The Communist Manifesto

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The Communist Manifesto is an early communist pamphlet commissioned by the Communist League and written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1847, using the title "Manifesto of the Communist Party" and publishing it in 1848. The book consists of a systematic exposition of the ideas and aims of the Communists at that time. As such, the work contains brief explanations of the materialist conception of history, class struggle, and so on. It is divided into four chapters and largely based on Engels' Principles of Communism, the second draft of the Manifesto, with Draft of a Communist Confession of Faith being the first.

The Manifesto is considered by many Marxists to be outdated as far as an understanding of Marxism goes, espousing many positions that Marx and Engels later abandoned, such as imminent annihilation of the middle class, which would actually grow in the following years and which is something that Marx addressed in his 1863 Manuscript Theories of Surplus Value.

"The ten planks of communism"[edit]

There is a section in Chapter II: Proletarians and Communists that describes ten "generally applicable" measures in the installation of the dictatorship of the proletariat, known commonly as the "ten planks of communism" though not known by any name within the Manifesto itself. They should be read in the context of their time, as most modern communists, taking changed historical conditions into account, do not propose to actually implement the policies they describe as described in the Manifesto. They are:

  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. Centralization of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
  6. Centralization 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, etc., etc.

From the preface of the 1872 German edition:

However much that state of things may have altered during the last twenty-five years, the general principles laid down in the Manifesto are, on the whole, as correct today as ever. Here and there, some detail might be improved. The practical application of the principles will depend, as the Manifesto itself states, everywhere and at all times, on the historical conditions for the time being existing, and, for that reason, no special stress is laid on the revolutionary measures proposed at the end of Section II. That passage would, in many respects, be very differently worded today. In view of the gigantic strides of Modern Industry since 1848, and of the accompanying improved and extended organization of the working class, in view of the practical experience gained, first in the February Revolution, and then, still more, in the Paris Commune, where the proletariat for the first time held political power for two whole months, this programme has in some details been antiquated. One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz., that “the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.” (See The Civil War in France: Address of the General Council of the International Working Men’ s Association, 1871, where this point is further developed.) Further, it is self-evident that the criticism of socialist literature is deficient in relation to the present time, because it comes down only to 1847; also that the remarks on the relation of the Communists to the various opposition parties (Section IV), although, in principle still correct, yet in practice are antiquated, because the political situation has been entirely changed, and the progress of history has swept from off the earth the greater portion of the political parties there enumerated.[1]

Thus the principles themselves are valid, though the methods and steps for them are not.

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