Karl Marx

"Manifesto of the Communist Party"
Friedrich Engels
First International
Karl Marx

Karl Marx in 1875
Karl Marx, in full Karl Heinrich Marx (born May 5, 1818, Trier, Rhine province, Prussia [Germany]—died March 14, 1883, London, England), revolutionary, sociologist, historian, and economist. He published (with Friedrich Engels) Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei (1848), commonly known as The Communist Manifesto, the most celebrated pamphlet in the history of the socialist movement. He also was the author of the movement’s most important book, Das Kapital. These writings and others by Marx and Engels form the basis of the body of thought and belief known as Marxism. (See also socialism; communism.)

Early years
Karl Heinrich Marx was the oldest surviving boy of nine children. His father, Heinrich, a successful lawyer, was a man of the Enlightenment, devoted to Kant and Voltaire, who took part in agitations for a constitution in Prussia. His mother, born Henrietta Pressburg, was from Holland. Both parents were Jewish and were descended from a long line of rabbis, but, a year or so before Karl was born, his father—probably because his professional career required it—was baptized in the Evangelical Established Church. Karl was baptized when he was six years old. Although as a youth Karl was influenced less by religion than by the critical, sometimes radical social policies of the Enlightenment, his Jewish background exposed him to prejudice and discrimination that may have led him to question the role of religion in society and contributed to his desire for social change.

Marx was educated from 1830 to 1835 at the high school in Trier. Suspected of harbouring liberal teachers and pupils, the school was under police surveillance. Marx’s writings during this period exhibited a spirit of Christian devotion and a longing for self-sacrifice on behalf of humanity. In October 1835 he matriculated at the University of Bonn. The courses he attended were exclusively in the humanities, in such subjects as Greek and Roman mythology and the history of art. He participated in customary student activities, fought a duel, and spent a day in jail for being drunk and disorderly. He presided at the Tavern Club, which was at odds with the more aristocratic student associations, and joined a poets’ club that included some political activists. A politically rebellious student culture was, indeed, part of life at Bonn. Many students had been arrested; some were still being expelled in Marx’s time, particularly as a result of an effort by students to disrupt a session of the Federal Diet at Frankfurt. Marx, however, left Bonn after a year and in October 1836 enrolled at the University of Berlin to study law and philosophy.

Marx’s crucial experience at Berlin was his introduction to Hegel’s philosophy, regnant there, and his adherence to the Young Hegelians. At first he felt a repugnance toward Hegel’s doctrines; when Marx fell sick it was partially, as he wrote his father, “from intense vexation at having to make an idol of a view I detested.” The Hegelian pressure in the revolutionary student culture was powerful, however, and Marx joined a society called the Doctor Club, whose members were intensely involved in the new literary and philosophical movement. Their chief figure was Bruno Bauer, a young lecturer in theology, who was developing the idea that the Christian Gospels were a record not of history but of human fantasies arising from emotional needs and that Jesus had not been a historical person. Marx enrolled in a course of lectures given by Bauer on the prophet Isaiah. Bauer taught that a new social catastrophe “more tremendous” than that of the advent of Christianity was in the making. The Young Hegelians began moving rapidly toward atheism and also talked vaguely of political action.

The Prussian government, fearful of the subversion latent in the Young Hegelians, soon undertook to drive them from the universities. Bauer was dismissed from his post in 1839. Marx’s “most intimate friend” of this period, Adolph Rutenberg, an older journalist who had served a prison sentence for his political radicalism, pressed for a deeper social involvement. By 1841 the Young Hegelians had become left republicans. Marx’s studies, meanwhile, were lagging. Urged by his friends, he submitted a doctoral dissertation to the university at Jena, which was known to be lax in its academic requirements, and received his degree in April 1841. His thesis analyzed in a Hegelian fashion the difference between the natural philosophies of Democritus and Epicurus. More distinctively, it sounded a note of Promethean defiance:

Philosophy makes no secret of it. Prometheus’ admission: “In sooth all gods I hate,” is its own admission, its own motto against all gods,…Prometheus is the noblest saint and martyr in the calendar of philosophy.

In 1841 Marx, together with other Young Hegelians, was much influenced by the publication of Das Wesen des Christentums (1841; The Essence of Christianity) by Ludwig Feuerbach. Its author, to Marx’s mind, successfully criticized Hegel, an idealist who believed that matter or existence was inferior to and dependent upon mind or spirit, from the opposite, or materialist, standpoint, showing how the “Absolute Spirit” was a projection of “the real man standing on the foundation of nature.” Henceforth Marx’s philosophical efforts were toward a combination of Hegel’s dialectic—the idea that all things are in a continual process of change resulting from the conflicts between their contradictory aspects—with Feuerbach’s materialism, which placed material conditions above ideas.

In January 1842 Marx began contributing to a newspaper newly founded in Cologne, the Rheinische Zeitung. It was the liberal democratic organ of a group of young merchants, bankers, and industrialists; Cologne was the centre of the most industrially advanced section of Prussia. To this stage of Marx’s life belongs an essay on the freedom of the press. Since he then took for granted the existence of absolute moral standards and universal principles of ethics, he condemned censorship as a moral evil that entailed spying into people’s minds and hearts and assigned to weak and malevolent mortals powers that presupposed an omniscient mind. He believed that censorship could have only evil consequences.

On October 15, 1842, Marx became editor of the Rheinische Zeitung. As such, he was obliged to write editorials on a variety of social and economic issues, ranging from the housing of the Berlin poor and the theft by peasants of wood from the forests to the new phenomenon of communism. He found Hegelian idealism of little use in these matters. At the same time he was becoming estranged from his Hegelian friends for whom shocking the bourgeois was a sufficient mode of social activity. Marx, friendly at this time to the “liberal-minded practical men” who were “struggling step-by-step for freedom within constitutional limits,” succeeded in trebling his newspaper’s circulation and making it a leading journal in Prussia. Nevertheless, Prussian authorities suspended it for being too outspoken, and Marx agreed to coedit with the liberal Hegelian Arnold Ruge a new review, the Deutsch-französische Jahrbücher (“German-French Yearbooks”), which was to be published in Paris.

First, however, in June 1843 Marx, after an engagement of seven years, married Jenny von Westphalen. Jenny was an attractive, intelligent, and much-admired woman, four years older than Karl; she came of a family of military and administrative distinction. Her half-brother later became a highly reactionary Prussian minister of the interior. Her father, a follower of the French socialist Saint-Simon, was fond of Karl, though others in her family opposed the marriage. Marx’s father also feared that Jenny was destined to become a sacrifice to the demon that possessed his son.

Four months after their marriage, the young couple moved to Paris, which was then the centre of socialist thought and of the more extreme sects that went under the name of communism. There, Marx first became a revolutionary and a communist and began to associate with communist societies of French and German workingmen. Their ideas were, in his view, “utterly crude and unintelligent,” but their character moved him: “The brotherhood of man is no mere phrase with them, but a fact of life, and the nobility of man shines upon us from their work-hardened bodies,” he wrote in his so-called “Ökonomisch-philosophische Manuskripte aus dem Jahre 1844” (written in 1844; Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 [1959]). (These manuscripts were not published for some 100 years, but they are influential because they show the humanist background to Marx’s later historical and economic theories.)

The “German-French Yearbooks” proved short-lived, but through their publication Marx befriended Friedrich Engels, a contributor who was to become his lifelong collaborator, and in their pages appeared Marx’s article “Zur Kritik der Hegelschen Rechtsphilosophie” (“Toward the Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right”) with its oft-quoted assertion that religion is the “opium of the people.” It was there, too, that he first raised the call for an “uprising of the proletariat” to realize the conceptions of philosophy. Once more, however, the Prussian government intervened against Marx. He was expelled from France and left for Brussels—followed by Engels—in February 1845. That year in Belgium he renounced his Prussian nationality.

Brussels period
The next two years in Brussels saw the deepening of Marx’s collaboration with Engels. Engels had seen at firsthand in Manchester, England, where a branch factory of his father’s textile firm was located, all the depressing aspects of the Industrial Revolution. He had also been a Young Hegelian and had been converted to communism by Moses Hess, who was called the “communist rabbi.” In England he associated with the followers of Robert Owen. Now he and Marx, finding that they shared the same views, combined their intellectual resources and published Die heilige Familie (1845; The Holy Family), a prolix criticism of the Hegelian idealism of the theologian Bruno Bauer. Their next work, Die deutsche Ideologie (written 1845–46, published 1932; The German Ideology), contained the fullest exposition of their important materialistic conception of history, which set out to show how, historically, societies had been structured to promote the interests of the economically dominant class. But it found no publisher and remained unknown during its authors’ lifetimes.

During his Brussels years, Marx developed his views and, through confrontations with the chief leaders of the working-class movement, established his intellectual standing. In 1846 he publicly excoriated the German leader Wilhelm Weitling for his moralistic appeals. Marx insisted that the stage of bourgeois society could not be skipped over; the proletariat could not just leap into communism; the workers’ movement required a scientific basis, not moralistic phrases. He also polemicized against the French socialist thinker Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in Misère de la philosophie (1847; The Poverty of Philosophy), a mordant attack on Proudhon’s book subtitled Philosophie de la misère (1846; The Philosophy of Poverty). Proudhon wanted to unite the best features of such contraries as competition and monopoly; he hoped to save the good features in economic institutions while eliminating the bad. Marx, however, declared that no equilibrium was possible between the antagonisms in any given economic system. Social structures were transient historic forms determined by the productive forces: “The handmill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steammill, society with the industrial capitalist.” Proudhon’s mode of reasoning, Marx wrote, was typical of the petty bourgeois, who failed to see the underlying laws of history.

An unusual sequence of events led Marx and Engels to write their pamphlet The Communist Manifesto. In June 1847 a secret society, the League of the Just, composed mainly of emigrant German handicraftsmen, met in London and decided to formulate a political program. They sent a representative to Marx to ask him to join the league; Marx overcame his doubts and, with Engels, joined the organization, which thereupon changed its name to the Communist League and enacted a democratic constitution. Entrusted with the task of composing their program, Marx and Engels worked from the middle of December 1847 to the end of January 1848. The London Communists were already impatiently threatening Marx with disciplinary action when he sent them the manuscript; they promptly adopted it as their manifesto. It enunciated the proposition that all history had hitherto been a history of class struggles, summarized in pithy form the materialist conception of history worked out in The German Ideology, and asserted that the forthcoming victory of the proletariat would put an end to class society forever. It mercilessly criticized all forms of socialism founded on philosophical “cobwebs” such as “alienation.” It rejected the avenue of “social Utopias,” small experiments in community, as deadening the class struggle and therefore as being “reactionary sects.” It set forth 10 immediate measures as first steps toward communism, ranging from a progressive income tax and the abolition of inheritances to free education for all children. It closed with the words, “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workingmen of all countries, unite!”

Revolution suddenly erupted in Europe in the first months of 1848, in France, Italy, and Austria. Marx had been invited to Paris by a member of the provisional government just in time to avoid expulsion by the Belgian government. As the revolution gained in Austria and Germany, Marx returned to the Rhineland. In Cologne he advocated a policy of coalition between the working class and the democratic bourgeoisie, opposing for this reason the nomination of independent workers’ candidates for the Frankfurt Assembly and arguing strenuously against the program for proletarian revolution advocated by the leaders of the Workers’ Union. He concurred in Engels’s judgment that The Communist Manifesto should be shelved and the Communist League disbanded. Marx pressed his policy through the pages of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, newly founded in June 1849, urging a constitutional democracy and war with Russia. When the more revolutionary leader of the Workers’ Union, Andreas Gottschalk, was arrested, Marx supplanted him and organized the first Rhineland Democratic Congress in August 1848. When the king of Prussia dissolved the Prussian Assembly in Berlin, Marx called for arms and men to help the resistance. Bourgeois liberals withdrew their support from Marx’s newspaper, and he himself was indicted on several charges, including advocacy of the nonpayment of taxes. In his trial he defended himself with the argument that the crown was engaged in making an unlawful counterrevolution. The jury acquitted him unanimously and with thanks. Nevertheless, as the last hopeless fighting flared in Dresden and Baden, Marx was ordered banished as an alien on May 16, 1849. The final issue of his newspaper, printed in red, caused a great sensation.

Karl Marx

Early years in London
Expelled once more from Paris, Marx went to London in August 1849. It was to be his home for the rest of his life. Chagrined by the failure of his own tactics of collaboration with the liberal bourgeoisie, he rejoined the Communist League in London and for about a year advocated a bolder revolutionary policy. An “Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League,” written with Engels in March 1850, urged that in future revolutionary situations they struggle to make the revolution “permanent” by avoiding subservience to the bourgeois party and by setting up “their own revolutionary workers’ governments” alongside any new bourgeois one. Marx hoped that the economic crisis would shortly lead to a revival of the revolutionary movement; when this hope faded, he came into conflict once more with those whom he called “the alchemists of the revolution,” such as August von Willich, a communist who proposed to hasten the advent of revolution by undertaking direct revolutionary ventures. Such persons, Marx wrote in September 1850, substitute “idealism for materialism” and regard

pure will as the motive power of revolution instead of actual conditions. While we say to the workers: “You have got to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and national wars not merely in order to change your conditions but in order to change yourselves and become qualified for political power,” you on the contrary tell them, “We must achieve power immediately.”

The militant faction in turn ridiculed Marx for being a revolutionary who limited his activity to lectures on political economy to the Communist Workers’ Educational Union. The upshot was that Marx gradually stopped attending meetings of the London Communists. In 1852 he devoted himself intensely to working for the defense of 11 communists arrested and tried in Cologne on charges of revolutionary conspiracy and wrote a pamphlet on their behalf. The same year he also published, in a German-American periodical, his essay “Der Achtzehnte Brumaire des Louis Napoleon” (The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte), with its acute analysis of the formation of a bureaucratic absolutist state with the support of the peasant class. In other respects the next 12 years were, in Marx’s words, years of “isolation” both for him and for Engels in his Manchester factory.

From 1850 to 1864 Marx lived in material misery and spiritual pain. His funds were gone, and except on one occasion he could not bring himself to seek paid employment. In March 1850 he and his wife and four small children were evicted and their belongings seized. Several of his children died—including a son Guido, “a sacrifice to bourgeois misery,” and a daughter Franziska, for whom his wife rushed about frantically trying to borrow money for a coffin. For six years the family lived in two small rooms in Soho, often subsisting on bread and potatoes. The children learned to lie to the creditors: “Mr. Marx ain’t upstairs.” Once he had to escape them by fleeing to Manchester. His wife suffered breakdowns.

During all these years Engels loyally contributed to Marx’s financial support. The sums were not large at first, for Engels was only a clerk in the firm of Ermen and Engels at Manchester. Later, however, in 1864, when he became a partner, his subventions were generous. Marx was proud of Engels’s friendship and would tolerate no criticism of him. Bequests from the relatives of Marx’s wife and from Marx’s friend Wilhelm Wolff also helped to alleviate their economic distress.

Marx had one relatively steady source of earned income in the United States. On the invitation of Charles A. Dana, managing editor of The New York Tribune, he became in 1851 its European correspondent. The newspaper, edited by Horace Greeley, had sympathies for Fourierism, a Utopian socialist system developed by the French theorist Charles Fourier. From 1851 to 1862 Marx contributed close to 500 articles and editorials (Engels providing about a fourth of them). He ranged over the whole political universe, analyzing social movements and agitations from India and China to Britain and Spain.

In 1859 Marx published his first book on economic theory, Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie (A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy). In its preface he again summarized his materialistic conception of history, his theory that the course of history is dependent on economic developments. At this time, however, Marx regarded his studies in economic and social history at the British Museum as his main task. He was busy producing the drafts of his magnum opus, which was to be published later as Das Kapital. Some of these drafts, including the Outlines and the Theories of Surplus Value, are important in their own right and were published after Marx’s death.

Karl Marx

Role in the First International
Marx’s political isolation ended in 1864 with the founding of the International Working Men’s Association. Although he was neither its founder nor its head, he soon became its leading spirit. Its first public meeting, called by English trade union leaders and French workers’ representatives, took place at St. Martin’s Hall in London on September 28, 1864. Marx, who had been invited through a French intermediary to attend as a representative of the German workers, sat silently on the platform. A committee was set up to produce a program and a constitution for the new organization. After various drafts had been submitted that were felt to be unsatisfactory, Marx, serving on a subcommittee, drew upon his immense journalistic experience. His “Address and the Provisional Rules of the International Working Men’s Association,” unlike his other writings, stressed the positive achievements of the cooperative movement and of parliamentary legislation; the gradual conquest of political power would enable the British proletariat to extend these achievements on a national scale.

