The "Manifesto" was published as the platform of the "Communist
League," a workingmen's association, first exclusively German, later on
international, and, under the political conditions of the Continent
before 1848, unavoidably a secret society. At a Congress of the
League, held in London in November, 1847, Marx and Engels were
commissioned to prepare for publication a complete theoretical and
practical party programme. Drawn up in German, in January, 1848, the
manuscript was sent to the printer in London a few weeks before the
French revolution of February 24. A French translation was brought out
in Paris, shortly before the insurrection of June, 1848. The first
English translation, by Miss Helen Macfarlane, appeared in George
Julian Harney's "Red Republican," London, 1850. A Danish and a Polish
edition had also been published.
The defeat of the Parisian insurrection of June, 1848—the first great
battle between Proletariat and Bourgeoisie—drove again into the
background, for a time, the social and political aspirations of the
European working class. Thenceforth, the struggle for supremacy was
again, as it had been before the revolution of February, solely between
the different sections of the propertied class; the working class was
reduced to a fight for political elbow-room, and to the position of
extreme wing of the Middle-class Radicals. Wherever independent
proletarian movements continued to show signs of life, they were
ruthlessly hunted down. Thus the Prussian police hunted out the
Central Board of the Communist League, then located in Cologne. The
members were arrested, and, after eighteen months' imprisonment, they
were tried in October, 1852. This celebrated "Cologne Communist trial"
lasted from October 4 till November 12; seven of the prisoners were
sentenced to terms of imprisonment in a fortress, varying from three to
six years. Immediately after the sentence the League was formally
dissolved by the remaining members. As to the "Manifesto," it seemed
thenceforth to be doomed to oblivion.
When the European working class had recovered sufficient strength for
another attack on the ruling classes, the International Workingmen's
Association sprang up. But this association, formed with the express
aim of welding into one body the whole militant proletariat of Europe
and America, could not at once proclaim the principles laid down in the
"Manifesto." The International was bound to have a programme broad
enough to be acceptable to the English Trades' Unions, to the followers
of Proudhon in France, Belgium, Italy and Spain, and to the
Lassalleans[A] in Germany. Marx, who drew up this programme to the
satisfaction of all parties, entirely trusted to the intellectual
development of the working class, which was sure to result from
combined action and mutual discussion. The very events and
vicissitudes of the struggle against Capital, the defeats even more
than the victories, could not help bringing home to men's minds the
insufficiency of their various favorite nostrums, and preparing the way
for a more complete insight into the true conditions of working-class
emancipation. And Marx was right. The International, on its breaking
up in 1874, left the workers quite different men from what it had found
them in 1864. Proudhonism in France, Lassalleanism in Germany, were
dying out, and even the conservative English Trades' Unions, though
most of them had long since severed their connection with the
International, were gradually advancing towards that point at which,
last year at Swansea, their President could say in their name,
"Continental Socialism has lost its terrors for us." In fact, the
principles of the "Manifesto" had made considerable headway among the
workingmen of all countries.
The Manifesto itself thus came to the front again. The German text had
been, since 1850, reprinted several times in Switzerland, England and
America. In 1872 it was translated into English in New York, where the
translation was published in "Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly." From
this English version a French one was made in "Le Socialiste" of New
York. Since then at least two more English translations, more or less
mutilated, have been brought out in America, and one of them has been
reprinted in England. The first Russian translation, made by
Bakounine, was published at Herzen's "Kolokol" office in Geneva, about
1863; a second one, by the heroic Vera Zasulitch, also in Geneva, 1882.
