Manifesto Seminar Comment

Sat, 14 Mar 1998 11:06:04 -0800
Eugene E. Ruyle (

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Iíve enjoyed the seminar, even though Iíve barely had time to read the
comments, much less digest them. I would like to thank those who have
commented on my own paper. I will try to incorporate the suggestions in
the next versions.

I am attaching some general comments on the Manifesto.

RUYLE, Anthropology, Cal State Long Beach, Long Beach, CA  90840-1003 
(562) 985-5364   FAX: (562) 985-4379

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Eugene E. Ruyle, Anthropology, CSULB

When I read the Communist Manifesto, I try to follow the advice of Che:


When asked whether or not we are Marxists, our position is the same as that of a physicist or a biologist when asked if he is a "Newtonian," or if he is a "Pasteurian." There are truths so evident, so much a part of people's knowledge, that it is now useless to discuss them. One ought to be "Marxist" with the same naturalness with which one is "Newtonian" in physics, or "Pasteurian" in biology, considering that if facts determine new concepts, these new concepts will never divest themselves of that portion of truth possessed by the older concepts they have outdated. Such is the case, for example, of Einsteinian relativity or of Planck's "quantum" theory with respect to the discoveries of Newton; they take nothing at all away from the greatness of the learned Englishman. Thanks to Newton, physics was able to advance until it had achieved new concepts of space. The learned Englishman had provided the necessary steppingstone for them. ("Che" Guevara, in Mills, C. Wright. 196! 2. The Marxists. New York: Dell Pub. Co., p. 455).


The central message of the Manifesto --that humanity’s liberation from the structures of inequality and oppression is the work of the oppressed people themselves -- remains as true today as it was one hundred and fifty years ago. The juggernaut of capital continues to roll, and oppressed people continue to struggle in Chiapas, Paris, Indonesia, South Africa, and throughout the world. Our world is a better place because of their struggles.

It is not clear how many people continue to see the Marxism of the Manifesto as relevant to their struggles. The Manifesto did illuminate the struggles of the European working class throughout the nineteenth century, but the Marxism of the nineteenth century was insufficient to understand the struggles of the twentieth century. For this, we needed Lenin.

Lenin provided the necessary theoretical and practical tools to transform Marxism so that it could continue to guide the revolutionary struggles of the twentieth century. A couple of quotes:


Scores and indeed hundreds of times in the course of the centuries the labouring people have striven to throw off the oppressors from their backs and to become the masters of their own destiny. But each time, defeated and disgraced, they have been forced to retreat, harbouring in their breasts resentment and humiliation, anger and despair, and lifting up their eyes to an inscrutable heaven where they hoped to find deliverance. The chains of slavery remained intact, or the old chains were replaced by new ones, equally burdensome and degrading. Ours is the only country where the oppressed and downtrodden labouring masses have succeeded in throwing off the rule of the landlords and capitalists and replacing it by the rule of the workers and peasants. You know, comrades, and the whole world now admits it, that this gigantic struggle was led by Comrade Lenin and his Party. The greatness of Lenin lies above all in this, that by creating the Republic of Soviets he gave a practic! al demonstration to the oppressed masses of the whole world that hope of deliverance is not lost, that the rule of the landlords and capitalists is shortlived, that the kingdom of labour can be created by the efforts of the labouring people themselves, and that the kingdom of labour must be created not in heaven, but on earth. (Stalin, as quoted in Cameron, Kenneth Neill. 1987. Stalin: Man of Contradiction. Toronto: NC Press Limited, p. 25)


In these days, when some people want to smash statues of Lenin into pieces we feel the figure of Lenin grows in our hearts and thoughts. (PROLONGED APPLAUSE)

Lenin and his ideas have meant and still mean a lot to us, who have interpreted his ideas, those of Marx and the theorists of the Revolution as they should be interpreted: in an original manner unique to each country, to each revolutionary process. These ideas retain their validity in our revolutionary process, at a time when some are frightened to call themselves Communists. There are also, in industrial quantities, those in the world who say: "Hey! Not Communists" — what are they?

Well, they call themselves socialists, social democrats, social whatevers, in short, social nothings. (LAUGHTER)

Lenin's work has endured throughout history and has helped to change the world. Lenin's work meant the emergence of the first socialist state in human history, and this state saved humanity from fascism. Without the blood shed by the Soviet people, fascism would have been imposed on the world, at least for a period of time, and all humanity would have know intimately the horrors of fascism. That first socialist state meant an advance for the peoples' liberation movements and the end of colonialism, and it meant so much to use when the imperialists wanted to destroy our Revolution, when they blockaded us and tried to starve us out. (Castro, Fidel. 1990. "Speech on the 30th Anniversary of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution." Gramma, October 8, 1990, p. 2.)


Marxism-Leninism provided the most sustained challenge ever mounted against the structures of inequality and oppression. Under its guidance, one third of humanity had begun the task of constructing the socialist future, and revolutionary movements throughout the world looked to Marxism-Leninism for guidance.

Marxism-Leninism did not succeed in overthrowing world imperialism, however, and as the twentieth century draws to a close it is clear that Marxism-Leninism is inadequate to guide the revolutionary struggles of the next century.

This does not mean that it was wrong. It does mean that it needs to be modified to take account of changing social reality. Just as Lenin modified the Marxism of the nineteenth century to account for the changed reality of the twentieth century, so we need to modify Marxism-Leninism to account for the changing reality of the twenty-first century.

We don’t know how this will be done. In my paper, I discussed one area that needs to be re-examined: Eurocentrism and our concept of socialism. There are a variety of other areas where Marxism has yet to address in a satisfactory manner: feminism and gender oppression, ecology and the environment, violence and pacifism, and spirituality.

I personally believe that Marxist can address these issues in a satisfactory way without sacrificing the essence of the message of the Manifesto.