A Mutualist Manifesto?

Modern society, with its relations of production, of exchange, and of property - a society that has conjured up such gig...

October 13, 2003

Modern 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 sorceror, who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world, whom he has called up by his spells.

In these crises, a great part not only of the existing products, but of all the previously created productive forces – are periodically destroyed.

In these crises there breaks out a social 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.

The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of civilisation, and the conditions of property; On the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions by which they are fettered.

And how do we get over these crises? On the one hand by the forced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other by the conquest of new markets and by the more thorough exploitation of old ones.

That is to say…by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises – and diminishing the means by which crises are prevented.

However, in future…

In proportion, as the exploitation of one individual by another is put and end to, the exploitation of one nation by another will also be put an end to.

We shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.

These intriguing words were written in February 1848, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in an influential little thought-piece: ‘The Communist Manifesto’.

Many of the symptoms, or certainly the frustrations, persist, or have even accelerated. Marx and Engels certainly could never have foresawn how the information age would accelerate this destruction of capacity – nor how rapidly the transference of wealth to the new elite would proceed.

However, the prevailing diagnosis and prognosis have, thankfully, changed out of all character. According to Francis Fukuyama, the battle of ideology has been won. Liberal economics and democracy have triumphed. All that remains is to win the battle for social capital – the cohesion of the human species.

I am not so sure.

Facing a future imperilled by endemic exploitation and a shortage of fundamental life-giving resources, it seems very possible that widespread insurrection will indeed come again to the fore within our lifetime…

Individual responsibility, social capital, economic sustainability and environmental stewardship seem so inextricably linked to me, that the only possibility for the avoidance self-destruction must come from a deep, ubiquitous, and personal recognition of our global citizenship and our shared humanity, devoid of religious or cultural contamination.

Perhaps, one hundred and fity years on from Marx and Engels, during which time we have directly altered 47% of the planet’s surface in the name of first world progress, a new more enlightened prescription is required…

…perhaps a Mutualist Manifesto?

Ours sincerely

Tim

NB I’ve deleted the word original ‘Bourgeois’ from the communist narrative 4 times, because I hate to endorse cosmetics brands…

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