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The Communist Manifesto, 170 Years Later

Samir Amin

Egyptian economist Samir Amin on the the current Eurocrisis at this years Subversive Festival in Zagreb (July 9, 2012).

Samir Amin (1931–2018) was director of the Third World Forum in Dakar, Senegal, and the author of many books, most recently Modern Imperialism, Monopoly Finance Capitalism, and Marx’s Law of Value (Monthly Review Press, 2018).

This essay was the last sent to Monthly Review by Samir Amin before his death. He requested that we delay publication until it had first appeared in Sociološki pregled, which has now occurred.


There is no other text written in the mid-nineteenth century that has held up as well as the Communist Manifesto of 1848 by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Even today, entire paragraphs of the text correspond to contemporary reality better than they did to that of 1848. Starting from premises that were hardly visible in their era, Marx and Engels drew the conclusions that the developments of 170 years of history fully verified.

Were Marx and Engels inspired prophets, magicians able to gaze into a crystal ball, exceptional beings with respect to their intuition? No. They simply understood better than anybody else, in their time and ours, the essence of that which defines and characterizes capitalism. Marx devoted his entire life to deepening this analysis through the twofold examination of the new economy, beginning with the example of England, and the new politics, starting from the example of France.1

Marx’s Capital presents a rigorous scientific analysis of the capitalist mode of production and capitalist society, and how they differ from earlier forms. Volume 1 delves into the heart of the problem. It directly clarifies the meaning of the generalization of commodity exchanges between private-property owners (a phenomenon that in its centrality is unique to the modern world of capitalism, though commodity exchanges existed earlier), specifically the emergence and dominance of value and abstract social labor. From that foundation, Marx leads us to understand how the proletarian’s sale of his or her labor power to the “man with money” ensures the production of surplus value that the capitalist expropriates, and which, in turn, is the condition for the accumulation of capital. The dominance of value governs not only the reproduction of the economic system of capitalism, but also every aspect of modern social and political life. The concept of commodity alienation points to the ideological mechanism through which the overall unity of social reproduction is expressed.

These intellectual and political instruments, validated by the development of Marxism, demonstrated their worth in correctly predicting the general historical evolution of capitalist reality. No attempt to think about this reality outside of Marxism—or often against it—has led to comparable results. Marx’s criticisms of the limitations of bourgeois thought, and in particular of its economic science, which he rightly described as “vulgar,” is masterful. Since it is incapable of understanding what capitalism is in its essential reality, this alienated thought is also unable to imagine where capitalist societies are going. Will the future be forged by socialist revolutions that will put an end to the domination of capital? Or will capitalism succeed in prolonging its days, thus opening the way to the decadence of society? Bourgeois thought ignores this question, posed by the Manifesto.

Indeed, we read in the Manifesto that there is “a fight that each time ended either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.”2

This sentence has attracted my attention for a long time. Starting from it, I have progressively come to formulate a reading of the movement of history focused on the concept of unequal development and the possible different processes for its transformation, originating most probably from its peripheries rather than its centers. I also made some attempts to clarify each of the two models of response to the challenge: the revolutionary way and the way of decadence.3

Choosing to derive the laws of historical materialism from the universal experience, I have proposed an alternative formulation of one unique pre-capitalist mode, that is, the tributary mode, toward which all class societies tend. The history of the West—the construction of Roman antiquity, its disintegration, the establishment of feudal Europe, and, finally, the crystallization of absolutist states of the mercantilist era—thus expresses, in a particular form, the same basic tendency presented elsewhere toward the less discontinuous construction of complete, tributary states, of which China is the strongest example. The slave mode is not universal in our reading of history, as are the tributary and capitalist modes; it is particular and appears strictly in connection to the extension of commodity relations. Furthermore, the feudal mode is the primitive, incomplete form of the tributary mode.

