The Communist Manifesto: with full original text by Karl Marx by Rupert Matthews - Read Online
The Communist Manifesto
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This new edition of the political classic comes with a foreword by historian Rupert Matthews and includes a number of other early works relating to 19th Century Communism.

The Communist Manifesto, originally titled Manifesto of the Communist Party (German: Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei) is a short 1848 publication written by the German Marxist political theorists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. It has since been recognized as one of the world's most influential political manuscripts.[1] Commissioned by the Communist League, it laid out the League's purposes and program. It presents an analytical approach to the class struggle (historical and present) and the problems of capitalism, rather than a prediction of communism's potential future forms.[2]

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".[3] It also briefly features their ideas for how the capitalist society of the time would eventually be replaced by socialism, and then eventually communism.

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ISBN: 9781907791680
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The Communist Manifesto - Rupert Matthews

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Introduction to the Bretwalda Edition

by Rupert Matthews

This edition of the Manifesto of the Communist Party put together for Bretwalda Books includes a number of related works from the early years of the Communist Movement. The main body of the work is to be found in Chapters 1 to 4, while the associated papers take up Chapters 5 to 9.

What is today known as The Communist Manifesto, was at first called the Manifesto of the Communist Party. The first edition was in German and was published as Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei. It was published in 1848 by Communist League and was written by the German political theorists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The work has since become one of the key political tracts of modern history and continues to have a profound influence to this day. As with all such works, however, it was very much a product of its time and it is necessary to understand the dramatic events of 1848 in Germany to appreicate what Marx and Engels sought to achieve.

Europe was in turmoil. For some years the growing pace of the Industrial and Agricultural Revolutions had been causing great social changes. The improvements to agricultural productivity, combined with the opening up of vast new farmlands in the Americas and Australia, meant that there was much less work on the farms of the European countryside. At the same time the Industrial Revolution was leading to a boom in employment in the towns and cities. Alongside this improvements in medical science meant that death rates fell and populations soared. These combined to lead to a massive and rapid rise in urban populations as workers and their families from the countryside flooded into cities to find work.

Very often the work they found was physically arduous, mentally boring and poorly paid. It could be, moreover, transient and unreliable. When a man had a family to feed and care for, such working conditions were shockingly bad. The working classes were having a bad time of it.

The boom in industrialisation had led to a rapid rise in the middle classes, those families who were fairly prosperous in economic terms but who did not belong to the traditional powerful elites. In some countries, such as Britian and the Netherlands, there had long been a sizeable middle classs, but in other countries this was an entirely new phenomenon. The middle classes found themselves possessed of not just reasonable wealth, but also with a good education and some leisure time. In many countries they found that they were being taxed heavily to pay for the government of the state where they lived, but that they had no say in how the government was run. The discontent that this naturally fostered was made worse by the fact that the government was traditionally in the hands of landed nobility who had no knowledge of how industry and trade worked - and who consequently introduced laws and regulations that hampered both - and whose walth and share of taxation was falling as agriculture slipped into economic decline. The middle classes were having a bad time of it.

The nobility were not very happy either. Their wealth was built on land, but the value of land and its output was falling in both absolute terms and relative to the growing middle classses. The nobitliy sought to compensate by hanging on to their tradiational grip on political power and social prestige. Some sought more direct recompense by plunding government finances or taking bribes. They resented that their power and prestige was slipping away from them. The upper classes were having a bad time of it.

On 12 January 1848 riots broke out in the Sicilian city of Palermo. These were not random acts of violence, but a well planned move organised by a combination of the nobles and middle classes of Sicily who orchestrated the support of the working classes. The riots and demonstrations spread rapidly across the island. Under the leadership of Ruggiero Settimo, Prince of Castelnuovo, Sicily declared itself independent of the Kingdom of Naples. A democratically elected Parliament was called and soon the new government had effective control of the entire island apart from the large military garrision at Messina. Settimo and his new government set about introducing a raft of financial and economic reforms designed to boost production and trade.

The success of the well-planned uprising in Sicily galvanised the middle classes across Europe, who rather missed the point that the Sicilian rising as as much national and noble as it was middle class and trade-based. They also rather ignored the fact that the Sicilian rising had succeeded because it had been planned and organised in advance and to a high degree of sophistication. In France a series of political meetings, the so-called banquets were taken over by radicals wanting reforms similar to those in Sicily. King Louis Philippe sent armed troops to break up a banquet on 22 February 1848. This led to riots, marches and then to a revolution in Paris which saw King Louis Philippe flee abroad and a new Republic declared. The right to vote was extended from 2% to 100% of adult men and various other reforms followed.

