Collaboratively Produced Study Resource: The Communist Manifesto, introduction and text

Image Credit: Hope for the Sold

Summary of “Introduction” to The Communist Manifesto

1. Preface

The preface goes over the continuing historical importance of the Manifesto. Manifesto is a powerful text which will live on because it envisioned a reality that is so powerful and present with our world from before to the present. It talks about how nowadays people will highly unlikely move back towards communism. The main point in this all is that it will continue to be a ‘classic’ because of it’s depiction of modern capitalism. The preface briefly explains the flow of the book and it’s sections. -Dustin N

2. The Reception of the Manifesto

Marx’s Manifesto was first released in 1848 in German during a time when Marx believed its teachings were not yet relevant because representative government and liberal freedoms needed to be established first. Political and social status was unstable and many private political parties were vying for equal footing. Marx himself had to chair various organizations in order to keep his Manifesto somewhat relevant. In the late 1800’s it started to gain some traction but overall it was received as a “pioneering example of ‘scientific’ socialism” (20). When appropriated and blended with Leninist thought, it transformed into “a dogmatic and intolerant ‘Marxism-Leninism'” of the October Revolution in Russia (22). – Charles

3. The ‘Spectre of Communism’

In the opening line of the Communist Manifesto, Marx writes that “ a spectre is haunting Europe”. This refers to Communism being perceived as a threat to established powers and ideologies in Europe. Communism was grouped with similar concepts such as republicanism, socialism and associated with proletariats, or the working class. Communists were identified by their “emphasis on equality and by their identification with the radical Jacobin phase of the French revolution” (27). As Industrialization began to replace agriculture and rural labor throughout Europe, the inequality between the rich and poor began to spread. Small and “underground” communist groups and associations began to form all throughout Europe that favored the abolition of private property and egalitarianism . Communism was a “ghost” haunting those who had established wealth and power.  Matt M

4. The Communist League

The Communist league was the political party established by the joining of Marx and Engel’s political party, The Communist Correspondence Committee, and an English Party, The League of the Just. Members of this newly founded Communist League aimed to bring about a better understanding of communism with the slogan of the party being “Workers of all countries, unite!” Thus the first major communist party was established and a year later the Communist Manifesto was written by Engel and Marx Collaboratively.  -Dylan W

5. Engels’ Contribution

Engels was an active member of the Communist League. Engels discusses projects, engaged in debates, and created multiple works with Marx that set forth their version of “communism”. Engels created the first two drafts of what would become the Communist Manifesto. These two drafts expressed the ideas of Engels and Marx and would become the foundation of the Communist Manifesto.  Daniel C

6. Marx’s Contribution: Prologue

Marx was an obsessive and thick-skinned individual, especially in contrast to Engle’s personality.  He attended a top-tier school in Berlin and was passionate about law.  Some of his contributions to the Communist Manifesto were his tribute to the bourgeoisie, the encouragement of forceful violence in a revolutionary overthrow, and greater detail on the consequences of a communist state.  -Joshua

7i. The Young Hegelians: Hegel and Hegelianism

7ii. The Young Hegelians: The Battle over Christianity

David Friedrich Strauss published his conflict provoking book called The Life of Jesus critically examined it denied the supernatural stories of the Bible. There was a fierce campaign to get rid of the book led by evangelicals. However, they were unsuccessful and the first generation of Hegel’s were separated into what was called ‘right’ and ‘left’ ‘centre.’ Between 1840 and 1841 there was even an attack on Christianity led by Baur. Strauss believed Christianity was not a something that came from observing nature and applying natural laws.  Yeva Z

7iii. The Young Hegelians: The Young Hegelians against the ‘Christian State’

