February 1848 First Published: February 1848

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Manifesto of the Communist Party


Karl Marx and Frederick Engels

February 1848

First Published: February 1848

Critical Book Report by

Muhammad Tahir

I:D 15005112004

The Communist Manifesto

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels

The Communist Manifesto was published in 1848 and presented in the Communist League convention. Those days Communist league had little influence. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels's great writings had made their own views on socialism and their writings became a standard text. More than a century it was one of the most widely read documents in the world.

The audience of this book is working class. Authors are quite successful to attracting their audience. The purpose of Manifesto is to achieve two major goals first is to convert the proletarians and their allies to Marx's version of socialism and second is to put the ruling class on notice as to the revolutionaries' intentions. So it expresses both hopes and threats. This book is worthy to read the psychology of the capitalistic world for the students as well as scholars of this age. This is analytical, logical and systematic book with foot notes.

At the beginning Marx taunts his opponents saying they are terrified of communism without understanding in the minimal what it is. Communism is such a threat, it must be important, and worth understanding. Hence the Manifesto.

The Communist Manifesto commences with Marx's famous quote that "the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles". Marx describes these classes in terms of two oppositions, with one party as oppressor, the other as oppressed. The demise of feudalism, has brought about a clarity of class rivalry Rather than many classes fighting amongst themselves is increasingly splitting into only two classes: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.

The business of the state is the result of a long historical process. The new discoveries and colonization of the New World in the 16th and 17th centuries required new methods of production and exchange. Because of the demand for larger scale production, the medieval guild system gave way to new methods of manufacturing, defined by the widespread use of division of labor and, with the advent of industrialization, by steam and machinery. It was the bourgeoisie "modern Capitalists, owners of the means of social production and the employers of wage labor who were the agents of these economic revolutions.

The emerging economic powers of the bourgeoisie led to their political authorization. Bourgeoisie had come in the middle of the 19th century to control the main states of Europe. In fact, as Marx famously notes, "the executive of the modern State is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie". In the first half of the 19th century, the bourgeoisie introduced an ethic based free trade and the rational, profit motive based economy.

Marx says, "Constant big changes in production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones". This economic and social dynamism unsettles the boundaries of nations and creates pressure and lead toward globalization, and "create the world after their own image".

Marx sees as the result of bourgeois economic development that rocked Europe in the 1830 to 1840. In response to these crises, the bourgeoisie either scale back their production, find new markets, or more thoroughly exploit old ones. According to Marx, though, all this is for naught as it does not treat the underlying problems which will create more acute crises in the future.

The proletariat are the working forces of bourgeois enterprise, "a class of laborers who live only so long as they can find work, and who find work only so long as their labor increases capital". The proletarians are themselves commodities. According to Marx, this wage is the cost of bare subsistence for the proletariat and his family. Because of the division of labor, the work of the proletariat is assimilated to the great industrial machinery.

Under the bourgeois masters, the proletariat is in a constant state of antagonism with the bourgeoisie. As the proletariat become more numerous and organized, though, members of the bourgeoisie begin to realize that their class will fall and the proletariat will triumph.

Finally, the proletariat flared up rebellion, broke the chains which bound them to the bourgeoisie. They condemn all the bourgeois laws, morality, and religions as supporters for bourgeois economic interests. Marx concludes, "What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, is its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable".

Next chapter Marx starts by proclaiming that communists have no interests apart from the interests of the working class as a whole. Communists are distinguished from other socialist parties by focusing on the sole interests of all workers and not the interests of any single movement. They appreciate the historical forces that compel the progress of their class and help lead the proletariat to fulfill their mission. As Marx says, "The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat".

Marx considers that private property and capital is based on class hostility. Having linked private property to class opposition, Marx proceeds to investigate both antagonists with respect to their independence.

Marx points out that capital is a social product that is capital exists within some social system. The result of this is that capital is a social power no personal or individual power.

Towards the condition of the wage laborer, Marx says that "the average price of wage labor is the minimum wage. The proletariat have to absolutely dependent on the capitalist for his survival. He does not acquire any property because his wage must be given immediately to his own subsistence. Communists want to ensure that the laborer exists for more than merely the increase of bourgeois capital.

End of private property means the abolition of bourgeoisie property. The freedom which the bourgeois believe is underwritten by private property is a very narrow freedom, one available only to a very small ratio of the population.

Marx also considers that a communist society would promote general idleness. Marx considers that in bourgeois society those who work do not acquire anything while those who acquire things do not work.

Communists are also accused of desiring to destroy the family. Because for the capitalist, a spouse and children are mere instruments of production, like the machines in his factory. A communist society would alter these relations, utilizing the educational system to end the exploitation that women, children, and the vast working classes suffer under capitalism. This is a self-conscious destruction of society, but only as a cleansing of the old in preparation for the new.

