The Communist Manifesto

April 27, 2010

The Communist Manifesto

Karl Marx

Karl Marx lived in exile in London for almost half of his life (34 years), however in his early years he was seen as a rebel in Germany.

He was known as outsider in English society as he never fully learned the language. His basic theories where already formulated before he travelled to England, however his close friend Wilhelm Liebknecht, later said: 'Here Marx found what he was looking for, what he needed: the bricks and mortar for his work. Capital could only have been written in London. Marx could only become what he did become in England'. For it was in England that Marx found the bedrock of social and economic material on which to found his theories – and which, on occasion, led him to modify them.

Writing in England he was able to see firsthand the workings of the most advanced industrial economy in the world at the time.

According to Friedrich Engels, his lifelong friend and collaborator, Marx had three main sources for his ideas: German classical philosophy, French socialism, and English economics. Marx was fascinated by the philosophy of Hegel which presented a comprehensive view of the world based on the dynamics of contradiction and change.

He developed Nihilism, which is a chaotic view of truth in anything, further devised as a means to destroy liberty through the guise of expanding it. Nihilism is what resulted in the death of the Russian leader and his family, giving rise to perhaps the most bloody form of government ever devised, which were responsible for more deaths in its own country than WWII its self.

according to Engels Marx achieved a fusion of Hegelian philosophy and British empiricism and French revolutionary politics.

Marx was an economist who made economics central to understanding human life and power.

For Aristotle man is the rational animal, for Plato the political animal, for Kant the moral animal, for Hegel the historic animal and for Marx man is the productive animal; Mankind creates the environment it inhabits.


Communism is a social structure, political philosophy and social movement in which classes are abolished and property is commonly controlled.

Communism will therefore have no countries, no religion and no possessions (other than personal property like toothbrushes and so on).

Marx stated a person would be a fisherman in the morning, a factory worker in the afternoon and musician and philosopher in the evening - and all these activities would have equal worth and equal aspects of human personality.

As a political ideology, communism is usually considered to be a branch of socialism, with origins from the industrial and the French Revolution.

'Pure communism' in the Marxian sense refers to a classless, stateless and oppression-free society where decisions on what to produce and what policies to pursue are made democratically, allowing every member of society to participate in the decision-making.

The dominant forms of communism, such as Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism and Trotskyism are based on Marxism, as well as other forms of communism (such as Luxemburgism and Council communism). However non-Marxist versions of communism (such as Christian communism and Anarchist communism) also exist.

Karl Marx never provided a detailed description as to how communism would function as an economic system, but it is understood that a communist economy would consist of common ownership of the means of production and negation of the concept of private ownership of capital.

Karl Marx stated that communism would be the final stage in society. He believed it would only be achieved through a revolution after the socialist stage develops productive forces, leading to a superabundance of goods and services.

Marx states that the only way to solve these problems is for the Working class (Proletariat) to replace the Capitalist class (Bourgeoisie) as the ruling class in order to establish a free society, without class or racial divisions. Marx believed the Working class are the main producers of wealth in society and are exploited by the Capitalist class.

The Bourgeoisie is not the peasantry or “the poor” generally. They are described as “a recruiting ground for thieves and criminals of all kinds, living on the crumbs of society, people without a definite trade, vagabonds and people without hearth or home”. Such people have no historical significance and are as a whole ‘the reactionary mob’ (e.g. during The Terror in France).

The Proletariat are those who are concentrated in cities and factories. A Proletariat has to be “class conscious” and organized as a conscious social force through a trade union or a political party.

History of the Manifesto

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote their Manifesto in December 1847, as a guide to the fundamental principles and practices of Communists. It was written when revolutions (mostly non- Communist) were breaking out across the European continent. It is now known as one of the world's most influential political manuscripts.

When the United States ‘Declaration of Independence’ was published in 1847, Marx admiringly called it ‘ the first human rights declaration’. The Communist Manifesto quickly followed lead and published its first copy (in German) in London by a group of German political refugees on February 21, 1848. It was released around the same time in a German-language London newspaper, the Deutsche Londoner Zeitung.

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

Engels composed the first drafts of the Manifesto. In July 1847, Engels was elected into the Communist League, where he was assigned to draw up a detailed summary of the leagues policies, which 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, '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.

You can read the manifesto in several foreign languages, including Marx's original German. The first English translation was produced by Helen Macfarlane in 1850.

The Manifesto went through a number of editions and 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.

The Communist Manifesto

The Manifesto has a powerful first sentence, ‘A specter is haunting Europe-- the specter of Communism’. Its last sentence, ‘Workers of all nations, unite!’ has been adopted as a motto by Communist parties around the world.

The communist manifesto attempts to explain the goals of Communism, as well as the theory underlying the movement. It argues that class struggles, or the exploitation of one class by another, are the motivating force behind all historical developments.

Class relationships are defined by an era's means of production. However, these relationships eventually 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. This process represents the 'march of history' as driven by larger economic forces.

The manifesto asserts that each person’s moral obligation is to the community. It presents an analytical approach to the class struggle (historical and present) and the problems of capitalism, rather than the prediction of communism's potential future forms.

The Layout

The Manifesto is divided into 5 sections; an introduction, three substantive sections, and a conclusion.

1: Preamble (Introduction)

The introduction begins with the comparison of communism to a "spectre," claiming that across Europe communism is feared, and acknowledged, but not understood. This was therefore the motivation for writing the manifesto, to openly publish their views in English, French, German, Italian, Flemish and Danish languages.

2: Bourgeois and Proletarians

The first section explains Marx's Hegelian version of history and historical materialism. It claims that all societies in the history have always had class struggles.

The section argues that the class struggle under capitalism is between those who own the means of production, the ruling class (bourgeoisie) and those who labour for a wage, the working class (proletariat).

The Bourgeois constantly exploits the Proletarians for their manual labor and cheap wages, ultimately to create profit for Bourgeois. Marx explains that the Proletarians will rise to power because of revolutions against the Bourgeois such as riots or creation of unions.

Marx suggests that while there is still class struggle amongst society as Capitalism will be overthrown by the Proletarians, who will start exploiting the Bourgeois again. The Communist Manifesto states that only ultimate communism is the key to class equality amongst the citizens of Europe.

3: Proletarians and Communists

This section defends communism from various objections, such as the claims that people will not perform labor in a communist society because they have no incentive to work.

The section ends by outlining a set of short-term demands, which consists of a 10 point program:

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) 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. Combination of education with industrial production.

Marx and Engels later expressed a desire to modernise this passage.

4: Socialist and Communist Literature

This section distinguishes communism from other socialist doctrines which were relevant at the time the Manifesto was written. These were dismissed for failing to recognize the repressed role of the working class. Partly because of Marx's critique, most of the doctrines described in this section became politically negligible by the end of the nineteenth century.

5: Position of the Communists in Relation to the Various Existing Opposition Parties (Conclusion)

This concluding section briefly discusses the communist position on struggles in specific countries in the mid-nineteenth century such as France, Switzerland, Poland, and Germany. It then ends with a declaration of support for other communist revolutions and a call them in to action.

Manifesto of the communist party full text:

Only remaining page of the first draft of the Manifesto in Marx's handwriting from the Marx papers at the International Institute of Social History:

The Marx website: