkers prior to the Manifesto--as for many since--the working class didn't exist in any meaningful way. And it certainly didn't exist as the agent of its own emancipation. As the Manifesto puts it, describing other socialists of Marx and Engels' time: "Only from the point of view of being the most suffering class does the proletariat exist for them."

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I'LL RETURN to a number of these ideas, but first, I want to put the Manifesto and its authors in some historical context.

The Communist Manifesto was published in early 1848, literally days before a period of revolutionary upheavals throughout Europe. But at the time it was written, no formal organization calling itself the Communist Party existed. And in reality, the proletariat as Marx and Engels defined it, was minuscule compared to its size today.

But as the Manifesto defines the term, the proletariat is composed of "laborers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, [and] are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market."

By this definition, anyone who does not own the means of production but is compelled to sell their ability to labor to others in order to survive--that is, the vast majority of the world's population today--is, with a few exceptions, a worker. Artists, nurses, teachers and computer programmers alike are subject to the forces of commodification, pressures of the market, and dynamics of the business cycle and the profit motive.

At the time, though, Marx based his observations on the earliest stages of the process of the formation of this class, a process that is still unfolding to this day. So the opening line of the Manifesto, "A specter is haunting Europe--the specter of communism" was a bold statement more based in desire than in reality.

Most of the people with whom Marx worked thought of themselves as socialists of various types, by which they meant a range of different political ideas (as Marx and Engels spell out in part III of the Manifesto, which is a review of the socialist and communist literature of the 1840s).

It doesn't help matters either that in the original English translation, published in 1850 in a translation by Helen MacFarlane, the Manifesto's powerful opening words are rendered as "A frightful hobgoblin stalks throughout Europe." It wasn't until 1888 that Engels and his friend Samuel Moore penned the translation with which we are all familiar today.

Indeed, only a handful of people were present at the creation of the Manifesto, when Marx and Engels met at the Red Lion Pub in the Soho section of London, the headquarters of the German Workers' Educational Association, for a gathering of a group of mostly exile intellectuals and radicals then calling itself the Communist League.

The League decided that it needed an open pronouncement of its views, and in December 1847, assigned Marx and Engels the task of writing what they called a "profession of faith" for the group.

The path to the first edition of The Manifesto of the Communist Party, as it was formally called, was not an easy one, however. Marx returned from the London meeting to Belgium, where he began writing--but not the Manifesto. Instead, he wrote several speeches and newspaper articles, and found a number of distractions.

On January 26, 1848, the Central Committee of the League dispatched a letter to the Brussels section of the League that read:

The Central Committee charges its regional committee in Brussels to communicate with Citizen Marx, and to tell him that if the Manifesto of the Communist Party, the writing of which he undertook to do at the recent congress, does not reach London by February 1 of the current year, further measures will have to be taken against him. In the event of Citizen Marx not fulfilling his task, the Central Committee requests the immediate return of the documents placed at [his] disposal.

By early February--so really in only a couple of days--under pressure of deadline, Marx delivered to the League the brief document that would soon have so much impact.

The title page of the Manifesto, which was originally published in German, lists Engels and Marx as coauthors and rightly so, but the evidence suggests the final draft was written exclusively by Marx alone.

Why, then, the joint credit? Is it because Marx felt guilty that Engels had to work a factory job to support him like he did for so many years? Not very likely. Is it because Marx and Engels were at this point such close collaborators that the idea of individual work was out of the question? Again, not likely.

Throughout their years of collaboration, they penned documents under their individual names, even when they were commenting on each other's works.

The basis for the joint authorship rests primarily on the centrality of a short document that Engels had written earlier in 1847 called The Principles of Communism. This brilliant piece, which you can read in full in the Gasper edition of the Manifesto, includes the first formulations of many of the key passages that we now know from The Communist Manifesto.

The kernel of the Manifesto is to be found here, in question-and-answer form. So Marx's real task, then, was to translate this catechism into the form of a manifesto, with more historical narrative and greater rhetorical force.

The Principles of Communism opens with the questions: "What is Communism?" and then "What is the proletariat?" It continues through 25 questions and answers, including Question 19: "Will it be possible for [Communist] revolution to take place in one country alone?"

The answer, which Engels offers in a one-word sentence before elaborating, is "No" -- just one of the many examples of how Joseph Stalin and the bureaucratic and dictatorial regimes that later claimed to speak in the name of Marx and Engels turned their theory of working-class internationalism and socialism completely on its head.

Marx owed therefore a great intellectual debt to Engels, not only for The Principles of Communism, but also for his earlier work, particularly The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844--a text that was critical to the development of the basic Marxist idea that workers were agents of change, not merely oppressed brutes to be rescued by this or that would-be reformer.

Engels had come to this idea about the agency of workers not through his studies in the libraries or through his reading of European literature, but through his connection to the struggle of the working-class Chartist movement in England in the early 1840s and his exposure to factory life in Manchester. That is, Engels glimpsed in England, before Marx could in Germany, the revolutionary character of capitalism and of the proletariat it created.

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TURNING NOW to the Manifesto itself, I want to make a few broad points about the text and its features.

I could spend the whole session reading passages from the Manifesto that describe so powerfully the world we live in today, far more than any documents that have been written since. But there is no substitute for reading the Manifesto, and I hope that if you haven't recently read it, that you will reread it, and if you haven't read it, you'll leave this meeting wanting to.

But the Communist Manifesto does not merely offer a description of capitalism; it offers a prediction about the dynamic of capitalism, and it offers a prescription for human action.

The fundamental argument of the Manifesto is that capitalism has created problems that cannot be solved within the capitalist system. Yet capitalism has also created a class that through making a revolution can solve these problems. Capitalism has created, in the poetic language of the Manifesto, "its own gravedigger."

That is, the working class can, in making a revolution, both transform itself--a necessary part of the revolutionary process--and transform class society. Instead of capitalism, a system that is independent of human control and that is destructive to human beings and the environment, working-class revolution would establish a new mode of production under collective democratic control and based on human need rather than competition, in harmony with the natural environment, rather than destructive to it.

It's important to emphasize the Manifesto's dynamic and also predictive understanding of capitalism because when Marx wrote the Manifesto in 1848, capitalism in reality existed only in a few parts of the world.

Yet Marx accurately understood capitalism as having a revolutionary dynamic that would soon make it a global system. As the Manifesto so presciently puts it: "The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere."

Marx and Engels understood globalization long before anyone ever used the term. And therefore they understood the centrality of internationalism--of overcoming all petty national chauvinisms and divisions and other related divisions such as racism and sexism, to any struggle for change.

In contrast to those who saw Marx and Engels as reducing all questions to economics, and therefore ignoring ideology or oppression, they absolutely saw the importance of ideas and the importance of political organization and activity, not merely economic activity. That is why the Manifesto stresses that "[t]he ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class."

Marx and Engels' understanding of the historical dynamism and contingency of capitalism undercuts the common charge that Marxists are historical determinists, seeing history as mechanically unfolding in a preordained process that will inevitable lead us through stages of development, culminating in socialism.

Unfortunately, supporters of this argument over time can quote some of the more rhetorically confident and bold passages of the Manifesto to support their case, but only by ignoring the many examples in Marx's and Engels' writing--and in the Manifesto itself--suggesting a much different understanding of history and of revolution as a process that is by no means inevitable.

The Manifesto lays out a set of principles, but it is clear that those principles must be applied differently in new historical and political circumstances. As Marx and Engels wrote in a new preface to a new edition of the Communist Manifesto in 1872:

The practical application of the principles will depend, as the Manifesto itself states, everywhere and at all times, on the historical conditions for the time being existing, and, for that reason, no special stress is laid on the revolutionary measures proposed at the end of Section II. That passage would, in many respects, be very differently worded today.

Finally, it has become quite fashionable for defenders and apologists for capitalism to acknowledge that Marx was right about much of his description of capitalism, while then completely denying the weight of Marx's critique. Even Thomas Friedman in his celebration of global capitalism, The World Is Flat, quotes the brilliant lines from the Manifesto:

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society...Constant revolutionizing 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.

But Friedman does not quote the sections of the Manifesto explaining how economic crises are inherent to capitalism and describing an irrational economic system in which people go hungry while there is an abundance of food, people go without shelter while homes lie empty, and people are unemployed while work that society desperately needs lacks for labor.

As Marx puts it in the Manifesto:

Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells...

It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodic return put the existence of the entire bourgeois society on trial...In these crises, a great part not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity--the epidemic of overproduction.

Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilization, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce.

You aren't likely to find that passage in The World Is Flat or in any of the other recent essays professing to admire Marx as an economic thinker.

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THE PROBLEM does not end there. Almost all of Marx's critics, and even many of the people who call themselves or once called themselves Marxists, agree that the flaw in the Manifesto and with Marxism generally is that Marx theorized that the working class could make a revolution to end capitalism.

As Phil Gasper has pointed out, they replace the argument about the inevitability of socialism--which was a false argument to begin with--with an argument about the inevitability of capitalism, which is equally if not more false.

The idea that the working class could bring about a new society, we are told over and over again, is complete rubbish. Pick your reason: People are naturally selfish and greedy. The collapse of the Soviet Union proves that socialism didn't work.

The working class is no longer a meaningful part of society, because we now live in a post-industrial age. Marx may have described 19th century capitalism accurately, but 20th century capitalism is completely different.

I won't go through each of these arguments. Instead, I want to stress a more basic point. Marx's theory of working-class revolution did not come about as a result of some scheme or fantasy on his part. It came about as a result of observing the real struggles of workers under capitalism and seeking to advance those practical struggles.

For Marx, class struggle--sometimes open, sometimes hidden--is a constant feature of class societies, but under capitalism it takes a new form. Under capitalism, for the first time, a class comes into being that in struggling to overcome its own exploitation, as it is repeatedly compelled to do, has the potential to make a revolution that would not replace one form of exploitation by a minority with a new form of exploitation--as the bourgeoisie did when they overthrew feudal class societies--but to remake society on an entirely new basis, without exploitation.

The working class, Marx argues, has an interest in fighting for such a revolution and has the capacity, through striking and withholding its labor, to bring it about. It can replace the anarchy of capitalism and private property based on the systematic denial of property to others with democratic collective decision-making from below and communal ownership of social resources.

So the program of the Manifesto grows out of the self-activity of workers. As Marx and Engels write in the Manifesto:

The theoretical conclusions of the Communists are in no way based on ideas or principles that have been invented or discovered by this or that would-be universal reformer. They merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from a historical movement going on under our very eyes...

The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties. They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement.

The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only: (First) In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. (Second) In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.

The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the lines of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.

Here, in embryo, is the idea that Lenin would later develop in arguing for the central role of a revolutionary party in binding together the most militant sections of the working class to play a leadership role in the struggle of the working class for self-emancipation.

This theory of revolution stands in stark contrast to all the myths of Lenin and Marx believing in the elitist, undemocratic and conspiratorial idea of revolution by a minority, acting on behalf of or in the place of the working class.

Further evidence for this argument comes from the 1872 preface to the Manifesto by Marx and Engels, which came one year after the remarkable Paris Commune of 1871. Marx and Engels wrote:

In view of the gigantic strides of modern industry since 1848, and of the accompanying improved and extended organization of the working class, in view of the practical experience gained, first in the February Revolution [of 1848], and then, still more, in the Paris Commune, where the proletariat for the first time held political power for two whole months, this program [of the Manifesto] has in some details been antiquated.

One thing especially was proved by the Commune, [namely], that 'the working class cannot simply lay hold of [the] ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.'

And here they cite Marx's important pamphlet The Civil War in France, "where this point is further developed." Turning for a brief moment to that text, The Civil War in France makes the argument that the capitalist state can't simply be taken over, but must be "smashed" and replaced with completely new institutions of democratic participation and control from below.

Under socialism, Marx describes how there will be no bureaucracy, no standing army, that officials will be elected and will all be subject to instant recall, that political officials will earn the wage of the average worker--ideas that he had not invented, but that came from the democratic gains of the Communards before they were brutally suppressed.

So Marx's own ideas of revolution came from struggle and changed with struggle, which is why he was so dismissive of theorists, such as the utopian socialists he writes about in the Manifesto, who created models for societies based on a retreat from capitalism or a return to some romanticized earlier period in human history--in either case, undisturbed by the actual participation of working-class people deciding what kind of society they wanted for themselves.

In making revolution, Marx thought, people would unleash human creativity and possibilities that we could not possibly imagine today given the limits placed on our imaginations and understanding by our indoctrination in the ideologies of capitalism, which presents the present order as natural and inevitable.

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SO DID Marx get everything right in the Manifesto? Absolutely not. Several of his formulations are overly optimistic, substituting a desired outcome for reality. In particular, several passages give credence to the inevitability of socialism.

And while the Manifesto states very clearly, "[The] organization of the proletarians into a class, and, consequently into a political party, is continually being upset again by the competition between the workers themselves"--a very important point--many other passages in the Manifesto downplay the political and ideological obstacles to building working-class internationalism and overcoming divisions among workers.

Nonetheless, it is remarkable how correct the fundamental arguments of the Manifesto remain.

In a speech in June, Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, noted:

Malaria is a disease...that will kill 2 million children this year, overwhelmingly in Africa. Two million children. Now this is a disease that is largely preventable and 100 percent treatable. And the treatment costs 80 cents. But people are so poor that 2 million kids are going to die this year because they don't even get access to the simplest things, like a bed net treated with insecticide that would protect them from this disease.

Now here's the basic arithmetic of our time: There are 300 million places in Africa, sleeping sites where people are vulnerable to being bitten by mosquitoes carrying malaria. 300 million. Each bed net costs five bucks...That's $1.5 billion. And yet almost none of these children sleeps under a bed net because they are too poor. But what is $1.5 billion in today's world? That is what we spend every day on the Pentagon. That's our daily military budget.

Sachs has a brief suggestion: "The Pentagon take next Thursday off."

Last year, the top 25 investment fund managers in the United States made $14 billion dollars in personal income. As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman writes:

Income now fully back to Gilded Age levels. Consider a head-to-head comparison. We know what John D. Rockefeller, the richest man in Gilded Age America, made in 1894, because in 1895 he had to pay income taxes. His return declared an income of $1.25 million, almost 7,000 times the average per capita income in the United States at the time.

But that makes him a mere piker by modern standards. Last year, according to Institutional Investor's Alpha magazine, James Simons, a hedge fund manager, took home $1.7 billion, more than 38,000 times the average income. Two other hedge fund managers also made more than $1 billion, and the top 25 combined made $14 billion.

How much is $14 billion? It's more than it would cost to provide health care for a year to eight million children--the number of children in the United States who, unlike children in any other advanced country, don't have health insurance.

The hedge fund billionaires are simply extreme examples of a much bigger phenomenon: every available measure of income concentration shows that we've gone back to levels of inequality not seen since the 1920s.

As of the year 2000, the UN Development Program found that the world's richest 225 people have a combined wealth equal to the annual income of 47 percent of the world's population, while the three richest people have assets exceeding the combined wealth of the 48 least developed countries.

The latest UN reports suggest that global climate change will only exacerbate these divisions, within countries and also between countries. Meanwhile, if you look at what's happening in the Middle East, 4 million Iraqis have been displaced internally or externally, hundreds of thousands killed, and thousands of U.S. soldiers have been killed and wounded in an struggle over dwindling resources that benefits only a handful in that country.

Columbia University economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard economist Linda Bilmes did a study of what it costs to maintain the occupation of Iraq, not the social cost and human cost but the economic cost. They calculate that already $2 trillion has gone to the cost of that occupation.

Yet Iraqi schools and libraries and hospitals are being closed, millions are homeless, millions more are having their lives cut short, or their life chances cut short, while trillions are being spent to destroy Iraq as a country.

And in the process of all of this, we are literally destroying the sustainability of the planet for human and other life. Capitalism, with its inbuilt short-term drive for profit and accumulation, can never address this crisis within the confines of its own economic logic.

As the world's resources such as oil grow more scarce, there will be more conflicts over them. Economic conflicts spill over more and more into military ones, threatening the planet with nuclear, as well as environmental, devastation.

Yet capitalism, as the Manifesto reminds us, has created for the first time in history the ability to do away with scarcity, to diminish drudgery and minimize socially necessary work, to free human creative potential, lessening the demands of work and freeing up time for creative expression, leisure and human possibility.

This contradiction makes all of the violence and privation of capitalism all the more condemnable. But the Manifesto is not just a critique. It is, above all else, a call to revolutionary action. In order to bring change about, though, we must organize and we must, as the Manifesto puts it, "openly declare" the goals that we struggle to achieve.

