The Communist Manifesto

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In spring , Marx and Engels joined the League of the Just , who were quickly convinced by the duo's ideas of "critical communism". At its First Congress in 2—9 June, the League tasked Engels with drafting a "profession of faith", but such a document was later deemed inappropriate for an open, non-confrontational organisation.

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Engels nevertheless wrote the "Draft of a Communist Confession of Faith", detailing the League's programme. A few months later, in October, Engels arrived at the League's Paris branch to find that Moses Hess had written an inadequate manifesto for the group, now called the League of Communists. In Hess's absence, Engels severely criticised this manifesto, and convinced the rest of the League to entrust him with drafting a new one.


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This became the draft Principles of Communism , described as "less of a credo and more of an exam paper". On 23 November, just before the Communist League's Second Congress 29 November — 8 December , Engels wrote to Marx, expressing his desire to eschew the catechism format in favour of the manifesto, because he felt it "must contain some history.

Over the next ten days, intense debate raged between League functionaries; Marx eventually dominated the others and, overcoming "stiff and prolonged opposition", [4] in Harold Laski 's words, secured a majority for his programme. The League thus unanimously adopted a far more combative resolution than that at the First Congress in June. Marx especially and Engels were subsequently commissioned to draw up a manifesto for the League. Upon returning to Brussels, Marx engaged in "ceaseless procrastination", according to his biographer Francis Wheen. Following this, he even spent a week 17—26 January in Ghent to establish a branch of the Democratic Association there.

Subsequently, having not heard from Marx for nearly two months, the Central Committee of the Communist League sent him an ultimatum on 24 or 26 January, demanding he submit the completed manuscript by 1 February. This imposition spurred Marx on, who struggled to work without a deadline, and he seems to have rushed to finish the job in time. For evidence of this, historian Eric Hobsbawm points to the absence of rough drafts, only one page of which survives.

In all, the Manifesto was written over 6—7 weeks.

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Although Engels is credited as co-writer, the final draft was penned exclusively by Marx. From the 26 January letter, Laski infers that even the Communist League considered Marx to be the sole draftsman and that he was merely their agent, imminently replaceable. Further, Engels himself wrote in "The basic thought running through the Manifesto [ Although Laski does not disagree, he suggests that Engels underplays his own contribution with characteristic modesty and points out the "close resemblance between its substance and that of the [ Principles of Communism ]".

Laski argues that while writing the Manifesto , Marx drew from the "joint stock of ideas" he developed with Engels "a kind of intellectual bank account upon which either could draw freely". Written in German, the page pamphlet was titled Manifest der kommunistischen Partei and had a dark-green cover.

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On 4 March, one day after the serialisation in the Zeitung began, Marx was expelled by Belgian police. Two weeks later, around 20 March, a thousand copies of the Manifesto reached Paris, and from there to Germany in early April. In April—May the text was corrected for printing and punctuation mistakes; Marx and Engels would use this page version as the basis for future editions of the Manifesto.

Although the Manifesto ' s prelude announced that it was "to be published in the English, French, German, Italian, Flemish and Danish languages", the initial printings were only in German. Polish and Danish translations soon followed the German original in London, and by the end of , a Swedish translation was published with a new title— The Voice of Communism: Declaration of the Communist Party. Her version begins: "A frightful hobgoblin stalks throughout Europe.

We are haunted by a ghost, the ghost of Communism".

The Communist Manifesto

Harney's introduction revealed the Manifesto ' s hitherto-anonymous authors' identities for the first time. Soon after the Manifesto was published, Paris erupted in revolution to overthrow King Louis Philippe. The Manifesto played no role in this; a French translation was not published in Paris until just before the working-class June Days Uprising was crushed.

Its influence in the Europe-wide revolutions of was restricted to Germany , where the Cologne-based Communist League and its newspaper Neue Rheinische Zeitung , edited by Marx, played an important role. Within a year of its establishment, in May , the Zeitung was suppressed; Marx was expelled from Germany and had to seek lifelong refuge in London. In , members of the Communist League's central board were arrested by the Prussian police.

At their trial in Cologne 18 months later in late they were sentenced to 3—6 years' imprisonment. For Engels, the revolution was "forced into the background by the reaction that began with the defeat of the Paris workers in June , and was finally excommunicated 'by law' in the conviction of the Cologne Communists in November ". After the defeat of the revolutions the Manifesto fell into obscurity, where it remained throughout the s and s.

