Lesson 08- Analysis of the Communist Manifesto
This is the ninth program on my analysis of the economic collapse that we are presently experiencing. In my last program I reviewed the major points in the Communist Manifesto so that we might better understand the issues between the two economic theories, Capitalism and Communism, that have been vying for world domination.
Before analyzing the pro’s and con’s of each system, I would like to review the major concepts of the Communist Manifesto since I feel that in my last program I rushed through a very complex system and, thus, a review might help to bring out the major points of Marx’s theory of Communism.
So let us once again look at the major points that Marx made in the Manifesto to test their validity. And, whether we agree or disagree with the goals of Communism, I think that Marx and Engel have to be given high grades for their understanding of history and sociology. Basically, the Communist Manifesto is a history lesson in how the Feudal System, with lords, serfs, and castles, which was the major survival method after the collapse of the Roman Empire, was itself destroyed when the trade with the East following the Crusades caused the merchant class to rise in economic, and later, political power.
There are a lot of the historical and social observations in the Communist Manifesto with which we can agree. For example:
It’s true that capitalistic societies are inclined to identify all revolutionary
movements with communism when often the driving motive is something
else. For example, often we have misidentified movements by labor unions, civil rights, and national independence as being Communist in origin simply because Communists were inclined to join any social movement that might lead to a violent overthrow of existing systems. It many cases it was guilt by association.
It’s true that trade with the East following the Crusades and the discovery of
American set in motion an Age of Exploration that led to the colonization of much of the world by European powers and today’s international trade
It’s true that the hand-crafted methods of the Feudal Period could not keep up with the demand of the growing world trade and that new economic forces had to be developed to accommodate it.
It’s true that this caused the development of manufacturing methods involving factories and in which machine labor began to replace human labor. One of the results was the decrease of personal craftsmanship and the rise of mass production methods in which tasks were divided into separate steps performed by separate workers. This, by the way, is a methodology known as analysis used by the left hemisphere of the brain, in which complex wholes are divided into separate parts.
It’s true that the development of factories began the movement of population from rural farm areas to urban areas that continues to the present time. In Colonial American 5% of the people lived in towns and cities while 95% lived in rural or farm areas. The reverse is true today.
It’s true that this movement led to the breakdown of the close, traditional, and often genetic, relationships that tied people together in the rural farm areas and led to a more isolated existence in cities in which the individual was emphasized over the group and the personal over the social.
It’s true that machines made it possible to hire women and children to perform jobs that formerly could be performed only by men, thereby shifting the power structure in the family when wives, and sometimes children, replaced husbands and fathers as the economic head of the family.
It’s true that money and profit became the major glue that bound one person to another and that lifelong traditional roles, which gave the person security and an assured position in the social order, were replaced by insecure shifting roles of urban life where economic factors led to job insecurity, reoccurring unemployment and the need for job retraining.
It’s true that as the business class rose in economic power they fought for and succeeded in gaining control of political power in the modern democratic republics by replacing the “Divine Right of King’s Theory” with a “Social Contract Theory” that allowed members of the rising business class to enter government. “Dollar Diplomacy”, in which our foreign policy was shaped by the interests of our businessmen, is a fact of American history.
It’s true that businessmen, involved in world trade, are cross-pollinating cultures and, as a result, are creating a world culture. Western businessmen are impacting cultures throughout the world through styles, fashions, entertainment, and technology to the extent that young people throughout the world try to mimic Western culture rather than their own. Much of the West’s conflict with Muslims is due to this as they see their traditional moral values being undermined by the influence of Western culture that seems demonic to them because of its emphasis on sexual freedom, abortion, contraception, and secularism.
It’s true that once any primitive or Third World group takes in any of the artifacts created by a capitalistic industrial society they are hooked because they will either become dependent on them to resupply them or else they will have to adopt the manufacturing form of production themselves. Thus, capitalism, for better or worse, is creating a world made in “it own image and likeness” where everyone will reflect the values and goals of the Western world.
It is true that Capitalism is causing a centralization of populations, governments, and businesses as people move from rural areas to cities and governments evolve from towns to cities, to states, to nations, to the international level and business, following the same trend, move from small local establishments to giant national and international chain stores and conglomerates.
It is true that Capitalism, the most productive economy in history, has created a dilemma by tying production, the amount of things that you make, to distribution, the share that one receives of what is produced. As a result, it can’t stop one without stopping the other. Consequently, it suffers from reoccurring recessions and/or depression due to over-production which leads to a domino effect of mass layoffs as decreased demand caused by layoffs in one industry causes layoff in other industries until we have a large mass of unemployed workers with nothing to produce and no other way to acquire money.
