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I just bought an E-Book and I looked at the free books and one was The Communist Manifesto so I decided to start reading it. I just finished the first 3 parts, not sure how many parts there are but so far I like it. What do you guys think of it?

It's like trying to read the bible. I'm almost guaranteed to fall asleep when I make the effort.

Some lefty I turned out to be, I couldn't drink the Kool-aid if my life depended on it. :(

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It's like trying to read the bible. I'm almost guaranteed to fall asleep when I make the effort.

Some lefty I turned out to be, I couldn't drink the Kool-aid if my life depended on it. :(

I've tried reading the bible, I got bored of it and quit reading it early on. The Communist Manifesto is rather short read and it makes some fair points. I don't agree with it %100 or anything but it was still good.

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I just bought an E-Book and I looked at the free books and one was The Communist Manifesto so I decided to start reading it. I just finished the first 3 parts, not sure how many parts there are but so far I like it. What do you guys think of it?

It's an interesting little book that is worth the read in order to gain a better etic perspective of some of the idealist views on the form of capitalism in operation in the mid-18th century. Naturally you'll want to read 'Das Kapital' which is also in the public domain I believe.

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As I recall, it's just a rally cry to rise up and overthrow capitalism. I don't remember finding it stimulating or interesting. I tried to read Marxist theory too, but had the opposite problem with it: too much information, and I had doubts reading it, which gave me a hard time following it for some reason.

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Marx is a genius, there can be no doubt and his writings should be taken into careful consideration. Of course it's a criticism of the class system and the main point is, no matter what kind of system is put in place, no matter what the reforms, over a period of time the elite will find ways to erode the system and infiltrate it, so that it becomes advantagous to the them specifically. Therefor Marx advocated that there must be a social revolution every twenty years or so, to rout the bourgosie from their positions of power. This in his view is the only way to be sure that the system stays as fair as possible, avoiding corruption. He may be right. However it also condemns society to be in a constant state of upheaval, continuous internal pressure and threat of violence.

So one has to take a longer look. What is better for people in the long run, a system that is in a state of constant flux and upheaval, or one that is more stable, more peaceful, but has inherent problems. Either way is far from ideal.

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As I recall, it's just a rally cry to rise up and overthrow capitalism. I don't remember finding it stimulating or interesting. I tried to read Marxist theory too, but had the opposite problem with it: too much information, and I had doubts reading it, which gave me a hard time following it for some reason.

Funny thats not how I read it at all. Its more a study of history than it is a rallying cry. Its also one of the political works that has had the largest impact on the way western democracies function.

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Marx is quite interesting.

The saying goes that he turned Hegel on his head. Hegelian dialectics is the theory that history is in motion towards a goal. For Hegel, however, the driver of this is a conflict between ideas. All material existence arises out of this conflict. I'm oversimplifying of course, but the Hegelian dialectic works like this. Every thesis has an opposite anti-thesis. There is a struggle between these two ideologies that resolve in what Hegel called the synthesis. This synthesis immediately becomes a thesis and brings about it's own anti-thesis. Thesis = A. Anti-thesis = not A. I suppose the argument can be made that Occupy is a Hegelian process. Occupy is the expression of an anti-thesis to the current system that we have (It's not anti-Capitalism because we do not have unfettered Capitalism or absolute laissez-faire economy, but let's not get bogged down in this debate). History, as it were, is a struggle between ideas that resolve themselves and a new struggle begins.