As a member of the organization’s General Council, and corresponding secretary for Germany, Marx was henceforth assiduous in attendance at its meetings, which were sometimes held several times a week. For several years he showed a rare diplomatic tact in composing differences among various parties, factions, and tendencies. The International grew in prestige and membership, its numbers reaching perhaps 800,000 in 1869. It was successful in several interventions on behalf of European trade unions engaged in struggles with employers.

In 1870, however, Marx was still unknown as a European political personality; it was the Paris Commune that made him into an international figure, “the best calumniated and most menaced man of London,” as he wrote. When the Franco-German War broke out in 1870, Marx and Engels disagreed with followers in Germany who refused to vote in the Reichstag in favour of the war. The General Council declared that “on the German side the war was a war of defence.” After the defeat of the French armies, however, they felt that the German terms amounted to aggrandizement at the expense of the French people. When an insurrection broke out in Paris and the Paris Commune was proclaimed, Marx gave it his unswerving support. On May 30, 1871, after the Commune had been crushed, he hailed it in a famous address entitled Civil War in France:

History has no comparable example of such greatness.…Its martyrs are enshrined forever in the great heart of the working class.

In Engels’s judgment, the Paris Commune was history’s first example of the “dictatorship of the proletariat.” Marx’s name, as the leader of The First International and author of the notorious Civil War, became synonymous throughout Europe with the revolutionary spirit symbolized by the Paris Commune.

The advent of the Commune, however, exacerbated the antagonisms within the International Working Men’s Association and thus brought about its downfall. English trade unionists such as George Odger, former president of the General Council, opposed Marx’s support of the Paris Commune. The Reform Bill of 1867, which had enfranchised the British working class, had opened vast opportunities for political action by the trade unions. English labour leaders found they could make many practical advances by cooperating with the Liberal Party and, regarding Marx’s rhetoric as an encumbrance, resented his charge that they had “sold themselves” to the Liberals.

A left opposition also developed under the leadership of the famed Russian revolutionary Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin. A veteran of tsarist prisons and Siberian exile, Bakunin could move men by his oratory, which one listener compared to “a raging storm with lightning, flashes and thunderclaps, and a roaring as of lions.” Bakunin admired Marx’s intellect but could hardly forget that Marx had published a report in 1848 charging him with being a Russian agent. He felt that Marx was a German authoritarian and an arrogant Jew who wanted to transform the General Council into a personal dictatorship over the workers. He strongly opposed several of Marx’s theories, especially Marx’s support of the centralized structure of the International, Marx’s view that the proletariat class should act as a political party against prevailing parties but within the existing parliamentary system, and Marx’s belief that the proletariat, after it had overthrown the bourgeois state, should establish its own regime. To Bakunin, the mission of the revolutionary was destruction; he looked to the Russian peasantry, with its propensities for violence and its uncurbed revolutionary instincts, rather than to the effete, civilized workers of the industrial countries. The students, he hoped, would be the officers of the revolution. He acquired followers, mostly young men, in Italy, Switzerland, and France, and he organized a secret society, the International Alliance of Social Democracy, which in 1869 challenged the hegemony of the General Council at the congress in Basel, Switzerland. Marx, however, had already succeeded in preventing its admission as an organized body into the International.

To the Bakuninists, the Paris Commune was a model of revolutionary direct action and a refutation of what they considered to be Marx’s “authoritarian communism.” Bakunin began organizing sections of the International for an attack on the alleged dictatorship of Marx and the General Council. Marx in reply publicized Bakunin’s embroilment with an unscrupulous Russian student leader, Sergey Gennadiyevich Nechayev, who had practiced blackmail and murder.

Without a supporting right wing and with the anarchist left against him, Marx feared losing control of the International to Bakunin. He also wanted to return to his studies and to finish Das Kapital. At the congress of the International at The Hague in 1872, the only one he ever attended, Marx managed to defeat the Bakuninists. Then, to the consternation of the delegates, Engels moved that the seat of the General Council be transferred from London to New York City. The Bakuninists were expelled, but the International languished and was finally disbanded in Philadelphia in 1876.

Karl Marx

Last years
During the next and last decade of his life, Marx’s creative energies declined. He was beset by what he called “chronic mental depression,” and his life turned inward toward his family. He was unable to complete any substantial work, though he still read widely and undertook to learn Russian. He became crotchety in his political opinions. When his own followers and those of the German revolutionary Ferdinand Lassalle, a rival who believed that socialist goals should be achieved through cooperation with the state, coalesced in 1875 to found the German Social Democratic Party, Marx wrote a caustic criticism of their program (the so-called Gotha Program), claiming that it made too many compromises with the status quo. The German leaders put his objections aside and tried to mollify him personally. Increasingly, he looked to a European war for the overthrow of Russian tsarism, the mainstay of reaction, hoping that this would revive the political energies of the working classes. He was moved by what he considered to be the selfless courage of the Russian terrorists who assassinated the tsar, Alexander II, in 1881; he felt this to be “a historically inevitable means of action.”

Despite Marx’s withdrawal from active politics, he still retained what Engels called his “peculiar influence” on the leaders of working-class and socialist movements. In 1879, when the French Socialist Workers’ Federation was founded, its leader Jules Guesde went to London to consult with Marx, who dictated the preamble of its program and shaped much of its content. In 1881 Henry Mayers Hyndman in his England for All drew heavily on his conversations with Marx but angered him by being afraid to acknowledge him by name.

During his last years Marx spent much time at health resorts and even traveled to Algiers. He was broken by the death of his wife on December 2, 1881, and of his eldest daughter, Jenny Longuet, on January 11, 1883. He died in London, evidently of a lung abscess, in the following year.

Character and significance
At Marx’s funeral in Highgate Cemetery, Engels declared that Marx had made two great discoveries, the law of development of human history and the law of motion of bourgeois society. But “Marx was before all else a revolutionist.” He was “the best-hated and most-calumniated man of his time,” yet he also died “beloved, revered and mourned by millions of revolutionary fellow-workers.”

The contradictory emotions Marx engendered are reflected in the sometimes conflicting aspects of his character. Marx was a combination of the Promethean rebel and the rigorous intellectual. He gave most persons an impression of intellectual arrogance. A Russian writer, Pavel Annenkov, who observed Marx in debate in 1846 recalled that “he spoke only in the imperative, brooking no contradiction,” and seemed to be “the personification of a democratic dictator such as might appear before one in moments of fantasy.” But Marx obviously felt uneasy before mass audiences and avoided the atmosphere of factional controversies at congresses. He went to no demonstrations, his wife remarked, and rarely spoke at public meetings. He kept away from the congresses of the International where the rival socialist groups debated important resolutions. He was a “small groups” man, most at home in the atmosphere of the General Council or on the staff of a newspaper, where his character could impress itself forcefully on a small body of coworkers. At the same time he avoided meeting distinguished scholars with whom he might have discussed questions of economics and sociology on a footing of intellectual equality. Despite his broad intellectual sweep, he was prey to obsessive ideas such as that the British foreign minister, Lord Palmerston, was an agent of the Russian government. He was determined not to let bourgeois society make “a money-making machine” out of him, yet he submitted to living on the largess of Engels and the bequests of relatives. He remained the eternal student in his personal habits and way of life, even to the point of joining two friends in a students’ prank during which they systematically broke four or five streetlamps in a London street and then fled from the police. He was a great reader of novels, especially those of Sir Walter Scott and Balzac; and the family made a cult of Shakespeare. He was an affectionate father, saying that he admired Jesus for his love of children, but sacrificed the lives and health of his own. Of his seven children, three daughters grew to maturity. His favourite daughter, Eleanor, worried him with her nervous, brooding, emotional character and her desire to be an actress. Another shadow was cast on Marx’s domestic life by the birth to their loyal servant, Helene Demuth, of an illegitimate son, Frederick; Engels as he was dying disclosed to Eleanor that Marx had been the father. Above all, Marx was a fighter, willing to sacrifice anything in the battle for his conception of a better society. He regarded struggle as the law of life and existence.

The influence of Marx’s ideas has been enormous. Marx’s masterpiece, Das Kapital, the “Bible of the working class,” as it was officially described in a resolution of the International Working Men’s Association, was published in 1867 in Berlin and received a second edition in 1873. Only the first volume was completed and published in Marx’s lifetime. The second and third volumes, unfinished by Marx, were edited by Engels and published in 1885 and 1894. The economic categories he employed were those of the classical British economics of David Ricardo, but Marx used them in accordance with his dialectical method to argue that bourgeois society, like every social organism, must follow its inevitable path of development. Through the working of such immanent tendencies as the declining rate of profit, capitalism would die and be replaced by another, higher, society. The most memorable pages in Das Kapital are the descriptive passages, culled from Parliamentary Blue Books, on the misery of the English working class. Marx believed that this misery would increase, while at the same time the monopoly of capital would become a fetter upon production until finally “the knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.”

Marx never claimed to have discovered the existence of classes and class struggles in modern society. “Bourgeois” historians, he acknowledged, had described them long before he had. He did claim, however, to have proved that each phase in the development of production was associated with a corresponding class structure and that the struggle of classes led necessarily to the dictatorship of the proletariat, ushering in the advent of a classless society. Marx took up the very different versions of socialism current in the early 19th century and welded them together into a doctrine that continued to be the dominant version of socialism for half a century after his death. His emphasis on the influence of economic structure on historical development has proved to be of lasting significance.

Although Marx stressed economic issues in his writings, his major impact has been in the fields of sociology and history. Marx’s most important contribution to sociological theory was his general mode of analysis, the “dialectical” model, which regards every social system as having within it immanent forces that give rise to “contradictions” (disequilibria) that can be resolved only by a new social system. Neo-Marxists, who no longer accept the economic reasoning in Das Kapital, are still guided by this model in their approach to capitalist society. In this sense, Marx’s mode of analysis, like those of Thomas Malthus, Herbert Spencer, or Vilfredo Pareto, has become one of the theoretical structures that are the heritage of the social scientist.

Lewis S. Feuer
David T. McLellan

Misère de la philosophie (1847; The Poverty of Philosophy, 1900); Manifest der kommunistischen Partei (1848; Manifesto of the Communists, 1883); Die Klassenkämpfe in Frankreich 1848 bis 1850 (1850; The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850, 1924); Der 18te Brumaire des Louis Napoleon (1852; The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, 1898); Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie (1859; A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, 1904); and Das Kapital (vol. 1, 1867; vol. 2–3 published by Engels in 1885 and 1894; Capital: A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production, vol. 1 trans. by Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling, 1886; vol. 2–3 trans. by Ernest Untermann, 1907 and 1909).

Recommended later translations of these works include Manifesto of the Communist Party, trans. by Samuel Moore (1888, reprinted 1952); The Communist Manifesto of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, with an introduction and explanatory notes by D. Ryazanoff, trans. by Eden Paul and Cedar Paul (1930); and The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, trans. by Eden Paul and Cedar Paul (1926). Selections from Marx’s writings are available in the following: David McLellan (ed.), Selected Writings (1977); Robert C. Tucker (ed.), The Marx-Engels Reader, 2nd ed. (1978); and Jon Elster (ed.), Karl Marx: A Reader (1986).

A major English-language edition, Karl Marx, Frederick Engels: Collected Works, trans. by Richard Dixon et al. (1975– ), is in progress. Planned to consist of 50 volumes and to include the correspondence, it is being prepared by an international editorial committee. Forty-one volumes had been published by 1992.

Encyclopædia Britannica

The Communist Manifesto
The Communist Manifesto, German Manifest Der Kommunistischen Partei, (1848; “Manifesto of the Communist Party”), pamphlet written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels to serve as the platform of the Communist League. It became one of the principal programmatic statements of the European socialist and communist parties in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Manifesto embodied the authors’ materialistic conception of history (“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”), and it surveyed that history from the age of feudalism down to 19th-century capitalism, which was destined, they declared, to be overthrown and replaced by a workers’ society. The communists, the vanguard of the working class, constituted the section of society that would accomplish the “abolition of private property” and “raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class.”

The Manifesto opens with the dramatic words “A spectre is haunting Europe—the spectre of communism” and ends by stating, “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workingmen of all countries, unite.”

Encyclopædia Britannica

Manifesto of the Communist Party


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

A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.

Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic by its opponents in power? Where is the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of communism, against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?

Two things result from this fact:

I. Communism is already acknowledged by all European powers to be itself a power.

II. 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.

To this end, Communists of various nationalities have assembled in London and sketched the following manifesto, to be published in the English, French, German, Italian, Flemish and Danish languages.


Chapter I. Bourgeois and Proletarians(1)

[German Original]

The history of all hitherto existing society(2) is the history of class struggles.

Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master(3) and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations.

The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones.

Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other — Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.

From the serfs of the Middle Ages sprang the chartered burghers of the earliest towns. From these burgesses the first elements of the bourgeoisie were developed.

The discovery of America, the rounding of the Cape, opened up fresh ground for the rising bourgeoisie. The East-Indian and Chinese markets, the colonisation of America, trade with the colonies, the increase in the means of exchange and in commodities generally, gave to commerce, to navigation, to industry, an impulse never before known, and thereby, to the revolutionary element in the tottering feudal society, a rapid development.

The feudal system of industry, in which industrial production was monopolised by closed guilds, now no longer sufficed for the growing wants of the new markets. The manufacturing system took its place. The guild-masters were pushed on one side by the manufacturing middle class; division of labour between the different corporate guilds vanished in the face of division of labour in each single workshop.

Meantime the markets kept ever growing, the demand ever rising. Even manufacturer no longer sufficed. Thereupon, steam and machinery revolutionised industrial production. The place of manufacture was taken by the giant, Modern Industry; the place of the industrial middle class by industrial millionaires, the leaders of the whole industrial armies, the modern bourgeois.

Modern industry has established the world market, for which the discovery of America paved the way. This market has given an immense development to commerce, to navigation, to communication by land. This development has, in its turn, reacted on the extension of industry; and in proportion as industry, commerce, navigation, railways extended, in the same proportion the bourgeoisie developed, increased its capital, and pushed into the background every class handed down from the Middle Ages.

We see, therefore, how the modern bourgeoisie is itself the product of a long course of development, of a series of revolutions in the modes of production and of exchange.

Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding political advance of that class. An oppressed class under the sway of the feudal nobility, an armed and self-governing association in the medieval commune(4): here independent urban republic (as in Italy and Germany); there taxable “third estate” of the monarchy (as in France); afterwards, in the period of manufacturing proper, serving either the semi-feudal or the absolute monarchy as a counterpoise against the nobility, and, in fact, cornerstone of the great monarchies in general, the bourgeoisie has at last, since the establishment of Modern Industry and of the world market, conquered for itself, in the modern representative State, exclusive political sway. The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.

The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part.

The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. 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.

The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers.

The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.

The bourgeoisie has disclosed how it came to pass that the brutal display of vigour in the Middle Ages, which reactionaries so much admire, found its fitting complement in the most slothful indolence. It has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades.

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.

The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.

The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation. The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.

The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilised ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West.

The bourgeoisie keeps more and more doing away with the scattered state of the population, of the means of production, and of property. It has agglomerated population, centralised the means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands. The necessary consequence of this was political centralisation. Independent, or but loosely connected provinces, with separate interests, laws, governments, and systems of taxation, became lumped together into one nation, with one government, one code of laws, one national class-interest, one frontier, and one customs-tariff.

The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground — what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?

We see then: the means of production and of exchange, on whose foundation the bourgeoisie built itself up, were generated in feudal society. At a certain stage in the development of these means of production and of exchange, the conditions under which feudal society produced and exchanged, the feudal organisation of agriculture and manufacturing industry, in one word, the feudal relations of property became no longer compatible with the already developed productive forces; they became so many fetters. They had to be burst asunder; they were burst asunder.

Into their place stepped free competition, accompanied by a social and political constitution adapted in it, and the economic and political sway of the bourgeois class.