It’s true that Capitalism solves this problem of over-production by either expanding its markets to other areas of the world or by destroying what it has produced so that workers can be paid to produce it again. In other words, we have to keep production going, not because we need the products but because we need to keep people working so that they will have the money to buy what we have produced. Thus, even though we have more cars than we can actually use, the government is spending billions to bail out the auto companies, not because we need their cars, but, rather, because we need the jobs that are related to the production of automobiles. The Church has condemned this as the philosophy of Consumerism by which the consumption of unnecessary goods and services has become the main objective in many people’s lives. It has also led to a tremendous depletion of natural resources, pollution of the environment, and the disposal of waste.
It’s true that the bankruptcies and economic disruptions caused by these swings in the economy will cause or motivate smaller companies to either go bankrupt or be gobbled up by larger companies until eventually the market will be controlled by giant national and/or international conglomerates. We see this happening now as smaller and weaker banks are being bought out by larger and more powerful ones and giant supermarkets and departments stores replace the neighborhood stores that once proliferated in many neighborhoods.
However, so far it is not true that this will eventually lead to a situation in which a small group of international capitalists, who are living is sumptuous wealth, will be surrounded by millions of starving workers. According to the Communist Manifesto, at this point the leaders of Communism will shout, “Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains” and Communism will take over the factories and other productive forces of Capitalism and create a workers’ paradise. They will separate production from distribution, and thereby break the vicious cycle that tied them together, by having “Everyone working according to their ability and receiving according to their need.” Reforms in Capitalism led by labor leaders and other reformers have prevented this from happening by creating a large middle class whose lifestyle, while not equal to those of millionaires and billionaires, is better than anything experienced by the rich of past generations. Capitalism has created a “pie so big” that even a small slice of it is greater than an equal share of the Communist pie and the businesses have discovered that they can’t exist unless the consumer has enough money to buy their product.
Finally, it is not true, that Communism has led to a “dictatorship of the working or proletariat class.” Wherever it has been instituted, it has led to a “dictatorship of the Communist Party” that has ruled with an “iron hand”. It is Capitalism, not Communism, that has created the “dictatorship of the proletariat” by creating an economic system that is finely tuned and responsive to the wishes and desires of the consumers. It is the consuming public that votes through the way they spend their money that controls how the “means of production” will be used to produce the goods and services that they need and want. Thus, the consumers are in control. They just don’t know or realize it. As I mentioned in a previous program, Capitalism is the largest and most effective direct democracy in the history of the world. And that is its blessing and its curse because whatever it produces depends on the quality of the people who vote everyday through the way the spend their money.
You may be surprised, as I was, at how well the Communist Manifesto analyzes and predicts the consequences of Capitalism. It was written in 1848 when many of these consequences were not as apparent as they are today. However, it should not surprise us because if you want to know what’s wrong with any system ask those who oppose it. This is the value that all Antitheses have in relationships to the Thesis they oppose. In a paradoxical way, although they seem to be the opponent of the Thesis, they are necessary for its growth and development because they points out the flaws contained in it. When seen as constructive, rather than destructive, criticism, the Antithesis is essential for the growth and development of the Thesis it challenges. And this is what modern physicist mean when they say that “the universe is a Cosmic Dance of paradoxical, yet unified relationships.” Let me digress a moment to further explore this.
I used to ask my students, who made the best locks: the locksmith or the thief? They would answer “The locksmith.” But then I pointed out that after the locksmith had made what he considered “the best lock”, which was his Thesis, the thief, like the Antithesis, would break into it by finding a flaw in the design. When this happened, the locksmith would correct the flaw, which was the Synthesis. However, each time the locksmith corrected the flaw, the thief would probe to find others to which the locksmith would have to respond. Thus, in some paradoxical way, the thief, who seemed to be the opponent of the locksmith, was actually assisting him in the making of the best lock. However, it didn’t end there.
Then I would ask who made the best burglary tools, the thief or the locksmith? At this point the students began to realize that while the thief was helping the locksmith to make the best lock, the locksmith was helping the thief make the best burglary tools. So were they enemies or friends? Were they competing or cooperating? Were each of them the Thesis, the Antithesis or possibly the Synthesis of some other dialectical interaction? The answer to these and all paradoxical questions is “Yes!” It is not “either/or but “both or all/and.”
Thus, in nature the constant battle among competing species, in which the creatures is the Thesis and whatever challenges its survival is the Antithesis, and its adjustment to the challenge is the Synthesis, is the perfecting agent that results in Natural Selection and the Survival of the Fittest. And the same is true in human enterprises. Paradoxically, the highest form of cooperation might be competition because it perfects the opponents by releasing within them latent potentials and skills.
It’s as the physicists observed, “The universe is a Cosmic Dance of paradoxical, yet unified relationships” in which our opponents are essential to our own growth and development. We could paraphrase and clarify their observation by stating, “The universe is a Cosmic Dance of Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis, in which paradoxical relationship that seem to be in opposition to each other are actually cooperating and unified towards a common end, their mutual perfection.”
As Christians, we might even draw a deeper insight. Previously, I mention that whoever created the universe is obsessed with triangles and dialectical relationships. In fact, this suggests that this Being is Himself a trinitarian, dialectical relationship. If this is so, then He is also a paradox, since most, if not all, dialectical relationships seem to be paradoxical in nature. So to the question “Is God one or many?” the answer is “Yes!” He is Three Persons in One God. Now let me return to my major theme.
We should pay attention to the Communist Manifesto because Capitalism needs the Antithesis of Communism to challenge its flaw, but, by the same token the Thesis of Communism needs the Antithesis of Capitalism to challenge the flaws in it. And, obviously, the Church might be an Antithesis to both systems as it identifies flaws in each of them, while, at the same time, being Antithesized by them for the flaws in itself. In other words, every system, because it contains both perfections and imperfections, truths and falsehoods is at once both critiquing and being critiqued by others on its way to the Ultimate Truth, or God.
Thus, our reality is full of dialectical relationships in which, in a paradoxical way, the Thesis in one could be the Antithesis or Synthesis in another. So to the question “Is this idea the Thesis, Antithesis, or Synthesis?” the answer is “Yes!” Viewed in its relationships to different ideas, it could be anyone of the three: a Thesis in one, an Antithesis in another; and the Synthesis in a third, just as a person’s title changes when viewed in different relationships. For example, I am a father, husband, and child depending upon the person to whom I am related.
The best illustration of this complex paradoxical nature of the universe is the equilateral triangle itself which, as I have mentioned, like the Truth is a union of opposites. Imagine a triangle made up of equal sides. You are looking at the bottom lines, which is the base and two lines coming up from its corners which are the sides that meet in a point. Now, imagine turning it on its right side. the based has now become the left side, the left side is now the right side, and the right side is now the base. If you turn it again, everything has shifted position again. So, which side is the base, the left side and the right side? It’s a paradox because they all are the base, right side, or left side according to how you turn it. Another more complex illustration, but closer to the reality in the universe, are the models created by students in a geometry class in which soda straws are strung and pasted together into globe-like spheres of intersecting triangles that resemble the geodesic domes created by Buckminster Fuller. The base of one triangle is the left side of another triangle and the right side of a third triangle. So, is it the base, left side, or right side of a triangle? The answer is “Yes!” It depends on how you view it.
I hope that these illustrations are helping you to understand what I am trying to convey. Once again, I am hampered by the medium of radio in trying to portray a visual fact through words alone. These best that I can do is to refer you to the dome-like structures compose of intersecting triangles that have become a part of modern architecture.
Once we realize that our reality is not just the result of one dialectical relationship but a composite of a multitude of many in which the Thesis in one might be the Antithesis or Synthesis in another, we begin to sense the unity that lies beneath the diversity. It boggles the mind when one thinks of all the dialectical relationships that interact in a paradoxical way to create our reality. The best we can say is “The universe is a Cosmic Dance of paradoxical, yet unified relationship… and so is God.” Is your mind swirling? Mine is! So let’s give it a rest and return to my major theme.
In many ways, Communism seems to be Christianity without Christ because it seeks a utopian workers’ paradise in which everyone will live as a community and “work according to their ability and receive according to their needs.” Communal living was a vision of the Early Church, described in the Acts of the Apostles, in which everyone sold what they owned and placed the money in a communal pot. However, the Church, while honoring the idea of communal living, also defends the natural right, based on justice, for each person to own what he/she has produced and thereby determine how it should be used. Thus, even St. Paul eventually had to declare that anyone who did not work forfeited their right to share in the communal pot.
It might surprise many of you, as it did me, to learn that the Evil Empire of Communism was based on such lofty and almost Christian ideals. In fact the only true communist that I know are Catholic nuns and religious orders who live in community in which everyone works according to their ability and receive according to their needs. But they choose to do this freely, whereas most people will not and that is why Communism finds that it must use force to drive the workers into the paradise they have prepared for them.