This hypothesis views the establishment and subsequent disintegration of Rome as a premature attempt at tributary construction. The level of development of the productive forces did not require tributary centralization on the scale of the Roman Empire. This first unavailing attempt was thus followed by a forced transition through feudal fragmentation, on the basis of which centralization was once again restored within the framework of the absolutist monarchies of the West. Only then did the mode of production in the West approach the complete tributary model. It was, furthermore, only beginning with this stage that the level of development of the productive forces in the West attained that of the complete tributary mode of imperial China; this is doubtless no coincidence.

The backwardness of the West, expressed by the abortion of Rome and by feudal fragmentation, certainly gave it its historic advantage. Indeed, the combination of specific elements of the ancient tributary mode and of barbarian communal modes characterized feudalism and gave the West its flexibility. This explains the speed with which Europe experienced the complete tributary phase, quickly surpassing the level of development of the productive forces of the East, which it overtook, and passed on to capitalism. This flexibility and speed contrasted with the relatively rigid and slow evolution of the complete tributary modes of the Orient.

Doubtless the Roman-Western case is not the only example of an abortive tributary construction. We can identify at least three other cases of this type, each with its own specific conditions: the Byzantine-Arab-Ottoman case, the Indian case, and the Mongol case. In each of these instances, attempts to install tributary systems of centralization were too far ahead of the requirements of the development of the productive forces to be firmly established. In each case, the forms of centralization were probably specific combinations of state, para-feudal, and commodity means. In the Islamic state, for instance, commodity centralization played the decisive role. Successive Indian failures must be related to the contents of Hindu ideology, which I have contrasted with Confucianism. As to the centralization of the empire of Genghis Khan, it was, as we know, extremely short-lived.

The contemporary imperialist system is also a system of centralization of surplus on the world scale. This centralization operated on the basis of the fundamental laws of the capitalist mode and the conditions of its domination over the pre-capitalist modes of the subject periphery. I have formulated the law of the accumulation of capital on the world scale as an expression of the law of value operating on this scale. The imperialist system for the centralization of value is characterized by the acceleration of accumulation and by the development of the productive forces in the center of the system, while in the periphery they are held back and deformed. Development and underdevelopment are two sides of the same coin.

Only people make their own history. Neither animals nor inanimate objects control their own evolution; they are subject to it. The concept of praxis is proper to society, as an expression of the synthesis of determinism and human intervention. The dialectic relation of infrastructure and superstructure is also proper to society and has no equivalent in nature. This relation is not unilateral. The superstructure is not the reflection of the needs of the infrastructure. If this was the case, society would always be alienated and it would not be possible to see how it could succeed in liberating itself.

This is the reason why we propose to differentiate two qualitatively different types of transition from one mode of production to another. If this transition develops in unconsciousness, or with alienated consciousness, that is, if the ideology that influences classes does not allow them to control the process of change, this process appears as if it operates analogously to natural change, with ideology becoming part of this nature. For this type of transition we reserve the expression “model of decadence.” In contrast, if the ideology captures the real dimension of the desired changes in their totality, only then can we speak of revolution.

Bourgeois thought has to ignore this question in order to be able to think of capitalism as a rational system for all of eternity, to be able to think of “the end of history.”


Marx and Engels, on the contrary, strongly suggest, from the time of the Manifesto, that capitalism constitutes only a brief parenthesis in the history of humanity. However, the capitalist mode of production in their time did not extend beyond England, Belgium, a small region of northern France, or the western part of the Prussian Westphalia. Nothing comparable existed in other regions of Europe. In spite of this, Marx already imagined that socialist revolutions would happen in Europe “soon.” This expectation is evident in each line of the Manifesto.