A similar movement is going on before our own eyes. 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. For many a decade past the history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forces against modern conditions of production, against the property relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeois and of its rule. It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put the existence of the entire bourgeois society on its trial, each time more threateningly. In these crises, a great part not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity — the epidemic of over-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce. The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property. The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them. And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. That is to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented.

The weapons with which the bourgeoisie felled feudalism to the ground are now turned against the bourgeoisie itself.

But 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.

In proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e., capital, is developed, in the same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working class, developed — a class of labourers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labour increases capital. These labourers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market.

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. Hence, the cost of production of a workman is restricted, almost entirely, to the means of subsistence that he requires for maintenance, and for the propagation 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. Nay more, in proportion as the use of machinery and division of labour increases, in the same proportion the burden of toil also increases, whether by prolongation of the working hours, by the increase of the work exacted in a given time or by increased speed of machinery, etc.

Modern Industry has converted the little workshop of the patriarchal master into the great factory of the industrial capitalist. Masses of labourers, crowded into the factory, are organised like soldiers. As privates of the industrial army they are placed under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers and sergeants. Not only are they slaves of the bourgeois class, and of the bourgeois State; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the overlooker, and, above all, by the individual bourgeois manufacturer himself. The more openly this despotism proclaims gain to be its end and aim, the more petty, the more hateful and the more embittering it is.

The less the skill and exertion of strength implied in manual labour, in other words, the more modern industry becomes developed, the more is the labour of men superseded by that of women. Differences of age and sex have no longer any distinctive social validity for the working class. All are instruments of labour, more or less expensive to use, according to their age and sex.

No sooner is the exploitation of the labourer 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.

The lower strata of the middle class — the small tradespeople, shopkeepers, and retired tradesmen generally, the handicraftsmen and peasants — all these sink gradually into the proletariat, partly because their diminutive capital does not suffice for the scale on which Modern Industry is carried on, and is swamped in the competition with the large capitalists, partly because their specialised skill is rendered worthless by new methods of production. Thus the proletariat is recruited from all classes of the population.

The proletariat goes through various stages of development. With its birth begins its struggle with the bourgeoisie. At first the contest is carried on by individual labourers, then by the workpeople of a factory, then by the operative of one trade, in one locality, against the individual bourgeois who directly exploits them. They direct their attacks not against the bourgeois conditions of production, but against the instruments of production themselves; they destroy imported wares that compete with their labour, they smash to pieces machinery, they set factories ablaze, they seek to restore by force the vanished status of the workman of the Middle Ages.

At this stage, the labourers still form an incoherent mass scattered over the whole country, and broken up by their mutual competition. If anywhere they unite to form more compact bodies, this is not yet the consequence of their own active union, but of the union of the bourgeoisie, which class, in order to attain its own political ends, is compelled to set the whole proletariat in motion, and is moreover yet, for a time, able to do so. At this stage, therefore, the proletarians do not fight their enemies, but the enemies of their enemies, the remnants of absolute monarchy, the landowners, the non-industrial bourgeois, the petty bourgeois. Thus, the whole historical movement is concentrated in the hands of the bourgeoisie; every victory so obtained is a victory for the bourgeoisie.

But with the development of industry, the proletariat not only increases in number; it becomes concentrated in greater masses, its strength grows, and it feels that strength more. The various interests and conditions of life within the ranks of the proletariat are more and more equalised, in proportion as machinery obliterates all distinctions of labour, and nearly everywhere reduces wages to the same low level. The growing competition among the bourgeois, and the resulting commercial crises, make the wages of the workers ever more fluctuating. The increasing improvement of machinery, ever more rapidly developing, makes their livelihood more and more precarious; the collisions between individual workmen and individual bourgeois take more and more the character of collisions between two classes. Thereupon, the workers begin to form combinations (Trades’ Unions) against the bourgeois; they club together in order to keep up the rate of wages; they found permanent associations in order to make provision beforehand for these occasional revolts. Here and there, the contest breaks out into riots.

Now and then the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever expanding union of the workers. This union is helped on by the improved means of communication that are created by modern industry, and that place the workers of different localities in contact with one another. It was just this contact that was needed to centralise the numerous local struggles, all of the same character, into one national struggle between classes. But every class struggle is a political struggle. And that union, to attain which the burghers of the Middle Ages, with their miserable highways, required centuries, the modern proletarian, thanks to railways, achieve in a few years.

This organisation 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 ever rises up again, stronger, firmer, mightier. It compels legislative recognition of particular interests of the workers, by taking advantage of the divisions among the bourgeoisie itself. Thus, the ten-hours’ bill in England was carried.

Altogether collisions between the classes of the old society further, in many ways, the course of development of the proletariat. The bourgeoisie finds itself involved in a constant battle. At first with the aristocracy; later on, with those portions of the bourgeoisie itself, whose interests have become antagonistic to the progress of industry; at all time with the bourgeoisie of foreign countries. In all these battles, it sees itself compelled to appeal to the proletariat, to ask for help, and thus, to drag it into the political arena. The bourgeoisie itself, therefore, supplies the proletariat with its own elements of political and general education, in other words, it furnishes the proletariat with weapons for fighting the bourgeoisie.

Further, as we have already seen, entire sections of the ruling class are, by the advance of industry, precipitated into the proletariat, or are at least threatened in their conditions of existence. These also supply the proletariat with fresh elements of enlightenment and progress.

Finally, in times when the class struggle nears the decisive hour, the progress of dissolution going on within the ruling class, in fact within the whole range of old society, assumes such a violent, glaring character, that a small section of the ruling class cuts itself adrift, and joins the revolutionary class, the class that holds the future in its hands. Just as, therefore, at an earlier period, a section of the nobility went over to the bourgeoisie, so now a portion of the bourgeoisie goes over to the proletariat, and in particular, a portion of the bourgeois ideologists, who have raised themselves to the level of comprehending theoretically the historical movement as a whole.

Of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class. The other classes decay and finally disappear in the face of Modern Industry; the proletariat is its special and essential product.

The lower middle class, the small manufacturer, the shopkeeper, the artisan, the peasant, all these fight against the bourgeoisie, to save from extinction their existence as fractions of the middle class. They are therefore not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay more, they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheel of history. If by chance, they are revolutionary, they are only so in view of their impending transfer into the proletariat; they thus defend not their present, but their future interests, they desert their own standpoint to place themselves at that of the proletariat.

The “dangerous class”, [lumpenproletariat] the social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of the old society, may, here and there, be swept into the movement by a proletarian revolution; its conditions of life, however, prepare it far more for the part of a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue.

In the condition of the proletariat, those of old society at large are already virtually swamped. The proletarian is without property; his relation to his wife and children has no longer anything in common with the bourgeois family relations; modern industry labour, modern subjection to capital, the same in England as in France, in America as in Germany, has stripped him of every trace of national character. Law, morality, religion, are to him so many bourgeois prejudices, behind which lurk in ambush just as many bourgeois interests.

All the preceding classes that got the upper hand sought to fortify their already acquired status by subjecting society at large to their conditions of appropriation. The proletarians cannot become masters of the productive forces of society, except by abolishing their own previous mode of appropriation, and thereby also every other previous mode of appropriation. They have nothing of their own to secure and to fortify; their mission is to destroy all previous securities for, and insurances of, individual property.

All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest 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.

Though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle. The proletariat of each country must, of course, first of all settle matters with its own bourgeoisie.

In depicting the most general phases of the development of the proletariat, we traced the more or less veiled civil war, raging within existing society, up to the point where that war breaks out into open revolution, and where the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat.

Hitherto, every form of society has been based, as we have already seen, on the antagonism of oppressing and oppressed classes. But in order to oppress a class, certain conditions must be assured to it under which it can, at least, continue its slavish existence. The serf, in the period of serfdom, raised himself to membership in the commune, just as the petty bourgeois, under the yoke of the feudal absolutism, managed to develop into a bourgeois. The modern labourer, on the contrary, instead of rising with the process of industry, sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class. He becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth. 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 over-riding law. It is unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery, because it cannot help letting him sink into such a state, that it has to feed him, instead of being fed by him. Society can no longer live under this bourgeoisie, in other words, its existence is no longer compatible with society.

The essential conditions for the existence and for the sway of the bourgeois class is the formation and augmentation of capital; the condition for capital is wage-labour. Wage-labour rests exclusively on competition between the labourers. The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the labourers, due to competition, by the revolutionary combination, due to association. The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.


Chapter 2: Proletarians and Communists

1. 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 labourers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labour power in order to live. [Engels, 1888 English edition]

2. That is, all written history. In 1847, the pre-history of society, the social organisation existing previous to recorded history, all but unknown. Since then, August von Haxthausen (1792-1866) discovered common ownership of land in Russia, Georg Ludwig von Maurer proved it to be the social foundation from which all Teutonic races started in history, and, by and by, village communities were found to be, or to have been, the primitive form of society everywhere from India to Ireland. The inner organisation of this primitive communistic society was laid bare, in its typical form, by Lewis Henry Morgan's (1818-1861) crowning discovery of the true nature of the gens and its relation to the tribe. With the dissolution of the primeval communities, society begins to be differentiated into separate and finally antagonistic classes. I have attempted to retrace this dissolution in The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, second edition, Stuttgart, 1886. [Engels, 1888 English Edition and 1890 German Edition (with the last sentence omitted)]

3. Guild-master, that is, a full member of a guild, a master within, not a head of a guild. [Engels, 1888 English Edition]

4. This was the name given their urban communities by the townsmen of Italy and France, after they had purchased or conquered their initial rights of self-government from their feudal lords. [Engels, 1890 German edition]

“Commune” was the name taken in France by the nascent towns even before they had conquered from their feudal lords and masters local self-government and political rights as the “Third Estate.” Generally speaking, for the economical development of the bourgeoisie, England is here taken as the typical country, for its political development, France. [Engels, 1888 English Edition]


Chapter II. Proletarians and Communists

In what relation do the Communists stand to the proletarians as a whole?

The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties.

They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole.

They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement.

The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only: 1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.

The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.

The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat.

The theoretical conclusions of the Communists are in no way based on ideas or principles that have been invented, or discovered, by this or that would-be universal reformer.

They merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from a historical movement going on under our very eyes. The abolition of existing property relations is not at all a distinctive feature of communism.

All property relations in the past have continually been subject to historical change consequent upon the change in historical conditions.

The French Revolution, for example, abolished feudal property in favour of bourgeois property.

The distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property. But modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products, that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few.

In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.

We Communists have been reproached with the desire of abolishing the right of personally acquiring property as the fruit of a man’s own labour, which property is alleged to be the groundwork of all personal freedom, activity and independence.

Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property! Do you mean the property of petty artisan and of the small peasant, a form of property that preceded the bourgeois form? There is no need to abolish that; the development of industry has to a great extent already destroyed it, and is still destroying it daily.

Or do you mean the modern bourgeois private property?

But does wage-labour create any property for the labourer? Not a bit. It creates capital, i.e., that kind of property which exploits wage-labour, and which cannot increase except upon condition of begetting a new supply of wage-labour for fresh exploitation. Property, in its present form, is based on the antagonism of capital and wage labour. Let us examine both sides of this antagonism.

To be a 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 only 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.

Let us now take wage-labour.

The average price of wage-labour is the minimum wage, i.e., that quantum of the means of subsistence which is absolutely requisite to keep the labourer in bare existence as a labourer. What, therefore, the wage-labourer appropriates by means of his labour, merely suffices to prolong and reproduce a bare existence. We by no means intend to abolish this personal appropriation of the products of labour, an appropriation that is made for the maintenance and reproduction of human life, and that leaves no surplus wherewith to command the labour of others. All that we want to do away with is the miserable character of this appropriation, under which the labourer lives merely to increase capital, and is allowed to live only in so far as the interest of the ruling class requires it.

In bourgeois society, living labour is but a means to increase accumulated labour. In Communist society, accumulated labour is but a means to widen, to enrich, to promote the existence of the labourer.

In bourgeois society, therefore, the past dominates the present; in Communist society, the present dominates the past. In bourgeois society capital is independent and has individuality, while the living person is dependent and has no individuality.

And the abolition of this state of things is called by the bourgeois, abolition of individuality and freedom! And rightly so. The abolition of bourgeois individuality, bourgeois independence, and bourgeois freedom is undoubtedly aimed at.

By freedom is meant, under the present bourgeois conditions of production, free trade, free selling and buying.

But if selling and buying disappears, free selling and buying disappears also. This talk about free selling and buying, and all the other “brave words” of our bourgeois about freedom in general, have a meaning, if any, only in contrast with restricted selling and buying, with the fettered traders of the Middle Ages, but have no meaning when opposed to the Communistic abolition of buying and selling, of the bourgeois conditions of production, and of the bourgeoisie itself.

You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society.

In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend.

From the moment when labour can no longer be converted into capital, money, or rent, into a social power capable of being monopolised, i.e., from the moment when individual property can no longer be transformed into bourgeois property, into capital, from that moment, you say, individuality vanishes.

You must, therefore, confess that by “individual” you mean no other person than the bourgeois, than the middle-class owner of property. This person must, indeed, be swept out of the way, and made impossible.

Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labour of others by means of such appropriations.

It has been objected that upon the abolition of private property, all work will cease, and universal laziness will overtake us.

According to this, bourgeois society ought long ago to have gone to the dogs through sheer idleness; for those of its members who work, acquire nothing, and those who acquire anything do not work. The whole of this objection is but another expression of the tautology: that there can no longer be any wage-labour when there is no longer any capital.

All objections urged against the Communistic mode of producing and appropriating material products, have, in the same way, been urged against the Communistic mode of producing and appropriating intellectual products. Just as, to the bourgeois, the disappearance of class property is the disappearance of production itself, so the disappearance of class culture is to him identical with the disappearance of all culture.

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

But don’t wrangle with us so long as you apply, to our intended abolition of bourgeois property, the standard of your bourgeois notions of freedom, culture, law, &c. Your very ideas are but the outgrowth of the conditions of your bourgeois production and bourgeois property, just as your jurisprudence is but the will of your class made into a law for all, a will whose essential character and direction are determined by the economical conditions of existence of your class.

The selfish misconception that induces you to transform into eternal laws of nature and of reason, the social forms springing from your present mode of production and form of property – historical relations that rise and disappear in the progress of production – this misconception you share with every ruling class that has preceded you. What you see clearly in the case of ancient property, what you admit in the case of feudal property, you are of course forbidden to admit in the case of your own bourgeois form of property.

Abolition [Aufhebung] of the family! Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the Communists.

On what foundation is the present family, the bourgeois family, based? On capital, on private gain. In its completely developed form, this family exists only among the bourgeoisie. But this state of things finds its complement in the practical absence of the family among the proletarians, and in public prostitution.

The bourgeois family will vanish as a matter of course when its complement vanishes, and both will vanish with the vanishing of capital.

Do you charge us with wanting to stop the exploitation of children by their parents? To this crime we plead guilty.

But, you say, we destroy the most hallowed of relations, when we replace home education by social.

And your education! Is not that also social, and determined by the social conditions under which you educate, by the intervention direct or indirect, of society, by means of schools, &c.? The Communists have not invented the intervention of society in education; they do but seek to alter the character of that intervention, and to rescue education from the influence of the ruling class.

The bourgeois clap-trap about the family and education, about the hallowed co-relation of parents and child, becomes all the more disgusting, the more, by the action of Modern Industry, all the family ties among the proletarians are torn asunder, and their children transformed into simple articles of commerce and instruments of labour.

But you Communists would introduce community of women, screams the bourgeoisie in chorus.

The bourgeois sees his wife a mere instrument of production. He hears that the instruments of production are to be exploited in common, and, naturally, can come to no other conclusion that the lot of being common to all will likewise fall to the women.

He has not even a suspicion that the real point aimed at is to do away with the status of women as mere instruments of production.

For the rest, nothing is more ridiculous than the virtuous indignation of our bourgeois at the community of women which, they pretend, is to be openly and officially established by the Communists. The Communists have no need to introduce community of women; it has existed almost from time immemorial.

Our bourgeois, not content with having wives and daughters of their proletarians at their disposal, not to speak of common prostitutes, take the greatest pleasure in seducing each other’s wives.

Bourgeois marriage is, in reality, a system of wives in common and thus, at the most, what the Communists might possibly be reproached with is that they desire to introduce, in substitution for a hypocritically concealed, an openly legalised community of women. For the rest, it is self-evident that the abolition of the present system of production must bring with it the abolition of the community of women springing from that system, i.e., of prostitution both public and private.