Thus, following the Russian Communist Revolution in 1917, the Communist government killed over 50 million Kulak farmers who did not want to give up their land for communal farms that would be controlled and operated by government bureaucrats. The fact that a devastating famine followed was indicative of the validity of the Church’s Principle of Subsidiarity which states that “the smallest unit in society that is capable of handling a problem should assume the responsibility for it.” Farmers, not government lackeys, know best how to operate a farm.
Because of its close resemblance to Christian ideals many liberal minded Christians find it difficult to separate the aims and objectives of Christianity from those of Secular Humanism from which Communism springs. But upon deeper examination there are some basic flaws, involving “means” and “ends” that make both Secular Humanism and Communism incompatible with Christ and His Church. The problem, as I have mentioned in previous programs, is that both systems often agree on “ends” but disagree on “means”. Communism eliminates poverty by redistributing the wealth through government edict. Christianity calls upon each of us to eliminate it by the charitable sharing of our resources with others. Secular Humanism wants every child to be “healthy, wealthy, and wanted” and wants to abort any that is not. Christianity wants the same end but, respecting the rights and dignity of every human being, insists that we should solve the problem by changing our own behavior, not by eliminating the person who has the problem. And, of course, lofty theories, like Communism, have a way of becoming distorted when they move from the drawing board to reality. Some of the most insightful critique of Communism, once it became a reality in Russia, came from the pen of George Orwell, author of “1984” and “Animal Farm” and former Communist supporter, when he saw the reality versus the theory.
However, there are still many idealistic people who believe that the theory of Communism or Socialism is the answer to all of our problems and this is because they are able to contrast it with the problems of Capitalism. They can point to the problems of unemployment, the unequal distribution of wealth, the environmental impact of industry, the wasteful use of natural resources, and a host of other problems that always plague any operating system because there never was any system that didn’t bring disadvantages along with its advantages. And that is why linear minded societies are always dealing with reforms aimed at correcting the disadvantages.
The only perfect systems are in our imaginations where everything follows the script as we have written it. Once our theories move from the drawing board to concrete reality, a multitude of antitheses arise to challenge the flaws that naturally flow from the impact of millions of imperfect, flawed human beings operating according to their own interests and design. As a result, there are constant dialectical adjustments, like the high wire artist with his balancing pole, taking place in any operating system where first it swings too far one way and then too far the other way. The word utopia means “nowhere” and anyone who is looking for a dynamic system that remains in perfect balance is a true utopian. Some system are better and closer to perfection than others but “nowhere” is there a perfect system that doesn’t contain some flaw and most, if not all system, are constantly struggling with entropic forces which are trying to bring them back to chaos.
Thus, every dynamic system requires constant vigilance to keep it true to its original vision. And every system involves some types of trade-off and the best that we can get is a system that bestows more advantages than disadvantages. Therefore, to say that any operating system contains problems is an oxymoron because operating systems always contain problems.
Therefore, Capitalism has its problems and so does Communism and, as Christians, we make a big mistake when, in opposing one system, such as Communism because its atheistic view is totally incompatible with ours, we fail to recognize the flaws in another system, such as Capitalism, that we are defending because it pays lip-service to God.
In fact, as Christians, we make a big mistake when we bring any political or economic system completely under the umbrella of our belief system when in reality our belief system, which seeks goals beyond the natural level, supersedes all natural systems.
Some Christian evangelist, in their opposition to atheistic Communism, sometimes speak as though the economic theory of Capitalism was part of the Ten Commandments that Moses received on Mount Sinai or the Beatitudes that Jesus delivered in His Sermon on the Mount. Christianity stands above both Capitalism and Communism and is willing to accept and incorporate those parts of both systems that are compatible with its own aims. It likes the freedom and competition of Capitalism, because it reflects the laws of nature, while, at the same time, it supports the order and cooperation of Communism, because it reflects our rational nature. However, too much freedom leads to chaos, and too much order leads to a dictatorial stagnation.
The Church is neither Capitalistic nor Communistic and although it is willing to incorporate and approve elements of both systems, it is also critical of other elements. By the same token, politically it is neither democratic nor totalitarian although it can exist in either system. In other words, the Church is a system unto itself that has goals and objectives of its own and it is able and willing to exist and thrive in any system that allows it to pursue its own vision.
