A program for the present

Pedro Moraleida Bernardes, Liebe Ist Kälter Als Der Tod!!!- Red Woman


Actuality and renewal of the Communist Manifesto: A 172-year trending topic

We are at a moment in history when the media has once again become the center of political dispute. When, in February 1848, a 23-page pamphlet was published for the first time, what we would now call a “textão”, for the first time the socialist left managed to expose a critical view of capitalist society at the same time, as opposed to a minimum agenda of overcoming of the system, with great explanatory and social convincing power. The brief text that follows seeks to resume the Communist Manifesto as a necessary reading work for the reconstruction of the social discourse of the Brazilian left, not for the current programmatic per se, which in part, as will be seen, is still valid, but for the perspective of enchantment of communicability and the historical glimpse it makes possible.

Notable aspect refers to the audience with whom we must communicate. The authors of that booklet, today the most translated and widespread non-religious work in the world, were clear which audience they wanted to reach: the broad “proletarian” masses who, imbued with a minimal understanding of history and its sense of the future, some would speak teleology, could somehow overcome the enormous torpor that the ideological construction and daily exploitation imposed on them.

The limited perception of a working class as a deterministic historical agent is long out of date. It would be impossible for two young authors, who had just broken with Hegelianism and fallen madly in love with socialist movements, not to see in the young working class that they were forming a formidable historical agent. In fact, in the next 150 years after the Manifesto, this organized working class and, to a large extent, increasingly strengthened and expanded across the planet, would become the center of the “tour de force” with the capitalist ruling class, arriving, in not a few moments and places in history to fulfill the role that Marx and Engels had envisioned: the “proletariat goes through different phases of development. Its struggle against the bourgeoisie begins with its existence”.

The historical alterations placed in the last decades put new traces of the social dispute, but it maintains the exploration of the work and the logic of the value-work, something that Marx would only develop in the later years, in the pages of The capital (1863), established in the perspective that all social wealth is established from the essence of the content of alienated work, whose main condition remains salaried work.

It is worth emphasizing that salaried work is constituted in a basic relationship of capitalism, since capital is the cumulative antithesis of alienated work, the existence of capitalist production relations is fundamentally linked to the maintenance of relations of private appropriation of social work (work abstract), whose central mechanism of reproduction is wage-earning. The social communication for convincing the historical denial and for the construction of a radical break with this form of exploitation remains as part of the discourses and the construction of the debate, more than ever placed in a time of mutation in capitalism that imposes increasingly informal forms of exploitation and of absolute exploitation, the intense dispossession in the form of Uber, Wal-Mart or super-exploitation model Brazil.

The form of communication, as Hosbsbawm (2011) highlighted, whether by “passionality” and “brevity of sentences”, seems to us something in the style of what today are the two hundred and forty characters required to “tweet”, however, with an intellectual force that made it a modern classic. It is worth here to deepen the condition of contemporary social communication.

The Manifesto could be treated as a great “trending topics” (integrated sequence of tweets), whose interaction capacity makes it possible to glimpse the limits of an expanding system (world capitalism) and the contradictions that are created throughout a fantastic sequence of facts and images (big industry, the formation of megacities, world trade and, mainly, the actors in conflict). Each sentence exults the imagination and excites its replication, something we have to relearn to do in order to rebuild the excited hope in a new utopia.

A second notable aspect was its condition of historical phenomenology. Although in a circumstantial thesis, so much so that its authors did not even sign it since at first they considered that they were responding to a conjuncture that would rise and pass, but the MC inaugurated a perception of “gaseous history”.

Long before Bauman's liquidity (1999), Marx and Engels already perceived modernity as a gaseous form, without solidity and that dissolves in the air. As noted by Berman (1999, p. 126) in his beautiful essay “All that is solid melts into air”, Marx anticipates first of all that modern history establishes a satanic mill of permanent creation and re-creation and that the “problem of capitalism is that (…) it destroys the human possibilities it creates”.

History is full of uncertainties, and the essays contained in the Manifesto do not answer most of our current concerns, but lead us to “insights” on how to question the historical future. The MPC would be in the perception of a radical contemporary author like Italo-Calvino (2004) a classic because “he never finished saying what he had to say”. Much more appropriately, we could consider that the “how to say it” became an even stronger point for interpreting this work.

The essay written in a single stroke by Marx in January/February 1848 was a piece of social communication requested by one of the first openly communist movements, having as its main objective, as highlighted by the authors in one of the later prefaces, to be a “detailed program, theoretical and practical, of the party”.

