The Communist Manifesto (originally Manifesto of the Communist Party) is an 1848 political pamphlet by German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Commissioned by the Communist League and originally published in London (in German as Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei) just as the revolutions of 1848 began to erupt, the Manifesto was later recognised as one of the world's most influential political documents. It presents an analytical approach to the class struggle (historical and then-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 summarises 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. Source: Wikipedia
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About the Author
Born in Trier, Germany, Marx studied law and philosophy at university. He married Jenny von Westphalen in 1843. Due to his political publications, Marx became stateless and lived in exile with his wife and children in London for decades, where he continued to develop his thought in collaboration with German thinker Friedrich Engels and publish his writings, researching in the reading room of the British Museum. His best-known titles are the 1848 pamphlet, The Communist Manifesto, and the three-volume Das Kapital. His political and philosophical thought had enormous influence on subsequent intellectual, economic and political history, and his name has been used as an adjective, a noun and a school of social theory.
Marx's critical theories about society, economics and politics - collectively understood as Marxism - hold that human societies develop through class struggle. In capitalism, this manifests itself in the conflict between the ruling classes (known as the bourgeoisie) that control the means of production and the working classes (known as the proletariat) that enable these means by selling their labour power in return for wages. Employing a critical approach known as historical materialism, Marx predicted that, like previous socio-economic systems, capitalism produced internal tensions which would lead to its self-destruction and replacement by a new system known as socialism.
For Marx, class antagonisms under capitalism, owing in part to its instability and crisis-prone nature, would eventuate the working class' development of class consciousness, leading to their conquest of political power and eventually the establishment of a classless, communist society constituted by a free association of producers. Marx actively pressed for its implementation, arguing that the working class should carry out organised revolutionary action to topple capitalism and bring about socio-economic emancipation.
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MANIFESTO OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY
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: Pope and Czar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.
Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as Communistic by its opponents in power? Where the Opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of Communism, against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?
Two things result from this fact.
I. Communism is already acknowledged by all European Powers to be itself a Power.
II. It is high time that Communists should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of Communism with a Manifesto of the party itself.
To this end, Communists of various nationalities have assembled in London, and sketched the following Manifesto, to be published in the English, French, German, Italian, Flemish and Danish languages.
I. BOURGEOIS AND PROLETARIANS*
The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.
Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master* and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary re-constitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.
In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations.
The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones.
Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinctive feature: it has simplified the class antagonisms: Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.
From the serfs of the Middle Ages sprang the chartered burghers of the earliest towns. From these burgesses the first elements of the bourgeoisie were developed.
The discovery of America, the rounding of the Cape, opened up fresh ground for the rising bourgeoisie. The East-Indian and Chinese markets, the colonisation of America, trade with the colonies, the increase in the means of exchange and in commodities generally, gave to commerce, to navigation, to industry, an impulse never before known, and thereby, to the revolutionary element in the tottering feudal society, a rapid development.
The feudal system of industry, under which industrial production was monopolised by closed guilds, now no longer sufficed for the growing wants of the new markets. The manufacturing system took its place. The guild-masters were pushed on one side by the manufacturing middle class; division of labour between the different corporate guilds vanished in the face of division of labour in each single workshop.
Meantime the markets kept ever growing, the demand ever rising. Even manufacture no longer sufficed. Thereupon, steam and machinery revolutionized industrial production. The place of manufacture was taken by the giant, Modern Industry, the place of the industrial middle class, by industrial millionaires, the leaders of whole industrial armies, the modern bourgeois.
Modern industry has established the world-market, for which the discovery of America paved the way. This market has given an immense development to commerce, to navigation, to communication by land. This development has, in its turn, reacted on the extension of industry; and in proportion as industry, commerce, navigation, railways extended, in the same proportion the bourgeoisie developed, increased its capital, and pushed into the background every class handed down from the Middle Ages.
We see, therefore, how the modern bourgeoisie is itself the product of a long course of development, of a series of revolutions in the modes of production and of exchange.
Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding political advance of that class. An oppressed class under the sway of the feudal nobility, an armed and self-governing association in the mediaeval commune,* here independent urban republic (as in Italy and Germany), there taxable "third estate" of the monarchy (as in France), afterwards, in the period of manufacture proper, serving either the semi-feudal or the absolute monarchy as a counterpoise against the nobility, and, in fact, corner-stone of the great monarchies in general, the bourgeoisie has at last, since the establishment of Modern Industry and of the world-market, conquered for itself, in the modern representative State, exclusive political sway. The executive of the modern State is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.
The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part.
The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his "natural superiors," and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous "cash payment." It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom--Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.
The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage-labourers.
The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.
The bourgeoisie has disclosed how it came to pass that the brutal display of vigour in the Middle Ages, which Reactionists so much admire, found its fitting complement in the most slothful indolence. It has been the first to show what man's activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades.
The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing 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 revolutionizing 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.
The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.
The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world-market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilized nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the productions of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.
The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation. The cheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians' intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.
The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilized ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West.
The bourgeoisie keeps more and more doing away with the scattered state of the population, of the means of production, and of property. It has agglomerated population, centralised means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands. The necessary consequence of this was political centralisation. Independent, or but loosely connected provinces, with separate interests, laws, governments and systems of taxation, became lumped together into one nation, with one government, one code of laws, one national class-interest, one frontier and one customs-tariff.
The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature's forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground--what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?
We see then: the means of production and of exchange, on whose foundation the bourgeoisie built itself up, were generated in feudal society. At a certain stage in the development of these means of production and of exchange, the conditions under which feudal society produced and exchanged, the feudal organisation of agriculture and manufacturing industry, in one word, the feudal relations of property became no longer compatible with the already developed productive forces; they became so many fetters. They had to be burst asunder; they were burst asunder.
Into their place stepped free competition, accompanied by a social and political constitution adapted to it, and by the economical and political sway of the bourgeois class.
A similar movement is going on before our own eyes. Modern bourgeois society with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer, who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. For many a decade past the history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forces against modern conditions of production, against the property relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeoisie and of its rule. It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put on its trial, each time more threateningly, the existence of the entire bourgeois society. In these crises a great part not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed. In these crises there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity--the epidemic of over-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce. The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property. The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them. And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. That is to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented.
The weapons with which the bourgeoisie felled feudalism to the ground are now turned against the bourgeoisie itself.
But not only has the bourgeoisie forged the weapons that bring death to itself; it has also called into existence the men who are to wield those weapons--the modern working class--the proletarians.
In proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e., capital, is developed, in the same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working class, developed--a class of labourers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labour increases capital. These labourers, who must sell themselves piece-meal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market.
Owing to the extensive use of machinery and to division of labour, the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and consequently, all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him. Hence, the cost of production of a workman is restricted, almost entirely, to the means of subsistence that he requires for his maintenance, and for the propagation of his race. But the price of a commodity, and therefore also of labour, is equal to its cost of production. In proportion, therefore, as the repulsiveness of the work increases, the wage decreases. Nay more, in proportion as the use of machinery and division of labour increases, in the same proportion the burden of toil also increases, whether by prolongation of the working hours, by increase of the work exacted in a given time or by increased speed of the machinery, etc.
Excerpted from "The Communist Manifesto"
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Table of Contents
What People are Saying About This
"the greatest charter of our movement." Rosa Luxemburg "an integral and systematic exposition of [Marx's] doctrine ... the best to this day." Lenin "laid the foundation for modern socialism." Karl Kautsky
Reading Group Guide
For much of the twentieth century, The Communist Manifesto was accepted as doctrine by those living under Communist rule as well as by those caught up in the fervor of revolutionary political activity, while others considered it a piece of propaganda of interest mainly to scholars of political history and international relations. But the Manifesto is really an extended set of provocative answers to questions about Communism, which emerged in the 1840s as a new vision of history and the nature of humans as historical beings, determined in all aspects by the material conditions of society. And as a work that places so much importance on the connection between ideas and artifacts and their historical moment, it has its own history.
