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E.R. McKinney

They Saw the Doom of Capitalism,
the Triumph of the Working Class

(5 January 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 1, 5 January 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Any intelligent and alert worker who reads through, the Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels today; without knowing the date of publication or the names of the authors, might conclude that this small pamphlet was of recent origin. If he happened to be a worker who had kept abreast of political, social, economic arid historical developments, and could therefore date the Manifesto fairly accurately; such a worker would nevertheless conclude that the Manifesto described conditions which he himself is experiencing today, 100 years after its publication.

Such an intellectually alert, worker, toiling in factory, mine, mill and field, would perhaps say to himself or to a fellow worker: “They haven’t changed much. This has been going on for a long time. The bosses are just like they always were. The workers, have to keep on fighting. I can understand things better now.”

This of course would be really a sound and significant evaluation of the Communist Manifesto. Down through the years, one hundred of them, this eloquent, moving but compact distillation of proletarian revolutionary theory and practice has come through every campaign of abuse unsullied and through every assault unscathed. The Manifesto has lived through “refutation” piled on “refutation,” and lives today in all vigor after a thousand of its detractors and defamers have long since been forgotten.

Traced Development of Class History

Why is this? Why is it possible today for the working class or a part of the working class to pick up the Communist Manifesto and read passage after passage, as applicable and as fruitful as though they had been written only last week. The answer can be discovered by the thoughtful worker-militant by a reading of the Manifesto itself. Where did the present capitalist class come from? Has the present bourgeoisie always been here, and with its present dominant position in society? Where did the Fords, Mellons, duPonts and Morgans come from?

“The modern bourgeois society has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society ... From the serfs of the Middle Ages sprang the chartered burghers of the earliest towns. From these burgesses the first elements of the bourgeoisie were developed ... We see, therefore, how the modern bourgeoisie is itself the product of a long course of development.”

What are Marx and Engels saying here? They are telling us that the capitalist class, the bourgeoisie, had a beginning and that its history did not begin in the Garden of Eden, as some of the capitalists would have us believe. Marx and Engels say that the present capitalist class fought its way to supremacy and dominance: to political, social and economic dominance. They had to fight because the feudal class would not yield their power. Power had to be wrested from them by the present capitalist class. This they did in England in a series of armed revolutions from the middle to the end of the 17th century and in the final death blow to the feudal ruling class in the great French Revolution of 1789. We do not forget either that the capitalist class in the United States acquired power as a class and began its march to economic, political and social supremacy in this country only after it had defeated England in the revolution of 1785, which school boys and girls study. under the name of the Revolutionary War.

Saw Capitalist Society Moving to Its Doom

If the working class is not told that the capitalists have always been around, it is taught, that they will always be here and that capitalism is the best possible order of things. Nothing can be produced better than capitalism, say the capitalists and their defenders and apologists. After relating how the feudal system became outmoded, useless and reactionary, Marx and Engels, in the Manifesto discuss the fate of capitalist society. As was the case with feudalism, “a similar movement is going on,before our own eyes ... it is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put the existence of the entire bourgeois society on trial, each time more threateningly. In these crises a great part not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed.”

Not even Marx and Engels could in 1848 envisage how correct was their analysis of capitalist society with its long depressions, millions of unemployed, its two world wars of destruction, carnage and devastation. Destruction of the cities which the working class has built to live in. Laying waste of the fields which have been planted to yield food for the masses. Destruction of machinery which has been made by the working class to produce the necessities of life.

This destruction is possible because of the tremendous accomplishments of the capitalists in the field of production. Vast enterprises arise and millions of toilers are drawn into the production of machines and implements, which the bourgeoisie uses in its wars of destruction, and of commodities which the capitalist sells all over the world to enrich himself.

“The modern laborer,” however, does not rise “with the progress of industry.” “He becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth. And here it becomes evident that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society ... It is unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to his slave within his slavery, because it can not help letting him sink into such a state that it has to feed him, instead of being fed by him.”

The capitalists and the defenders of capitalism have seized on this passage from the Manifesto in order to discredit the teachings of Marx and Engels. But they have been exposed and are being exposed all over the world today. What will they say about the pauperized millions of Europe and Asia? How will they answer Marx and Engels now? Can the defenders of capitalism retreat to the U.S. and take refuge here? It is in the U.S. of all countries that they cannot hide. Because here, in the wealthiest country in the world by far, we see insecurity and great concern for the future as the masses wait for the “periodical return” of depression and unemployment: “commercial crises,” the next world war in which the “existing products” and the “previously created productive forces are ... destroyed.”

The Manifesto not only instructs the working class, the proletariat, about the role of the capitalist class, the bourgeoisie, but also about its own role in history. “But not only has the bourgeoisie forged the weapons that bring death to itself; it has also called into existence, the men who are to wield those weapons – the modern working class – the proletarians.” The capitalist class must have the working class. Capitalism, cannot function without the working class. The workers are the main force in production. Without the worker there can be no production; not a wheel would turn. Workers often forget this when they praise the employer.

We Have the Weapons to Fight Capitalism

The Manifesto says to the working class, however, that the proletariat should learn something from all these experiences. Marx and Engels say that we have “the weapons for fighting the bourgeoisie.” A large part of the teaching of Marx and Engels is to show the working class how to use these weapons and how to fight.

“The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.” The working class must have its own political party for waging the class struggle for “every class struggle is a political struggle.” Today the capitalist class is a reactionary class and the “proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class.” The working class “will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state, that is, of the proletariat organized as the ruling class; and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible ... In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”

These are some of the things which are said in the Communist Manifesto. This is what Marx and Engels said to the working class 100 years ago. This is what they taught about capitalist society and about the working class. The Communist Manifesto is a living document for the entire working class to be guided by. Labor in the U.S. and throughout the world is trailing far behind the Communist Manifesto and the teaching of Marx and Engels. This must not continue lest the working class itself become responsible for its own defeat. Only the working class politically organized in a powerful party of its own and face to face with the capitalist ruling class in militant array, can guarantee the prediction of the Manifesto about the capitalist class: “its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.”

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Last updated: 7 July 2017