Marx, however, believed that the Young Hegelians (a generation of scholars that subscribed to Hegel's ideas) were too focused on the fantasy world and not focused enough on the material existence of humanity. So, what Marx did was take Hegel's philosophy of dialectic and bring it out of the clouds and down to earth. At the heart of everything is production for Marx. We are productive creatures by nature, but conflict arises as particular groups seek to control our productive capacity. The struggle for Marx is a class struggle between those that control the means of production and those that use those means of production to create things. What drives history for Marx is this material conflict, as it relates to production. Using Hegel's terms, we can see the conflict from Marx's view like this, keeping in mind this is still oversimplified:

Thesis: Feudal Lords vs Antithesis: Serfs/Peasants

Synthesis: City life

Thesis: City life vs Antithesis: Craft Guilds

Synthesis: Entrepreneurs

Thesis: Entrepreneurs vs Anthithesis: Proletariat

Synthesis: classless society

As you can see, for Marx, society goes through different types of ownership through history: tribal ownership to ancient communal state ownership to feudal ownership... etc.

Marx believed that the perfect synthesis that would stop the process is a classless society. Without class, there can be no conflict. It is from this class struggle, however, that Marx believed all institutions in society arise. Everything from law, to government, to religion, to marriage and family are a result of this process.

Take marriage because that one seems odd. Marx saw marriage go through three stages. First was group marriage, which was, and still is in some places, common among tribes. Families are matrilineal and the entire community raises the children. Following this comes pairing marriage, where your family or tribe chooses your mate. In this stage it may be for political reasons or to bring together various tribes. Finally is monogamous marriage. These are patriarchal in nature. Marx believed we came to monogamous marriage due to the accumulation of wealth by men. In order to know who the rightful heir was to their wealth, men needed to be certain of the paternity of their children. This is not possible in matrilineal group marriages or in "pairing" marriages, which are not necessarily meant for sexual relationships. In this way, it is the material existence of man that defines the institution of marriage in society.

Anyway, Marx is interesting enough. He gives us some interesting tools for understanding various forces and processes in society. I'll leave this with a quote from part of the speech that Engels gave at Marx's graveside. I believe this nicely sums up Marx's contribution to our understanding of history and society:

"Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc.; that therefore the production of the immediate material means of subsistence and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given eopoch form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, art, and even the ideas on religion, of the people concerned have been evolved, and in the light of which they must, therefore, be explained, instead of vice versa, as had hiterto been the case."

Edited by cybercoma
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"Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc.; that therefore the production of the immediate material means of subsistence and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given eopoch form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, art, and even the ideas on religion, of the people concerned have been evolved, and in the light of which they must, therefore, be explained, instead of vice versa, as had hiterto been the case."

That statement, if true gives me hope for tomorrow. Because we have up until now existed in a society which has been primarily self serving in its materialist ambitions. Without regard for consequences or how our own level of wealth and comfort depended on the poverty of others. And if true that means that this same attitude must affect our thinking, in terms of virtue. It means, we do not care about the welfare of anyone or anything else, unless it somehow directly affects us.

And now, today, people are slowly beginning to realize life is about something more. People still want to be wealthy and confortable, yes, but they also want to know that the products we use are ethically acquired, that no one had to suffer unduly, that no creature had to suffer. Slowly but surely people are even willing to spend a little more, for products that are created in a sustainable way. Because we know, we are actually all interconnected somehow. And when we oppress another society in order to take advantage of them, to steal their right to prosperity and take it for ourselves, there would perhaps be deserving payback. It's in the symbolism within our minds, and it is a growing force. Like a mustard seed it grows.

Edited by Manny
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What is the case against communism because it sounds really good to me. I have heard some people say it failed because it had supply and demand issues but couldn't that problem be solved by using the internet and computers to track supply and demand.

It's like being in a union. There is no motivation to succeed. Eventually the infrastructure crumbles from within. The economy stagnates, and despite efforts to equalize, everything settles to the lowest common denominator. And there was still an elite class in the soviet union.

Because it is ideologically "for the good of all", the only reason anybody does anything substantial is for the state. So the state, ideologically, has to reign supreme in the minds of the people. The state is the motivation. That is why they forced atheism on the population, religion was practically outlawed. Fervent nationalism and patriotism is necessary to make it work.