8. From Republicanism to Communism

Marx begins to break away from the ideologies of the young Hegelians and forms his own thoughts on communism. Being heavily influenced by Feuerbach’s writings and with the combining of both French and German sources, Marx re-evaluates Hegel’s claims. Marx envisions a society “in which distinction between state and civil society would have been abolished” (102) and it would be brought back to “its actual basis, the actual human being, the actual people” (102). The new ideology of society is one in which the “relationship between man and man is the basis of the society” (105) and according Marx, the key to this human emancipation would be the rising of the proletariat class.  – Bella L

9. Political Economy and ‘The True Natural History of Man’

This section refers to Marx’s critiques of political economy in some manuscripts of his.  He states that political economy, and the idea of private property, are estranged from what he calls “the true nature of man”.  The true nature of man is one uncorrupted by society, uncorrupted by detrimental ideologies such as capitalism.  He mentions a few of his theories, where he explains the evolution of man and civilization to a point where man is far removed from his “Natural” state, a mindset of community and non-individualism.  This is evidenced by “Exchange or barter was defined as the social act, the species act… with private ownership the alienated species act, the opposite of the social relationship.”- Matthew F

10. The Impact of Stirner

Max Stirner was a teacher and philosopher who was a member in the Young Hegelians but then later established his own position and wrote The Ego and Its Own, which in turn was him challenging “the whole normative basis of Young Hegelian politics.” (141) The basis was, in general, a “Man to God”(141) relationship. Stirner stated that “to the Christian the world’s history is the higher thing, because it is the history of Christ or ‘Man,’ to the egoist only his history has value, because he wants to develop only himself, not the mankind-idea, not gods plans…”(142) Basically, once humans figure out that the sacred truths of religion, law, and mortality mean absolutely nothing and are social constructs that do not need to be followed, it is then they can act freely, or, have an “individual to Man” (141)relationship with themselves.  Essentially, Stirner influenced Marx to abandon his work and reconsider how human nature should play a part in socialism and humanism. — Analiese A

11i. Communism: The Contribution of Adam Smith

Adam Smith was a philosopher and a strong believer of laissez faire economics who would later be credited as one of the first theorists of capitalism.  He thought that the division of labour “…began not as a result of human wisdom or foresight…” but was caused by self-love.  “It is not from the benevolence… but from their regard to their own interest.”  Simply, people do things for themselves and their well being.  People don’t have different jobs to help others but rather people do different things such as baking, farming and fishing so that they can help themselves.  Marx takes this a step further and says that the division of labour is not voluntary.  He continues on to say that as long as activity is not voluntary that “…Man’s own deed becomes an alien power to him, which enslaves him instead of being controlled by him.”  He views a division of labor as something that makes humans work against each other rather than with each other.  Marx believes that by getting rid of private property, communistic regulation and people having an “alien attitude to their own product”, that the power of supply and demand will cease to exist and people will be able to benefit more.  -Gavin N

11ii. Communism: The History of Law and Property

This section describes the many debates on the definition of property as new laws were written throughout history.   Marx followed the multiple debates on possession and right.  Gans interested Marx during his debate with Savigny in that he described the appeal of the Roman law, which wanted a society where there was an “equal division of the soil.”  He continued to follow others such as Neibuhr, Hugo, and Pfister and eventually “connected them with progressive stages in the development of the division of labour.”  – Kallen Y

11iii. Communism: The Contemporary Discussion of Communism

A recurring theme in this section is that of private property – the peoples’ right to it, and the theft of it. Marx states in regard to a peasant’s theft of dead wood: “if every violation of property… without a more exact definition is termed theft, will not all property be theft?”  Marx dreamed of a communist society also providing abundance to its citizens, however due to overproduction rather than scarcity, the economy was thrown off balance and his vision was not realized.  – Summer S

12. Conclusion

This section speaks to the question of why does the Communist Manifesto spend so much time talking about the accomplishments of the bourgeoisie. This is important because these social and economical accomplishments created the world that inspired the manifesto and posed problems for Marx as he wrote it. Some of these struggles Marx’s reaction to them are addressed. Regardless of these challenges, “twentieth century communism proceeded so brutally and self righteously on its imaginary path to the emancipation of mankind” -Paige T