A new Danish edition is to be found in "Socialdemokratisk Bibliothek,"
Copenhagen, 1885; a fresh French translation in "Le Socialiste," Paris,
1886. From this latter a Spanish version was prepared and published in
Madrid, 1886. The German reprints are not to be counted; there have
been twelve altogether at the least. An Armenian translation, which
was to be published in Constantinople some months ago, did not see the
light, I am told, because the publisher was afraid of bringing out a
book with the name of Marx on it, while the translator declined to call
it his own production. Of further translations into other languages I
have heard, but have not seen them. Thus the history of the Manifesto
reflects, to a great extent, the history of the modern working class
movement; at present it is undoubtedly the most widespread, the most
international production of all Socialist Literature, the common
platform acknowledged by millions of workingmen from Siberia to
Yet, when it was written, we could not have called it a Socialist
Manifesto. By Socialists, in 1847, were understood, on the one hand,
the adherents of the various Utopian systems: Owenites in England,
Fourierists in France, both of them already reduced to the position of
mere sects, and gradually dying out; on the other hand, the most
multifarious social quacks, who, by all manners of tinkering, professed
to redress, without any danger to capital and profit, all sorts of
social grievances; in both cases men outside the working class movement
and looking rather to the "educated" classes for support. Whatever
portion of the working classes had become convinced of the
insufficiency of mere political revolutions, and had proclaimed the
necessity of a total social change, that portion, then, called itself
Communist. It was a crude, rough-hewn, purely instinctive sort of
Communism; still it touched the cardinal point and was powerful enough
among the working class to produce the Utopian Communism, in France of
Cabet, and in Germany of Weitling. Thus, Socialism was, in 1847, a
middle class movement, Communism a working class movement. Socialism
was, on the Continent at least, "respectable"; Communism was the very
opposite. And as our notion, from the very beginning was, that "the
emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class
itself," there could be no doubt as to which of the two names we must
take. Moreover, we have ever since been far from repudiating it.
The "Manifesto" being our joint production, I consider myself bound to
state that the fundamental proposition which forms its nucleus belongs
to Marx. That proposition is: that in every historical epoch, the
prevailing mode of economic production and exchange, and the social
organization necessarily following from it, form the basis upon which
is built up, and from which alone can be explained, the political and
intellectual history of that epoch; that consequently the whole history
of mankind (since the dissolution of primitive tribal society, holding
land in common ownership) has been a history of class struggles,
contests between exploiting and exploited, ruling and oppressed
classes; that the history of these class struggles forms a series of
evolution in which, nowadays, a stage has been reached where the
exploited and the oppressed class—the proletariat—cannot attain its
emancipation from the sway of the exploiting and ruling class—the
bourgeoisie—without, at the same time, and once for all, emancipating
society at large from all exploitation, oppression, class distinctions
and class struggles.
This proposition, which, in my opinion, is destined to do for history
what Darwin's theory has done for biology, we, both of us, had been
gradually approaching for some years before 1845. How far I had
independently progressed toward it, is best shown by my "Condition of
the Working Class in England."[B] But when I again met Marx at
Brussels in the spring of 1845, he had it ready worked out, and put it
before me, in terms almost as clear as those in which I have stated it
From our joint preface to the German edition of 1872, I quote the
"However much the state of things may have altered during the last
twenty-five years, the general principles laid down in this Manifesto
are, on the whole, as correct to-day as ever. Here and there some
detail might be improved. The practical application of the principles
will depend, as the Manifesto itself states, everywhere and at all
times, on the historical conditions for the time being existing, and
for that reason no special stress is laid on the revolutionary measures
proposed at the end of Section II. That passage would, in many
respects, be very differently worded to-day. In view of the gigantic
strides of modern industry since 1848, and of the accompanying improved
and extended organization of the working class; in view of the
practical experience gained, first in the February revolution, and
then, still more, in the Paris Commune, where the proletariat for the
first time held political power for two whole months, this programme
has in some details become antiquated. One thing especially was proved
by the Commune, viz., that 'the working class cannot simply lay hold of
the ready-made State machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.'
(See 'The Civil War in France; Address of the General Council of the
International Workingmen's Association,' London, Truelove, 1871, p. 15,
where this point is further developed.) Further, it is self-evident
that the criticism of Socialist literature is deficient in relation to
the present time, because it comes down only to 1847; also, that the
remarks on the relation of the Communists to the various opposition
parties (Section IV.), although in principle still correct, yet in
practice are antiquated, because the political situation has been
entirely changed, and the progress of history has swept from off the
earth the greater portion of the political parties there enumerated.