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The Soviet Union was not Marxist Communism. Marxist Communism can only come about from the Proletariat themselves, not be forced on them from above. It's a historical process that will not arise until its time comes, if at all (I doubt it will come at all). In true Marxist Communism, we will be in an entirely classless society. No classes. No class conflicts. The problem with Marx is that he never outlined what that classless society would be like. He was more concerned with examining the historical changes in people's material existence. When people say Marx was wrong, that's not altogether true because he was more of a social historian than anything else. However, he did outline the process through which the classed capital society will transform into a classless communist one. It doesn't sound all that swell, but you have to consider, the guy was writing int he 1800s. Nevertheless, it's obvious that it will never happen this way:

  1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents to public purposes.

  2. Heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

  3. Abolition of all right of inheritance.

  4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

  5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.

  6. Centralisation 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 of cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

  8. Equal liability of all to labour. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

  9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equable distribution of the population over the country.

  10. Free education for all children in public schools. Aboliton of children's factory labour in its present form. Combination with industrial production, &c., &c.

When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so called, is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another. If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organise itself as a class, if, by means of revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class.

In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.

Source: Marx & Engels,
Manifesto of the Communist Party
.

As you can see from the above, this is not how it happened in so-called Communist societies around the world. Class antagonisms were never "swept away," as Marx had predicted. What I find interesting about his description of the process by which society would be changed into his classless utopia is that many capitalist societies have adopted some of the features above to avoid collapse and to create stability in order to protect the capital class. We currently have progressive taxes, a central bank, free education, laws against child labour, and an increased blending of agriculture with manufacturing. Capitalism has co-opted certain features of Communism to protect itself. It's the old Machiavellian line about the Iron Fist inside a Velvet Glove.

Edited by cybercoma
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The book was written in the context of various revolts across in Europe in 1848. In some ways, these revolts were similar to the Arab spring now ongoing in the Middle East. Marx and Engels thought these revolts were the coming proletarian revolution.

If you want good background, read Les Misérables by Victor Hugo and in particular the story of Gavroche. While Hugo depicts events in Paris in 1832 in the book, he was inspired by the revolt of 1848.

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I have never found much of value or interest in Marx. Without a clear understanding of value or interest rates, Marx's theories are incoherent. His importance is rather in what later people made of his ideas.

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I have never found much of value or interest in Marx. Without a clear understanding of value or interest rates, Marx's theories are incoherent. His importance is rather in what later people made of his ideas.

Marx understood value quite well. I'm not sure what makes you think that he didn't. His entire theoretical paradigm is based on the value of labour. Have you read Das Kapital?
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Marx understood value quite well.

No, he didn't. For 20th century economists, the idea of "value" or "worth" requires the application of calculus and, for example, marginal cost.

Marx never applied calculus to economics, he had no idea of marginal cost, and so for modern economists, Marx is at best an Aristotelian in a world of Newtonians struggling to understand Einstein.

Nowadays, economists debate the viabilty of the DSGE model. Marx is completely irrelevant - except to confused Leftists who want to be contrarians, or nationalists in Quebec. (And in either case, often balding-bearded baby-boomers.)

Edited by August1991
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Marx, of course, was not an economist. He was a historian cum sociologist.
Huh? Karl Marx considered himself to be an "economist", or the early 19th century term such as "moral philosopher".

To describe him as a "historian cum sociologist" is an admission that his ideas are less important than what people have since made of Marx or his ideas. To wit, who cares about Che Guevara? It's probably more important to understand why so many people wear his portrait on a t-shirt.

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Nevertheless, because of this thread, I went back and looked at my copy of Le Manifeste du Parti communiste (c. 1848). I even listened again to L'Internationale (c. 1880).

I realized once again that we in Canada may believe that our history is our own but in fact, we were connected to European, world events.

The Plains of Abraham (1759) were one battle in the Seven Years War. (Having seen several 18th century battlefields in Europe, ours was typical. Kubrick's Barry Lyndon portrays it well.)