Marx did not know, of course, in which country the revolution would begin. Would it be England, the only country already advanced in capitalism? No. Marx did not think this was possible except if the English proletariat emancipated itself from its support of the colonization of Ireland. Would it be France, less advanced in terms of its capitalist development, but more advanced in terms of the political maturity of its people, inherited from its great revolution? Maybe, and the Paris Commune of 1871 confirmed his intuition. For the same reason, Engels expected much from “backward” Germany: the proletarian revolution and the bourgeois revolution could here collide together. In the Manifesto, they note this connection:

The Communists turn their attention chiefly to Germany, because that country is on the eve of a bourgeois revolution that is bound to be carried out under more advanced conditions of European civilization and with a more developed proletariat than existed in England in the seventeenth, and in France in the eighteenth century, and because the bourgeois revolution in Germany will be but the prelude to an immediately following proletarian revolution.4

This did not happen: the unification under the world-historic crook (Bismarck) of reactionary Prussia, and the cowardice and political mediocrity of the German bourgeoisie permitted nationalism to triumph and marginalized popular revolt. Toward the end of his life, Marx turned his glance in the direction of Russia, which he expected could engage in a revolutionary path, as his correspondence with Vera Zasulich testifies.

Marx thus did have the intuition that the revolutionary transformation could begin from the periphery of the system—the “weak links,” in the later language of Lenin. Marx, however, did not draw in his time all the conclusions that imposed themselves in this respect. It was necessary to wait for history to advance into the twentieth century in order to see, with V. I. Lenin and Mao Zedong, the communists becoming able to imagine a new strategy, qualified as “the construction of socialism in one country.” This is an inappropriate expression, to which I prefer a long paraphrase: “Unequal advances on the long path of the socialist transition, localized in some countries, against which the strategy of the dominant imperialism is to fight continuously and seek to severely isolate.”

The debate pertaining to the long historic transition to socialism in the direction of communism, and the universal scope of this movement, poses a series of questions concerning the transformation of the proletariat from a class in itself to a class for itself, the conditions and effects of capitalist globalization, the place of the peasantry in the long transition, and the diversity of expressions of anti-capitalist thought.


Marx, more than anyone, understood that capitalism had the mission of conquering the world. He wrote about it at a time when this conquest was far from being completed. He considered this mission from its origins, the discovery of the Americas, which inaugurated the transition of the three centuries of mercantilism to the final full-fledged form of capitalism.

As he wrote in the Manifesto, “Modern industry has established the world-market, for which the discovery of America paved the way…The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world-market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country.”5

Marx welcomed this globalization, the new phenomenon in the history of humanity. Numerous passages in the Manifesto testify to this. For example: “The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations.”6 As well as: “The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns…and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy [isolation—Ed.] of rural life. Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilized ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West.”7

The words are clear. Marx was never past oriented, regretting the good old days. He always expressed a modern point of view, to the point of appearing as a Eurocentrist. He went a long way in this direction. Yet was not the barbarization of urban labor as stultifying for the proletarians? Marx did not ignore the urban poverty that had accompanied capitalist expansion.

Did the Marx of the Manifesto measure correctly the political consequences of the destruction of the peasantry in Europe itself and, even more, in the colonized countries? I return to these questions in direct relation to the unequal character of the worldwide deployment of capitalism.

Marx and Engels, in the Manifesto, still do not know that the worldwide deployment of capitalism is not the homogenizing one that they imagine, that is, giving to the conquered East its chance to get out of the deadlock in which its history has closed it and to become, in accordance with the image of the Western countries, “civilized” nations or industrialized countries. A few texts of Marx present the colonization of India in a consoling light. But Marx later changed his mind. These allusions, rather than constituting a systematically elaborated argumentation, witness the destructive effects of the colonial conquest. Marx gradually becomes aware of what I call unequal development, in other words, the systematic construction of the contrast between the dominant centers and dominated peripheries, and, with it, the impossibility of “catching up” within the framework of capitalist globalization (imperialistic by its nature) with the tools of capitalism.

In that respect, if it were possible to “catch up” within capitalist globalization, no political, social, or ideological force would be able to oppose this successfully.

