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170 Years on, Communist Manifesto Has 'Enormous Value'

The Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels 170 years ago, still is a powerful tool to decipher the phenomenon of Western countries as well as development in China, according to scholars and experts.

Enormous value

"Try to analyze the thing that happens today, these papers are still of use," said Marien van der Heijden, head of collection development of the International Institute of Social History (IISH) in the Netherlands.

The institute has stored a large amount of manuscripts of writings by Marx and Engels, including the only existing draft page of the manifesto, the first formal version of which was published in London in late February 1848.

"At sometime in the 1990s, people were saying that Marx was not relevant anymore. Then came in Europe and the United States, big financial international crises, the speculation, bubble burst ... and people suddenly thought: 'This happened once before and it was researched. What happens if we read this again? Is it still relevant?' And yes, it appears to be relevant," he noted.

For Robert Griffiths, general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain, the manifesto "is still of enormous value".

"One of the great values of the Communist manifesto is of course that it provides an overarching sweeping analysis of human history, and how and why societies have changed fundamentally over time. It contains an outline of history and lessons for us today," said Griffiths.

"Although much has changed since the 1840s, not least here in Britain, the fundamentals (of the capitalist society) are still the same. We are still in a class-divided society, a society of great inequality, not just in terms of wealth but in terms of power. That means that the manifesto is still relevant today and what it proposes is still relevant," said Griffiths.

Raoul Peck, a Haitian filmmaker who directed "The Young Karl Marx", observed that Marx's thoughts remain the perfect instrument to understand today's world.

"Marx, what he did with Engels, is to describe and analyze capitalist society from the beginning ... all elements of capitalism are still there today," said Peck.

Rediscovering Marxism amid crises

With the largest collection of books on communism in Britain, London's Marx Memorial Library has witnessed a surge of membership application from young people in recent years, especially college students.

"We have many people at the library. So we know there is a desperate hunger among students here in Britain to find out about these ideas," said Alex Gordon, chair of the Trustee Committee of Marx Memorial Library and Workers' School.

"If you look at the curriculum of most British universities now, there is almost nothing taught about the ideas of Marxism. And people understand, young people understand particularly that this intellectual vacuum in the heart of British universities needs to be addressed and they come here in order to find out about those ideas and to seek further reading," said Gordon.

Echoing Gordon, Dr. Pepijn Brandon, senior researcher at the IISH, pointed out that "more than the revival of Marx, there is a revival of interest in thinking systemic questions about how capitalism works and what its origins are".

The financial and economic crises have rekindled interest in Marxism.

"Since the crises and especially the financial crisis of 2008, Marx was on all the covers of the economic newspapers in the West, even The Wall Street Journal, The Economist. Still today, every day there is an article on Marx," said the filmmaker Peck.

"The success of a researcher, like Thomas Piketty, is attributed to the fact that he uses the Marxist instrument to analyze the economic situation in the world," Peck said. "He has succeeded in showing the enormous inequalities that exist today, which are more serious than 50 years ago."

"Is Marx out of date or not? We realize that Marx is unsurpassable as long as we are in a capitalist society," he added.

Profound impact for China

"The profound impact of Marxism and policies inspired by Marxism, the profound impact they are having in China is absolutely undeniable," said Griffiths, general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain.

"What is also true is that Communist Party of China (CPC) is motivated by a desire to serve the interests of the mass of the people," said Griffiths.

John Foster, emeritus professor of Social Science at the University of the West of Scotland, said: "The manifesto provided the theoretical basis for socialist parties that over the following seventy years transformed the balance of power across Europe and Asia."

Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, developed by General Secretary of CPC Central Committee Xi Jinping, marks a further stage in the progress of China's revolution and construction, while CPC has inherited and developed Marxist theories with its own social conditions, Foster noted.

In an interview with Xinhua, Qu Xing, Chinese Ambassador to Belgium, noted that the "starting point" of Marx and Engels is to give ordinary working people a guaranteed, dignified and equal life.

Therefore, the manifesto is the historical and ideological source of socialism with Chinese characteristics, which marks the modern development and stands as the new form of the manifesto, Qu added.

(Xinhua News Agency February 23, 2018)

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