Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Short Summary of The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels

The Communist Manifesto is a short document composed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1848 in an attempt to popularize and clarify in practical means the philosophy of communism (such as that presented in Marx's "The German Ideology"). The Manifesto is written with a lot a pathos and large parts of it relate to the politics of the 19th century, but it is also a very clear and refined articulation of the basic ideas of Marxism.  

The Manifesto opens chapter 1 with the proclamation that "the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles". This the approach known as dialectical materialism which holds that history is driven through the division of society into competing parts and their fight over the means of production (see Dialectical materialism - short definition). The Manifesto moves from describing feudalism to discussing capitalism as a mode in which the bourgeois exploit the proletariat.

Chapter 2 of the Communist Manifesto discusses the relationship of communists to the proletariat, arguing that it is the true representation of their interests. This part is aimed at clarifying the intention of communism to abolish private property and hired work which are the basic principles of the capitalist system. This part also includes some practical demands such as free public education, progressive tax, abolishing of inheritance and more. One important point here to note is the relation to the nation state which for Marx is closely tied to capitalism and therefore need to go away with it.

The last section of the Communist Manifesto (chapters 3 and 4) discuss the communists' relationship with other opposition movements and parties of the time, setting it apart from socialism. The important thing about these parts of the text is the assertion the communism is not about making the system better but about changing it altogether and overthrowing capitalism in order to usher in the new era of a classless society.  

Here you can find an extended and detailed chapter summary of the Communist Manifesto 

Summaries of Marx's writings and ideas: