By Domina Libertas
“A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of Communism.”
So Karl Marx opens his famous work “The Communist Manifesto.” Originally published in 1848, Marx wrote it in partnership with Friedrich Engels. In it, they define Communism, give a brief history of oppression, and issue a list of demands — including the abolition of property, heavy progressive taxes, and free education in public schools.
In addition, Marx and Engels also prophesy that communism is the inevitable fate of the world, a fate that is speedily approaching.
Why Did Marx And Engels Think Communism Is Inevitable?
In summary, the proletariat class grows in number as the industrial (and now information) revolution continues and human labor becomes cheaper and more uncertain. This will lead to the development of unions, which will band together to demand better wages, working conditions, etc.
These unions will not always be victorious in their demands, but that doesn’t matter. The real victory is not in their enemy’s capitulation, but in the growth of the union. Aided by modern methods of communication, local struggles will become national struggles, in turn becoming political struggles. This means that “to attain which the burghers of the Middle Ages… required centuries, the modern proletarians… achieve in a few years (Marx and Engels, pg 28).” It will be further advanced by “the divisions among the bourgeoisie itself (Marx And Engels, pg 29).” At the same time, entire swaths of society are dumped into the proletariat class as further innovation costs or threatens the loss of jobs.
The result is that as society descends into chaos, the proletariat class grows and the other classes collapse on themselves. At that point, the proletariat class will easily take over and communism will become the way of life for the entire world.
Were Marx And Engels Right?
It’s certainly an interesting theory, a predestination of humanity of sorts. One where human agency and desire is discredited, replaced with the belief that a certain outcome will be achieved no matter what.
However, I would argue that this is a fundamentally flawed perspective.
Humanity is made of individuals, which have agency and potential. I know some crazy smart people who have retreated, and other smart people who are doing great things with their lives. They both had an incredible amount of talent and potential; the difference between them is the choices they made. If, in past years, they had made different choices, their lives would look drastically different.
And because humanity is made of individuals, the choices and ambitions of individuals influence humanity.
Imagine our world without Jesus Christ – not just as a Savior but also as a man who’s teachings have influenced the lives of millions. How would our world look if he had not been born, or had chosen a different path? Or what about a world without Buddha, Moses, or Muhammad?
What about a world where George Washington didn’t step down after two terms, but served until his death? Or what if Alexander Hamilton had argued successfully for a monarchy during the Constitutional Convention? Or if John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison hadn’t penned the Federalist Papers, which played a major role in the ratification of the US Constitution?
What about a world where Einstein hadn’t written Franklin Roosevelt to persuade him to authorize investigation into making atomic bombs? Or what if Harry Truman had decided not to drop them?
What about a world where Steve Jobs hadn’t invented the iPhone, or Mark Zuckerburg hadn’t invented Facebook?
The direction and fate of humanity is decided each day by the little and big choices of individuals. It is a constantly changing, ever unknown, and frightening flood of possibilities.
A Fatal Flaw
The fatal flaw of the philosophy of Communism is that it forgets to take into account human nature. Just as the expected timeline didn’t allow for human agency, the philosophy itself doesn’t allow for human agency either.
So is it possible that the world could eventually become communist? Well, yes; we could choose that outcome. But personally, I’d much rather live in a world that honors and plans for human agency.
Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Bantam., 1992.