In June 1848, less than six months after the Manifesto's first publication, Marx advocated shelving the document and disbanding the Communist League, which had requested in late 1847 that Marx and Engels write the Manifesto. After the widespread and unsuccessful revolutionary activity across Europe earlier in the year, it was already clear to Marx that the immediacy of the program outlined in the Manifesto could not well serve the political and social conditions of the times. Over the next twenty years, the Manifesto was largely disregarded. In the 1870s, with Marx prominent in the international socialist movement, the Manifesto came to be honored more as a document of symbolic historic significance than as a viable plan of action. By then, the vehement call to revolution in the Manifesto had been superseded by the move to accommodate different class interests within and through existing political structures, best exemplified by the flourishing of labor unions and reform legislation.
The Manifesto did not achieve canonical status as the essential informing document of the world Communist revolution until the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 in Russia and the rise of Lenin. Treated for decades as a piece of writing imbedded in an era long past, the Manifesto came to be regarded as a perennial outline of political direction. Like sacred scripture, it engendered a body of orthodox interpretation, carefully constructed to fit to the changing world scene what were considered its universal propositions.
But what of the intrinsic qualities of the Manifesto? What assures that it will be read and discussed regardless of political circumstances? In part 2, Marx and Engels assert, "The theoretical conclusions of the Communists are in no way based on ideas or principles that have been invented, or discovered, by this or that would-be universal reformer. They merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from a historical movement going on under our very eyes" (p. 234-235). Marx and Engels, it would seem, intended the Manifesto not only to make clear to the world the political positions and views of Communists, in order to dispel the specter of misconception, but to also describe the causes and directions of historical change as manifested through the clear-eyed view of Communists.
In brief form, the Manifesto presents nothing less than a unified theory of historical dynamics, with class struggle as the central motive and all manifestations of politics and culture, including art and literature, derived from the prevailing system of material production. This gives way to an almost exuberant characterization of capitalist productive achievement that still holds our attention as a completely recognizable portrait of the relentless drive of modern industry and trade. Set against capitalism's wonders is the human cost of being subject to a system that drains personal incentive, wears out the body and mind, and results in profound alienation from the value of one's productive activities. The plight of the proletariat forces us to consider the harrowing condition of humanity stripped of all comforting illusions: "...man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind" (p. 223).
But Marx and Engels ultimately are concerned with the advent of a world in which the conditions of life will be uniformly benign and in which human relations will be in some way improved. What would be the moral basis of such a world? Marx and Engels claim that "Communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality, instead of constituting them on a new basis" (p. 242). In the end, readers of the Manifesto must confront a paradox that arises whenever we conceive of the individual as largely determined by circumstances. For the Manifesto is both a prediction of an inevitable course of history and a rallying cry to act in a certain way for the purpose of bringing about change and improvement. How to act autonomously in a world determined by forces more powerful than the individual is a timeless question.
ABOUT KARL MARX AND FRIEDRICH ENGELS
Karl Marx was born in 1818 to a professional family in Prussia with liberal political leanings, which, at that time, were likely to attract police surveillance. After a vigorous academic career at the University of Berlin, where he was influenced by the historical doctrines of the philosopher Hegel, Marx became editor of a radical newspaper in Cologne, which was soon suppressed. He then left with his new wife for Paris, where he began to meet with Communist organizations of French and German workers and formulate his socialist views.
Friedrich Engels, born in 1820, came from a family of affluent industrialists and quickly developed a capacity for leading a double life. While successfully tending to family business interests as manager of and partner in textile factories in Germany, and later in Manchester, England, he pursued his involvement in revolutionary politics through writing and meeting with radical workers' groups. In 1844, he published his classic study of the social ravages of industrialized society, The Condition of the Working Class in England.
Marx and Engels began their lifelong partnership to establish what has become known as Marxist Communism during a ten-day visit in Paris in 1844. Marx once remarked that their enemies used the singular verb when speaking of "Marx-Engels." However, though joined by their mutual commitment to the cause of revolutionary socialism, they were very different in temperament and background. Engels was brisk and lighthearted, with all the social refinements of a bourgeois gentleman, while Marx was the stereotype of the ponderous scholar—slow, careful, and somber. Though he lived in London for thirty-four years, Marx never learned to speak English fluently; Engels was fluent in more than a dozen languages.