In Germany, meanwhile, mass demonstrations, marches and rallies were taking place. At this date there were 39 independent states in what would later become Germany. They were ruled by a variety of Dukes, Kings, Counts and Bishops but all shared in common a lack of democracy and a dominance in social and political terms of the traditional nobility. Different groups in different states were leading the way in organising demonstrations, printing newspapers and putting together a programme of reforms. It was clearly only a matter of time before at least some of the German states went the way of Sicily and France.

It was against this background that the Communist Manifesto was released. The German Communist Party wanted to put forward a coherant political programme with which it could dominate debate in the coming revolution expected to sweep Germany. The Communists wanted to ensure that it was their vision of reform that was adopted, not that of the other radical or moderate groups that were vying for attention and support.

To win this battle of ideas, therefore, the Manifesto contained not only a list of reforms wanted, but also theories about the nature of society and politics, that would back up the calls for action. It also briefly features their ideas for how the capitalist society of the time would eventually be replaced by socialism, and then eventually communism. Given the purpose of the document, however, these sections are not lengthy.

The Manifesto was based on an earlier work by Friedrich Engels. In the summer of 1847, Engels had been asked by the Communist League to draw up what was dubbed a Communist Confession of Faith. This was not published at the time, but together with other works by Engels formed the basis of Marx’s Manifesto. It was for this reason that the names of both Marx and Engels appeared on the cover of the first edition.

Engels wrote after Marx's death, I cannot deny that both before and during my forty years' collaboration with Marx I had a certain independent share in laying the foundations of the theory, but the greater part of its leading basic principles belong to Marx. Marx was a genius; we others were at best talented. Without him the theory would not be by far what it is today. It therefore rightly bears his name. Most independent observers believe Engels was far too modest.

The Communist Manifesto was first published (in German) in London in February 1848. It was also serialised at around the same time in a German-language London newspaper, the Deutsche Londoner Zeitung. Copies were immediately smuggled out to Germany where the Communists wanted to inspire, lead and control debate. In this aim the document failed miserably. The middle classes were determined to win democratic reforms to government structures, while the working classes wanted better pay and living conditions. Nobody was much interested in the Marx-Engels programme for reform.

In May, Engels and Marx left London for Baden to see the situation for themselves. They launched a newspaper to propound their ideas, but it was closed down. Marx returned to London, but by 1849 Engels was fighting with rifle in hand alongside armed revolutionaries in Kaiserlautern. The 30,000 strong revolutionary army proved to be no match for the Prussian regulars who attacked in June. The uprising was crushed and Engels fled to Switzerland, then to Britain.

With the failure of the 1848 risings, the Communist movement turned more to ideas and education than to revolutionary fervour. Not until the 1917 Revolution in Russia would the Communists again turn to violence. Meanwhile, the Communist Manifesto was to be the most important guiding document for the movement.

The first English translation was produced by Helen Macfarlane in 1850, in Russian in 1882, french in 1883 French edition, and then in other languages.

The first chapter of the Manifesto, Bourgeois and Proletarians, examines the Marxist conception of history, with the initial idea asserting that The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. It goes on to say that in capitalism, the working class, proletariat, are fighting in the class struggle against the owners of the means of production, the bourgeois, and that past class struggle ended either with revolution that restructured society, or common ruin of the contending classes.

It continues by adding that the bourgeois exploits the proletariat by constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones.

The Manifesto explains that the reason the bourgeois exist and exploit the proletariat with low wages is because of private property, the accumulation of wealth in private hands, the formation and increase of capital, and that competition amongst the proletariat creates wage-labour, which rests entirely on the competition among the workers.

This section further explains that the proletarians will eventually rise to power through class struggle: the bourgeoisie constantly exploits the proletariat for its manual labour and cheap wages, ultimately to create profit for the bourgeois; the proletariat rise to power through revolution against the bourgeoisie such as riots or creation of unions. The Communist Manifesto states that while there is still class struggle amongst society, capitalism will be overthrown by the proletariat only to start again in the near future; ultimately communism is the key to class equality amongst the citizens of Europe.

The second chapter, Proletarians and Communists, starts by stating the relationship of conscious communists to the rest of the working class, declaring that they will not form a separate party that opposes other working-class parties, express the interests and general will of the proletariat as a whole, and distinguish themselves from other working-class parties by always expressing the common interest of the entire proletariat independently of all nationalities, and always representing the interests of the movement as a whole.

The section goes on to defend communism from various objections, such as the claim that communists advocate "free