Communist Manifesto is the first programmatic document of scientific communism, expounding the basic ideas of Marxism. It was written by K. Marx and F. Engels at the request of the Second Congress (1847) of the Communist League, as the league’s program. “With the clarity and brilliance of genius, this work outlines a new world-conception, consistent materialism, which also embraces the realm of social life; dialectics, as the most comprehensive and profound doctrine of development; the theory of the class struggle and of the world-historic revolutionary role of the proletariat—the creator of a new, communist society” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 26, p. 48).
In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels defined for the first time in the social sciences the place of the capitalist formation in human history, showing its progressive character by comparison with preceding formations and the inevitability of its downfall. The founders of scientific communism demonstrated that the entire history of society had been the history of the struggle of classes, with the exception of the primitive communal system (as Engels noted in the foreword to the 1883 German edition of the manifesto). In bourgeois society two main and antagonistic classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, are engaged in an irreconcilable struggle. Having become the economically dominant class, the bourgeoisie seized state power and has used it to defend its selfish class interests and to suppress the toilers. In the manifesto Marx and Engels revealed the irreconcilable internal contradictions within bourgeois society. At a certain stage, capitalist relations of production, which contributed to the rapid growth of productive forces, become an obstacle to the further development of production. The contradiction between the social nature of production and the private form of appropriation—the basic contradiction of capitalism— engenders economic crises, during which a substantial portion of the finished goods and productive forces are continuously destroyed.
The Communist Manifesto reveals and substantiates the world-historic role of the proletariat as the gravedigger of capitalist society and as the builder of communism, as the only revolutionary class that is consistent to the end, and that acts in the interests of all toilers. It is the working class that will deliver society from the oppression of capitalism by abolishing the capitalist form of ownership and replacing it by public ownership. The authors of the manifesto declared that the working class could fulfill this task only through revolutionary violence against the bourgeoisie, through proletarian socialist revolution. Marx and Engels showed that it was necessary to create a proletarian political party. They revealed its historical role, defined its tasks, and explained the relationship between the party and the working class. Marx and Engels wrote that Communists “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” (Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 4, p. 437).
Although they did not yet use the term “dictatorship of the proletariat” in the manifesto, Marx and Engels nonetheless expressed and substantiated there the idea of proletarian dictatorship. “The first step in the revolution by the working class,” wrote Marx and Engels, “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 degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat, organized as the ruling class, and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible” (ibid., p. 446). The manifesto emphasizes that the destruction of capitalism and the abolition of exploitation of man by man will end national oppression and international enmity. One of the basic principles of the revolutionary activity of Communists in different countries, noted Marx and Engles, is their mutual aid and support in the struggle against social oppression and exploitation, arising from their common goals. This principle, the principle of proletarian internationalism, is demonstrated throughout the manifesto. Explaining the great and humane goals of Communists, Marx and Engels showed the unsoundness of bourgeois ideologists’ attacks on Communists and exposed the class limitations and self-interested nature of bourgeois ideas, including those of marriage, ethics, property, and homeland.
In the manifesto Marx and Engels scientifically criticized the socialist and communist literature of the time. They revealed the class nature of the conceptions underlying feudal socialism, petit bourgeois socialism, German (or “true”) socialism, and conservative (or bourgeois) socialism. The founders of scientific communism also discussed the systems of critical-Utopian socialism, showing the unreality of these systems and at the same time pointing out rational elements in the views of the Utopian socialists C. Saint-Simon, C. Fourier, and R. Owen. Marx and Engels advanced important propositions on the tactics to be used by the proletarian party. Communists, they explained, are members of the consistently revolutionary party. They “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” (ibid., p. 458).
The Communist Manifesto opened the way to a new era in the history of mankind and initiated the great revolutionary movement for the socialist transformation of the world. “This little booklet,” V. I. Lenin wrote of the manifesto, “is worth whole volumes: to this day its spirit inspires and guides the entire organized and fighting proletariat of the civilized world” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 2, p. 10). The manifesto was first published in London in 1848 in German. In 1869 the first Russian edition was printed in Geneva; the translator, M. A. Bakunin, distorted the major theses. Another Russian edition appeared in Geneva in 1882, translated by G. V. Plekhanov and with a special foreword by Marx and Engels. According to incomplete data, beginning in 1848 about 760 editions of the manifesto in more than 50 languages were issued in various countries (excluding Russia). As of July 1, 1975, 466 editions in 75 languages, totaling 26,587,100 copies, had been published in the USSR.
Notes et références
- Marx, K., and F. Engels. “Manifest Kommunisticheskoi partii.” Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 4.
- Marx, K., and F. Engels. “Predislovie k nemetskomu izdaniiu ’Manifesta Kommunisticheskoi partii’ 1872 g.” Ibid., vol. 18.
- Marx, K., and F. Engels. “Predislovie ko vtoromu russkomu izdaniiu ‘Manifesta Kommunisticheskoi partii’ 1882 g.” Ibid., vol. 19.
- Engels, F. “Predislovie k nemetskomu izdaniiu ’Manifesta Kommunisticheskoi partii’ 1883 g.” Ibid., vol. 21.
- Engels, F. “Predislovie k angliiskomu izdaniiu ’Manifesta Kommunisticheskoi partii’ 1888 g.” Ibid.
- Engels, F. “Predislovie k nemetskomu izdaniiu ’Manifesta Kommunisticheskoi partii’ 1890 g.” Ibid., vol. 22.
- Engels, F. “Predislovie k pol’skomu izdaniiu ’Manifesta Kommunisticheskoi partii’ 1892 g.” Ibid.
- Lenin, V. I. “Gosudarstvo i revoliutsiia.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 33. (See also Index volume, part 1, p. 349.)
G. D. OBICHKIN