With respect to the question of the “opening” of China, in the Manifesto Marx says that “the cheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate.”8

We know that this was not how this opening operated: it was the canons of the British navy that “opened” China. Chinese products were often more competitive than Western ones. We know also that it was not more advanced English industry that permitted the successful domination of India (again, Indian textiles were of better quality than English ones). On the contrary, it was the domination of India (and the organized destruction of Indian industries) that gave Great Britain its hegemonic position in the capitalist system of the nineteenth century.

However, an older Marx learned how to abandon the Eurocentrism of his youth. Marx knew how to change his views, in the light of the evolution of the world.

In 1848, Marx and Engels therefore imagined the strong possibility of one or more socialist revolutions in the Europe of their time, confirming that capitalism represents only a short parenthesis in history. The facts soon proved them right. The Paris Commune of 1871 was the first socialist revolution. However, it was also the last revolution accomplished in a developed capitalist country. With the establishment of the Second International, Engels did not lose hope in new revolutionary advances, in Germany in particular. History proved him wrong. However, the treason of the Second International in 1914 should not have surprised anyone. Beyond their reformist drift, the alignment of workers’ parties in all of Europe at the time with the expansionist, colonialist, and imperialist politics of their bourgeoisies indicated that there was not much to expect from the parties of the Second International. The front line for the transformation of the world moved toward the East, to Russia in 1917 and then to China. Certainly Marx did not predict this, but his later texts allow us to suppose that he probably would not have been surprised by the Russian Revolution.

With respect to China, Marx thought that it was a bourgeois revolution that was on the agenda. In January 1850 Marx wrote: “When our European reactionaries…finally arrive at the Great Wall of China…who knows if they will not find written thereon the legend: République chinoise, Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.”9 The Kuomintang of the 1911 revolution, of Sun Yat-sen, also imagined this, like Marx, proclaiming the (bourgeois) Republic of China. However, Sun did not succeed in either defeating the forces of the old regime whose warlords regained the territory, or in pushing away the dominance of the imperialist forces, especially Japan. The drift of the Kuomintang of Chiang Kai-shek confirmed Lenin’s and Mao’s arguments that there is no more room for an authentic bourgeois revolution; our era is the one of the socialist revolution. Just as the Russian February Revolution of 1917 did not have a future since it was not able to triumph over the old regime, calling therefore for the October Revolution, the Chinese Revolution of 1911 called for the revolution of the Maoist Communists, who were the only ones capable of answering to the expectations of liberation, simultaneously national and social.

It was thus Russia, the “weak link” of the system, that initiated the second socialist revolution after the Paris Commune. Yet the Russian October Revolution was not supported, but fought by the European workers’ movement. Rosa Luxemburg used harsh expressions for the drift of the European workers’ movements in this respect. She spoke of their failure, betrayal, and “the unripeness of the German proletariat for the fulfillment of its historic tasks.”10

I have approached this withdrawal of the working class in the developed West, in which they abandoned their revolutionary traditions, by emphasizing the devastating effects of the imperialist expansion of capitalism and the benefits that the imperial societies as a whole (and not only their bourgeoisies) drew from their dominant positions. I have therefore considered it necessary to dedicate an entire chapter in my reading of the universal importance of the October Revolution to the analysis of the development that led the European working classes to renounce their historic tasks, to use the terms of Luxemburg. I refer the reader to chapter four of my book October 1917 Revolution.


Revolutionary advances on the long road of the socialist or communist transition will therefore no doubt originate exclusively in the societies of the periphery of the world system, precisely in the countries in which an avant-garde would understand that it is not possible to “catch up” by integrating into capitalist globalization, and that for this reason something else should be done, that is, to go ahead within a transition of a socialist nature. Lenin and Mao expressed this conviction, proclaiming that our time is no longer the epoch of bourgeois revolutions but instead, from then on, the epoch of socialist revolutions.