The Communists are further reproached with desiring to abolish countries and nationality.

The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got. Since the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy, must rise to be the leading class of the nation, must constitute itself the nation, it is so far, itself national, though not in the bourgeois sense of the word.

National differences and antagonism between peoples are daily more and more vanishing, owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to freedom of commerce, to the world market, to uniformity in the mode of production and in the conditions of life corresponding thereto.

The supremacy of the proletariat will cause them to vanish still faster. United action, of the leading civilised countries at least, is one of the first conditions for the emancipation of the proletariat.

In proportion as the exploitation of one individual by another will also be put an end to, the exploitation of one nation by another will also be put an end to. In proportion as the antagonism between classes within the nation vanishes, the hostility of one nation to another will come to an end.

The charges against Communism made from a religious, a philosophical and, generally, from an ideological standpoint, are not deserving of serious examination.

Does it require deep intuition to comprehend that man’s ideas, views, and conception, in one word, man’s consciousness, changes with every change in the conditions of his material existence, in his social relations and in his social life?

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 people speak of the ideas that revolutionise society, they do but express that fact 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.

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.

The Communist revolution is the most radical rupture with traditional property relations; no wonder that its development involved the most radical rupture with traditional ideas.

But let us have done with the bourgeois objections to Communism.

We have seen above, that the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy.

The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.

Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore, which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionising the mode of production.

These measures will, of course, be different in different countries.

Nevertheless, in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.

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 development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so called, is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another. If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organise itself as a class, if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class.

In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.


Chapter III. Socialist and Communist Literature

1. Reactionary Socialism

A. Feudal Socialism

Owing to their historical position, it became the vocation of the aristocracies of France and England to write pamphlets against modern bourgeois society. In the French Revolution of July 1830, and in the English reform agitation[A], these aristocracies again succumbed to the hateful upstart. Thenceforth, a serious political struggle was altogether out of the question. A literary battle alone remained possible. But even in the domain of literature the old cries of the restoration period had become impossible.(1)

In order to arouse sympathy, the aristocracy was obliged to lose sight, apparently, of its own interests, and to formulate their indictment against the bourgeoisie in the interest of the exploited working class alone. Thus, the aristocracy took their revenge by singing lampoons on their new masters and whispering in his ears sinister prophesies of coming catastrophe.

In this way arose feudal Socialism: half lamentation, half lampoon; half an echo of the past, half menace of the future; at times, by its bitter, witty and incisive criticism, striking the bourgeoisie to the very heart’s core; but always ludicrous in its effect, through total incapacity to comprehend the march of modern history.

The aristocracy, in order to rally the people to them, waved the proletarian alms-bag in front for a banner. But the people, so often as it joined them, saw on their hindquarters the old feudal coats of arms, and deserted with loud and irreverent laughter.

One section of the French Legitimists and “Young England” exhibited this spectacle.

In pointing out that their mode of exploitation was different to that of the bourgeoisie, the feudalists forget that they exploited under circumstances and conditions that were quite different and that are now antiquated. In showing that, under their rule, the modern proletariat never existed, they forget that the modern bourgeoisie is the necessary offspring of their own form of society.

For the rest, so little do they conceal the reactionary character of their criticism that their chief accusation against the bourgeois amounts to this, that under the bourgeois régime a class is being developed which is destined to cut up root and branch the old order of society.

What they upbraid the bourgeoisie with is not so much that it creates a proletariat as that it creates a revolutionary proletariat.

In political practice, therefore, they join in all coercive measures against the working class; and in ordinary life, despite their high-falutin phrases, they stoop to pick up the golden apples dropped from the tree of industry, and to barter truth, love, and honour, for traffic in wool, beetroot-sugar, and potato spirits.(2)

As the parson has ever gone hand in hand with the landlord, so has Clerical Socialism with Feudal Socialism.

Nothing is easier than to give Christian asceticism a Socialist tinge. Has not Christianity declaimed against private property, against marriage, against the State? Has it not preached in the place of these, charity and poverty, celibacy and mortification of the flesh, monastic life and Mother Church? Christian Socialism is but the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat.

B. Petty-Bourgeois Socialism

The feudal aristocracy was not the only class that was ruined by the bourgeoisie, not the only class whose conditions of existence pined and perished in the atmosphere of modern bourgeois society. The medieval burgesses and the small peasant proprietors were the precursors of the modern bourgeoisie. In those countries which are but little developed, industrially and commercially, these two classes still vegetate side by side with the rising bourgeoisie.

In countries where modern civilisation has become fully developed, a new class of petty bourgeois has been formed, fluctuating between proletariat and bourgeoisie, and ever renewing itself as a supplementary part of bourgeois society. The individual members of this class, however, are being constantly hurled down into the proletariat by the action of competition, and, as modern industry develops, they even see the moment approaching when they will completely disappear as an independent section of modern society, to be replaced in manufactures, agriculture and commerce, by overlookers, bailiffs and shopmen.

In countries like France, where the peasants constitute far more than half of the population, it was natural that writers who sided with the proletariat against the bourgeoisie should use, in their criticism of the bourgeois régime, the standard of the peasant and petty bourgeois, and from the standpoint of these intermediate classes, should take up the cudgels for the working class. Thus arose petty-bourgeois Socialism. Sismondi was the head of this school, not only in France but also in England.

This school of Socialism dissected with great acuteness the contradictions in the conditions of modern production. It laid bare the hypocritical apologies of economists. It proved, incontrovertibly, the disastrous effects of machinery and division of labour; the concentration of capital and land in a few hands; overproduction and crises; it pointed out the inevitable ruin of the petty bourgeois and peasant, the misery of the proletariat, the anarchy in production, the crying inequalities in the distribution of wealth, the industrial war of extermination between nations, the dissolution of old moral bonds, of the old family relations, of the old nationalities.

In its positive aims, however, this form of Socialism aspires either to restoring the old means of production and of exchange, and with them the old property relations, and the old society, or to cramping the modern means of production and of exchange within the framework of the old property relations that have been, and were bound to be, exploded by those means. In either case, it is both reactionary and Utopian.

Its last words are: corporate guilds for manufacture; patriarchal relations in agriculture.

Ultimately, when stubborn historical facts had dispersed all intoxicating effects of self-deception, this form of Socialism ended in a miserable fit of the blues.

C. German or “True” Socialism

The Socialist and Communist literature of France, a literature that originated under the pressure of a bourgeoisie in power, and that was the expressions of the struggle against this power, was introduced into Germany at a time when the bourgeoisie, in that country, had just begun its contest with feudal absolutism.

German philosophers, would-be philosophers, and beaux esprits (men of letters), eagerly seized on this literature, only forgetting, that when these writings immigrated from France into Germany, French social conditions had not immigrated along with them. In contact with German social conditions, this French literature lost all its immediate practical significance and assumed a purely literary aspect. Thus, to the German philosophers of the Eighteenth Century, the demands of the first French Revolution were nothing more than the demands of “Practical Reason” in general, and the utterance of the will of the revolutionary French bourgeoisie signified, in their eyes, the laws of pure Will, of Will as it was bound to be, of true human Will generally.

The work of the German literati consisted solely in bringing the new French ideas into harmony with their ancient philosophical conscience, or rather, in annexing the French ideas without deserting their own philosophic point of view.

This annexation took place in the same way in which a foreign language is appropriated, namely, by translation.

It is well known how the monks wrote silly lives of Catholic Saints over the manuscripts on which the classical works of ancient heathendom had been written. The German literati reversed this process with the profane French literature. They wrote their philosophical nonsense beneath the French original. For instance, beneath the French criticism of the economic functions of money, they wrote “Alienation of Humanity”, and beneath the French criticism of the bourgeois state they wrote “Dethronement of the Category of the General”, and so forth.

The introduction of these philosophical phrases at the back of the French historical criticisms, they dubbed “Philosophy of Action”, “True Socialism”, “German Science of Socialism”, “Philosophical Foundation of Socialism”, and so on.

The French Socialist and Communist literature was thus completely emasculated. 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.

This German socialism, which took its schoolboy task so seriously and solemnly, and extolled its poor stock-in-trade in such a mountebank fashion, meanwhile gradually lost its pedantic innocence.

The fight of the Germans, and especially of the Prussian bourgeoisie, against feudal aristocracy and absolute monarchy, in other words, the liberal movement, became more earnest.

By this, the long-wished for opportunity was offered to “True” Socialism of confronting the political movement with the Socialist demands, of hurling the traditional anathemas against liberalism, against representative government, against bourgeois competition, bourgeois freedom of the press, bourgeois legislation, bourgeois liberty and equality, and of preaching to the masses that they had nothing to gain, and everything to lose, by this bourgeois movement. German Socialism forgot, in the nick of time, that the French criticism, whose silly echo it was, presupposed the existence of modern bourgeois society, with its corresponding economic conditions of existence, and the political constitution adapted thereto, the very things those attainment was the object of the pending struggle in Germany.

To the absolute governments, with their following of parsons, professors, country squires, and officials, it served as a welcome scarecrow against the threatening bourgeoisie.

It was a sweet finish, after the bitter pills of flogging and bullets, with which these same governments, just at that time, dosed the German working-class risings.

While this “True” Socialism thus served the government as a weapon for fighting the German bourgeoisie, it, at the same time, directly represented a reactionary interest, the interest of German Philistines. In Germany, the petty-bourgeois class, a relic of the sixteenth century, and since then constantly cropping up again under the various forms, is the real social basis of the existing state of things.

To preserve this class is to preserve the existing state of things in Germany. The industrial and political supremacy of the bourgeoisie threatens it with certain destruction — on the one hand, from the concentration of capital; on the other, from the rise of a revolutionary proletariat. “True” Socialism appeared to kill these two birds with one stone. It spread like an epidemic.

The robe of speculative cobwebs, embroidered with flowers of rhetoric, steeped in the dew of sickly sentiment, this transcendental robe in which the German Socialists wrapped their sorry “eternal truths”, all skin and bone, served to wonderfully increase the sale of their goods amongst such a public.

And on its part German Socialism recognised, more and more, its own calling as the bombastic representative of the petty-bourgeois Philistine.

It proclaimed the German nation to be the model nation, and the German petty Philistine to be the typical man. To every villainous meanness of this model man, it gave a hidden, higher, Socialistic interpretation, the exact contrary of its real character. It went to the extreme length of directly opposing the “brutally destructive” tendency of Communism, and of proclaiming its supreme and impartial contempt of all class struggles. With very few exceptions, all the so-called Socialist and Communist publications that now (1847) circulate in Germany belong to the domain of this foul and enervating literature.(3)

2. Conservative or Bourgeois Socialism

A part of the bourgeoisie is desirous of redressing social grievances in order to secure the continued existence of bourgeois society.

To this section belong economists, philanthropists, humanitarians, improvers of the condition of the working class, organisers of charity, members of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, temperance fanatics, hole-and-corner reformers of every imaginable kind. This form of socialism has, moreover, been worked out into complete systems.

We may cite Proudhon’s Philosophie de la Misère as an example of this form.

The Socialistic bourgeois want all the advantages of modern social conditions without the struggles and dangers necessarily resulting therefrom. They desire the existing state of society, minus its revolutionary and disintegrating elements. They wish for a bourgeoisie without a proletariat. The bourgeoisie naturally conceives the world in which it is supreme to be the best; and bourgeois Socialism develops this comfortable conception into various more or less complete systems. In requiring the proletariat to carry out such a system, and thereby to march straightway into the social New Jerusalem, it but requires in reality, that the proletariat should remain within the bounds of existing society, but should cast away all its hateful ideas concerning the bourgeoisie.

A second, and more practical, but less systematic, form of this Socialism sought to depreciate every revolutionary movement in the eyes of the working class by showing that no mere political reform, but only a change in the material conditions of existence, in economical relations, could be of any advantage to them. By changes in the material conditions of existence, this form of Socialism, however, by no means understands abolition of the bourgeois relations of production, an abolition that can be affected only by a revolution, but administrative reforms, based on the continued existence of these relations; reforms, therefore, that in no respect affect the relations between capital and labour, but, at the best, lessen the cost, and simplify the administrative work, of bourgeois government.

Bourgeois Socialism attains adequate expression when, and only when, it becomes a mere figure of speech.

Free trade: for the benefit of the working class. Protective duties: for the benefit of the working class. Prison Reform: for the benefit of the working class. This is the last word and the only seriously meant word of bourgeois socialism.

It is summed up in the phrase: the bourgeois is a bourgeois — for the benefit of the working class.

3. Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism

We do not here refer to that literature which, in every great modern revolution, has always given voice to the demands of the proletariat, such as the writings of Babeuf and others.

The first direct attempts of the proletariat to attain its own ends, made in times of universal excitement, when feudal society was being overthrown, necessarily failed, owing to the then undeveloped state of the proletariat, as well as to the absence of the economic conditions for its emancipation, conditions that had yet to be produced, and could be produced by the impending bourgeois epoch alone. The revolutionary literature that accompanied these first movements of the proletariat had necessarily a reactionary character. It inculcated universal asceticism and social levelling in its crudest form.

The Socialist and Communist systems, properly so called, those of Saint-Simon, Fourier, Owen, and others, spring into existence in the early undeveloped period, described above, of the struggle between proletariat and bourgeoisie (see Section 1. Bourgeois and Proletarians).

The founders of these systems see, indeed, the class antagonisms, as well as the action of the decomposing elements in the prevailing form of society. But the proletariat, as yet in its infancy, offers to them the spectacle of a class without any historical initiative or any independent political movement.

Since the development of class antagonism keeps even pace with the development of industry, the economic situation, as they find it, does not as yet offer to them the material conditions for the emancipation of the proletariat. They therefore search after a new social science, after new social laws, that are to create these conditions.

Historical action is to yield to their personal inventive action; historically created conditions of emancipation to fantastic ones; and the gradual, spontaneous class organisation of the proletariat to an organisation of society especially contrived by these inventors. Future history resolves itself, in their eyes, into the propaganda and the practical carrying out of their social plans.

In the formation of their plans, they are conscious of caring chiefly for the interests of the working class, as being the most suffering class. Only from the point of view of being the most suffering class does the proletariat exist for them.

The undeveloped state of the class struggle, as well as their own surroundings, causes Socialists of this kind to consider themselves far superior to all class antagonisms. They want to improve the condition of every member of society, even that of the most favoured. Hence, they habitually appeal to society at large, without the distinction of class; nay, by preference, to the ruling class. For how can people, when once they understand their system, fail to see in it the best possible plan of the best possible state of society?

Hence, they reject all political, and especially all revolutionary action; they wish to attain their ends by peaceful means, necessarily doomed to failure, and by the force of example, to pave the way for the new social Gospel.

Such fantastic pictures of future society, painted at a time when the proletariat is still in a very undeveloped state and has but a fantastic conception of its own position, correspond with the first instinctive yearnings of that class for a general reconstruction of society.

But these Socialist and Communist publications contain also a critical element. They attack every principle of existing society. Hence, they are full of the most valuable materials for the enlightenment of the working class. The practical measures proposed in them — such as the abolition of the distinction between town and country, of the family, of the carrying on of industries for the account of private individuals, and of the wage system, the proclamation of social harmony, the conversion of the function of the state into a more superintendence of production — all these proposals point solely to the disappearance of class antagonisms which were, at that time, only just cropping up, and which, in these publications, are recognised in their earliest indistinct and undefined forms only. These proposals, therefore, are of a purely Utopian character.

The significance of Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism bears an inverse relation to historical development. In proportion as the modern class struggle develops and takes definite shape, this fantastic standing apart from the contest, these fantastic attacks on it, lose all practical value and all theoretical justification. Therefore, although the originators of these systems were, in many respects, revolutionary, their disciples have, in every case, formed mere reactionary sects. They hold fast by the original views of their masters, in opposition to the progressive historical development of the proletariat. They, therefore, endeavour, and that consistently, to deaden the class struggle and to reconcile the class antagonisms. They still dream of experimental realisation of their social Utopias, of founding isolated “phalansteres”, of establishing “Home Colonies”, or setting up a “Little Icaria”(4) — duodecimo editions of the New Jerusalem — and to realise all these castles in the air, they are compelled to appeal to the feelings and purses of the bourgeois. By degrees, they sink into the category of the reactionary [or] conservative Socialists depicted above, differing from these only by more systematic pedantry, and by their fanatical and superstitious belief in the miraculous effects of their social science.

