MARX—ENGELS: Manifesto of the Communist Party

MARX—ENGELS: Manifesto of the Communist Party

Published 2/21/1848

  • Workingmen of all countries unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to win.
  • A specter is haunting Europe – the specter of communism. All the old powers of Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this specter. they have decried all opposition as communists. Two things result from this fact: 1) communism is acknowledged as a power and 2) it is high time the communists publish their views, aims, tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the specter of communism with a manifesto of the party. To this end, communists of various nationalities have assembled in London and sketched the following manifesto to be published in English, French, German, Italian, Flemish, and Danish languages.

Chapter 1 – Bourgeois and Proletarians

  • The Bourgeois are the class of modern capitalist who own the means of social production and employ laborers.
  • The proletariat is the class of modern wage laborers who sell their labor power in order to live because they have no means of production.
  • The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. In few, the oppressor and the oppressed carried on a fight that each time ended in a revolutionary reconstitution of society or in the common ruin of the contending classes.
  • Our epoch possess a distinct characteristic: it has simplified class antagonisms. Society is gradually splitting into two great hostile camps – Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.
  • The discovery of America and the rounding of the Cape opened up fresh ground for the bourgeoisie. The increase in trade and means of production gave an impulse to commerce never known before, and contributed to the rapid development of the revolution of the feudal society.
  • The feudal guilds no longer were sufficient to satisfy the demands of the growing markets. The manufacturing system took its place. Even manufacturing no longer sufficed, and was replaced by Modern Industry, with the bourgeoisie as the leaders of whole industrial armies.
  • As industry, commerce, navigation, and railways extended, the bourgeoisie proportionally developed, increased its capital, and pushed into the background every class from the Middle Ages.
  • Thus, the bourgeoisie is a product of a series of revolutions in the modes of production and exchange.
  • The development of the bourgeoisie has been accompanied by their political advancement. The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.
  • The bourgeoisie has torn asunder the feudal ties between man, and left no other nexus between men than naked self-interest, than callous cash payment. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value.
  • It has stripped every occupation of its honor and respect. It has reduced family realtions to a mere money relation.
  • It has been the first to show what man’s activity can produce. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing the Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals.
  • 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.
  • Its need for constantly expanding markets chases it over the entire globe. It nestles everywhere, settles everywhere, and must establish connections everywhere.
  • The bourgeoisie have established a world market. The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery with which the bourgeoisie compel the barbarian nations to become civilized, or bourgeois themselves. In few, it creates a world after its own image.
  • It has created enormous cities, and centralized politics. Independent or loosely connected provinces with different laws, government, and interests, became lumped together into one nation.
  • During its brief reign of 100 years, the bourgeoisie has created more massive productive forces than have all preceding generations together.
  • Free competition replaced the feudal relations, which gave rise to the economic and political sway of the bourgeoisie.
  • The colossal means of production and of exchange that the bourgeoisie have conjured up are too powerful for the bourgeoisie to control. Frequent crises have arisen in the past. These crises are the result of over-production, too much civilization, and too much commerce. In an attempt to remedy this problem, the bourgeoisie wither destroys a mass of the productive forces, or seeks new markets and exploits preexisting ones more thoroughly. This only paves the way for more extensive and destructive crises, and diminishes the means whereby crises are prevented.
  • Not only has the bourgeoisie forged the instruments of its own destruction, but it has also called into existence the men who are to wield those instruments – the working class – the proletariat.
  • The proletariat develops proportionally to the development of capital. These laborers are a commodity, and subject to the vicissitudes of competition and fluctuations of the market.
  • Owing to the extensive use of machinery and the division of labor, the work has lost all its charm for the laborer. He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple and monotonous task which is required of him. Hence, the rate of wages is such that it is restricted to the means of subsistence of the laborer and propagation of his race.
  • The less labor requires the exertion of skill and strength, the more is the labor of men superseded by that of women. Distinctions of age and sex no longer have any validity for the working class.
  • The proletariat is recruited from all classes of the population. The small tradespeople, shopkeepers, etc. are devastated in competition with the large capitalists, and sink into the ranks of the proletariat.
  • Workers have begun to form unions against the bourgeoisie. Here and there, contests break out. Sometimes the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lies in the ever expanding union of the workers. The union is helped on by the improved means of communication that are created by modern industry.
  • The union of the proletariats has compelled legislative regulation. Thus, the ten hours bill in England was passed.
  • All preceding classes that got the upper hand after a revolution sought to fortify their already acquired status by subjecting the population to their conditions of appropriation. But because the proletarian has no property to secure and fortify, their mission is to destroy all previous securities for, and insurances of, property.
  • All previous historical movements were made in the interests of minorities. The proletarian movement is made in the interests of the majority.
  • There is a more or less veiled civil war being raging within modern society between the proletariat and bourgeoisie. This war will soon break out into open revolution, and the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie will lay the foundation for the sway of the proletariat.
  • Every form of society has hitherto been based on the antagonisms of the oppressing and oppressed classes. But in order to oppress a class, certain conditions must be met to ensure the continued existence of the slavish class. The modern laborer sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence as industry progresses. He becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than wealth and population. Thus, it is evident that the bourgeoisie are unfit to rule society any longer. It is incompetent to ensure the existence of their slaves because it cannot help letting him sink into a state where he must be fed instead of him feeding the bourgeoisie. The existence of the bourgeois class is incompatible with society.
  • What the bourgeoisie produces, above all, are its own grave diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.

