As we go through the Communist Manifesto together, a great number of things to say present themselves. We might ask, foremost, is the "chair" system of musical ranking akin to the "class" system of social ranking, and, of equal importance, are "conductors" conducive, terminologically-wise, to "bourgeois" or, dare we ask, "capitalists"? The jarring nomenclature is evident, the author in the instant case duly apologetic, and the confusion warranted.
In such a morass we discover the first element of the Manifesto's intrinsically crippling problems: the crass and presumptuous generalizations; the question-begging; the appeal to the rudest elements of human desire to lash out at something immediately understandable as an enemy. To whit, "conductors" and "first chairs" and the like overlap in the aforelinked satires in so nonsensical a fashion because, in Marx' original prose, blame is distributed just as ephemerally and just as specifically, time by time: sometimes, the bourgeois are heartless aggressors, completely responsible for the tiniest iota of wrongdoing in the most neglected corner of the world; others, they are purely victims of nigh-geological forces of inevitable economic historicity beyond their pitifully circumscribed levels of control. In one sentence, Marx curse the bourgeois as the greedy, self-cognizantly malevolent puppetmasters of world-historical forces that enslave mankind, while in another, he laments the descent forced upon them by capitalists, while in still another, he laments the grip of disembodied capitalism itself, whose face--like those of the enemies of Stalin--can be anyone's face, at any time, whenever one's Tokarev or loins should call for it.
Indeed, all of the works of Marx spring from this multifaceted, impossible slough of vague accusations. Who are the bastards, we ask? Is it the second-chair violin who sneers at the third- and fourth-? Is it the director of string instruction, the conductor himself, or the snobby attendee in the audience, whose vulgar demands for a fine performance cause the very frictions that turn those hapless workingmen against one another? Or, still more nefariously, is it the orchestra director, the board of the musical foundation, the majority of the said board (against whom the minority votes in futile, yet heroic, protest), or the wealthy donors who must be petted and pampered into supporting the board's activities and, thereby, the orchestra? For if it's the one, you may excuse the others as her victims, whereas if it's all of them, there is no one whom we should be beheading--or, conversely, no one who should escape the guillotine.
The vicissitudes of collective punishment have been demonstrated quite suitably since well before Robespierre, but in 1848, Marx strove to draw upon the bitterest calls to action against both No One In Particular and Everyone In Particular, as well as that omnipresent bugbear, Arch Bourgeois, who is identifiable not necessarily by his or her success (unless the commissariat should feel differently). Deluded lovers of Marx will protest that, yes, Arch Bourgeois and her hundred friends does in fact dine on a nightly stew of babies; yet, hardened jihadists, also, do exist, and still do not merit the Enola Gay's visit to Cairo.
Ironic that, when the so-called Marxists would now resist the emplacement of machine-gun posts in Turkey, to gun down the potentially-jihadist invaders of Europe, while Marx' genetic legacy has begun to suggest the closing of borders and the placing of collective blame. Put aside that irony, though, ye lovers of Karl and Friedrich, and consider again that there are indeed many nasty Arch Bourgeois, but their just verbal comeuppance does not, by any means, justify the adoption of any of the lampooning author's other associated remedies. Collective punishment is only the sharpest edge of collectivism: the temptation to crucify the petit-bourgeois as a Carnegial effigy leads you on nothing more than an unjust witch-hunt, an actualized parody of Bane. For, if you punish small shopkeepers who are actually just frugal laborers, you're nothing more than an exploiting venture capitalist yourself, even as Marx describes it. This is the twisted foundation upon which Marx builds his plans for the destruction of Europe, blaming everyone and no one while calling for the harshest possible action against anyone who might, at any given time, be committing that era's preferred thoughtcrime.
