The Communist Manifesto

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Communist manifesto)
Jump to: navigation, search
The Communist Manifesto
First edition, in German
Author Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
Language German (translated into several world languages)
Genre Manifesto
Publication date
21 February 1848

The Communist Manifesto (officially Manifesto of the Communist Party) is an 1848 political pamphlet by German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels that laid out the programme of the Communist League. Originally published in German (as Manifest der kommunistischen Partei) just as the revolutions of 1848 began to erupt, the Manifesto has since been recognized as one of the world's most influential political manuscripts. It presents an analytical approach to the class struggle (historical and present) and the problems of capitalism and the capitalist mode of production, rather than a prediction of communism's potential future forms.

The Communist Manifesto contains Marx and Engels' theories about the nature of society and politics, that in their own words, "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles". It also briefly features their ideas for how the capitalist society of the time would eventually be replaced by socialism, and then finally communism.


Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, authors of the Manifesto

The Communist Manifesto is divided into an introduction, three substantive sections, and a conclusion. The introduction begins by proclaming "A spectre is haunting Europe—the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre". Pointing out that parties everywhere—including those in government and those in the opposition—have flung the "branding reproach of communism" at each other, the authors infer from this that the powers-that-be acknowledge communism to be a power in itself. Subsequently, the introduction exhorts Communists to openly publish their views and aims, to "meet this nursery tale of the spectre of communism with a manifesto of the party itself".

The first section of the Manifesto, "Bourgeois and Proletarians", elucidiates the materialist conception of history, that "the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles". Societies have always taken the form of an oppressed majority living under the thumb of an oppressive minority. In capitalism, the industrial working class, or proletariat, engage in class struggle against the owners of the means of production, the bourgeoisie. As before, this struggle will end in a revolution that restructures society, or the "common ruin of the contending classes". The bourgeoisie, through the "constant revolutionising of production [and] uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions" have emerged as the supreme class in society, displacing all the old powers of feudalism. The bourgeoisie constantly exploits the proletariat for its labour power, creating profit for themselves accumulating capital. However by doing so the bourgeoisie "are its own grave-diggers"; the proletariat inevitably will become conscious of their own potential and rise to power through revolution, overthrowing the bourgeoisie.

"Proletarians and Communists", the second section, starts by stating the relationship of conscious communists to the rest of the working class. The communists' party will not oppose other working-class parties, but unlike them, it will express the general will and defend the common interests of the world's proletariat as a whole, independent of all nationalities. The section goes on to defend communism from various objections, such as the claim that communists advocate "free love", and the claim that people will not perform labour in a communist society because they have no incentive to work. The section ends by outlining a set of short-term demands—among them a progressive income tax; abolition of inheritances; free public education etc—the implementation of which would be a precursor to a stateless and classless society.

The third section, "Socialist and Communist Literature", distinguishes communism from other socialist doctrines prevalent at the time—these being broadly categorised as Reactionary Socialism; Conservative or Bourgeois Socialism; and Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism. While the degree of reproach toward rival perspectives varies, all are dismissed for advocating reformism and failing to recognise the preeminent revolutionary role of the working class. "Position of the Communists in Relation to the Various Opposition Parties", the concluding section of the Manifesto, briefly discusses the communist position on struggles in specific countries in the mid-nineteenth century such as France, Switzerland, Poland, and Germany, this last being "on the eve of a bourgeois revolution", and predicts that a world revolution will soon follow. It ends by declaring an alliance with the social democrats, boldly supporting other communist revolutions, and calling proletarians to action with the rallying cry, "Workers of the world, unite!".


Only surviving page from the first draft of the Manifesto, handwritten by Marx

Friedrich Engels has often been credited in composing the first drafts which led to the Communist Manifesto. In July 1847, Engels was elected into the Communist League, where he was assigned to draw up a catechism. This became the Draft of a Communist Confession of Faith. It contained almost two dozen questions that expressed the ideas of both Engels and Karl Marx at the time. In October 1847, Engels composed his second draft for the League, The Principles of Communism (which went unpublished until 1914). Once commissioned by the Communist League, Marx combined these drafts with Engels' 1844 work The Condition of the Working Class in England to write the Communist Manifesto.[1]

Although the names of both Engels and Marx appear on the title page alongside the "persistent assumption of joint-authorship", Engels, in the preface to the 1883 German edition of the Manifesto, said it was "essentially Marx's work" and that "the basic thought... belongs solely and exclusively to Marx."[2] Engels wrote after Marx's death,

I cannot deny that both before and during my forty years' collaboration with Marx I had a certain independent share in laying the foundations of the theory, but the greater part of its leading basic principles belongs to Marx ... Marx was a genius; we others were at best talented. Without him the theory would not be by far what it is today. It therefore rightly bears his name.[3]