However, its ultimate vision is the freedom and dignity of every human being and, although it will temporarily tolerate totalitarian systems so long as they respect the human dignity of their members and work towards their development as human beings, its ultimate goal is to create an environment in which the individual takes personal responsibility for his own life. Thus, it seeks to eventually bring every human beings to full maturity by leading them from “other control”, which is necessary when we are young and immature, to “self control”, which is the true sign of adulthood. In other words, the Church’s role is to lead us from the “law” of the Old Testament where behavior is controlled through the promise of reward or the threat of punishment, to the “spirit” of the New Testament where rational understanding takes the place of external compulsion. When this happens, then we and the world will see the fulfillment of God’s plan when, as the Scriptures say, He will write His laws on our heart and no longer will we have to ask or be instructed in right behavior because our “hearts of stones” will be replaced by “hearts of flesh” and we will know the Will of God just as we know ourselves. To put this in the imagery of the Medieval philosophers, the blind giant or Will, which was made to seek “the Good”, will join with the seeing but powerless Intellect, which was made to seek “the True”, and together they will lead us to the “Truly Good”, which is just another name for God.
Thus, sooner or later, it is freedom and self-determination that the Church seeks for everyone and, to that extent, the free economy of Capitalism is more to its liking than the controlled economy of Communism. Not because Capitalism contains a higher morality, because, of itself, Capitalism has no morality other than the values of those whose choices it reflects. Capitalism, like God, gives each of us the freedom to move reality according to the dictates of our hearts and thus it is a true reflection of our values or lack of them. God, like Communism, could have eliminated sin and all the chaos that results from it, simply by removing “free choice.” He could have had created a controlled universe that only reflected His will, just as Communism has a controlled economy that only reflects the will of the leaders. But to do so would have violated His nature because, if as the scriptures say “God is Love” then love by its very nature requires “free choice.” “Forced love” is a contradiction in terms.
Thus, as an agent of this God, the Church’s ultimate goal is to lead us to freedom. But it is the responsible freedom of the Gospel, not the hedonistic, irresponsible license that we see today. The human heart wants to be free but, at the same time, it needs to have order because it can’t live in chaos. And that is why historians, like Will Durant, say that when “freedom destroys order, the need for order will destroy freedom.” History has shown that when freedom become license, such as it did in the French Revolution during the Reign of Terror, the human heart will seek a dictator to bring things back into order.
Thus, we have a dialectical dilemma because we have two conflicting needs. The creative artistic right lobe wants freedom to follow its creative impulses and the logical, legalistic left lobe wants the structure and order that is necessary for social living. When the right lobe and its quest for freedom goes too far, it results in chaos. When the left lobe and its quest for order goes too far it results in dictatorship. In fact, the root for the word “dictator” is the same as the one for “dictation”, which means ‘to speak” and it is the left lobe of the brain which is the source of language, law, and structure.
Thus, the freedom of “no control” is a false and self-defeating freedom because it leads to the “chaos” that results in a “self imposed” dictatorship in which we turn over the responsibility for our lives to someone else. Therefore, the only type of freedom that is compatible with our total nature is the self-control that results from moral maturity, rather than the enforced control that comes from totalitarian systems, such as Communism. Thus, the “other control”, which is necessary in childhood and chaotic conditions, should be only a passing phase on our way to real freedom and self-determination.
Unfortunately, this was not always clearly understood by those who directed the Church and instead of being “leaven in the dough” working towards the ultimate responsible freedom of everyone, some church leaders thought that their job was to support the “status quo” under the banner of “law and order.” I have already made reference to this concerning the situations which brought on the French Revolution where the Church became identified with the existing system and the conditions in some Latin American countries where Communism has flourished because the Church leaders became too identified with the ruling class and forgot their role as “Gentle Revolutionaries” who were obligated to remind the well-off members of their flock of their obligation to be concerned with the issue of “social justice”, especially as it pertained to their less fortunate brothers and sisters in Christ.
However, whenever the Church has been true to its calling, it has been a champion for the freedom and dignity of every person and, whenever it has failed to do this, it has strayed from the path that Christ set for it. And that is why, the Church, like other dynamic systems, has a history of adjustment and readjustment through a dialectical process. Sometimes it was “too heavenly-minded to be of any earthly good” and, at other times, “it was too worldly-minded to be of any heavenly good.” It was at its best when “it prayed like everything depended on God and worked like everything depended on it.”
Its history is one of “repentance and reform” as God inspired saints of different temperament to address the excesses of the times and to set it on the right path by bring it back into balance. Thus, its over-all thrust has always been towards the ultimate freedom of every person through the recognition of his basic dignity as a being “made in the image and likeness of God.” And since Jesus had come to “set us free” , freedom was the ultimate goal of salvation.
I’ll have more to say on this but I see that my time is up.