Workingmen of all countries unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to win.

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

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.

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.

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.

Owing to the extensive use of machinery, and to the 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.

What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.

Wow! Marx and Engels present a very provocative and compelling argument for the inevitable annihilation of the bourgeois class. First, it might be helpful to define a few terms. The bourgeoisie is the class of society that holds the means of production and employs laborers. The proletariat is the class of wage laborers who sell their labor for their subsistence and do not own any of the means of production. Marx and Engels assert that the history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggle. Whereas there were complex hierarchies in preexisting societies, the modern epoch possesses two great antagonists – the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat.

One of the most interesting insights in the first chapter is that the Bourgeoisie is creating the instruments of their own destruction. The development of modern industry involuntarily benefits the bourgeoisie and disadvantages the proletariat. There are certain conditions that must be met by the oppressing class in order to preserve their status. One of those conditions is the preservation of the oppressed class. However, because the progress of modern industry sinks the proletariat beneath the conditions for existence, the Bourgeoisie is not fit to be the ruling class. Its destruction and the proletariat victory are equally inevitable.

Chapter 2 – Proletarians and Communists

  • The communists have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. The communists are distinguished from the working-class parties by this only:
    • They point out and bring together the common interests of the entire proletariat, independent of all nationality.
    • They always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.
    • The immediate aims of the Communists are:
      • Formation of the proletariat into a class
      • Overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy
      • Conquest of political power by the proletariat
      • The abolition of existing property rights is not a distinctive feature of Communism. All property relations in the past have been subject to change. The French revolution abolished feudal property in favor of bourgeois property.
      • The distinguishing feature of Communism is the abolishment of bourgeois property rights, not all property rights in general. The theory of Communists may be summed up in the following:
        • Abolition of private property
        • Doesn’t wage labor create any property for the laborer? No, it creates capital, i.e., that kind of property which exploits wage labor. Property in its present form is based upon the antagonism of capital and wage labor.
        • Capital is a collective product, and only by the concerted action of all members of society can it be set in motion. Capital therefore is not only personal, but social power. Thus, when capital is converted into common property, personal property is not thereby converted to social property. It is only the social character of the property that is changed. It loses its class character.
        • The price of wages in the modern state is that quantum which suffices to keep the laborer in bare existence as a laborer. The communists want to do away with the miserable character of appropriation under which the laborer merely lives to increase capital, and is allowed to live only in so far as the interests of the ruling class requires.
        • Capitalists are horrified at the communist’s intention to abolish private property, but private property is already done away with for nine tenths of the population. Its existence for the few is solely due to its nonexistence in the hands of those nine-tenths. In few, you reproach us with doing away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend.
        • Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; it deprives him of the power to subjugate the labor of others by means of such appropriation.
        • Opponents object that with the abolition of property, a universal laziness will take over us. According to this, the bourgeois society would have long ago gone to the dogs; for the people who work acquire nothing, and those who acquire anything do not work.
        • Opponents also fear the disappearance of class culture will cause a disappearance of all culture. The culture that they fear will disappear is a mere training to act as a machine.
        • Communism proposes the abolition of the family, and opponents are outraged. But the foundation for the present family under bourgeois rule is based upon capital, or private gain. There is an absence of the family among the proletariat, and a prevalence of public prostitution.
        • The communists seek to abolish the family to stop the exploitation of children by their parents. They seek to establish public education for all, independent from the influence of the ruling class.
        • All the familial ties between proletariat families have already been torn asunder, and the children are mere articles of commerce and instruments of labor.
        • Opponents argue that communists advocate free love. The communists respond that they want to abolish the idea of women as instruments of production, and that free love has existed from time immemorial. The bourgeois men take the greatest pleasure in seducing other’s wives and frequenting prostitutes. The communists only wish to substitute a hypocritically concealed community of women with an openly legalized community. Furthermore, the abolishment of the current system of production must bring with it the abolition of prostitution.
        • Opponents argue that communists wish to abolish countries. The bourgeois system is destroying antagonisms and distinctions between countries, owing to freedom of commerce and the world market.
        • The supremacy of the proletariat will cause these distinctions between countries to vanish faster. United action is one of the first conditions for the emancipation of the proletariat. As the exploitation of one individual by another will be stopped, the exploitation of one country by another will be stopped.
        • A man’s consciousness alters with every change in the conditions of his material existence, in his social relations, and in his social life. The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of the ruling class.
        • When people speak of ideas that revolutionize a society, they are saying that within the old society the elements of a new one have been created, and that the dissolution of the old ideas keeps even pace with the dissolution of the old conditions of existence.
        • Opponents argue that communism will abolish eternal truths, religion, and morality. Preceding historical developments only modified these. Marx and Engels reply that whatever form these preceding revolutions took, they all were based upon the exploitation of one part of society by the other. No wonder, then, that the social consciousness of past ages, despite all the multiplicity and variety it displays, moves within certain common forms, or general ideas, which cannot completely vanish except with the total disappearance of class antagonisms.
        • The first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of the ruling class to win the battle of democracy.
        • The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the State (the proletariat organized as the ruling class), and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.
        • In the beginning, this cannot be accomplished except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, but will outstrip themselves in the course of the movement.
        • In the most advanced countries, the following measures will likely be applied:
          • 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 rights 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 work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
          •  9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace 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, &c, &c.
          • When in the course of the development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been centralized in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. The conditions for the existence of class antagonisms will be swept away with the conditions for the existence of classes generally, i.e. the old conditions of production.

The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.

That culture, the loss of which he laments, is, for the enormous majority, a mere training to act as a machine.

The bourgeois sees his wife a mere instrument of production.

What else does the history of ideas prove, than that intellectual production changes its character in proportion as material production is changed? The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class.

When the ancient world was in its last throes, the ancient religions were overcome by Christianity. When Christian ideas succumbed in the 18th century to rationalist ideas, feudal society fought its death battle with the then revolutionary bourgeoisie. The ideas of religious liberty and freedom of conscience merely gave expression to the sway of free competition within the domain of knowledge.

“Undoubtedly,” it will be said, “religious, moral, philosophical, and juridical ideas have been modified in the course of historical development. But religion, morality, philosophy, political science, and law, constantly survived this change.”

“There are, besides, eternal truths, such as Freedom, Justice, etc., that are common to all states of society. But Communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality, instead of constituting them on a new basis; it therefore acts in contradiction to all past historical experience.”

What does this accusation reduce itself to? The history of all past society has consisted in the development of class antagonisms, antagonisms that assumed different forms at different epochs.

But whatever form they may have taken, one fact is common to all past ages, viz., the exploitation of one part of society by the other. No wonder, then, that the social consciousness of past ages, despite all the multiplicity and variety it displays, moves within certain common forms, or general ideas, which cannot completely vanish except with the total disappearance of class antagonisms.

In chapter two, Marx and Engels defend Communism against the several objections made by opponents. Most of the counterarguments made by Marx and Engels are to present Communism as the lesser of two evils. For example, opponents argue that Communists wish to abolish property, and that this is a radical alteration and violation of natural rights. Marx and Engels argue that under the current bourgeois system, only one tenth of the population own property, and the possession of that property is dependent upon the other nine tenths of the population possessing nothing. How much worse could it get?… I don’t particularly agree with this line of reasoning because I can imagine a scenario in which only one person, a tyrant, possesses all the property, or at least has a sufficient influence over others to essentially own all property.

However, I did find Marc and Engels comment upon modern culture to be humorous and provoking. Opponents of Communism argue that it will destroy modern culture. Marx and Engels assert that modern culture is mere training to act like a machine.

Finally, Marx and Engels enumerate the measures that must be taken by a newly established proletarian regime. Regardless of the propriety and morality of the first nine measures, I believe that most everyone can agree that the tenth measure – free education for all children in public schools – is desirable.

Chapter 3 – Socialist and Communist Literature

Reactionary Socialism

  • Feudal Socialism
    • While the aristocracy of the feudal times succumbed to the power of the bourgeoisie, they wrote pamphlets against the upstart class. To arouse sympathy, the aristocracy formulated their indictment of the bourgeoisie in the interest of the proletariat. But the people, seeing the aristocracy’s coat of arms beneath their indictments, deserted them with loud and irreverent laughter.
    • The feudal socialists of the aristocracy forget that they too exploited the labor of other men, and that the development of the bourgeoisie is the necessary offspring of the feudal system.
    • Petty-bourgeois Socialism
      • In countries where modern civilization has become fully developed, a new class of petty bourgeois has formed. The members of this class are being constantly hurled down form the bourgeoisie to the proletariat by competition.
      • Petty-bourgeois Socialism’s aims are to either restore the old means of production and exchange, or constrain the modern means of production within the old framework of property relations which have been, and were bound to be, exploded by those means.
      • German or “True” Socialism
        • When the Socialist writings emigrated from France to Germany, the French social conditions did not emigrate with them. The bourgeoisie had just begun its contest with feudalism in Germany. Thus, the German philosophers considered the literature to be no more than literature, or expression of “Practical Reason,” and of the Will of human nature.
        • In the hands of the Germans, the literature ceased to express the struggle between classes. It did not represent the interests of the proletariat, but the interests of Man in general, who belongs to no class, has no reality, and who exists in the misty real of philosophical fantasy.

Conservative or Bourgeois Socialism

  • A part of the bourgeoisie is desirous to redress social grievances to secure the continued existence of bourgeois society. They desire the existing state of society, without its revolutionary and disintegrating tendencies. They argue that no mere political change could be of any advantage to the proletariat, but only a change in the material conditions of existence – the economic relations.
  • These Bourgeois Socialists do not understand that the alteration of the material conditions of existence can only occur by a revolution in the relations of production, in the relation between capital and labor.

Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism

  • The first direct attempts of the proletariat to attain its ends failed because of the undeveloped proletariat and the nonexistence of the necessary conditions for their emancipation, which could only be produced by the bourgeois epoch.
  • The early revolutionists see that the proletariat is underdeveloped, but hope to accelerate its development and intensify the struggle between it and the bourgeoisie by searching for new social laws which will create these conditions.
  • Because there is no clear distinction of classes in these incipient stages, the revolutionaries wish to improve the condition of every member of society. They appeal to the interests of the entire society, without distinctions of classes.
  • They wish to attain their ends by peaceful means, which are necessarily doomed to failure. Therefore, these proposals are of a purely Utopian character, and in order to realize these castles in the air, they are compelled to appeal to the interests and purses of the bourgeoisie.

And, since it ceased in the hands of the German to express the struggle of one class with the other, he felt conscious of having overcome “French one-sidedness” and of representing, not true requirements, but the requirements of Truth; not the interests of the proletariat, but the interests of Human Nature, of Man in general, who belongs to no class, has no reality, who exists only in the misty realm of philosophical fantasy.

In chapter three, Marx and Engels discuss reactionary socialism, conservative or bourgeois socialism, and critical-utopian socialism and communism. Reactionary socialism is composed of feudal, petty-bourgeoisie, and German constituents. These parties all desire the future to resemble the past. In other words, they do not desire the overthrow of the feudal system, and the replacement of those modes and relations of production with those of the bourgeoisie. The feudal socialists forget that they exploited labor under their system, and that the development of the bourgeoisie is a necessary offspring of the feudal system. The petty-bourgeoisie, who are constantly being hurled from the bourgeoisie to the ranks of the proletariat by competition, also forget that the old modes of production must necessarily be burst asunder by the rising bourgeoisie. Finally, the German or “True” Socialism is too philosophical. It ceases to represent the socialist movement as a class struggle, and focuses upon the interests of Man in general, who belongs to no class, has no reality, and exists in the misty real of philosophic fantasy.

Conservative or bourgeois socialism is composed of members of the bourgeoisie who desire the persistence of the present conditions of society without its revolutionary and disintegrating elements – i.e. the revolutionary proletariat and class antagonisms. They argue that mere political reform will not improve the condition of the proletariat, but only a change in the modes of production and exchange. Marx and Engels assert that the bourgeois socialists do not understand that such a change in the modes of production and exchange requires a political revolution in which the capital-labor relation is entirely abolished.

Finally, the critical-utopian socialists are misguided owing to their ideology being formed at a time when the proletariat was undeveloped, and the class antagonism between proletariat and bourgeoisie was in its incipient stages. The critical-utopian socialists, because the distinction of the two classes was not readily apparent to them, seek to improve the conditions of every member of society, without regard to class distinction. They seek reform by peaceful means, which, according to Marx and Engel, is impossible to achieve. They imagine Utopian societies, which must be funded by the purses of the bourgeoisie, something unlikely to transpire.

Chapter 4 – Position of the Communists in Relation to the Various Existing Opposition Parties

  • As stated in section two of the manifesto, the Communists are distinguished from the working class parties only by this:
    • They represent, promote, and bring together the interests of the proletariat as a whole, independent of nationality.
    • Their immediate aims are:
      • The formation of the proletariat into a class
      • The overthrow of bourgeois supremacy
      • The conquest of political power by the proletariat.
      • The communists turn their attention chiefly to Germany because it is on the eve of a bourgeois revolution which is bound to be carried out under more advanced conditions of European civilization. The German revolution will be a prelude to a general proletariat revolution.
      • The most important goal of the party is the abolition of private bourgeois property.
      • They also desire the union and agreement of the democratic parties of all nations.
      • The Communist aims can only be attained by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.

The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!

Chapter 4 of the manifesto is short. In it, Marx and Engels discuss the relation between the Communists and the various working parties of different nations. They also reiterate that the Communists are distinct from other working-class parties because the Communists represent the interests and movement of the proletariat as a whole, independent of nationality. They have turned their attention specifically to Germany because they believe that the country is on the eve of a proletarian revolution, which will act as the catalyst for a more general proletarian revolution in other European nations.

As I wrote in my analysis of one of the chapters from Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, I knew that the Communist Manifesto would directly attack the division of labor rather than present it in the positive light which Smith did. Marx and Engels criticize the relationship between capital and labor, arguing that it dehumanizes the working-class into mere machines; it destroys family relations and all sense of morality and replaces it with money relations. People regard others only as means of making money or, in the case of dependents, expenses to be incurred. In my opinion, Marx and Engels do present several incisive and cogent arguments against the capitalist system, but I believe that there is a ‘middle-ground’ between the two extremes of absolute free commerce with no regulations and total abolition of capital. But I am sure that Marx would label me as a proponent of Conservative or Bourgeois Socialism.

The Communist Manifesto

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