A Manifesto on the “Manifesto”

I knew the time would come. America’s public schools and ideologically monolithic universities have spawned a generation woefully uninformed in the most elementary facts about free markets, socialism, and communism. Personally, after teaching this material for years, I’m getting an inordinate number of questions about communism in particular, as that word is bandied about like crazy—the result of America’s decisive lurch leftward since the election of November 2008.

There’s so much to say, especially about communism in practice, where the story is unprecedented misery: a death toll of 100-140 million human beings since 1917. That’s twice the combined corpses of WWI and WWII.

But what about communism as a theory?

We constantly hear the claim: Communism in theory is not as bad as communism in practice. If you read Marx, you’ll see that communism promotes sharing, equality, love of man.

In truth, this is arrant nonsense. When I hear it, I know the person has never read Marx’s Communist Manifesto, a plainly awful book, packed with hatred and, frankly, stupidity. But rather than just say this, I thought I’d attempt a public service by laying out key facts on the Communist Manifesto—another teachable moment. So, here we go:

First off, Marx’s Manifesto is very brief and inexpensive, leaving no excuse for someone with a strong opinion to not read it. Originally published in 1848, there are several recent editions, small enough to fit in your pocket. Most have decent introductions by some recognized authority. Here, I’ll refer to a 1998 edition by Penguin’s Signet Classics ($5.95), with an introduction by the outstanding scholar, Martin Malia, a Harvard Ph.D. and UC-Berkeley professor. This edition contains several earlier prefaces, with the actual Manifesto covering 42 pages.

Marx’s writing was painfully ambiguous, though certain identifiable elements emerge, from his revulsion of religion to disgust of traditional morality and the family. (Click here for my 2007 lecture on the communist war on religion.) Yet, Marx’s common thread, which we need to remember, was his contempt for private property. On page 67, he emphasized something all Americans should know, particularly students suffering the perverse professor who somehow admires communism. Stated Marx: “the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.”

That’s the essence of communism, which Marx returned to repeatedly, including in the final paragraph of the Manifesto.

Of course, on this point, a first grader—let alone a grown adult—ought to immediately recognize that Marxism can’t work. Abolishing private property is completely contrary to human nature, violating the most innate precepts of all peoples, from the cave to the courthouse. It shatters Judeo-Christian thinking, Western philosophy, the ancient and modern worlds, Cicero, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Locke, Jefferson, Old Testament, New Testament, Moses, Jesus, you name it. Only a fool would not instantly, intuitively realize that implementing this vision would generate mass bloodshed.

This is why, I imagine, most Marxist professors dare not have students read the Communist Manifesto.

In another illuminating section (page 75), Marx interrupted his meandering sophistries with a 10-point program of specific policy recommendations. I’m not going to shy from stating the obvious: Marx’s list is chillingly similar—in some respects, certainly not all—to what to what the American left has pushed for decades, from progressive income taxes, to inheritance taxes, to centralization and nationalization. Here they are, in direct quotation:

  1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
  2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
  3. Abolition of all right of inheritance.
  4. Confiscation of all property of emigrants and rebels.
  5. Centralization of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.
  6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state.
  7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
  8. Equal obligation of all to work….
  9. … gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equitable distribution of the population over the country.
  10. Free education for all children in public schools….

That’s what the Communist Manifesto really says, and, worse, desired for not one country but the whole world (page 91). It’s a prescription for despotism, as Marx himself conceded, prefacing his 10 points: “Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads.”

Marxism wasn’t hijacked by despots; Marxism demanded despots.

Communism is not a good idea, in theory or practice, and likewise for its ugly stepsister: socialism. Both are about statism, collectivism, redistribution, nationalization, appropriation, excessive taxation, the inane assertion that public services are “free” services, and, overall, government control. They—along with modern progressivism—differ in degree.

Americans must understand this. They must in order to know what not to support, and, most important, who not to vote for.

Dr. Paul Kengor


Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values. His books include “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism” and “Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.”

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  • fishman

    It’s probably a product of my public education but I have to ask in all sincerity.
    Aren’t monasteries basically small working communist groups? focused and formed by religious principles?

    It seems the idea of the abolition of personal property is utterly unworkable and sinful if it is forced, but there is some good in the idea if it is accomplished though wholly voluntary means. Am I off base here?

  • fishman,

    Monasteries are like that but the important difference is, monks (and friars, and members of other religious societies) voluntarily take a vow of poverty. The vow means giving up personal possessions, bringing nothing of one’s own into the monastery, and renouncing future ownership of property. They can do this because they are giving their lives to God. I think this is a radically different vision from what Marx proposed.


  • Anthony has it EXACTLY right. A collective society can work if it is a) small, and b) voluntary.

    The reason it has to be small is because that is the only way you can get everybody’s participation in choosing direction, methods, and goals. The larger the group, the more likely that some minority will be left out or overruled, and grow in resentment.

    The reason it has to be voluntary is forcing people to do things against their will is contrary to the Seventh and quite likely the Fifth commandments.

    Any government is neither small nor voluntary. Any government will have minorities whose wishes are discounted. All laws will be enforced at gunpoint when necessary (see http://arkanabar.tripod.com/rogis.html ). You don’t get to decide whether the local government has authority over you. You don’t get to opt out of obeying the law. And maybe you can leave one government, but you will wind up with another.

    THAT is the basis of difference between a workable and voluntary collective society, and a collectivist government, whether communist, socialist, fascist, or welfare-statist.