Despite Engels's modesty in these two quotations, he made major contributions to the Manifesto, starting with the suggestion to abandon "the form of a catechism and entitle it the Communist Manifesto." Moreover, Engels joined Marx in Brussels for the writing of the Manifesto. There is no evidence of what his contributions to the final writing were, but the Manifesto bears the stamp of Marx's more rhetorical writing style. Nevertheless, it seems clear that Engels's contributions justify his name's appearance on the title page after Marx's.[4]

Publication history

A scene from the German March Revolution in Berlin, 1848

The Communist Manifesto was first published (in German) in London by a group of German political refugees in February 1848. It was also serialised at around the same time in a German-language London newspaper, the Deutsche Londoner Zeitung.[5] Within a few days of its original publication, revolution broke out in France which cascaded into a Europe-wide revolutionary wave.[6] However, since it hadn't yet been translated from German, the revolutions owed little to the Communist Manifesto. Within a year the revolutions collapsed,[7] and the authorities found in the Manifesto a good excuse for action against its authors. As a consequence, Marx and his wife were arrested and expelled from Belgium, and the German daily newspaper he published in Cologne between 1 June 1848 and 19 May 1849, Neue Rheinische Zeitung, was suppressed.[8][9] Expelled from Germany and France, in August 1849 Marx sought refuge in London.[10][11][12]

The first English translation was produced by Helen Macfarlane in 1850, and the book was first published in the United States by Stephen Pearl Andrews.[13] The Manifesto went through a number of editions from 1872 to 1890; notable new prefaces were written by Marx and Engels for the 1872 German edition, the 1882 Russian edition, the 1883 French edition, and the 1888 English edition. The 1910 edition, translated by Samuel Moore with the assistance of Engels, has been the most commonly used English text since.[14] However, some recent English editions, such as Phil Gasper's annotated "road map" (Haymarket Books, 2006), have used a slightly modified text in response to criticisms of the Moore translation made by Hal Draper in his 1994 history of the Manifesto, The Adventures of the "Communist Manifesto" (Center for Socialist History, 1994). In late 2010, Red Quill Books announced the release of a modern, illustrated "comic book" version of the Communist Manifesto in four parts.[15][16]


Soviet Union stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Manifesto

A number of 21st-century writers have commented on the Communist Manifesto '​s continuing relevance. Academic John Raines in 2002 noted that "In our day this Capitalist Revolution has reached the farthest corners of the earth. The tool of money has produced the miracle of the new global market and the ubiquitous shopping mall. Read The Communist Manifesto, written more than one hundred and fifty years ago, and you will discover that Marx foresaw it all."[17] In 2003, the English Marxist Chris Harman described the "compulsive quality to its prose"

as it provides insight after insight into the society in which we live, where it comes from and where its going to. It is still able to explain, as mainstream economists and sociologists cannot, today's world of recurrent wars and repeated economic crisis, of hunger for hundreds of millions on the one hand and 'overproduction' on the other. There are passages that could have come from the most recent writings on globalisation.[18]

The continued relevance of the Marxist theories found within the text has also been supported by Alex Callinicos, editor of International Socialism, who stated that "This is indeed a manifesto for the 21st century."[19] Writing in The London Evening Standard in 2012, Andrew Neather cited Verso Books' 2012 re-edition of The Communist Manifesto, with an introduction by Eric Hobsbawm, as part of a resurgence of left-wing-themed ideas which includes the publication of Owen Jones' best-selling Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class, and Jason Barker's documentary Marx Reloaded.[20]

However not all scholars have praised it. Revisionist Marxist and reformist socialist Eduard Bernstein distinguished between "immature" early Marxism—as exemplified by the Communist Manifesto written by Marx and Engels in their youth—that he opposed for its violent Blanquist tendencies, and later "mature" Marxism that he supported.[21] This latter form refers to Marx in his later life acknowledging that socialism could be achieved through peaceful means through legislative reform in democratic societies.[22] Bernstein declared that the massive and homogeneous working-class claimed in the Communist Manifesto did not exist, and that contrary to claims of a proletarian majority emerging, the middle-class was growing under capitalism and not disappearing as Marx had claimed. Bernstein noted that the working-class was not homogeneous but heterogeneous, with divisions and factions within it, including socialist and non-socialist trade unions. Marx himself later in his life acknowledged that the middle-class was not disappearing, in his work Theories of Surplus Value (1863), although the obscurity of the later work mean that Marx's acknowledgement of this error is not well known.[23]

George Boyer described the Manifesto as "very much a period piece, a document of what was called the 'hungry' 1840s."[24]