In 1847, Engels helped organize the Communist League in London; the following year, he and Marx drafted a statement of principles for this group, Manifesto of the Communist Party. By this time, Marx had moved to Brussels after a series of expulsions from France and Germany. After the unsuccessful European revolutions of 1848, which occurred immediately after the publication of the Manifesto, Marx returned to Germany to edit a newspaper. When this failed, he settled permanently in London in 1849. Earning very little from his writing and dependent on the generosity of Engels, Marx pursued his studies in economic and social history in the library at the British Museum. During fourteen years of isolation from politics, he began to write a series of books on economic theory. The culmination of these writings was his greatest work, Capital, for which Engels provided essential information about business practices and industrial operations.
With the founding of the International Working Men's Association in 1864, Marx emerged from obscurity to be a leading spirit in the movement to unite workers across political boundaries, one of the goals professed sixteen years earlier in theManifesto. After the Paris Commune was crushed in 1870, Marx became an internationally known figure, declaring, "Its martyrs are enshrined forever in the great heart of the working class." After Marx's death in 1883, Engels used his considerable social and writing skills and persuasive abilities to popularize their mutual views. Until his death in 1895, he was generally regarded as the foremost authority on the body of economic and social theory known as Marxism.
- Why do Marx and Engels believe the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat will have a different result from all previous class struggles in recorded history?
- Why do Marx and Engels claim that the bourgeoisie inevitably produces its own gravediggers?
- What do Marx and Engels mean when they describe the proletariat as a revolutionary class?
- What do Marx and Engels mean when they say that capital has individuality but living persons do not? Is this true of members of the bourgeoisie as well as the proletariat?
- Why does a manifesto of the Communist party place such strong emphasis on the remarkable achievements of bourgeois capitalism?
- Why do Marx and Engels assume there is a strong affinity between the grievances of the workers and the aims of Communism?
- What gives Communists an advantage over the proletariat in understanding the conditions, direction, and general results of the proletarian movement?
- What evidence do Marx and Engels give for their claim that human consciousness—ideas, views, and conceptions—changes with every change in material existence?
- Why do Marx and Engels insist that the abolition of private property is central to revolutionary change?
- If one of the early stages of the proletarian revolution is a despotism of the working class, as Marx and Engels assert, what assures that this order will give way to a free, classless society?
- Why do Marx and Engels reject the possibility that existing social and political systems can be reformed?
- In part 3 of the Manifesto, why do Marx and Engels advocate supporting the bourgeoisie in Germany when it acts in a revolutionary way, instead of advocating direct support of the proletariat in its class struggle?
- Is it possible to define human needs, values, and goals outside the material conditions of a society?
- How could a historical process, governed not by ideals but by the clash of materially contending interests ("the class struggle"), lead to a morally desirable result?
FOR FURTHER REFLECTION
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843) and Hard Times (1854)
The popular Christmas story can be read in light of what is referred to in the Manifesto as "conservative, or bourgeois, socialism"—the attempt to ameliorate the misery of the working class through charitable works. Published soon after theManifesto, Hard Times portrays the conditions in mid-nineteenth-century industrial England that provoked Marx and Engels's critique of capitalism.
V. I. Lenin, The State and Revolution (1917)
The chief architect of the Russian Revolution draws on the work of Marx and Engels to substantiate the imminent seizing of power and establishing of a proletarian dictatorship.
Karl Marx, Capital (1867)
This work elucidates the revolutionary implications of the capitalist system of production and argues that its demise is an inevitable consequence of its own development.
Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945)
This signal work of social philosophy includes a searching critique of Marx's theory of historical inevitability, arguing that it contains principles antithetical to the values of modern, liberal democracies.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (1755)
This essay speculates that the establishment of private property underlies civil society and is the root cause of all social inequalities and class differences. Rousseau's sentiments fed the fervor of revolutionaries and socialists, including Marx and Engels, for a century.
Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (1906)
In graphic detail, this novel of social realism depicts the brutalizing effects of industrial production on the lives of workers in the Chicago stockyards. Like the Manifesto, it conveys the impressive efficiency of capitalism while deploring its human cost.