They, therefore, violently oppose all political action on the part of the working class; such action, according to them, can only result from blind unbelief in the new Gospel.

The Owenites in England, and the Fourierists in France, respectively, oppose the Chartists and the Réformistes.

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

(1) Not the English Restoration (1660-1689), but the French Restoration (1814-1830). [Note by Engels to the English edition of 1888.]

(2) This applies chiefly to Germany, where the landed aristocracy and squirearchy have large portions of their estates cultivated for their own account by stewards, and are, moreover, extensive beetroot-sugar manufacturers and distillers of potato spirits. The wealthier British aristocracy are, as yet, rather above that; but they, too, know how to make up for declining rents by lending their names to floaters or more or less shady joint-stock companies. [Note by Engels to the English edition of 1888.]

(3) The revolutionary storm of 1848 swept away this whole shabby tendency and cured its protagonists of the desire to dabble in socialism. The chief representative and classical type of this tendency is Mr Karl Gruen. [Note by Engels to the German edition of 1890.]

(4) Phalanstéres were Socialist colonies on the plan of Charles Fourier; Icaria was the name given by Cabet to his Utopia and, later on, to his American Communist colony. [Note by Engels to the English edition of 1888.]

“Home Colonies” were what Owen called his Communist model societies. Phalanstéres was the name of the public palaces planned by Fourier. Icaria was the name given to the Utopian land of fancy, whose Communist institutions Cabet portrayed. [Note by Engels to the German edition of 1890.]

[A] A reference to the movement for a reform of the electoral law which, under the pressure of the working class, was passed by the British House of Commons in 1831 and finally endorsed by the House of Lords in June, 1832. The reform was directed against monopoly rule of the landed and finance aristocracy and opened the way to Parliament for the representatives of the industrial bourgeoisie. Neither workers nor the petty-bourgeois were allowed electoral rights, despite assurances they would.


Chapter IV. Position of the Communists in Relation to the Various Existing Opposition Parties

Section II has made clear the relations of the Communists to the existing working-class parties, such as the Chartists in England and the Agrarian Reformers in America.

The Communists fight for the attainment of the immediate aims, for the enforcement of the momentary interests of the working class; but in the movement of the present, they also represent and take care of the future of that movement. In France, the Communists ally with the Social-Democrats(1) against the conservative and radical bourgeoisie, reserving, however, the right to take up a critical position in regard to phases and illusions traditionally handed down from the great Revolution.

In Switzerland, they support the Radicals, without losing sight of the fact that this party consists of antagonistic elements, partly of Democratic Socialists, in the French sense, partly of radical bourgeois.

In Poland, they support the party that insists on an agrarian revolution as the prime condition for national emancipation, that party which fomented the insurrection of Cracow in 1846.

In Germany, they fight with the bourgeoisie whenever it acts in a revolutionary way, against the absolute monarchy, the feudal squirearchy, and the petty bourgeoisie.

But they never cease, for a single instant, to instill into the working class the clearest possible recognition of the hostile antagonism between bourgeoisie and proletariat, in order that the German workers may straightway use, as so many weapons against the bourgeoisie, the social and political conditions that the bourgeoisie must necessarily introduce along with its supremacy, and in order that, after the fall of the reactionary classes in Germany, the fight against the bourgeoisie itself may immediately begin.

The Communists turn their attention chiefly to Germany, because that country is on the eve of a bourgeois revolution that is bound to be carried out under more advanced conditions of European civilisation and with a much more developed proletariat than that of England was in the seventeenth, and France in the eighteenth century, and because the bourgeois revolution in Germany will be but the prelude to an immediately following proletarian revolution.

In short, the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things.

In all these movements, they bring to the front, as the leading question in each, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time.

Finally, they labour everywhere for the union and agreement of the democratic parties of all countries.

The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.

Working Men of All Countries, Unite!

(1) The party then represented in Parliament by Ledru-Rollin, in literature by Louis Blanc, in the daily press by the Réforme. The name of Social-Democracy signifies, with these its inventors, a section of the Democratic or Republican Party more or less tinged with socialism. [Engels, English Edition 1888]

* * *

The famous final phrase of the Manifesto, “Working Men of All Countries, Unite!”, in the original German is: “Proletarier aller Länder, vereinigt euch!” Thus, a more correct translation would be “Proletarians of all countries, Unite!”

“Workers of the World, Unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains!” is a popularisation of the last three sentences, and is not found in any official translation. Since this English translation was approved by Engels, we have kept the original intact.


Das Kapital
Das Kapital, ( German: Capital [3 vol., 1867, 1885, 1894]) one of the major works of the 19th-century economist and philosopher Karl Marx (1818–83), in which he expounded his theory of the capitalist system, its dynamism, and its tendencies toward self-destruction. He described his purpose as to lay bare “the economic law of motion of modern society.” The second and third volumes were published posthumously, edited by his collaborator Friedrich Engels (1820–95).

Much of Das Kapital spells out Marx’s concept of the “surplus value” of labour and its consequences for capitalism. According to Marx, it was not the pressure of population that drove wages to the subsistence level but rather the existence of a large army of unemployed, which he blamed on the capitalists. He maintained that within the capitalist system, labour was a mere commodity that could gain only subsistence wages. Capitalists, however, could force workers to spend more time on the job than was necessary to earn their subsistence and then appropriate the excess product, or surplus value, created by the workers.

Because all profit results from an “exploitation of labour,” the rate of profit—the amount per unit of total capital outlay—depends largely on the number of workers employed. Because machines cannot be “exploited,” they cannot contribute to total profits, though they help labour produce more useful products. Only payroll capital—“variable capital”—is productive of surplus value and consequently of profit. The introduction of machines is profitable for the individual entrepreneur, to whom they give an advantage over his competitors. However, as outlay for machinery grows in relation to outlay for wages, profit declines in relation to total capital outlay. Thus, for each additional capital outlay, the capitalist will receive less and less return and can attempt to postpone his bankruptcy only by applying pressure on the workers. Ultimately, according to Das Kapital, the “capitalist class becomes unfit to rule, because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery.” Consequently, the capitalist system collapses, and the working class inherits economic and political power.

Although Marx approached capitalism as an economist and prided himself on the conceptual rigour of his work, Das Kapital—especially the first volume—is rich in empirical description. Marx praised the work of the Factory Inspectorate, from whose reports he drew vivid and terrifying examples of the overwork and ill-treatment from which British working people suffered. His savage description of so-called “primitive accumulation”—the process whereby Britain was transformed from a precapitalist to a capitalist economy—is a polemical rather than an analytic triumph.

Encyclopædia Britannica


Marx and Engels
Marxism, a body of doctrine developed by Karl Marx and, to a lesser extent, by Friedrich Engels in the mid-19th century. It originally consisted of three related ideas: a philosophical anthropology, a theory of history, and an economic and political program. There is also Marxism as it has been understood and practiced by the various socialist movements, particularly before 1914. Then there is Soviet Marxism as worked out by Vladimir Ilich Lenin and modified by Joseph Stalin, which under the name of Marxism-Leninism (see Leninism) became the doctrine of the communist parties set up after the Russian Revolution (1917). Offshoots of this included Marxism as interpreted by the anti-Stalinist Leon Trotsky and his followers, Mao Zedong’s Chinese variant of Marxism-Leninism, and various Marxisms in the developing world. There were also the post-World War II nondogmatic Marxisms that have modified Marx’s thought with borrowings from modern philosophies, principally from those of Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger but also from Sigmund Freud and others.

The thought of Karl Marx
The written work of Marx cannot be reduced to a philosophy, much less to a philosophical system. The whole of his work is a radical critique of philosophy, especially of G.W.F. Hegel’s idealist system and of the philosophies of the left and right post-Hegelians. It is not, however, a mere denial of those philosophies. Marx declared that philosophy must become reality. One could no longer be content with interpreting the world; one must be concerned with transforming it, which meant transforming both the world itself and human consciousness of it. This, in turn, required a critique of experience together with a critique of ideas. In fact, Marx believed that all knowledge involves a critique of ideas. He was not an empiricist. Rather, his work teems with concepts (appropriation, alienation, praxis, creative labour, value, and so on) that he had inherited from earlier philosophers and economists, including Hegel, Johann Fichte, Immanuel Kant, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and John Stuart Mill. What uniquely characterizes the thought of Marx is that, instead of making abstract affirmations about a whole group of problems such as human nature, knowledge, and matter, he examines each problem in its dynamic relation to the others and, above all, tries to relate them to historical, social, political, and economic realities.

Historical materialism
In 1859, in the preface to his Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie (Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy), Marx wrote that the hypothesis that had served him as the basis for his analysis of society could be briefly formulated as follows:

In the social production that men carry on, they enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material forces of production. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure, and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political, and intellectual processes of life. It is not the consciousness of men which determines their existence; it is on the contrary their social existence which determines their consciousness.

Raised to the level of historical law, this hypothesis was subsequently called historical materialism. Marx applied it to capitalist society, both in Manifest der kommunistischen Partei (1848; The Communist Manifesto) and Das Kapital (vol. 1, 1867; “Capital”) and in other writings. Although Marx reflected upon his working hypothesis for many years, he did not formulate it in a very exact manner: different expressions served him for identical realities. If one takes the text literally, social reality is structured in the following way:

1. Underlying everything as the real basis of society is the economic structure. This structure includes (a) the “material forces of production,” that is, the labour and means of production, and (b) the overall “relations of production,” or the social and political arrangements that regulate production and distribution. Although Marx stated that there is a correspondence between the “material forces” of production and the indispensable “relations” of production, he never made himself clear on the nature of the correspondence, a fact that was to be the source of differing interpretations among his later followers.

2. Above the economic structure rises the superstructure, consisting of legal and political “forms of social consciousness” that correspond to the economic structure. Marx says nothing about the nature of this correspondence between ideological forms and economic structure, except that through the ideological forms individuals become conscious of the conflict within the economic structure between the material forces of production and the existing relations of production expressed in the legal property relations. In other words, “The sum total of the forces of production accessible to men determines the condition of society” and is at the base of society. “The social structure and the state issue continually from the life processes of definite individuals . . . as they are in reality, that is acting and materially producing.” The political relations that individuals establish among themselves are dependent on material production, as are the legal relations. This foundation of the social on the economic is not an incidental point: it colours Marx’s whole analysis. It is found in Das Kapital as well as in Die deutsche Ideologie (written 1845–46; The German Ideology) and the Ökonomisch-philosophische Manuskripte aus dem Jahre 1844 (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844).

Analysis of society
To go directly to the heart of the work of Marx, one must focus on his concrete program for humanity. This is just as important for an understanding of Marx as are The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital. Marx’s interpretation of human nature begins with human need. “Man,” he wrote in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844,

is first of all a natural being. As a natural being and a living natural being, he is endowed on the one hand with natural powers, vital powers…; these powers exist in him as aptitudes, instincts. On the other hand, as an objective, natural, physical, sensitive being, he is a suffering, dependent and limited being…, that is, the objects of his instincts exist outside him, independent of him, but are the objects of his need, indispensable and essential for the realization and confirmation of his substantial powers.

The point of departure of human history is therefore living human beings, who seek to satisfy certain primary needs. “The first historical fact is the production of the means to satisfy these needs.” This satisfaction, in turn, opens the way for new needs. Human activity is thus essentially a struggle with nature that must furnish the means of satisfying human needs: drink, food, clothing, the development of human powers and then of human intellectual and artistic abilities. In this undertaking, people discover themselves as productive beings who humanize themselves through their labour. Furthermore, they humanize nature while they naturalize themselves. By their creative activity, by their labour, they realize their identity with the nature that they master, while at the same time, they achieve free consciousness. Born of nature, they become fully human by opposing it. Becoming aware in their struggle against nature of what separates them from it, they find the conditions of their fulfillment, of the realization of their true stature. The dawning of consciousness is inseparable from struggle. By appropriating all the creative energies, they discover that “all that is called history is nothing else than the process of creating man through human labour, the becoming of nature for man. Man has thus evident and irrefutable proof of his own creation by himself.” Understood in its universal dimension, human activity reveals that “for man, man is the supreme being.” It is thus vain to speak of God, creation, and metaphysical problems. Fully naturalized, humans are sufficient unto themselves: they have recaptured the fullness of humanity in its full liberty.

Living in a capitalist society, however, the individual is not truly free. He is an alienated being; he is not at home in his world. The idea of alienation, which Marx takes from Hegel and Ludwig Feuerbach, plays a fundamental role in the whole of his written work, starting with the writings of his youth and continuing through Das Kapital. In the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts the alienation of labour is seen to spring from the fact that the more the worker produces the less he has to consume, and the more values he creates the more he devalues himself, because his product and his labour are estranged from him. The life of the worker depends on things that he has created but that are not his, so that, instead of finding his rightful existence through his labour, he loses it in this world of things that are external to him: no work, no pay. Under these conditions, labour denies the fullness of concrete humanity. “The generic being (Gattungwesen) of man, nature as well as his intellectual faculties, is transformed into a being which is alien to him, into a means of his individual existence.” Nature, his body, his spiritual essence become alien to him. “Man is made alien to man.” When carried to its highest stage of development, private property becomes “the product of alienated labour…the means by which labour alienates itself (and) the realization of this alienation.” It is also at the same time “the tangible material expression of alienated human life.”

Although there is no evidence that Marx ever disclaimed this anthropological analysis of alienated labour, starting with The German Ideology, the historical, social, and economic causes of the alienation of labour are given increasing emphasis, especially in Das Kapital. Alienated labour is seen as the consequence of market product, the division of labour, and the division of society into antagonistic classes. As producers in society, workers create goods only by their labour. These goods are exchangeable. Their value is the average amount of social labour spent to produce them. The alienation of the worker takes on its full dimension in that system of market production in which part of the value of the goods produced by the worker is taken away from him and transformed into surplus value, which the capitalist privately appropriates. Market production also intensifies the alienation of labour by encouraging specialization, piecework, and the setting up of large enterprises. Thus the labour power of the worker is used along with that of others in a combination whose significance he is ignorant of, both individually and socially. In thus losing their quality as human products, the products of labour become fetishes, that is, alien and oppressive realities to which both the individual who possesses them privately and the individual who is deprived of them submit themselves. In the market economy, this submission to things is obscured by the fact that the exchange of goods is expressed in money.

This fundamental economic alienation is accompanied by secondary political and ideological alienations, which offer a distorted representation of and an illusory justification of a world in which the relations of individuals with one another are also distorted. The ideas that people form are closely bound up with their material activity and their material relations: “The act of making representations, of thinking, the spiritual intercourse of men, seem to be the direct emanation of their material relations.” This is true of all human activity: political, intellectual, or spiritual. “Men produce their representations and their ideas, but it is as living men, men acting as they are determined by a definite development of their powers of production.” Law, morality, metaphysics, and religion do not have a history of their own. “Men developing their material production modify together with their real existence their ways of thinking and the products of their ways of thinking.” In other words, “It is not consciousness which determines existence, it is existence which determines consciousness.”

In bourgeois, capitalist society the individual is divided into political citizen and economic actor. This duality represents his political alienation, which is further intensified by the functioning of the bourgeois state. From this study of society at the beginning of the 19th century, Marx came to see the state as the instrument through which the propertied class dominated other classes.

Ideological alienation, for Marx, takes different forms, appearing in economic, philosophical, and legal theories. Marx undertook a lengthy critique of the first in Das Kapital and of the second in The German Ideology. But ideological alienation expresses itself supremely in religion. Taking up the ideas about religion that were current in left post-Hegelian circles, together with the thought of Feuerbach, Marx considered religion to be a product of human consciousness. It is a reflection of the situation of a person who “either has not conquered himself or has already lost himself again” (the individual in the world of private property). It is “an opium for the people.” Unlike Feuerbach, Marx believed that religion would disappear only with changes in society.