On Criticism that communists wish to abolish countries, Marx responds that this process is already existing due to bourgeois efforts to expand free trade. Such globalization will continue as class consciousness develops across the proletariat of all nations. Marx even goes so far as to predict that hostility between nations will vanish as class antagonisms. Class defines one far more than nationality.

Marx acknowledges that the revolution will be different in different countries Marx concludes the chapter by repeating his claim that once the proletariat achieve political power, the final result will be a classless society. Abolishing bourgeois modes of production undermines the continued existence of class antagonisms, and without class antagonism, the proletariat will lose their own class character. As Marx famously closes the chapter, "In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all".

Marx explores the evolution of European socialism up to his own day. Not surprisingly, he charges all previous movements with theoretical and practical inadequacy while hailing his own communist alternative as the best expression of a shared concern with the working-class.

Feudal Socialism was the earliest form of socialism. Aristocrats were its co-founders who were repudiated to the rapid social changes brought about by the expanding bourgeoisie. Marx opposes these feudal socialists for ignoring the fact that they were exploiters too when they were in power. Most importantly, they had no importance in historical progress. They did not realize that the bourgeoisie were their own offspring as the proletariat are the bourgeoisie’s offspring of. Their primary concern was in restore the old feudal order. Marx also identifies feudal socialism with Christian socialism, remarking that "Christian socialism is but the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat".

Bourgeois dominance mainly divides society into two classes, bourgeoisie and proletariat. There still exists a third class which constantly swing between bourgeoisie and proletariat; the petty-bourgeoisie. This class normally assimilates into the proletariat class as society becomes more urbanized and reliant on industrial production. Petty-bourgeois socialism grows up this class, but holds up the standard of the proletariat. They do not observe that the answer to bourgeois exploitation is to develop the proletariat into a revolutionary class rather than to return the worker to the country and renew a failed feudalism.

German Socialism began as a response to French socialist literature. These early socialists did not appreciate that the French ideas grew out of a social environment which could not exist yet in Germany. Unlike the French bourgeoisie, the German bourgeoisie had merely began struggle against feudalism and there was no proletariat to speak of. As socialism lacked practical significance for Germany, German thinkers universalized the French ideas, raising them to the status of immutable laws of human Reason, transcending the narrow concerns of any particular class. Those who championed these ideas in the political area forgot that they were formatted for a society different from their society the result of this premature up gradation of socialistic values was a hardening of aristocratic resistance to the bourgeoisie. This has slowed the progress of industrialization and kept Germany less developed economically than France. While the political rhetoric of this movement has earned it many admirers, its lack of class character and its decrying of violent revolution make it weak and ineffectual.

These were the form of socialism practiced by those sections of the bourgeoisie who wish to reform their class rather than destroy it. They want to enjoy the social developments which their economic and political supremacy has effected, but they do not want to accept the necessary consequences of that development, a suffering and revolutionary proletariat. They struggle for social harmony but refuse to realize that the exploitation of the masses will not end until their form of society has been vanquished. To this end, they simply prolong the misery of the proletariat and stand in the way of historical progress.

The first great expositors of Socialism and Communism (Saint-Simon, Fourier, Owen, etc.) appeared very early in the bourgeois epoch. Accordingly, they did not fully appreciate the character of the proletariat as the revolutionary class, the vehicle of historical action. For them the proletariat was merely the locus of social misery, the class most in need of assistance. Their primary concern was with the well-being of society as a whole and they directed their entreaties to those who they thought could effect change, those already in power. Change was to occur peacefully from above rather than violently from below. Their critical faculties, though, extended to all portions of society and have helped the working classes focus their own struggle. The visions of society that they propose, though, are Utopian to the point of being fantastical. Notably, as class antagonism develops, their suggestions become more far-fetched and less inspiring. They want to abolish class conflict without abolishing the conditions for the existence of classes. At the moment of revolution, then, they become reactionary, resisting the inevitable emancipation of the exploited masses for which they originally toiled.

In last chapter Marx summarize the political aims of Communism. He identifies allied parties in various European states. They always stay focused on the long-term interests of the proletariat as a whole. Marx claims that Germany is the chief focus of Communist interest because while the bourgeoisie in Germany have not achieved victory over the aristocracy, the proletariat there is more developed than it was when either the French or English bourgeoisie won their independence. The result of this is that the proletariat revolution will arrive first in Germany. Communists must support any and all revolutionary movements which advocate the abolition of private property and advance the interests of the proletariat. As Marx powerfully concludes, "Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. WORKING MEN OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!"

The concluding chapter of the Manifesto is very short. It says little new and is meant primarily to forcefully reinstate the communist's political purposes. Marx does, though, make an interesting observation in predicting that Germany will be the site of the inaugural proletariat revolt. This is interesting because it indicates that all societies need not progress at the same rate in approaching communist revolution. The ordering remains feudalism, capitalism, communism but the pacing is different. This is also apparent in Marx's insistence that communists raise the property question always and everywhere. Marx's willingness to hurry things here might well have influenced later Marxist revolutionaries who did not even await the arrival of fully developed capitalism to liberate the masses. It is these people, Trotsky and Lenin in Russia, Mao Tse-Tung in China, and Fidel Castro and Che Guevarra in Latin America, whom we most associate with communism as they succeeded in bringing it to someone half of the world's population. As the cold war has ended and the remaining communist states are slowly decaying.