That is, we must have a vision of what it is that we are fighting for--and a strategy for getting there.

The strategy is not to stand on the sidelines or denounce the struggle for reforms, as some accuse Marx of arguing, but as the Manifesto advocates, engage in and seek to unify reform movements and within those movements to advocate for solutions that point beyond the limits of the capitalist order, which consistently frustrates such efforts for piecemeal change.

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WHEN MOST people begin to struggle, they do not begin with the goal of making a revolution. Quite understandably, they seek to make change within the confines of the existing system, but in the process of undertaking such efforts, they are frustrated in their efforts or they see the gains of past eroded. And people's ideas change in this process.

Marx, as I mentioned, sometimes has these optimistic formulations in the Manifesto. But he is clear that the working class is not perpetually on the verge of revolution. For long periods of time, many workers may be satisfied with their lot under capitalism.

But Marx and Engels understood that this state of affairs can't last forever. The chaotic, turbulent, unplanned development of capitalist economies eventually throws societies into turmoil, and can turn even the most modest of working-class demands into a challenge to the whole system.

In a 2005 interview with Socialist Worker newspaper, Jim Baemmert, a retired Delphi worker from Oak Creek, Wis., put it this way: "It's going to come to a head, whether it comes at [General Motors] or just comes in a social uprising. I don't believe that corporations and governments today can continue to do what they are doing, without people finally getting to the point of hurting enough that they--well, civil war is a nasty word, but I see it coming."

Marx and Engels have been proven over and over again right. Workers around the world in countries where no one has predicted revolution have toppled regimes that people thought would never be overthrown because of how repressive and powerful they were.

In the United States, as well, we have a rich but often suppressed tradition of working-class and socialist struggle.

But the socialist tradition here has been marked by deep discontinuities, with periods of mass radicalization like the 1930s and the 1960s that are followed by periods of downturn where the organizations and the individuals that have played a leadership role in that previous period have been pushed to the side and in some cases, they have been crushed.

Although none of these periods of radicalization fulfilled its potential, the defeats and disappearance of the movements thrown up by them were by no means predestined. There is nothing inherent in our society that doomed these struggles to failure.

Will there be new upsurges in struggle in the future? Cornell economist Robert Frank put it very well:

History has repeatedly demonstrated that societies can tolerate income inequality only up to a point, beyond which they rapidly disintegrate. Numerous governments in Latin America have been overthrown largely because of social unrest rooted in income inequality.

And in a survey of more than a quarter of a million randomly selected individuals worldwide, economist Robert MacCulloch found that people in countries with high income inequality were much more likely to voice support for violent revolution.

Major social upheavals are sometimes preceded by years or even decades of rising levels of social unrest. If such unrest is currently building in the United States, it remains well-hidden.

But as recent experience has made clear, social upheavals often occur with virtually no warning. Almost no one predicted the fall of the Eastern European governments in 1989. Because revolutions almost always entail important elements of social contagion, even small changes can launch political prairie fires once a tipping point is reached."

We have a very important concrete example of such a prairie fire with the recent struggle of millions of people in this country for the dignity and the rights of immigrant workers which has mobilized millions of people around the country, many under the slogan "No human being is illegal."

I think it's important to say that this struggle is not just one for civil rights, but it is a working-class struggle and it's also a struggle against neoliberalism. A central part of the neoliberal project is removing barriers to investment and trade, while maintaining barriers to the free flow of labor.

So capital is free to cross borders, but labor is not. From the point of view of big business, the point is not to exclude all immigrant labor entirely, but to create a two-tiered workforce, including temporary guest workers and the undocumented, who are easier to exploit.

The demonstrations have also very clearly had a class character, because immigrants are overwhelmingly from the working class. And they have given an enormous and much-needed boost to those sections of the labor movement that have thrown themselves into the struggle.

It is the growth and spread of such struggles, and similar struggles like strikes in South Africa, the strikes of oil workers in Iraq, and many more like them around the world, that the future of the Communist Manifesto lies.

There is nothing inevitable about how these struggles will play out. There are never any guarantees in history. The only inevitability is that if we do not struggle, we will face more and more crises and probably sooner than we can imagine, drastic consequences.

If we do struggle, we have a chance--a real one--to create, as the Manifesto says, "an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all."

And I can think of nothing more worth fighting for today.

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