The War of 1812? This was a product of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. Indeed, it is impossible to understand this war outside of the European context.

Our revolts of the late 1830s? Typical of popular revolts in Europe at the time.

Nevertheless, the US Civil War (and our subsequent Confederation) seem to be genuinely New World events. The US Civil war was a cataclysm and the BNA Act (the creation of a Dominion within the British Empire) remarkable. If anything, the Franco-Prussian War was a consequence: Europe imitated America.

Edited by August1991
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I like your aside about the interconnectedness of the New World and old in the 18th and 19th centuries. This is common knowledge amongst historians, but most people don't really consider it. The Civil War, although a "New World event," was heavily influenced by Britain. In the American Revolution and the War of 1812, the British used slave revolts to fuel the conflict and tip the tide in their favour. They offered freedom to any blacks that would fight for them against the opposing forces. Lincoln certainly was influenced by this, as the Emancipation Proclamation doesn't mention a single state in the North. Freeing the slaves was a double-edged sword, affecting the South economically, but also providing the North with African defectors that would fight against their former slaveholders. The strategy certainly wasn't unique, as it had already been used twice by the British.

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The Civil War, although a "New World event," was heavily influenced by Britain.
Huh?

The French Revolution was remarkable. Ordinary Europeans killed a monarch and took power in a State of immense importance at the time. Then, this popular French State failed with the French Restoration.

In America meanwhile...

As Lincoln said, the US Civil War was a test to see whether ordinary people could self-govern a State. In 1861, Europeans (and South Americans and Canadians) looked at America to see what would happen.

Would America - another State without a monarch based on popular will - fail as France had?

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The US Civil War was indirectly connected to the world, and slavery. But if you look carefully at its origins, Lincoln was right: The US Civil War was an American war and at its heart, it was a debate about whether a State based on people (a popular State) could exist.

Lincoln showed that a civilized, sophisticated State, managed by ordinary people, could survive. A modern Republic was possible.

The US Civil War was significant to people around the world, but it was a genuinely American dispute.

Edited by August1991
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  • 4 months later...
The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part.

The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.

Anyone that could come up with that in 1848, needs to be taken seriously.

Marx admires capitalism as much as he despises it:

It has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades.

For those who thought they discovered globalization in the mid 90s or something:

The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.

Not even Ayn Rand can praise capitalism with such ferocity:

The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground — what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?

But he also gets the low-side of it all as well:

A similar movement is going on before our own eyes. Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. For many a decade past the history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forces against modern conditions of production, against the property relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeois and of its rule. It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put the existence of the entire bourgeois society on its trial, each time more threateningly. In these crises, a great part not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity — the epidemic of over-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce. The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property. The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them. And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. That is to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented.

If this is not high-prophesy, then I don't know what is.

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Marxism requires a certain level of intelligence in order to function properly. Human beings are not intelligent enough for Marxism.

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Marxism requires a certain level of intelligence in order to function properly. Human beings are not intelligent enough for Marxism.

Sure we are. The problem is that our governments are not moral or ethical enough. We need to hold them to more rigorous standards of accountability.

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Anyone that could come up with that in 1848, needs to be taken seriously.
Many came up with the same ideas in the early 1800s: Benthamites and assorted Luddites, for example.

If Marx had an original contribution, it was "exchange value" and "social value" (and "labour value" et al). Marx wrote endless pages of endless analyses explaining these concepts. No one today refers to these terms because Marx did not understand "value". (As I posted above, Marx was an Aristotelian struggling to understand Newtonian mechanics in a universe governed by quantum mechanics and relativity.)

Marx is sometimes credited as being one of the first to wonder about the potential instabiliy of financial markets. Well, Malthus got there first (as if it were a new concept in 1810).

Heck, unlike Malthus, Marx was a contemporary of Darwin and Marx even got wrong the distinction between evolution and market prices.

For those who thought they discovered globalization in the mid 90s or something:

...

But he also gets the low-side of it all as well:

...

