The Communist Manifesto

The Communist Manifesto
The Communist Manifesto  
The first edition of the book, in German.
Author(s) Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
Country Germany
Language Originally German, subsequently into many others.
Genre(s) Political theory, Sociology
Publication date 21 February 1848

The Communist Manifesto, originally titled Manifesto of the Communist Party (German: Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei) is a short 1848 publication written by the German Marxist political theorists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. It has since been recognized as one of the world's most influential political manuscripts.[1] Commissioned by the Communist League, it laid out the League's purposes and program. It presents an analytical approach to the class struggle (historical and present) and the problems of capitalism, rather than a prediction of communism's potential future forms.[2]

The book contains Marx and Engels' Marxist 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".[3] It also briefly features their ideas for how the capitalist society of the time would eventually be replaced by socialism, and then eventually communism.



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. The draft contained almost two dozen questions that helped express the ideas of both Engels and Karl Marx at the time. In October 1847, Engels composed his second draft for the Communist League entitled The Principles of Communism. The text remained unpublished until 1914, despite its basis for The Manifesto. From Engels's drafts Marx was able to write, once commissioned by the Communist League, The Communist Manifesto, where he combined more of his ideas along with Engels's drafts and work, The Condition of the Working Class in England.[4]

Although the names of both Engels and Karl Marx appear on the title page alongside the "persistent assumption of joint-authorship", Engels, in the preface introduction to the 1883 German edition of the Manifesto, said that the Manifesto was "essentially Marx's work" and that "the basic thought... belongs solely and exclusively to Marx."[5]

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 belong 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."[6]

Despite Engels's modesty in these two quotations, in fact 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.[7]

Textual history

The Communist Manifesto was first published (in German) in London by a group of German political refugees in 1848. It was also serialised at around the same time in a German-language London newspaper, the Deutsche Londoner Zeitung.[8] 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.[9] 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. This edition, translated by Samuel Moore with the assistance of Engels, has been the most commonly used English text since.[citation needed]

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).


The Manifesto is divided into an introduction, three substantive sections, and a conclusion.


The preamble to the main text of the Manifesto states that the continent of Europe fears the "spectre of communism", and the powers of old Europe are uniting in "a holy alliance [intended to] exorcise this spectre". Marx refers here to not only the houses of power and landed gentry of old Europe--the bourgeoisie--but diverse factions such as the papacy and the emerging corporate world as well.[10] Marx declares that "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".[10]

I. Bourgeois and Proletarians

The first chapter of the Manifesto, "Bourgeois and Proletarians", examines the Marxist conception of history, with the initial idea asserting that "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles".[3] It goes on to say that in capitalism, the working class, proletariat, are fighting in the class struggle against the owners of the means of production, the bourgeois, and that past class struggle ended either with revolution that restructured society, or "common ruin of the contending classes".[3]

It continues by adding that the bourgeois exploits the proletariat by "constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones".[3]

The Manifesto explains that the reason the bourgeois exist and exploit the proletariat with low wages is because of private property, "the accumulation of wealth in private hands, the formation and increase of capital",[3] and that competition amongst the proletariat creates wage-labour, which rests entirely on the competition among the workers.[3]

This section further explains that the proletarians will eventually rise to power through class struggle: the bourgeoisie constantly exploits the proletariat for its manual labour and cheap wages, ultimately to create profit for the bourgeois; the proletariat rise to power through revolution against the bourgeoisie such as riots or creation of unions. The Communist Manifesto states that while there is still class struggle amongst society, capitalism will be overthrown by the proletariat only to start again in the near future; ultimately communism is the key to class equality amongst the citizens of Europe.

II. Proletarians and Communists

The second section, "Proletarians and Communists", starts by stating the relationship of conscious communists to the rest of the working class, declaring that they will not form a separate party that opposes other working-class parties, express the interests and general will of the proletariat as a whole, and distinguish themselves from other working-class parties by always expressing the common interest of the entire proletariat independently of all nationalities, and always representing the interests of the movement as a whole.[11]

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 labor in a communist society because they have no incentive to work.[11] The section ends by outlining a set of short-term demands:

  1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
  2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
  3. Abolition of all right of inheritance.
  4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
  5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
  6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
  7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
  8. Equal liability of all to labour. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
  9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equitable distribution of the population over the country.
  10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labour in its present form and combination of education with industrial production.[12]

The implementation of these policies would, as believed by Marx and Engels, be a precursor to the stateless and classless society.[11] In a controversial passage they suggested that the "proletariat" might in competition with the bourgeoisie be compelled to organise as a class, form a revolution, make itself a ruling class, sweep away the old conditions of production, and in that step have abolished its own supremacy as a class.[11] This account of the transition from socialism to communism was criticised particularly during and after the Soviet era.

In a related dispute,[citation needed] later Marxists make a separation between "socialism", a society ruled by workers, and "communism", a classless society.[citation needed] Engels wrote little and Marx wrote less on the specifics of the transition to communism, so the authenticity of this distinction remains a matter of dispute.[citation needed]

III. Socialist and Communist Literature

The third section, "Socialist and Communist Literature," distinguishes communism from other socialist doctrines prevalent at the time the Manifesto was written.[13] While the degree of reproach of Marx and Engels toward rival perspectives varies, all are dismissed for advocating reformism and failing to recognise the preeminent role of the working class.[citation needed] Partly because of Marx's critique,[citation needed] most of the specific ideologies described in this section became politically negligible by the end of the nineteenth century.[citation needed]

IV. Position of the Communists in Relation to the Various Opposition Parties

The concluding section, "Position of the Communists in Relation to the Various Opposition Parties", briefly discusses the communist position on struggles in specific countries in the mid-nineteenth century such as France, Switzerland, Poland, and Germany, and declares that Germany "is on the eve of a bourgeois revolution",[14] and predicts that a world revolution will soon follow.[14] It then ends by declaring an alliance with the social democrats, boldly supporting other communist revolutions, and calling the proletarians to action, ending with the rallying cry of communism, "Workers of the world, unite!".[14]


A number of twenty-first century writers have commented on The Communist Manifesto's continuing relevance. Academic John Raines, writing 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."[15] Writing in 2003, the English Marxist Chris Harman described the work, stating that:

See also


  1. ^ Seymour-Smith, Maerin (1998). The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written: The History of Thought from Ancient Times to Today. Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press. 
  2. ^ The Great Philosophers, by Jeremy Stangroom and James Garvey, Arcturus 2005/ 2008 ISBN 978-1-84837-018-0, pp160 UKP9.99
  3. ^ a b c d e f Marx and Engels 1848. Chapter One.
  4. ^ Marx's General: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels, by Tristram Hunt, Metropolitan Books 2009 ISBN 978-0-8050-8025-4,pg. 142-44
  5. ^ Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, introduction by Martin Malia (New York: Penguin group, 1998), pg. 35 ISBN 0-451-52710-0
  6. ^ Marx's General: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels, by Tristram Hunt, Metropolitan Books 2009 ISBN 978-0-8050-8025-4,pg. 117
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ Kuczynski, Thomas, Das kommunistische Manifest (Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei) von Karl Marx und Friedrich Engels: von der Erstausgabe zur Leseausgabe, mit einer Editionsbericht (Trier, 1995).
  9. ^ Riggenbach, Jeff (1 April 2011) Stephen Pearl Andrews's Fleeting Contribution to Anarchist Thought, Mises Institute
  10. ^ a b Marx and Engels 1848. Introduction.
  11. ^ a b c d Marx and Engels 1848. Chapter Two.
  12. ^ "The Communist Manifesto at Project Gutenberg". Retrieved 24 January 2007. 
  13. ^ Marx and Engels 1848. Chapter Three.
  14. ^ a b c Marx and Engels 1848. Chapter Four.
  15. ^ Raines, John. 2002. "Introduction". Marx on Religion (Marx, Karl). Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Page 05.


  • Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrich (1848). The Communist Manifesto. 

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