The Communist Manifesto (Das Kommunistische Manifest), originally titled Manifesto of the Communist Party (German~Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei) is a short 1848 publication written by German political theorists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. It has since been recognized as one of the world’s most influential and widely read political manuscripts of the 20th century.
It presents an analytical approach to class struggle (historical and present) and the problems of capitalism, rather than a prediction of communism’s potential future forms. Marx sought to differentiate his brand of socialism from others by offering a scientifically based theory predicated on an “objective” study of history- which he saw a continuous process of change and transformation. Just as feudalism evolved to mercantilism and then to capitalism, thus capitalism eventually gives way to socialism and then communism as the result of class struggle.
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”.
The Manifesto demonstrates that capitalism, due to its internal contradictions, inevitably moves from crisis to crisis. “And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises?” asks the Manifesto. By the conquest of new markets, which only paves the way for “more extensive and destructive” crises.
The essential condition for the existence and power of the capitalist class is “the formation and augmentation of capital.” Yet inevitably as the capitalist class develops, so the working class develops proportionately.
The Role of the Working Class:
“Working class,” in Marxist terms, does not mean only factory or industrial workers. Nor does it merely refer to anyone who is impoverished or exclude those who cannot work – the unemployed, the disabled, and people who care for children or relatives for example, or school students and those in further or higher education – who would be working for a living, if circumstances were different.
Workers are those who “must sell themselves piecemeal” for a wage or salary.
“All previous historical movements were movements of minorities… The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interests of the immense majority. The proletariat, the lowest stratum of our present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, without the whole superincumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air.”
Contents ~ Preamble
I: Bourgeois and Proletarians
II: Proletarians and Communists
III: Socialist and Communist Literature
IV: Position of the Communists in Relation to the Various Existing Opposition Parties