The Puzzle of the Manifesto of the Communist Party
This chapter addresses the inescapable fact that, 170 years after its publication, the working-class revolution called for in The Communist Manifesto has not occurred in any developed capitalist society. It is argued, however, that neither its class analysis of capitalist society nor its idea of revolutionary transformation through the struggle of the working class should be seen to be fundamentally incorrect. The most obvious error in the Manifesto lies in the historical position it claimed for itself in relation to a revolution to end capitalist society. Though holding that this revolution would emerge from contradictions inherent in capitalist society itself—famously asserting that it produces its own gravediggers—it is obvious in retrospect that capitalism was barely developed even in England in 1848, and as yet hardly established anywhere else in Europe. Marx was profoundly ahead of his time, but also mistaken with respect to more than timing. He did perceive the nature of capitalism when it barely had taken form even in England; but a more immediate and consequential error followed from the fundamental misunderstanding he shared with contemporaries as to the causes and nature of the French Revolution, and the politics to which it gave rise.