"But, then, the Manifesto has become a historical document which we
have no longer any right to alter."
The present translation is by Mr. Samuel Moore, the translator of the
greater portion of Marx's "Capital." We have revised it and I have
added a few notes explanatory of historical allusions.
London, January 30, 1888.
[A] Lassalle personally, to us, always acknowledged himself to be a disciple of Marx, and, as such, stood on the ground of the "Manifesto." But in his public agitation, 1862-64, he did not go beyond demanding co-operative workshops supported by State credit.
[B] The condition of the Working Class in England in 1844. By Frederick Engels. Translated by Florence K. Wischnewetzky. To be had from the N. Y. Labor News Co., 28 City Hall Place, New York.
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.
Started reading today. Penguin are selling copies for 80p as part of their little black classics series. Penguin did sell a similar range of books with rather fancier covers, but they cost £5 a pop, which was quite costly for such thin books for which the material is out of copyright. The first chapter was remarkable. It reminded me slightly of the secret book that Winston Smith received from O'Brien in 1984. For the first ten pages, if you just swapped neo-liberal for bourgoisie, it all still seemed remarkably applicable to the present day, e.g. venture capitalism always looking for the next disruptive technology, globalization, ever-increasing productivity, erosion of national and regional identities, MacDonalds on every high street. The second half of that chapter seemed a little out of date. Partly this was because the trade unions have been busted in this country. Up to the 1970s they were very powerful, but Margaret Thatcher gutted them. But also, I don't think the living conditions for present day British proles are anywhere as bad as they were back in the C19th. When I read of the conditions of the working classes in books by Elizabeth Gaskell, George Gissing and Robert Tressell, they seem very much worse than that section of society today has to face. Few people have to pawn their clothes or go without food. I expect partly that is because of globalization. Not so much of that de-skilled, production line work still exists here; it was mostly undercut by industries in foreign countries, such as China. I expect it's the workers in those countries that are more comparable to the proletariat described by Marx and Engels.
Works of Karl Marx 1843 A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right Introduction Written: December 1843-January 1844; First published: in Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, 7 & 10 February 1844 in Paris; Proofed: and corrected by Matthew Carmody 2009. . . . . the criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticism. MaoTse-tung Idealism and metaphysics are the easiest things in the world, because people can talk as much nonsense as they like without basing it on objective reality or having it tested against reality. Materialism and dialectics, on the other hand, need effort. They must be based on and tested by objective reality. Unless one makes the effort one is liable to slip into idealism and metaphysics. Introductory note to "Material on the Hu Feng Counter-Revolutionary Clique" (May 1955). Antonio Gramsci Italian Marxist " . . . . everyone is a philosopher . . . . is it preferable to 'think' without having critical awareness, in a disjointed and irregular way, in other words to 'participate' in a conception of the world 'imposed' mechanically by external environment? .. . . or is it preferable to work out one's own conception of the world consciously and critically, and so out of this work of one's own brain to choose one's own sphere of activity, to partipate actively in making the history of the world, and not simply to accept passively and without care the imprint of one's own personality from outside? . . . .The beginning of the critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, that is, a 'know thyself' as the product of the historical process which has left you an infinty of traces gathered together without the advantage of an inventory. First of all it is necessary to compile such an inventory." * ---"The Modern Prince, "The Study of Philosophy and of Historical Materialism." pages 58-59, "The Modern Prince and other writings." __________________ * Last line not in Gramsci's "Prison Notebooks"
So what do you think? Because of it, Marx became a heavyweight in four disciplines. Sociology, history, economics, and philosophy. It inspired a revolution where up to sixty nations in the world turned to communism(however a bastardized form it was) and altered the course of history as a result. Is The Communist Manifesto the most influential book of the 19th century?
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