Analysis of the economy
Marx analyzed the market economy system in Das Kapital. In this work he borrows most of the categories of the classical English economists Smith and Ricardo but adapts them and introduces new concepts such as that of surplus value. One of the distinguishing marks of Das Kapital is that in it Marx studies the economy as a whole and not in one or another of its aspects. His analysis is based on the idea that humans are productive beings and that all economic value comes from human labour. The system he analyzes is principally that of mid-19th-century England. It is a system of private enterprise and competition that arose in the 16th century from the development of sea routes, international trade, and colonialism. Its rise had been facilitated by changes in the forces of production (the division of labour and the concentration of workshops), the adoption of mechanization, and technical progress. The wealth of the societies that brought this economy into play had been acquired through an “enormous accumulation of commodities.” Marx therefore begins with the study of this accumulation, analyzing the unequal exchanges that take place in the market.

According to Marx, if the capitalist advances funds to buy cotton yarn with which to produce fabrics and sells the product for a larger sum than he paid, he is able to invest the difference in additional production. “Not only is the value advance kept in circulation, but it changes in its magnitude, adds a plus to itself, makes itself worth more, and it is this movement that transforms it into capital.” The transformation, to Marx, is possible only because the capitalist has appropriated the means of production, including the labour power of the worker. Now labour power produces more than it is worth. The value of labour power is determined by the amount of labour necessary for its reproduction or, in other words, by the amount needed for the worker to subsist and beget children. But in the hands of the capitalist the labour power employed in the course of a day produces more than the value of the sustenance required by the worker and his family. The difference between the two values is appropriated by the capitalist, and it corresponds exactly to the surplus value realized by capitalists in the market. Marx is not concerned with whether in capitalist society there are sources of surplus value other than the exploitation of human labour—a fact pointed out by Joseph Schumpeter in Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (1942). He remains content with emphasizing this primary source:

Surplus value is produced by the employment of labour power. Capital buys the labour power and pays the wages for it. By means of his work the labourer creates new value which does not belong to him, but to the capitalist. He must work a certain time merely in order to reproduce the equivalent value of his wages. But when this equivalent value has been returned, he does not cease work, but continues to do so for some further hours. The new value which he produces during this extra time, and which exceeds in consequence the amount of his wage, constitutes surplus value.

Throughout his analysis, Marx argues that the development of capitalism is accompanied by increasing contradictions. For example, the introduction of machinery is profitable to the individual capitalist because it enables him to produce more goods at a lower cost, but new techniques are soon taken up by his competitors. The outlay for machinery grows faster than the outlay for wages. Since only labour can produce the surplus value from which profit is derived, this means that the capitalist’s rate of profit on his total outlay tends to decline. Along with the declining rate of profit goes an increase in unemployment. Thus, the equilibrium of the system is precarious, subject as it is to the internal pressures resulting from its own development. Crises shake it at regular intervals, preludes to the general crisis that will sweep it away. This instability is increased by the formation of a reserve army of workers, both factory workers and peasants, whose pauperization keeps increasing. “Capitalist production develops the technique and the combination of the process of social production only by exhausting at the same time the two sources from which all wealth springs: the earth and the worker.” According to the Marxist dialectic, these fundamental contradictions can only be resolved by a change from capitalism to a new system.

Class struggle
Marx inherited the ideas of class and class struggle from utopian socialism and the theories of Henri de Saint-Simon. These had been given substance by the writings of French historians such as Adolphe Thiers and François Guizot on the French Revolution of 1789. But unlike the French historians, Marx made class struggle the central fact of social evolution. “The history of all hitherto existing human society is the history of class struggles.”

In Marx’s view, the dialectical nature of history is expressed in class struggle. With the development of capitalism, the class struggle takes an acute form. Two basic classes, around which other less important classes are grouped, oppose each other in the capitalist system: the owners of the means of production, or bourgeoisie, and the workers, or proletariat. “The bourgeoisie produces its own grave-diggers. The fall of the bourgeoisie and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable” (The Communist Manifesto) because

the bourgeois relations of production are the last contradictory form of the process of social production, contradictory not in the sense of an individual contradiction, but of a contradiction that is born of the conditions of social existence of individuals; however, the forces of production which develop in the midst of bourgeois society create at the same time the material conditions for resolving this contradiction. With this social development the prehistory of human society ends.

When people have become aware of their loss, of their alienation, as a universal nonhuman situation, it will be possible for them to proceed to a radical transformation of their situation by a revolution. This revolution will be the prelude to the establishment of communism and the reign of liberty reconquered. “In the place of the old bourgeois society with its classes and its class antagonisms, there will be an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”

But for Marx there are two views of revolution. One is that of a final conflagration, “a violent suppression of the old conditions of production,” which occurs when the opposition between bourgeoisie and proletariat has been carried to its extreme point. This conception is set forth in a manner inspired by the Hegelian dialectic of the master and the slave, in Die heilige Familie (1845; The Holy Family). The other conception is that of a permanent revolution involving a provisional coalition between the proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie rebelling against a capitalism that is only superficially united. Once a majority has been won to the coalition, an unofficial proletarian authority constitutes itself alongside the revolutionary bourgeois authority. Its mission is the political and revolutionary education of the proletariat, gradually assuring the transfer of legal power from the revolutionary bourgeoisie to the revolutionary proletariat.

If one reads The Communist Manifesto carefully one discovers inconsistencies that indicate that Marx had not reconciled the concepts of catastrophic and of permanent revolution. Moreover, Marx never analyzed classes as specific groups of people opposing other groups of people. Depending on the writings and the periods, the number of classes varies; and unfortunately the pen fell from Marx’s hand at the moment when, in Das Kapital (vol. 3), he was about to take up the question. Reading Das Kapital, one is furthermore left with an ambiguous impression with regard to the destruction of capitalism: will it be the result of the “general crisis” that Marx expects, or of the action of the conscious proletariat, or of both at once?

The contributions of Engels
Engels became a communist in 1842 and discovered the proletariat of England when he took over the management of the Manchester factory belonging to his father’s cotton firm. In 1844, the year he began his close association and friendship with Marx, Engels was finishing his Umrisse zu einer Kritik der Nationalökonomie (Outline of a Critique of Political Economy)—a critique of Smith, Ricardo, Mill, and J.-B. Say. This remarkable study contained in seminal form the critique that Marx was to make of bourgeois political economy in Das Kapital. During the first years of his stay in Manchester, Engels observed carefully the life of the workers of that great industrial centre and described it in Die Lage der arbeitenden Klassen in England (The Condition of the Working Class in England), published in 1845 in Leipzig. This work was an analysis of the evolution of industrial capitalism and its social consequences. He collaborated with Marx in the writing of The Holy Family, The German Ideology, and The Communist Manifesto. The correspondence between them is of fundamental importance for the student of Das Kapital, for it shows how Engels contributed by furnishing Marx with a great amount of technical and economic data and by criticizing the successive drafts. This collaboration lasted until Marx’s death and was carried on posthumously with the publication of the manuscripts left by Marx, which Engels edited, forming volumes 2 and 3 of Das Kapital. He also wrote various articles on Marx’s work.

In response to criticism of Marx’s ideas by a socialist named Eugen Dühring, Engels published several articles that were collected under the title Herr Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft (1878; Herr Eugen Dühring’s Revolution in Science, better known as Anti-Dühring), and an unfinished work, Dialektik und Natur (Dialectics of Nature), which he had begun around 1875–76. The importance of these writings to the subsequent development of Marxism can be seen from Lenin’s observation that Engels “developed, in a clear and often polemical style, the most general scientific questions and the different phenomena of the past and present according to the materialist understanding of history and the economic theory of Karl Marx.” But Engels was driven to simplify problems with a view to being pedagogical; he tended to schematize and systematize things as if the fundamental questions were settled. The connections that he thus established between some of Marx’s governing ideas and some of the scientific ideas of his age gave rise to the notion that there is a complete Marxist philosophy. The idea was to play a significant role in the transition of Marxism from a “critique of daily life” to an integrated doctrine in which philosophy, history, and the sciences are fused.

Anti-Dühring is of fundamental importance for it constitutes the link between Marx and certain forms of modern Marxism. It contains three parts: Philosophy, Political Economy, and Socialism. In the first, Engels attempts to establish that the natural sciences and even mathematics are dialectical, in the sense that observable reality is dialectical: the dialectical method of analysis and thought is imposed by the material forces with which they deal. It is thus rightly applied to the study of history and human society. “Motion, in effect, is the mode of existence of matter,” Engels writes. In using materialistic dialectic to make a critique of Dühring’s thesis, according to which political forces prevail over all the rest in the molding of history, Engels provides a good illustration of the materialistic idea of history, which puts the stress on the prime role of economic factors as driving forces in history. The other chapters of the section Political Economy form a very readable introduction to the principal economic ideas of Marx: value (simple and complex), labour, capital, and surplus value. The section Socialism starts by formulating anew the critique of the capitalist system as it was made in Das Kapital. At the end of the chapters devoted to production, distribution, the state, the family, and education, Engels outlines what the socialist society will be like, a society in which the notion of value has no longer anything to do with the distribution of the goods produced because all labour “becomes at once and directly social labour,” and the amount of social labour that every product contains no longer needs to be ascertained by “a detour.” A production plan will coordinate the economy. The division of labour and the separation of town and country will disappear with the “suppression of the capitalist character of modern industry.” Thanks to the plan, industry will be located throughout the country in the collective interest, and thus the opposition between town and country will disappear—to the profit of both industry and agriculture. Finally, after the liberation of humanity from the condition of servitude imposed by the capitalist mode of production, the state will also be abolished and religion will disappear by “natural death.”

One of the most remarkable features of Anti-Dühring is the insistence with which Engels refuses to base socialism on absolute values. He admits only relative values, linked to historical, economic, and social conditions. Socialism cannot possibly be based on ethical principles: each epoch can successfully carry out only that of which it is capable. Marx had written this in his preface of 1859.

Karl Johann Kautsky

German Marxism after Engels
The work of Kautsky and Bernstein

The theoretical leadership after Engels was taken by Karl Kautsky, editor of the official organ of the German Social Democratic Party, Die Neue Zeit. He wrote Karl Marx’ ökonomische Lehren (1887; The Economic Doctrines of Karl Marx), in which the work of Marx is presented as essentially an economic theory. Kautsky reduced the ideas of Marx and Marxist historical dialectic to a kind of evolutionism. He laid stress on the increasing pauperization of the working class and on the increasing degree of capitalist concentration. While opposing all compromise with the bourgeois state, he accepted the contention that the socialist movement should support laws benefiting the workers provided that they did not reinforce the power of the state. Rejecting the idea of an alliance between the working class and the peasantry, he believed that the overthrow of the capitalist state and the acquisition of political power by the working class could be realized in a peaceful way, without upsetting the existing structures. As an internationalist he supported peace, rejecting war and violence. For him, war was a product of capitalism. Such were the main features of “orthodox” German Marxism at the time when the “revisionist” theories of Eduard Bernstein appeared.

Bernstein created a great controversy with articles that he wrote in 1896 for Die Neue Zeit, arguing that Marxism needed to be revised. His divergence widened with the publication in 1899 of Die Voraussetzungen des Sozialismus und die Aufgaben der Sozialdemokratie (Evolutionary Socialism), to which rejoinders were made by Kautsky in Bernstein und das Sozialdemokratische Programm: Eine Antikritik (1899; “Bernstein and the Social Democratic Program”) and the Polish-born Marxist Rosa Luxemburg in Sozialreform oder Revolution (Reform or Revolution), both in 1899. Bernstein focused first of all upon the labour theory of value. Along with the economists of his time he considered it outdated, both in the form expounded by British classical economists and as set forth in Das Kapital. He argued, moreover, that class struggle was becoming less rather than more intense, for concentration was not accelerating in industry as Marx had forecast, and in agriculture it was not increasing at all. Bernstein demonstrated this on the basis of German, Dutch, and English statistical data. He also argued that cartels and business syndicates were smoothing the evolution of capitalism, a fact that cast doubt on the validity of Marx’s theory of capitalistic crises. Arguing that quite a few of Marx’s theories were not scientifically based, Bernstein blamed the Hegelian and Ricardian structure of Marx’s work for his failure to take sufficient account of observable reality.

To this, Kautsky replied that, with the development of capitalism, agriculture was becoming a sector more and more dependent on industry, and that in addition an industrialization of agriculture was taking place. Luxemburg took the position that the contradictions of capitalism did not cease to grow with the progress of finance capitalism and the exploitation of the colonies, and that these contradictions were leading to a war that would give the proletariat its opportunity to assume power by revolutionary means.
One of the most divisive questions was that of war and peace. This was brought to the fore at the outbreak of World War I, when Social Democratic deputies in the German Reichstag voted for the financing of the war. Among German Marxists who opposed the war were Karl Liebknecht and Luxemburg. Liebknecht was imprisoned in 1916 for agitating against the war. On his release in 1918 he took the leadership of the Spartacus League, which was later to become the Communist Party of Germany. Luxemburg had also been arrested for her antimilitary activities. In addition to her articles, signed Junius, in which she debated with Lenin on the subject of World War I and the attitude of the Marxists toward it (published in 1916 as Die Krise der Sozialdemokratie [The Crisis in the German Social-Democracy]), she is known for her book Die Akkumulation des Kapitals (1913; The Accumulation of Capital). In this work she returned to Marx’s economic analysis of capitalism, in particular the accumulation of capital as expounded in volume 2 of Das Kapital. There she found a contradiction that had until then been unnoticed: Marx’s scheme seems to imply that the development of capitalism can be indefinite, though elsewhere he sees the contradictions of the system as bringing about increasingly violent economic crises that will inevitably sweep capitalism away. Luxemburg concluded that Marx’s scheme is oversimplified and assumes a universe made up entirely of capitalists and workers. If increases in productivity are taken into account, she asserted, balance between the two sectors becomes impossible; in order to keep expanding, capitalists must find new markets in noncapitalist spheres, either among peasants and artisans or in colonies and underdeveloped countries. Capitalism will collapse only when exploitation of the world outside it (the peasantry, colonies, and so on) has reached a limit. This conclusion has been the subject of passionate controversies.

The Austrians
The Austrian school came into being when Austrian socialists started publishing their works independently of the Germans; it can be dated from either 1904 (beginning of the Marx-Studien collection) or 1907 (publication of the magazine Der Kampf ). The most important members of the school were Max Adler, Karl Renner, Rudolf Hilferding, Gustav Eckstein, Friedrich Adler, and Otto Bauer. The most eminent was Bauer, a brilliant theoretician whose Die Nationalitätenfrage und die Sozialdemokratie (1906; “The Nationalities Question and the Social Democracy”) was critically reviewed by Lenin. In this work he dealt with the problem of nationalities in the light of the experience of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He favoured the self-determination of peoples and emphasized the cultural elements in the concept of nationhood. Hilferding was finance minister of the German Republic after World War I in the Cabinets of the Social Democrats Gustav Stresemann (1923) and Hermann Müller (1928). He is known especially for his work Das Finanzkapital (1910), in which he maintained that capitalism had come under the control of banks and industrial monopolies. The growth of national competition and tariff barriers, he believed, had led to economic warfare abroad. Hilferding’s ideas strongly influenced Lenin, who analyzed them in Imperializm, kak noveyshy etap kapitalizma (1917; Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism).

Russian and Soviet Marxism
Das Kapital was translated into Russian in 1872. Marx kept up more or less steady relations with the Russian socialists and took an interest in the economic and social conditions of the tsarist empire. The person who originally introduced Marxism into Russia was Georgy Plekhanov, but the person who adapted Marxism to Russian conditions was Lenin.

Lenin in December 1895

Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov, or Lenin, was born in 1870 at Simbirsk (now Ulyanovsk). He entered the University of Kazan to study law but was expelled the same year for participating in student agitation. In 1893 he settled in St. Petersburg and became actively involved with the revolutionary workers. With his pamphlet Chto delat? (1902; What Is to Be Done?), he specified the theoretical principles and organization of a Marxist party as he thought it should be constituted. He took part in the second Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party, which was held in Brussels and London (1903), and induced the majority of the Congress members to adopt his views. Two factions formed at the Congress: the Bolshevik (from the Russian word for “larger”) with Lenin as the leader and the Menshevik (from the Russian word for “smaller”) with L. Martov at the head. The former wanted a restricted party of militants and advocated the dictatorship of the proletariat. The latter wanted a wide-open proletarian party, collaboration with the liberals, and a democratic constitution for Russia. In his pamphlet Shag vperyod, dva shaga nazad (1904; One Step Forward, Two Steps Back), Lenin compared the organizational principles of the Bolsheviks to those of the Mensheviks. After the failure of the Russian Revolution of 1905, he drew positive lessons for the future in Dve taktiki Sotsial-Demokraty v demokraticheskoy revolyutsi (1905; Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution. He fiercely attacked the influence of Kantian philosophy on German and Russian Marxism in Materializm i empiriokrititsizm (1908; Materialism and Empirio-criticism (1908). In 1912 at the Prague Conference the Bolsheviks constituted themselves as an independent party. During World War I Lenin resided in Switzerland, where he studied Hegel’s Science of Logic and the development of capitalism and carried on debates with Marxists like Luxemburg on the meaning of the war and the right of nations to self-determination. In 1915 at Zimmerwald, and in 1916 at Kiental, he organized two international socialist conferences to fight against the war. Immediately after the February 1917 revolution he returned to Russia, and in October the Bolshevik coup brought him to power.

