V.27:No.1-4 Jan-April 1999 #308-311

Editorial Note, p. 1-2.

"In Memory of The Communist Manifesto," Antonio Labriola, p. 3

"Introduction to The Communist Manifesto," Harold J. Laski, p. 49

"The Promethean Vision: The Communist Manifesto and the Development of Capitalism after 150 years," Utsa Patnaik, p. 112

"The Communist Manifesto: Revolution as Tension Between Science and Dialectics," Javeed Alam, p. 127

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Editorial Note

The Communist Manifesto is not only one of the most significant documents ever written; it has generated commentaries about itself by some of the most significant thinkers since it was written. Documents about the Manifesto written over the years have themselves become a rich legacy in their own right, which unfortunately is not easily accessible in our country. When the occasion for commemorating 150 years of the Manifesto arose, we thought it would be a good idea if we could bring to our readers two classic pieces on the Manifesto written by two of the outstanding adherents of the socialist doctrine since it began, along with a contemporary assessment. The current number of Social Scientist is the result of this endeavour.

The role of Antonio Labriola (1843-1904) in disseminating, clarifying and developing the ideas of Marx and Engels is comparable only to that of G.V Plekhanov. Like Plekhanov who was often referred to as the "father of Russian Marxism", Labriola was truly the father of Italian Marxism. Both of course took positions late in life which were justly criticised by Lenin as constituting, in different ways, departures from revolutionary Marxism: Plekhanov by adopting a social-chauvinist position during the war and Labriola who died much earlier by moving closer to revolutionary syndicalism (what Lenin called "revisionism from the Left"); but the immense theoretical toils of both these stalwarts are a part of socialism's rich heritage. A Professor of Philosophy at the University of Rome, Labriola was a brilliant scholar and teacher who got attracted to socialism in 1885, lectured on Marxism, for the first time in Italy, in 1889, began a correspondence with Engels in 1890, and worked for the formation of a workers' party in Italy. The first to translate the Communist Manifesto into Italian, Labriola wrote his celebrated piece "In Memory of the Communist Manifesto" in 1895, which we republish in the present issue of Social Scientist.


Harold Laski (1893-1950), outstanding political scientist, who taught at the London School of Economics for much of his life, was a member of the British Labour Party, and was elected its Chairman in 1945. Laski, who early in life came to see the state as functioning in the interests of the ruling classes, was an advocate of extensive social and economic reforms, until the crisis of the 1930s and the subsequent rise of fascism made him embrace Marxism. Despairing of the possibility of reforms within the system he came to view socialism as the only possible and available alternative to rising fascism. During the Spanish Civil War he was a strong advocate of a popular front of all the forces opposed to fascism. His Introduction to the English edition of the Communist Manifesto on the occasion of its centenary was a justly-celebrated piece and we publish it in the current number. Together with these two classics we publish a contemporary reaction from Utsa Patnaik which introduces a much-needed third world perspective. The completion of 150 years by the Communist Manifesto is not an occasion for ritual celebration. To make it so by merely lauding the genius of its young authors would be an insult to their legacy, since both their world view as well as the rugged greatness of their personalities abhorred all ritual. They themselves would have wanted it to be an occasion for assessment, for a checking of theoretical bearings, for an unflinching appraisal, inspired not by scholasticism but by praxis, of the doctrine they set out in the Manifesto. The three pieces published in the current number, which are separated from one another by roughly 50 year intervals, which mark approximately the 50th, the 100th, and the 150th anniversaries of the Manifesto, and which are informed by very substantial differences in perspective, would we hope contribute towards this task of theoretical engagement with the Manifesto.

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