ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Manifesto of Emancipation

Marx drafted his 'Marginal Notes' in 1875 to underline what he perceived to be the shortcomings in the workers' programme. This drew on his earlier works and encapsulated new insights gleaned from the new forms of workers' struggles. For the first time, Marx also sketched his vision of a 'union of free individuals' that would be finally established with the disappearance of 'unfreedom' - both personal and material. Such a union would in the end lead to true socialism. However, these ideas were seen as too emancipatory by later followers of Marx like Lenin.

Marx’s ‘Marginal Notes’ of 1875 or what he called in a letter (to Bracke, May 5, 1875), a ‘long scrap of paper’, was a purely occasional text which its author felt compelled to compose, in order to underline what he thought to be the serious shortcomings in a workers’ programme. However, the document could perhaps be considered kind of a second ‘Communist Manifesto’, authored by Marx alone of course. Both of them concern party organisation – the Communist League and the German Workers’ Party. The second document was enriched by Marx’s great theoretical breakthroughs as well as by his involvement in the new forms of working class struggles as manifested above all in the work of the First International and the Paris Commune, posterior to the ‘Communist Manifesto’. Given the necessarily limited scope of this second document, compared with the first, its focus is also relatively circumscribed, being confined to the critique of the specific points in the programme that Marx found unacceptable. Nevertheless, in spite of the narrowness of scope and the resulting selective character of the themes involved, this document contains, drawing on the author’s whole life’s work, a condensed discussion of the most essential elements of the capitalist mode of production, its revolutionary transformation into its opposite and a rough portrayal, in a few bold strokes, of what Marx had called in Capital the ‘union of free individuals’ destined to succeed the existing social order.

In this paper we propose to concentrate mostly on the economic aspects of this document. As in the Gothakritik, where labour is the central theme around which Marx’s arguments revolve, we start with Marx’s critique of the conception of labour as it appears in the programme. Next we pass on to Marx’s very brief discussion of the Lassallean notion of wage labour which of course is the essence of the capitalist mode of production. Then we propose to treat Marx’s portrayal of the future society centred basically on the problem of allocation-distribution of the society’s total product. We conclude by stressing the immensely emancipatory character of the document.

Labour and Division of Labour

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