The situation of Russia and the Russian revolutionary movement at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th led Lenin to diverge, in the course of his development and his analyses, from the positions both of “orthodox Marxism” and of “revisionism.” He rediscovered the original thought of Marx by a careful study of his works, in particular Das Kapital and The Holy Family. He saw Marxism as a practical affair and tried to go beyond the accepted formulas to plan political action that would come to grips with the surrounding world.

As early as 1894, in his populist study Chto Takoye “Druzya Naroda,” kak oni voyuyut protiv Sotsial-Demokratov? (What the “Friends of the People” Are, and How They Fight the Social-Democrats), Lenin took up Marx’s distinction between “material social relations” and “ideological social relations.” In Lenin’s eyes the importance of Das Kapital was that “while explaining the structure and the development of the social formation seen exclusively in terms of its relations of production, (Marx) has nevertheless everywhere and always analyzed the superstructure which corresponds to these relations of production.” In Razvitiye kapitalizma v Rossi (1897–99; The Development of Capitalism in Russia) Lenin sought to apply Marx’s analysis by showing the growing role of capital, in particular commercial capital, in the exploitation of the workers in the factories and the large-scale expropriation of the peasants. It was thus possible to apply to Russia the models developed by Marx for western Europe. At the same time Lenin did not lose sight of the importance of the peasant in Russian society. Although a disciple of Marx, he did not believe that he had only to repeat Marx’s conclusions. He wrote:

We do not consider the theory of Marx to be a complete, immutable whole. We think on the contrary that this theory has only laid the cornerstone of the science, a science which socialists must further develop in all directions if they do not want to let themselves be overtaken by life. We think that, for the Russian socialists, an independent elaboration of the theory is particularly necessary.

Lenin laid great stress upon the dialectical method. In his early writings he defined the dialectic as “nothing more nor less than the method of sociology, which sees society as a living organism, in perpetual development (and not as something mechanically assembled and thus allowing all sorts of arbitrary combinations of the various social elements) . . . ” (Friends of the People). After having studied Hegel toward the end of 1914, he took a more activist view. Dialectic is not only evolution; it is praxis, leading from activity to reflection and from reflection to action.

The dictatorship of the proletariat
Lenin also put much emphasis on the leading role of the party. As early as 1902 he was concerned with the need for a cohesive party with a correct doctrine, adapted to the exigencies of the period, which would be a motive force among the masses, helping to bring them to an awareness of their real situation. In What Is To Be Done? he called for a party of professional revolutionaries, disciplined and directed, capable of defeating the police; its aim should be to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat. In order to do this, he wrote in Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, it was necessary “to subject the insurrection of the proletarian and non-proletarian masses to our influence, to our direction, to use it in our best interests.” But this was not possible without a doctrine: “Without revolutionary theory, no revolutionary movement.” On the eve of the revolution of October 1917, in Gosudarstvo i revolyutsiya (The State and Revolution), he set forth the conditions for the dictatorship of the proletariat and the suppression of the capitalist state.

Lenin assigned major importance to the peasantry in formulating his program. It would be a serious error, he held, for the Russian revolutionary workers’ movement to neglect the peasants. Even though it was clear that the industrial proletariat constituted the vanguard of the revolution, the discontent of the peasantry could be oriented in a direction favourable to the revolution by placing among the goals of the party the seizure of privately owned land. As early as 1903, at the third congress of the party, he secured a resolution to this effect. Thereafter, the dictatorship of the proletariat became the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. In 1917 he encouraged the peasants to seize land long before the approval of agrarian reform by the Constituent Assembly.

Among Lenin’s legacies to Soviet Marxism was one that proved to be injurious to the party. This was the decision taken at his behest by the 10th congress of the party in the spring of 1921, while the sailors were rebelling at Kronstadt and the peasants were growing restless in the countryside, to forbid all factions, all factional activity, and all opposition political platforms within the party. This decision had grave consequences in later years when Stalin used it against his opponents.

Stalin 1902

It is Joseph Stalin who codified the body of ideas that, under the name of Marxism-Leninism, constituted the official doctrine of the Soviet and eastern European communist parties. Stalin was a man of action in a slightly different sense than was Lenin. Gradually taking over power after Lenin’s death in 1924, he pursued the development of the Soviet Union with great vigour. By practicing Marxism, he assimilated it, at the same time simplifying it. Stalin’s Marxism-Leninism rests on the dialectic of Hegel, as set forth in Istoriya Vsesoyuznoy Kommunisticheskoy Partii (Bolshevikov): Kratky kurs (1938; A Short History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union), and on a materialism that can be considered roughly identical to that of Feuerbach. His work Voprosy leninizma (1926; Problems of Leninism), which appeared in 11 editions during his lifetime, sets forth an ideology of power and activism that rides roughshod over the more nuanced approach of Lenin.

Soviet dialectical materialism can be reduced to four laws: (1) History is a dialectical development. It proceeds by successive phases that supersede one another. These phases are not separate, any more than birth, growth, and death are separate. Though it is true that phase B necessarily negates phase A, it remains that phase B was already contained in phase A and was initiated by it. The dialectic does not regard nature as an accidental accumulation of objects, of isolated and independent phenomena, but as a unified, coherent whole. Furthermore, nature is perpetually in movement, in a state of unceasing renewal and development, in which there is always something being born and developing and something disintegrating and disappearing. (2) Evolution takes place in leaps, not gradually. (3) Contradictions must be made manifest. All phenomena contain in themselves contradictory elements. “Dialectic starts from the point of view that objects and natural phenomena imply internal contradictions, because they all have a positive and a negative side.” These contradictory elements are in perpetual struggle: it is this struggle that is the “internal content of the process of development,” according to Stalin. (4) The law of this development is economic. All other contradictions are rooted in the basic economic relationship. A given epoch is entirely determined by the relations of production. They are social relations; relations of collaboration or mutual aid, relations of domination or submission; and finally, transitory relations that characterize a period of passage from one system to another. “The history of the development of society is, above all, the history of the development of production, the history of the modes of production which succeed one another through the centuries.”

From these principles may be drawn the following inferences, essential for penetrating the workings of Marxist-Leninist thought and its application. No natural phenomenon, no historical or social situation, no political fact, can be considered independently of the other facts or phenomena that surround it; it is set within a whole. Since movement is the essential fact, one must distinguish between what is beginning to decay and what is being born and developing. Since the process of development takes place by leaps, one passes suddenly from a succession of slow quantitative changes to a radical qualitative change. In the social or political realm, these sudden qualitative changes are revolutions, carried out by the oppressed classes. One must follow a frankly proletarian-class policy that exposes the contradictions of the capitalist system. A reformist policy makes no sense. Consequently (1) nothing can be judged from the point of view of “eternal justice” or any other preconceived notion and (2) no social system is immutable. To be effective, one must not base one’s action on social strata that are no longer developing, even if they represent for the moment the dominant force, but on those that are developing.

Stalin’s materialist and historical dialectic differs sharply from the perspective of Karl Marx. In The Communist Manifesto Marx applied the materialist dialectic to the social and political life of his time. In the chapter entitled “Bourgeois and Proletarians,” he studied the process of the growth of the revolutionary bourgeoisie within feudal society, then the genesis and the growth of the proletariat within capitalism, placing the emphasis on the struggle between antagonistic classes. To be sure, he connected social evolution with the development of the forces of production. What counted for him, however, was not only the struggle but also the birth of consciousness among the proletariat. “As to the final victory of the propositions put forth in the Manifesto, Marx expected it to come primarily from the intellectual development of the working class, necessarily the result of common action and discussion” (Engels, preface to the republication of The Communist Manifesto, May 1, 1890).

The result of Stalin’s dialectic, however, was what he called revolution from above, a dictatorial policy to increase industrialization and collectivize agriculture based upon ruthless repression and a strong centralization of power. For Stalin what counted was the immediate goal, the practical result. The move was from a dialectic that emphasized both the objective and the subjective to one purely objective, or more exactly, objectivist. Human actions are to be judged not by taking account of the intentions of the actor and their place in a given historical web but only in terms of what they signify objectively at the end of the period considered.

Alongside Marxism-Leninism as expounded in the former Soviet Union, there arose another point of view expressed by Stalin’s opponent Leon Trotsky and his followers. Trotsky played a leading role in both the Russian Revolution of 1905 and that of 1917. After Lenin’s death he fell out with Stalin. Their conflict turned largely upon questions of policy, both domestic and foreign. In the realm of ideas, Trotsky held that a revolution in a backward, rural country could be carried out only by the proletariat. Once in power the proletariat must carry out agrarian reform and undertake the accelerated development of the economy. The revolution must be a socialist one, involving the abolition of the private ownership of the means of production, or else it will fail. But the revolution cannot be carried out in isolation, as Stalin maintained it could. The capitalist countries will try to destroy it; moreover, to succeed the revolution must be able to draw upon the industrial techniques of the developed countries. For these reasons the revolution must be worldwide and permanent, directed against the liberal and nationalist bourgeoisie of all countries and using local victories to advance the international struggle.

Tactically, Trotsky emphasized the necessity of finding or creating a revolutionary situation, of educating the working class in order to revolutionize it, of seeing that the party remained open to the various revolutionary tendencies and avoided becoming bureaucratized, and finally, when the time for insurrection comes, of organizing it according to a detailed plan.

Mao Zedong 1927

Variants of Marxism

When the Chinese communists took power in 1948, they brought with them a new kind of Marxism that came to be called Maoism after their leader Mao Zedong. The thought of Mao must always be seen against the changing revolutionary reality of China from 1930 onward. His thought was complex, a Marxist type of analysis combined with the permanent fundamentals of Chinese thought and culture.

One of its central elements has to do with the nature and role of contradictions in socialist society. For Mao, every society, including socialist (communist) society, contained “two different types of contradictions”: (1) antagonistic contradictions—contradictions between us (the people) and our enemies (the Chinese bourgeoisie faithful), between the imperialist camp and the socialist camp, and so forth—which are resolved by revolution, and (2) nonantagonistic contradictions—between the government and the people under a socialist regime, between two groups within the Communist Party, between one section of the people and another under a communist regime, and so forth—which are resolved by vigorous fraternal criticism and self-criticism.

The notion of contradiction is specific to Mao’s thought in that it differs from the conceptions of Marx or Lenin. For Mao, in effect, contradictions were at the same time universal and particular. In their universality, one must seek and discover what constitutes their particularity: every contradiction displays a particular character, depending on the nature of things and phenomena. Contradictions have alternating aspects—sometimes strongly marked, sometimes blurred. Some of these aspects are primary, others secondary. It is important to define them well, for if one fails to do so, the analysis of the social reality and the actions that follow from it will be mistaken. This is quite far from Stalinism and dogmatic Marxism-Leninism.

Another essential element of Mao’s thought, which must be seen in the context of revolutionary China, is the notion of permanent revolution. It is an old idea advocated in different contexts by Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky but lacking, in Mao’s formulation, the international dimension espoused by his predecessors. For Mao it followed from his ideas about the struggle of humans against nature (held from 1938, at least); the campaigns for the rectification of thought (1942, 1951, 1952); and the necessity of struggling against bureaucracy, waste, and corruption in a country then possessing 600 to 700 million inhabitants, where very old civilizations and cultures still permeated both the bourgeois classes and the peasantry, where bureaucracy was thoroughly entrenched, and where the previous society was extremely corrupt. It arose from Mao’s conviction that the rhythm of the revolution must be accelerated. This conviction appeared in 1957 in his speeches and became manifest in 1958 in the Great Leap Forward, followed in 1966 by the Cultural Revolution.

Mao’s concept of permanent revolution rests upon the existence of nonantagonistic contradictions in the China of the present and of the future. The people must be mobilized into a permanent movement in order to carry forward the revolution and to prevent the ruling group from turning bourgeois (as he perceived it had in the Soviet Union). It is necessary to shape among the masses a new vision of the world by tearing them from their passivity and their century-old habits. This is the background of the Cultural Revolution that began in 1966, following previous campaigns but differing from them in its magnitude and, it would seem, in the mobilization of youth against the cadres of the party. In these campaigns Mao drew upon his past as a revolutionary Marxist peasant leader, from his life in the red military and peasant bases and among the Red Guards of Yen-an, seeking in his past experience ways to mobilize the whole Chinese population against the dangers—internal and external—that confronted it in the present.

The distinguishing characteristic of Maoism is that it represents a peasant type of Marxism, with a principally rural and military outlook. While basing himself on Marxism-Leninism, adapted to Chinese requirements, Mao was rooted in the peasant life from which he himself came, in the revolts against the warlords and the bureaucrats that have filled the history of China. By integrating this experience into a universal vision of history, Mao gave it a significance that flows beyond the provincial limits of China.

In his effort to remain close to the Chinese peasant masses, Mao drew upon an idea of nature and a symbolism found in popular Chinese Daoism, though transformed by his Marxism. It can be seen in his many poems, which were written in the classical Chinese style. This idea of nature is accompanied in his written political works by the Promethean idea of humanity struggling in a war against nature, a conception in his thought that goes back at least to 1938 and became more important after 1955 as the rhythm of the revolution accelerated.

Marxism in Cuba
The Marxism of Fidel Castro expressed itself as a rejection of injustice in any form—political, economic, or social. In this sense it is related to the liberal democracy and Pan-Americanism of Simón Bolívar in Latin America during the 19th century. In its liberalism, Castro’s early socialism resembled the various French socialisms of the first half of the 19th century. Only gradually did Castroism come to identify itself with Marxism-Leninism, although from the very beginning of the Cuban revolution Castro revealed his attachment to certain of Marx’s ideas. Castro’s Marxism rejects some of the tenets and practices of official Marxism-Leninism: it is outspoken against dogmatism, bureaucracy, and sectarianism. In one sense, Castroism is a Marxist-Leninist “heresy.” It exalts the ethos of guerrilla revolution over party politics. At the same time it aims to apply a purer Marxism to the conditions of Cuba: alleged American imperialism, a single-crop economy, a low initial level of political and economic development. One may call it an attempt to realize a synthesis of Marxist ideas and the ideas of Bolívar.

Marxism in the developing world
The emergence of Marxist variants in the developing world was primarily influenced by the undeveloped industrial state and the former colonial status of the nations in question. In the traditional Marxist view, the growth of capitalism is seen as a step necessary for the breakup of precapitalist peasant society and for the rise of the revolutionary proletariat class. Some theorists believed, however, that capitalism introduced by imperialist rather than indigenous powers sustains rather than destroys the feudal structure of peasant society and promotes underdevelopment because resources and surplus are usurped by the colonial powers. Furthermore, the revolutionary socialist movement becomes subordinate to that of national liberation, which violates Marx’s theory of class struggle by uniting all indigenous classes in the common cause of anti-imperialism. For these reasons, many developing countries chose to follow the Maoist model, with its emphasis on agrarian revolution against feudalism and imperialism, rather than the old Soviet one. Another alternative, one specific to the developing world, bypassed capitalism and depended upon the established strength of other communist countries for support against imperialism.