Many have drawn attention to the passage in the Manifesto that seems to sneer at the stupidity of the rustic: "The bourgeoisie ... draws all nations ... into civilization ... It has created enormous cities ... and thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy [sic!] of rural life".[25] As Eric Hobsbawm noted, however,

while there is no doubt that Marx at this time shared the usual townsman's contempt for, as well as ignorance of, the peasant milieu, the actual and analytically more interesting German phrase ("dem Idiotismus des Landlebens entrissen") referred not to "stupidity" but to "the narrow horizons", or "the isolation from the wider society" in which people in the countryside lived. It echoed the original meaning of the Greek term idiotes from which the current meaning of "idiot" or "idiocy" is derived, namely "a person concerned only with his own private affairs and not with those of the wider community". In the course of the decades since the 1840s, and in movements whose members, unlike Marx, were not classically educated, the original sense was lost and was misread.[26]

See also


  1. ^ Hunt, 2009, pp. 142–144
  2. ^ Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, introduction by Martin Malia (New York: Penguin group, 1998), pg. 35 ISBN 0-451-52710-0
  3. ^ Hunt, 2009, p. 117
  4. ^ The Life and Thought of Friedrich Engels: A Reinterpretation, by J.D. Hunley, Yale University Press 1991 ISBN 0-300-04923-4,pg. 65–79 (quotation pg. 66) for an extended discussion of the two men's contributions
  5. ^ Kuczynski, Thomas (1995), Das kommunistische Manifest (Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei) von Karl Marx und Friedrich Engels: von der Erstausgabe zur Leseausgabe, mit einer Editionsbericht, Trier 
  6. ^ Merriman, John M. (1996). A History of Modern Europe. Volume 2: From the French Revolution to the Present. New York: Norton. p. 715. ISBN 0-393-96928-2. OCLC 152762820. 
  7. ^ Eyck, Frank; Evans, Robert John Weston; von Strandmann, Hartmut Pogge (2000). The Revolutions in Europe 1848–1849: From Reform to Reaction 4. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-820840-5. OCLC 4669489521. 
  8. ^ Marx, Karl (19 May 1849). "The Summary Suppression of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung". Neue Rheinische Zeitung (301). 
  9. ^ Marx, Karl; Engels, Friedrich (1977). "The Summary Suppression of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung". Marx-Engels Collected Works. Volume 9. New York: International Publishers. pp. 451–453. 
  10. ^ Wheen, Francis (2001) [1999]. Karl Marx: A Life (1st American ed. ed.). New York: Norton. pp. 147–148. ISBN 978-0-393-32157-9. OCLC 48001599. 
  11. ^ Watson, Peter (22 June 2010). The German Genius: Europe's Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Century. "New York: HarperCollins. pp. 250–... ISBN 0-06-076022-2. OCLC 456179681. 
  12. ^ Carter, John; Muir, Percy H. (1967). Printing and the Mind of Man: A Descriptive Catalogue Illustrating the Impact of Print on the Evolution of Western Civilization During Five Centuries. London: Cassell; New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. p. 236. OCLC 576854. 
  13. ^ Riggenbach, Jeff (1 April 2011), Stephen Pearl Andrews's Fleeting Contribution to Anarchist Thought, Mises Institute 
  14. ^ Professor Jeffrey C. Isaac (Editor), Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels ; ed. and intro. by Jeffrey C. Isaac et al. (8 June 2012). "Introduction". The Communist manifesto. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 2. ISBN 9780300123029. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  15. ^ Polo, Susan (20 December 2010), The Communist Manifesto: The Comic Book, retrieved 20 February 2012 
  16. ^ Long, Jamie (29 December 2010). "Communist Manifesto to get Comic Books Treatment". Toronto Sun. Retrieved 22 June 2014. 
  17. ^ Raines, John (2002). "Introduction". Marx on Religion (Marx, Karl). Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Page 05.
  18. ^ Harman, Chris (2010). "The Manifesto and the World of 1848". The Communist Manifesto (Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrich). Bloomsbury, London: Bookmarks. p. 3.
  19. ^ Callinicos, Alex (2010). "The Manifesto and the Crisis Today". The Communist Manifesto (Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrich). Bloomsbury, London: Bookmarks. p. 8.
  20. ^ "The Marx effect". The London Evening Standard. 23 April 2012. Retrieved 8 May 2012. 
  21. ^ Steger, Manfred B. The Quest for Evolutionary Socialism: Eduard Bernstein And Social Democracy. Cambridge, England, UK; New York, New York, USA: Cambridge University Press, 1997. pg. 236–237.
  22. ^ Micheline R. Ishay. The History of Human Rights: From Ancient Times to the Globalization Era. Berkeley and Lose Angeles, California, USA: University of California Press, 2008. P. 148.
  23. ^ Michael Harrington. Socialism: Past and Future. Reprint edition of original published in 1989. New York, New York, USA: Arcade Publishing, 2011. pp. 249–250.
  24. ^ Boyer 1998, p. 151.
  25. ^ The [sic!] is that of Joseph Schumpeter; see Schumpeter 1997, p. 8 n2.
  26. ^ Hobsbawm 2011, p. 108.


External links