It is ironic, or perhaps just fitting, that these words should be painted on rusting industrial pipes abandoned beside London’s river Thames; they come from The Manifesto of Communist Party, written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and first published in London in 1848.
The phrase is from a section of the manifesto (1) describing the ways that capitalism fundamentally changes economic, social and even physical structures. By their nature, capitalist enterprises require constant growth and innovation to survive. With changing economic conditions, old social and cultural relationships give way (willingly or not) to new forms of engagement. That which seemed permanent is no more.
London, like many cities, is growing rapidly, with huge physical changes to the landscape. Much of this growth — in construction and infrastructure development — is taking place south of the river around Greenwich and eastward towards the Thames Estuary. The skyline is punctuated with the harsh geometry of cranes and tower blocks.
Earlier this year, we spent a week in Greenwich. Our apartment, occupying a corner position on the seventh floor of a building, had expansive views; of the Cutty Sark, of the three-hundred-year-old St Alfege church (designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor) — and of building work. From every window, the prevailing view was of cranes and half-built apartment blocks, rising above London’s history.
We are beginning to wake up to the fact that unlimited growth is not possible on the closed, finite system that is our planet. Voices of dissent are growing in strength and number and I would like to think that Marx’s words can have another meaning — that neo-liberal ideologies, which are currently made to appear as “solid fact”, will melt in the heat of public scrutiny and critical analysis.
Change is inevitable; the form it takes is up to us.
This post was written for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge.
(1) The full paragraph is:
The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind (I. Bourgeois and Proletarians, Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1848).