Marxism in the West
There are two main forms of Marxism in the West: that of the traditional communist parties and the more diffuse New Left form, which is also known as Western Marxism. In general, the success of western European communist parties had been hindered by their perceived allegiance to the old Soviet authority rather than their own countries; the secretive, bureaucratic form of organization they inherited from Lenin; the ease with which they became integrated into capitalist society; and their consequent fear of compromising their principles by sharing power with bourgeois parties. The Western parties basically adhered to the policies of Soviet Marxism until the 1970s, when they began to advocate Eurocommunism, a moderate version of communism that they felt would broaden their base of appeal beyond the working class and thus improve their chances for political success. As described by Enrico Berlinguer, Georges Marchais, and Santiago Carrillo, the leaders in the 1970s and ’80s of the Italian, French, and Spanish communist parties, respectively, Eurocommunism favoured a peaceful, democratic approach to achieving socialism, encouraged making alliances with other political parties, guaranteed civil liberties, and renounced the central authority of the Soviet party. By the 1980s, however, Eurocommunism had largely been abandoned as unsuccessful, and communist parties in advanced capitalist nations returned to orthodox Marxism-Leninism despite the concomitant problems.

Western Marxism, however, can be seen as a repudiation of Marxism-Leninism, although, when it was first formulated in the 1920s, its proponents believed they were loyal to the dominant Soviet Communist Party. Prominent figures in the evolution of Western Marxism included the central Europeans György Lukács, Karl Korsch, and Lucien Goldmann; Antonio Gramsci of Italy; the German theorists who constituted the Frankfurt School, especially Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, and Jürgen Habermas; and Henri Lefebvre, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty of France.

Western Marxism has been shaped primarily by the failure of the socialist revolution in the Western world. Western Marxists were concerned less with the actual political or economic practice of Marxism than with its philosophical interpretation, especially in relation to cultural and historical studies. In order to explain the inarguable success of capitalist society, they felt they needed to explore and understand non-Marxist approaches and all aspects of bourgeois culture. Eventually, they came to believe that traditional Marxism was not relevant to the reality of modern Western society.

Marx had predicted that revolution would succeed in Europe first, but, in fact, the developing world proved more responsive. Orthodox Marxism also championed the technological achievements associated with capitalism, viewing them as essential to the progress of socialism. Experience showed the Western Marxists, however, that technology did not necessarily produce the crises Marx described and did not lead inevitably to revolution. In particular they disagreed with the idea, originally emphasized by Engels, that Marxism is an integrated, scientific doctrine that can be applied universally to nature; they viewed it as a critique of human life, not an objective, general science. Disillusioned by the terrorism of the Stalin era and the bureaucracy of the communist party system, they advocated the idea of government by workers’ councils, which they believed would eliminate professional politicians and would more truly represent the interests of the working class. Later, when the working class appeared to them to be too well integrated into the capitalist system, the Western Marxists supported more anarchistic tactics. In general, their views are more in accord with those found in Marx’s early, humanist writings rather than with his later, dogmatic interpretations.

Western Marxism has found support primarily among intellectuals rather than the working class, and orthodox Marxists have judged it impractical. Nevertheless, the Western Marxists’ emphasis on Marx’s social theory and their critical assessment of Marxist methodology and ideas have coloured the way even non-Marxists view the world.

The Rev. Henri Chambre, S.J.
David T. McLellan

Encyclopædia Britannica

Friedrich Engels

Friedrich Engels in 1868
Friedrich Engels, (born Nov. 28, 1820, Barmen, Rhine province, Prussia [Germany]—died Aug. 5, 1895, London, Eng.), German socialist philosopher, the closest collaborator of Karl Marx in the foundation of modern communism. They coauthored The Communist Manifesto (1848), and Engels edited the second and third volumes of Das Kapital after Marx’s death.

Early life
Engels grew up in the environment of a family marked by moderately liberal political views, a steadfast loyalty to Prussia, and a pronounced Protestant faith. His father was the owner of a textile factory in Barmen and also a partner in the Ermen & Engels cotton plant in Manchester, Eng. Even after Engels openly pursued the revolutionary goals that threatened the traditional values of the family, he usually could count on financial aid from home. The influence of his mother, to whom he was devoted, may have been a factor in preserving the tie between father and son.

Aside from such disciplinary actions as the father considered necessary in rearing a gifted but somewhat rebellious son, the only instance in which his father forced his will on Engels was in deciding upon a career for him. Engels did attend a Gymnasium (secondary school), but he dropped out a year before graduation, probably because his father felt that his plans for the future were too undefined. Engels showed some skill in writing poetry, but his father insisted that he go to work in the expanding business. Engels, accordingly, spent the next three years (1838–41) in Bremen acquiring practical business experience in the offices of an export firm.

In Bremen, Engels began to show the capacity for living the double life that characterized his middle years. During regular hours, he operated effectively as a business apprentice. An outgoing person, he joined a choral society, frequented the famed Ratskeller tavern, became an expert swimmer, and practiced fencing and riding (he outrode most Englishmen in the fox hunts). Engels also cultivated his capacity for learning languages; he boasted to his sister that he knew 24. In private, however, he developed an interest in liberal and revolutionary works, notably the banned writings of “Young German” authors such as Ludwig Börne, Karl Gutzkow, and Heinrich Heine. But he soon rejected them as undisciplined and inconclusive in favour of the more systematic and all embracing philosophy of G.W.F. Hegel as expounded by the “Young Hegelians,” a group of leftist intellectuals, including the theologian and historian Bruno Bauer and the anarchist Max Stirner. They accepted the Hegelian dialectic—basically that rational progress and historical change result from the conflict of opposing views, ending in a new synthesis. The Young Hegelians were bent on accelerating the process by criticizing all that they considered irrational, outmoded, and repressive. As their first assault was directed against the foundations of Christianity, they helped convert an agnostic Engels into a militant atheist, a relatively easy task since by this time Engels’s revolutionary convictions made him ready to strike out in almost any direction.

In Bremen, Engels also demonstrated his talent for journalism by publishing articles under the pseudonym of Friedrich Oswald, perhaps to spare the feelings of his family. He possessed pungent critical abilities and a clear style, qualities that were utilized later by Marx in articulating their revolutionary goals.

After returning to Barmen in 1841, the question of a future career was shelved temporarily when Engels enlisted as a one-year volunteer in an artillery regiment in Berlin. No antimilitarist disposition prevented him from serving commendably as a recruit; in fact, military matters later became one of his specialties. In the future, friends would often address him as “the general.” Military service allowed Engels time for more compelling interests in Berlin. Though he lacked the formal requirements, he attended lectures at the university. His Friedrich Oswald articles gained him entrée into the Young Hegelian circle of The Free, formerly the Doctors Club frequented by Karl Marx. There he gained recognition as a formidable protagonist in philosophical battles, mainly directed against religion.

Young Engels, ca. 1840. (about 20 years old)


Conversion to communism
After his discharge in 1842, Engels met Moses Hess, the man who converted him to communism. Hess, the son of wealthy Jewish parents and a promoter of radical causes and publications, demonstrated to Engels that the logical consequence of the Hegelian philosophy and dialectic was communism. Hess also stressed the role that England, with its advanced industry, burgeoning proletariat, and portents of class conflict, was destined to play in future upheavals. Engels eagerly seized the opportunity to go to England, ostensibly to continue his business training in the family firm in Manchester.

In England (1842–44), Engels again functioned successfully as a businessman. After business hours, however, he pursued his real interests: writing articles on communism for continental and English journals, reading books and parliamentary reports on economic and political conditions in England, mingling with workers, meeting radical leaders, and gathering materials for a projected history of England that would stress the rise of industry and the wretched position of the workers.

In Manchester, Engels established an enduring attachment to Mary Burns, an uneducated Irish working girl, and, though he rejected the institution of marriage, they lived together as husband and wife. In fact, the one serious strain in the Marx-Engels friendship occurred when Mary died in 1863 and Engels thought that Marx responded a little too casually to the news of her death. In the future, however, Marx made a point of being more considerate, and, when Engels later lived with Mary’s sister Lizzy, on similar terms, Marx always carefully closed his letters with greetings to “Mrs. Lizzy” or “Mrs. Burns.” Engels finally married Lizzy, but only as a deathbed concession to her.

In 1844 Engels contributed two articles to the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher (“German-French Yearbooks”), which were edited by Marx in Paris. In them Engels put forth an early version of the principles of scientific socialism. He revealed what he regarded as the contradictions in liberal economic doctrine and set out to prove that the existing system based on private property was leading to a world made up of “millionaires and paupers.” The revolution that would follow would lead to the elimination of private property and to a “reconciliation of humanity with nature and itself.”

Partnership with Marx
On his way to Barmen, Engels went to Paris for a 10-day visit with Marx, whom he had earlier met in Cologne. This visit resulted in a permanent partnership to promote the socialist movement. Back in Barmen, Engels published Die Lage der arbeitenden Klasse in England (1845; The Condition of the Working Class in England), a classic in a field that later became Marx’s specialty. Their first major joint work was Die deutsche Ideologie (1845; The German Ideology), which, however, was not published until more than 80 years later. It was a highly polemical critique that denounced and ridiculed certain of their earlier Young Hegelian associates and then proceeded to attack various German socialists who rejected the need for revolution. Marx’s and Engels’s own constructive ideas were inserted here and there, always in a fragmentary manner and only as corrective responses to the views they were condemning.

Upon rejoining Marx in Brussels in 1845, Engels endorsed his newly formulated economic, or materialistic, interpretation of history, which assumed an eventual communist triumph. That summer he escorted Marx on a tour of England. Thereafter he spent much time in Paris, where his social engagements did not interfere significantly with his major purpose, that of attempting to convert various émigré German worker groups—among them a socialist secret society, the League of the Just—as well as leading French socialists to his and Marx’s views. When the league held its first congress in London in June 1847, Engels helped bring about its transformation into the Communist League.

Marx and he together persuaded a second Communist Congress in London to adopt their views. The two men were authorized to draft a statement of communist principles and policies, which appeared in 1848 as the Manifest der kommunistischen Partei (commonly called the Communist Manifesto). It included much of the preliminary definition of views prepared earlier by Engels in the Grundsätze des Kommunismus (1847; Principles of Communism) but was primarily the work of Marx.

The Revolutions of 1848, which were precipitated by the attempt of the German states to throw off an authoritarian, almost feudal, political system and replace it with a constitutional, representative form of government, was a momentous event in the lives of Marx and Engels. It was their only opportunity to participate directly in a revolution and to demonstrate their flexibility as revolutionary tacticians with the aim of turning the revolution into a communist victory. Their major tool was the newspaper Neue Rheinische Zeitung, which Marx edited in Cologne with the able assistance of Engels. Such a party organ, then appearing in a democratic guise, was of prime importance for their purposes; with it they could furnish daily guidelines and incitement in the face of shifting events, together with a sustained criticism of governments, parties, policies, and politicians.

After the failure of the revolution, Engels and Marx were reunited in London, where they reorganized the Communist League and drafted tactical directives for the communists in the belief that another revolution would soon take place. But how to replace his depleted income soon became Engels’s main problem. To support both himself and Marx, he accepted a subordinate position in the offices of Ermen & Engels in Manchester, eventually becoming a full-fledged partner in the concern. He again functioned successfully as a businessman, never allowing his communist principles and criticism of capitalist ways to interfere with the profitable operations of his firm. Hence he was able to send money to Marx constantly, often in the form of £5 notes, but later in far higher figures. When Engels sold his partnership in the business in 1869, he received enough to live comfortably until his death in 1895 and to provide Marx with an annual grant of £350, with the promise of more to cover all contingencies.

Engels, who was forced to live in Manchester, corresponded constantly with Marx in London and frequently wrote newspaper articles for him; he wrote the articles that appeared in the New York Tribune (1851–52) under Marx’s name and that were later published under Engels’s name as Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Germany in 1848 (1896). In the informal division of labour that the two protagonists of communism had established, Engels was the specialist in nationality questions, military matters, to some extent in international affairs, and in the sciences. Marx also turned to him repeatedly for clarification of economic questions, notably for information on business practices and industrial operations.

Marx’s Das Kapital (Capital), his most important work, bears in part a made-in-Manchester stamp. Marx similarly called on Engels’s writing facility to help “popularize” their joint views. While Marx was the brilliant theoretician of the pair, it was Engels, as the apt salesman of Marxism directing attention to Das Kapital through his reviews of the book, who implanted the thought that it was their “bible.” Engels almost alone wrote Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft (1878; Herr Eugen Dühring’s Revolution in Science, better known as Anti-Dühring), the book that probably did most to promote Marxian thought. It destroyed the influence of Karl Eugen Dühring, a Berlin professor who threatened to supplant Marx’s position among German social democrats.

Engels in 1877

Last years
After Marx’s death (1883), Engels served as the foremost authority on Marx and Marxism. Aside from occasional writings on a variety of subjects and introductions to new editions of Marx’s works, Engels completed volumes 2 and 3 of Das Kapital (1885 and 1894) on the basis of Marx’s uncompleted manuscripts and rough notes. Engels’s other two late publications were the books Der Ursprung der Familie, des Privateigenthums und des Staats (1884; The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State) and Ludwig Feuerbach und der Ausgang der klassischen deutschen Philosophie (1888; Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy). All the while he corresponded extensively with German social democrats and followers everywhere, so as to perpetuate the image of Marx and to foster some degree of conformity among the “faithful.” His work was interrupted when he was stricken with cancer; he died of the disease not long after.

During his lifetime, Engels experienced, in a milder form, the same attacks and veneration that fell upon Marx. An urbane individual with the demeanour of an English gentleman, Engels customarily was a gay and witty associate with a great zest for living. He had a code of honour that responded quickly to an insult, even to the point of violence. As the hatchetman of the “partnership,” he could be most offensive and ruthless, so much so that in 1848 various friends attempted unsuccessfully to persuade Marx to disavow him.

Except in the Soviet Union and other communist countries, where Engels received due recognition, posterity has generally lumped him together with Marx without adequately clarifying Engels’s significant role. The attention Engels does receive is likely to be in the form of a close scrutiny of his works to discover what differences existed between him and Marx. As a result, some scholars have concluded that Engels’s writings and influence are responsible for certain deviations from, or distortions of, “true Marxism” as they see it. Yet scholars in general acknowledge that Marx himself apparently was unaware of any essential divergence of ideas and opinions. The Marx-Engels correspondence, which reveals a close cooperation in formulating Marxist policies, bears out that view.

Oscar J. Hammen

Encyclopædia Britannica

First International
First International, formally International Working Men’s Association, federation of workers’ groups that, despite ideological divisions within its ranks, had a considerable influence as a unifying force for labour in Europe during the latter part of the 19th century.

The First International was founded under the name of International Working Men’s Association at a mass meeting in London on Sept. 28, 1864. Its founders were among the most powerful British and French trade-union leaders of the time. Though Karl Marx had no part in organizing the meeting, he was elected one of the 32 members of the provisional General Council and at once assumed its leadership. The International came to assume the character of a highly centralized party, based primarily on individual members, organized in local groups, which were integrated in national federations, though some trade unions and associations were affiliated to it collectively. Its supreme body was the Congress, which met in a different city each year and formulated principles and policies. A General Council elected by the Congress had its seat in London and served as the executive committee, appointing corresponding secretaries for each of the national federations; organizing collections for the support of strikes in various countries; and, in general, advancing the International’s goals.

From its beginnings, the First International was riven by conflicting schools of socialist thought—Marxism, Proudhonism (after Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who advocated only the reform of capitalism), Blanquism (after Auguste Blanqui, who advocated radical methods and a sweeping revolution), and Mikhail Bakunin’s version of anarchism, which dominated the International’s Italian, Spanish, and French-Swiss federations. The First International split at its Hague Congress in 1872 over the clash between Marx’s centralized socialism and Bakunin’s anarchism. In order to prevent the Bakuninists from gaining control of the association, the General Council, prompted by Marx, moved its headquarters to New York City, where it lingered until it was formally disbanded at the Philadelphia Conference in July 1876. The Bakuninists, assuming leadership of the International, held annual congresses from 1873 to 1877. At the Ghent Socialist World Congress in 1877, the Social Democrats broke away because their motion to restore the unity of the First International was rejected by the anarchist majority. The anarchists failed, however, to keep the International alive. After the London anarchist Congress of 1881, it ceased to represent an organized movement. The International was early proscribed in such countries as Germany, Austria, France, and Spain. French and German proposals that it be outlawed by concerted European action failed, however, because of British reluctance to suppress the General Council in London. It should be noted that the International’s renown at the time as a formidable power with millions of members and almost unlimited resources was out of proportion with the association’s actual strength; the hard core of its individual members probably seldom exceeded 20,000. Although so accused, it did not organize the wave of strikes that swept France, Belgium, and Switzerland in 1868, but its support and rumoured support of such strikes was very influential.

Encyclopædia Britannica