Hobsbawm says that by November the Manifesto "had become sufficiently scarce for Marx to think it worth reprinting section III [ Over the next two decades only a few new editions were published; these include an unauthorised and occasionally inaccurate Russian translation by Mikhail Bakunin in Geneva and an edition in Berlin—the first time the Manifesto was published in Germany.

According to Hobsbawm: "By the middle s virtually nothing that Marx had written in the past was any longer in print". In the early s, the Manifesto and its authors experienced a revival in fortunes. Hobsbawm identifies three reasons for this. The first is the leadership role Marx played in the International Workingmen's Association aka the First International. Secondly, Marx also came into much prominence among socialists—and equal notoriety among the authorities—for his support of the Paris Commune of , elucidated in The Civil War in France.

During the trial prosecutors read the Manifesto out loud as evidence; this meant that the pamphlet could legally be published in Germany.

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Thus in Marx and Engels rushed out a new German-language edition, writing a preface that identified that several portions that became outdated in the quarter century since its original publication. This edition was also the first time the title was shortened to The Communist Manifesto Das Kommunistische Manifest , and it became the bedrock the authors based future editions upon. However, by the mid s the Communist Manifesto remained Marx and Engels' only work to be even moderately well-known.

Over the next forty years, as social-democratic parties rose across Europe and parts of the world, so did the publication of the Manifesto alongside them, in hundreds of editions in thirty languages. Marx and Engels wrote a new preface for the Russian edition, translated by Georgi Plekhanov in Geneva. In it they wondered if Russia could directly become a communist society , or if she would become capitalist first like other European countries.


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After Marx's death in , Engels alone provided the prefaces for five editions between and Among these is the English edition, translated by [Samuel Moore translator of Das Kapital Samuel Moore]] and approved by Engels, who also provided notes throughout the text.

It has been the standard English-language edition ever since. The principal region of its influence, in terms of editions published, was in the "central belt of Europe", from Russia in the east to France in the west. In comparison, the pamphlet had little impact on politics in southwest and southeast Europe, and moderate presence in the north. This uneven geographical spread in the Manifesto ' s popularity reflected the development of socialist movements in a particular region as well as the popularity of Marxist variety of socialism there.

There was not always a strong correlation between a social-democratic party's strength and the Manifesto ' s popularity in that country. For instance, the German SPD printed only a few thousand copies of the Communist Manifesto every year, but a few hundred thousand copies of the Erfurt Programme. Further, the mass-based social-democratic parties of the Second International did not require their rank and file to be well-versed in theory; Marxist works such as the Manifesto or Das Kapital were read primarily by party theoreticians.

On the other hand, small, dedicated militant parties and Marxist sects in the West took pride in knowing the theory; Hobsbawm says: "This was the milieu in which 'the clearness of a comrade could be gauged invariably from the number of earmarks on his Manifesto ' ". Following the October Revolution of that swept the Vladimir Lenin -led Bolsheviks to power in Russia, the world's first socialist state was founded explicitly along Marxist lines.

Further, party leaders were expected to base their policy decisions on Marxist-Leninist ideology.

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Manifesto of the Communist Party

Therefore works such as the Manifesto were required reading for the party rank-and-file. Therefore the widespread dissemination of Marx and Engels' works became an important policy objective; backed by a sovereign state, the CPSU had relatively inexhaustible resources for this purpose.

Works by Marx, Engels, and Lenin were published on a very large scale, and cheap editions of their works were available in several languages across the world. These publications were either shorter writings or they were compendia such as the various editions of Marx and Engels' Selected Works , or their Collected Works.

This affected the destiny of the Manifesto in several ways. Firstly, in terms of circulation; in the American and British Communist Parties printed several hundred thousand copies of a cheap edition for "probably the largest mass edition ever issued in English". Secondly the work entered political-science syllabuses in universities, which would only expand after the Second World War. For its centenary in , its publication was no longer the exclusive domain of Marxists and academicians; general publishers too printed the Manifesto in large numbers.

Even after the collapse of the Soviet Bloc in the s, the Communist Manifesto remains ubiquitous; Hobsbawm says that "In states without censorship, almost certainly anyone within reach of a good bookshop, and certainly anyone within reach of a good library, not to mention the internet, can have access to it". The th anniversary once again brought a deluge of attention in the press and the academia, as well as new editions of the book fronted by introductions to the text by academics.

It is designed as a sweet keepsake, an exquisite collector's item.

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