Question is that Why study manifesto today? Most of the communist world has lost their identity and communist countries like Vietnam and China have built market economies and Korea and Cuba are just surviving, but not serving as a model.

There are several reasons that why The Communist Manifesto is still now an important document. It has a certain intrinsic interest. It is good to know what the great ideas are which have shaped history. Some people would say that Marxists so thoroughly betrayed Marxism that the document can be used to show why attempts at building communist states failed: they were never truly Marxist at all.

It is important to understand that Marx played two important roles in world history first as a critic of capitalism and second as an advocate of socialism. He actually wrote very little on the latter subject. Although a strong believer in the importance of building socialism, he spent most of his time and energy on a subtle and complex critique of the capitalist system. This critique is still very influential on many historians, art and literature scholars, sociologists and others. There have been many neo-Marxisms which have been based more or less loosely on the original ideas of Marx and which are widely discussed today.

Communist Manifesto is a document which makes manifesto the central ideas of a group and individual. Although the organization for which this was written, was remained underground for the reason that it was illegal. Marx always envisioned the socialist movement as open. He always rejected secret conspiracies because his ideal of building socialism was envisioned as a majority of class which could only accumulate the necessary momentum through an open expanded campaign of education.

Engels was Marx's close friend and a great thinker and writer. He outlived Marx by many years, and produced several volumes which are still influential. Marx was clearly the more powerful thinker then his friend, but it may claim that Engels was the better stylist. Although Engels may have been responsible for much of the eloquent writing in the Manifesto, because it incorporates Marx's ideas and embodies some central concepts of what came to be known as Marxism.

The terms "socialist" and "communist" have been defined in a confusing variety of ways. When reading them it is always important to know what the writer means by them. For Marx socialism was the more comprehensive term and communism was an advanced stage of socialism. Socialism would prepare the way by nationalizing the "means of production" and putting them under the control of those he viewed as the sole producers of wealth who are the workers. He pointed out political equality and freedom is incomplete without economic equality. Therefore this redistribution of economic power was aimed at extending democracy far beyond the limits envisioned by earlier democratic revolutions. Social services like health, education, and housing would be provided free, but people would still be paid wages according to their work.

When all nations had developed socialist economies, they would begin to evolve into an international communist society. The vision of communism was very similar to that of anarchism viewed a stateless society in which central government had "withered away," local, ground-up control of all affairs by strictly democratic processes based at the place of work, abolition of the market system, no money, no buying and selling and its replacement by a system according to which people would voluntarily work for the common good to the extent they were able to understanding that they could receive whatever they needed for free "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs". National boundaries and governments having been eliminated, war would cease.

Marx rejected the belief that such a society could be set up immediately as utopian. People would need a long period of education under socialism to condition them away from the selfish orientation produced by capitalism and toward the wider perspective necessary to create communism. Many of his socialist and anarchist rivals argued that it was impossible to achieve communism by passing through a stage which retained and even strengthened the centralized state government. Marx used to reply that it was impossible to leap directly into communism from capitalism.

The most common reply is that both are impossible because you cannot change human nature. What Marx set out to prove was that not only had human nature changed many times in the past. There is no such thing as a static human nature. Like John Lock’s Tabula rasa concept Marx said that we are products of our environment, particularly of the economic system in which we live. People living under feudalism are motivated by feudal motives and think them natural and fixed, just as people living under capitalism are motivated by capitalist motives and think those natural and fixed. Generally, in history people undergo what is called a "paradigm shift" in values, based on an economic transformation. This is what he attempts to sketch in the first section of the Manifesto. If people's values could be changed radically in the past, he argued, they are certain to change again radically in the future. In a socialist society it would be nonsense to say that people will always naturally tend to become owners of factories because such owners would be as impossible, and such desires would be as irrational as the desire to own the Moon.

Although he does not address the question in the Manifesto, it is important to understand why Marx believed an armed revolution would be necessary to establish socialism. He was convinced that the democratic revolutions which swept Europe in 1848 had merely substituted one tyrant for another. The bourgeoisie had replaced the old aristocracy as the rulers in law as well as in fact. Their slogans were freedom and equality for all. He did not reject bourgeois democracy because it was democratic, only because he felt it was limited to the bourgeoisie. Economic power, not the vote, was the ultimate guarantee of political power. He was in favor of using elections as an organizing tool, but he was certain that in most countries the ruling class would forcibly prevent any democratically elected socialist government from taking power.

Translated:Samuel Moore in cooperation with Frederick Engels, 1888;

Transcribed:by Zodiac and Brian Baggins;

Proofed:and corrected against 1888 English Edition by Andy Blunden 2004;

68 Pages

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