Nicki Lisa Cole, Ph. Updated November 18, "The Communist Manifesto," written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in , is one of the most widely taught texts in sociology. The Communist League in London commissioned the work, which was originally published in German. At the time, it served as a political rallying cry for the communist movement in Europe.
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Synopsis[ edit ] The Communist Manifesto is divided into a preamble and four sections, the last of these a short conclusion. The introduction begins by proclaiming: "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", elucidates 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 exploited under the yoke 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 and accumulating capital.
However, in doing so the bourgeoisie serves as "its own grave-diggers"; the proletariat inevitably will become conscious of their own potential and rise to power through revolution, overthrowing the bourgeoisie. The section goes on to defend communism from various objections, including claims that it advocates communal prostitution or disincentivises people from working. The section ends by outlining a set of short-term demands—among them a progressive income tax ; abolition of inheritances and private property ; abolition of child labour ; free public education ; nationalisation of the means of transport and communication; centralisation of credit via a national bank; expansion of publicly owned land, etc.
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 pre-eminent revolutionary role of the working class. It ends by declaring an alliance with the democratic socialists , boldly supporting other communist revolutions and calling for united international proletarian action—" Working Men of All Countries, Unite!
At its First Congress in 2—9 June, the League tasked Engels with drafting a "profession of faith", but such a document was later deemed inappropriate for an open, non-confrontational organisation. This became the draft Principles of Communism , described as "less of a credo and more of an exam paper". The League thus unanimously adopted a far more combative resolution than that at the First Congress in June. Marx especially and Engels were subsequently commissioned to draw up a manifesto for the League.
Upon returning to Brussels, Marx engaged in "ceaseless procrastination", according to his biographer Francis Wheen. Following this, he even spent a week 17—26 January in Ghent to establish a branch of the Democratic Association there. Subsequently, having not heard from Marx for nearly two months, the Central Committee of the Communist League sent him an ultimatum on 24 or 26 January, demanding he submit the completed manuscript by 1 February.
This imposition spurred Marx on, who struggled to work without a deadline, and he seems to have rushed to finish the job in time. For evidence of this, historian Eric Hobsbawm points to the absence of rough drafts, only one page of which survives. In all, the Manifesto was written over 6—7 weeks. Although Engels is credited as co-writer, the final draft was penned exclusively by Marx. From the 26 January letter, Laski infers that even the Communist League considered Marx to be the sole draftsman and that he was merely their agent, imminently replaceable.
Further, Engels himself wrote in "The basic thought running through the Manifesto [ Although Laski does not disagree, he suggests that Engels underplays his own contribution with characteristic modesty and points out the "close resemblance between its substance and that of the [Principles of Communism]". Laski argues that while writing the Manifesto, Marx drew from the "joint stock of ideas" he developed with Engels "a kind of intellectual bank account upon which either could draw freely".
Written in German, the page pamphlet was titled Manifest der kommunistischen Partei and had a dark-green cover. On 4 March, one day after the serialisation in the Zeitung began, Marx was expelled by Belgian police. Two weeks later, around 20 March, a thousand copies of the Manifesto reached Paris, and from there to Germany in early April.
In April—May the text was corrected for printing and punctuation mistakes; Marx and Engels would use this page version as the basis for future editions of the Manifesto. Polish and Danish translations soon followed the German original in London, and by the end of , a Swedish translation was published with a new title—The Voice of Communism: Declaration of the Communist Party.
Her version begins: "A frightful hobgoblin stalks throughout Europe. We are haunted by a ghost, the ghost of Communism". The Manifesto played no role in this; a French translation was not published in Paris until just before the working-class June Days Uprising was crushed.
Its influence in the Europe-wide revolutions of was restricted to Germany , where the Cologne-based Communist League and its newspaper Neue Rheinische Zeitung , edited by Marx, played an important role. Within a year of its establishment, in May , the Zeitung was suppressed; Marx was expelled from Germany and had to seek lifelong refuge in London. After the defeat of the revolutions the Manifesto fell into obscurity, where it remained throughout the s and s.
Hobsbawm says that by November the Manifesto "had become sufficiently scarce for Marx to think it worth reprinting section III [ Over the next two decades only a few new editions were published; these include an unauthorised and occasionally inaccurate Russian translation by Mikhail Bakunin in Geneva and an edition in Berlin—the first time the Manifesto was published in Germany.