This conclusion calls for another: socialist transitions will happen necessarily in one country, which will additionally remain fatally isolated through the counter-attack of world imperialism. There is no alternative; there will be no simultaneous world revolution. Therefore, the nations and states engaged on this road will be confronted with the double challenge: (1) resist the permanent war (hot or cold) conducted by the imperialist forces; and (2) associate successfully with the peasant majority in advancing on the new road to socialism. Neither the Manifesto, nor Marx and Engels subsequently, were in a position to say something on these questions; it is the responsibility of living Marxism to do so instead.

These reflections lead me to assess the views that Marx and Engels developed in the Manifesto concerning peasants. Marx situates himself within his time, which was still the time of bourgeois unfinished revolutions in Europe itself. In this context, the Manifesto reads: “At this stage, therefore, the proletarians do not fight their enemies, but the enemies of their enemies, the remnants of absolute monarchy, the landowners…every victory so obtained is a victory for the bourgeoisie.”11

But the bourgeois revolution gave the land to the peasants, as shown particularly in the exemplary case of France. Therefore, the peasantry in its great majority becomes the ally of the bourgeoisie within the camp of the defenders of the sacred character of private property and becomes the adversary of the proletariat.

However, the transfer of the center of gravity of the socialist transformation of the world, emigrating from dominant imperialist centers to dominated peripheries, radically modifies the peasant question. Revolutionary advances become possible in the conditions of societies that still remain, in great part, peasant, only if socialist vanguards are able to implement strategies that integrate the majority of the peasantry into the fighting block against imperialist capitalism.


Marx and Engels never believed, neither in the editing of the Manifesto nor later, in the spontaneous revolutionary potential of the working classes, since “the ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class.”12 Due to this fact, workers, like others, subscribe to the ideology of competition, a cornerstone of the functioning of capitalist society, and, hence, the “organization of the proletarians into a class, and consequently into a political party, is continually being upset again by the competition between the workers themselves.”13

Therefore the transformation of the proletariat from a class in itself into a class for itself requires the active intervention of a communist vanguard: “The Communists…are on the one hand practically the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.”14

The affirmation of the unavoidable role of the vanguards does not mean for Marx an advocacy in favor of the single party. As he writes in the Manifesto, “the Communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working-class parties.… They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement.”15

And later, in his conception of what should be a Proletarian International, Marx considered it necessary to integrate into it all the parties and currents of thought and action that benefit from a real popular and worker audience. The First International included in its membership the French Blanquists, the German Lasallians, English trade unionists, Proudhon, anarchists, Bakunin. Marx certainly did not spare his criticisms, often harsh, of many of his partners. And one might say that probably the violence of these conflictual debates is at the root of the brief life of this International. Let it be as it may. This organization nevertheless was the first school for the education of the future cadres engaged in the fight against capitalism.

Two observations lead to the question of the role of the party and the communists.

The first is related to the relationship between the communist movement and the nation. As we can read in the Manifesto: “The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got. Since the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy, must rise to be the leading class of the nation, must constitute itself the nation, it is, so far, itself national, though not in the bourgeois sense of the word.”16 And, “though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle.”17

In the capitalist world the proletarians do not share the nationalism of their country; they do not belong to that nation. The reason is that in the bourgeois world the only function of nationalism is to give legitimacy, on the one hand, to the exploitation of workers of the given country and, on the other hand, to the fight of the bourgeoisie against its foreign competitors and its fulfillment of its imperialistic ambitions. However, with the triumph of eventual socialist revolution, all would change.

The foregoing relates to the first long stages of the socialist transition in the societies of the peripheries. It also expresses respect for the necessary diversity of the roads taken. Additionally, the concept of the final objective of communism strengthens the importance of this national diversity of the proletarian nations. The Manifesto already formulated the idea that communism is built on diversity of individuals, collectives, and nations. Solidarity does not exclude but implies the free development of all. Communism is the antithesis of capitalism, which, in spite of its praise of “individualism,” produces in fact, through competition, clones formatted by the domination of capital.

In this connection I shall quote what I recently wrote in October 1917 Revolution:

The support or the rejection of national sovereignty gives rise to severe misunderstandings as long as the class content of the strategy in the frame of which it operates is not identified. The dominant social bloc in capitalist societies always conceives national sovereignty as an instrument to promote its class interests, i.e. the capitalist exploitation of home labor and simultaneously the consolidation of its position in the global system. Today, in the context of the globalized liberal system dominated by the financialized monopolies of the Triad (USA, Europe, Japan) national sovereignty is the instrument which permits ruling classes to maintain their competitive positions within the system. The government of the USA offers the clearest example of that constant practice: sovereignty is conceived as the exclusive preserve of US monopoly capital and to that effect the US national law is given priority above international law. That was also the practice of the European imperialist powers in the past and it continues to be the practice of the major European states within the European Union.18

Keeping that in mind, one understands why the national discourse in praise of the virtues of sovereignty, hiding the class interests in the service of which it operates, has always been unacceptable for all those who defend the laboring classes.

Yet we should not reduce the defense of sovereignty to that modality of bourgeois nationalism. The defense of sovereignty is no less decisive for the protection of the popular alternative on the long road to socialism. It even constitutes an inescapable condition for advances in that direction. The reason is that the global order (as well as its sub-global European order) will never be transformed from above through the collective decisions of the ruling classes. Progress in that respect is always the result of the unequal advance of struggles from one country to another. The transformation of the global system (or the subsystem of the European Union) is the product of those changes operating within the framework of the various states, which, in their turn, modify the international balance of forces between them. The nation-state remains the only framework for the deployment of the decisive struggles that ultimately transform the world.

The peoples of the peripheries of the system, which is polarizing by nature, have a long experience of positive, progressive nationalism, which is anti-imperialist, and rejects the global order imposed by the centers, and therefore is potentially anti-capitalist. I say only potentially because this nationalism may also inspire the illusion of a possible building of a national capitalist order that is able to catch up with the national capitalisms ruling the centers. In other words, nationalism in the peripheries is progressive only on the condition that it remains anti-imperialist, conflicting with the global liberal order. Any other nationalism (which in this case is only a façade) that accepts the global liberal order is the instrument of local ruling classes aiming to participate in the exploitation of their peoples and eventually of other weaker partners, operating therefore as sub-imperialist powers.

The confusion between these two antonymic concepts of national sovereignty, and therefore the rejection of any nationalism, annihilates the possibility of moving out of the global liberal order. Unfortunately, the left—in Europe and elsewhere—often falls prey to such confusion.

The second point concerns the segmentation of the working classes, in spite of the simplification of the society connected with the advancement of capitalism, evoked in the Manifesto: “Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinctive feature; it has simplified the class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.”19

This double movement—of the generalization of the proletarian position and simultaneously the segmentation of the world of workers—is today considerably more visible than it was in 1848, when it was barely appearing.

We have witnessed during the prolonged twentieth century, up to our days, a generalization without precedent of the proletarian condition. Today, in the capitalist centers, almost the totality of the population is reduced to the status of employees selling their labor power. And, in the peripheries, the peasants are integrated more than ever before into commercial nets that have annihilated their status as independent producers, making them dominated subcontractors, reduced in fact to the status of sellers of their labor power.

This movement is associated with the pauperization processes: the individual “becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth.”20 This pauperization thesis, retaken and amplified in Capital, was the object of sarcastic critiques by the vulgar economists. And still, at the level of the world capitalist system—the only level that gives the full scope to the analysis of the reality—this pauperization is considerably more visible and real than Marx imagined. Yet, parallel to this, capitalist forces have succeeded in weakening the danger that generalized proletarianization represents by implementing systematic strategies aimed at segmenting the working classes on all levels, nationally and internationally.


The third section of the Manifesto, entitled “Socialist and Communist Literature,” could appear to a contemporary reader to belong truly to the past. Marx and Engels offer us here commentaries concerning historical subjects and their intellectual production that belong to their time. Long forgotten, these questions seem today to be the concern exclusively of archivists.

