For women's liberation: a comradely critique of the Manifesto

Mon, 09 Mar 1998 10:33:10 -0500
Charles Brown (charlesb@CNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us)

Mr. Frank's militant anti-Eurocentrism is refreshing in this era of the New Racism in the U.S. I say this even as I believe that there was an emergent globally historic development in Europe circa 1500. I am even African centered, but things change, and this is not an epoch in which African civilization is a "leader" of humanity as 4 and 5 thousand years ago.
The Manifesto says "The East Indian and Chinese markets". Why should we assume that they meant less than full markets, with commodities and capitalists ?" Mercantilism existed before the rise of Europe. However, the industrial revolution had some unique worldwide historic features (See Capital for the details). Also, were the indigenous market relations so dominant and pervasive in cultures outside of Europe before the new global economy of today ?.
My main comment is as follows: To me the Manifesto remains extraordinarily persuasive of the historical epoch of which we are responsible to complete. The argument of the Manifesto is convincing in part because it is consistently courageous in intelligently critiquing the order of the powers that be. Then, as now, the ruling class ruins and murders those who so take them on. In legal evidence, we would say that Marx and Engels declarations against their self-interest were an indicator of the veracity of their statements. Engels was exposing his fellow bourgeoisie.
However, the Manifesto shows cowardice, and more bourgeois than communist finesse in dealing with marriage, the family and monogamy. Marx and Engels say the bourgeoisie accuse the communists of wanting to abolish the monogamous family when the bourgeoisie have already in fact done so. Then they cleverly, artfully, correctly show how the bourgeois, male chauvinist practices of adultery, prostitution and related activities have already in actual fact abolished the monogamous family, although it hypocritically remains the law and custom.
What is the Communist proposal for the next form of the family ? Given Marx and Engels's dialectical , evolutionary-revolutionary perspective on every other institution, presumably for them, the mode of the family changes along with the mode of production and the state. But they mention in the Manifesto no family equivalent in reproduction to the formula "abolition of private property" in production or "working class as the ruling class" in politics and the state. We would not expect them to speculate a full utopian idea of the family, but at least give us a hint as they do in political economy.
Engels did creep up on telling the truth ( this harder truth to tell than even challenging the state and the capitalists) about the revolutionary direction of family development. Many years after the Manifesto, in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, Engels gained a lot of courage that had been lacking. Engels also published many years after they had been written by Marx the Theses on Feuerbach, the fourth of which says:

Feuerbach starts out from the fact of religious self-alienation, of the
duplication of the world into a religious world and a secular one. His
work consists in resolving the religious world into its secular basis.
But that the secular basis detaches itself from itself and establishes itself
as an independent realm in the clouds can only be explained by the
cleavages and self-contradictions within this secular basis. The latter
therefore, in itself must be both understood in its contradiction and
revoluionised in practice. Thus, for instance, after the earthly family
is discovered to be the secret of the holy family, the former must then
itself be destroyed in theory and practice (emphasis added, C.B.)

So, at the time he wrote the Manifesto, Marx knew that monogamy would be revolutionised and "destroyed". He just did not shout it, the way he did "expropriate the expropriators" and the like.
In my next comment I will examine this matter a little more deeply. I hope you all receive this. My previous messages were rejected by the computer as too long.