Of ready allies against this tide, we have of course many. Most intimately acquainted against the grander scale of Marx' international brutalities is, perhaps, Dickens, whose Hard Times parables the cruel errors of the anti-workingman agitator, but more importantly, whose Tale of Two Cities knits together an appropriate warning of the madness inherent in such a sustained blend of directionless, intensely focused worldly judgment. Dickens' own description of capitalism, and the specifics of the industrial exploitation of actual firsthand working class members (and homeless- and starvation-class members as well), is both more vivid, and more accurate--fiscally and genetically--than Marx ever permitted to be told via his sweeping generalities and calls to violence. Alongside Dickens, Marx' diagnoses, as well as prescriptions, are contrasted for still more embarrassing exposure than they manage on their own. Marx makes himself a hypocrite, even in the earliest chapters of his Manifesto, by specifically lamenting how faceless bourgeois--or perhaps capitalists, or perhaps world history, or perhaps industrialism, et cetera--have damaged the sacred nature of the family. That, we have already seen in our banal satires via pretend orchestras.
The Marxist hypocrisy shines through later, though, as we shall see when the pitiably cobbled-together forays into the Manifesto and Das Kapital continue, for Marx will then proceed to ravage the notion of "family" itself, proving either that he is a dundering idiot, or that he is a lying hypocrite who never actually believed in the thing whose destruction (by "capitalists," he prophetically claims) he pretends to lament with crocodile tears in his Prologue. Marx would rouse the low-income rabble to his banner by telling them that the capitalists are destroying the family, then channel that energy into a movement which tells them that the family was never worthwhile anyway, and should be dissolved in favor of a marriage to the communist state. Even those of us who believe in such a substitution must take note of the blatant guile with which Marx tells his lie at the beginning, then redirects the defensive instincts later. Truly, Marx is a Straussian, for he knows better than the proletariat what the proletariat wants: it is his honorable duty to tell them he will preserve their families by leading them to create a state which will negate their families. If you are one of the conflicted many who abhor Strauss while cherishing fond memories of Marxist resistance, you have a weighty dissonance through which to wade.
Like expatriated men on a young German vagina, less serious nonsensicalities cluster about the rest of Marx' work. He claims that, for the first time ever, relationships between people have been reduced to financial transactions because industrialism. Cute, but there were serfs before 1848--what kind of colossal idiot and/or astounding liar would claim that the substitution of money or resources for companionship was novel, centuries after the New World had been searched for gold? The good Samaritan had helped the man on the road to Jericho? Cain had slain Abel? Perhaps Marx was a sympathizer with the American Confederacy, who believed that the Negroes were better off under their masters' care than free? Unlikely. A more accurate assessment would be that Marx was trying to use the proles' own short historical memories against them, employing a technique that some might say is typically Chosen--namely, by pretending in his propaganda that, for the first time ever, many human relationships had become characterized by economic transactions.
Hilariously, as well as tragically, we see this same pattern repeated so often. When George H.W. Bush wanted to sell a repackaged New World Order and endless terror wars to Americans, he pretended that Iraq v. Kuwait had come out of left field, just as Marx did with the idea that parents and children, husbands and wives, might need one another's economic input in order to sustain joint households. The Manifesto is really just another superhero sequel, repackaged for a fresh generation of proles, selling a mix of focus-grouped tropes and name-dropping plenty of the hottest smartphone slang. The fact that there's occasionally a good fight scene, or that Dr. Doom's moonbase has some really cool CG, is immaterial to whether or not all or most of the philosophy is beneficial or even coherent.
But that's something we'll discover as we continue. For now, the opening sections of the Manifesto should be recalled as a mess of generalized accusations against anyone, no one, everything, and nothing, the broad swathe of which include some actual do-badders in their mix. Like an indiscriminate bomb thrown into a crowded street, we may eventually learn that the utility of a few correct victims is outweighed by not only the incorrect ones, but also the misdirection that got us there. We should remember also that the Manifesto's opening includes great emotional appeals to the ancestral honor of things that, we shall later learn, are called valueless. Unlike the proletarian targets who gobble up Hollywood, it is our memories of the beginnings of the Manifesto that will allow us to remember, many books and pages later, that Oceania has not always been at war with Eastasia.
Harpsichordists of the world, unite.