According to Hobsbawm: "By the middle s virtually nothing that Marx had written in the past was any longer in print". Rise, —[ edit ] In the early s, the Manifesto and its authors experienced a revival in fortunes. Hobsbawm identifies three reasons for this. Secondly, Marx also came into much prominence among socialists—and equal notoriety among the authorities—for his support of the Paris Commune of , elucidated in The Civil War in France.
During the trial prosecutors read the Manifesto out loud as evidence; this meant that the pamphlet could legally be published in Germany.
Thus in Marx and Engels rushed out a new German-language edition, writing a preface that identified that several portions that became outdated in the quarter century since its original publication. This edition was also the first time the title was shortened to The Communist Manifesto Das Kommunistische Manifest , and it became the bedrock the authors based future editions upon.
Over the next forty years, as social-democratic parties rose across Europe and parts of the world, so did the publication of the Manifesto alongside them, in hundreds of editions in thirty languages. Marx and Engels wrote a new preface for the Russian edition, translated by Georgi Plekhanov in Geneva.
In it they wondered if Russia could directly become a communist society , or if she would become capitalist first like other European countries. Among these is the English edition, translated by Samuel Moore and approved by Engels, who also provided notes throughout the text. It has been the standard English-language edition ever since. In comparison, the pamphlet had little impact on politics in southwest and southeast Europe, and moderate presence in the north. For instance, the German SPD printed only a few thousand copies of the Communist Manifesto every year, but a few hundred thousand copies of the Erfurt Programme.
Further, the mass-based social-democratic parties of the Second International did not require their rank and file to be well-versed in theory; Marxist works such as the Manifesto or Das Kapital were read primarily by party theoreticians. Further, party leaders were expected to base their policy decisions on Marxist-Leninist ideology.
Therefore works such as the Manifesto were required reading for the party rank-and-file. Works by Marx, Engels, and Lenin were published on a very large scale, and cheap editions of their works were available in several languages across the world.
This affected the destiny of the Manifesto in several ways. Firstly, in terms of circulation; in the American and British Communist Parties printed several hundred thousand copies of a cheap edition for "probably the largest mass edition ever issued in English".
Secondly the work entered political-science syllabuses in universities, which would only expand after the Second World War. For its centenary in , its publication was no longer the exclusive domain of Marxists and academicians; general publishers too printed the Manifesto in large numbers. Even after the collapse of the Soviet Bloc in the s, the Communist Manifesto remains ubiquitous; Hobsbawm says that "In states without censorship, almost certainly anyone within reach of a good bookshop, and certainly anyone within reach of a good library, not to mention the internet, can have access to it".
The th anniversary once again brought a deluge of attention in the press and the academia, as well as new editions of the book fronted by introductions to the text by academics. Legacy[ edit ] "With the clarity and brilliance of genius, this work outlines a new world-conception, consistent materialism, which also embraces the realm of social life; dialectics, as the most comprehensive and profound doctrine of development; the theory of the class struggle and of the world-historic revolutionary role of the proletariat—the creator of a new, communist society.
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". There are passages that could have come from the most recent writings on globalisation". 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 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 s, and in movements whose members, unlike Marx, were not classically educated, the original sense was lost and was misread.
The Communist Manifesto also takes influence from literature. References[ edit ] Adoratsky, V. New York: International Publishers. Boyer, George R. Journal of Economic Perspectives.
The Main Points of "The Communist Manifesto"
Synopsis[ edit ] The Communist Manifesto is divided into a preamble and four sections, the last of these a short conclusion. The introduction begins by proclaiming: "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", elucidates 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 exploited under the yoke of an oppressive minority.
The Communist Manifesto
Karl Marx was born in Trier, Prussia, in —the son of a Jewish lawyer who converted to Lutheranism. He studied law and philosophy at the universities of Berlin and Jena and initially was a follower of G. Hegel, the 19th-century German philosopher who sought a dialectical and all-embracing system of philosophy. In , Marx became editor of the Rheinische Zeitung, a liberal democratic newspaper in Cologne. The newspaper grew considerably under his guidance, but in the Prussian authorities shut it down for being too outspoken. That year, Marx moved to Paris to co-edit a new political review. Paris was at the time a center for socialist thought, and Marx adopted the more extreme form of socialism known as communism, which called for a revolution by the working class that would tear down the capitalist world.
Karl Marx publishes Communist Manifesto
Summary Summary Summary The Communist Manifesto reflects an attempt to explain the goals of Communism, as well as the theory underlying this movement. It argues that class struggles, or the exploitation of one class by another, are the motivating force behind all historical developments. However, eventually these relationships cease to be compatible with the developing forces of production. At this point, a revolution occurs and a new class emerges as the ruling one.