The established programmatic proposal constitutes until today a formidable guide, in its four parts it not only dissects the capitalist society, but establishes an innovative proposal of society: the first part can be summarized in a sentence that in the days that pass become more present than ever. than ever before: “modern bourgeois society, which has conjured up gigantic means of production and exchange, resembles a sorcerer who can no longer control the infernal powers he has invoked”. What is most current and eloquent for the days of Covid-19 and recurring financial crises.

The second part proposes a long-term agenda, not only understanding that social transformations are a “permanent revolution”, but that “capital is not a personal power: it is a social power”, which requires an enormous effort to convince and construction of a proposal that cannot be the result of isolated intelligences, only a collective effort with the permanent ingredient of individual contributions, in such a way that “by changing the life relationships of men, their social relationships, their social existence, they change also their representations, their conceptions and concepts; in a word, it changes your consciousness.”

It is symptomatic that when we analyze the ten proposals for a minimum agenda set out in the Manifesto at the end of the second section, the vast majority remain current and in countries like Brazil deserve to be part of any minimally progressive party program. It is worth mentioning here four of these items and checking their degree of relevance for Brazil in 2020:

i) “Expropriation of land property and use of land rent for State expenses”. The condition of the reactionary power of the large estates in Brazil has reached its limits in the current pattern of accumulation, centered on agribusiness and mineral exploration, with urgent agrarian reform and the nationalization of the large mining company as part of a governance that opposes the vile destruction of the nature.

ii) “Strongly progressive tax”. In a society founded on regressivity, in which in the average of recent years “consumption represented 43,7% of taxation, followed by labor with 37,5%”, and “taxation on profit in companies represented 10,7% of %, on equity 3,7% and on financial intermediation 1,8%” (Khair, 2013), it seems that the minimum program designed by Marx for the German bourgeois democratic revolution of 1848 is more current than ever.

iii) “Centralization of credit in the hands of the State through a national bank with State capital and with an exclusive monopoly”. The big Brazilian problem is called the financial market and the rentier format and exacerbated control over national wealth.

While in the last quarter of the pandemic crisis the Brazilian population became impoverished, the two largest Brazilian private banks accumulated net gains of 6,7 billion reais (https://g1.globo.com/economia/noticia/2020/08/06/lucro -liquid-from-big-banks-down-40percent-in-second-quarter-2020.ghtml). There is no way to think about a Brazilian sovereign national project if the nationalization of the big banks and a broad credit policy aimed at production are not established.

iv) “Centralization of all means of communication and transport in the hands of the State”. Communication has become one of the most critical elements of modern society, private control of both conventional forms of media (televisions, radios) and current forms based on internet-based platforms, make any more effective exercise of democracy impossible.

The third part of the Manifesto reflects the historical construction perspective of the communist movement. A considerable portion of that part of the work is very outdated, but the vision of permanent construction of a thought in constant change remains more current than ever. Humanity is a permanent evolutionary form, breaking the idea of ​​positivist progress and technological or divine myth, being on the left is not having myths, however much there is fear; history is non-linear and this non-linearity implies that everything is to be built permanently, but knowing that the limits reached must be celebrated as social and economic equality expands and the anthropomorphic difference widens, permanently fighting against any form of regression and loss of previously established social rights.

The last part of this historical manual of social communication is an exultant reminder for all of us, in this conjuncture of broken lefts and an enormous difficulty in listening to society that “communists fight for the immediate objective interests of the working class, but, at the same time, defend and they represent, in the current movement, the future of the movement”.

Faced with this brief reading of the Communist Manifesto, what should we establish as propositions for the future, as a brief agenda for intervention. The left will have to establish a project to overcome capitalism, something difficult, but which is interesting to trace elements, even if primary through a collective and democratic debate on the contradictions, limits and destructiveness of capitalism, constituting elements for its systemic criticism and construction of an alternative to the now visible barbarism.

*Jose Raimundo Trinidad He is a professor at the Graduate Program in Economics at UFPA.



BAUMAN, Zygmunt. Liquid Modernity. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 1999.

BERMAN, Marshall. All that is solid melts into air🇧🇷 São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1986.

CALVINO, Italo. Why read the classics🇧🇷 São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2004.

HOBSBAWM, Eric. how to change the world🇧🇷 São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2011.

MARX, Carl. Capital, Book I. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2013 (1863).

MARX. Karl and ENGELS, Friedrich. Communist Manifesto. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2010 (1848).



See this link for all articles