Key Points of The Communist Manifesto

  • Social changes
    • Urbanization,
    • globalization,
    • industrialization
  • Development
    • The Manifesto says that the Bourgeoisie and the modern industry won over the feudal system. The rise of the proper manufacture of goods allowed the bourgeoisie to gain and hold capital to become more powerful than those who inherited wealth and power but could not necessarily generate their own.’
    • “the modern bourgeoisie is itself the product of a long course of development, of a series of revolutions in the modes of production and exchange” (221)
    • “The proletariat goes through various stages of development . . . struggle with the bourgeoisie . . against the instruments of production . . . increase in number” (228-9)
  • Colonization and economic imperialism:
    • “The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilization.” [224]
    • Because the bourgeois had the power of manufacturing goods cheaply, they were able to extend their reach globally and thus ever increasing their capital. This is where the bourgeois influence other countries and in effect bring about civilization. (Josh Paige Charles)
  • Class struggle
    • 219″The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”
    • Bourgeoisie
      • 219 “By bourgeoisie is meant the class of modern Capitalists, owners of the means of social production and employers of wage labour. By proletariat, the class of modern wage labourer who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labour power in order to live.”
      • 222″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.
      • 225″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 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.”
    • Proletariat
      • 228″No sooner is the exploitation of the laborer by the manufacturer, so far, at an end, that he receives his wages in cash, than he is set upon by the other portions of the bourgeoisie, the landlord, the shopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc.
      • 233″The modern labourer, on the contrary, instead of rising with the progress of industry, sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class.”; “And here it becomes evident, that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society, and to impose its conditions of existence  upon society as an overriding law.”
      • With the changes in society and economics, brought about by the bourgeoisie the labourers no once profit from their labor.  (For reasons of advancements in technology and cheaper labor)Because of this, the bourgeoisie profits immensely while the proletariat becomes worse off.
      • 230″This organization of the proletarians into a class, and consequently into a political party, is continually being upset again by the competition between the workers themselves. But it is ever rises up again, stronger, firmer, mightier.”
  • Analysis of Capitalism
    • Capital:
      • “To be capitalist is to have not only a purely personal but a social status in production. Capital is a collective product, and only by the united action of many members, nay, in the last resort, only by the united action of all members of society, can it be set in motion.
      • Capital is, therefore, not a personal, it is a social power. When, therefore, capital is converted into common property into the property of all members of society, personal property is not thereby transformed into social property. It is only the social character of the property that is changed. It loses its class character (236).
    • Wage labor:  In contrast to communism, for capitalism: “The cost of production of a workman is restricted, almost entirely, to the means of subsistence that he requires for this maintenance, and for the propagation of his of his race. But the price of a commodity, and therefore also of labour is equal to its cost of production. In proportion therefore as the repulsiveness of the work increases, the wage decreases” (227).  He claims about capitalism that all workers are: “all instruments of labour, more or less expensive to use, according to their age and sex” (228).
    • Exchange value : Focused mostly on objects. “It has resolved personal worth into exchange value…” (222).
    • Use value: Value that is gained through the use of the object/person/place. “Use value pointed to the useful character of objects in their natural particularity (180).
  •  Why was this written and what are its goals?  
    • It reflects an existing movement and articulates its goals:
      • “It is high time that Communists should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of Communism with a Manifesto of the party itself” (218).
      • “The Communists disdian to conceal their veiws and aims.  They openly declare that their ends can e attainted only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.  Let the ruling class tremble at a Communistic revolution” (258).
    • Its goals:
      • form a proletariat class, overthrow the bourgeoisie, take political power: “The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as all the other proletarian parties; formation of the proletarian class, overthrow of the bourgeois, conquests of the political power by the proletariat” (234).
      • Abolish private property, the family, and nationality (235, 239-41)
      • make capital common property (243)
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