If this is not high-prophesy, then I don't know what is.

...

All of these quotes are typical of the early 19th century. Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens said much the same with more verve.

Sadly, dalitis, all you are showing is that modern Leftists have not moved on. They still use the anti-market verbiage of people 200 years ago. In a world of the Internet and the 747, these modern Leftists still argue against free trade.

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Many movies were made in the 1920s. And many books/pamplets were published in the 1840s.

I often wonder: why do people today watch a particular movie, or read a particular book, from the past.

Edited by August1991
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Many came up with the same ideas in the early 1800s: Benthamites and assorted Luddites, for example.

If Marx had an original contribution, it was "exchange value" and "social value" (and "labour value" et al). Marx wrote endless pages of endless analyses explaining these concepts. No one today refers to these terms because Marx did not understand "value". (As I posted above, Marx was an Aristotelian struggling to understand Newtonian mechanics in a universe governed by quantum mechanics and relativity.)

Marx is sometimes credited as being one of the first to wonder about the potential instabiliy of financial markets. Well, Malthus got their first (as if it were a new concept in 1810).

Heck, unlike Malthus, Marx was a contemporary of Darwin and Marx even got wrong the distinction between evolution and market prices.

All of these quotes are typical of the early 19th century. Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens said much the same with more verve.

Sadly, dalitis, all you are showing is that modern Leftists have not moved on. They still use the anti-market verbiage of people 200 years ago. In a world of the Internet and the 747, these modern Leftists still argue against free trade.

Some thinkers noticed the productive potential of capitalism, but none with the shrewdness of Marx, if you know any writer from that era that rivals Marx in his analysis of capitalism, then feel free to re-produce it, I would be more than happy to read their words myself. Even more importantly, Marx not only sees the immense productive capacity inherent in capitalist social relations, but at the same time, sees the destructive potential as well. Marx, understands that capitalism is heroically progressive, but at the same time a producer of unimaginable misery and barbarism. The triumph of Marx over other thinkers is that he manages to capture the dualism that is inseparable from capitalism.

The concept of exchange value, and labor value does not belong to Marx at all. It was David Ricardo's innovation. Marx though, took one step further, and explained the source profit, through the theory of "surplus value"

Marxist concepts (dialectics from Hegel, Logic from Aristotle, English political economy, French political theory, Feurbach's critique of ideology) are not original in themselves, what is original, is the way they are brought together in a systematic tour de force that forever changed the course of human history.

I wonder how you can claim with such certainty that Marx got the theory of value wrong. Like I said before, Marx's theory of value is not his own innovation, it is inspired from the Classical English political economists (mainly Adam Smith and David Ricardo) Those theories of value were widely accepted within pro-capitalist circles, until Marx himself appropriated them in a systematic thought that went against capitalist logic.

Your allegory with Aristotle, Newton and quantum physics sounds quite bizarre to me. Would you be willing to develop it?

You claim that language such as that employed by Karl Marx himself is typical of the early 19th century. If that is the case not many people seem to have noticed. Would you be so kind as to re-produce the texts where Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo speak in the dialectical manner of Marx and Engels regarding the capitalist mode of production?

In fact I would heavily disagree with you about modern Leftists. In fact the vast majority of Leftists, has long ago abandoned Marxism. That was the case in the period right before the Great War, and even more so, during the neo-liberal period, where all the Social-Democratic parties in Europe were desperate to distance themselves from the working-class and the like. They were arguing that they were for the so-called New Economy and blah, blah, blah.

And I do not see how the invention and existence of the Boeing 747 absolves, capitalism, the free market and free trade from all the horrors they inflict upon humanity every passing day. The Marxist hypothesis against capitalism, is not based on the assumption that it cannot carry technology forward (in fact Lenin himself says: "There is no technical challenge that capitalism cannot deal with) it is in fact based on the expectation that it cannot deal with the social problems that simply arise from its mere functioning.

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