When I was a senior at New Rochelle High School, I read The Communist Manifesto. I believe it was a school assignment, probably for our class called Problems in American Democracy, taught by the estimable and much loved Larry Fink.
It’s a persuasive little work. So this was the kindly, utterly fair and wonderful world we could look forward to? Yes!
For oh about 45 minutes I was a communist. Then I settled back down to whatever I was in high school. Amorphous, probably. Questioning but amorphous.
Here is a terrific quote I just found in the May 13, 2013 New Yorker, in Kelefa Sanneh’s article “Paint Bombs: David Graeber’s ‘The Democracy Project’ and the anarchist revival”:
Karl Marx agreed with the anarchists of his day that the state should be destroyed. But he disagreed about when. He was convinced that the state would become obsolete only after the working class had taken it over, thereby destroying the class system. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the French philosopher who popularized the term “anarchist,” thought that the idea of a revolutionary government was a contradiction in terms. “Governments are God’s scourge, establish to discipline the world,” he wrote. “Do you really expect them to destroy themselves, to create freedom to make revolution?” Mikhail Bakunin, the prickly Russian agitator, sneered at Marx’s idea of a workers’ state. “As soon as they become rulers or representatives of the people,” he wrote, they “will cease to be workers and will begin to look upon the whole workers’ world from the heights of the state.”
I should have been reading Bakunin. And becoming an anarchist. For forty-five minutes.