However, I am struck by the persistent analogies with more recent, in fact contemporary, movements and discourses. Marx denounces reformists of all forms, who had understood nothing of the logics of capitalist deployment. Have these disappeared from the scene? Marx denounced the lies of those who condemn the wrongdoings of capitalism, but nevertheless, “in political practice…they join in all coercive measures against the working-class.”21 Are the fascists of the twentieth century and of today, or the allegedly religious movements (the Muslim Brothers, the fanatics of Hinduism and Buddhism), any different?

Marx’s criticisms of the competitors of Marxism and their ideologies, as well as his efforts to identify the social milieus for which they are spokespeople, does not imply that for Marx, and for us, authentic anti-capitalist movements should not be necessarily diversified in their sources of inspiration. I point the reader to some of my recent writings on this subject, conceived from the perspective of the reconstruction of a new International as a condition for the efficacy of the popular struggles and visions of the future.22


I shall conclude with words that follow my reading of the Manifesto.

The Manifesto is the hymn to the glory of capitalist modernity, of the dynamism which it inspires, having no parallel during the long history of civilization. But it is at the same time the swan song of this system, whose own movement is nothing more than a generation of chaos, as Marx always understood and reminded us. The historical rationality of capitalism does not extend beyond its production in a brief time of all the conditions—material, political, ideological, and moral—that will lead to its supersession.

I have always shared that point of view, which I believe to be that of Marx, from the Manifesto to the first epoch of the Second International lived by Engels. The analyses that I have proposed concern the long ripening of capitalism—ten centuries—and the contributions of the different regions of the world to this maturation (China, the Islamic East, Italian cities, and finally Atlantic Europe), its short zenith (the nineteenth century), and finally its long decline that manifests itself through two long systemic crises (the first from 1890 to 1945, the second from 1975 to our days). These analyses have the objective of deepening that which was in Marx only an intuition.23 This vision of the place of capitalism in history was abandoned by the reformist currents within Marxism of the Second International and then developed outside of Marxism. It was replaced by a vision according to which capitalism will have accomplished its task only when it will have succeeded in homogenizing the planet according to the model of its developed centers. Against this persistent vision of the globalized development of capitalism, which is simply unrealistic since capitalism is in its nature polarizing, we put forward the vision of the transformation of the world through revolutionary processes—breaking with the submission to the deadly vicissitudes of the decadence of civilization.


  1. I wrote about this subject in chapter three of my book October 1917 Revolution: A Century Later (Montreal: Daraja, 2017).
  2. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1998), 2.
  3. I have further written about this question in the conclusion of my book Class and Nation (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1980).
  4. Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 61–62.
  5. Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 4–8.
  6. Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 5.
  7. Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 9. Editors’s Note: “Idiocy” is a mistranslation, since in classical Greek Idiotes referred to isolation from the polis, a meaning carried over in the German—a fact recognized in several translations of the Manifesto. See Hal Draper, The Adventures of the Communist Manifesto (Berkeley: Center for Socialist History, 1998), 211.
  8. Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 9.
  9. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, On Colonialism (New York: International Publishers, 1972), 18.
  10. Rosa Luxemburg, The Russian Revolution, 1918, available at
  11. Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 17.
  12. Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 37.
  13. Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 18–19.
  14. Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 25–26.
  15. Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 25.
  16. Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 35–36.
  17. Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 22.
  18. Amin, October 1917, 83–85. I have discussed this question specific to Europe in chapter four of my book The Implosion of Contemporary Capitalism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2013).
  19. Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 3.
  20. Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 23.
  21. Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 44.
  22. See “Unité et Diversité des Mouvements Populaires au Socialisme” in the book Egypte, Nassérisme et Communisme; and “L’Indispensable Reconstruction de l’Internationale des Travailleurs et des Peuples,” in Investig’Action blog,
  23. See Samir Amin, The Implosion of Contemporary Capitalism.
2018, Volume 70, Issue 05 (October 2018)
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